Lazy Caturday Reads


The Favourite Chair, by Leon Charles Huber

Happy Caturday!!

Yesterday I told Dakinikat that I wished I had a feel good story for today’s post. I was asleep when she called last night and left a message about a New York Times article that was discussed on Stephanie Ruhl’s MSNBC show. It was about Ukrainian mothers who traveled thousands of miles to recover their children who had been kidnapped and taken to Russian-controlled territory. Of course it’s a heartbreaking story, but it’s also a heartwarming story of the power of a mother’s love. It also includes powerful photos of the women and their children. I hope you’ll go read it. Here’s just a bit of it.

The Russians Took Their Children. These Mothers Went and Got Them Back, bCarlotta Gall and 

For weeks after Russian troops forcibly removed Natalya Zhornyk’s teenage son from his school last fall, she had no idea where he was or what had happened to him.

Then came a phone call.

“Mom, come and get me,” said her son, Artem, 15. He had remembered his mother’s phone number and borrowed the school director’s cellphone.

Ms. Zhornyk made him a promise: “When the fighting calms down, I will come.”

Artem and a dozen schoolmates had been loaded up by Russian troops and transferred to a school farther inside Russian-occupied Ukraine.

While Ms. Zhornyk was relieved to know where he was being held, reaching him would not be easy. They were now on different sides of the front line of a full-blown war, and border crossings from Ukraine into Russian-occupied territory were closed.

But months later, when a neighbor brought back one of her son’s schoolmates, she learned about a charity that was helping mothers bring their children home.

Since it is illegal for men of military age to leave Ukraine now, in March Ms. Zhornyk and a group of women assisted by Save Ukraine completed a nerve-wracking, 3,000-mile journey through Poland, Belarus and Russia to gain entry to Russian-occupied territory in eastern Ukraine and Crimea to retrieve Artem and 15 other children.

Then they had to take another circuitous journey back. “Come on, come on,” urged Ms. Zhornyk, as a cluster of children, laden with bags and suitcases, emerged hesitantly through the barriers at a border crossing from Belarus into Ukraine. She had crossed with her son just hours earlier and pushed forward impatiently to embrace the next group.

“There are no words for all the emotions,” Ms. Zhornyk, 31, said, describing her reunion with Artem. “I was full of emotion, and nervous, nervous.”


Cat on a chair, by Theophile Alexandre Steinlen

There are more details about what happened to the children in the article. Some background:

In the 13 months since the invasion, thousands of Ukrainian children have been displaced, moved or forcibly transferred to camps or institutions in Russia or Russian-controlled territory, in what Ukraine and rights advocates have condemned as war crimes.

The fate of those children has become a desperate tug of war between Ukraine and Russia, and formed the basis of an arrest warrant issued last month by the International Criminal Court accusing President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Maria Lvova-Belova, his commissioner for children’s rights, of illegally transferring them.

Once under Russian control, the children are subject to re-education, fostering and adoption by Russian families — practices that have touched a particular nerve even amid the carnage that has killed and displaced so many Ukrainians….

No one knows the full number of Ukrainian children who have been transferred to Russia or Russian-occupied Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has identified more than 19,000 children that it says have been forcibly transferred or deported, but those working on the issue say the real number is closer to 150,000.

Again, there is much more at the NYT link.

I hope you’ll forgive me for highlighting a local Boston story today. This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. The marathon will take place on Monday. Although only three people were killed in the explosions, there were hundreds of horrific injuries–limbs blown off, terrible burns, traumatic brain injuries.

From Mark the 10-year anniversary of the Marathon bombings in Boston One Boston Day is Saturday, April 15.

It has been 10 years since the Boston Marathon bombings killed three people and injured hundreds more during the 2013 Boston Marathon, and the city is hosting several events in remembrance of the day.

The city of Boston and the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) will host remembrance events on Saturday, April 15 — One Boston Day. The events will honor the victims, survivors, and first responders of the 2013 Boston Marathon.

