Thursday, March 31, 2022

Today's News: "I am ready to fight"

Photo: Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times A stray dog accompanied Ukrainian soldiers in Irpin

This map shows Ukraine counterattacks over the last three days: "We are ready to fight for our country, we are ready to fight to the last breath" says a Ukraine commander in this video: But as Ukrainian army forces Russia out, we are seeing the devastation Russia created:

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Today's News: Strange days indeed

Does anyone remember how, before the US invaded Iraq in 2003, there was a bizarre collection of odd con men characters hanging around the Bush Administration -- Cheney and Rumsfeld were convinced that the Iraqis were so stupid and these guys were so beloved that Iraq would just give them the keys to the kingdom as soon as Saddam was deposed.  It was an attractive delusion because they thought the invasion would go just swimmingly and the American military wouldn't have to do anything more than hold a few parades and go home.
Well, it looks now like Russia had the same delusion about the stupidity of Ukrainians and the cleverness of the group of con men who were going to take over right away -- apparently Russia thought they had a lock on some Ukrainian turncoats who could happily step in to run the country for them as soon as Zeleskyy and crew resigned. 
I'll bet you're not surprised to find that it didn't work out that way.
Markos has a major article tonight about how the Russians apparently thought they had bribed the leadership of many cities of southern Ukraine to surrender as the Russian troops were driving in. No wonder the officers brought their dress uniforms for the parades, instead of packing extra ammo. 
It didn't work - except apparently for one city near Odessa called Kherson, and even these folks have now expelled their turncoat government and taken their city back. 
So the question, which I highlighted above, is whether it was stupidity or betrayal that cost Ukraine the city of Kherson—a loss that is costing them dearly in blood. 
Maybe the answer is simple—did the governor run north, into Ukraine, a coward? Or did he flee south, into the arms of Russia. 
Given the sums of money Russian intelligence was handing out, the latter might be the best bet. 
 But this story is also one of hope, because this could've easily been the story of that entire region of Ukraine, seduced by FSB payoffs, handing over entire cities without a real fight. 
Things might look different if Mykolaiv, Odesa, Zaporizhia, Kharkiv, Sumy, and lots of other smaller cities had taken Russia up on its offers. Instead, Ukraine held fast everywhere except in Kherson, and the rest has been history. 
There may or may not be some peace talks happening soon - nobody quite believes Russia is truthful when it says it wants to pull back from the Kyiv area. But people are edging closer and closer to describing the Russian movement as an actual "retreat". Or maybe not: The Former Guy is trying to make himself relevant again - by asking Putin to make up some dirt about Biden. Would Republicans have wanted Herbert Hoover to ask Hitler for some trash-talk about Roosevelt? Did Nixon publically ask Khrushchev to dish the dirt on Kennedy? 
(And actually, we know now that in both cases there was some scandal to be found.)
But what a scumbag Trump is. He doesn't seem to realize yet that Russia is now a pariah nation: In Canadian news today, First Nations, Métis and Inuit delegates continue their discussions in Rome with Pope Francis about the shame and horror of Canadian residential schools -- Monday the Pope met with Metis and Inuit delegates, today the delegations participated in several tours, Thursday he will meet with First Nations delegates, and Friday with all delegations.
The Vatican has a significant collection of Indigenous sacred artifacts in its museums that should be repatriated:
Finally, on a side note, the slap heard 'round the world is still resulting in some new twitter memes. 
Here's the latest one I noticed:

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Today's News: Ukraine headlines decline but Ukraine war does not

The Ukraine flag still flies.
As the war enters its second month, and neither Russia nor Ukraine appear to be able to hit decisive blows just now, the news headlines about this awful war seem to be declining. 
But the war itself is not. 
And the Ukraine flag still flies.
First there were reports today that Kyiv was under attack, then reports that the Russians had been pushed back. Then reports that other cities in northern and eastern Ukraine were being shelled, then more reports of push back.  
Not being a military person myself, nor knowledgeable about Ukraine geography or politics, I find it somewhat confusing. Which is why I search always for reporters who seem to have a better grip on what is going on. 
Like, not ones that would write a headline like this:
But these ones seem pretty good: And hey, media -- it's a war. 
Being fought entirely inside the territory of Ukraine. 
Against a vicious and implacable enemy. 
But already we're seeing a smattering of "contrary" news stories, like these ones in the Washington Post today: 
Maybe these are merely news stories, but it wouldn't surprise me if they also prove to be the thin edge of the wedge, as we all know about the media's almost irresistible impulse to "both sides" everything including this war. Here's an incredible story of an American journalist escaping from Moscow in March, with her dog. Here is her story's ending: 
In the two weeks between the start of the war and my departure from Russia, I had wept constantly. I cried when I walked my dog in the park across the street, where I knew every bush and tree and patch of grass; when I sat at my desk looking out at my beloved Moscow courtyard; when I bought bread at my local bakery; when I drove a familiar route along the Moscow River, past the Kremlin, and then homeward along one of Moscow’s central avenues. I couldn’t imagine that it might be the last time I’d see places that had been the backdrop of absolutely everything important that had happened to me in my adult life, where there were so many people and so much that I loved. 
But now work, the novelty of a new city, the daily battle with iPhones and computers, keep me in a continuous present tense. I don’t think about the future beyond next week; I don’t think about the past. Except to realize that even if I can go back to Russia, it won’t be the Russia I loved. Maybe that superstition is right: 
Once you shut the door, walk away and don’t look back. 
In other news, Canadian Indigenous representatives met with Pope Francis today, in the first of several days of meetings to seek healing and reconciliation about the terrible history of Catholic residential schools. Reuters reports
Survivors of Canada's residential schools on Monday asked Pope Francis to guarantee unfettered access to Church records on the institutions where indigenous children were abused and their culture denied.
Francis met for about an hour each with representatives of the Métis and Inuit nations, the first of four meetings this week with Canada's native peoples in what both sides have called a called a process of healing and reconciliation. ....
"It was a very comfortable meeting," Cassidy Caron, president of the Métis National Council, told reporters afterwards, adding that the pope listened attentively as elderly survivors told their stories.
..."He repeated 'truth, justice and healing' (in English) and I take that as a personal commitment so he has personally committed to those three actions," she said. 
"I felt some sorrow in his reactions .... we shared a lot with him," Caron said.
There was a recent discussion I saw on twitter about how our federal government hasn't really done anything much -- which is, of course, not true at all. But I do think many of us get so used to being cynical about government that it becomes a knee-jerk response to denigrate everything governments do as "not good enough!" This thread brought up whether anything is being done about boil-water advisories, so I checked the government webpage -- in spite of the negativity, the Liberal government reports that its success in lifting boil-water advisories on reserves continues to be significant: Here is the most recent government webpage chart describing the progress that has been made on lifting drinking water advisories across the country:

The job isn't done yet, but when Trudeau took office in 2015, nothing had been done for years. So this is a remarkable story.
On a lighter note, here is something just sort of unbelievably cute: And if you've got nothing else to do for the next hour or two, follow the responses to this down the rabbit hole: And it reminded me of this hilarious thread:

Monday, March 28, 2022

Today's News: "a war that defies reason"


This photo of a broken Russian tank illustrates Hunter's story tonight on Daily Kos -- "Making sense of a battlefield that defies logic in a war that defies reason":

Anyone who says they know what will happen next is lying; there are simply too many moving parts. Russia faces massive logistical challenges, but still has an enormous military and, possibly, enormous stockpiles. A single advance by either side could fundamentally change the shape of the war. The Russian economy is in utter shambles—but Putin may have more reasons to escalate the war, drawing in NATO itself, than he does to retreat. And during all of it, Ukraine's civilians are dying.
Earlier today, Hunter wrote another article about why Russia is torturing Ukraine with pointless shelling of its cities, and concludes the reason is basic cowardice: 
Why are Russian generals firing into Ukrainian cities, at targets that can't and won't fire back? Because it's one of the few logistical operations the grift-riddled, impossibly corrupt military infrastructure can still execute. 
If you're a Russian general looking to show that you're working hard to achieve implausible Kremlin objectives, parking yourself outside Mariupol or Kharkiv and shelling neighborhoods into wastelands of broken concrete is a no-muss path to, if not glory, at least not being called back to Russia in preparation for your fatal "heart attack." 
It's where Russian generals attempt to do almost anything else that the system breaks down. But hunkering down in one place, with a static defensive perimeter and a direct rail, road, or major port to provide supplies and ammunition? That, the generals can still do. 
Some signs also that Russian units may be starting to withdraw:
More discussion today about Biden's speech -- I think we will realize at some point that Biden has been far ahead of many of us in understanding the the war outcome, and he is working to teach us what needs to happen: At Progress Pond, Martin Longman writes Biden knows what he's doing
...Russia is now an isolated, pariah state. It will remain so as long as Putin is in power.  
There can be no lifting of sanctions or concessions of territory (unless Ukraine insists on conceding it), and no reward or face-saving whatsoever for what Putin has done....
This isn’t just some didactic position of America or NATO or the West. Putin is not a viable future leader of Russia from a Russian perspective. He has brought complete disaster upon his country and the only way the country can begin a process of recovery is with fresh leadership. 
They have to bring it about, and hearing the U.S. president make this point clear will help clarify things....
The goal here is for Russia to leave Ukraine entirely, including Crimea and Dombas, and pay serious reparations. The second goal is for Russia to rejoin the community of nations, which means normal diplomatic and economic relationships, and this is simply never going to be possible with Putin in charge. 
Russian business leaders probably understand this. Russian military leadership probably understands this. And they are the ones who will have to remove Putin from power and negotiate the peace.... 
when foreign policy experts get upset that Putin now has less incentive to negotiate, you have to consider how ridiculous it is to think Putin would make the necessary concessions. If he were somehow willing, which is laughable, he’d have to resign in disgrace the next day. What Biden said didn’t change that. 
  And a fascinating interview here: This is brilliant: A remarkable performance at the championships by Ukrainian figure skaters Oleksandra Nazarova and Maksym Nikitin, who prepared in just a month and could not have costumes made: And in other news today: We switched over to the Oscars just as the "Slap Heard 'Round The World" was being broadcast and wow, what a way to derail the entire show. Thousands of tweets later, I saw this one:

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Today's news: Speeches

Some amazing art already from this war. The Kyivan Madonna is based on a photo taken of a mother and baby while they were sheltering in a subway. 
The biggest news of the day was Biden's speech in Poland:
The Atlantic columnist Tom Nichols in his Peacefield newsletter tonight discusses Biden's unforced error in his speech -- the apparent call for "regime change" in Russia. 
... Biden broke his long streak of message discipline during a speech in Poland today, when he added an apparently unscripted ending: “For God's sake, this man”—meaning Russian President Vladimir Putin—“cannot remain in power.” 
The sound that could not be captured by the cameras after Biden spoke was dozens of staffers slapping the palms of their hands against their foreheads. Predictably, the media in America and elsewhere seized on this statement as if it were some new policy or a NATO war aim and asked if the President of the United States was calling for regime change in, of all places, Moscow. . . . 
Biden’s staff lamely offered that the president was saying that Putin “cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region. He was not discussing Putin's power in Russia, or regime change.” . . . 
The United States, as Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut, a member of the House intelligence committee, later told CNN, does not have a new policy of regime change, and has no overt or covert programs aimed at such a goal in Russia. But the news cycle was already in full swing . . . 
What Biden was doing, of course, was being Joe Biden. He was speaking for all of us, from the heart. One of the more endearing things about the president—at least for those of us who admire him—is that he has almost no inner monologue and regularly engages in the kind of gaffe where a politician says something that is impolitic but true. . . . 
This was not the time for such a moment, and even those who think Biden has exhibited sterling leadership during this crisis should admit that the president’s remarks were an unforced error. . . . 
It is hard to blame Biden for giving in to his famous temper after talking to the people who have suffered from Putin’s barbarism. But the words of every world leader matter right now, and none more than those of the president of the United States. We should now let his remark pass for what it was—an outburst—and get back to helping Ukraine save its independence.
You know, when I heard that Biden had said this, I thought maybe it was some kind of a covert message to anti-Putin forces in Russia that the USA supports their goals.  
But never mind....
And isn't THIS an interesting take on Putin's future, from University of Hawaii political scientist Tim Hogan:
Here's another interesting analysis of what is going on in Russia right now, as they grapple with the Ukraine disaster: The rest of this lengthy thread is also fascinating and worth reading. 

 Speaking of great speeches, here's another one: Good point. But you would likely not figure this out from the news coverage that Trudeau has been getting in Europe -- three full days of stories about how "European parliamentarians" are criticizing him -- yeah, 3 Nazis. Its just parroting of the CPC talking points that they whisper all day every day to every reporter then can find, and people are noticing. 
In his Scrimshaw Unscripted substack article Canadian Media Is Killing Us Too, Evan Scrimshaw writes: 
What do you get when a German Nazi launches into an attack on the Canadian Prime Minister?
According to CTV, a three day news story where you quote her like any right thinking Canadian should give a single fuck what she has to say. 
And people wonder why the Canadian media is so fucking hated.... 
The media can get away with a bad framing once or twice and it can be forgiven and forgotten, but when it isn’t accidental and it isn’t a one-off, you have to start to wonder what the fuck we’re doing here. Why is the Canadian media so willing to carry the water of Huawei’s own Jean Charest but unable to accept that Justin Trudeau should be in Europe during a European crisis? Why is much of the commentariat acting like Charest getting the endorsement of Mike Harris is a gamechanger when Mike Harris’ endorsement of Belinda Stronach in 2004 didn’t do shit – back when people still gave a flying shit what Mike Harris thought? At some point, this stops being mistakes, and it becomes a choice. If your choice is to view criticism of the Prime Minister as legitimate regardless of the source, and to give the candidate you think can beat him an easy ride in the Conservative Leadership race, you’re no longer doing journalism, you’re just doing hackery....
the Canadian media as a whole is attempting to maintain the veil of impartiality while wearing nothing more than a Tory sweater....
If they’re intentionally skewing their coverage to the right, either out of instinct or out of commercial pressure, then they’re scumbags. 
If they’re less aware of how their decisions intersect with each other than a dude with a Substack, then they’re incompetents who need to be shown the exits. 
Either way, the fact is simple – we’re seeing a Canadian media constitutionally incapable of doing its job properly, and they’re not just killing themselves, they’re taking the country they are supposedly serving with them. 
This thread is worth reading in total:
I haven't been following it lately, but #FluTruxKlan Konvoys apparently are still touring around and about, still complaining about I don't know what, and getting in everyone's way. 
Today a convoy group from Quebec apparently set up a secret arrangement with Ottawa Police to get a police escort through the middle of Ottawa, screwing up traffic as they went. 
The Ottawa public -- you know, the people who actually pay the police salaries - were not only stopped by police from blocking the convoy out, but also were the target of condescending police tweets that the police had promised to be nice to the convoy so the people of Ottawa just had to stuff it. 
Ottawa is PISSED! Maybe Trudeau does need to get home before next weekend, so he can save Ottawa again. Time for the PMJT signal!

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Today's News: Phase This, Russia!

@NikaMelkozerova tweets this photo today of heroic Ukrainian women going to war.  
Today Russia announced its war of aggression has entered "phase two" - they are pretending that being forced to withdraw further east toward Russia was actually part of their plan all along.
I'm sure those Ukrainian women are saying to Putin: Phase this, you asshole!
I do believe there may be a new phase starting now, but its actually for the Ukrainians, as they begin to focus on pushing Russia out of their country: Russia is, of course, still lying -- as they were making this announcement today about their Phase 2 withdrawals, they were also bringing up more troops and warships to get them ready to expand the war. Adam Silverman writes "The Russians are not negotiating in good faith. People need to stop deluding themselves that Ukraine can negotiate its way out of this war." 
Here are a couple of fascinating tweets from an American with combat experience who travelled to Ukraine to join up:
And here's the story of a Nova Scotia lobsterman who has been helping refugees in his childhood home: Another interesting development: And I love this photo of Joe Biden sharing pizza today with the 82nd Airborne: Some funny tweets about Putin's bizarro "cancel culture" whine about how everybody is being so mean to poor widdle Russia Speaking of Trudeau, he is having a good trip to Europe again -- the more he gets targetted by Nazis, the more Canadians realize just how important he is on the world stage: And this will be Canada's most important event next week:

Friday, March 25, 2022

Today's News: Ukrainian counter-offensive is underway

The New York Times reports that Ukraine is beginning a counter-offensive 
Ukraine’s military is undertaking a counteroffensive that has altered the central dynamic of the fighting: The question is no longer how far Russian forces have advanced, but whether the Ukrainians are now pushing them back.
Daily Kos reports a huge loss for Russia today at Berdyansk, along the coast of the Sea of Azov. Russian ships and landing craft came under fire, with one ship sunk and two others fleeing, trailing smoke. Explosions on shore show the destruction of a Russian warehouse filled with ammunition.
Mark Sumner at Daily Kos writes: 
 It’s hard to underestimate the effect that the action at Berdyansk could have on Russian morale — if it becomes widely known in Russia. Short of Great Britain in the Napoleonic era, there are few nations that have more pride invested in their naval power than Russia. Their superiority at sea is just assumed, and the Black Sea is their bathtub. For a Russian ship to be sunk in the Black Sea, is a gut punch. 
This map shows in yellow the areas recaptured by the Ukrainian Army: One thing I have realized now about the Russia Ukraine War is that there will be no going back to the way things were. 
Just as we have come to the terrible realization now that after two years, the world isn't going to be "getting over" Covid and we're not going to be "getting back to normal", it is also becoming apparent now that Russia has rained too much destruction and dislocation and upset in Ukraine for that country to just brush itself off and get back to normal. I read this Rude Pundit tweet today and realized this was once my hope too, that Putin would just declare victory and leave: But it ain't happening. The only way for this war to end is to go forward, to find some way to defeat Russia without broadening the confrontation.
NATO is trying to thread the needle here, supporting Ukraine but not widening the war. Biden wants to expell Russia from the G20, and is also preparing to announce a US liquified natural gas deal for Europe.
An interesting thread here from @TrentTelenko -- on pallets and cranes and Russia's lack of both and what impact this is going to have on the war -- ends with this observation: Tom Nichol gives us this analysis today: And meanwhile, in Canada, we had another demonstration today that Canada is making a difference in the world -- Trudeau is getting attacked by the European far-right. And Canadian media are clutching their pearls about it: here's an idea whose time may have come:

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Today's News: One Month

After a month, Ukraine is pushing Russia back in both the north and the south: Putin started his pointless war against Ukraine a month ago. 
In that time, millions of Ukrainians have had to uproot and move, either to western Ukraine or out of the country. Thousands of Ukrainians have lost their lives. Thousands of homes and streets and buildings have been destroyed -- the New York Times today says Russia has "obliterated everyday life in Ukraine". Millions of Ukrainians have lost their jobs and their homes, likely forever because there's nothing to go back to. 
Unless the war ends in another month, there might not be much of a wheat crop in Ukraine this year either, nor barley or oilseeds.  Farmers will go bankrupt while nations in the Middle East, Africa and Asia that depend on Ukraine crops for subsidized grain and noodles will have to manage hunger next year too.
Also lets not forget the tens of thousands of Russian troops who have been killed, wounded, captured. In Russia itself, hundreds of thousands have lost their careers and their savings.
And in the west, we have spent billions on helping refugees and buying armaments while trying to wrap our heads around the terror we feel now that a Cold War may be start up again. 
And all of this misery and fear and ruin, for what? 
Just for Putin's stupid ego. 
This entire war is a monstrous war crime, a needless, pointless, meritless war of aggression against an innocent people who were doing no harm. Ukraine was not threatening anyone, and they had no expansionist ambitions. They only wanted to be left alone.
At Daily Kos, Hunter describes the basic incompetence of Putin's army
The Russian plan appears to be unchanged since the early days of the war; facing unexpected resistance, Russia is instead retaliating against civilians in an attempt to inflict as much non-military damage as possible. 
It is the military "strategy" Russia has fallen into in each of its recent conflicts, and we're now seeing that it may come less from the strategic plans of Russian leaders and more from consistent Russian incompetence at carrying out tactics that do not focus on unarmed foes. The United States government directly accused Russia of committing war crimes today, citing those attacks.
And because of this deadly combination of hubris and incompetence, this war will end in hate:
Yes, it is horrific, and the drumbeat for the US to do more to help Ukraine continues. 
Here's an interesting discussion about irrational vs rational decision-making from Rand Corporation political scientist Michael J. Mazarr, at War On The Rocks: 
 ...many demands for more belligerent actions reflect a mindset commonly associated with foreign policy catastrophes: acting based on an overwhelming sense of what a country must do, rather than a primary and rigorous assessment of which course of action would best advance its interests and goals. The pattern can be described as “imperative-driven judgment.” It is foreign policy by moralistic duty....
Once the direction is set by an imperative, the decision-making system shifts into a form of autopilot. And it can drive a nation right off a policy cliff ...[be] on the lookout for arguments or policy statements suffused with emotional language, heavy on claims of limitless stakes in the conflict, full of moralistic appeals to duty and obligation, and contemptuous of anyone who doubts the proposed course of action. 
... the best answer to imperative-driven tragedies is robust deliberation... Will this policy make a measurable difference in the war? Does it risk crossing some objectively defined escalatory threshold, such as the conduct of actual combat operations? What might Russia make of the act? How might it respond? Are there alternatives that would achieve the same effect, with lower risk? What are the possible second-order effects? Does the act accord with American national interests at stake? The effect of imperative-driven judgment is to brush aside such inconvenient questions. Had enough of them been asked — by the right people, at the right time, with the needed seriousness — the United States might have avoided catastrophes like the Bay of Pigs or the invasion of Iraq.... 
Global peace is at stake in the wider war that could spread from Ukraine. In this crisis, the United States does confront one undeniable obligation: to ask the right questions before, rather than after, taking large-scale action; to check its sense of duty and moralistic commitment; and, this time, to be sure it finds its way to wise action, rather than a road to disaster.

And here is an amazing story of one small Ukrainian town that fought back: And finally, back to Canadian politics:

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Today's News: Rumours

Even the New York Times is now starting to write that Russia is actually losing to Ukraine.
Yes, things are still terrible in Mariupol. 
But there was news yesterday that Ukraine troops had pushed Russia back in southern Ukraine, from Mykolaiv toward Kherson. 
And today Ukraine has pushed Russia back north of Kyiv and is encircling Russian troop positions. 
So now I think Europe is considering what Putin might be thinking about doing next, and how badly he wants to "win" something.  Its not very clear, but there seem to be rumours starting.
For example, nobody knew what this meant today - if anything:
Or this: And there was this today as well:
Wow, how nuts is this? 
French President Marcon still maintains a schedule of frequent phone calls with Putin so at least someone is keeping tabs on him -- and come to think of it, that's what Marcon did with Trump, too! 
But I expect Putin is increasingly delusional now about how badly his war is going. Though I have disagreed with a lot of what former ambassador McFaul has recommended for this war, I think this is absolutely correct:
Talking Points Memo has an article up now covering various ways the war could get worse and escalate -  purposeful or accidental, expanding, economic, etc. Fred Kaplan at Slate thinks the "nightmarish stalemate" of this war is not likely to end soon. 
It frightens me very much that Biden is travelling to Europe this week -- I hope there will be a seriously large "no-fly zone" created all around Biden and Air Force One while he is there, and I hope Kamala Harris isn't going with him.

Canada is having an exciting time today too, discussing why Trudeau and Singh made their alliance. The conclusion seems to be that the FluTruxKlan, the border blockages, and the Ottawa Occupation convinced both Trudeau and Singh that Canada needed to find a better way to work for Canadians, and also the Russia Ukraine War demonstrated the world's need for strong and stable democracies.
I noticed during the election campaign last summer that Singh (between skateboard antics and shower scenes) would bash Trudeau personally, but Trudeau usually refrained from issuing personal slurs against Singh, Maybe that forbearance turned out to be helpful now as the two men worked to find common ground and achieve a level of mutual respect.
Canadians are glad to see this happening: On the funny side: