The Hawks And The Hate

If you’ve spent any time on social media, you’ve noticed that many influential and well known Republicans are now saying they don’t recognize their party anymore, even going so far to break with it. Who would ever have thought that we’d suddenly have common cause with a Bill Kristol, a Joe Walsh, a Max Boot, or even a Cheney?

Well, I suppose there is one simple answer. Democrats have become more hawkish since the Clinton years, and that’s really the major priority for a neocon, that we project American strength everywhere possible. That’s been their whole deal since PNAC. Insofar as social liberalism goes, the idea doesn’t really interest the true neocon. Republicans as a party, however, have slid into the goo of reactionary politics in a big bad way. Obviously that degeneration began in the sixties and enjoyed acceptance in the Reagan administration, but it really wasn’t until the advent of The Tea Party that things really started to go truly whacko in righty land. It was then when star-spangled politics became legion, if you ask me. They identified with revolutionaries who were doing their patriotic duty to throw off oppression. It was absurd on its face; it got people screaming about taxes and the abolition of government and that was considered within the bounds of acceptable rhetoric. It had no regard to the people it would hurt if a functioning government could not provide services. They wanted anarchy. Freedom of responsibility from their fellow man. A radical idea of individualism that cared about nothing but itself, history be damned,

There’s nothing inherently bad about revolution; in fact, colonialism is no damn good, period. It’s important that a government come from its own land. But let’s be real about who Americans are. I am a third generation immigrant mutt, a mixture of the European refuse that landed in New Jersey in the early 20th century for a better shot at survival. I do not have slaver blood. But our white American forefathers do, and their offenses are now mine. My kin and I have prospered well enough in this country, having all of the advantages of white society that are still denied to people of color every day. But our revolution was tainted. We established ourselves with genocide and enriched ourselves with slavery, the echoes of which we are still feeling today. I’m not interested in arguments that “everyone was doing it”, especially if we want to claim “exceptionalism” as we are so often wont to do. Our revolution was supposed to be based on our natural human rights, and that was a quantum leap in a way, but it was only for white people, not the Indian “savages” nor the human chattel they owned.

So, to wrap that up, let’s just say I’m not in love with the myth of how great this country is. In terms of modernity, it’s slowly becoming a miserable experience for everyone, as the inequality gap widens. The cost of shelter, energy and food without appropriate wage increases is grinding on all families, and it feels like no one is interested in stopping it. Women just lost the Constitutional right to reproductive freedom. A steady diet of bad news screaming out of the television, radio and the Internet has made people resentful and hostile, looking for someone, some group to blame besides the greedy bastards who are Hoovering up more and more profits.

Anyway, to get back to the neocons-all they really care about is American military hegemony around the globe, and the Biden administration is providing that by proxy warring with Russia over Ukraine. So neocons have cover now to speak their conscience about the hatriot movement that has suddenly replaced the Tea Party patriot movement. Anyone with functioning eyes and ears has now seen at least part of the white supremacist movement in action; it has also seen Republican leaders, young white nationalists and talking heads on TV espouse white grievance or excuse it. Charlottesville was a major flashpoint in 2017 where we saw the true strength of the white hate movement reveal itself and its message that it would not be replaced by inferior races. You have young kids who play too many video games and can’t get a girlfriend find camaraderie in the fascist bowels of the right wing. As I write this, we are still paralyzed by the Buffalo shooting and its seemingly senseless origins. Having read the shooters screed, I can tell you that we need to have a bigger conversation on the depth of the militarization of this fascist white Christian male supremacist movement, who their targets are, and how to destroy this movement. Because it’s not about “speech” anymore-a line must be drawn, a bright one that states objectively that some information and practices are simply toxic to a polite democracy. They are hiding their hate and possibly another revolution under our founding documents and that is much cause for concern.

Romanticizing This Fucking War

I think it’s time to really get real on what has happened in Ukraine, what is happening, and what might be happening.

