Losing what was Mariupol Monday: Headlines from Russian-created Hell Realms

Maria Prymachenko – A Dove Has Spread Her Wings And Asks for Peace, 1982. This work of art was lost when Russians bombed The Ivankiv Historical and Local History Museum to the ground on February 25th

It’s Monday Sky Dancers!

And Putin’s incompetent army from hell continues to focus on missile launches aimed at killing and terrorizing Ukrainians.  Here are just a few of the headlines via Twitter.  It’s time for NATO to do more.

Sadly, NBC News reports that “Mariupol on the brink as surrender deadline passes. There were no immediate reports of activity from Ukrainian forces in Mariupol, which has been the scene of the war’s heaviest fighting.”

Russia offered to spare the lives of Ukrainian soldiers fighting in Mariupol if they laid down their arms Sunday as the weekslong resistance in the besieged port city appeared to finally be coming to an end.

The offer, made “out of purely humane principles,” gave Ukrainian forces still fighting in the city until 6 a.m. Moscow time (11 p.m. ET) to surrender, the Russian military said in a statement reported by the news agency Tass.

There were no immediate reports of activity from Ukrainian forces in Mariupol. If it falls, it would be the first major city to be taken by Russian forces since the Feb. 24 invasion.

There was also no immediate response from Kyiv.

Russian missiles struck Lviv on Monday, killing at least seven people in the first reported deaths of the war in the western city, where hundreds of thousands of displaced people have fled to escape the fierce fighting in other parts of Ukraine.

The head of Lviv’s military administration, Maksym Koztyskyy, said three missiles hit empty military warehouses while a fourth hit a garage, killing and injuring civilians. He did not say whether all the casualties were from the garage strike, which hit a few hundred feet from a set of railway tracks.

“If the garage was the ultimate target, maybe they were aiming at the railway station,” he said. “There are no longer any safe or unsafe locations.”

The head of Ukraine’s railway service, Oleksandr Pertsovskyi, said he had no proof that the attack was aimed at the railway, which has some facilities near military sites.

NAMES, BIRTHDAYS, PASSPORT numbers, job titles—the personal information goes on for pages and looks like any typical data breach. But this data set is very different. It allegedly contains the personal information of 1,600 Russian troops who served in Bucha, a Ukrainian city devastated during Russia’s war and the scene of multiple potential war crimes.

The data set is not the only one. Another allegedly contains the names and contact details of 620 Russian spies who are registered to work at the Moscow office of the FSB, the country’s main security agency. Neither set of information was published by hackers. Instead they were put online by Ukraine’s intelligence services, with all the names and details freely available to anyone online. “Every European should know their names,” Ukrainian officials wrote in a Facebook post as they published the data.

Since Russian troops crossed Ukraine’s borders at the end of February, colossal amounts of information about the Russian state and its activities have been made public. The data offers unparalleled glimpses into closed-off private institutions, and it may be a gold mine for investigators, from journalists to those tasked with investigating war crimes. Broadly, the data comes in two flavors: information published proactively by Ukranian authorities or their allies, and information obtained by hacktivists. Hundreds of gigabytes of files and millions of emails have been made public.

Aid organizations say they’re seeing signs that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is driving up global food prices and pushing millions of people into hunger.

food price index tracked by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization shows that prices spiked 12% between February and March to its highest point since the index started in 1990.

Ukraine and Russia provide an outsized share of the world’s supply of key foods including wheat, corn, barley and more.

The impact on people who were already struggling to afford food has been severe, aid groups say. In Afghanistan a month ago, 55% of people were at crisis levels of food insecurity. Now the number has risen to 65%.

In some West African countries, including Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mali, 27 million people are currently going hungry.

Aid groups are calling on wealthy countries to immediately step up assistance.

Kateryna Lysovenko draws on Delacroix’s ‘Liberty Leading the People’ © Kateryna Lysovenko

Don’t like high food prices?  Blame Putin and Texas Governor Gregg Abbot.  This is from Salon: ‘”Political theater”: Abbott’s border stunt could raise food prices after causing $240M in damages. “This is not just a localized issue. It’s going to hit you in St. Louis or up in Seattle,” advocate warns.’

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott — who is running for reelection in the 2022 midterms — made it much more difficult for goods and produce to enter the United States from Mexico when he ordered “enhanced safety inspections” of commercial vehicles at the Texas/Mexico border. Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee running against Abbott, has slammed the Republican governor’s political stunt as bad for business. And journalists Alicia Wallace and Vanessa Yurkevich, reporting for CNN in an article published on April 16, describe some of the difficulties that Abbott has inflicted on the supply chain.

“A week-long protest by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott against President Biden’s recent immigration policy reached a resolution on Friday, (April 15), but the gridlock it created has resulted in hundreds of millions of lost dollars and delays in shipments of everything from avocados to automobile parts that will have a longer-term impact,” Wallace and Yurkevich explain. “On Friday, Abbott reversed course on an order he put in place last week that required lengthier ‘enhanced safety inspections’ of commercial vehicles entering Texas. The efforts, he said, were to help stop the flow of illegal contraband and human trafficking.”

The CNN reporters add, “Abbott’s move, which Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller criticized as ‘political theater,’ ultimately created a logjam of trucks between the U.S. and its largest goods trading partner. Vegetable producers say their produce is spoiling in idling trucks and they are losing hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Woman with Dove, Angel of Peace, Olesya Hudyma

Since we’re on the topic of pathological despots here’s one from The Atlantic on the Cult of Orange Caligula. It’s written by Sarah Longwell. “Trump Supporters Explain Why They Believe the Big Lie. For many of Trump’s voters, the belief that the election was stolen is not a fully formed thought. It’s more of an attitude or a tribal pose.”    Mmmmm, or it’s about White Christianist Male Hegemony.

Some 35 percent of Americans—including 68 percent of Republicans—believe the Big Lie, pushed relentlessly by former President Donald Trump and amplified by conservative media, that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. They think that Trump was the true victor and that he should still be in the White House today.