The city will host an early-morning private gathering and wreath laying at the memorial sites for the families who lost loved ones. Honor guards — including the Boston Fire Department, Boston Police Department, Boston Emergency Medical Services, and Suffolk County Sheriff Department — will be present at the memorial sites throughout the day.

At 8 a.m.,the BAA 5K, featuring 10,000 participants, will begin and end in Boston Common. After the B.A.A. 5K race, the city will open Boylston Street between Dartmouth and Fairfield streets so that members of the public can visit the sites.

At 2:30 p.m., the public is invited to a dedication of a new commemorative Boston Marathon finish line, the ringing of bells, and the unveiling of a One Boston Day marker on Boylston Street along with Gov. Maura Healey, Mayor Michelle Wu, B.A.A. leadership, members of the One Fund community, members of the 2013 Red Sox team, first responders, hospital leaders, and local running groups.

“Every year we come together on One Boston Day to remember the courage, strength, and resilience shown by our city’s people in 2013,” Wu said in a statement. “As we mark 10 years, we will gather together in community on April 15 to remember the lives that were lost, the many injured, and the spirit of humanity displayed that day. As we honor those forever impacted, people in all corners of our City will be giving back in a number of ways, and I encourage everyone to get involved.”

There will also be many local and neighborhood events; and of course, the Red Sox will mark the day at their traditional Marathon Day game and will be wearing their bright yellow home uniforms.

The Red Sox will mark the 10 year milestone by partnering with JetBlue to distribute more than 40,000 blue and yellow Red Sox City Connect hats to students and staff at Boston Public Schools on Friday, April 14. Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez will assist with the distribution. The team will then wear blue and yellow City Connect jerseys during Friday night’s game in Fenway Park agains the Angels.

Chen Pei Yi

Painting by Chen Pei Yi

As previously mentioned, the 2013 Red Sox team will join city and state officials and first responders on Saturday, April 15 for the ringing of the bells and the unveiling of the One Boston Day marker. At Saturday’s game, there will be a pre-game ceremony commemorating One Boston Day and the 76th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. Fans should be in their seats by 3:30 p.m.

On Sunday, April 16, a reunion of members of the 2013 Red Sox World Series Championship team will take place during pregame ceremonies. Fans should be in their seats by 1 p.m.

On Patriots Day, Monday, April 17, Hall of Famer David Ortiz will serve as the Grand Marshal for the 127th Boston Marathon. Players will wear home jerseys that say “Boston” on the front, as they did for the first time during the Marathon tribute at Fenway Park on April 20, 2013. Fans are asked to be in their seats by 10:45 a.m. for the ceremony. All fans will receive a Boston Strong t-shirt.

The FBI is also marking the anniversary. From FBI News: Marathon Bombing Anniversary. FBI Boston marks 10-year-anniversary by honoring victims, recalling responders’ heroic efforts.

Leading up to the 10-year anniversary of the bombing at the Boston Marathon—and the ensuing manhunt and investigation that was the FBI’s largest terrorism case since 9/11—the special agent in charge of FBI Boston asked his entire office to pause and reflect on the crucible of that massive investigation as they prepared for this year’s 127th running.

Leading up to the 10-year anniversary of the bombing at the Boston Marathon—and the ensuing manhunt and investigation that was the FBI’s largest terrorism case since 9/11—the special agent in charge of FBI Boston asked his entire office to pause and reflect on the crucible of that massive investigation as they prepared for this year’s 127th running.

Three people were killed on April 15, 2013, when two pressure-cooker bombs detonated 11 seconds apart on Boylston Street near the finish line of the iconic 26-mile race. More than 500 people were physically injured, including 17 who suffered amputations. The bombers also took the life of Sean Collier, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Police officer who was executed while on patrol.

Large images of the victims were arrayed in a conference room last month at the Boston Field Office, along with a whiteboard agents used to sketch out their plans and the wanted posters that helped identify the suspects, brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. A moment of silence preceded the remembrance ceremony….