Doing so will require a great deal of searching in some weird places. Because we are all consuming some sort of spin, somewhere. Everyone is doing it-NATO, the US, the EU, the UK, The Russian Federation, and of course, Ukraine. It will also require us to be more dispassionate armchair generals, questioning what we think we know constantly, absorbing new information as it arrives. We all have a fan favorite, and we will say just about anything to make our team look good. I certainly would like to believe that Ukraine is going to be able to get Russia the hell out of its territory. It’s an illegal war, and a threat to national sovereignty everywhere. Moreover, it’s a direct challenge to Western democratic hegemony, bringing incredible wealth and control of global food and energy to a nuclear armed country in the midst of a fascist rebirth.

I’ve already talked about what I think is going on in Putin’s head; I don’t think he’s an expansionist on the level of Hitler or Japan or any of the other great powers of yore who tried to seize great swaths of land by brute force. Instead, Putin chooses small wars, like the ones he’s waged in Chechnya and Georgia. This Ukraine war, though, is his biggest gambit yet. According to him, this is a “special military operation”, designed to liberate the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. Now what Putin and his generals did to achieve his strategic goals is a matter of intense debate. Most feel that the plan was to invade Ukraine and swallow it whole, and take Kiev. I do not number among these analysts. It’s beyond Russia’s control to hold the entirety of Ukraine with the forces it has. Everyone seems to think that Russian strategists are mentally deficient, and I think that’s a mistake, one that will cost Ukraine greatly in the future. What was done instead was draw Ukrainian forces far, far from the east to face withering attacks from Russia from all sides. Railways and infrastructure were targeted to ensure the Ukrainian forces would not cross the country to join the fight in the east. You mean to tell me that the Russians sent only twenty thousand soldiers to take a city of 3 million? I don’t think so. They are simply not that dumb. But Ukraine sure sent a bunch, and the Russians retreated, again strategically. And no one should believe casualty numbers from anyone. They vary so wildly it’s impossible to see through the fog of war.

It was around this time that Putin declared the first phase of the operation complete; and suddenly the Russians were on the move to the east, with a much easier time pacifying Donbas. But there seems to be more to Russian ambitions, and I believe they were there the whole time. Once the Mariupol obstacle is removed, the land bridge to Crimea is complete. Kherson is under Russian administration. So if that’s basically wrapped up, they run the Sea Of Azov.

But are they done after the land bridge? I don’t think so. What will make all of this worth it is landlocking Ukraine, cutting off its ability to trade with the world. That means Mykolaiv and Odessa are next. Proving my supposition is that suddenly everyone wants to talk about Transnistria, a breakaway area from neighboring Moldova controlled by Russian forces. The Russians can link up there, and pretty much put an end to the special operation and try to sue for peace. Many think that Putin has designs beyond Ukraine. I don’t see a point to that. This has been a major effort for them that they will need to recover from. If Ukraine isn’t interested in the new map, well, there’s going to be a long, ugly insurgency in store for Russia and while millions will die, Russia will have paid for its adventure. Nobody wins this thing.

Rumor has it that Polish troops are on the move to fight those Transnistrian Russian forces, and cross into Ukraine as a peacekeeping force. So there’s clearly going to be some kind of showdown there. Is Odessa going to be a NATO beachhead in Ukraine? Are we going to pour assets in from the west? It’s very possible. It could be an extremely provocative move, one that could be interpreted as NATO directly confronting Russia. And just about everyone agrees that when that happens, the world needs to pay attention and worry a bit more about the third world war popping off for real.

M.O.S.D. Going TO J.A.I.L.

The tip of the spear in the January 6th riot is through. Stewart Rhodes went to court this morning unsuccessfully looking for a delay to his trial, and the leader of the Proud Boys action wing on the 6th, the Ministry of Self Defense, admitted to conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and assaulting an officer of the law. He’s looking at seven years, and has pledged to assist the DOJ in other cases.

I hope all you Garland detractors are paying attention. I know most of you are still going to fold your arms, shake your heads and say it is not enough. Well, what can I say? Just chill. You won’t know what’s happening until it happens, and that is a good thing. There’s plenty of people out there watching these cases and interpreting them for you, like Allison Gill (@allisongill), Marcy Wheeler, and Scott McFarlane (@MacFarlaneNews). Be happy about that. You don’t have to be a mushroom. Don’t choose that.

Two things remain possible-that these militias acted of their own volition, or someone hired them to start the insurrection. How about we see who they roll on before we go assuming that Merrick Garland hasn’t got a a handle on things? For me, I seriously doubt they acted on their own. I have come to believe that the insurrection was the last gasp to disrupt and derail the peaceful transfer of power. Once it became clear that Pence was doing his job and the objections were being handled quickly in joint sessions, there was only one play left. Thugs overrunning the seat of government. But we need many threads to be exposed before we reach a conclusion like that. And I believe that with every cooperating convict, we will see those threads. This whole J6 thing could be as insidious as the imagination allows.

Meet Virginia

Many are clamoring for further investigation of Virginia “Ginni” Thomas and what her role may have been in the January 6th insurrection. They’re ticked off at the J6 committee for not asking her to come in. They think a story has been killed because the “media” moved on.

Well, I hate to disappoint, that’s probably because there’s no “there” there.

Yes, Clarence Thomas made a colossally unethical decision not to recuse himself from a case where his wife’s activities, whatever they may have been, could to come to light. However, Thomas is without a doubt the worst member of the Court, a bootlicker through and through and maybe he just has a shit grasp of the law and is a moral degenerate. Those factors may have contributed him to being the lone dissenter. We shall never know, because we are not and never will be privy to Clarence and Ginni’s pillow talk.

Ugh. That was a gross mental picture.

Moving right along.

Internet sleuths have traced some of Ginni’s past to her involvement in a cult called Lifespring. Here’s some video of a young Ginni, after escaping the abusive group:

It’s my understanding that what cultists really crave is affiliation. And if Ginni Thomas’ history shows anything, it’s that she needed desperately to be affiliated with things. After her time in Lifespring, she got a good education and good jobs, eventually working for the Chamber of Commerce, the US Labor Department, and The Heritage Foundation. She married Clarence during her time at DOL. At Clarence’s hearings, it was brought up that Ginni’s post may have created a potential conflict of interest for him. No matter, he was confirmed despite the circus that surrounded his hearing.

Ginni became a lobbyist for various right-wing causes, again raising her profile and making people nervous about her conflicts of interest with her husband’s job. She found herself working at Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA, a known wackadoodle factory of lies and disinformation.

It was then that Ginni joined her next project, Groundswell, ostensibly fighting the evil of progressivism. Ginni would become “the Trump whisperer” in due time, feeding him conspiracies about the “deep state” and recommending who he should hire and fire.

“We all knew that within minutes after Ginni left her meeting with the president, he would start yelling about firing people for being disloyal,” a former senior-level Trump official told The Beast. “When Ginni Thomas showed up, you knew your day was wrecked.”

Cut to 2020. Thomas happily promoted the rally on January 6th, 2021. There was talk of her busing protestors to the rally, which turned out to be false. That would have been Kirk’s group Turning Point. She has told the press that she was in the crowd at the rally but left early because she was cold.

But what’s really got people curious about her involvement is that she texted Mark Meadows like a crazy person after the election and around January 6th. Now Meadows and Thomas are friends outside of work, so maybe commo between them was not all of an incendiary nature. Yet there are many texts that were:

“Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!! …You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice,” she wrote in one of the messages to Meadows on Nov. 10, shortly after Biden was projected to defeat Donald Trump. “The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”

In the messages, Ginni Thomas repeatedly pressed Meadows to reverse the 2020 election results, touting conspiracy theories about voter fraud and right-wing falsehoods about Biden and his family members.

“Do not concede,” she wrote Meadows on Nov. 6, 2020. “It takes time for the army who is gathering for his back.”

November 13: “Sidney Powell & improved coordination now will help the cavalry come and Fraud exposed and America saved.” (Sidney Powell was Mike Flynn’s attorney and a conspiracy theorist pursuing Trump’s bogus voter fraud claims throughout the country. None succeeded.)

November 19: “Sounds like Sidney and her team are getting inundated with evidence of fraud. Make a plan. Release the Kraken and save us from the left taking America down… You guys fold, the evil just moves fast down underneath you all.” (After the election, the far right used “Release the Kraken” as a catchphrase. It referred to the exposure of a massive voter fraud conspiracy that would have the force of a “Kraken”—a mythical giant sea monster.)

November 24: “If you all cave to the elites, you have to know that many of your 73 million feel like what Glenn [Beck] is expressing…”

When Meadows asked what Thomas meant, she answered, “I can’t see Americans swallowing the obvious fraud. Just going with one more thing with no frickin consequences… the whole coup and now this… we just cave to people wanting Biden to be anointed? Many of us can’t continue the GOP charade.”

Describing the effort to overturn the election, Meadows invoked God: “This is a fight of good versus evil. Evil always looks like the victor until the King of Kings triumphs. Do not grow weary in well doing. The fight continues. I have staked my career on it. Well at least my time in DC on it.”

Thomas responded, “Thank you!! Needed that! This plus a conversation with my best friend just now… I will try to keep holding on. America is worth it!”

Her best friend, according to sources, is her husband.

One last text, after the smoke cleared from the 6th.

January 10, 2021: “We are living through what feels like the end of America,” she wrote. “Most of us are disgusted with the VP and are in listening mode to see where to fight with our teams. Those who attacked the Capitol are not representative of our great teams of patriots for DJT!! Amazing times. The end of Liberty.”

She found another cult, the cult of Donald Trump. But do her hysterical texts suggest culpability or planning of J6? It doesn’t sound like she was in the know, as evidenced by the text above. In the end, Ginni Thomas is probably just a well-connected kook who is married to a SCOTUS justice. That’s all. The greater crime in all of this will be if Justice Thomas continues to adjudicate regarding J6 now that it is known that his wife was aware of all the little plots to wrest the election from Biden. Awareness does not equal conspiracy. Were it so, the dragnet in this country would be pretty fucking wide indeed.

The Eastman Dilemma And Garland’s Wrath

The news is moving faster than fuck, and I cannot stay abreast. But two occurrences must be stressed since most of you have been apoplectic over the lack of accountability for obvious coup plotters and the perceived inaction of Merrick Garland.

Everyone needs to calm the fuck down. The J6 committee is doing its job, and so is the Garland DOJ. It’s often misunderstood that when and if Democrats lose the House in November, the J6 committee will be shut down by Republicans. That’s simply not true; it has a self imposed termination date well before the election. It will complete its work and send all findings to the DOJ for review. Equally untrue is that Merrick Garland’s DOJ will cease to exist after the election. I don’t know how some people got this in their head but he’s got at least until January 2025. That is a long time from now, in case you have not noticed.

As I observed a month ago, The J6 committee took a hard bite out of John Eastman’s ass for not turning over a batch of 100 or so emails that he and then-president Trump exchanged. Eastman tried the usual play-that they are protected under privilege. A complaint was filed, and the return from a federal judge was, in most people’s words, “scathing” or “shocking”.

First, with respect to whether Trump tried to obstruct an official proceeding, which is, of course, a crime, Carter concluded it was “more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021.” As Carter highlights, in our government “leaders are elected, not installed.” And yet Trump tried to “subvert this fundamental principle.” Second, and relatedly, Carter determined that given the evidence, “it is more likely than not that President Trump and Dr. Eastman dishonestly conspired to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021.”

Surely all of you realize the gravity of this judge’s opinion. Not only does it order Eastman to cough up the emails, it will be the first time a judge has implicated Donald Trump in criminal activity on January 6th. So, I assume Eastman will try to appeal this, and if he loses again, his pleas may end up at the Supreme Court, where historically, no one on the bench has shown any interest in shielding Trump or abetting him in any way even though he’s appointed 1/3 of it. So somewhere down the road, it seems likely we shall see what Eastman is trying to hide-it could spell the end for Trump. UPDATE 4/6: Eastman took it no further. J6 has the emails.

On a separate track, like a burst of sunspot activity, the Garland DOJ has issued what could be dozens of subpoenas from a grand jury for records on suspected J6 planners, financiers, and conspirators. After quietly nailing an Oathkeeper for knowingly conspiring to overthrow the government by force and getting him to take a plea deal to roll on anybody he could, Garland’s now in overdrive, working on the next level of the puzzle. No one particular individual has been subpoenaed, or charged except for Joshua James.

