this ukraine business

Okay, Ukraine and this invasion business. From what I can tell, it’s a result of three things: 1) Putin’s ego, 2) fear of democracy, and 3) water. I know a little bit about the region and its history, but I’m not by any stretch of the imagination even remotely expert on the affairs of Russia and Ukraine.

That said, I’ve been mostly skeptical about the notion of Russia invading Ukraine–not because I think Putin/Russia (and at this point in time, those two are basically conjoined twins) respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity. I’ve been skeptical because I couldn’t figure out what Russia would get out of an invasion that would be worth the price.

Putin’s not stupid. Sure, he’s got a massive ego, and he may long for the days when Russia was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics–when Russia was feared as a super power. But I can’t see him trying to reconquer all the former Soviet Republics just to recreate those days. I sorta kinda figured threatening an invasion would get him the global attention he thinks Russia deserves. I thought Putin would feel the threat would be enough to show the world that Russia is still a major player on the stage of world affairs. I thought a few weeks of saber-rattling would do the trick.

Who got spanked?

Apparently not. So back to the original question: what’s in it for Russia? I suspect Putin, like all tyrants, has a genuine fear of representational democracy. That’s one reason Russia helped Comrade Trump in the 2016 election. I mean, yeah, having an ignorant, egocentric, mendacious, greed-head president like Trump would be a boon to Russia, but the horrible genius of their election interference was that just making him a viable candidate was enough to weaken the entire electoral process. Helping Trump was the equivalent of injecting poison into a healthy body. It didn’t kill us (yet), but it’s compromised our immune system.

For Putin, having former Soviet Republics like Ukraine thrive under democracy is a threat. Don’t forget, Putin earlier tried to gank Ukraine’s democracy through political interference. Back in 2004 Russia supported Viktor Yanukovych when he ran for president of Ukraine. Like Trump, Yanukovish won. However, the election interference was so blatant that the Ukraine Supreme Court ordered a run-off election, which Yanukovych lost. But they tried again in 2010, when Yanukovich ran against Yulia Tymoshenko. That time, Yanukovich won.

Paul Manafort (the guy wearing handcuffs)

How did he win? He hired an American political operative as his campaign manager. Paul Manafort. In 2018, as part of a plea agreement (on charges of eight counts of tax and bank fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and witness tampering) Manafort admitted he’d conducted a media campaign against Tymoshenko, accusing her of anti-Semitism and corruption in order to undermine her support. Tymoshenko was eventually imprisoned. (This is where I note that Manafort was originally Comrade Trump’s campaign manager, and the Trump campaign is probably best remembered for this slogan related to Hilary Clinton: Lock her up. This is also where I note that Trump, after he lost the 2020 election, gave Manafort a full pardon for his crimes–which also dismissed the criminal forfeiture proceedings involving Manafort’s 10-bedroom, 6-bath US$11 million home at Bridgehampton, Long Island, his apartment in New York’s Chinatown, and his townhouse in Brooklyn. Who says crime doesn’t pay?)

After his election, Yanukovich implemented a number of Russia-friendly policies that were so unpopular the Ukrainian people rose up against him. Yanukovich fled to Russia, where he now lives. Ukraine now has a fairly and democratically elected president. And that has to both piss off and terrify Putin. So yeah, good reason to invade, right there.

But there’s also the water issue. Until a couple of days ago, I was unaware that Crimea (a part of Ukraine which Russia invaded and seized in 2014) was dependent on the North Crimean canal for irrigation and feedstock water. (Hell, I wasn’t even aware that the North Crimean canal even existed.) Not long after Russia seized Crimea, the government of Ukraine began to reduce and limit the flow of water to Crimea. Between that and a long period of drought, crops on which Russia relies have begun to fail.

North Crimean Canal

So this is what we’ve got. Russia needs water, Ukraine has control of that water. Russia fears democracy, Ukraine is pro-democracy. Putin is an egomaniac wanting to restore the legacy of Mother Russia, Ukraine was part of that legacy. So yeah, an invasion isn’t all that surprising.

But here’s the problem: what do we do about it?

I have no idea. Sanctions against Russia and Russian oligarchs, obviously. Really harsh sanctions. Military and intelligence support for Ukraine, also obviously. Troops? I’d hate to see us in a shooting war with Russia; their military is second rate at best, but if you’re killed by a second rate military, you’re still dead.

I’m just glad we have President Uncle Joe running this show. If Comrade Trump were in charge, there’d be massive gobs of extra shit in this shitshow.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Yeah, NATO. I wasn’t ignoring the whole NATO thing. I just think Putin’s issue with NATO is a subset of his fear of democracy.

the curious ‘martyrdom’ of ashli babbitt

Jesus suffering fuck. Yesterday Comrade Trump held an ego rally in Sarasota, Florida (as if Florida hasn’t suffered enough recently). Like all his ego rallies, this one was filled with the usual lies and the customary bullshit. But lately Trump has added a sparkly new element of sedition to his repertoire. At the rally yesterday, he repeated a line he’d used earlier as a distraction from the indictment (on multiple felonies) of the Trump Organization’s Chief Financial Officer and the Trump Organization itself. He asked this question:

Who shot Ashli Babbitt?

It’s not really a question, though. I mean, it’s not like Trump was asking the crowd for an answer. No, that question is a code. It’s a shout out to the seditionists who tried to stop the peaceful transfer of presidential power. Those four words contain an entire galaxy of disinformation, lies, delusions, and sedition. They imply that Ashli Babbit is some sort of martyr–that she knowingly sacrificed her life in the service of Trump.

Babbitt, as you know, was part of the violent mob that illegally stormed the Capitol Building on 1/6/21 in an effort to prevent the certification of the 2020 presidential election. She was a devoted follower of the QAnon conspiracy theory–one of those people who believed (and maybe still believe) Comrade Trump was engaged in a secret war against a cabal of Satanic, cannibalistic pedophiles (primarily Hollywood actors and Democrats) who operate a global child sex trafficking ring. Don’t ask me why Trump, who was the actual president of the United States, would have to conduct a secret war against these people. I mean, I’m confident most folks are pretty much opposed to Satanic, cannibalistic pedophiles, even if they’re NOT part of a global child sex trafficking ring. You’d think a president would have no problem publicly announcing, “I’ve had it up to HERE with all those Satanic, cannibalistic pedophiles, this shit has to stop!” But no, the QAnon folks believe Trump’s war against the pedophiles had to be conducted in secret because…something something.

So Ashli Babbitt, to support Comrade Trump in his secret war, joined the insurrection and stormed the Capitol Building. She made her way to the barricaded door of the Speaker’s Lobby, behind which several Members of Congress and their staffs were escaping. One rioter shattered a window into the Lobby, and Babbitt decided to climb through. By that point, security personnel had been alerted that pipe bombs had been discovered in parts of DC. They’d also been told some of the insurrections were probably armed. Babbitt was wearing a knapsack as she started to climb through the window. Security staff can be heard on the video shouting “Get back! Get down!” But she didn’t; she started to climb through the window. A member of the security services fired a single shot, which killed her.

For years right-wing extremists have relied on he-did-not-comply-with-police-orders as a justification for law enforcement killings of unarmed people (mostly black men). Ashli Babbitt failed to comply multiple times. First she failed to comply with police orders to stay behind the barricades outside the Capitol Building. Then she and others illegally broke into the Capitol building. She did so with the criminal intent to disrupt a legal election process. Finally, she refused to comply with the lawful orders of several armed law enforcement officers who had their weapons drawn and pointed at her.

Ashli Babbitt willfully and knowingly, despite repeated warnings, attempted to enter a restricted (and barricaded) area through a window that had been criminally breached, and was shot and killed as a result.

To Trump supporters, this makes her a martyr.

Well, not at first. At first, Trump supporters claimed the Capitol was stormed by Antifa masquerading as Trump supporters. That meant Ashli Babbitt was probably an Antifa crisis actor. I’m NOT MAKING THAT UP. Early on there were several posts on FreeRepublic that suggested Babbitt wasn’t a real Trump supporter at all, that she wasn’t even a true QAnon believer, that she was, in fact, part of a false flag operation designed “to stop Trump from having rallies.” There were even early posts suggesting that Babbitt wasn’t even dead.

“…why was she the only girl in the room with all of those Antifa and BLM people and why would she be the first to climb through the window? Wouldn’t that be a guy thing? What would a hardcore Trump supporter who is a Quanan fanatic be inside the Capitol rather than listening to Trump’s speech? [T]he people in the room did not hit the deck when the gun went off… [and] how convenient a BLM guy with the CNN reporter just happened to be in the perfect spot to record it.

This was a fake riot to embarrass the fake violent Trumpsters to give the House a reason to stop counting and shame the Repubs to hide the fake vote. This was their final coverup to get their fake President across the finish line”

But the Ashli-is-Antifa conspiracy theory died off pretty quickly and was consumed by the Ashli-the-Martyr conspiracy theory. Oh, and just to be clear, these right-wing nutjobs see her death as a murder. A deliberate murder. An assassination. A nonjudicial execution, in fact. Even members of Congress are willing to spread that lie. During a hearing with FBI Director Christopher Wray, Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar, the GOP’s current Bull Goose Loony, flat out asked, “Do you know who executed Ashli Babbitt?” Gosar went on to claim, “The Capitol Police officer that did that shooting appeared to be hiding, lying in wait and then gave no warning before killing her.”

Comrade Trump, by asking ‘Who shot Ashli Babbitt?’ is deliberately feeding that same rabid rat delirium. He’s not only telling his followers that the election was stolen from him (and them), but that his enemies are willing to kill them if they stand up for Trump. That’s not only a despicable lie, it’s dangerous. You know some of his followers are out there, armed and angry, plotting to take revenge. And some are probably willing to join Ashli Babbitt and become martyrs.

this week in responsible gun ownership

May 18Hemet, CA. 1 dead, 4 wounded. A fight broke out among a group of women. One pulled a handgun and opened fire. Four were wounded. Bystander Tamika Haynes, sitting in a car nearby, was killed. She was three months pregnant, a mother to an 8-year-old son.

Oakland, CA. 2 dead, 5 wounded. A party bus carrying young women and girls celebrating a friend’s 21st birthday was fired on by a passing car. The dead were Alayasia Thurston (19 years old, mother of a three-year-old) and Zoey Hughes (16 years old). At least 70 rounds were fired at the bus.

May 20Evansville, IN. 0 dead, 4 wounded. A fight between two people escalated; one man opened fire with a handgun. Four were wounded.

May 21Jersey City, NJ. : 2 dead 12 wounded. A house party broke up after a noise complaint. Some party-goers then attended another nearby party, where violence broke out. Asia Hester, 25, and Kevin Elliott, 30 were killed. Multiple guns and shell casings were recovered at the scene, suggesting more than one shooter (some of whom may have been returning fire). According to police, some of the wounded were released after treatment, “while others continue to fight for their lives,”

May 22Albany, NY. 1 dead, 5 wounded. A drive-by shooting left one man dead and five others wounded.

Minneapolis, MN. 2 dead, 8 wounded. Two man involved in “a verbal altercation” in a local nightclub drew handguns and began shooting at each other. One of the shooters was killed, along with a bystander. Eight were wounded, including the second shooter.

Ft. Wayne, IN. 1 dead, 4 wounded. A group of people drinking and visiting in the parking lot of an apartment complex yelled at 20-year-old Jamarion Thomas for carrying a rifle through the parking lot because children were present. Thomas went into his apartment, then returned outside still holding the rifle. He yelled at the people who’d yelled at him. At that point, another man drew a handgun and pointed it at Thomas, who opened fire with the rifle. 30 spent rifle casings were found at the scene, as well as more than 15 handgun casings of various calibers–suggesting several people had weapons and were shooting. An unidentified woman was killed; four were wounded, including Thomas.

North Charleston, SC. 1 dead, 13 wounded. A fight broke out near a stage that was set up for an unauthorized concert. Multiple people drew handguns and fired on each other. Thirteen were wounded; 14-year-old Ronjanae Smith was killed.

Columbus, OH. 1 dead, 5 wounded. A group of teens on social media decided to gather in downtown Columbus and ride kick-scooters. The event became larger than expected and a fight erupted, resulting in multiple shooters firing at each other. Five teens were wounded and 16-year old Olivia Kurtz was killed.

May 23Paterson, NJ. 0 dead, 5 wounded. A large block party ended in somebody pulling a handgun and wounding five people, whose ages ranged from 26 to 36 years.

Youngstown, OH. 3 dead, 3 wounded. And argument that began inside a bar moved outside. At least two men pulled handguns, including a bar security guard. Police describe the event as involving multiple guns fired by multiple people. Some of the victims were wounded/killed in the crossfire.

Bay Shore, NY. 0 dead, 4 wounded. A gunman opened fire at a group of people gathered near some basketball courts. Four were struck by one shot each.

Norfolk, VA. 0 dead, 4 wounded. Little information is available about the four adults who were shot. They were taken to the hospital suffering non-life-threatening injuries.

Inkster, MI. 2 dead, 2 wounded. Four people were shot (two critically wounded, two fatally) while playing basketball in the street. Multiple shooters were involved. Police are investigating if the murders were related to a pair of May 18th incidents involving the non-fatal shooting of a woman, followed hours later by fatal shooting of the victim’s boyfriend at the same address.

May 24West Jefferson, OH: 5 dead, 0 wounded. Police found three people shot dead inside a building with “at least two more found fatally wounded outside.” No other information is known at this time. “Things like this just don’t happen in West Jefferson, or don’t happen in small towns,” said West Jefferson Police Chief Chris Floyd

That’s 21 dead and 78 wounded in 14 separate incidents of firearm violence in the past week. There’s no universally agreed definition of ‘mass shooting’ or ‘mass murder’ but there are some generally accepted guidelines. Here’s the most common ‘mass shooting’ definition: a shooting at a public place in which four or more people (not including the shooter) are shot in a single episode, excluding domestic, gang, and drug violence. Here’s the most common definition of ‘mass murder’: four or more people killed during an event with no “cooling-off period” between the murders, generally in a single location (or close proximity), excluding domestic, gang, and drug violence.

Using those definitions, only one of the multiple casualty events of the preceding week (the killings in West Jefferson, Ohio) MIGHT actually qualify as a mass murder. If the killer in that case turns out to be related to one or more of the victims, it will be disqualified as a mass murder and considered a mere ‘domestic’ crime. Similarly, many of the apparent mass shooting incidents are disqualified as mass shootings because they involve multiple shooters–some of whom were armed bystanders who because reaction shooters.

What we can see from the last week is this: more guns in the hands of more people means more people get shot. Shot because of poor impulse control–and easy access to guns. Shot because of inadequate (or no) training regarding when and how to shoot–and the ease with which people are granted the power to carry concealed guns.

Gov. Abbott loves the guns.

And that brings me to this massively stupid motherfucker in Texas and his massively stupid decision. Gov. Greg Abbott is about to sign a law allowing people to carry handguns without a license, without a background check, and without any training. Why the fuck would Abbott do such an astonishingly stupid thing? Because he says it will allow Texans to better defend themselves in public. He wants Texas to be…and I’m NOT making this up…a Second Amendment Sanctuary State. You know, a place where guns and gun owners can feel safe and secure against…against people who have guns and want to hurt them? Fuck if I know.

It’s been almost 18 days since the last mass shooting in Texas, when Larry Bollin opened fire on his co-workers at Kent Moore Cabinets, killing one and wounding four more (five, if you count the Texas police officer who was wounded trying to arrest him). Gov. Abbott issued a public statement after the shooting.

Cecilia and I are praying for the victims and their families and for the law enforcement officer injured while apprehending the suspect.Cecilia and I are praying for the victims and their families and for the law enforcement officer injured while apprehending the suspect.”

I’m sure that helped. The governor also visited the victims. In an interview on FOXNews, he said:

“Let me tell you something about the shooting in Bryan, Texas, that will answer your question [about firearm safety legislation]. I went to the hospital where the victims’ families were on the night of the shooting. And we hugged and we cried and we talked to them about it. As I was talking to family members of one of the victims, they said: ‘Governor please, do not allow this shooting to strip us of our 2nd Amendment rights.'”

I don’t know…it’s Texas. Won’t require you to wear a mask in a pandemic; won’t require chemical plants to safely store volatile chemicals, won’t prevent lunatics from carrying guns.

i really don’t know anymore

For several years I made a habit of checking in on what I like to call ‘Right-Wing Absurdist Nut-Case’ blogs (I call them that because they’re right-wing blogs that attract nut-cases who seem to be engaged in performative absurdist theater). I usually did it once or twice a week, just in order to see what the crazy fringe believed it.

I haven’t done it very often in recent months, mainly because there was no need. What used to be right-wing absurdist nut-cases have now become mainstream Republicans in Congress. But now that Comrade Trump is being pried out of office, I thought I’d revisit the fetid swamplands of RWANC blogs.

Make America Confederate Again!

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Former President Barack Hussein Obama was arrested by federal agents in Hawaii and charged with Espionage. He was apparently working for the People’s Republic of China to overthrow the US government and establish a New World Order.
  2. President-elect Uncle Joe Biden was detained and fitted with an ankle bracelet. Biden was also working with Chinese communists on that New World Order business, in addition to doing massive voter fraud in his spare time.
  3. CIA Director Gina Haspel was arrested and detained — perhaps at Gitmo — on unspecified charges. But unlike Obama and Biden, she’s cooperating with authorities and dishing the dirt on her co-conspirators.
  4. These arrests and detentions apparently mean a) the China coronavirus is a hoax so we don’t have to wear commie masks, and b) the edict issued by Pope Boniface in 1302 was now revoked, so banks can no longer foreclose on people’s homes.

I confess, I was a wee bit shocked by all this. I figured Obama was still a secret Muslim and was trying to overthrow the US government to establish a New Caliphate. I feel like such an idiot now that he’s been arrested for conspiring with China. And Biden? It’s not clear to me why Uncle Joe was detained instead of his son Hunter, but I’m sure there’s a logical explanation for that. However, it never occurred to me that he’d need an ankle bracelet to monitor his movements. I’d assumed the contingent of US Secret Service agents guarding him would be a fairly reliable source of intel on that. Who knew? And Gina Haspell? I’d no idea she was even a suspect in that China voter fraud business. It seems obvious now. And of course, she’d be a snitch. I mean, she’s a girl, right?

Marching to revoke the swelling knob of the Papal Edict of 1302.

I totally understand how these arrests reveal how China sent us a hoax virus that killed (allegedly!) a few hundred thousand crisis actors, but I’m still a tad confused about Pope Boniface’s ‘1302 edict.’ I thought that was your basic papal bull (okay, slight tangent here — a ‘bull’ is an authoritative document issued by the Pope; it’s called a ‘bull’ because the term comes from the Latin bulla, meaning — and I am NOT making this up — “a round swelling, knob”, which is the description given to the physical seal used to stamp the edict in order to make it official. Got that? Okay, good) stating that a person can only be sure of salvation if they belong to the Church AND in order to belong to the Church you have to submit to the Pope. (Yes, there are LOTS of round, swelling knob jokes to be made here, but c’mon this IS SERIOUS BUSINESS here.) But apparently, unknown to me (and, as far as I can tell, unknown to the Church), the Pope also claimed ‘dominion’ (that name — coincidence or conspiracy?) over the air and all the birds within it, plus the sea and all its creatures, and the land including all the living things and structures on it. So by revoking that edict (which was done by arresting Obama, I guess) it became illegal for banks to foreclose on somebody’s home because they defaulted on a home loan? I don’t know, but I’m sure it makes sense.

I think the Supreme Court is supposed (or maybe legally obligated) to take the 1302 Papal bull into account when they decide whether or not to agree to hear the argument made by Texas that the 2020 election should be given to Comrade Trump because Texas doesn’t like the manner in which the states of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin held their elections.

Yeah, okay, well, there it is. If the old school right-wing absurdist nut-cases have become mainstream Republicans, then the new right-wing absurdist nut-cases were forced to become more right-wing, more absurdist, and more nut-casier than they were before. And to my horror, they’ve succeeded.