I regularly host focus groups to better understand how voters are thinking about key political topics. Recently, I decided to find out why Trump 2020 voters hold so strongly to the Big Lie.

For many of Trump’s voters, the belief that the election was stolen is not a fully formed thought. It’s more of an attitude, or a tribal pose. They know something nefarious occurred but can’t easily explain how or why. What’s more, they’re mystified and sometimes angry that other people don’t feel the same.

As a woman from Wisconsin told me, “I can’t really put my finger on it, but something just doesn’t feel right.” A man from Pennsylvania said, “Something about it just didn’t seem right.” A man from Arizona said, “It didn’t smell right.”

The exact details of the story vary—was it Hugo Chávez who stole the election? Or the CIA? Or Italian defense contractors? Outlandish claims like these seem to have made this conspiracy theory more durable, not less. Regardless of plausibility, the more questions that are raised, the more mistrustful Trump voters are of the official results.

Perhaps that’s because the Big Lie has been part of their background noise for years.

Remember that Trump began spreading the notion that America’s elections were “rigged” in 2016—when he thought he would lose. Many Republicans firmly believed that the Democrats would steal an election if given the chance. When the 2020 election came and Trump did lose, his voters were ready to doubt the outcome.

Or it’s about White Christianist Male Hegemony and they really don’t want to proudly state they are racist, homophobic, and misogynistic out loud in less technical–more graphic–words. By now, we all know where this big dose of white male grievance and whining comes.

Here is the doyenne of that.  Lady Tuckums Carlson. He’s managed to produce the most homoerotic film in ages while remaining safely closeted at Faux News.

The promo for the new season of Tucker Carlson Originals incurred a veritable tsunami of mockery online for its montage of mostly shirtless men firing guns, wrestling, doing push-ups, swinging axes — and one stark naked fellow who was standing in front of some sort of machine that projected a red light onto his crotch.

Mediaite can now confirm that, yes, Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson’s new special, “The End of Men,” does in fact promote “testicle tanning” as a way that men can raise testosterone levels.

Here’s my personal tribute to shrinking Tucker Carlson’s testosterone level some more!

All of this is encouraging me to write a book called “WTF is the matter with White Men?”  My guess–but I would like to check with an expert–is not low testosterone.

Anyway, this is more than I can take and I have case studies to grade. Some of these folks really need to spend more time reading The Beatitudes and less time on Porn Hub and watching Fox news.

Anyway, I hope you have a good week. I seriously can’t watch the news anymore on TV so I’m glad we can get some glimpses of what we’re capable of and should be incapable of in the modern age.

Give yourself all hugs for me.  And I need them all back at me too!!

Here are two bits of hope to end on!

This is a double rescue from Russian attacks and gives us a bit of a happy ending.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Peace out!

Monday Reads: Competent Adults in the Room and the previous guy

The Huntley-Brinkley Report with Chet Huntley anchoring in New York and David Brinkley manning the desk in Washington, D.C., began on NBC on this date in 1956. The news series continued through July 1970. Photo from the L.A. Times files.

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I find myself keeping the TV off these days.  I never watch any shows or things but I do indulge in the nightly news a habit long practiced in my home. This dates back to the Huntley-Brinkly Report.  We also had morning and evening newspapers. My Nana ensured the arrival of the National Geographic and The Christian Science Monitor. Dad always got the big weekly magazines which eventually wound up in the waiting room of the service shop in our little eastern Iowa town.  That’s where someone dropped off the John Birch Society’s newsletter one time and I became aware of those right-wing conspiracy theories so prevalent today.  My Dad was a Goldwater/Reagan Republican and immediately told me to trash it. I never had to be told again.

That’s one of the reasons I was really sad when my dad got addicted to Fox News and my sister and I had to find ways to keep him away from the TV. My trick was to call him up during football season or baseball season and have him call the game for me which is also something he did when I was a kid. I’m glad my parents never had to live those horrid 4 years of the previous guy.  The TV news has become an hourly horror show of human atrocities and crimes.

It impacted sentiment against the Vietnam War and eventually the Afghanistan/Iraq Invasions.  What are we to make of what’s going on in Ukraine? What did and can we do?

The New York Times Magazine has a podcast by Robert Draper up today with the transcript that’s got me realizing how important it is to have professional diplomats that stay out of the political arena once again.  Here’s the headline: “‘This Was Trump Pulling a Putin’.  Amid the current crisis, Fiona Hill and other former advisers are connecting President Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine to Jan. 6. And they’re ready to talk.”

In the Oval Office, Hill recalls, describing a scene that has not been previously reported, she told Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that offering a membership path to Ukraine and Georgia could be problematic. While Bush’s appetite for promoting the spread of democracy had not been dampened by the Iraq war, President Vladimir Putin of Russia viewed NATO with suspicion and was vehemently opposed to neighboring countries joining its ranks. He would regard it as a provocation, which was one reason the United States’ key NATO allies opposed the idea. Cheney took umbrage at Hill’s assessment. “So, you’re telling me you’re opposed to freedom and democracy,” she says he snapped. According to Hill, he abruptly gathered his materials and walked out of the Oval Office.

“He’s just yanking your chain,” she remembers Bush telling her. “Go on with what you were saying.” But the president seemed confident that he could win over the other NATO leaders, saying, “I like it when diplomacy is tough.” Ignoring the advice of Hill and the U.S. intelligence community, Bush announced in Bucharest that “NATO should welcome Georgia and Ukraine into the Membership Action Plan.” Hill’s prediction came true: Several other leaders at the summit objected to Bush’s recommendation. NATO ultimately issued a compromise declaration that would prove unsatisfying to nearly everyone, stating that the two countries “will become members” without specifying how and when they would do so — and still in defiance of Putin’s wishes. (They still have not become members.)

“It was the worst of all possible worlds,” Hill said to me in her austere English accent as she recalled the episode over lunch this March. As one of the foremost experts on Putin and a current unofficial adviser to the Biden administration on the Russia-Ukraine war, Hill, 56, has already made a specialty of issuing warnings about the Russian leader that have gone unheeded by American presidents. As she feared, the carrot dangled by Bush to two countries — each of which gained independence in the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 and afterward espoused democratic ambitions — did not sit well with Putin. Four months after the 2008 NATO summit, Russian troops crossed the border and launched an attack on the South Ossetia region of Georgia. Though the war lasted only five days, a Russian military presence would continue in nearly 20 percent of Georgia’s territory. And after the West’s weak pushback against his aggression, Putin then set his sights on Ukraine — a sovereign nation that, Putin claimed to Bush at the Bucharest summit, “is not a country.”

You may continue to read more of Hill’s recollections as she served in the next two administrations before Trump came after her.

Her assessment of the former president has new resonance in the current moment: “In the course of his presidency, indeed, Trump would come more to resemble Putin in political practice and predilection than he resembled any of his recent American presidential predecessors.”

The big three network news anchors in 1968 — Huntley, Brinkley (NBC), Cronkite (CBS), and Frank Reynolds (ABC). Definitely, it was a small cadre of white men.

Raw Story has summed up the contribution of Charles Kupperman contribution to the above podcast today with this headline: “Trump flew into a rage after someone mentioned Ukraine – according to his former deputy national security adviser.”  This is reported by Travis Gettys.

Charles Kupperman told the New York Times Magazine that the former president, who was impeached over his alleged 2019 extortion scheme against Ukraine, flew into a rage on May 23 of that year at the mention of the country’s name.

“He just let loose,” Kupperman recalled. “‘They’re [expletive] corrupt. They [expletive] tried to screw me.’”

Kupperman knew there was no chance that Trump understood the value of a good relationship between the U.S. and Ukraine after seeing the way he treated other allies, including France, Britain and South Korea, and he said the former president basically was not capable of making foreign policy because he didn’t even understand the concept on the most basic level.

“He felt like our allies were screwing us, and he had no sense as to why these alliances benefited us or why you need a global footprint for military and strategic capabilities,” Kupperman said. “If one were to ask him to define ‘balance of power,’ he wouldn’t know what that concept was. He’d have no idea about the history of Ukraine and why it’s in the front pages today. He wouldn’t know that Stalin starved that country. Those are the contextual points one has to take into account in the making of foreign policy.”

Barbara Walters became the first female co-anchor of an evening news program in 1976; co-anchor Harry Reasoner wasn’t happy.

I’ve had a lot to say about Joe Biden starting with what he did while I was in high school and the Supreme Court decision’ to integrate schools included bussing.  Most of it is not all that complimentary.  He lost me completely during the Anita Hill testimony during the Thomas hearings.  Thomas’ tenure on the court has been thorny at best. President Biden has foreign policy chops. Obama’s treatment of Putin does not fare well in the podcast above.  Alexander Vindman and John Bolton had this to say about Trump’s treatment of Ukraine also from the New York Times Magazine podcast..

Instead, Vindman said, the opposite occurred: “Ukraine became radioactive for the duration of the Trump administration. There wasn’t serious engagement. Putin had been wanting to reclaim Ukraine for eight years, but he was trying to gauge when was the right time to do it. Starting just months after Jan. 6, Putin began building up forces on the border. He saw the discord here. He saw the huge opportunity presented by Donald Trump and his Republican lackeys. I’m not pulling any punches here. I’m not using diplomatic niceties. These folks sent the signal Putin was waiting for.”

Bolton, a renowned foreign-policy hawk who also served in the administrations of Reagan and George W. Bush, also told me that Trump’s behavior had dealt damage to both Ukraine and America. The refusal to lend aid to Ukraine, the subsequent disclosure of the heavy-handed conversation with Zelensky and then the impeachment hearing all served to undermine Ukraine’s new president, Bolton told me. “It made it impossible for Zelensky to establish any kind of relationship with the president of the United States — who, faced with a Russian Army on his eastern border, any Ukrainian president would have as his highest priority. So basically that means Ukraine loses a year and a half of contact with the president.”

Max Robinson in 1978 became the first Black person to anchor the nightly network news.

You may listen to or read more at the link above.

There are still many useful fools in the Republican Party and Right-Wing Media that make it hard to believe that the John Birch society was once fiercely anti-communist.  They have to be ignoring the fact that Putin really wants a renewed Soviet Union with its former satellite states in place.  John Mearsheimer is a political science professor at the University of Chicago who blames the Western intervention for Putin’s hostilities.  He argues the Russians see us as Nation-building in their backyard.

The New Yorker’s  Issac Chotiner interviewed him a month ago. “Why John Mearsheimer Blames the U.S. for the Crisis in Ukraine. For years, the political scientist has claimed that Putin’s aggression toward Ukraine is caused by Western intervention. Have recent events changed his mind?”

I think all the trouble in this case really started in April, 2008, at the nato Summit in Bucharest, where afterward nato issued a statement that said Ukraine and Georgia would become part of nato. The Russians made it unequivocally clear at the time that they viewed this as an existential threat, and they drew a line in the sand. Nevertheless, what has happened with the passage of time is that we have moved forward to include Ukraine in the West to make Ukraine a Western bulwark on Russia’s border. Of course, this includes more than just nato expansion. nato expansion is the heart of the strategy, but it includes E.U. expansion as well, and it includes turning Ukraine into a pro-American liberal democracy, and, from a Russian perspective, this is an existential threat.

You said that it’s about “turning Ukraine into a pro-American liberal democracy.” I don’t put much trust or much faith in America “turning” places into liberal democracies. What if Ukraine, the people of Ukraine, want to live in a pro-American liberal democracy?

If Ukraine becomes a pro-American liberal democracy, and a member of nato, and a member of the E.U., the Russians will consider that categorically unacceptable. If there were no nato expansion and no E.U. expansion, and Ukraine just became a liberal democracy and was friendly with the United States and the West more generally, it could probably get away with that. You want to understand that there is a three-prong strategy at play here: E.U. expansion, nato expansion, and turning Ukraine into a pro-American liberal democracy.

You keep saying “turning Ukraine into a liberal democracy,” and it seems like that’s an issue for the Ukrainians to decide. nato can decide whom it admits, but we saw in 2014 that it appeared as if many Ukrainians wanted to be considered part of Europe. It would seem like almost some sort of imperialism to tell them that they can’t be a liberal democracy.

It’s not imperialism; this is great-power politics. When you’re a country like Ukraine and you live next door to a great power like Russia, you have to pay careful attention to what the Russians think, because if you take a stick and you poke them in the eye, they’re going to retaliate. States in the Western hemisphere understand this full well with regard to the United States.

The Monroe Doctrine, essentially.

Of course. There’s no country in the Western hemisphere that we will allow to invite a distant, great power to bring military forces into that country.

Meanwhile, huge military operations in the Donetsk Oblast by the Russians prove that they still seriously want Ukraine.

From the AP link in the Twitter shown above.

The mayor of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol tells The Associated Press that more than 10,000 civilians have died in the southeastern city since the Russian invasion in February.

Mayor Vadym Boychenko told The Associated Press by telephone Monday that corpses were “carpeted through the streets of our city” and that the death toll could be more than 20,000.

Boychenko also said Russian forces have brought mobile crematoria to the city to dispose of the bodies and accused Russian forces of refusing to allow humanitarian convoys into the city in an attempt to disguise the carnage.

Simpson broke barriers in 1988 as the first Black woman anchor and then again in 1992 as the first Black woman to moderate a presidential debate.

So, as foretold, the Russians regrouped.  They will have some new NATO allies and they are already harping about it. This is from the BBC. “Ukraine War: Russia warns Sweden and Finland against Nato membership.” Mother Russia appears to be frightened by its neighbors.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that “the alliance remains a tool geared towards confrontation”.

It comes as US defence officials said Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has been a “massive strategic blunder” which is likely to bring Nato enlargement.

US officials expect the Nordic neighbours to bid for membership of the alliance, potentially as early as June.

Washington is believed to support the move which would see the Western alliance grow to 32 members. US State Department officials said last week that discussions had taken place between Nato leaders and foreign ministers from Helsinki and Stockholm.

Before it launched its invasion, Russia demanded that the alliance agree to halt any future enlargement, but the war has led to the deployment of more Nato troops on its eastern flank and a rise in public support for Swedish and Finnish membership.

All is not quiet on the Western Front.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Monday Reads: Democracy in Flames

Marc CHAGAL (1887-1985) “La Famille ukrainienne” (1941-43)

Good Day Sky Dancers!

We continue to see attacks on democracy internally and externally as the West fights right-wing extremists magnetized to or ruled by despots. These Right Wingers are taking on the post-World War 2 order abroad. We also continue to see Neo-confederates, NAZI-sympathizers, and theocrats taking on our post-Civil War advances in the United States. Most of this seems deeply tribal and extremely racist, sexist, and nationalistic.

Today, we’re focused on the confirmation hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson now underway. Senator Amy Klobucher is actually bringing tears to my eyes in her opening statement. Too bad it’s followed by the frivolous ball of flesh known as Ted Cruz. Cruz is lecturing everyone on that old Republican lie about the Supreme Court becoming a legislative body instead of a deliberative one. I have no idea how these folks continue to try to hunt with dogs that won’t.

Even the National Review has called out the outrageous lies he’s been spouting about Judge Jackson calling it a “disingenuous attack”. This was penned by former Federal Prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy.

There is a wide variety of federal offenses that are gathered under the label “sex offenses.” In his critique of Jackson last week, Hawley tweeted that he had “noticed an alarming pattern when it comes to Judge Jackson’s treatment of sex offenders, especially those preying on children” (emphasis added). That is a misleadingly broad claim, and Hawley is too smart not to know that.

After invoking the image of Jackson as indulgent of “sex offenders” who “prey on children,” Hawley narrows his portrayal a bit: “Judge Jackson has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker” (emphasis added). This leaves the impression that he is probably homing in on pornography rather than rape, abduction, and the like — although, as he must know, even that is not clear because a good deal of such sexual abuse goes into the production of porn. In any event, after all the throat-clearing, it emerges that Hawley is not talking about offenders who themselves abuse children, or even those who produce pornography. He is referring to porn consumers.

Hawley cites Jackson’s record as a judge and “policymaker.” The latter refers to her service on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which advises Congress on sentencing issues and promulgates the federal sentencing guidelines — advisory standards that heavily influence but do not control sentencing. (Congress ultimately controls sentencing by setting statutory maximum and minimum penalties, and judges consult the guidelines in each case but are not required to follow them.) What has the senator especially exercised is Jackson’s support for eliminating the existing mandatory-minimum sentences for first-time offenders who receive or distribute child pornography.

Judge Jackson’s views on this matter are not only mainstream; they are correct in my view. Undoubtedly, Jackson — a progressive who worked as a criminal-defense lawyer — is more sympathetic to criminals than I am. If I were a judge, I’m sure I’d impose at least marginally more severe sentences than she has. (Contrary to Hawley’s suggestion, however, she appears to have followed the guidelines, at the low end of the sentencing range, as most judges do.) But other than the fact that Congress wanted to look as though it was being tough on porn, there’s no good reason for the mandatory minimum in question — and it’s unjust in many instances.


The actual Q&A session will be after lunch. I’m really hoping Senator Foghorn Leghorn doesn’t further embarrass Louisiana but I’m not holding my breath.  As the hearings opened, Senator Dick Durban hailed Judge Jackson’s magnificent qualifications and experience.  This is from NPR: “Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings: Live updates.” Grassley used his time to outline the Republican gripe fest that will be later today.

Grassley used his opening statement on Monday to stress that “we won’t turn this into a spectacle based on alleged process fouls” and pointed out that Democrats on the panel interrupted and delayed his opening statement when he chaired the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s nominee, in 2018. He said Republicans will “ask tough questions” about Jackson’s record and said he wanted to hear about her views on the role of a judge.

