Monday Reads: “There’s no such thing as a winnable war”

irina vitalievna karkabi

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I feel as though I’ve become addicted to War Porn. I usually do not watch TV at all over the weekend but I couldn’t help but check the news. I spent yesterday talking to Alex several times asking about his 8-year-old daughter who is now with her mother in a town near Moldova with papers and passports ready should they need to cross the border. The schools are gone so she is learning English online.  His elderly mother refuses to leave and is determined to fight. He’s ready to defend his country on whatever level he can. We get interrupted a few times as he tells me and our other friends from all over the world with similar concerns that the sirens have gone off again. Yesterday, he says, the Russians took out their airport and schools. I haven’t heard from a friend in Hungary all weekend. Refugees are fleeing What next?

I think what next is the question of this decade.  Yesterday, as I watched Russian artillary kill a young mother and her two small children while their dog screamed out I was stunned and out of it for hours. The NYT photojournalist Lynsey Addario’s “security advisor (e.g. mercenary)  runs and screams medic for a helpful family friend who still had a heart beat while the children and mother lie in the street pale and lifeless. I can’t imagine ever forgetting that image.

Marie Bashkirtseff, The Umbrella, 1883

These are war crimes, captured as they occur on TV. They are not the grainy black and white film we have as Holocaust survivors appear after being liberated by US and allied troops years but we see these years after the crimes themselves.  It’s not the film of Soviet Tanks running over Czechlosavkia, Hungary, or Poland in short snippets during the 6 p.m. news carefully scripted and edited by news editors.  This is real-time and we continue to see it. There was the slaughter of the Kurds at the hands of the Turks as Donald Trump abandons them. The flood of refugees trying to flee Afghanistan with their Taliban overlords ready to blow them up.  The flattening impact of Russian bombs during the attack on Aleppo. Our shock and awe attack on Baghdad instigated by Cheney and Bush.  Over and over we see these things. We see reporters lining up to get their wartime credentials but this time I sense Ukraine has made them shell-shocked early and less enwrapt in the image.

What next?

From The Times of London: “This war will be a total failure, FSB whistleblower says.” 

Spies in Russia’s infamous security apparatus were kept in the dark about President Putin’s plan to invade Ukraine, according to a whistleblower who described the war as a “total failure” that could be compared only to the collapse of Nazi Germany.

A report thought to be by an analyst in the FSB, the successor agency to the KGB, said that the Russian dead could already number 10,000. The Russian defence ministry has acknowledged the deaths of only 498 of its soldiers in Ukraine.

The report said the FSB was being blamed for the failure of the invasion but had been given no warning of it and was unprepared to deal with the effects of crippling sanctions.

The whistleblower added that no one in the government knew the true figure of the dead because “we have lost contact with major divisions”.

FSB officers had been ordered to assess the effects of western sanctions, they said, but were told that it was a hypothetical box-ticking exercise. “You have to write the analysis in a way that makes Russia the victor . . . otherwise you get questioned for not doing good work,” they wrote. “Suddenly it happens and everything comes down to your completely groundless analysis.

“[We are] acting intuitively, on emotion . . . our stakes will have to be raised ever higher with the hope that suddenly something might come through for us.

“By and large, though, Russia has no way out. There are no options for a possible victory, only defeat.”

The letter said that Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen leader and an ally of Putin, was on the verge of outright conflict with the Russians after his “hit squad”, sent to kill President Zelensky, was destroyed by Ukrainian forces.

Even if Zelensky were killed, the report said, Russia would have no hope of occupying Ukraine. “Even with minimum resistance from the Ukrainians we’d need over 500,000 people, not including supply and logistics workers.”

Well, that doesn’t sound good does it?

How can I save my little boy from Oppenheimer’s deadly toy?
There is no monopoly on common sense
On either side of the political fence
We share the same biology, regardless of ideology
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too

Viktor Zaretsky, The night arrest, 1962. Ukrainian Unofficial.

From the Hill: “Blinken: NATO looking at more permanent troop deployments in Baltic region” reported by Mychael Schnell.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday said NATO is looking at more permanent troop deployments in the Baltic region as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine.

Asked if the U.S. will send troops to the Baltic region permanently to protect NATO countries, Blinken told reporters that the alliance is “looking at questions of more permanent deployments.”

“We’re continuously reviewing within NATO our defense posture, including looking at questions of extending the deployment of forces, looking at questions of more permanent deployments,” Blinken said during a joint press conference with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis in Lithuania.

“All of that is under regular review, and we’re engaged with NATO Allies in doing just that,” he added.

The secretary emphasized that “When it comes to NATO, the line is very clear,” pointing to article five of the North Atlantic Treaty.

“If there is any aggression anywhere on NATO territory, on NATO countries, we the United States, all of our allies and partners, will take action to defend every inch of NATO territory,” Blinken said. “It’s as clear and direct as that.”

It’s good they’re still trying to talk but so far the Russians can’t even deliver safe corridors for the women, children, and elderly fleeing the war zones.

Viktor Zaretsky

I had a friend here in New Orleans who now refers to looking for updates on Ukrainia as “doom-scrolling”. That seems an apt description.  However, this has me thinking about little 8-year-old Vera with her mother. From The Washington Post by Chico Harlan: “After Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Moldova worries it might be next”.  Moldova maintains permanent neutrality per its constitution.

There have been no air raid sirens in Moldova, no explosions and no casualties, but already some of the turbulence and anxiety of war is starting to build.

People trade jittery messages on social media as Russian troops move through neighboring Ukraine. Some Moldovans are stockpiling foreign currency and drawing up plans to flee. Many, seeing how abruptly lives collapsed in Ukraine, say they fear the potential for catastrophe in their own country: All it takes is for Russian President Vladimir Putin to expand his ambitions.

“You never know what is in the mind of a crazy person,” said Evgheni Liuft, 32, who lives in Moldova’s capital of Chisinau.

Ten days into a conflict that is shifting alliances and upending the world order, the repercussions are hitting most directly in countries such as Moldova — post-Soviet nations that balanced for years between East and West, and are now realizing the middle ground is untenable.

In Moldova, the war has accelerated the drive to align fully with Europe. On Thursday, the country signed an application to join the European Union, in what its prime minister described as a vote for “freedom.” Moldova has also strained to accommodate more than 250,000 Ukrainian refugees who have crossed its borders, the prime minister noted. In a visit Sunday to Moldova’s capital, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the country a “powerful” example of a democracy moving forward, not backward.

Irina Karkabi

Despite calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine Airspace, people in the know say it’s ” War with Russia by Another Name”. This is from Crisis Group: Some current and former officials, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, call for Western powers to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine. This Q&A explains what a no-fly zone would entail, where similar zones have been established before and the dangers of that option in Ukraine.

Those advocating for a no-fly zone over Ukraine have not clarified the precise contours of such a military operation, including whether it would be limited to excluding Russian aircraft from Ukrainian airspace or, as occurred in Libya with different actors, also entail attacks against Russian ground forces. In any event, a no-fly zone would likely require not merely the threat of the use of force, but actual U.S. and/or allied attacks on Russian forces. To be very clear, a U.S. no-fly zone over Ukraine would necessitate a direct military confrontation with Russia, and as noted above, President Putin has said he would regard this as bringing the U.S. into the conflict.

From Aljeezera: “What is Putin’s endgame in Ukraine? “He wants to think himself as a nowadays Stalin,” renowned Russian journalist Yevgenia Albats tells Marc Lamont Hill.

Yevgenia Albats, who serves as editor-in-chief of the independent The New Times magazine, says Russian President Vladimir Putin “wants to have the kind of international order that Stalin agreed to have with Roosevelt and Churchill,” at the end of World War II.

“That’s what he wants, he wants to think himself as a nowadays Stalin.”

Albats says she believes Putin decided to invade Ukraine months ago, “when he realised that he was unable to force the West to provide him with the kind of world – international arrangements – that he wanted, that is to say that he wanted to divide the world into spheres of influence and assign Russia all the former Soviet Republics … he decided to start the war”.

On UpFront, Yevgenia Albats, a journalist and author; Stefanie Babst, the former deputy assistant secretary-general of NATO; and Agnia Grigas, an author and Atlantic Council senior fellow, join Marc Lamont Hill for a roundtable discussion looking at Putin’s possible reasons for launching the invasion of Ukraine and the likely consequences of his war – not just for Ukrainians, but for Russian citizens as well.

Well, this is another mess you’ve gotten us into Vlad the Mad Bomber!  I’m going to read something and quit doom-scrolling for a while. The artists featured are all Ukrainian.

What’s on your reading and blogging list!?


Friday Reads: A Grim update and Prognosis

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I am so late getting started on this!  Today I finally got some reprieve from the 8 days of dawn to dusk grinding, sawing, and hammering from my neighbor’s next door.   They have a covered porch in the back now and I have a migraine.  Then, I spent my evening in disbelief that some Russian Batallion fired on, hit, set on fire, then captured the largest Nuclear Power Plant in Europe.   All that while I nurse whatever I did to my little left toe while managing to pull a heavy garbage bin onto it.  I’m exhausted.

The refugee crisis from the Russian Invasion of Ukraine is worsening. This article in Vox investigates where the refugees are headed and who is helping them and how. “Where are Ukrainian refugees going? The arrival of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees is straining humanitarian resources. has the byline.

The number of Ukrainians who have fled Russia’s war on their country surpassed 1 million on Thursday, and that number is rising hourly.

“I have worked in refugee emergencies for almost 40 years, and rarely have I seen an exodus as rapid as this one,” United Nations Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement Thursday.

European governments and humanitarian organizations have been planning for their arrival for weeks, but the number of refugees has surpassed those expectations. The UN has projected that 4 million Ukrainian refugees could arrive in neighboring countries just in the coming weeks.

Such a heavy influx would be a “huge burden for receiving states and would no doubt stress reception systems and related resources,” Grandi said during a United Nations Security Council meeting on Monday.

So far, at least 505,000 Ukrainians have gone to Poland, 139,000 to Hungary, 97,000 to Moldova, 51,000 to Romania, 72,000 to Slovakia, and 90,000 to other European countries. Nearly 48,000 have also gone to Russia and a few hundred have gone to Belarus. Most of the refugees are women and children, including a growing number of unaccompanied children. Ukraine has conscripted men between the ages of 18 and 60 to fight, prohibiting them from leaving.

I haven’t heard from my Ukrainian friend Alex for two days now. He’s in the north but is west so he still might be out of the warzone.

The Russians are regrouping in the North where that column of vehicles is still stalled.  However, they are consolidating hold over the southern parts of Ukraine capturing a city with a major port.

The U.S. and European allies scramble to find ways to stop Putin but it looks like a more severe, deadly phase of its invasion. Russia is currently hitting small villages, towns, and cities with all its got. Reporters indicate that several towns north of Kyiv have been flattened. Putin is adding to his list of war crimes. There have been failed assassination attempts on the Ukrainian President’s life. This is from Axios and written by Ivana Saric.

Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council chief Oleksiy Danilov announced during a briefing Tuesday that Ukrainian forces had foiled an assassination plot against President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to a Telegram post from Ukrainian authorities.

Why it matters: Zelensky has said since the start of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine that he would be a prime target for assassination. Last Thursday, he warned that Russian “sabotage groups” had entered Kyiv and were hunting for him and his family.

The big picture: According to the Telegram message, Danilov said that a unit of elite Chechen special forces, known as Kadyroviteshad been behind the plot and had subsequently been “eliminated.”

  • “We are well aware of the special operation that was to take place directly by the Kadyrovites to eliminate our president,” Danilov said, per the post.
  • Ukrainian authorities had been tipped off about the plot by members of Russia’s Federal Security Service who do not support the war, he added.
  • Danilov elaborated that the Kadyrovite group had been divided into two, with one being destroyed in Gostomel and the other “under fire.”

As I write, I’m listening to our Secretary of State talk about the situation and our relationship with our allies.

Our country and our allies are doing as much as they feel able to do. From CNN: “US officials say Biden administration is sharing intelligence with Ukraine at a ‘frenetic’ pace after Republicans criticize efforts.

The US has multiple channels open and is sharing intelligence with Ukraine at a “frenetic” pace, US officials said Thursday, disputing criticism that the Biden administration is not sharing battlefield intelligence fast enough.

Still, the US’ secure communications with Ukrainian officials are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain as the war rages on, the sources told CNN. Officials also acknowledged that the US is now more limited in its ability to collect real-time intelligence with no one on the ground, and the apparent lack of military drones flying overhead. The CIA has not acknowledged whether it is flying its own drones to surveil the conflict.

Republican Sens. Ben Sasse and Marco Rubio, the top GOP member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, have both said publicly in recent days that they are concerned intelligence isn’t getting to the Ukrainian military quickly enough. House Republicans began amplifying those concerns this week, ramping up criticism of the Biden administration for allegedly “withholding” intelligence from the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians, though, have not complained publicly about any lack of intelligence-sharing by the US.

One Senate source familiar with GOP concerns said that lawmakers were concerned both that the intelligence was being downgraded, or made less specific, and that it wasn’t being conveyed to the Ukrainians fast enough.

Sources familiar with the intelligence said it is indeed being downgraded, but primarily to scrub sensitive sources and methods — a particular concern given the logistical challenges with establishing fully secure lines with Ukrainian officials amid the Russian onslaught.

Many UK people and NGOs also believe the UK may not be doing enough.  This is from The Guardian.  The two difficult topics are a no-fly zone which could lead to a direct battle between Russian and NATO forces.  The other appears to be the degree to which Russia can be cut off from the international oil markets.  There are also calls for more help to get on top of the expanding refugee crisis. “Charities and opposition parties urge UK to do more for Ukrainian refugees.  Lib Dems call for fully funded refugee scheme and Mark Drakeford wants Wales to be a ‘nation of sanctuary’ ”

Charities and opposition parties have urged the government to do more to help with an expected surge in refugees fleeing Ukraine after the Russian invasion, with concerns also raised about the issuing of visas now UK diplomats have left the country.

With the UN refugee agency warning that as many as 5 million Ukrainians could be forced to flee, the Liberal Democrats called for a comprehensive and fully funded refugee scheme. Mark Drakeford, the Labour Welsh first minister, said he wanted his country to be a “nation of sanctuary”.

Dozens of refugee charities have jointly called for an evacuation and resettlement plan similar to the one that housed thousands of families in the UK after the Balkans conflicts in the 1990s.

I was in London during the Balkans conflict.  I sat up in the Parliament’s small balcony and watched PM Thatcher taking questions from the opposition party. I have to admit it was one of the most thrilling moments of all my travels given my heritage and my interests. I can’t imagine I’d feel the same watching Bojo.

Foreign Policy indicates that “There Could Be 10 Million Ukrainians Fleeing Putin’s Bombs. Europe has opened its borders to the continent’s biggest exodus of refugees since 1945.”   This is written by  Bart M. J. Szewczyk, a nonresident senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund and an adjunct professor at Sciences Po.  We better settle into watching this escalating suffering.  I’m just relieved we have President Biden who knows how to build consensus.