Many of you have gotten accustomed to the idea that a subpoena is pointless, that it has no consequences. That’s because you’ve probably seen one too many people ignore them from the January 6th committee. But these work different. Failure to cough up documents will land you in jail.

Get used to the idea that Garland is going to keep a poker face on until this is done. Do some reading on the guy. He is the opposite of what you are all thinking. He is not to be trifled with.

UPDATE 4/6: The hydra that is the J6 riot is WAY bigger than any of us think. Hundreds of people could be in the hot seat for this stunt.

Let’s Talk A Little About Steve Bannon, Putin and The Future of Global Fascism

Sometimes I feel pretty fucking clever when I’ve sussed out that America is about to enter into its second dalliance with fascism and its characteristics. It will be Christian, white, and male-centric. Like Jello Biafra said once, it’s bedtime for democracy and there is no telling when it will wake up.

Now it’s awfully hard to believe that Steve Bannon, who looks like some weird mixture of Baron Harkonnen from Lynch’s Dune and a wino, is of any particular threat to American democracy. It’s almost hilarious that he has Mike Lindell on his “War Room” on the regular. He’s probably facing jail time soon, depending on how much he pisses a judge off by turning his contempt trial into a media circus.

However, as far as the right wing goes, he’s the daddy-o of American neo-fascism, or populism, or nationalism, whatever you want to call it. And when he fell out with Trump, he moved on to bigger and better things. After the White House, he went abroad to spread the populist word, powwowing with right wing parties, dictators and autocrats around the globe. He’s a Putinist, and I guess now is a great time to introduce a notorious living Russian fascist, often referred to as “Putin’s Brain”, Aleksandr Dugin. (More on the Dugin-Putin relationship here). The guy appears to be completely insane, a mad monk advocating for a Russian empire that stretches all the way to Ireland. I am sure that Putin, while a little touched in the head himself, listens to Alex’s counsel, smiles in his mind, takes the good parts and leaves out the absurd. He did come up with the idea of annexing Crimea, and thinks Russia should treat Ukraine as theirs, which they have done de facto by invading and robbing Ukraine of its ability to trade freely. I’m not going to get into an argument with any of you chuckleheads out there who seem to have no clue about military tactics and realpolitik, the end game of this invasion is that Russia gets good cream and lots of political leverage over the rest of the world from Ukraine’s food and energy markets. And there isn’t shit the West can or will do about it. (UPDATE 4/2: Zelenskyy isn’t giving up territory for peace, and NATO is now sending deadlier assets. He’s either going down with the ship, or this is going to be Afghanistan II: The Return Of The Bear Trap.)

Anyway, back to this character Dugin for a minute. He is quoted as saying, “We, conservatives, want a strong, solid State, want order and healthy family, positive values, the reinforcing of the importance of religion and the Church in society”. Sound familiar? That’s word for word what the Republican Party in America has come to stand for. Coming from the mouth of a Russian fascist. A “traditionalist”. Democracy, liberalism, and individualism are all anathema to his thinking, a refutation of the principles of America’s revolutionary ideas. He said of Putin as early as 2007: “There are no more opponents of Putin’s course and, if there are, they are mentally ill and need to be sent off for clinical examination. Putin is everywhere, Putin is everything, Putin is absolute, and Putin is indispensable.” It’s not dissimilar to the cult of personality that surrounds Trump, or any other “strongman” who can control people. The main difference between Putin and Dugin, is that one is pragmatic and one is a romantic. He wanted Putin to take Georgia as well as Ukraine. Putin took the chunks he could hold, probably knowing from Hitler at Stalingrad that when you spread yourself too thin, you will get your ass kicked. He believes that COVID is a “kind of divine reprimand, a divine decree against humanity.” and “It is a kind of punishment for globalization.” Dugin attacks the arts and the schools for their decadent thoughts (again, sound familiar?), even finding physics and chemistry to be “demonic”. The man is a mystic, looking for signs of the apocalypse.

So let’s circle back to Bannon: what’s the connection between him and Dugin? Well, they met once, in 2018, in Rome. While they agreed philosophically, the meeting did not go well, as Dugin was focused on the United States as the great evil, and Bannon felt it was China. I guess we should be glad they did not agree or join forces, but the idea that America is engorged with “evil” is becoming chapter and verse for more and more Republicans, no doubt to Putin and Dugin’s glee. We will be rid of Steve Bannon soon enough. But if we continue to share a traditionalist fascist destiny with Russia, then I am afraid the world over will become a dark place to practice freedom.

Annexation: Old Imperial Tactics In The New World Order

It may be time to take a fresh perspective on why Russia has recklessly invaded its neighbor Ukraine. In our hearts, we see what the war has wrought and we know it is wrong. Because war disgusts all good people. What gives Vladimir Putin the right to continually attack his neighbors without consequence? Why doesn’t somebody do something to contain them?

In his mind, history accords him that right. But I don’t think Putin is operating from a pre-WW2 mindset, as he is often accused of doing. I don’t even think he’s operating in a 2014 mindset either, Because he’s been taking little chunks from other countries for years before the Ukranian revolution. Where is Putin coming up with the justification for annexation and invasion?

In today’s carefully managed defense of territorial integrity, annexation by force is a highly unpopular move. In modernity, anyone who tries to pull it is severely disciplined by the world community. Saddam Hussein learned that when he tried to begin his ideas of a Greater Arabia by annexing Kuwait; he ended his quest dangling from a hangman’s noose. Slobodan Milosevic also had dreams of a Greater Serbia and committed genocide to achieve it; he too was executed for his crimes. The only country in the world who has not been punished for annexation per se is Israel. That’s a complicated one because the Palestinians never declared statehood, so the view seems to be that they are taking no sovereign territory. However, their occupation of the Golan Heights is definitely straining the definition of occupation and pushes closer to annexation as they continue to hold it, year after year. (UPDATE 4/6: Papa Chomsky reminded me that Trump allowed the official annexation of the Golan Heights. Oops!)

However, in the case of Putin, it’s very hard to discipline him. A bombing campaign will not stop a Russian advance, nor will a counter-invasion of Ukraine. Russia, you see, has nuclear weapons. A lot of them. And they have made it clear that any move that threatens the existence of the state will be met with annihilation. So we have to be very careful how to play this one. And the world has been. We have been pouring every low intensity asset available we can into Ukraine to make this invasion super painful for the #2 military in the world. There’s two ways this invasion can go: one is to turn Ukraine into Afghanistan II for them. This, like Afghanistan, could take years and kill millions. The other is for Ukraine to cede control of hostile areas around Ukraine that are Russian-friendly and end this terrible siege.

The second option disgusts many. Who would countenance the loss of territory like that? Would the United States cede states, as some are fond of saying?

In our case, the answer was no. But we paid a dear price to preserve our Union in the years of 1861-1865. People are still arguing about why it happened. To my mind, it was about consolidating and retaining power. Since 1776, America worked and warred its ass off to become and remain The United States. And I figure Lincoln wasn’t going to let a perfectly good union go to waste after cultivating it for almost a hundred years.

In contrast, how long has Ukraine been Ukraine? How far do you want to go back? Empires wax and wane, so let’s just start with modern Ukraine. They had a revolution in 2014 which would eventually skew Ukraine’s ties closer to Europe. As you might imagine, Russia didn’t like that at all, for reasons I’ll try to address later. They saw the revolution as a good a time as any to return Crimea to Russian control. No blood was shed, and the Ukrainians relented and allowed Crimea to become autonomous, protected and run by Russia-friendly leaders. But peace was not established yet. War broke out in the Donbas region, and two pro-Russian separatist states declared their independence from Ukraine. This time Ukraine was going to fight for its territory and subdue the rebels. And up until February 2022, they were still at war. But as we all know, Ukraine had bigger problems than Donbas. Russia began to surround Ukraine with its military, and here we are today, wondering whether World War 3 is going to start.

Ukraine had only been Ukraine for eight years, if we take the various separatist movements into account. It was a country in revolutionary flux, and Putin picked a good time to weaken it and make it something unpalatable and indefensible to Europe.

Or so he thought. We may not want to start a nuclear war, but most of the world, respectful of territorial sovereignty, has made sure that Russia will be punished by playing an old conventional game of violent imperialism. And we’re doing it without directly causing a single casualty at our hands.

There’s a lingering question though: what does Russia really want from Ukraine? You can find it in today’s papers. It is, as it has always been, “the special operation”, which Russia has invented some bullshit reasons for. Now it may look like Russia wants to eat Ukraine whole and return it to old Russia, but as you can see, they’re not getting very far if that is the plan. It’s purely a strategic move; to connect Crimea to the Donbas breakaways via land. Contiguity is what Putin wants, plus he wrests access to the Sea of Azov from Ukraine. I believe any military action not in Donbas is to distract and disperse the Ukrainian military so that it can no longer defend its eastern flank. What is the crown jewel in the special operation? Where does the connective tissue between these little secessionist republics begin?

Mariupol. As I write this, Russians have kidnapped tens of thousands of its civilians and is demanding that the city surrender. What Volodomyr Zelenskyy decides to do next will probably determine just how long Ukraine remains under siege. This is a flashpoint. Let’s say Russia wants to make a deal-ending the invasion for the surrender of Mariupol. Can they be trusted? To me, the answer is yes. They can see damn well that this war is not going to plan and they are probably eager to get back to some semblance of normalcy and deal with all of the economic, political and military fallout from the incursion. Putin will have paid heavily for his land bridge if this is the direction Ukraine wants to go. No one is going to “win” the battle for Mariupol. But as of now, Zelenskyy is holding firm, refusing to give up the city. I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but it will not be pretty. And if anyone really thinks the West is going to do anything about it, they’re kidding themselves. Because the reality is, Ukraine was like a DMZ to the EU and NATO. This war is still on “cold” setting, and will likely stay that way so long as Russia blunders around in the DMZ. That is a tragedy for Ukraine, and I hate it. They’ve been caught between two power blocs and a newly adventurous Russia.

So, let’s circle back to the question of just where Putin’s head is at and what year he thinks it is. To do that, we must look at the recent history of the EU and NATO, and ask ourselves if we too have been “annexing” countries by pledging to defend them. Are we playing the imperial game as well? Did World War 3 start without a shot several decades ago? In Putin’s mind, this is undeniable. For the EU and NATO, their goal is simply to defend democracy. It’s probably a bit more complicated than that. It seems obvious that the goal is to hem Russia in, ending its influence upon the states that surround it. We did that during a time when Russia was at its weakest. Just like we finally came together to bring Germany to heel, ensuring it would never be a threat to Europe again. Nothing remains of its Nazi past for continental domination. This is what we wanted from the dissolution of the Soviet Union. To ensure it would be crippled so it could not threaten the world with its weapons of mass destruction.

But Germany had to be utterly destroyed for us to stop the Nazis; it was not the way we defeated the Soviets. The USSR fell to internal pressures; we just sat back and watched it happen. A deal was made between Russia and NATO in 1991 to dissolve the Warsaw Pact, and in return we would not accept former pact members into NATO. But that’s exactly what we did. The US and the Eurozone, to Putin, were “annexing” its old stomping grounds.

1991 is where Putin’s head is at. That was the year he quit the KGB and began running for office. Like it or not, he turned the country around in a lot of ways. I imagine he had grand plans to “Make Russia Great Again” and that’s what he thinks he’s doing right now. His own personal Monroe Doctrine. He’s been fucking with its neighbors ever since, trying to amass more territory and more power where he can. Whenever he sees chaos, he exploits the conflict. He saw the conflict in Ukraine. Trying to pull Ukraine into Europe’s orbit was a last straw, and he’s going to make the fledgling government pay for its eagerness to do so with land loss. And it’s doing it through old conventional imperial techniques like force. Whether he pulls off this special operation is unknown. Ukrainians have shown themselves to be tough as nails, but now we have to worry about hostages.

In no way am I excusing Putin’s actions any more than I am blaming NATO for its actions. But it’s important to dispassionately look at the possible “why?” for the invasion of Ukraine and armed with that knowledge, figure out how the hell to make it stop without blowing the world to kingdom come.

Now Is The Time To Stop Tom Cotton

Well, I’ve been waiting for this day for years. Tommy Cotton is officially eyeballing the presidency.

To Republicans, he may be the man for their times, should Trump decide not to run. He’s fairly well educated and served his country honorably. That’s more than you can say for the majority of the Republican Party. He’s certainly smarter and has more gravitas than a wannabe tough guy doofus like Ron DeSantis.

All of this is to say that makes him very dangerous. His ideas are, to put it mildly, radical as fuck. When the New York Times published a Cotton editorial in 2020 calling for the military to crack down on protestors, The Times almost lost its shirt due to the number of subscription cancellations. Went out on a limb to scotch the Iran nuclear deal. Wanted to use the Espionage Act on journalists. May have engaged in a little stolen valor by claiming to be an Army Ranger when all he did was go to Ranger school. Hates SNAP. Loves waterboarding. Steve Bannon is into him. Wants to lock up as many people as possible. Doesn’t want teachers to teach slavery. Anti-immigrant. ACA opponent. Supported Defense of Marriage. Refused to support Violence Against Women Act. Hyper anti-choice. Believes China purposefully leaked COVID-19.

All of this and more can be found elsewhere, some behind paywall journalism.

Until now, Republicans had some pretty piss poor choices for ’24. But put Cotton in there minus a Trump run and the calculus changes.

If we don’t expose this creep for who he is now, it may be too late to do so soon. Jen Psaki took the first shot today condemning his warmongering nature and just talking the talk but not walking the walk, and many need to follow. I’ve been right about his ambitions, and I suspect I will be proven right that Tom Cotton is going to be a contender.

Who Are The Election Police?

You may think that people were exaggerating when they said that Florida was creating its own “election police force” last week. You would be wrong. There is now a bureau dedicated to investigating “crimes”, and law enforcement personnel, actual cops, will be assigned to the task force. The other provisions are draconian:

The bill passed Wednesday would make it a felony to collect and submit more than two vote-by-mail ballots on behalf of other voters. It’s currently a misdemeanor to do so. It also increases the fine from $1,000 to $50,000 on organizations that violate election registration laws.

So if you help too many people get their stuff in the mail, you are a felon. And this will place a chill upon registration drives.

What do we expect? It’s Florida, ground zero for some of the most fucked-up policies in the nation on a host of issues.

Its neighbor, however, is jealous. Yep, my home state is dragging the cops into the voting process too. They want to involve the GBI in investigating fraud allegations, which I supposed could be alleged by just about anyone peripheral to the voting system. Election officials are alarmed:

Milton Kidd, who oversees elections in Douglas County, west of Atlanta, said the more direct involvement by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations could deter poll workers and voters from participating.

“Poll workers … have told me that they have moved away from the election space because they feel like these are actions that are going to come against them,” Kidd said at a recent hearing on the bill. “It’s going to have a chilling effect on voters participating in the process because, in most cases, the election issues that the secretary of state has found have been administrative issues. They’re issues that the current mechanism can actually deal with.”

There’s no telling what other swing states could conceivably copycat these new laws. But this is getting very serious, scaring voters and volunteers. Actual voter fraud was rare last go-round, and they are trying to swat a fly with a Buick here because Republicans didn’t like the results. This process should be easy. Instead, democracy is a new beat for cops to walk, truncheons swinging.

March ’22 Internet: The Best Of Times, The Worst Of Times

We’re only in the third month of the year, but so much is happening in the world that’s there’s bound to be some monumentally smart takes, and some monumentally dumb ones.

Today, as always for posterity, let’s look at an example of each.

One the smart side: Seth Abramson’s Substack produced a really long but super comprehensive assessment about the nature of our world as Russia continues its push through Ukraine. You will gain much if you can finish and digest that.

On the dumb side: a post that could make the Hall Of Fame Of Stupidest Fucking Tweets if there ever is one. I haven’t seen something this dumb on Twitter since Glenn Reynolds tweeted that protestors blocking streets should be run over. Here’s Peter Schiff, whoever the fuck he is, commenting on President Zelenskyy’s sartorial choices while addressing Congress as his country is being reduced to rubble:

There is no sign yet of him deleting that thought. I hope it stays so I can continue to be entertained by the fallout.

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