Thursday, March 31, 2022

DOING SOMETHING

 

Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows. Not just because he and Mrs. Meadows seem to be inveterate committers of voter fraud, or his text conversations with Mrs. Virginia Thomas, but especially because he was clearly one of the people using one of those burner phones during the seven hours when the official White House phone logs went dark on January 6. Photo by Patrick Semansky/AP via NPR (which has the voter fraud story if you need a link for that).

Redhand writes,

the failure fault line runs directly through Merrick Garland's office. It's hard not to feel despair when the chief individual charged with combating criminality threatening our own Government lacks the courage to do his job. I believe the news that Justice Dept. expands Jan. 6 probe to look at rally prep, financing about as much as I do the Putin regime's claims that they are curtailing military activities around Kiev.

Actually, for me, that's one of the few bright and hopeful spots, and that WaPo story is one of the reasons, though I think they got the story wrong when they suggested that the development (subpoenas to White House officials who contributed to planning the January 6 rally) is some kind of new and surprising development. Especially because I predicted it a couple of months ago, around the time of the arrest of Stewart Rhodes and the other Oath Keeper defendants.

That's when I learned that there was a special grand jury working all the January 6 cases, methodically working its way up the chain up from Viking Boy in the Wagnerian headdress to somebody senior enough that he didn't enter the Capitol himself but rather directed it, by phone, from outside.

What's Happening

Via @Accountabilabud.

Say, what's Mr. Bret Stephens up to these days? Just joining Donald Trump and Glenn Greenwald in a take about how smart President Putin is and how everything is going according to plan ("What If Putin Didn't Miscalculate?"):

Suppose for a moment that Putin never intended to conquer all of Ukraine: that, from the beginning, his real targets were the energy riches of Ukraine’s east, which contain Europe’s second-largest known reserves of natural gas (after Norway’s).

Combine that with Russia’s previous territorial seizures in Crimea (which has huge offshore energy fields) and the eastern provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk (which contain part of an enormous shale-gas field), as well as Putin’s bid to control most or all of Ukraine’s coastline, and the shape of Putin’s ambitions become clear. He’s less interested in reuniting the Russian-speaking world than he is in securing Russia’s energy dominance.

Putin's just adopting the geopolitics of the Trump Doctrine: Wars are OK if you get to keep the oil. Thus proving that he's "smarter", as Trump would say, than Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and Cheney. 

Of course Mr. Bret has already been proven fundamentally wrong, since as it turns out Russia is not withdrawing its forces from north and west at all, just lying, as usual.

So I've spent much of the day assembling what I was thinking of as more interesting arguments for why Stephens is wrong in his interpretation of what Putin is doing, and it immediately turns out he's wrong because Putin isn't doing that. The illustration above was meant to show how leaving the assaults in Kiev and Chernohiv in favor of a focus on the southeast wouldn't have gotten the Russians dominance over the energy reserves,  because that's not where the energy reserves are—if Russia is refocusing its efforts away from the northern part of the country between Kyiv and Sumy where they've been steadily losing ground, and to the east of the imaginary line from Kharkiv to Mariupol where they've been steadily gaining it, they're hardly adding anything to the oil and gas field they already control, in Crimea and the the two mini-republics; what remains of that enormous shale-gas field is in the Dniepr basin which Russians have scarcely approached (with a very big portion of it clear over the border in Belarus), and there's another huge oil and gas basin in the the very far west, in the foothills of the Carpathians, which Russians clearly won't go near. But then that's not what Putin is doing anyway, so what's the point?

Which is how things have been going for the blog in recent weeks, in case you're wondering why I haven't been posting much. Nearly everything I start turns boring as I'm writing it. Not only with respect to Ukraine but the various Trump investigations, and the criminality of Clarence Thomas, and so forth. Everything, really. My fascinating take turns into somebody's premature cliché. Anyway, sorry.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Modern Russian Infantry—"Polite People"

 

Plastic Model Kit by Zvezda ("Star") a Russian Model Company

This is not the time or place to discuss my participation in a strange subculture not often in the public eye: the peculiar world of men (and some women) who build plastic military models from injection-molded kits.  There are many scales and subjects, from armor and other military vehicles to human figures (with an occasional animal figure thrown in for whimsey's sake) through to warships, warplanes, and complete dioramas.

I found the above figure set on a model site by chance a few days ago.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  Zvezda is putting out this as a new issue at the same time that the Russian military is bombing a maternity hospital in Mariupol?!   Should I take the marketing of these “Polite People” as classic Russian propaganda gone horribly wrong, or as ironic, utterly brutal black humor of the kind for which the Russian race is famous.