…[H]e also wanted to enlighten the office’s large cadre of young agents, analysts, and professionals—many not around 10 years ago—who may not fully appreciate the all-hands-on-deck response required in major cases like this.

“Internally, I wanted to give my personnel a real good idea, with some granularity, about what it means when a critical incident occurs,” he said, “what is expected of all of us to step up, and how we work toward a common goal.”

The article reviews the positive steps that made the investigation a model for the future.

Two survivors stories:

CBS News: Marathon bombing survivor Heather Abbott reflects on 10 year anniversary, with focus on foundation’s future.

Ten years after the explosions at the Boston Marathon finish line that forced doctors to amputate part of Heather Abbott’s leg, she says the biggest change in her life is her work with the foundation she built to help other amputees. “If someone had told me that I would be doing this ten years ago, I never would have believed them,” Abbott said. “But it’s been an unexpected blessing, I think, for me.”


Cat sleeping on a chair, by George Atsametakis

The creation of the Heather Abbott Foundation is also a blessing for its beneficiaries. The foundation helps amputees pay for prosthetics that insurance won’t cover-which includes almost anything beyond the most basic option. Running blades, swim legs, high heels-these are all vital to helping people live full lives. But insurance companies don’t consider them “medically necessary.” (Prosthetics typically have to be replaced every three to five years.)

Heather delights in sharing the news with beneficiaries that they have been chosen to receive a special prosthesis. “Not only is it incredibly rewarding to hear somebody on the other end of the phone when you tell them that you’re going to give them this prosthetic device,” Abbott said. “But then to hear about the things they’re able to do with it and how it’s changed their life provides me a huge sense of joy.”

People Magazine: Boston Marathon Bombing Survivor Will Race on the 10th Anniversary: ‘I’m Ready to Move On’ (Exclusive).

Marc Fucarile was supporting a friend at the 2013 Boston Marathon when the second bomb went off and instantly amputated his right leg. Now, ten years later, he’ll return to the marathon to thank the city and the people who have supported him.

“You never want to be on the receiving end of generosity because that means something bad happened, but it’s emotional knowing that complete strangers care about you,” Fucarile tells PEOPLE.

Before the 2013 tragedy, Fucarile was an athlete. “I played football, track, and hockey, and it was my first time at a marathon in 35 years,” he says. “The second bomb was right next to me.”

The bomb blew out Fucarile’s ear drums, burned the majority of his lower body, and forced him to undergo years of surgeries. “I did the remainder of 2013 in and out of hospitals with smaller, different surgeries, monitoring scrap metal that lodged in my heart, that took a ride up to the artery and lodged in my right atrium area.”

Fucarile has “skin grafts all over” the lower half of his body and in his hands from “taking off my belt when I was still on fire,” he explains.

Because he sustained a traumatic brain injury, Fucarile says his tolerance for noise and stimulating environments is low, which has affected his relationship with his 15-year-old son….

On the tenth anniversary, he’ll be riding in honor of the community that supported him through the 2013 tragedy. “I’m riding to show my thanks for all the support we received as survivors of such a horrific event,” he says. “The community outpour of support was amazing.”

When he participates in the marathon on Monday, Fucarile says he’ll be representing more than just his own resilience. “I’m riding in the hand cycle to show people, and to show my son, that you can really accomplish anything you put your mind to,” he explains.

A handcyle is a kind of tricycle that is powered by hands rather than your feet.


In politics news, Clarence Thomas has finally been caught breaking an actual law–as opposed to ethics rules, which he has completely ignored–when he sold property to Harlan Crow and failed to report the transaction. He needs to be called to account and forced off the Supreme Court.

Citizens for CREW files civil and criminal co,mplaint against Clarence Thomas.

The Department of Justice and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court should investigate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for failing to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from and property sales to billionaire donor Harlan Crow, according to a complaint sent today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to the Department of Justice and Chief Justice John Roberts.