.As Ukrainians flee in massive numbers, Europeans have opened their countries and homes with unprecedented speed and generosity. The scale and pace of the Ukrainian refugee exodus—more than 1 million within only a week—dwarfs even the worst of recent humanitarian crises and is quickly approaching the epic dislocations last seen in Europe in 1945. In Syria, it took two years before refugee flows reached a similar level. In 2015 and 2016, the European Union took in 1 million asylum-seekers each year from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, and this so-called migration crisis quickly turned into an existential issue for the continent. Ukraine, with twice the population of Syria and three times its territory, could generate over 10 million refugees and internally displaced people in the coming months and years. Nonetheless, recent international experience and initial European responses suggest that the open-door strategy is sustainable—not to mention morally right.

We already know that most refugees seek shelter in neighboring countries. Syrians primarily fled to Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan; Afghans to Pakistan and Iran; and South Sudanese to Uganda, Ethiopia, and Sudan. This makes sense since families fleeing conflict, often on foot or by any immediately available transport, will search for refuge in the closest area where they can find protection. In principle, staying close to home can also expedite returning home once the conflict ends. Neighboring countries are also likely to host diaspora communities that can help ease the hardship and transition for refugees.

This global rule applies fully to the crisis in Ukraine. Over the past week, a majority of refugees fled to Poland—which already had a large and well-integrated Ukrainian community of over 300,000—with the rest going primarily to the other states on Ukraine’s western border: Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia, and Romania. Some Ukrainians are moving and will move to other parts of Europe or countries with large diasporas, such as the United States and Canada, but many will stay in the front-line states of first refuge. Being uprooted is difficult every time.

None of the front-line states are as affected as Poland, which immediately mobilized for the influx. The mass deployment of Polish government officials, municipal workers, emergency services, and ordinary civilians on behalf of Ukrainian refugees is as admirable as it is unsurprising. Etched deep into Poland’s DNA is the memory of Soviet and Nazi aggression—and the experience of facing impossible odds against an occupying power. Poland’s support to Ukrainian refugees is visceral as much as rational.

NPR explores one issue we’ve discussed here: “Race, culture and politics underpin how — or if — refugees are welcomed in Europe.” None of these three should influence the degree we commit to being our “brother’s keeper” and providing refuge to those in need but there it is.

More than a million Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries to escape the Russian invasion — and that number could soar to more than 4 million in coming months, the United Nations refugee agency says.

More than half have entered Poland, with others going to Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia and Romania — and they have been receiving a warm welcome.

Ukrainians arriving in Hungary are coming to a “friendly place,” Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said.

“We will do everything to provide safe shelter in Poland for everyone who needs it,” said Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski.

At the Polish border, guards hand out sandwiches to Ukrainians in waiting rooms. Polish citizens donate piles of toys and meet migrants with hot tea and free rides to where they need to go.

The open-arm welcome for those fleeing Ukraine stands in sharp contrast to the treatment of previous waves of refugees from places like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Just two months earlier, Orbán said Hungary was keeping its restrictive immigration policies: “[W]e aren’t going to let anyone in.”

Earlier this week, Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov drew a distinction between those fleeing Ukraine and others.

“These people are Europeans,” Petkov said. “These people are intelligent, they are educated people. … This is not the refugee wave we have been used to, people we were not sure about their identity, people with unclear pasts, who could have been even terrorists …”

Some folks sure haven’t read their Jesus teachings.  And this is another reason why:

“Global group of Black attorneys file U.N. complaint for African refugees. The group of lawyers, which includes Ben Crump, will send the complaint to two agencies with the United Nations.”

An alliance of prominent civil rights lawyers from around the world on Wednesday announced it will file an appeal to the United Nations on behalf of Black refugees facing discrimination while trying to flee Ukraine.

The group includes Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney for the families of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery; attorney Jasmine Rand, who represented the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown; Peter Herbert, one of Britain’s few nonwhite judges; Jamaican Member of Parliament G. Anthony Hylton; British solicitor Jacqueline McKenzie; and Carlos Moore, president of the National Bar Association in the U.S. They plan to file the appeal to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as the U.N.’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Earlier this week Filippo Grandi, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, and Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, acknowledged that some Africans looking to escape the Russian invasion of Ukraine had experienced discriminatory practices at the country’s borders.

“Such blatant racism cannot be tolerated,” Zita Holbourne, the chairwoman of the Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts U.K. told The Independent. “Human rights of Black and brown people, predominantly students situated in Ukraine, must be honored and safe exit facilitated for all, free of discriminatory selection processes at borders. The targeting of Black and brown people in this way is a racist human rights abuse on top of a human rights crisis impacting all people forced to flee Ukraine.”

So, I’m hearing that many parts of the United States are already preparing to accept refugees. This is from KOMO news in the Puget Sound area of Washington state.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is sparking concerns worldwide. In Puget Sound, groups like Lutheran Community Services Northwest are gearing up to help.

The agency has helped resettle more than 2,100 Ukrainians in Washington and Oregon in the past five years. That includes placing 100 Ukrainians in the past year in Washington state.

The group is helping Ukrainian refugees even now. David Duea is CEO/President of LCS Northwest.

“We have been scheduled to resettle 55 in the next couple of weeks. We don’t know if they are coming. I don’t know if we are ready. But we have to be,” said Duea.

Months ago, there was an urgent plea for help from the community when Afghans started arriving from their war-torn country.

According to LCS Northwest, since last summer the agency helped resettle 700 Afghans in the Pacific Northwest after the Taliban took over Afghanistan.

“What the overall community can do (now) is continuing what we do with Afghans–which is donating furniture; We have welcome kits. Just being ready,” said Duea. “It is a bit of a deja vu. We know the community is already starting to rally and people are volunteering their homes to be host homes–which we are going to take them up on because of the housing crisis in our area. It’s all hands on deck.”

Yes, people of Earth.  It’s all hands on decks.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Kremlin Caligula and the Kremlin Klan

putin-and-trump-and-hacking-cartoon-sack-1The saga of the Glasnost Menagerie continues.

And so we begin another Week of America Held Hostage with more news about the connections between the the current Presidential Usurper and his handlers in Moscow.

There are a few places where this story is being completely investigated.  For one, I don’t think Congresswoman Maxine Waters is going to let go of anything despite all the Republican Sandbagging.   TBogg–writing for Raw Story–summarizes Waters’ Sunday appearance on MSNBC.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) leveled serious charges against the Trump White House on Sunday, saying U.S. policies toward Russia are being driven by what she called the “Kremlin clan” more interested in oil and personal business than U.S. needs.

Appearing on MSNBC with host Alex Witt, the California congresswoman said Trump’s recent attacks on the media are a way to delegitimize their reporting on his Russian connections.

Waters’ claims came just before the New York Times released a bombshell report stating that Trump insiders and associates were working on a plan to blackmail Ukraine President Petro O. Poroshenko in an effort to make the Obama-era sanctions disappear.

“Donald Trump is so outrageous that he thinks he can get away with saying anything,” Waters explained. “And he’s trying to get his supporters to believe that the media is lying on him because the facts are going to come out about him, his involvement with Russia, his involvement with Russia during the campaign and the connection between those around him and Putin and the Kremlin. And he’s trying to get his supporters to believe that when they hear this, it’s going to be a big lie because the media cannot be trusted, that somehow they are against the people.”