I consulted my in-house Russian expert (and spouse) to get her take on the box art.  But, as Delphic and careful as she always is in such matters, she simply said, “It is a reflection of reality.”  😐  I should have known better.

The orange cat told me that there had to be a back story to this scene, as I had seen a similar image in one of Maxim Katz's YouTube videosGoogling "cat soldiers Ukraine," here is what I found:

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Everybody Hits Chris

I actually don't have anything to say about the Oscars incident, other than to assert my continuing belief that violence is even worse than roast-style celebrity jokes. But I also believe, and I'm clinging to that, that nobody but me came up with the joke in the headline, so let the record show that.


Friday, March 25, 2022

News From Russia

 

Lawrence Sheets, who used to be NPR's Moscow bureau chief 20 or so years ago, now president of Eurasian International Analytics LLC, whatever that is, has recently been holed up in Odessa watching TV—not Ukrainian TV, but Russian, the 9:00 national news show Vremya, which he thinks has been turning pretty weird. He offered up some observations on it last week in Politico, and showed up with a follow-up on the radio this morning.

He thinks the show is getting very frayed, not quite professional in production, and not coherent in message, and of course the coverage on the Ukraine "special military operation" is full of lies, but he thinks the message has been shifting in significant ways: the "Ukraine is run by Nazis" theme is falling into disuse, the theme of "Ukrainians are bombing their own civilians to make Russia look bad" is getting more play (indicating, I'd think, that more and more Russians are seeing video of the massive destruction in Kharkiv and Mariupol and so on, with their VPNs, and the authorities feel they have to provide some explanation for it).

And the paranoia is getting really baroque: it's now asserted that Hunter Biden and his laptops are or were personally in charge of the imaginary US-Ukraine program for developing biological weapons of mass destruction (remember when the word was that Hunter's simply getting a job was evidence of corruption, because he was obviously too incompetent to do a job of any sort? Now he's Dr. von Doom), and everybody's favorite Elder of Zion, George Soros, is of course behind it all. 

Which is also a big thing, I've learned from Twitter, among the American Putinists:

The voice of the turtle is heard in the land

Actually the American mourning dove, though it used to be known as the "Carolina turtledove"—turtledoves are a different species, properly speaking, in Europe—but it is a harbinger of spring, and I was woken up by my first one of the season this morning, around 5:00. Also the first one since I learned that it was a mourning dove. I'd waking up to them regularly for years, but thought it must be some kind of owl. It certainly never sounded mournful to me, but erotic. That's all I really wanted to say about it.


Zenaida macroura, mourning dove, from John James Audubon Birds of America, between 1827 and 1838, via Wikipedia.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

For the Record: Rights Gotten Spectacularly Wrong

For freedom before she was against it, or both at the same time? Or is the decision to terminate a pregnancy not a private family decision? It certainly would be in my family, don't know about Marsha's.
 


Tuesday, March 22, 2022

For the Record: Putin Is Not a Leftist, part 5,412

"During Fascism, photography, in synergy with the communications industry ante-literam, was an essential part of the construction of the cult of the leader that transformed the figure of Mussolini into an icon... The Duce, in anticipation of our celebrities today, did not hesitate to undress and display his torso in what Valerie Sperling calls ‘iconic public-relations stunts’ that were both exhibitionistic and voyeuristic." He even favored the baseball cap! From Alessandra Antola Swan, "The iconic body: Mussolini unclothed", Modern Italy 21/4 2016.

In his evident desire to restore the Russian empire in his own name, rather than some descendant of Rurik, Putin really resembles Mussolini, who was thinking of the same kind of thing for Rome, much more than Hitler. Moscow is, of course, theologically, the "Third Rome" of Orthodoxy, after Rome proper and Constantinople, and Putin's emergence as a kind of physical hero from nowhere, like the milkman in a porn film, is a kind of iconic thing too, with the same kind of precedent. Not sure that's been discussed before. 

I seriously can't tolerate any more treatment of Putin as some kind of "leftist", meanwhile, sorry, but it really upsets me, at least in part because of the way it keeps offering Republicans an excuse for not attacking fascism, because, as keeps turning up, fascism doesn't really bother them, as when they failed to respond one way or the other to Putin's campaign to "de-Nazify" Ukraine.

They only reacted to the threats of evil liberal government, in the form of Dr. Fauci and the Communist Party of China. The anti-government threat of Nazism doesn't bother them at all, and they're not interested in examining their views on whether somebody is fascist or not. But meanwhile, when I found this extraordinary thread on the current situation inside Russia (I'm not reproducing it, but check it out!), tweeps found occasion to associate Putin with communism again:

I'm like no, that's not the point:

Not that I'm clear what a "demographic body blow" is


Sunday, March 20, 2022

Russian Anti-war YouTuber Out of Israel

I refer to Максим Кац (Maxim Katz) a Russian YouTuber based in Israel.  He describes himself this way:

На этом канале видео про политику, урбанистику, государственное управление. Стараюсь их делать спокойными и обоснованными научными данными.
                                                                        * * * *

Я Максим Кац, 8 лет занимаюсь оппозиционной политикой: сам был депутатом, управлял многими оппозиционными избирательными кампаниями — от штаба Навального в 2013 до муниципальной кампании Яблока в Петербурге в 2019. Хочу сделать Россию лучше и избраться мэром Москвы когда-нибудь :)

And no, I don't speak Russian, but with the help of Google Translate, this is what I read:

This channel has videos about politics, urbanism, public administration. I try to make them [sound] calm and [use] sound scientific data.

                                                                        * * * *

I’m Maxim Katz, I’ve been involved in opposition politics for 8 years: I myself was a deputy, managed many opposition election campaigns – from Navalny’s headquarters in 2013 to Yabloko’s municipal campaign in St. Petersburg in 2019. I want to make Russia better and be elected mayor of Moscow someday :)

So how and why is this non-Russian speaker recommending a channel that is only voiced in Russian?

First the how, and half the why.  My wife Вера (Vera) ;-) watches a lot of Russian programming on the TV, and since we got a "smart" one not too long ago, with a finger touch on the controller it's possible to transfer the content of a YouTube video to the "big screen."  Enroute from the upstairs to my home office via the living room, I saw the above figure in the flesh speaking passionately in Russian, with well-composed English subtitles dancing across the bottom of the screen.  

The attraction was magnetic: I was glued to the screen by his urgent delivery and the content I read.  To me, the experience was like one of those foreign films where you get a much better sense of the story by hearing it in the original language while you absorb the subtitle content.

And what content!  From about the time of the war's start, Maxim and his "team" started to title most videos in English, and use well-composed subtitles, beginning with "Why is it impossible to win the war with Ukraine?" on February 28th.

In this one, he uses his background in city planning (urbanism) to describe the process in which construction trades work together to erect complex structures like airport terminals under the guiding hand of a master planner who knows what he's doing.  Unskilled workers who are given tools they don't know how to use and who are simply transferred to the worksite with no plan or direction create nothing but a dumping ground for materiel.

The same is true of a military organization.  Planning at every level is required in order to achieve success, and indeed it is essential to have a metric for success, for "winning."  He then argues that when the conditions of victory are undefined, "winning" is impossible.

The evidence he marshals for grand mal failure at every level of the Russian effort, beginning at the top (Putin) is cogent and compelling.  And I have only described one aspect of this initial post.

In another post -- "Eight Myths That Led Russia to War" -- on March 10th, Maxim delves, admittedly with informed speculation, into the mind of Putin and the magic, fantastical thinking, and beliefs, that drove him to begin this mad, fratricidal conflict.  It's worth a look.

Frankly, they all are.  Whether Maxim is discussing the raw, fratricidal nature of the war, which causes him to mourn the deaths of "our people" on both sides, or the utterly devastating impact of sanctions on Russian society and economy, he brings a true, insider perspective to these terrible events, and lets one see them through Russian eyes, and feel them in a compassionate Russian heart.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

She's got my vote if she wants it

And finally Stacey Abrams isn't president of Earth. I know it's hard for you guys at National Review to understand the difference, but that's a TV show.

Apparently National Review is all bent out of shape about a cameo appearance by Stacey Abrams as "United Earth President" on the Paramount series Star Trek: Discovery

Stacey Abrams Does Not Deserve to Be President of Earth

thunders Jack Butler:

Jim [Geraghty] has covered the Star Trek criticism, so I’ll focus on Stacey Abrams. Abrams is, at this time, most famous for losing the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election and then proceeding to deny she had lost it, behavior that Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger has convincingly argued is morally indistinguishable from — and helped set the stage for — former president Donald Trump’s behavior after the 2020 presidential election.