According to reporting by ProPublica, Thomas and his wife have accepted luxury travel and vacations for 20 years from “real estate magnate and Republican megadonor” Crow, who befriended Thomas after he joined the Supreme Court, without disclosing them as gifts or travel reimbursements on his financial disclosures filed under the Ethics in Government Act. Thomas also reportedly sold his and other family members’ properties to Crow in 2014 for more than $100,000 without reporting the sales on his financial disclosure reports.

“Justice Thomas’s acceptance of and failure to disclose these repeated, lavish gifts and shocking real estate sales not only undermines public trust in his ability to serve impartially on the Court, it undermines confidence in the Supreme Court as an institution,” CREW President Noah Bookbinder said.

Under the Ethics in Government Act, Thomas is required to disclose travel and other gifts, with the source and a brief description, including the value. The Guide to Judiciary Policy for Financial Disclosure in effect at the time the trips were taken makes it clear that these trips were covered by the reporting requirements. While Thomas claims a hospitality exemption, that exemption would not apply to a private plane or yacht. Under the EIGA and Guide to Judiciary Policy for Financial Transaction, Thomas was required to report the sale of the properties to Crow and could not claim a personal residence exemption on disclosing them, as they were always referred to as rental properties on his disclosures and never lost their investment nature even when the houses on two of the properties were later torn down.

Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern: Quid Pro Crow. Clarence Thomas’ position toward disclosure is actually clarified by his jurisprudence.

When news broke last week, by way of dogged reporting in ProPublica, that Justice Clarence Thomas had accepted decades’ worth of hospitality from billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow, that this same donor had funded his wife’s legal and political activities and in fact helped pay her salary, and that Thomas had disclosed none of this, our suggestion that the justice had clearly broken the law was dismissed as left-wing “smear.” ProPublica’s new reporting, dropped on Thursday, showed that the same billionaire donor, Harlan Crow, spent $133,363 purchasing several properties co-owned by Thomas, and that these sales were never disclosed. As our colleagues at Slate confirmed this week, Thomas’ mother actually still lives in the property owned by Crow, to which he has made valuable improvements (in addition to buying the house next door and dispensing with previously troublesome neighbors). Unlike the rules around the undisclosed luxury travel reported last week, ProPublica could not find a single ethics expert willing to squint and hop on one foot in a way that would make the failure to report the real estate transaction seem arguably lawful. The court has not responded in any way to the latest revelations. Defenders of Justice Thomas somehow continue to urge that this is a smear campaign by liberals.

Suzanne Valadon

Painting by Suzanne Valadon

In a way, the fact that money went from Harlan Crow’s pocket to Thomas’ mom’s house seems less horrifying than last week’s superyachts and half-million-dollar luxury air travel. Who among us wouldn’t want a billionaire to evict the noisy neighbors who were keeping our mothers up late? But it helps to parse out what mattered about both Thomas stories and what is mostly a distraction. That Thomas is a “hypocrite” for claiming to like parking outside Walmarts to commune with real people while secretly indulging his taste for luxe global travel? Doesn’t really matter. Harlan Crow’s penchant for cunningly little embroidered Nazi table linens? Weird, surely, but materially inconsequential….

What mattered last week and what still matters this week is whether the Crow/Thomas dealings can be seen as classic quid pro quo (or perhaps quid pro Crow)corruption. We too often think this can only happen in a scene in which cartoon ducks with big sacks of cash pay politicians to do their bidding, which is never how this actually happens. And the longstanding defense to those claims is that Justice Thomas is too independent a thinker and jurist to be influenced by gifts of bibles and vacations and rent-free housing. But what this new reporting shows—and what actually matters—is that Crow and those like him, who have poured billions of dollars into funding cases before the court, campaigns to seat certain justices on the court, and crusades to keep other justices off the court, turn out to just own the whole building. In tandem with the Leonard Leos and Mark Paolettas who have been rendered in art for all eternity, the Harlan Crows are the actual landlords of the houses where the six conservative justices seemingly get to live rent-free.

f you’re defending Thomas’ unlawful refusal to disclose these transactions by saying he’s too famous/powerful/important/busy/put-upon to disclose these transactions, you are missing the point. Disclosure laws aren’t tawdry “gotcha” traps that form the basis of smear campaigns. Disclosure rules are the only means of transparency in a world of increasingly broken democratic systems. Citizens United and its dismantling of campaign finance reform? Justified on the grounds that disclosure rules suffice to ferret out corruption. We don’t demand that public figures deal honestly with the public because we are mean; we do it because law and democracy rise and fall on knowing who paid who for what.

At The New Republic, Michael Tomasky wrote this piece after the first revelations and before we learned about the real estate transactions: The Democrats Need to Destroy Clarence Thomas’s Reputation.

ProPublica’s report last week is jaw-dropping. In the end it shows this: Thomas used to report his gifts from right-wing billionaire Harlan Crow. Then they became a little controversial. So what did Thomas do? Stop accepting the gifts? That’s what you or I would do, or at least make them far less frequent and ostentatious. But Thomas doesn’t think like you or I do. He thinks: How I can twist the dagger into the liberal establishment’s flesh even further? So rather than stop accepting the gifts, he just decided to stop reporting them. Which ProPublica says is against the law.

Can he be impeached? Not now, with the GOP in control of the House. If that changes, sure, they can try, as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others have suggested. Of course, he would be acquitted in the Senate, where two-thirds are required to convict (indeed, Samuel Chase survived).

But that’s no reason for Democrats not to do it. In fact, as I suspect AOC understands, the way partisanship works today in this country, that’s precisely an excellent reason to do it: Have a long hearing that lays bare every instance of his and his wife’s corrupt activities in a high-profile venue that Americans will watch; make the case to swing-voting Americans that he is dishonoring the court’s name and reputation; drive his approval ratings into the toilet (in a 2022 YouGov poll, Thomas already had the highest “very unfavorable” rating of the nine justices, at 32 percent); and force the Republican senators to vote to keep this clearly undeserving, mediocre, arrogant, unscrupulous hornswoggler on the court.

Make him a political issue (not in time for 2024, alas, but in general). Destroy his reputation. If nothing else, ensure that he goes down in history the way he deserves, as one of the most unqualified Supreme Court justices ever, who has gone on to leave as light an intellectual footprint as someone serving three-plus decades could leave. Make him—and his wife, Ginni, who is also completely without scruples in the way she, as the spouse of a Supreme Court justice, entangles herself in our public life—a metaphor for every insidious thing the far-right wing has done to this country.

Vanessa Stockard

Painting by Vanessa Stockard

It’s really up to the Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin to start the process of investigating Thomas, but does Durbin have the guts to do what needs to be done? I don’t think so. He needs to be forced into it by public outrage. I got a newsletter about this from Tomasky in my email today. I can’t find it online, but here’s some of it:

Earlier this week, I wrote in response to ProPublica’s first report that the Democrats need to destroy Thomas’s reputation by holding hearings on his dealings, which of course is something they’ve never done. “Have a long hearing that lays bare every instance of his and his wife’s corrupt activities in a high-profile venue that Americans will watch,” I wrote. “Make the case to swing-voting Americans that he is dishonoring the court’s name and reputation; drive his approval ratings into the toilet (in a 2022 YouGov poll, Thomas already had the highest ‘very unfavorable’ rating of the nine justices, at 32 percent); and force the Republican senators to vote to keep this clearly undeserving, mediocre, arrogant, unscrupulous hornswoggler on the court.”

Now the case for action is even clearer. But action by whom? There’s only one serious contender: the Senate Judiciary Committee. It’s controlled by the Democrats, and they can do whatever they are prepared to do. But what exactly is that?