According to Waters, Trump is worried his supporters will start to put two and two together as more Russia revelations come out, including those involving the people he has surrounded himself with.

“They see that Flynn, who he had to fire, was talking with Russia about sanctions with the Russian ambassador,” she explained. “I believe that [Secretary of State] Tillerson, who was the CEO of Exxon, has as his highest priority getting rid of the sanctions. Don’t forget, he is the one who negotiated the deal with Russia to drill in the Arctic and that was stopped because Obama placed sanctions on them and they couldn’t proceed with that. And so Tillerson, who has this great relationship with Putin, is going to do everything that he can to lift those sanctions and that’s going to be their Achilles heel.”

Waters then said that Tillerson is just one part of what she calls the “Kremlin clan,” and that it begins at the top with Trump.

“Why does he like Putin so much?” Waters asked. “Why does he defend them? And I think it’s all connected to what I call the Kremlin Klan. All of these people around him that are connected to oil and gas in the Kremlin and Ukraine. It’s all about them. Just think about it. Manafort, his campaign manager, and who had to leave because it was determined that he had connections to the Kremlin and to the Ukraine and whether you’re talking about him or Roger Stone or some of the others, they are all about oil and gas and they thought that if they elected Trump, that somehow they were going to have someone friendly to them that would help lift these sanctions and this Kremlin clan are all going to benefit from it.”

trumptoon02Kremlin Caligula has a lot of explaining to do but was probably too wrapped up by his angry tirades and Swedish conspiracy theories to think he may be subject to any inquiry. Matthew Yglesias at Vox has 33 questions that somebody needs to answer.

What we have instead are a lot of small, unanswered questions. Questions about Flynn’s behavior and the circumstances of his firing. Questions about the behavior of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and the circumstances of his firing. Questions about enigmatic remarks made by longtime Trump associate and veteran political operative Roger Stone. Questions about an obscure American businessman named Carter Page who maybe — or maybe not — worked for some time with the Trump campaign.

But there are also longstanding questions about the opaque financing of the Trump Organization, and about why its founder and owner has been so reluctant to engage in normal levels of financial disclosure. And most of all, there are questions about Trump’s highly unorthodox attitudes toward Russia, its government, and its leader, Vladimir Putin.

Go check them out.  It’s a long and intriguing set of entanglements and loose ends.  Joseph Cannon has a great set of links and reads on the topic too.

If Josh Marshall has read the tea leaves correctly, Sater may soon become a household name. Sater, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and the Putin government have been hammering out a Ukraine peace plan, which Sater gave to General Flynn just before his resignation. Why is this shocking? Because — as indicated above — Sater is a shady, sleazy character, and Trump has been trying to pretend that he has no real links to the guy.

donald-trump-cartoon-w-putin-imageWhat’s really triggered the new intrigue was a Time magazine article that dropped the name Felix Sater. The article cited by Cannon on TPM.  Josh Marshall has a good deal of questions on a guy who may become a household world for sleazeball.  There’s no doubt in my mind that T-Rump sees himself as some kind of global oligarch in the Russian model.  Putin is thought to be the wealthiest man on earth.  Is Kremlin Caligula looking to set up self up similarly by pilfering US assets?

After the lawyers got involved, Trump said he barely knew who Sater was. But there is voluminous evidence that Sater, a Russian emigrant, was key to channeling Russian capital to Trump for years. Sater is also a multiple felon and at least a one-time FBI informant. Bayrock Capital, where he worked was located in Trump Tower and he himself worked as a special advisor to Trump. Again, read the Times article to get a flavor of his ties to Trump, the Trump SoHo project and Russia. For my money there’s no better place to start to understand the Trump/Russia issue.

On its own, Trump’s relationship with Sater might be written off (albeit not terribly plausibly) as simply a sleazy relationship Trump entered into to get access to capital he needed to finance his projects. Whatever shadowy ties Sater might have and whatever his criminal background, Trump has long since washed his hands of him. (Again, we’re talking about most generous reads here.)

But now we learn that Sater is still very much in the Trump orbit and acting as a go-between linking Trump and a pro-Putin Ukrainian parliamentarian pitching ‘peace plans’ for settling the dispute between Russia and Ukraine. (Artemenko is part of the political faction which Manafort helped build up in the aftermath of the ouster of his Ukrainian benefactor, deposed President Viktor Yanukovych.) Indeed, far, far more important, Cohen – who is very close to Trump and known for dealing with delicate matters – is in contact with Sater and hand delivering political and policy plans from him to the President.

Here’s something astounding from WAPO.  This certainly makes Watergate look like a Piker’s Ball.  You have to wonder what kind of stuff the Kremlin hackers got from the RNC and exactly who’s little gonads are swinging in the wind if it’s released.

President Trump’s personal lawyer and a former business associate met privately in New York City last month with a member of the Ukrainian parliament to discuss a peace plan for that country that could give Russia long-term control over territory it seized in 2014 and lead to the lifting of sanctions against Moscow.

The meeting with Andrii V. Artemenko, the Ukrainian politician, involved Michael Cohen, a Trump Organization lawyer since 2007, and Felix Sater, a former business partner who worked on real estate projects with Trump’s company.

The occurrence of the meeting, first reported Sunday by the New York Times, suggests that some in the region aligned with Russia have been seeking to use Trump business associates as an informal conduit to a new president who has signaled a desire to forge warmer relations with Russia. The discussion took place amid increasingly intense scrutiny of the ties between Trump’s team and Russia, as well as escalating investigations on Capitol Hill of the determination by U.S. intelligence agencies that the Kremlin intervened in last year’s election to help Trump.

The Times reported that Cohen said he left the proposal in a sealed envelope in the office of then-national security adviser Michael T. Flynn while visiting Trump in the White House. The meeting took place days before Flynn’s resignation last week following a report in The Washington Post that he had misled Vice President Pence about his discussions in December of election-related sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Cohen, speaking with The Post on Sunday, acknowledged that the meeting took place and that he had left with the peace proposal in hand.

But Cohen said he did not take the envelope to the White House and did not discuss it with anyone. He called suggestions to the contrary “fake news.”

“I acknowledge that the brief meeting took place, but emphatically deny discussing this topic or delivering any documents to the White House and/or General Flynn,” Cohen said. He said he told the Ukrainian official that he could send the proposal to Flynn by writing him at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

download-2New York Magazine points this interesting thing out amid all the spooks and spies.  Least we forget the Golden Showers moments and the former spy who has definitely gone into hiding.

A controversial and unverified dossier assembled by a former British intelligence agent alleged that Cohen had discussed Russia’s hacking of Democratic Party computer systems with a Russian official in Prague during Trump’s campaign, but Cohen and the Russian official have both denied that allegation. Sater had apparently been working on a plan for a Trump Tower in Moscow that was halted on account of Trump’s presidential campaign. Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall, for what it’s worth, thinks Sater’s inclusion in the report is a very big deal, since Sater was at the center of the Trump Soho development project in Manhattan, which Marshall notes was the Trump project with the most Russia-linked shadiness.

I don’t know about you but all of this has me extremely nervous.  As David Corn of MoJo puts it:

Every time we turn around, there’s something new linking Trump to Russia. Just a few days ago, FBI Director James Comey briefed the Senate Intelligence committee about the ongoing investigation of Team Trump and its ties to Russia, and all the chatter afterward was about how the senators seemed kind of shaken by what they heard.

Who knows? Maybe it all turns out to be nothing. But there sure is a lot of smoke out there. It’s hard to believe there isn’t a fire too.

