…word is [DOT 11/1/22]

by their words...

…they say life imitates art…& a lot of folks have been of the opinion that men are pigs for about as long as I can remember…but despite what the likes of no-vax djokovic might think

The herd immunity threshold was commonly misunderstood as a universal target to hit early in the pandemic. But the threshold has always been changeable: it depends on how transmissible the pathogen is, and the behavioural and immunological characteristics of the population in which it is spreading – how much they mix and how easily they are infected.

For example, if a virus is very transmissible, able to more readily infect people, or the population is very densely packed and mobile, a large proportion of the population will need immunity to halt its spread. Conversely, if a virus is less transmissible or a population doesn’t mix often in large groups, fewer people need to be immune to slow the virus down. In each case, the precise herd immunity threshold would be different.
Last year, some scientists suggested that we were approaching the herd immunity threshold through a combination of vaccination and infection. But a year after Covid-19 vaccinations began, we are seeing the largest spikes in cases to date in many regions, including places where population immunity from infection and vaccination is quite high. The highly infectious Delta and Omicron variants have driven recent surges through their high transmissibility and ability to partially evade immunity, making a much larger fraction of us susceptible to infection again.

This experience underscores that we have yet to – and likely will never – reach the herd immunity threshold despite the remarkable success of vaccines. At the same time, we must not resign ourselves to endless, explosive outbreaks.


…medical science is pretty amazing…so the part where for one man that got a little closer to being literally true is kind of a big deal

A 57-year-old Maryland man with a life-threatening heart condition has become the first person in the world to successfully receive a transplanted heart from a genetically modified pig, sparking optimism that similar procedures could save the lives of the thousands of Americans waiting for organs.
Doctors at the hospital and elsewhere had deemed Bennett ineligible for a human heart transplant after reviewing his medical records, leaving the experimental surgery as his “only option for survival,” the statement said. It did not specify what disqualified him.
The Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization for the historic procedure on New Year’s Eve through its “compassionate use” provision that allows experimental products to be used outside of clinical trials in cases where the patient has a serious or life-threatening condition.
On Friday morning, surgeons removed the heart from the pig — which was provided by Revivicor, a regenerative medicine company based in Blacksburg, Va. — and put it in a device to preserve it until it was transplanted into Bennett. Video released by the hospital showed the device, a container about the size of a microwave, being brought into the operating room on a cart.
Skin and heart valves from pigs — which are in some ways biologically similar to humans and primates, making them ideal candidates for transplants — have been successfully transplanted into humans in the past. A type of virus carried in pig cells that could infect human cells had long prevented full organ transplants, but researchers in 2015 successfully used a gene editing technique called CRISPR to remove the virus from the pig cells’ DNA.

The pig whose heart was transplanted into Bennett had three genes “knocked out” that would have caused the organ to be rejected, as well as another gene to prevent excessive growth of the pig heart tissue. Six human genes that induce the organ to be accepted by the recipient’s immune system were inserted.
Friday’s procedure was the most substantial animal-to-human organ transplant to date, as researchers have in recent years developed the technology to modify genes sufficiently to make successful transplants more likely.


…on the other hand…there’s this stuff

A 17 percent surge in coal-fired electricity helped drive an overall increase of 6.2 percent in greenhouse gas emissions compared with the previous year, according to an analysis published Monday by the Rhodium Group. While emissions remained below pre-pandemic levels, it marked the first annual increase in reliance on the nation’s dirtiest fossil fuel since 2014, the independent research firm said.
“In an ideal world, we want the economy to rebound, but not the emissions,” Kate Larsen, a co-author of the analysis who leads Rhodium’s international energy and climate research, said in an interview.

Larsen added that the surge in coal generation was “almost entirely due to high natural gas prices” as oil and gas producers curbed new production in response to lower global demand because of pandemic lockdowns. “Emissions from our power sector were pretty much at the whim of energy markets,” she said.

The nation’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions — transportation — also saw the steepest rebound during 2021, rising 10 percent over the previous year, Rhodium found. The arrival of coronavirus vaccines and the nation’s fitful efforts to emerge from the pandemic meant more Americans traveled on roads and in the skies than in 2020. But road freight was the only mode of transportation that rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, as thousands of diesel-powered trucks rumbled along the nation’s highways to deliver consumer goods.

Separately on Monday, scientists with the European Commission’s Copernicus Climate Change Service reported that the last seven years were the Earth’s hottest on record. Globally, 2021 was the fifth-warmest ever recorded, the scientists found, and atmospheric concentrations of the potent gases carbon dioxide and methane continued to rise.
The findings from Rhodium are in line with what other researchers have found: that a deadly global pandemic and a massive economic downturn have done little to slow the accumulation of planet-warming gases in the atmosphere.
One twist from 2021 that is unlikely to last, at least in the United States, is the sharp rise in burning coal for electricity, researchers said. Coal power has steadily declined over the past decade and now accounts for only about 19 percent of U.S. electricity generation, half that of natural gas, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Rob Jackson, a professor at Stanford University and chair of the Global Carbon Project, said the United States, which has generated more greenhouse gases than any other country in history, must do more to flatten the curve of its emissions trajectory before the next U.N. climate summit in Egypt in November.
“Other countries will be looking at what commitments we have made,” Jackson said, adding that “they will look at us and say we’re not putting our money where our mouth is.”


…& I know I was moaning about that kind of thing at the weekend…so I won’t go on a whole rant all over again…but…just for context


…what profits joe manchin’s coal-fired bottom line is hardly what you might call without cost for the rest of us

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday that at least 20 individual billion-dollar disasters occurred in the United States in 2021, the second-most on record. From tornadoes to floods, fires and hurricanes, the year featured a number of catastrophes, many of which were made more severe by human-induced climate change.

Racking up a price tag of more than $145 billion, the disasters of 2021 combined into the third-costliest year on record dating to 1980, according to NOAA. At least 688 people were killed. The only costlier years were 2005, which featured Hurricane Katrina, and 2017, during which hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria made landfall.


…they say a picture paints a thousand words…so I’ll leave it at this

…now I know I always seem to go all voice-of-doom about this stuff…so by way of bucking that trend

After a year of record-breaking climate disasters and a grim prognosis from the world’s top experts who warn the planet has already sustained “irreversible” harm, a movement is gaining momentum to force change. As the UN secretary general declared in August, the urgent need to curb carbon emissions marks a “death knell” for the fossil fuel industry.

For decades, Americans were told that standing up to powerful oil and gas companies wasn’t possible. But the reality is that everyday people are making a difference in the fight to cut emissions. These grassroots victories also show that the people who have been made most vulnerable by fossil fuel extraction, including Black and brown communities, already have solutions on hand.

Here’s a roundup of their accomplishments over the last year.


…but on a not-altogether-unrelated note…while we’re on the subject of grim pictures

With redistricting now finished in just over half the states, a misleading narrative has emerged that the gerrymandering hasn’t been all that bad. By focusing on one narrow fact — that the overall distribution of seats between the parties might not change much — this story misses the full, much grimmer picture.
With a showdown on the Freedom to Vote Act and John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act coming this month, it has never been more urgent that Congress act. Just ask voters in North Carolina and Texas. Under the congressional map passed by North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature, Republicans could win 71 percent of the state’s congressional seats with only 48 percent of the statewide vote. Republicans in Texas have engineered similar advantages. Texas Democrats would have to win 58 percent of the vote to be favored to carry more than 37 percent of the state’s congressional seats. In other words, Texas could turn a dark shade of blue and Republicans would still have a two-to-one seat advantage. That hardly looks “not so bad” for Democrats.

It’s important to remember that gerrymandering isn’t just about gaining new seats — it can also be about insulating the seats you already have from competition. And one of the biggest redistricting stories this decade is how competition is being sucked out of our elections, especially in Republican-controlled states.
The “not so bad” narrative also, exasperatingly, turns a blind eye to the impact of the redistricting cycle on communities of color, who account for nearly all the population growth in places such as Texas. In state after state in this round of redistricting, Republican map drawers, in particular, are not only refusing to create new electoral opportunities for minority communities, in many cases they are actively dismantling them.
Sure, the cycle could have been worse. But Americans deserve better than an “it could have been worse” democracy.


…& not to put too fine a point on it

Seven ways Republicans are already undermining the 2024 election [Guardian]

…that seems to be about where things stand at the minute

The democracy emergency is closely linked to the climate crisis. Each is grounded in a big lie – that climate science is a hoax, that Trump won in 2020 – pushed by the same rightwing politicians and propaganda “news” outlets and embraced with cult-like devotion by Trump’s followers. Left untreated, each threatens disaster. If Trump’s forces do change enough electoral rules and personnel to guarantee victory in 2022 and beyond, there is zero chance the US government will take the strong climate action needed to avert global catastrophe.

Defusing the global climate emergency therefore depends on protecting democracy. To be sure, the US is not the only country where anti-democratic trends hamper climate progress. Most of the worst laggards at November’s Cop26 climate summit were countries where authoritarianism is either entrenched or on the rise: China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, India, the US. But the collapse of US democracy would carry especially damaging climate consequences. Slashing global emissions in half by 2030, as science says is imperative, would be impossible if the world’s biggest economy and leading historical carbon emitter refuses to help.
Aside from Trump himself, no one deserves such journalistic grilling more than McConnell and McCarthy. As the senior Republicans in Congress, they have the stature to oppose Trump’s campaign for one-party rule. Twin profiles in cowardice, they have instead betrayed their oath to defend the constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

McConnell and McCarthy want the world to forget that a year ago Trump’s mob was hunting them down, leading each man to stand up, briefly, for democracy. But the world must not forget. The press in particular must not allow McConnell, McCarthy and most other Republicans to obscure that they are enabling the gravest threat to American democracy since the civil war – and, by so doing, encouraging a hellish climate future.


…so…what might those folks be up to?

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Monday that if Republicans win control of House in the midterm elections and put him in charge, he would remove some high-profile Democratic members from their committee roles.

“The Democrats have created a new thing where they’re picking and choosing who could be on the committee,” McCarthy, R-Calif., said in an interview with the conservative outlet Breitbart. “Never in the history have you had the majority tell the minority who could be on committee.”
McCarthy named Reps. Eric Swalwell California; Ilhan Omar of Minnesota; and Adam Schiff of California as Democrats he’d remove from their committee assignments.
“Ilhan Omar should not be serving on Foreign Affairs,” said McCarthy, who seemed to side with fellow Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado after she made comments comparing Omar to a terrorist because of her Muslim faith.


Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, announced on Sunday that he was refusing to cooperate with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, joining a growing list of allies of former President Donald J. Trump who have adopted a hostile stance toward the panel’s questions.
“It amounts to an unprecedented and inappropriate demand to examine the basis for a colleague’s decision on a particular matter pending before the House of Representatives,” Mr. Jordan wrote in a letter to Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and chairman of the committee. “This request is far outside the bounds of any legitimate inquiry, violates core constitutional principles and would serve to further erode legislative norms.”

Mr. Jordan was deeply involved in Mr. Trump’s effort to fight the election results, including participating in planning meetings in November 2020 at Trump campaign headquarters in Arlington, Va., and a meeting at the White House in December 2020.
Tim Mulvey, a spokesman for the House committee, said in response to the letter: “Mr. Jordan has admitted that he spoke directly to President Trump on Jan. 6 and is thus a material witness. Mr. Jordan’s letter to the committee fails to address these facts. Mr. Jordan has previously said that he would cooperate with the committee’s investigation, but it now appears that the Trump team has persuaded him to try to hide the facts and circumstances of Jan. 6.”
Representative Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican who is close to Mr. Jordan, last month refused a voluntary meeting with the committee, calling the panel “illegitimate.”

A growing number of potential witnesses have also sued the committee to try to block its subpoenas for phone and bank records, though more than 300 witnesses have willingly met with the panel’s investigators.


…no surprises, really

Lawyers for former President Donald Trump urged a federal judge Monday to dismiss lawsuits accusing him of conspiring with two far-right extremist groups and others to block the presidential vote count.
Trump’s lawyers urged the judge to throw the cases out, arguing that Trump was acting in his official capacity in urging Congress not to declare Joe Biden the winner of the election, that he did not incite people at a Jan. 6 rally to violence, and that his statements were protected expression under the First Amendment.

Jesse Binnall, a lawyer for the former president, said Trump has absolute immunity from civil lawsuits over his official actions while in office, so he was free as president to advocate for Congress to take action favorable to him in counting the electoral vote, just as he was free to push Congress to pass bills he supported.
Binnall said the court cannot weigh the words the president spoke at the rally, because part of any president’s duty is making public speeches.
Trump’s lawyers also said the lawsuits failed to establish that he was involved in any conspiracy to storm the Capitol.


…which…you know…is transparently bullshit…& all things being equal shouldn’t actually work

Indeed, when we read Trump’s arguments, we experienced a kind of deja-vu. For the past four years, we have successfully represented nine brave men and women who were injured when white supremacists attacked Charlottesville in 2017. Like the suits against Trump, our case — Sines v. Kessler — alleges an illegal conspiracy under the Ku Klux Klan Act. And like the suits against Trump, our case was met with heated insistence from the defendants that there was no coordination and that they sought only to peacefully express their political views.

When the defendants in Charlottesville filed motions to dismiss our claim that they conspired, the judge rejected their arguments. For many of the same reasons, Trump’s arguments before Mehta should meet the same fate — a point that Mehta himself raised at oral argument, where he expressly invoked the Charlottesville case as supporting an inference that Trump engaged in a conspiracy.

[…]our win in the Charlottesville case shows why Trump’s defense is flawed. In fact, the Charlottesville defense lost for the same five reasons Trump should lose now.

First, in both cases, the defendants spoke openly and notoriously about their illegal objectives.[…]

By the same token, Trump provoked his followers to use violence. Months earlier, he told the Proud Boys — a violent extremist group — to “stand back and stand by.” He encouraged rioters to travel to Washington on Jan. 6 — tweeting that it “will be wild!” And he insisted that democracy would fall if his followers did not “fight like hell.” Like those who attacked Charlottesville, Trump described violence as a serious, on-the-table strategy.
Second, in both cases, there was extensive communication with the actual perpetrators of the ensuing violence (or, put another way, the “foot soldiers” in the conspiracy), who understood themselves as following orders. As we proved at trial in Charlottesville, the organizers of the “Unite the Right” rally actively plotted together.

In the same vein, there is now mounting evidence that Trump and his surrogates were deeply entangled with those who attacked the Capitol.[…]As one rioter stated, “Our president wants us here … we wait and take orders from our president.

Third, in both cases, the defendants exercised real-time control over the violence that ensued. In Charlottesville, the defendants gave orders to assemble, charge and retreat, and directed where and how their supporters should march and attack. That is compelling evidence of a conspiracy.

Trump, for his part, claims that he “did not have control over” the insurrectionists’ actions “and was not directing them.” But it was Trump who whipped up an armed, angry crowd into a frenzy and expressly aimed it at the Capitol. Then, while that mob ransacked the building, it responded in real time to his public statements urging violence — including at 2:24 p.m., when he tweeted an attack on Vice President Michael Pence and, as one rioter put it, the mob “went crazy.

Fourth, the aftermath in both cases suggests that the defendants genuinely and enthusiastically approved of an illegal scheme. In Charlottesville, the white supremacist leaders did not express surprise or dismay, as one would expect if their actual goal were a peaceful protest. Instead, they proudly celebrated the death and destruction they had brought about.

Trump’s conduct was even more damning. He failed to deploy force or issue a swift call for order as the Capitol was being ransacked. Although Trump insists that he wanted the insurrectionists to “stay peaceful,” he ended the day with a tweet that unequivocally endorsed their violence: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away … Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!” This is the behavior of a man who owns, adopts and exults in the carnage of the day.

Finally, in both cases, there was a cover-up. The leaders of the attack in Charlottesville concealed their connections and destroyed evidence of their communications. Trump followed a similar script. Since Jan. 6, he and his allies have been engaged in an all-fronts, no-holds-barred effort to bury the truth.


…which isn’t to say it entirely seems safe to assume that those other things are the kind of equal one might like

‘The Timothy McVeighs are still there’: fears over extremism in US military [Guardian]

…being unfit for duty ought to be a serious matter at any level

In November 2008, Pennsylvania Trooper Jay Splain was honored at a county law enforcement banquet as a hero, the police officer of the year. The reason: He had shot and killed a suicidal man who allegedly pointed an Uzi submachine gun at him.

That was the first killing. Trooper Splain went on to fatally shoot three more people in separate incidents, an extraordinary tally for an officer responsible for patrolling largely rural areas with low rates of violent crime. All four who died were troubled, struggling with drugs, mental illness or both. In two cases, including that of the man with the Uzi, family members had called the police for help because their relatives had threatened to kill themselves.

The most recent death was last month, when Trooper Splain shot an unarmed man in his Volkswagen Beetle. After learning that the officer had previously killed three other people over nearly 15 years, the man’s sister, Autumn Krouse, asked, “Why would that person still be employed?”

Trooper Splain is an outlier. Most officers never fire their weapons. Until now, his full record of killings has not been disclosed; the Pennsylvania State Police even successfully fought a lawsuit seeking to identify him and provide other details in one shooting. In the agency’s more than a century of policing, no officer has ever been prosecuted for fatally shooting someone, according to a spokesman. That history aligns with a longstanding pattern across the country of little accountability for police officers’ use of deadly force.
In three of the encounters, the people killed were in vehicles. The trooper shot two unarmed drivers because they were allegedly using their vehicles as weapons, a frequent rationale, The Times found in an earlier investigation that uncovered hundreds of seemingly avoidable killings by the police — often with impunity. Many large police departments ban shooting at moving vehicles because it is very often dangerous, ineffective and unnecessary.
Darrel W. Stephens, a former longtime police chief who now helps run a policing research institute at Florida State University, called the four shootings a “red flag.”

“Four is incredibly unusual,” he said. “That is out there on the edge.” Even if the shootings can be legally justified, he said, the pattern needs to be “examined very closely” to determine why the same officer repeatedly resorted to deadly force. “Because they can, it doesn’t mean they should,” he said.


[…not for nothing…but that one’s not an easy read…& there’s video of one instance…just so’s you know]

…still…here & there folks are actually trying to weed out some of the people who have no business being in their current positions

A group of North Carolina voters told state officials on Monday that they want Republican congressman Madison Cawthorn to be disqualified as a congressional candidate, citing his involvement in the 6 January attack on the Capitol.
Lawyers filed the candidacy challenge on behalf of 11 voters with North Carolina’s board of elections, which oversees a process by which candidate qualifications are scrutinized.

The voters say Cawthorn, who formally filed as a candidate last month, cannot run because he fails to comply with an amendment in the constitution ratified shortly after the civil war.
The written challenge says the events on 6 January “amounted to an insurrection”, and that Cawthorn’s speech at the rally supporting Trump, his other comments, and information in published reports, provide a “reasonable suspicion or belief” that he helped facilitate the insurrection and is thus disqualified.

“Challengers have reasonable suspicion that Representative Cawthorn was involved in efforts to intimidate Congress and the Vice-President into rejecting valid electoral votes and subvert the essential constitutional function of an orderly and peaceful transition of power,” the complaint read.

The complaint went on to detail the ways Cawthorn allegedly promoted the demonstration ahead of time, including him tweeting: “The future of this republic hinges on the actions of a solitary few … It’s time to fight.” The complaint also details reports of Cawthorn meeting with planners of the 6 January demonstration and possibly the Capitol assault.
Ron Fein, legal director of Free Speech for People, a national election and campaign finance reform group backing the challenge to Cawthorn, told the Guardian the complaint was “the first legal challenge to a candidate’s eligibility under the disqualification clause filed since post civil war reconstruction in the 19th century.”

He said: “It sets a line that says that just as the framers of the 14th amendment wrote and intended, you can’t take an oath to support the constitution and then facilitate an insurrection against the United States while expecting to pursue public office.”
The challengers also asked the board to let them question Cawthorn under oath in a deposition before the regional panel convenes, and to subpoena him and others to obtain documents.


…& I’m not about to claim that cutting the heads off the GOP hydra would slay the beast

…but I can’t really see a downside to barring from office people whose agenda boils down to breaking the mechanisms of government…that said…avoiding the could-be-worse scenario may be about as good as it gets on some fronts

A full invasion of Ukraine, with the aim of pacifying the capital, Kyiv, would result in Vladimir Putin starting a war on a scale not seen since Iraq in 2003 – prompting western experts to question whether a lasting Russian victory could be achieved.
Dr Fred Kagan, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said: “This will likely require an invasion on a scale not dissimilar to 2003, somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 troops.”
Kagan, who co-authored a series of reports that led to the 2007 US troop surge in Iraq, said the real challenge for Putin was how an almost certainly hostile Ukraine may be held by the Russians if there was an insurgency after the capture of Kyiv.
Ukraine has an army of 145,000, according to the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS),, but there are also an estimated 300,000 veterans of the low-intensity conflict in the Donbas region of the country that started in 2014. Polling says a third of Ukraine’s citizens would be willing to take up “armed resistance”.

Burnt by the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, Russia generally viewed US attempts to hold countries against insurgents as a mistake. “Putin will have studied what happened to the US in Iraq after 2003. The difficulties of dealing with partisan activity keeps my mind open to the possibility that the Russian president does not intend to invade and conquer Ukraine,” Kagan told the Guardian.
Russia also has to decide how to deal with Ukraine’s cities, principally Kyiv, with a population of 3 million, but also Kharkiv in the north-east, with a population of almost 1.5 million. “Urban warfare is hard, it does fearful damage and Russia struggled with it in Aleppo,” Kagan said, citing Putin’s intervention in Syria’s civil war.

Speculation about Russia’s plans – based in part on apparent leaks published in the German newspaper Bild – suggests the Kremlin would surround Kharkiv and ultimately Kyiv, cutting off supplies, hoping in a medieval fashion they will surrender. That may be less violent but would still undercut the idea of Russia acting as a unifying force.
The risks inherent in invasion and occupation leave experts such as Dr Taras Kuzio, an associate fellow with the Henry Jackson Society,arguing in a newly released paper that an all-out attack “the least likely” of the military scenarios available to Putin. Instead, the Ukraine expert sees three other options.

In the first, Russia simply occupies and annexes the part of the Donbas controlled by separatists, a partial invasion mirroring the 2008 Georgia crisis. That began, Kuzio wrote, after “repeated military provocations” by proxies “led to intervention by Georgian troops”, giving Putin a pretext to respond.

A second is to enlarge the occupied territory with a land corridor to previously annexed Crimea, capturing the coastal city of Mariupol. Russia could also seize other key industrial sites and try to degrade Ukraine’s nearby military. “They could take out Turkish TB2 drones and artillery in the Donbas” in an overt, limited campaign designed to weaken Ukraine, said Lee.

A final option, said Kuzio, is the “revival of the 2014 ‘New Russia’ project” that would try “to cut Ukraine off from the Black Sea”. This would amount to seizing the south, capturing the port of Odessa and perhaps the industrial city of Dnipro.
Of those options, annexing occupied Donbas would almost certainly be popular in Russia, However, it would be an extremely limited response given the Kremlin’s insistence that its chief goal, as most recently repeated by Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, is “the non-expansion of Nato, the non-accession of Ukraine, Georgia and other countries to the alliance” – raising concerns that a military campaign is probable.


The border between Russia and the West has been contested for centuries, and the amount of blood spilled across the lands of that frontier is beyond measure. There is no good reason to spill more of it in 2022.

The Russian president’s motives and calculations around Ukraine at the moment are not entirely clear. What is known from his pronouncements is that he regards Ukraine as a land with inviolable historic and cultural ties to Russia and therefore as an intrinsic sphere of Russian influence. He has also left no doubt that he regards any Western military presence in Ukraine — or Georgia or Belarus, for that matter — and especially membership for any of them in NATO as a direct threat to Russia’s security.

These tenets are not new. Russians have been huffing over Ukraine and chafing over NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe for years. Yet it was Russia (along with Britain and the United States) that agreed in 1994 to respect Ukrainian sovereignty in exchange for Ukraine surrendering an arsenal’s worth of nuclear weapons after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Mr. Putin’s concerns cannot be entirely dismissed. Were Ukraine to join NATO, the alliance would then have a 1,200-mile land border with Russia, a situation no major power would abide, no matter how loudly the Atlantic alliance claims to be purely defensive.[…]

Yet Mr. Putin’s demands for Yalta-style negotiations for a new security order in Europe are a non-starter.[…]

Step back from all of this, and it begins to look as if Russia’s real concern isn’t the placement of weapons on its borders but the very existence of a sovereign Ukrainian democracy with the freedom to chart its own course in the world.
The problem is that there is no certainty about what might persuade Mr. Putin to pull back his soldiers. He is generally regarded in Western capitals as a ruthless autocrat and nasty adversary but also as someone who will not pick a fight he can’t win. Yet after 22 years in power, he is surrounded by sycophants who are more likely to tell him what he wants to hear than to explain a changing reality.

Russia Invites Calamity if It Invades Ukraine [NYT]

…& that’s not to mention how things are going elsewhere

North Korea has test-fired a suspected ballistic missile that may be an improved version of a “hypersonic missile” it launched only last week, in a move designed to increase pressure on the US amid stalled nuclear talks and mounting economic problems for the regime.
The launch drew immediate condemnation from Japan. “That North Korea continues to launch missiles is extremely regrettable,” the prime minister, Fumio Kishida, said.

South Korea’s national security council expressed “strong regret” that the missile test had come at a time of fragile regional stability, and urged North Korea to resume dialogue and cooperation, the presidential Blue House said in a statement.

The launch came soon after the United Nations ended discussions on how to respond to last week’s test of what North Korea claimed was a “hypersonic missile”, which fly at least five times the speed of sound and at relatively low trajectories, making them harder to detect and intercept.
By testing two missiles already this year, North Korea appears to be following up on a recent call from its leader, Kim Jong-un, to bolster the military to counter an unstable international situation amid stalled denuclearisation talks with the US.
The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said in Monday’s statement that the North’s missile tests “increase the risk of miscalculation and escalation and pose a significant threat to regional stability”.

Some analysts believe Kim has used missile tests as a distraction as he attempts to address serious domestic problems, including food shortages and economic damage stemming from a slump in cross-border trade with China during the coronavirus pandemic.
South Korean military officials have cast doubts on the capabilities of the “hypersonic missile” North Korea claimed to have test-fired on Wednesday, saying it appeared to represent limited progress beyond Pyongyang’s existing ballistic missile technology.


…in that kind of context it’s tempting to call this sort of thing the news-cycle equivalent of light relief

Boris Johnson has another serious headache, after British news media reported Monday that 10 Downing Street may have hosted yet another party during a strict coronavirus lockdown.

First there were reports of a Christmas party that took place in December 2020, as hospitals filled with the sick and dying. Then the Guardian published a photograph of the prime minister and his wife in their sunny garden, alongside 17 staffers and half-empty bottles of wine, from May 15, 2020, when gatherings of more than two people were banned in outdoor public places.

Now ITV News reports that it has a copy of an email invitation for a second garden party, this one on May 20, 2020, from Johnson’s private secretary, Martin Reynolds, to more than 100 staff members at Downing Street. The location, like the White House, serves as both office and residence for the country’s leader.

“Hi all, after what has been an incredibly busy period it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No 10 garden this evening,” the email reads. “Please join us from 6pm and bring your own booze!”

ITV News reports that “around 40 staff gathered in the garden that evening, eating picnic food and drinking. Crucially, they included the Prime Minister and his wife Carrie Johnson.”
On its broadcast on Monday, ITV News reminded viewers that on May 20, 2020, the same day as the BYOB invite, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told the public at a press briefing: “You can meet one person outside of your household in an outdoor, public place provided that you stay two meters apart.”

Also at the time, police were breaking up gatherings of young people meeting in parks.

A spokesman for Downing Street said earlier that no rules were broken at the May 15 gathering, as the garden is private, not a public space, and that this was not a party but a “work meeting” that was deemed “essential.”

Many Britons mocked that assertion.


…but…there’s a case to be made that it’s more by way of a distraction from the shit those britons ought to be at least as furious about

Yet Mr. Johnson is at least being consistent — not only with his conduct throughout the pandemic, where lockdowns were a last resort and restrictions were to be shelved as soon as possible, but also with the political platform that elevated him to the highest office. After all, this is the man who rose to power — bringing about Brexit in the process — on the promise to restore “freedom” and “take back control.”

Undeterred by the pandemic, Mr. Johnson has been quietly pursuing that agenda. But instead of reforming the country’s creaking democracy and shoring up Britons’ rights, he and his lieutenants are doing the opposite: seizing control for themselves and stripping away the freedoms of others. A raft of bills likely to pass this year will set Britain, self-professed beacon of democracy, on the road to autocracy. Once in place, the legislation will be very hard to shift. For Mr. Johnson, it amounts to a concerted power grab.

It’s also an answer. Mr. Johnson is a political chameleon, and his true ideological bent — liberal? one-nation Tory? English nationalist? — has long been a subject of speculation. Now he has, beyond any doubt, revealed who he really is: a brattish authoritarian who puts his personal whims above anything else.[…]

Amid the chaos wrought by the pandemic, Brexit tumult and increasing questions about the stability of Mr. Johnson’s individual position, the full scale of the impending assault on civil liberties has — understandably — not yet come into focus for much of the British public. The list of legislation is long and deliberately overwhelming. But pieced together, the picture is bleakly repressive.

[…there are details offered of some of the key elements of this in legislative terms…but I’ve probably gone on too long already today…so you’ll have to click through for those]

It’s a truism that nations sleepwalk into tyranny, and England — the most politically powerful of the nations that make up Britain — is no exception. For decades it has possessed all the necessary ingredients: ever more spiteful nationalism, press fealty sold to the highest bidder and a fervent, misplaced belief that authoritarianism could never set up shop here, because we simply wouldn’t let it.

In this event, though, concerted opposition to Mr. Johnson’s plans has not materialized. Establishment politics have been no match for the determination of Mr. Johnson and his allies: A hefty and largely supportive Conservative majority means that even when the Labour Party has decided to oppose legislation, its votes have barely counted. And despite valiant efforts by a coalition of grass-roots groups and the initial groundswell of the “Kill the Bill” protests, a mass movement opposing these bills has failed to come together. Instead, a miasma of grim inevitability has settled in.

That’s dangerous, not least because this authoritarian assault is so comprehensive that once settled as law, it will prove very tricky to unpick. Like many leaders who seek to transcend the constraints of democracy, Mr. Johnson may not foresee a future where he isn’t the one calling the shots. But the miserable shadow his power grab will cast over Britain is likely to last far longer than the tenure of the would-be “world king” himself.


…so…as ever…I’m gonna need more coffee if I’m gonna face the day…& I’ll try to find some tunes to leave down here that might be a more pleasant distraction from all the shit I probably ought to be paying attention to



  1. The Times article on Jim Jordan refusing to testify is a bad sign — of how the Times is covering the issue, more than Jordan’s refusal.

    Jim Jordan was never going to testify. And the issue of a subpoena that the Times brings up is irrelevant — there is no way force someone to give up their 5th Amendment rights.

    The Times knows this, and they know the background — the pile of evidence surrounding Jordan is growing, and he’s worried about self incrimination. Writing this up simply at the most superficial level would be like reporting the scoring highlights of the coming week’s NFL games and never talking about the fact that they’re playoffs, not some random week three game.

    There is no neutral way to cover this issue. And there are hints that at lower levels, reporters are recognizing that the issue isn’t GOP vs. Democrats, it’s authoritarianism vs. democracy. But the Times machinery is clearly siding with the fake neutralist, partisan mindset.

    • …the fact that he asks a question & then talks over the response ought to be telling…he frames them as questions because that’s the accepted “gotcha” format but he has no interest in the response because he just wants his “gotcha” soundbite on the record so he & others can quote that part as though it being in the record confers some mystical element of truth to what he’s saying

      …I say ought to be…because it absolutely is telling…but won’t be since the very fact that it is is why that part will be edited out of any & every use of that shit that paul & his ilk will put it to

      …they really ought to mute the other mics while the response is given…it would save a lot of time given that he just repeats shit he’s already spouted when he tries to drown out what fauci says in response

      …if there’s a need to interject that couldn’t simply be a follow up question let them put a hand up & wait for the person chairing the discussion to give them the nod

      …I swear listening to debates involving politicians is almost universally disheartening…so few of them seem to understand the concept of a conversation…much less a dialectic approach…although even the ones that clearly aren’t listening to anyone else & just using the time other people are talking to think about what they want to say next without giving a damn if it’s relevant are arguably better than people like paul with their “blah, blah, blah – I can’t hear you” bullshit

    • …so, I know it’s a reference to a different guy…but I feel like he must say this to himself a lot

      …& has been for a long time

  2. haha!


    i mean…covid conspiracy theorist willem engel hit by train would have been an even better headline…but i guess ill take what i can get

    and for the daily gubment decisions i dont understand


    sure lets keep everyone locked down except the group we arent vaccinating yet

    • …thank you kindly…I think I might have come across it at some point but I don’t know that I could claim it’s one I check regularly

      …there are a lot of things I guess I could say that about…like that stonekettle blog or empty wheel or…well…yeah…it’s possible there may not be enough hours in the day…or I need to learn to read faster?

    • No shit.


      Wanna make a stupid fucking choice that gets a lot of people sick then I’m okay with that. Just hope it doesn’t backfire and be the wedge to privatize healthcare.

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