Last Monday, after the first ProPublica report, committee Chairman Dick Durbin vowed that the committee “will act.” He did not elaborate on that. Later, he urged Chief Justice John Roberts to investigate Thomas. Then I saw on cable news Thursday night (I can’t find anything online Friday morning) that he called on Merrick Garland to do something.

Mr. Chairman: Stop tossing the football around. You have a gavel, and you have subpoena power. Subpoena Clarence Thomas. Next week.

What? Horrors! Subpoena a Supreme Court justice? Can that even be done?

Yes it can, but only if the Democrats have the guts to do it.

The other big story today is about 21-year-old leaker of top secret documents, Jack Teixeira. Here are the latest stories:

Charlie Savage at The New York Times: Teixeira’s case is unusual even in the small world of leak cases.

It is hard to predict how the case against Jack Teixeira, the 21-year-old Air National Guardsman accused of leaking classified documents to friends on a gaming server, will play out — both because the matter is still very preliminary and because the facts are so unusual that there is limited value in comparing it to the general pattern of leak cases.

Steve Hanks

By Steve Hanks

Based on the charging documents in his case, Airman Teixeira does not appear to have been acting as a foreign agent, differentiating him from classic spying cases. He also does not appear to have been acting as a whistle-blower or otherwise trying to educate the general public by sharing secrets with the news media for publication, making his case different from another sort that has become more common in the 21st century.

He also does not fit a third category of past cases of mishandling classified information: the hoarder. Prosecutors have charged people who are neither spying nor trying to enlighten the public for taking files home and keeping them. But because Airman Teixeira is accused of transmitting large numbers of files to other people who were not authorized to see them, his case is more serious.

These differences show how past cases may be poor guides for how this will play out.

Defendants also have an incentive to make a deal so they can ensure a shorter sentence than the threat they are facing under the Espionage Act, which criminalizes the unauthorized retention and disclosure of national-security secrets. It carries a sentence of up to 10 years per count, and each leaked document could be its own count. Plea deals in leak-related cases have typically resulted in a few years of prison.

But prosecutors may be less willing to offer a relatively attractive prison sentence in a case as serious as Airman Teixeira’s, which involved hundreds of classified documents that revealed sensitive matters, like how extensively the United States has penetrated Russian military communications.

Read more at the NYT and in these articles:

The Washington Post: Leak raises fresh questions about Pentagon’s internal security.

BBC News: Jack Teixeira’s charges in full: ‘Top secret’ access, leak searches and the Espionage Act.

The Wall Street Journal: Airman, Arrested for Leaks, Chatted in Groups Fascinated by Weapons and War.

That’s it for me. I hope you find something here to interest you. Have a great weekend!!

11 Comments on “Lazy Caturday Reads”

  1. BB, the story of those kids in Ukraine are something horrifying to think about, I’m glad they were able to get back home.

    Here is a cute story about a bird and a rock.

  2. quixote says:

    All I keep thinking about the Air Nat Guardsman is

    Zomg a traitor who’s fine with crapping on his country for bragging rights. The other one is an Air National Guardsman.

    I wonder why they didn’t start a years-long investigation for the boy. He’s in jail already.

    :multiple angry demon faces:

    (Off topic: Luna, when you can, check email.)

    • NW Luna says:

      In jail already? Yet a certain orange-faced man who blathers classified material to Russians and others is still on the loose.

      Replied back to you finally; apologies.

  3. dakinikat says:

  4. bostonboomer says:

    What a sweet story! (This was in reply to JJ)

  5. roofingbird says:

    Does anyone know Thomas’s rental sales were reported to the IRS?

    • quixote says:

      Just read something about that. In the context of it never having been listed as a private residence, it said it had been categorized as commercial real estate right through to when it was sold. Which implies it was reported, but in the wrong category. The one that lets you take huge depreciation, business costs, etc etc as well as covering up the fact that the whole schemier is mutliple bribes.

      If I remember it right.

  6. bostonboomer says:

  7. NW Luna says:

    For Caturday