Economic Gain?  Blackmail?  Affinity for fellow thugs?  Who knows what the motivations are for all of this.  All I know is that our country is on the losing end of all this and I would hate to for us sell our allies out for rubles.

 

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Extra Lazy Saturday Reads

Good Morning (Just Barely)!!

 

Father and Son, Bryce Brown

Father and Son, Bryce BrownGood Morning!!

The NFL domestic violence news is even worse this morning than it seemed yesterday. It turns out the child that Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson beat up is only four years old. And TMZ has published photos of some of the wounds.

The report had been that the child was hit with a “switch,” but according to TMZ, it was a belt. A four year old child! Peterson should never be allowed to see his children again without a very large social worker present. TMZ live updates:

4:12 PM PT — According to the police report, Peterson allegedly sent text messages to the child’s mother saying he “felt bad” because he struck the kid in the testicles.

“Got him in the nuts once I noticed. But I felt so bad, n I’m all tearing that butt up when needed!” the text said.

Peterson allegedly sent a follow up text saying, “Never do I go overboard! But all my kids will know, hey daddy has he biggest heart but don’t play no games when it comes to acting right.”

4:10 PM PT — According to the police report, the child told authorities he had also been hit by a belt and there were “a lot of belts in daddy’s closet.”

The child also said AP had put leaves in his mouth when he was being struck and that his pants were down.

3:50 PM PT — The Vikings have deactivated Peterson for Sunday’s game….

3:00 PM PT — The police report on the case includes photos of cuts on the boy’s thigh and hands. He also had bruises on his lower back and buttocks, and according to the report … Peterson admitted punishing him.

Photos of injuries to Adrian Peterson's son.

Photos of injuries to Adrian Peterson’s son.

The child may have been confused about the weapon he was attacked with, because police report that it was a tree branch (AKA a “switch.”) The child’s mother told police that several of the wounds were still bleeding when the child arrived at home in Minnesota.

Peterson will not be playing against the New England Patriots today, but why hasn’t he been suspended by the team and the league? He was arrested and charged back in May!

Gary Myers writes in The New York Daily News, Roger Goodell should throw Adrian Peterson out of the NFL for the Vikings RB’s alleged acts of child abuse.

This might be the worst week in the history of the NFL, with another despicable act by a privileged player taking Roger Goodell’s league to an unfathomable low.

Could it get any worse than the elevator video that surfaced Monday of Ray Rice knocking out Janay Palmer with a vicious punch to the face? Apparently it can with the indictment Friday of Vikings superstar running back Adrian Peterson, one of the faces of the NFL, for injuring his 4-year-old son by spanking him with a tree branch in May after removing the leaves. A warrant has been issued for Peterson’s arrest.

Goodell can begin to make up for his mishandling of the Rice case by immediately suspending Peterson for the season and then throwing him out of the league. Peterson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, issued a

statement saying Peterson used the same type of discipline on his son that he experienced as a child growing up in East Texas, as if that condones pulling the boy’s pants down and inflicting cuts and bruises doctors found all over the little boy’s body.

It’s barbaric.

It certainly is. Texas authorities should throw the book at Peterson. Get this, according to Myers, the punishment was for the four-year-old pushing another one of Peterson’s children away from a video game. For that, this small child was beaten with a tree branch. And Peterson doesn’t believe what he did was wrong! In my opinion, no one should ever hit a child. Period. Hitting a child isn’t effective in changing behavior in the first place, and in the second place, violence against children only perpetuates the generational cycle of violence. If we are ever to be a truly civilized society, we must work together to change the idea that it is okay to hit children.

Father and child, Cbabi Bayoc

Father and child, Cbabi Bayoc

According to Myers, Roger Goodell doesn’t have to wait for a conviction to discipline Peterson.

One of the circumstances that allows Goodell to punish Peterson is “conduct that imposes inherent danger to the safety and well-being of another person.”

The Vikings at least deserve credit for doing the right thing and deactivating Peterson for Sunday’s home opener against the Patriots, which pretty much eliminates any chance they had to win the game. They value common decency over winning. If Goodell doesn’t suspend Peterson, the Vikings should deactivate him every week.

Regardless of what he decides to do now that the photos and police report have been made public, it’s time for Goodell to step down.

Rant over for now.

I need to take a few deep, cleansing breaths . . . .

 

Ferguson Updates

CNN has  released new video of two witnesses reacting right after the Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

(CNN) — Two men, shocked at what they saw, describe an unarmed teenager with his hands up in the air as he’s gunned down by a police officer.

They were contractors doing construction work in Ferguson, Missouri, on the day Michael Brown was killed.

And the men, who asked not to be identified after CNN contacted them, said they were about 50 feet away from Officer Darren Wilson when he opened fire.

An exclusive video captures their reactions during the moments just after the shooting.

“He had his f**n hands up,” one of the men says in the video….

The men didn’t see the beginning of the altercation, but:

“The cop didn’t say get on the ground. He just kept shooting,” the man said.

That same witness described the gruesome scene, saying he saw Brown’s “brains come out of his head,” again stating, “his hands were up.”

The video shows the man raising his arms in the air — just as, he says, Brown was doing when he was shot.

The other contractor told CNN he saw Brown running away from a police car.

Brown “put his hands up,” the construction worker said, and “the officer was chasing him.”

The contractor says he saw Wilson fire a shot at Brown while his back was turned.

I wonder if the grand jury is hearing from any of the witness that the media has located?

Portrait of Alexander J. Cassatt and his son Robert Kelso Cassatt, by Mary Cassatt

Portrait of Alexander J. Cassatt and his son Robert Kelso Cassatt, by Mary Cassatt

The Houston Chronicle reports that there is a New focus on minority voting after Brown’s death.

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — A few miles from the street where Michael Brown died is the grave of Dred Scott, a slave who went to the Supreme Court and tried, unsuccessfully, to be recognized as a free American citizen.

One hundred and fifty-seven years later, a white police officer’s fatal shooting of Brown — unarmed, black and 18 years old — raises fresh questions about the extent to which blacks in suburban towns are regarded as full partners by the officials and law enforcers elected largely by and responsive to small segments of the population.

Political participation is increasing on the national level for blacks and Hispanics. On the local level, voting continues to be struggle, as it is in this St. Louis suburb.

In the most recent city election in April, only 1,484 of Ferguson’s 12,096 registered voters cast ballots, easily re-electing the mayor. Next year voters can weigh in again on their municipal government through city council elections.

Nationally, only 1 in 4 four voters turns out for mayoral elections in the largest cities, according to a 2013 study of 340 mayoral elections in 144 cities from 1996 to 2012 by Thomas M. Holbrook and Aaron C. Weinschenk of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin Green Bay.

Missouri does not ask about race or ethnicity on its voter registration forms. But roughly two-thirds of Ferguson’s residents are black. The police force is predominantly white. Five of Ferguson’s six city council members are white, as is the mayor. The grand jury investigating the Brown case has six white men, three white women, two black women and one black man.

#Gamergate

I don’t know if anyone else is following “Gamergate,” the controversy of on-line attacks on women who design and write about video games. Recently feminist video game critic Anita Sarkeesian was forced to leave her home after receiving death threats from male gamers who were enraged her video blogs. Yesterday The Guardian published an article about another female game creator, Zoe Quinn.

Zoe Quinn on Gamergate: ‘We need a proper discussion about online hate mobs,’ by Alex Hern

Since late August Zoe Quinn, the developer of indie gaming’s critical hit Depression Quest, has been the target of a campaign that saw her Tumblr hacked, address posted online and terrifyingly plausible plans to cripple her laid out with cold-blooded straightforwardness….

