…what you think it means [DOT 8/5/22]

I do not think...

…it’s sunday…it’s okay to take it easy…which is probably a good thing since…well…it may not be just another monday

It has become an annual event – the military parade in Red Square in Moscow and cities across Russia on 9 May, marking victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.
The Victory Day parade was occasionally marked in the Soviet era and revived by President Boris Yeltsin for the 50th anniversary in 1995, but it was Vladimir Putin in 2008 who made it an annual event featuring military hardware. Russian identity has been largely created with Victory Day in the background, with schoolbooks and history books focusing on Russia as Europe’s wartime liberators.
Claims that he will declare an end to the campaign have been denied, as have reports that he will announce a full declaration of war or a mobilisation of Russian men. Russia’s military would not “artificially adjust” its actions to any particular date, said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“Even in a normal year it’s a huge show of Russia strength, of Putin’s control and everything he stands for,” says Ammon Cheskin of Glasgow University. “And that’s just amplified this year.”
“This year the primary objective was to announce the victory that was supposed to happen in February,” says Ernest Wyciszkiewicz of the Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding. “They are preparing a PR stunt for Monday: it’s important for Russians to see that the special military operation they have been hearing about has led to something tangible.”
“In Russian cities and regional capitals we can see signs with the Victory Day symbol,” says Olga Irisova, co-founder of analysis group Riddle Russia. “Usually the signs say 9 May 1945 but this year it’s 1945/2022, so they’re trying to provide people with the idea that once again they’re standing up to Nazis.”

Why 9 May Victory Day is so important for Russia [BBC]

…on the face of it that seems almost like a parody

Whatever else Russia’s Victory Day parade is supposed to represent, it won’t be any sort of victory over Ukraine, regardless of the spin President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin will try to put on it, writes defence analyst Michael Clarke.
Putin’s foreign military successes around the world after 2008 were all achieved by using small units of elite forces, mercenaries and local militia groups alongside Russian air power.
In every case, Russia moved swiftly and ruthlessly in ways the western world was unable to counter except through graduated sanctions regimes – nothing that could reverse the reality. Putin was adept at creating “new facts on the ground”.
Putin now has few options but to keep going forward to make this war bigger – either bigger in Ukraine or bigger by advancing beyond its borders. Escalation is built into the current situation and Europe has reached a very dangerous moment in its recent history.

Having failed with Plan A to seize the government in Kyiv before President Zelensky’s forces, or the outside world, could react, Moscow then switched to a Plan B. This was a more “manoeuvrist” military approach to surround Kyiv and move in on other Ukrainian cities – Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Mariupol and Mykolaiv and simply snuff out Ukrainian armed resistance while Kyiv itself would be threatened with capitulation or destruction.

This, too, failed. Kherson was the only major city that fell under Russian control and has since continued to resist Russian administration. The fact is that Russian forces were too small to dominate such a big country; they performed very poorly for a mixture of reasons; they were badly led and dispersed around four separate fronts, from Kyiv to Mykolaiv, with no overall commander.
In frustration, Russia has now moved to “plan C”, which is to give up on Kyiv and the north, instead concentrating all its forces for a major offensive in the Donbas region and across the south of Ukraine, probably as far as the port of Odesa in the south-west – effectively to landlock the country.

Viewpoint: Putin now faces only different kinds of defeat [BBC]

The leader had clearly hoped to have more to celebrate by this Victory Day on Monday, the country’s most patriotic of dates, marking the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi Germany in World War II. It was on May 8, 1945, (May 9 in Moscow’s time zone) that Germany signed its Instrument of Surrender in Berlin, ending the fighting in Europe. The USSR suffered the biggest losses of any nation — around 27 million soldiers and civilians died.

Russia’s justification for war in Ukraine suggested a deadline for success by Victory Day. Putin and his government have repeatedly said the aim of their so-called “special operation” is to “denazify” Ukraine, and that freeing the country of Nazis is a matter of Russian survival. It’s an argument that has no real weight; a blatant cover for Russian revanchism.

Even though the Kremlin’s well-oiled propaganda machine has been going at full steam since the February invasion, it will be difficult for Putin to twist Russia’s losses into true victory on Monday.

…but that’s the “truth” about propaganda…if you go big enough it’s chilling what people will give every appearance of swallowing

Sitting in Russia, however, it’s easy to think that the war is going to plan. Russian propaganda is flooding the media, which is almost entirely state-controlled, but in March the government also passed a law making “false news” about the military illegal, a crime that comes with a maximum 15-year jail term.

As a result, the antiwar protests that happened in Russia in the early weeks of the invasion have all but ended. And the media is largely complying with the new law.
Intelligence reports show that Russia could be planning to annex Luhansk and Donetsk “sometime in mid-May” and could also declare and annex a so-called “people’s republic” in the southeastern city of Kherson, according to US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Michael Carpenter, who spoke to reporters on Monday.

Any advancements are amplified in Russian media, where the messaging of success is very clear, Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of the political analysis firm R. Politik, told CNN.
That messaging is filtering through to the Russian people effectively, according to Levada Center polls, which show that not only do the vast majority of Russians support the war, but 68% of Russians think the operation is proceeding successfully. Putin’s popularity has also soared to 82%, after remaining stubbornly in the 60s since the Covid-19 pandemic hit right up until February, the month of Russia’s invasion. Polling in Russia must be taken with a grain of salt, however, given people are subject to a stream of propaganda and dissent is not tolerated.

Stanovaya added that there was an additional narrative in state media that Russia is the victim in this war and that the country is acting defensively.

“When you’re watching Russian TV for several days, you can really start believing that we are in a huge danger of Ukrainian Nazis. That we are vulnerable, that we should, we must get up and protect ourselves, otherwise it’s a matter of Russian existence,” she said.

Putin doesn’t even need to use Monday to declare any kind of victory, Stanovaya argued. He will just need to bank on the anti-Nazi emotions of the holiday to consolidate his justification for war.
UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace even suggested last week on a UK radio station that Putin may drop his guise of a “special operation” and outrightly declare war. Doing so could trigger a huge mobilization of Russian fighters, even civilian conscripts. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday dismissed Wallace’s suggestion as “nonsense.” But if Russia’s military continues to deplete at the rate it is, it’s not impossible that Putin will make that decision at some point.

Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said he thinks Putin’s original plan was to declare victory and an end to hostilities on Monday.

“But it is obvious that the war is dragging on, and Putin’s plan is not getting any clearer. But he must make some symbolic or practical gesture,” he said, speaking to CNN from Moscow.

“Everyone here is scared that he will announce a partial or full mobilization. Although such a measure might prove unpopular: the Russians have become militarists, but they are lazy militarists, sofa troops.”
In the Putin years, the mythology around World War II has metamorphosized. Historians note it glorifies Soviet sacrifice, while downplaying Stalin’s willingness to squander human lives. It glosses over the darkest chapters of the war: The USSR’s pact with Nazi Germany that served as a prelude to war; the wholesale deportation of entire populations deemed untrustworthy by the Soviets; and mass rapes by Soviet soldiers in occupied Germany during the waning days of the war.
“Of course, the new generations do not really understand the significance of the holiday,” Kolesnikov said. “Those who do understand and know history are horrified by the way Putin has privatized it.”

And on Monday, the significance of May 9 may change yet again, depending on what Putin has to say.

Putin has put himself at the center of Russia’s Victory Day. But he has little to celebrate [CNN]

…hard to credit is the least of it…but as ever that sort of thing tends to depend on who you ask

Facing setbacks, officials have suggested that Vladimir Putin may use the May 9 holiday to repackage the war in Ukraine. Dramatic options include escalation through a formal declaration of war or general mobilisation – or de-escalating by proclaiming victory.

Alternatively, Putin could offer up a “sandwich”, as one analyst put it, that praises the Russian army’s “victory” while preparing the population for a grinding and painful conflict as status quo.
“Russia has already moved to covert mobilisation and is preparing to announce open mobilisation in the near future,” said Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, in an interview this week with the Ukrainian news outlet New Times. “I’m quite curious: how will they explain this to their own people?”

The Kremlin has denied it is planning a mobilisation, although some Russians have leaked call-up papers and state orders relating to a potential mobilisation online. A number of enlistment offices have been targeted in arson attacks since March, including one in remote Nizhnevartovsk last week as rumours of a coming mobilisation grew.

But a formal mobilisation, which could see tens of thousands of reservists pulled from their jobs, and borders closed to fighting-age men, is something that Russia has never managed before. It would be highly disruptive to the economy and would further raise the stakes in a war where Russia has already disappointed on the battlefield.
Fearing defeat, Russia may threaten to raise the stakes even further. Top propagandist Dmitry Kiselyov showed a simulation of a nuclear strike against the UK on national television this week. “Just one launch, Boris, and England is gone,” he said. “Once and for all. Why play with us?”
“He also knows that we’re going to be listening to him, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some nuclear rhetoric in there as well,” said the CNA’s Edmonds.
Seeing the limited potential for victory, Putin could also seek to de-escalate the conflict. Standing before his military and the country on Monday, Putin could announce that Russia has achieved its major war aims in Ukraine by allegedly destroying Ukrainian military capacity, and by taking near control of several mid-sized cities such as Mariupol and Kherson.

But that may also be a tough sell, as the Ukrainian military could try to retake lost ground, leading to further losses even if Russia stakes a defensive position.
And as Ben Noble, an associate professor of Russian politics at University College London, noted, the Kremlin’s vague and changing war aims have meant that many people in Russia may be left unsatisfied with whatever Putin eventually claims as victory.

“That’s probably the strongest reason why many people say that the Kremlin is in a corner now, that they’re stuck, because they’re inevitably going to disappoint some groups with whatever they claim as a victory in the broader term,” he said.

Expectations of a big announcement on 9 May, he said, may speak more to the frustration among those outside the Kremlin than to the fact that anything meaningful will be announced. “They want a sense of certainty, they want a new chapter in this conflict,” he said.

…although I guess meaningful is sort of a relative term under the circumstances…even if 68% are willing to give you the answer you want them to when saying things aren’t going well can lead to anything up to & including your actual gulag…that nigh on a third of people are still willing to say otherwise is perhaps no small thing

“I assume he will use the 9th of May to somehow address the victory … something a lot of sociologists tell us is that Russians want this to be over but in a good way,” said Anton Barbashin, the editorial director at Riddle Russia and a political analyst.

“But I would expect that he also needs to introduce some new challenges as well. It needs to be a sandwich, it can’t be just victory. There is so much going on, and by now Putin is aware of the economic risks and problems that are going to arise quite soon. So you probably need to propose a strong vision of how Russia is challenged.”

That is already visible in state media reports that explain Russia is at war with Nato rather than just with Ukraine in order to justify some of the military’s recent defeats.

The Kremlin is also facing an urgent ideological challenge, Barbashin noted, as the war increasingly begins to affect ordinary Russians who may not have a clear idea of why Russia decided that it would invade Ukraine in the first place.

“The more I think of it, the more astonishing it is that this war has shown that Russia has no ideology whatsoever,” he said.

“They’re trying to come up with something new but none of it actually makes sense. Russians do not understand what the hell Russia is doing there.”


…& while the media landscape in the english-speaking world might not stick to the script in quite the same way as its russian counterpart…or indeed always know when to keep its mouth shut

Former US intelligence officers are advising their successors currently in office to shut up and stop boasting about their role in Ukraine’s military successes.

Two stories surfaced in as many days in the American press this week, citing unnamed officials as saying that US intelligence was instrumental in the targeting of Russian generals on the battlefield and in the sinking of the Moskva flagship cruiser on the Black Sea.
The next day, NBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post all quoted officials as saying that US intelligence had helped Ukraine hit the Moskva with anti-ship missiles last month, making it the biggest Russian ship to be sunk since the second world war.

As a general rule, espionage is carried out in secret, though western intelligence agencies have turned that rule on its head over the past few months by going public with what they knew about Russian preparations for invasion, and then with daily reports on the battlefield and from behind Russian lines.
The new disclosures are different however, as they concern what the US espionage agencies themselves have been doing, rather than commenting on the state of the war.
Paul Pillar, a former senior CIA official, said: “My personal view is it’s unwise. I am surprised at the extent of official confirmation of the role of US intelligence in the sinking into Moscow, and even more so the killing of the generals.

“The big concern is that this sort of public confirmation of this extensive US role in the setbacks dealt to the Russians may provoke Putin into escalation in a way that he might not otherwise feel it necessary to escalate.”

John Sipher, who served for 28 years in the CIA’s clandestine service, some of that time in Moscow, thought the decision to disclose details of intelligence sharing was misguided, but for different reasons.

“I just think it’s disrespectful to the Ukrainians,” Sipher said. “It’s taking away from the people who are actually on the ground, who are taking advantage of the intelligence, who are collecting their own intelligence, who are fighting day and night.”

However, he did not think that it significantly raised the risk of escalation between Russia and Nato.
“Putin understands how the game is played. He gets intelligence to try to kill Americans if the situation is reversed, as he did in Afghanistan and other places. The Russians have spent years attacking us with cyber warfare and disinformation,” Sipher said.


…speaking of how the game is played…& years of disinformation, for that matter

The direct interactions between Trump’s administration and the Fox hosts Sean Hannity and Maria Bartiromo were revealed in leaked text messages from the phone of Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff during the November election and the January 6 insurrection.

The texts, revealed by CNN, show how the lines between Fox News and the Trump White House had become jarringly blurred in Trump’s final months. On election day 2021 Hannity, the second-most watched host on Fox News, was texting Meadows asking which states he particularly needed to “push” – to encourage people to vote.

On 29 November, an hour before Trump was to sit down for a first interview since losing the election, the president received a bit of help with his preparation; from Bartiromo, who sent her list of questions to Meadows, along with a suggestion.

“Pls make sure he doesn’t go off on tangents,” Bartiromo wrote, a request that ultimately would go unheeded.
The implications of a Fox News-Trump White House alignment are “scary”, said Angelo Carusone, president and CEO of Media Matters for America, a media watchdog.

“Because you cannot have any kind of functional authoritarian or anti-democratic environment unless you have some really powerful propaganda tools. And once you have this kind of synchronization, then basically what you have is a pretty important ingredient in order to drive a whole range of policies,” Carusone said.

Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson and Brian Kilmeade were also in contact, to varying degrees, with Meadows over the three-month period, meaning a slew of Fox News personalities had their own lines into the White House. The select committee had previously released texts which showed Ingraham and Kilmeade pleading with Trump to intervene as his supporters swarmed the Capitol.

…sure…like so much of this stuff that’s not news in the sense of new information…but then news isn’t their business, after all

“Yes, I’m a member of the press,” Hannity said.

“I’m on the Fox News Channel – which is a news channel – but I don’t claim to be a journalist. I claim to be a talkshow host.” (“I’m a journalist,” Hannity said in an interview with the New York Times in 2017. “But I’m an advocacy journalist, or an opinion journalist.”)

Coordination between rightwing media and Republican administrations is not necessarily new. Scott McClellan, press secretary under George W Bush, admitted working with Fox News on “talking points” during the 2004 presidential campaign, while Rolling Stone reported that John Moody, a top Fox News executive during the Roger Ailes era, wrote a memo to staff that Bush’s “political courage and tactical cunning are worth noting in our reporting throughout the day”.

…but do you ever start to wonder who’s the dog…& who’s doing the wagging?

The interaction between Fox News and Trump’s White House appears to have flowed both ways. Under Bush’s administration, it seemed to be the politicians leading the line, with Fox News supporting the president’s policies.

Under Trump, it wasn’t so clear who was in charge of policy. According to Media Matters, Trump “tweeted in response to Fox News or Fox Business programs he was watching” 1,146 times from September 2018 through August 2020.

Meadows texts reveal just how tight the Fox News-Trump embrace is [Guardian]

…I mean…it does beg a few questions, doesn’t it?

If the west could find the courage, it would order an immediate freeze of Rupert Murdoch’s assets. His Fox News presenters and Russia’s propagandists are so intermeshed that separating the two is as impossible as unbaking a cake.

On Russian state news, as on Fox, bawling ideologues scream threats then whine about their victimhood as they incite anger and self-pity in equal measures. Its arguments range from the appropriation of anti-fascism by Greater Russian imperialists – the 40 countries supporting Ukraine were “today’s collective Hitler”, viewers were told last week – to the apocalyptic delirium of the boss of RT (Russia Today) Margarita Simonyan. Nuclear war is my “horror”, she shuddered, “but we will go to heaven, while they will simply croak”.

Russia would never give genuine western journalists airtime. But it can always find a slot for its favourite quisling: Fox News’s Tucker Carlson. He pushes out Russian propaganda lines or perhaps creates his own lies for Russia to use. Ukraine, not Russia, is the real tyranny. Nato provoked poor Vladimir Putin. The west is plotting to use biological weapons. Last week, he floated the theory that the war was not the result of an unprovoked invasion by a colonialist dictatorship but of the Biden administration’s desire to avenge Donald Trump’s victory in 2016.

It was a big hit in Moscow, reported BuzzFeed’s Julia Davis. “State TV propagandists loved it so much, Russia’s 60 Minutes included it not once, but twice in their evening broadcast – neatly bookended by the Kremlin’s war propaganda.”
The UK’s sanctions regulations include among the reasons for freezing an oligarch’s assets “obtaining a benefit from or supporting the Government of Russia”. The Biden White House promises to punish those “responsible for providing the support necessary to underpin Putin’s war on Ukraine”. On both interpretations, there is a plausible prosecution case for freezing the assets of Murdoch’s NewsCorp.

…at least some of which are deceptively simple questions with messy & complicated answers

Because it is a media conglomerate, sanctions would be an attack on free speech. I say this plainly because so many writers and political actors pretend that they are not demanding censorship when that is precisely what they are doing. Nevertheless, in this case the threat to freedom is minimal. Murdoch would not be punished for revealing embarrassing truths about the west but for spreading demonstrable lies for a hostile foreign power.

If you still feel queasy, imagine if Murdoch’s media organisation were exactly as it is today and producing the same arguments the Kremlin uses to justify its crimes. The one difference is that Murdoch is Russian rather than Australian. I don’t believe there would be the slightest hesitation in removing him and his family from control of their businesses. Indeed, the UK, EU and US have already announced sanctions against Russian broadcasters and individual journalists. I have not heard anyone claim that they are attacking press freedom, rather than trying to cripple the propaganda capacity of a warmongering state.


…& what with it being sunday & all…today probably isn’t the day to expect to have an answer…but it does seem like in a lot of contexts the trick seems to be in identifying what is & isn’t a reasonable equivalent

In a punishing set of local elections for the Tories, the party lost about 400 council seats, ceding control of Westminster and Wandsworth in London to Labour for the first time since the 1970s, and plunging to its worst position in Scotland for a decade.

Conservative MPs and council leaders questioned Johnson’s leadership, demanding action to tackle the cost of living crisis and rebuild trust in the wake of the Partygate scandal after a damaging series of losses across the “blue wall” in Somerset, Kent, Oxfordshire and Surrey.


…say…between a slew of examples of flouting your own regulations including your secretary putting out a bring-your-own-booze invite to a garden party…& having a beer with a takeaway at the end of a scheduled day

While Starmer’s team remains confident that no rules have been broken, the police investigation is politically difficult for him. He has previously called for Boris Johnson to resign when the Met opened an investigation into alleged lockdown parties, even before Johnson had been issued with a fine.


…they might have waited until after the polls had closed to announce that they were re-opening examination of the kier-had-a-beer thing…but I imagine the tory press office is feeling pretty well-disposed towards the durham constabulary about now…which I’m sure is an entirely coincidental bit of timing

Partygate could have been avoided if the police had properly investigated alleged lockdown breaches by Dominic Cummings, a former regional chief prosecutor has claimed.

Nazir Afzal, the crown prosecutor for north-west England until 2015, also expressed exasperation at fresh revelations about the way Durham police looked into Cummings’ journeys to Durham and Barnard Castle after they were exposed by the Guardian and the Mirror in May 2020.

Last month Durham’s chief constable, Jo Farrell, admitted that her officers did not interview Cummings

She told the Mirror that the force treated Cummings’s televised press conference in Downing Street’s rose garden as a witness statement about his behaviour instead.

In May 2021, Cummings admitted to MPs that he did not tell the whole truth in the rose garden. “I should probably explain some things about this that were not put into the public domain at the time in the rose garden,” he told a joint session of two select committees. as part of their three-day investigation into the lockdown movements of Boris Johnson’s then chief adviser.


…meanwhile…there’s your actually unprecedented stuff going on

The significance of the election lies less in political privileges than hard-fought history: A nationalist party at the helm in Northern Ireland will kindle new hopes for Irish unity, but it could also sow a return to unrest between Catholics and Protestants in a territory where delicate power-sharing arrangements have kept the peace for more than two decades.

It is a remarkable coming-of-age for a party that many still associate with paramilitary violence.

“For nationalists who have lived in Northern Ireland for decades, to see Sinn Fein as the largest party is an emotional moment,” said Diarmaid Ferriter, professor of modern Irish history at University College Dublin. “The very idea of leading a government in Northern Ireland would once have been repugnant to it.”
Sinn Fein’s victory has deeply unsettled the unionists, who have declined to say they will take part in a government with a Sinn Fein first minister. That could lead to a breakdown of Northern Ireland’s parliament, known as Stormont, and paralysis in the government. Some even fear a flare-up of the violence between Catholics and Protestants that the peace accord ended after the 30-year guerrilla war known as the Troubles.

Sinn Fein made its electoral gains with a campaign that emphasized kitchen-table issues like the rising cost of living and health care, and that played down its totemic commitment to uniting the North and South of Ireland — a vestige of its ties to the Irish Republican Army.
For all the symbolism, the victory was as much about disarray in the unionist movement as the rise of the nationalists. Unionists have been divided and demoralized since Brexit, largely because the Democratic Unionist Party signed off on the British government’s negotiation of a hybrid trade status for Northern Ireland, known as the protocol.


…so…if you feel like screaming…you’re not alone

I tried to think of a pithy introduction to this week’s newsletter. Something witty, something drily poking fun at the dystopic week we’ve had. Something that was not yet another reference to Gilead and the Handmaid’s Tale. But, unfortunately, all jokes were drowned out with internal existential screaming: aaaarggh.

…& despite what some people might say

When Donald Trump was elected plenty of people were worried about the future of reproductive rights in the US. Calm down, dear, we were told by Reasonable Rational People™. You’re being alarmist!

…loathe as I might be to admit it…it does actually seem like it might be that bad…or worse

I’m sorry, we should all be taking this very seriously indeed. On the same day that prominent columnists were telling people to calm down – and less than 48 hours after the leaked supreme court opinion – Republicans in Louisiana advanced a bill that would redefine personhood to begin at the moment of fertilization and make abortion a crime of murder. Yes, you read that right: the moment of fertilization. I’m sure the people involved in drafting this law have no idea about how reproduction actually works (they like controlling female bodies, not learning about them), but between one-third and one-half of all fertilized eggs never fully implant. Which means someone in Louisiana needs to arrest God – he’s responsible for a hell of a lot of abortions! This incredibly broad definition of personhood also means that anyone experiencing an ectopic pregnancy (which are not viable and very dangerous) in Louisiana has only two choices: go to prison or die. And that’s not all: experts are worried that the law would criminalize in vitro fertilization as well as some forms of birth control.

There’s a reason I brought God up just now. There’s supposed to be a division between church and state in the US but the people who drafted the Louisiana law seemingly forgot about that. The proposal contains a line about “the sanctity of innocent human life, created in the image of God”. This is clearly unconstitutional – but that doesn’t bother the bill’s creators who have made it very clear that they don’t care about democratic norms. Indeed, the bill’s text states that the state should enforce the law “without regard to the opinions and judgments of the Supreme Court of the United States” on abortion.

It’s unclear whether the Louisiana bill will become law anytime soon. But what is clear is that we are going to see more and more extreme proposals like this. As I discussed in a previous Week in Patriarchy, radicalized Christian nationalism is a growing threat in the US; a small but very organised group of people are intent on turning the country into a modern theocracy. A few years ago a researcher called Frederick Clarkson exposed a Christian supremacist initiative called Project Blitz, whose mission is undermining the separation of church and state. You know what one major component of their strategy is? Flooding state legislatures with so many bills that trying to fight them becomes a game of “Whac-A-Mole”. And as liberals are busy playing Whac-A-Mole with proposals like this Louisiana bill, extremists and evangelicals are busy consolidating power. So don’t let anyone tell you that you’re “catastrophizing”.


…because it sure as hell seems like when these people start talking about how we have to “think of the children” they seem to be leaving out what that looks like to them

Texas Governor Greg Abbott is often the tip of the spear for the great conservative project in America, which makes him a good bellwether for which parts of the American system the GOP will attack next. Abbott now has his sights set on public education.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that Abbott on Wednesday said Texas “will resurrect” a 1982 Supreme Court case requiring states to provide free public education to all children, including the children of undocumented immigrants.

“Texas already long ago sued the federal government about having to incur the costs of the education program, in a case called Plyler vs. Doe,” Abbott said on a conservative talk radio show. “And the Supreme Court ruled against us on the issue. … I think we will resurrect that case and challenge this issue again, because the expenses are extraordinary and the times are different than when Plyler versus Doe was issued many decades ago.”

Public education has been increasingly demonized by the right, particularly surrounding sex, gender, and racial issues. Conservative candidates running in contested primaries have been hammering the issues of critical race theory and gender education in state-run schools to rounds of applause, while singing the values of private education. State legislatures are passing bills that hamstring school discretion over how to educate children, arguing that parents should be the ones controlling curriculums. The backlash has grown to the point that some on the right are questioning whether public schools should exist at all.

Greg Abbott Reveals the GOP’s Plan After Killing Roe v. Wade: Killing Public Education [Rolling Stone]

…because apparently this isn’t dystopian enough

Tech firms and data brokers already collect, store and often sell years’ worth of information on their users. There are few federal regulations that protect such data, making the information, which includes data on location, internet searches, and communication history, extremely valuable and easily accessible to law enforcement.

That data could also make it easy for law enforcement to track down people searching for information on or seeking abortions in states where the practice would get criminalized, heightening the need for data privacy regulation, healthy individual “digital security hygiene” and better company data retention policies.

“The biggest harms are going to be that all of this data that is being collected about location, people’s health, menstrual health and pregnancies is going to be now used to find and prosecute people who may be seeking these services or who may not even be seeking these services,” Cooper Quintin, a senior staff technologist at digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, said. “I’m concerned that all this data that’s already out there that’s already been collected and is just sitting in data silos is going to be used for mass prosecutions, mass arrests and do real significant harm.”

While there are steps individual users can take to protect themselves and minimize the data they are handing over to companies that can be requested by law enforcement, Quintin says the decisions companies make when it comes to user data could have far-reaching implications.

“There’s a 100% parallel to climate change – it gets framed a lot as an individual consumer issue when it’s really up to corporations and institutions that are doing the most damage and need to do the most work to solve it,” he said.


…& don’t take my word for it…but if anyone would know…there’s a good chance it might be margaret atwood

No one is forcing women to have abortions. No one either should force them to undergo childbirth. Enforce childbirth if you wish but at least call that enforcing by what it is. It is slavery: the claim to own and control another’s body, and to profit by that claim.


…because somehow…this is not an exaggeration

A bill advanced Wednesday by Louisiana legislators would classify abortion as a homicide, potentially allowing authorities to charge women and girls with murder and criminalize in vitro fertilization, critics said.

The bill, dubbed the Abolition of Abortion in Louisiana Act, passed 7-2 out of a state House subcommittee […]

The bill’s text, which says the legislation aims to “ensure the right to life and equal protection of the laws to all unborn children from the moment of fertilization,” it instructs the state to disregard federal abortion rulings, including Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Ellie Schilling, a Louisiana lawyer who represents reproductive health care providers, said at the hearing that the bill would amend state law to allow authorities to charge someone who is pregnant with homicide or criminal battery “at any stage of gestation,” according to Reuters.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana called the bill “blatantly unconstitutional” and said it would allow authorities to bring murder charges against people who get abortions or those who assist them.

Chris Kaiser, the group’s advocacy director, said the bill could criminalize in vitro fertilization and various forms of birth control by defining a fertilized egg before implantation as a person, according to Reuters.

Louisiana lawmakers advance bill that would classify abortion as homicide [NBC]

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in an interview with USA Today a national abortion ban is “possible” if Roe v. Wade gets overturned this summer.

“If the leaked opinion became the final opinion, legislative bodies — not only at the state level but at the federal level — certainly could legislate in that area,” McConnell told USA Today when asked if a national abortion ban is “worthy of debate.”

“And if this were the final decision, that was the point that it should be resolved one way or another in the legislative process. So yeah, it’s possible,” he concluded.
“With regard to the abortion issue, I think it’s pretty clear where Senate Republicans stand,” McConnell said. “And if and when the court makes a final decision, I expect everybody will be more definitive. But I don’t think it’s much secret where senator Republicans stand on that issue.”


…so…I know it might seem like a drop in the ocean…but…here’s a couple of things that at least tell of instances in which injustice might ultimately have been overturned

Inside the division: how a small team of US prosecutors fight decades of shocking injustice [Guardian]

Life in prison for stealing $20: how the Division is taking apart brutal criminal sentences [Guardian]

…as trains of thought go…I get that it’s tempting to head down the slippery slope of “too little, too late”…but…well…it’s not just important to keep your feet on the ground…it helps to know what makes it important

Beneath our feet is an ecosystem so astonishing that it tests the limits of our imagination. It’s as diverse as a rainforest or a coral reef. We depend on it for 99% of our food, yet we scarcely know it. Soil.
But even more arresting than soil’s diversity and abundance is the question of what it actually is. Most people see it as a dull mass of ground-up rock and dead plants. But it turns out to be a biological structure, built by living creatures to secure their survival, like a wasps’ nest or a beaver dam. Microbes make cements out of carbon, with which they stick mineral particles together, creating pores and passages through which water, oxygen and nutrients pass. The tiny clumps they build become the blocks the animals in the soil use to construct bigger labyrinths.

Soil is fractally scaled, which means its structure is consistent, regardless of magnification. Bacteria, fungi, plants and soil animals, working unconsciously together, build an immeasurably intricate, endlessly ramifying architecture that, like Dust in a Philip Pullman novel, organises itself spontaneously into coherent worlds.[…]

Some crop scientists believe we can counter these trends by raising yields in places that remain productive. But their hopes rely on unrealistic assumptions. The most important of these is sufficient water. The anticipated growth in crop yields would require 146% more fresh water than is used today. Just one problem: that water doesn’t exist.

Over the past 100 years, our use of water has increased six-fold. Irrigating crops consumes 70% of the water we withdraw from rivers, lakes and aquifers. Already, 4 billion people suffer from water scarcity for at least one month a year and 33 major cities, including São Paulo, Cape Town, Los Angeles and Chennai, are threatened by extreme water stress. As groundwater is depleted, farmers have begun to rely more heavily on meltwater from glaciers and snowpacks. But these, too, are shrinking.

A likely flashpoint is the valley of the Indus, whose water is used by three nuclear powers (India, Pakistan and China) and several unstable regions. Already, 95% of the river’s flow is extracted. As the economy and the population grow, by 2025 demand for water in the catchment is expected to be 44% greater than supply. But one of the reasons why farming there has been able to intensify and cities to grow is that, as a result of global heating, glaciers in the Hindu Kush and the Himalayas have been melting faster than they’ve been accumulating, so more water has been flowing down the rivers. This can’t last. By the end of the century, between one- and two-thirds of the ice mass is likely to have disappeared. It is hard to see this ending well.
On a farm in south Oxfordshire, techniques developed by a vegetable grower called Iain Tolhurst – Tolly – seem to have anticipated recent discoveries by soil scientists.
“No conventional grower would even look at this ground,” he told me. “It’s 40% stone. They’d call it building rubble. It isn’t even classed as arable: an agronomist would say it’s only good for grass or trees. But over the past 12 months, we harvested 120 tonnes of vegetables and fruit.”

Astonishingly, for these 34 years Tolly has been farming this rubble without pesticides, herbicides, mineral treatments, animal manure or any other kind of fertiliser. He has pioneered a way of growing that he calls “stockfree organic”. This means he uses no livestock or livestock products at any point in the farming cycle, yet he also uses no artificial inputs.

Until he proved the model, this was thought to be a formula for sucking the fertility out of the land. Vegetables in particular are considered hungry crops, which require plenty of extra nutrients to grow. Yet Tolly, while adding none, has raised his yields until they’ve hit the lower bound of what intensive growers achieve with artificial fertilisers on good land: a feat widely considered impossible. Remarkably, the fertility of his soil has climbed steadily.
I believe we could combine this approach with another suite of innovations, by a non-profit organisation in Salina, Kansas, called the Land Institute. It’s seeking to develop perennial grain crops to replace the annual plants from which we obtain the great majority of our food. Annuals are plants that die after a single growing season. Perennials survive from one year to the next.
For 40 years, the Land Institute has been scouring the world for perennial species that could replace the annuals we grow. Already, working with Fengyi Hu and his team at Yunnan University in China, it has developed a perennial rice with yields that match, and in some cases exceed, those of modern annual breeds. Farmers are queueing up for seed. While annual rice farming can cause devastating erosion, the long roots of the perennial varieties bind and protect the soil. Some perennial rice crops have now been harvested six times without replanting.
While no solution is a panacea, I believe that some of the components of a new global food system – one that is more resilient, more distributed, more diverse and more sustainable – are falling into place. If it happens, it will be built on our new knowledge of the most neglected of major ecosystems: the soil. It could resolve the greatest of all dilemmas: how to feed ourselves without destroying the living systems on which we depend.


…I mean it’s all food for thought…but at least those last three might be palatable?

[…& a coffee or so hence…there’s a chance some tunes about here might be, too]



  1. remember when using this meme was just being over dramatic?

    good times!

    really….its 2022 and im debating if i prefer going out in a nuclear war…or taking the slow climate change and famine route

    as zombies arent an option…im leaning towards nuclear war….as i live in between some pretty military targets..i figure that would be a pretty lightshow before the end

  2. Whitewashing of war .  It is rare for me to throw away books, but I threw away the only Stephen Ambrose history I purchased.  I hated Citizen Soldiers by Stephen Ambrose because it spent a lot of time trying to justify mistakes by the US Army and treats the US individual replacement system as if it were the greatest thing ever when it was really a meat grinder led to huge casualties among the replacements.

    Unlike the fever dreams of idiot rugged individualists, military units need to function as a team.  Hard to function as a team if you can’t trust the noob beside you.  The movie Platoon showed exactly what happened (even though it was a different war.)  I have seen it at work where it takes a while for the old crew to trust you (happened to me, too.)  Can’t imagine that going well in war time conditions

    That is apparently what is happening to Russian units they threw together into the Donbass region. It takes time to work up as a unit/team.

    It irked me that a book like that became a bestseller, but that was some 25 years ago. Ambrose made a lot of bank as an apologist.  Hate his books.

    • …I think I get what you mean…certainly there’s a difference between the “mission command” approach of the US/UK armed forces (& I guess broadly pretty much most NATO military) run with in which subordinates have rather more leeway to execute orders in order to achieve objectives (as opposed to the soviet model where absent a superior to impart the necessary information it’s not clear an individual soldier is really supposed to think at all) which is still a system that’s predicated on there being a hierarchy…unlike, say, the commando approach that lends itself to talk of “an army of one” even if the actual commando units generally started out with more than a solitary individual

      …but in terms of movies that do a decent job of illustrating the sort of people it might pay to take out of the equation before a force ends up on a battlefield I’d put in a word for tigerland?

  3. We in the west ignored the price that the Soviet Union paid fighting (in a lot of cases ineptly) the Nazis.

    I can understand why May 9 is such a big deal for Putin.  However, he like many nationalist fools disregard the unpleasant stuff like Stalin’s Penal Battalions (which never ran out of “volunteers”), Soviet Leadership failures (read Stalin mostly) and the role the Allies played in saving the Soviet Union which was big considering most of their aviation gas, telephone wire, comm equipment and trucks came from the west.

    The joke I heard about Russian made telephone wire (which is supposed to be waterproof for it to work and key for artillery coordination) was that it always leaked.

    It seems Putin’s repeating a lot of the same mistakes in the Ukraine.

  4. More things I recommend to avoid with a sore back:

    Cutting the lawn (with an electric cord mower.)

    Fertilizing the lawn.

    (Why?  Because it needed to be done as based on the weather forecast I would have quite a jungle by the time I was able enough to cut it.)


    Now it’s time for a hot shower, muscle relaxers and heat rub.

    Then wake up to prep mom’s mother’s day dinner.

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