Some Republicans have already raised concerns about Jackson’s experience as a public defender and indicated they would ask questions about whether her record makes her “soft on crime.” Grassley touched on this line of questioning and suggested these topics are fair game given Democrats’ questions of Trump nominees.

The entire thing about her being soft on crime is basically ragtime and jazz hands given that the nation’s police chiefs support her nomination.  But today’s Republicans are more about theatrics than doing their jobs.

Meanwhile, The Rolling Stone has another scoop on how involved high-level Trump officials were with getting the insurrectionists to the Capitol on January 6.  This is by Hunter Walker. “Exclusive: Witness Claims Trump’s Chief of Staff Was on Phone Call Planning Jan. 6 March on Capitol. Trump’s team agreed it would encourage supporters to march, but try to “make it look like they went down there on their own,” Scott Johnston tells Rolling Stone”  Let the Frog Marches begin!

Trump and his allies have tried to minimize his role in calling his supporters to the Capitol and argue he was simply participating in a lawful, peaceful demonstration.

Scott Johnston — who worked on the team that helped plan the Ellipse rally — says that’s just not so. He claims that leading figures in the Trump administration and campaign deliberately planned to have crowds converge on the Capitol, where the 2020 election was being certified — and “make it look like they went down there on their own.”

Johnston, who says he described the phone call to House select committee investigators, detailed his allegations in a series of conversations with Rolling Stone. Johnston says he overheard Mark Meadows, then-former President Trump’s chief of staff, and Katrina Pierson, Trump’s national campaign spokeswoman, talking with Kylie Kremer, the executive director of Women for America First, about plans for a march to the Capitol. Johnston said the conversation was clearly audible to him since it took place on speakerphone as he drove Kremer between the group’s rallies in the final three days of 2020.

Russia continues to pound Ukraine with artillery and missiles. The governor of the Sumy region said there has been an ammonia leak at a chemicals plant on Monday as a result of a Russian airstrike.  Russian demands the surrender of Mariupol.  The city council of the besieged city reports that the elderly are crying out for food and water from their bombed apartment buildings.

President Biden will travel to Poland after he meets with European leaders on the Russian Invasion of Ukraine.  (via the AP)  He will discuss humanitarian efforts and express support to the People and government of Poland.

President Joe Biden has added a stop in Poland to his trip this week to Europe for urgent talks with NATO and European allies, as Russian forces concentrate their fire upon cities and trapped civilians in a nearly month-old invasion of Ukraine.

Biden will first travel to Brussels and then to Poland to meet with leaders there, press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Sunday night.

Poland is a crucial ally in the Ukraine crisis. It is hosting thousands of American troops and is taking in more people fleeing the war in Ukraine — more than 2 million — than any other nation in the midst of the largest European refugee crisis in decades.

Biden will head to Warsaw for a bilateral meeting with President Andrzej Duda scheduled for Saturday. Biden will discuss how the U.S., along with its allies and partners, is responding to “the humanitarian and human rights crisis that Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked war on Ukraine has created,” Psaki said.

Ukrainian Tree of Life, 2020, Olga Olga Kovtun

This is from the link to the Telegraph above.

Vladimir Putin has been accused of “abducting and deporting” thousands of civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol and transporting them deep inside Russia.

Ukrainian authorities alleged Russian forces had rounded up several thousand residents from the shattered port before sending them to remote cities hundreds of miles from the border.

On Sunday night, Moscow gave Ukraine a deadline to surrender Mariupol as gun battles raged in the city centre. In a statement, the Russian defence ministry said Ukrainian and foreign armed units must drop their weapons “without exception” and leave between 7am and 9am (UK time) on Monday.

But on Sunday night Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereschuk said there was no question of surrendering Mariupol, the online newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda reported.

Russian state media broadcast clips of hundreds of Ukrainians whom it said had been rescued from Mariupol and evacuated eastward to safety in Russian cities.

But Ukrainian officials said they had instead been forced to travel and had been told they had to live and work in their new homes for at least two years.

This was a rumor for a few days but has now been confirmed.

So, there are the three big stories of the day.  I’m going to continue to watch Judge Jackson’s confirmation hearing but I’m not sure how long I can take the Republican screeds.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Friday Reads: Postcards from Ukraine and Trumpistan

Good Day Sky Dancers!

Well, thanks to Daylight Savings Time I have now fallen back an hour behind Standard Time and 2 hours behind what is the time now. So, my poor confused body has me back at breakfast time when it’s past lunch now.  Wow!  There are so many headlines demanding attention. It’s hard to know where to start.

Putin’s committing War Crimes on a frantic schedule while there is a rush to get medical supplies and food to those trapped in active war zones.  There are direct attacks reported today on food markets, kindergartens, and apartment buildings in a Kyiv neighborhood. Ninety Percent of Mariupol is gone. Lviv is under threat now. A building was hit and destroyed this morning.

There are several stories today on Putin’s requests for help from China and India.  Is China more reluctant to help Putin than Putin likely expected?  President Biden had a video call with China’s leader. From the AP: “In video call, Biden presses China’s Xi on Russia support”.

Key figures for a war half a world away, President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping spoke for nearly two hours on Friday as the White House looked to deter Beijing from providing military or economic assistance for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

China’s Foreign Ministry was the first to issue a readout of the video conversation, deploring “conflict and confrontation” as “not in anyone’s interest,” without assigning any blame to Russia.

Ahead of the call, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would question Xi about Beijing’s “rhetorical support” of Putin and an “absence of denunciation” of Russia’s invasion.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying pushed back, calling the U..S. administration’s suggestions that China risks falling on the wrong side of history “overbearing.”

Planning for the leaders’ discussion had been in the works since Biden and Xi held a virtual summit in November, but differences between Washington and Beijing over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s prosecution of his three-week-old war against Ukraine were expected to be at the center of the call.

China on Friday also sought to highlight its calls for negotiations and its donations of humanitarian aid, while accusing the U.S. of provoking Russia and fueling the conflict by shipping arms to Ukraine. Xi also renewed China’s criticism of sanctions imposed on Russia over the invasion, according to Chinese State Media. As in past, Xi did not use the terms war or invasion to describe Russia’s actions.

“As leaders of major countries, we need to consider properly resolving global hotspot issues, and more importantly, global stability and the production and life of billions of people,” he was quoted as saying.

In an attempt to show international support for China’s position, state broadcaster CCTV said Xi also discussed Ukraine in phone calls with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, contending the leaders’ views were “extremely close.”

An old farmhouse, Bednoshey Daniil,1985

Politico reports that the “EU has ‘very reliable evidence’ China is considering military support for Russia. EU official threatens trade measures against Beijing if the arms’ deliveries go ahead.

“EU leaders have very reliable evidence that China is considering providing military aid to Russia. All the leaders are very aware of what’s going on,” the senior EU official said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak publicly about confidential information.

He did not say what kind of assistance Moscow had requested.

“We are concerned about the fact that China is flirting with the Russians,” he added. The EU will “impose trade barriers against China” should Beijing proceed with Russia’s request, he said, as “this is the only language Beijing understands.”

The EU-China summit, scheduled for April 1 with President Xi Jinping, will go on as scheduled, as confirmed in a meeting with all EU countries’ top representatives in Brussels on Friday.

The deepening Ukraine crisis is seen as a test to the strength of the Russia-China relations. Beijing has repeatedly dismissed U.S. reports about its involvement in the Ukraine crisis as “disinformation.

India continues to do business with Russia including buying Russian Oil at a discount.  Here’s a link to a Vox article on the relationship between the two countries.  The analysis is by Jen Kirby.

India forged a relationship with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. That has carried over into the present day because of mutual interest and nostalgia, but the biggest reason might be defense. India’s arsenal is largely Soviet- or Russian-made; various analysts put the amount anywhere between 60 percent and 85 percent. And India needs its military to counter what it sees as the biggest threat in its neighborhood: China’s rise.

China’s rise is also the reason India and the United States have deepened their partnership in recent years; India is a member of the “Quad” (along with the US, Australia, and Japan), an informal alliance that came about years ago but which both the Trump and Biden administrations have sought to strengthen. The Quad doesn’t explicitly say it exists as a counterweight to Beijing; it’s a grouping of democracies focused on regional cooperation and other issues. But everyone — including China — gets it.

The antagonism between Washington and Moscow, made worse by Ukraine, puts India in an uncomfortable bind. Except India is used to this. In the Cold War, India practiced nonalignment, where it sought to avoid becoming entangled in the superpower conflicts and maintain its sovereignty. Although that policy has evolved in the decades since, the idea of autonomy still undergirds how India sees its foreign policy.

India “can really silo off relationships,” said Derek Grossman, senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation, focusing on national security and the Indo-Pacific region. “The relationship they have with Russia should have no bearing whatsoever on their relationships with China, the US, or anybody else.”

It is why India has walked a careful tightrope since Russia launched its war. Prime Minister Modi spoke to both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shortly after the invasion, reportedly saying in these calls that he wished for an end to hostilities and a return to dialogue. Modi has had to work with both governments over efforts to evacuate thousands of Indian citizens stranded in Ukraine. (At least one Indian student was killed in the siege on Kharkiv.)

While India hasn’t denounced Russia, it has made some pointed comments. India’s Ambassador to the United Nations said in a statement after an abstention on a February 27 UN Security Council vote that the global order is anchored in “respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states.” (That element — Russia’s unprovoked incursion into a sovereign Ukraine — is the one that India might be most sensitive to because of its own border dispute with China.)

But the Ukraine war may test India’s foreign policy approach,especially as Putin’s conflict threatens to bring Moscow even closer to Beijing. Yet so far, India has not budged.

Bloomberg reports that the US believes that “Putin Likely to Make Nuclear Threats If War Drags, U.S. Says. 

  • Defense Intelligence Agency chief offers a grim assessment
  • Russia may ‘rely on its nuclear deterrent’ to signal strength

President Vladimir Putin can be expected to brandish threats to use nuclear weapons against the West if stiff Ukrainian resistance to Russia’s invasion continues, draining conventional manpower and equipment, according to a new assessment by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency.

“Protracted occupation of parts of Ukrainian territory threatens to sap Russian military manpower and reduce their modernized weapons arsenal, while consequent economic sanctions will probably throw Russia into prolonged economic depression and diplomatic isolation,” Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said in its new 67-page summary of worldwide threats.

Ukrainian Landscape with Huts by Vladimir Makovsky

Ukrainian Landscape with Huts by Vladimir Makovsky

So, let me briefly put up some things from our alternative reality country within a country, Trumpistan, and efforts to bring it to heel in the justice system.   This is from Politico as reported by Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein: “Jan. 6 trial centers on lingering mystery: Where was Mike Pence as riot raged?  Prosecutors say that Secret Service witnesses will refuse to disclose Pence’s precise location because it could jeopardize national security protocols for the current vice president Kamala Harris.”

Where precisely was Mike Pence while a mob descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021?

A defendant set to face just the second trial in the nearly 15 months since the attack intends to make that question the centerpiece of his defense Monday. And the judge in the case just gave him the green light to grill the Secret Service about it.

Couy Griffin, the leader of Cowboys for Trump, says Pence’s evacuation to a secure location took him off of Capitol grounds — and outside a Secret Service perimeter established to protect Pence while lawmakers counted Electoral College votes, the last step to certify the 2020 presidential election.

Prosecutors, who have charged Griffin with breaching a Secret Service-protected zone, say the argument is nonsense. Not only was Pence within the Capitol complex for the duration of the riot, they say, but it wouldn’t matter if he left, since the trespassing law he’s charged with only requires that Pence intended to return.

Griffin’s case has become an important test for the Justice Department, with potential ramifications for hundreds of those charged with “entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds” on Jan. 6, a misdemeanor that carries a one-year maximum jail sentence. If U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden decides Pence’s precise location matters, it could echo across many of the nearly 800 cases stemming from the insurrection.

Prosecutors have repeatedly emphasized that the law only requires that Pence was or “would be” returning to the Secret Service zone to prove Griffin’s crime. They recently amended the language of the charges to emphasize that point.

Sunflowers, unknown

John Nichols reports on “The Loathsome Hypocrisy of Republicans Who Now Applaud Volodymyr Zelensky. When congressional Republicans had a chance to impeach and convict Trump for blackmailing Zelensky, 247 of them refused. “ for The Nation.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky got a hero’s welcome from the US Congress this week, with Republicans joining Democrats in applauding for the embattled leader of a country that is resisting a brutal Russian invasion. But a lot of the people who were applauding failed Zelensky and the Ukrainian cause when it might have mattered most. That was when former President Donald Trump was impeached and tried for seeking to blackmail Zelensky for political purposes.

The political pendulum swings so fast these days that it is easy to forget what was happening barely two months ago, let alone two years ago. But in late 2019 and early 2020, Ukraine was at the center of a national debate about Trump’s lawless presidency, and his political extortion of Zelensky.

So, let’s hope we can bankrupt the Trump Family Crime Syndicate and its enabler, Rupert Murdoch.  This is written by Erich Boehlert: “

Rupert Murdoch for years has enjoyed a Trump-like ability to avoid responsibility for the avalanche of lies he promotes. That all may be changing thanks to a pair of billion-dollar defamation lawsuits surrounding Trump’s Big Lie campaign — Murdoch appears powerless to stop the looming legal reckoning.

This week, Justice David Cohen of State Supreme Court in Manhattan issued a stinging rebuke of Fox News. Denying the network’s attempt to dismiss a $2.7 billion lawsuit filed by Smartmatic, the election technology company that Fox smeared as part of Trump’s Big Lie offensive following the 2020 campaign, Cohen waved off Murdoch’s attorneys.

“Even assuming that Fox News did not intentionally allow this false narrative to be broadcasted, there is a substantial basis for plaintiffs’ claim that, at a minimum, Fox News turned a blind eye to a litany of outrageous claims about plaintiffs, unprecedented in the history of American elections, so inherently improbable that it evinced a reckless disregard for the truth,” Cohen wrote in his 61-page opinion. The judge repeatedly signaled that the lawsuit can proceed because there’s a reasonable chance that a jury would find Fox guilty of defamation.

So, that’s a lot for us to think about and discuss. I hope your weekend is restful.  Turn off the TV.  I find that helps.

What’s on your blogging and reading list today?

Monday Reads: Sunflowers, Peace, and Hyperaccumulation

Sunflowers painting, Oleksandr Neliubin, Kharkiv, Kharkov region, Ukraine

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I used to spend nearly every weekend traveling between Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Kansas City. Both my grandparents lived there as well as my mother’s brother and sister and their families.  I used to love the season when Kansas sunflowers bloomed. Goodland is the Sunflower Capitol there. It was a treat to see the endless fields of Sunflowers, the state flower of Kansas.

I was yesterday years old when I learned the Sunflowers are magical.  Scientists Are Using Sunflowers To Clean Up Nuclear Radiation. Sunflowers are what environmental scientists call hyperaccumulators– plants that have the ability to take up high concentrations of toxic materials in their tissues.

After the Hiroshima, Fukushima, and Chernobyl nuclear disasters, fields of sunflowers were planted across the affected landscapes to help absorb toxic metals and radiation from the soil. New research now suggests that sunflowers (Helianthus) might be as good for the environment as they are pretty to look at.

Sunflowers are what environmental scientists call hyperaccumulators– plants that have the ability to take up high concentrations of toxic materials in their tissues. Like all land-based plants, flowers have root systems that evolved as extremely efficient mechanisms for pulling nutrients, water, and minerals out of the ground, among them: zinc, copper, and other radioactive elements that are then stored in their stems and leaves.

While the sunflower-radiation link would seem like a slow-gestating cure-all for modern environmental disasters, the research is still inconclusive as to the efficacy of all sunflower varieties to help stave off environmental pollution. Post-tsunami clean-up efforts in Fukashima, however, demonstrate a promising application of this discovery.

One of the early successes in sunflower research came almost a decade ago when a phytoremediation company called Edenspace Systems completed a successful cleanup of a lead-laced plot in land in Detroit. (Phytoremediation is a technique for using plants to clean up contamination.)

Folk Art, Maria Pryimachenko

In Ukraine, the giant yellow blooms have a double meaning. Ukraine’s sunflower becomes worldwide symbol of solidarity and peace amid Russian invasion.  These towering blooms have emerged as a sign of resistance.”  Yes, this article is from House Beautiful and the last link came from Garden Collage. Sometimes you just need unusual sources to get a perspective on things when you’re in my down the rabbit hole of discovery mode. Many of you may remember this moment from the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

‘Take these seeds and put them in your pockets so at least sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here,’ said the Ukrainian lady. ‘Put the sunflower seeds in your pockets, please. You will lie down here with the seeds. You came to my land. Do you understand? You are occupiers. You are enemies.’

Artists around the world have been posting sunflower art with hashtags including #sunflowersforukraine to show solidarity with civilians in a powerful display of artistic expression. Meanwhile, Twitter and Instagram users have been adding sunflower emojis to their usernames as a subtle nod of support as Russia continues its devastating war on Ukraine.

In America, First Lady Jill Biden showed her support for Ukraine by wearing a face mask embroidered with a sunflower during an event at The White House, while in City Plaza in Reno, Nevada, residents gathered to add sunflowers to a ‘Believe’ sculpture to express their support for the country.

Meanwhile, over in the UK, Prince Charles and Camilla placed sunflowers on the altar during a visit to the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in London with Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko.

And at demonstrations in the city, supporters have been draped in the blue and yellow national flag of Ukraine, carrying sunflowers and wearing sunflower crowns in protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

This isn’t the first time the sunflower has been used as a symbol of peace. Back in June 1966, US, Russian and Ukrainian defence ministers planted sunflowers in a ceremony at Ukraine’s Pervomaysk missile base to mark Ukraine giving up nuclear weapons.

Sunflowers have been grown in Ukraine since the 1700s (the country is also the world’s major supplier of sunflower oil). According to historical records, the sunflower became deeply embedded in the Ukrainian culture when the church didn’t ban its oil during Lent — a time of abstinence. Since then, sunflower oil has become an important aspect of daily life in Ukraine, with many civilians growing the golden flowers in their gardens and eating their seeds as a snack.

And yes, today’s post is resplendent with artists of Ukraine and their take on their precious Sunflowers. Some of the works of contemporary artists are for sale. Buying art would be a great way to support Ukraine and continue its cultural contribution in arts!

I also am going to gratuitously use the infamous LBJ Daisy Ad from 1964 followed by the Mother and Child Ad. That year I was 8 and was getting quite good and the duck and dive exercises. I was hoping never to relive that kind of weirdness but here I am in my dotage, worrying about a mad man again.  Will he bury us?

What is most frustrating is watching Putin escalate the war by committing war crimes like this from the AP: “Pregnant woman, baby die after Russia bombed maternity ward.”   I do not understand what this does other than terrorize a peaceful nation and cement world determination to rid the world of the Russian Despot.

Additionally–and also from the AP–, we continue to hear that Putin is only likely to do worse things.  he’s already inkling the use of Nukes and Chemical weapons. I welcome the Ides of March tomorrow and suggest Putin consider the case of Julius Caesar. “US view of Putin: Angry, frustrated, likely to escalate war”. This is reported by AP’s Nomaan Merchant.

Burns is a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow who has met with Putin many times. He told lawmakers in response to a question about the Russian president’s mental state that he did not believe Putin was crazy.

“I think Putin is angry and frustrated right now,” he said. “He’s likely to double down and try to grind down the Ukrainian military with no regard for civilian casualties.”

Russia’s recent unsupported claims that the U.S. is helping Ukraine develop chemical or biological weapons suggest that Putin may himself be prepared to deploy those weapons in a “false flag” operation, Burns said.

There’s no apparent path to ending the war. It is nearly inconceivable that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has won admiration around the world for leading his country’s resistance, would suddenly recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea or support granting new autonomy to Russian-friendly parts of eastern Ukraine. And even if he captures Kyiv and deposes Zelenskyy, Putin would have to account for an insurgency supported by the West in a country of more than 40 million.

“He has no sustainable political end-game in the face of what is going to continue to be fierce resistance from Ukrainians,” Burns said.

European leaders are still trying to maintain dialogue with Putin. Prime Minister Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg spoke Monday with Putin and “pleaded for an immediate ceasefire,” according to Bettel’s tweet. A spokesperson said Bettel was encouraged to contact Putin by other leaders who “wanted to make sure Putin would continue talking with them.” Bettel also spoke with Zelenskyy.

Avril Haines, President Joe Biden’s director of national intelligence, said Putin “perceives this as a war he cannot afford to lose. But what he might be willing to accept as a victory may change over time given the significant costs he is incurring.”

Intelligence analysts think Putin’s recent raising of Russia’s nuclear alert level was “probably intended to deter the West from providing additional support to Ukraine,” she said.

In hopeful news, a real freedom convey of 160 cars filled with civilians left the besieged city of Mariupol. Ukrainian families begin their life as refugees throughout Europe.  Ted Cruz and those truckers driving circles around the District need to get a life.

Maria Primachenko,
May I Give This Ukrainian Bread to All People in This Big Wide World
Maria Primachenko
Original Title: Дарую українську паляницю всім людям на землі
Date: 1982

Project Syndicate‘s Richard Haas writes how this War has changed.  “From War of Choice to War of Perseverance.”  He elucidates the issues that may help end it.

“Ripeness is all,” noted Edgar in Shakespeare’s King Lear. When it comes to negotiations to limit or end international conflicts, he is right: agreements emerge only when the leading protagonists are willing to compromise and are then able to commit their respective governments to implement the accord.

This truth is highly relevant to any attempt to end the war between Russia and Ukraine through diplomacy. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has any number of reasons to end a conflict that has already killed thousands of his citizens, destroyed large parts of several major cities, rendered millions homeless, and devastated Ukraine’s economy. And his standing has grown by the hour, giving him the political strength to make peace – not at any price, but at some price.

Already, there are signs he might be willing to compromise on NATO membership. He would not recognize Crimea as being part of Russia, but it might be possible for him to accept that the two governments agree to disagree on its status, much as the United States and China have done for a half-century concerning Taiwan. Similarly, he would not recognize the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics,” but he could sign on to their being given significant autonomy.

The question is whether even this would be enough for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has demanded the “de-Nazification” of Ukraine, a phrase that seems to call for regime change, as well as the country’s total demilitarization. Given that he has questioned whether Ukraine is a “real” country, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that he remains uninterested in coexisting with a legitimate government of a sovereign, independent state. So far, Putin has demonstrated he is more interested in making a point than in making a deal.

What could change this? What could make the situation riper for a negotiated solution? That is actually the purpose of the West’s policy: to raise the military and economic costs of prosecuting the war so high that Putin will decide that it is in his interest (he clearly cares little about the interests of Russia) to negotiate a ceasefire and accept terms that would bring peace. Again, this seems unlikely, if only because Putin almost certainly fears it would be interpreted as a sign of weakness, encouraging resistance to his continued rule.

Alternatively, he could be pressured to negotiate. In principle such pressure could come from below – a Russian version of “people power” in which the security services are overwhelmed, much as they were in Iran in the late 1970s. Or pressure could come from the side, from the few others who wield power in today’s Russia and could decide that they must act before Putin destroys more of Russia’s future than he already has. The former does not seem to be in the offing, given mass arrests and control of information, and there is simply no way of knowing if the latter might happen until it does.

There are more situations discussed at the link.

Well, that’s it for me!  I’m going to go plant some sunflowers to hide the back fence! It’s always fun to watch them follow the sun!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?