In public the rationale for this was the allegation that Quinn lay at the centre of a network of corruption in videogaming that saw personal favours traded to elevate a network of her friends with controversial ideas about gaming above “true” gamers.

In private the rationale was simpler. Quinn was an example of a “social justice warrior”: a critic of games culture interested in opening the medium to audiences including women, queer people and people of colour. Her persecutors discussed how best to fulfil the aim of driving “SJWs” from gaming while maintaining the pretence that the campaign was about corruption.

One of the problems with using an anonymous platform to orchestrate your hate campaign is that you can never quite be sure who is listening. On 6 September, the inhabitants of a chatroom called #Burgersandfries learned this themselves.

The site was where a small collection of gamers linked to /v/, the videogame subforum of notorious image board 4chan, met to organise their “raids” on Quinn.

What they didn’t know was that Quinn was watching.

You probably need to read the whole story to understand the dynamics of this issue, so head over to The Guardian if you’re interested.

Father and child, Ben Shahn

Father and child, Ben Shahn

Oscar Pistorius Verdict

I hate to keep posting so much about violence against women, but that is what is in the news this week. After the Oscar Pistorius verdict, ABC News spoke to Pistorius’ former girlfriend, Samantha Taylor: Oscar Pistorius’ Ex-Girlfriend: ‘It Could’ve Been Me’.

Taylor said she dated Pistorius before he began dating Steenkamp. At his murder trial, Taylor served as a valuable witness for the prosecution. She said parts of Pistorius’ story about what happened the night Steenkamp died did not ring true.

“There were things that didn’t match up to my experience staying at his house,” she said.

For example, while Pistorius claimed during his testimony the bedroom was pitch black so he didn’t see Steenkamp go to the bathroom, Taylor said Pistorius did not typically keep his room that dark.

“He usually slept with the curtains fairly open. He always had some light coming in,” said Taylor.

And although Pistorius did startle easily, Taylor said he would always ask her about any sudden noises and found it odd that he said he didn’t make physical contact with Steenkamp the night she was killed.

Taylor said she was just 17 years old when she first met the then 24-year-old Pistorius at a rugby match in 2010.

“When I met him, I actually didn’t know who he was,” Taylor said. “He was very charming. He is a really good guy, you know. He was very respectful, very kind.”

But over time, Taylor said Pistorius would get angry at her for little things, such as not taking her plate to the kitchen, and that he could be jealous and possessive.

“He used to often look through my phone, ask me who my friends were. I think he had that control over who’s in my life and who’s not,” she said. “I was his.”

According to Taylor, Pistorious always carried a gun, and once when she was in a car with him, he shot a gun out of the sunroof.

Father and child,

Father and child, Buwa Shete

A few more headlines, links only

BBC News, Spinosaurus fossil: ‘Giant swimming dinosaur’ unearthed.

The Boston Globe, The Northern Lights Shined on New England in Incredible Color Last Night.

The Guardian via Climate Central, Climate Change Threatens Half of North America’s Birds.

Will Scotland vote for independence from Great Britain? The Wall Street Journal, Severing Scotland From U.K. Is No Easy Task.

USA Today, Pa. police: 1 trooper dead, another injured in shooting.

National Post, Ukraine repels rebel attack on key Donetsk airport, as more than 200 trucks from Russia deliver aid.

The Washington Post, U.S.-led coalition seeks to exclude Iran from fight against Islamic State.

Raw Story, Jerry Seinfeld questions Bill Maher: ‘What do you care’ if Hillary Clinton’s running or not? (Maher says he’ll vote for Rand Paul over Hillary Clinton.)

What else is happening? Let us know in the comment thread, and have a great weekend!


Wednesday Reads: Damn you Windstream… Gotta make this quick!

Evelyn Preer, 1896-1932

Evelyn Preer, 1896-1932

Unbelievable.

Unfuckingbelievable.

Oh yeah… Good morning.

Sorry but I have had it with Windstream. They are the only provider here in Banjoville and since they own the monopoly on services for phone and internet where we live, they have us by the balls…and believe me, they know it. For years we have had problems with this company. Always paying for high speed internet when there’s nothing high speed about it. In fact, it was even proved in court!

Windstream to Pay $600,000 in Connection with False Advertising Allegations | Press Releases | Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection

John Sours, Administrator of the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection (“GOCP”) today announced that the agency has entered into a $600,000 settlement with Internet service provider Windstream Communications Inc. (“Windstream”) over allegations of false advertising.

Windstream provides Internet service to residential consumers and businesses, many of whom are located in rural parts of Georgia, where they have very limited options for Internet service.  GOCP alleges that:

  • Windstream advertised that it would provide certain Internet speeds to its customers that it could not provide and/or guarantee, particularly for Georgia consumers whose network equipment is supported by copper-fed wires.
  • When customers called Windstream to complain about their slow Internet speeds, Windstream representatives allegedly misrepresented the time frame within which the customers’ Internet speed issues would be resolved, or, in the case of customers whose equipment is supported by copper-fed wires, failed to tell customers that it was unable to resolve the issue.
  • Some of Windstream’s “Lifetime Price Guarantee bundle” advertisements falsely implied that the advertised offer included high-speed Internet packages with speeds of “up to 12 Mbps”.
  • Windstream also allegedly advertised a free 6-month “Hulu Plus” subscription but did not clearly disclose that consumers who failed to cancel the subscription at or before the 6-month period would be charged membership fees every month thereafter, until the membership was cancelled.
Evelyn Preer, 1896-1932

Evelyn Preer, 1896-1932

In resolution of these allegations, Windstream will pay a total of $600,000, which includes a $175,000 civil penalty, $175,000 in administrative fees and expenses, and $250,000 in cy pres restitution to be used for the purchase of new computer equipment for the Technical College System of Georgia.

Yeah but did you get that last bit? None of the folks who actually paid for all that “high speed” service will see a dime of this money. Most of the Tech colleges are in the areas of Georgia that did not suffer from Windstream’s false advertising scheme.

It fucking sucks!

Windstream Pays $600,000 to Settle False Broadband Speed Claims in Georgia | Stop the Cap!

“This is essentially a truth in advertising case,” says John Sours, administrator of the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection.  “What consumers thought they were getting from a major company was significantly different from what they allegedly received. People need to be able to make informed choices about buying the services they need to communicate and do business. We are confident that this settlement will ensure that will now occur here.”

A GOCP investigation found substantial evidence Windstream routinely advertised and sold certain Internet speeds to customers it should have known it could not provide and/or guarantee, especially over its deteriorating copper landline network. Customers complained they should have been sold cheaper broadband packages with Internet speeds Windstream could actually deliver.

I can tell you it is bullshit because they company is still offering shitty ass service.

Oh, and no…confident my ass. Informed choices? Ha, we have no stinking choices.

Windstream has represented to the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection that it is in the process of investing about $14 million to upgrade its fiber-supported areas in Georgia.  The company says that 90% or more of these upgrades were completed by the end of 2013, with the remaining upgrades slated for completion by mid-2014. The company expects the upgrades to address systemic download speed issues in the areas undergoing the upgrades. It is also seeking federal funding as well as exploring other options for upgrading the Internet service for consumers who are served by network equipment supported by copper-fed wires.

And I can tell you this is also bullshit. Oh they have fiber optic wire from another company that runs only a few hundred feet as the crow flies from out house, but the company is not expanding out service to the local roads. So I wouldn’t doubt if there is a particular reason why this other company cannot expand its fiber optics into our area….Windstream and their monopoly in rural Georgia.