And earlier this week, Matt Mashburn, a member of Georgia’s state elections board, argued that the House January 6 Committee’s decision to pursue the legal argument that those who argued the 2020 election* did so knowing this was false and then raised money off of it anyway are guilty of fraud should make Abrams, who has profited handsomely in her own way from her election denial, nervous. As Spock once said, sauce for the goose.

*Some words like "that the 2020 election was rigged" seem to have wandered away from the sentence at this point, arguably frightened off by all the argle-bargle that precedes it in the pancake of relative clauses. We'll come to that presently.

I don't know about The Corner, but in my house Abrams is more famous as the architect of Democratic victories in Georgia in November 2020 and January 2021 that gave the party the White House and the Senate majority.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Moar Senatorial Stupid

 

Valhalla burning in the distance, after the original production, Bayreuth 1876, via BR-Klassik. Rick Scott wants to do this to the world every five years.


Although, looking at the actual text of Scott's interview now that it's up at the NPR website, I"m finding some evidence that Scott is not actually out of his mind, just really remarkably stupid.

The income tax proposal in Scott's "11-Point Policy Book" is like this:

For the Record: Republican Coalition

 

The Dodo explaining the meaning of "caucus race". Illustration by John Tenniel via [checks notes] Walmart.

In the context of the discovery by The New Yorker's economics and business correspondent Adam Davidson that Republicans who proclaim a deep devotion to the principle that government should never interfere in the processes of the free market may not be perfectly sincere. Not just that I set Davidson and Rick Pearlstein straight (though Davidson actually seemed to be paying some attention), but I think I came up with something important on the subject of what a political coalition is, that nobody ever quite says:

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Some Stupid

 

Border prospect, McAllen, Texas, via Rio Grande Guardian.

Former Tennessee Congressman Marsha Blackburn (that was my favorite thing about her, that she refused to call herself a congresswoman, like she was afraid that might not be constitutional), now Senator Blackburn,  weighs in on the lessons we can learn from the Ukraine invasion:

I mean, when you think about it, incredibly good, when you consider that Mexico has a history of being chopped up the way Ukraine has been, by the United States, carved and served in the Mexican War from 1846 to 1848 when US forces showed up to defend the right of white men in Tejas to hold and trade slaves, and ended up seizing a third of Mexico's sovereign territory and annexing it to the US, through the "punitive expedition" of 1916-17  which successfully decided the outcome of a revolution inside the country, to the Immigration Act of 1924 making it impossible, for the first time in North American history, for normal people to live in the normal way, traveling between Tijuana and San Diego or El Paso and Ciudad Juarez without let or hindrance, that they had been following since the 16th century. Mexico forgives and forgets.

While Russia is playing with the idea of demanding we give Alaska back. Although we paid for it. That's the only insecure border we have, the maritime boundary in the Bering Sea. Is that clear?

Monday, March 14, 2022

Pitch: Woke Pork


 

My forthcoming political gothic, Pajama Boy, recounts the adventures of Kyndle, a patriotic Christian blonde first-year law student at Rutgers (she should have gone to Princeton, but Law Students of Color had snatched up all the spots, with their heartrending sob stories of deprived youth in lieu of good LSAT scores, no doubt, not that hers was that great, but it just had to be better than most of them—why, most of them didn't even know they owed the Civil Rights Act to Republicans! Or asked her some of those snotty Critical Race Theory questions like "So, what parts of the Civil Rights Act do you support?" just because she happened to mention how she didn't like affirmative action and it turned out that was actually in the Civil Rights Act, which just shows how sneaky they've been all along.

Anyway, when Kyndle runs into Fivush, a skinny boy with too-curly hair and a flannel shirt she spots trying to register student voters on campus, she knows right away she's witnessing one of those voter fraud operations that steal elections from real Americans, and she's determined to stop it by any means necessary, and that's where the shenanigans start. Because it's so hard to figure out what he's doing that's illegal—no dead people or noncitizens showing up at his booth. In fact he even registers her, after she's openly told him she's a Republican, like he doesn't even care. She needs to go deeper and deeper underground, until she's somehow spending a winter weekend at his parents' house, in pajamas, drinking cocoa, and helping the old folks sign up for Obamacare, and before you know it she's finding out that Fivush has chest hair and she has a G-spot, and how's she going to explain that to Biff, the anal-oriented football player she's been dating since they were 14? Biff probably thinks a G-spot is a Bitcoin denomination!

And next comes the time when she's a couple of weeks late and Fivush just calmly says he's glad abortion law is so easy in New Jersey and it's against Jewish law to oppose abortion in any case. And he's really awed by the multiorgasmic thing but he's made a vow never to produce a child that's unambiguously white. Now what's she going to do?