Oscar Micheaux

Oscar Micheaux

Internet provider Windstream agrees to $600,000 settlement with Georgia | Times Free Press

Windstream serves primarily rural areas. That would include about two-thirds of the state geographically.

Despite the settlement, Windstream officials are not admitting guilt to any of the accusations levied against the company.

“[The] agreement includes no finding or admission of violation by the company,” wrote Scott Morris, Windstream corporate affairs senior adviser, in an email.

He said Windstream “has cooperated fully” with the state during its two-year investigation and is now “pleased to resolve” the investigation by settling and promising to stay inside advertising laws.

Windstream services 372,000 customers in Georgia. It serves 48 states around the country.

But there is another big money settlement involving Windstream, this time it is paying millions in fines to the FCC. Windstream Fined Millions By FCC | 92.1 WLHR

Windstream Corp. has agreed to pay $2.5 million to resolve an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau into the company’s rural call completion practices.

Windstream has also agreed to implement a three-year plan to ensure compliance with FCC requirements designed to combat the problem of long-distance calls failing to complete in rural areas.

00373098-119854_360Windstream typically uses third-party phone companies for their land-line long distance service.

Customers have been complaining to the FCC that their long-distance land-line calls were being dropped or didn’t go through at all.

“Long-distance calls placed to rural areas – or anywhere – should reach their destination,” said  Michele Ellison, Chief of the FCC Enforcement Bureau. “Rural call completion failures jeopardize the fundamental promise that all Americans should have access to reliable communications. If companies don’t fulfill this critical responsibility, the FCC will continue to step in.”

 

Yesterday when they came to fix our internet for yet another one of countless number of times, the landline phone also went out of service. When my dad called to get someone out to fix the phone line, they said they could not have two work orders on the same account, even though one was for the phone line and one was for the dsl service. Yeah? You believe that shit? That we had to pick which one we wanted fixed.

Which is why I say, it is unfuckingbelievable!

e0020274_49d25c27882f6Sorry for the rant, but utilities are something of a bad subject around Banjoville these days.   Our local TVA co-op has some issues with non-payment of electric bills for members of the board….to the tune of over 100,000 bucks! (Our local paper has the total around $162,00.) Yet the EMC will shut off someone’s electric in the middle of a snow storm for a bill owed over 50 dollars.

Blue Ridge EMC chairman resigns amid thousands in unpaid… | www.wsbtv.com

Documents show EMC officials knew about special treatment for… | www.wsbtv.com

Of course now they are saying it was a stuck meter, whatever the fuck that means…the corruption, it burns.

withinourgates_720x500So because the internet may cut off at any moment, the rest of this post will be in link dump format…and free from rant.

The following two links are about the Malaysian jet brought down over the Ukraine, be sure to look at both of the sites because they each have pictures and graphics that you must see.

Malaysian Jet Over Ukraine Was Downed by ‘High-Energy Objects,’ Dutch Investigators Say – NYTimes.com

MH17: Malaysia Airlines flight hit many times, says report

Photo (2)I wonder if years from now, they will find the other Malaysian airline, the one that went missing 6 months ago (can you believe it.) Then 170 years from now, a headline on a iWatch site would resemble this one, only the mystery would be Malaysia Airlines flight MH370  : Arctic Shipwreck Found After 170 Years, Solving “Great Mystery”

Now for a few racist remarks and statements made by a couple of GOP politicians.

within-our-gatesOne from Dakinikat’s state of Louisiana…

Louisiana Senate Candidate: U.S. Senate Is Run ‘Like A Plantation’ | ThinkProgress

And one from my peach-ass state of Georgia:

An angry state Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, is promising to end Sunday balloting in DeKalb County when state lawmakers assemble in the Capitol next January. – AJC

gatesGOP DeKalb lawmaker upset about early voting that could increase African-American turnout | Atlanta News & Opinion Blog | Fresh Loaf | Creative Loafing Atlanta

Then you have this little tale of a couple in love, and a woman bent on fucking it up.

Marriage of couple, 96 and 95, mired in legal issues | HamptonRoads.com | PilotOnline.com

Of course, the sister who is not caring for the old couple is the one bringing on the lawsuit. Go figure eh?

Finally, I caught this movie late the other night on TCM. You all need to watch it.

Within_AdWithin Our Gates (1920) – IMDb

Abandoned by her fiancé, an educated negro woman with a shocking past dedicates herself to helping a near bankrupt school for impoverished negro youths. Within Our Gates was produced and directed by Oscar Micheaux in 1919. He is considered to be the first African-American director of feature films and this is the first such film still in existence.

Cast (IMDB): Evelyn Preer as Sylvia Landry; Flo Clements as Alma Prichard; James D. Ruffin as Conrad Drebert; Jack Chenault as Larry Prichard; William Smith as Detective Philip Gentry; Charles D. Lucas as Dr. V. Vivian; Bernice Ladd as Mrs. Geraldine Stratton; Mrs. Evelyn as Mrs. Elena Warwick; William Stark as Jasper Landry; Mattie Edwards as Jasper’s Wife; Ralph Johnson as Philip Gridlestone; E.G. Tatum as Efram, Gridlestone’s Servant; Grant Edwards as Emil Landry; Grant Gorman as Armand Gridlestone; Leigh Whipper ; Jimmie Cook as (uncredited); S.T. Jacks as Reverend Wilson Jacobs (uncredited).

Why I’ll Watch Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates until I Wear It Outwithin-our-gates m

Too often the films’ stylized acting and overwrought plots elicit laughter or induce napping. Like scratchy 78 recordings, silent films require more concentration and patience than many students possess.

Yet one silent movie that consistently stirs my students’ imaginations is Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates (1920). Crammed into 80 minutes is a complex plot of love, betrayal, murder, rape, lynching, gambling, miscegenation, racial uplift, white bigotry, and black migration from the rural South to the urban North. Translated onto film are the hardships of blacks in the Jim Crow era United States, the promises and disappointments of black freedom, and the emergence of the “New Negro.” The film is one of the earliest examples, and certainly the most ambitious extant example, of black appropriation of the emerging technology to contest representations of African Americans in mass culture.

Like an overstuffed used bookstore, Within Our Gates invites close and repeated inspection. Although I have watched the film countless times, with each viewing I discover something previously overlooked. Micheaux was a neophyte, self-taught filmmaker when he directed the film, and the intricacies of the movie’s plot are sometimes difficult to follow. Yet, if the plot is understood as a triptych of related but distinct acts, the film’s scope and ambitions become clear, indeed remarkable.

Within_Our_Gates_1920_newspaper_adThe film opens with the protagonist, Sylvia Landry, a young black woman, visiting her cousin Alma in the North while she awaits her fiancé’s return from military service. Harboring designs on her cousin’s betrothed, Alma contrives to fix Sylvia up with her brother-in-law, a dissipated card shark. Alma succeeds in catching Sylvia in a compromising situation just as her fiancé returns, prompting him to break off the engagement. Despondent, Sylvia returns south and dedicates herself to teaching at a school for the children of black sharecroppers. Despite the tireless efforts Sylvia and her mentor, Rev. Wilson Jacobs, the school is overcrowded and severely underfunded by local white authorities. Faced with the school’s collapse, Sylvia returns to the North to raise funds.

within-our-gates-larry-threatens-sylviaTo this point, the film appears to be a romantic melodrama yoked to a story of thwarted racial uplift in the rural South. Micheaux was a self-made man who embraced and proselytized the era’s “up by the boot straps” dogma. The son of former slaves, he held odd jobs before homesteading in South Dakota. There, although largely self-educated, he began to write and publish stories and novels, which he sold door to door. Convinced that his semi-autobiographical novel The Homesteader was worthy of a film, he secured sufficient funds to form a movie production company and, in 1919, released his first film. A year later, when he made Within Our Gates, he continued to promote black uplift while displaying anxiety about corrupting urban influences on rural blacks. Like the jeremiads delivered by contemporary black ministers, Micheaux’s film dwelled on the obligation to strive for respectability. As a pioneer black filmmaker working in a medium abounding with invidious racial stereotypes, Micheaux acutely sensed the importance of depicting blacks comporting themselves with decorum and modesty. Even so, he did not shy away from acknowledging those blacks whose behavior, he believed, contributed to stereotypes. In contrast to Sylvia and Rev. Jacobs, who are paragons of respectability, Alma and her brother-in-law personify forms of selfishness and dissolution that impede the race’s potential.

vivian_and_sylviaThe tone and focus of Within Our Gates shift markedly when Sylvia journeys north to fundraise. Micheaux resorts to improbable plot contrivances to shift our attention to the poisonous effects of white racism. Already frustrated by her failure to raise money, Sylvia is waylaid by a black thug who snatches her purse. Fortunately, Dr. V. Vivian, a dashing young black man “passionately engaged in social questions,” runs down her assailant. A budding romance between Dr. Vivian and Sylvia is abruptly halted when she is struck by an automobile belonging, coincidentally, to a wealthy white philanthropist. After learning of Sylvia’s mission, the philanthropist considers donating money to Sylvia’s school. A southern friend to whom she turns for advice is appalled that misguided altruism may lead the philanthropist to waste her wealth on blacks, who, the friend insists, cannot and should not be educated. The philanthropist eventually rejects this advice and makes a huge donation to Sylvia’s school. Sylvia quickly recovers from her injuries and hastens south with the donation.

Despite the rickety plot turns in this portion of the film, Micheaux offers a searing portrait of the ideology of white supremacy. Overturning prevailing wisdom, portrayed notably in D. W. Griffith’s film epic Birth of a Nation (1915), Within Our Gates underscores that racism is fueled by ignorance and hinders national unity. Whereas Griffith’s film suggests that the revelation of blacks’ true capacities and natures would restore racial unity and fraternity among northern and southern whites, Micheaux counters that if northern whites could see through the fog of white southern bigotry they would recognize that blacks were citizens worthy of both rights and respect.

Micheaux is not naïve about the likelihood of whites achieving such clarity. One of the movie’s most poignant vignettes depicts the predicament of “Old Ned,” a black preacher who must humiliate himself and attest that “Yes’m. White folks is mighty fine,” in order to collect small donations for his church from bigoted whites. After doing so, the preacher stares into the camera and confesses, “Again, I’ve sold my birthright. All for a miserable mess of pottage. Negroes and Whites—all are equal. As for me, miserable sinner, hell is my destiny.” Unlike the black characters in Birth of a Nation, who are either bestial or loyal and subservient, Old Ned wears a mask of deference while harboring resentment and self-loathing, illustrating the psychic pain endured by blacks who comported themselves in accordance with the dictates of white supremacy.

Read the rest of the review at the link, which discusses the final act of the film and the film’s reception throughout the country…as well as the history behind its loss and discovery.

within-our-gates-mrs-warwick-offers-trhe-school-moneyA little info on the director here: CineWiki – Within Our Gates (1920)

From 1918 to 1948, Oscar Micheaux created over forty films that usually featured all-Black casts.[1] According to Earl James Young, this is an amazing accomplishment because Micheaux had no formal education and his parents were slaves.[2] Over his career, he became “race film’s most famous and prolific director.”[3] As race film’s most famous director, Micheaux considered himself as “‘an instructive voice and an empowering interpreter of Black life for the community.'”[4] Although many of his films did not survive, Micheaux’s films managed to respond to racism and raise questions about African Americans in cinema, according to Stewart.[5] Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates (1920) is his earliest production that survives for current-day viewing, although the existing version has suffered damage from censorship and time.[6] Micheaux was never shy around big issues, and his subject matter choices were given high marks by film critics. Within Our Gates involved danger, a love story but also tackled contemporary race issues. The film was controversial and was censored because of the subject matter and an onscreen lynching.

And about the situation during the time of filming:

During July 1919 in Chicago, race riots broke out when an African American boy, Eugene Williams, was swimming at a beach that was exclusively for whites; as a result of the boy’s accidental drowning, citywide violence began. Within three days, thirty-eight African Americans were dead and there were 537 injuries. During the riot, Micheaux was writing a script called, “The Lie” which became the basis of Within Our Gates. [9] According to The Chicago Defender on August 30, 1919, Williams was knocked from a raft by a rock thrown by George Stauber, a young white boy, who was being held on a charge of murder.

ChicagoDefRiotSweeps

Chicago Defender August 2, 1919 (http://cameronmcwhirter.com/wordpress/chicago-defender-on-the-july-1919-riot/)

Micheaux began filming during the fall in 1919 around Chicago. Micheaux liked to pass experiences he had onto characters in his stories, so “his leading ladies learned to expect the worst.”[10] Micheaux never strayed away from big issues, but his technical skills were often ridiculed.[11] Unlike big production companies at the time, Micheaux “worked with ragtag crews and shoestring budgets, inventing as he went along.”[12] As he filmed, Micheaux developed an unusual technique in which he repeated “scenes from different subjective viewpoints to reveal the crucial missing pieces of a puzzle.”[13] Even though the film ended happily, “the story was rooted in the sins of the South, with a climax that rebuked D.W. Griffith’s miscegenation hysteria…and dealt with the evils of slavery, the failures of Reconstruction, and the nightmare of lynchings.”[14] However, the ending of the film is unsatisfactory to some. Stewart notes that the ending emphasizes the film’s most compelling quality: “its repeated demonstration that competing discourses about African Americans render Black representations, including Micheaux’s, extremely inconsistent and unreliable.”[15]

According to The Chicago Defender, it took two months for Within Our Gates to get by the Censor Board. There were major difficulties because the film featured a lynching on screen, and Chicago had just witnessed a terrible riot after the African American boy drowned. Even though the film got by the Censor Board, many people did not have the option to view Within Our Gates. For example, in Shreveport, Louisiana, police had persuaded the white manager to discontinue the showing of the film. The policeman said, “A very dangerous picture to show in the South.”[16] Afterwards, the word was passed to other Southern locales, causing the film to be barred in advance. In general, Within Our Gates was seen as so controversial that it was repeatedly banned by state censors because of the prejudice, discrimination, and lynching displayed on screen.[17]

The author and producer of Within Our Gates knew the film was radical since it was the “biggest protest against Race prejudice, lynching, and ‘concubinage’ that was ever written or filmed and that there are more thrills and gripping, holding moments that was ever seen in any individual production.”[18] Proponents of the film claimed that people could not afford to miss seeing the film if they were interested in the welfare of the Race. Others claimed that it was “the most spectacular screen version of the most sensational story of the race question since Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” and that it was “the greatest preachment against race prejudice and the glaring injustices practiced upon our people.” [19] Still, Within Our Gates was not a film for everyone as it was disturbing. A black schoolteacher wrote, “The picture is a quivering tongue of fire…the burn of which will be felt in the far distant years.”[20]

And…below you can see the entire film online. Watch it, you will really think it is something amazing.

That should be enough to get you going.

Y’all have a good day. Please think of this as an open thread!