I think I'm going to call the series "Woke Pork".

Thursday, March 10, 2022

On Propaganda

"Want It? Join up" Poster by Vladimir Mayakovsky. The text reads, "1. Want to overcome cold? 2. Want to overcome hunger? 3. Want to eat? 4. Want to drink? Then hurry up and join the shock brigades of exemplary labor!" Via Wikipedia.


Got into a big debate—not hostile, I think, but more properly exploratory—in which I was trying to explain some ideas about the press, and how it works, that I think are really kind of important in our post-truth environment. That you can understand how bad the proper prestige press is, in the first place, without concluding that nothing is knowable and everything you read or hear might be a lie. The very real problems of the news media are systemic, like racism. They are not the result of an elaborate conspiracy, as if Dean Baquet was taking marching orders from Charles Koch in some undisclosed location; they are a feature, as our old friend Thornton (who will show up in the thread, under the name "Henry Porter"), would say, not of an ideology but of a business plan. It starts out at what seems like a modest point (the specific question was whether the Senate deal on US Postal Service reform was going to protect Louis DeJoy from getting fired, and whether an old Politico article got the question right):

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

U.S. Humanitarian Relief for Ukrainians in the Wake of Russian Invasion

A Ukrainian woman reacts after arriving at the Medyka border crossing, in Poland, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022.  Since Russia launched its offensive on Ukraine, more than 200,000 people have been forced to flee the Country to bordering nations like Romania, Poland, Hungary, Moldova, and the Czech Republic — in what the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, said will have “devastating humanitarian consequences” on civilians. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu) (Fair Use)

Most of the World has been horrified by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a sovereign nation that posed no threat whatsoever to the Russian Federation.  The U.N. estimates that two million refugees have already fled Ukraine.  While preliminary reports suggested that the total number of refugees could be as high as five million, I believe the number will be much, much higher as the fighting continues and Russian forces target civilians. U.S. sees 'very credible reports' of deliberate attacks on civilians in Ukraine.

The United States has helped organize a strong, united response to this Russian aggression. Still, it has only begun to consider what steps it will take to protect the countless citizens of Ukraine fleeing the violence or who have found themselves stranded overseas when the invasion started.

This post will discuss the most recent aid developments and the options that Ukrainians have, depending on where they are and what their current U.S. immigration "status" is.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

For the Record: This Week in IOKIYAR

 

Drawing by Neal Obermeyer, September 2009.


Saturday, March 5, 2022

No. 1

From President Medvedev's vlog, via The Guardian, 25 October 2011

 

Fred Kaplan of Slate, Rectification Central's go-to source of expertise on military matters, had a better-informed version of something I've been wanting to say, about old Willard Mitt Romney complaining in every quarter about how he deserves an apology, because when he said in 2012 that the Russian Federation was "our no. 1 geopolitical foe" and everybody made fun of him he was actually right. As a matter of fact he wasn't right, in the first place because he was ignorant or lying, as was the case with so much of what Romney was saying* during that campaign:

In his 2012 CNN interview [toward the end of Dmitry Medvedev's presidency, a couple of months before Putin returned to the office in May], Romney explained his characterization of Russia as “our No. 1 geopolitical foe” by saying, “They fight every cause for the world’s worst actors”—and referred specifically to Cuba, Venezuela, and Syria. In his recent Atlantic interview, he said, “They were opposing us at the U.N. whenever a critical measure came forward.” Both statements were simply untrue.

The fact is, quite apart from partisan bickering or revisionist history about the wisdom of Romney, the U.S. and Russia shared vital interests on a number of issues—and acted together to advance those interests, at least for a while. Medvedev and other Kremlin officials were also genuinely keen to bring Russia into the global economy—to diversify its economy beyond commodities like oil and gas, build up its tech sector, and expand its trade—which motivated them to build better relations with America and Europe.

More specifically, and more importantly in terms of the campaign, he was wrong to suggest that there was some deep defect in the Obama administration's treatment of the US-Russia relationship during the Medvedev presidency, the proof being in what he was able to achieve:

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

If You Want to Sit on a Hedgehog You Should Keep Your Pants on. And Other Lessons of Ukrainian History

 

Ilya Repin, Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks, 1880-91, from the Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), via Wikipedia.

Yglesias yesterday, talking about the irony of American Jews whose ancestors emigrated from Ukraine, fleeing the draft (if they picked you, you served 25 years) and the pogroms by murderous Cossacks, now identifying as Ukrainians themselves: