Weekend Open Thread
[guest post by Dana]
Like many of you, it’s just been gutting to see so many Ukrainian children caught up in Putin’s war. Yet in the turmoil, there are some positive reports. Hundreds of orphans – the youngest just 35 days old – were evacuated from a Jewish orphanage in Odessa, another group of 54 evacuated orphans have just arrived in the UK, and it has been reported that “a team of US military veterans is helping to organise safe passage for the estimated 200,000 children in Ukraine’s orphanages and foster homes”. God bless the courageous people working around the clock to get these children out of harm’s way. CNBC has a list of the top charities helping the Ukrainian people. Charity Navigator is a handy tool to use to research any charities you are considering. I’ve relied on their help for years and have never been steered wrong.
I just saw this:
The Russian military has reportedly destroyed a brand new children’s rehabilitation center in Mariupol. https://t.co/cdvYqomQMk pic.twitter.com/m8QqzHjTz3
— Kevin Rothrock (@KevinRothrock) March 25, 2022
I ran the original post through a translator and it said:
In the fall of 2021, the Children’s Rehabilitation Center was opened in Mariupol after reconstruction. We built this modern medical facility together with the European Investment Bank. A place that was designed to save children’s lives, destroyed by those who decided to forcibly “liberate” us. Obviously, to liberate from peace, from development, from such modern rehabilitation centers. Free from the very right to life.
For the occupiers there is no limit to cynicism, there is no limit to cruelty. They don’t care who is in their sights – people, houses, kindergartens, hospitals or the Drama Theater [Ed. 300 killed in Russian bombing].
And while the enemy indifferently destroys Mariupol, the entire civilized world must show the highest degree of consolidation to stop evil. After all, evil never stops itself. And if it is not stopped in Ukraine now, it will come to every European home.
There is so much happening out there now that it’s hard for me to keep up. Consider the following news items mini-appetizers to follow up on if you find them tasty. Here we go!
First news item
Oh dear, Ginni Thomas appears to be bonkers:
In the fall of 2020, after Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in the presidential election, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, repeatedly urged White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to attempt to overturn the election results, according to text messages obtained by congressional investigators.
“Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!” Thomas wrote to Meadows on Nov. 10 after the election was officially called for Biden. “You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”
It gets even worse. pic.twitter.com/U90PRZobar
— The Republican Accountability Project (@AccountableGOP) March 25, 2022
And, as a reminder:
In January, the court declined to block the Jan. 6 committee from obtaining Trump White House records over the objection of only one justice: Clarence Thomas.
“There were some eyebrows raised when Justice Thomas was that lone vote,” said Kate Shaw, ABC News Supreme Court analyst and Cardozo Law professor. “But he did not explain himself, so we don’t actually know why he wished to take up the case.”
Steve Vladeck informs us that there are rules in place about justices avoiding conflicts of interest:
The problem, of course, is the absence of an enforcement mechanism.
That doesn’t alter the analysis of *whether* a Justice should’ve recused from a particular case, but it reinforces the need for #SCOTUS to be subject to a more meaningful — and enforceable — set of ethics rules.
— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) March 25, 2022
Also, Justice Thomas has now been released from the hospital.
Second news item
Sen. Joe Manchin says he’s a yes vote on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson:
“After meeting with her, considering her record, and closely monitoring her testimony and questioning before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, I have determined I intend to vote for her nomination to serve on the Supreme Court,” Manchin said in a statement.
Manchin added that Jackson’s “wide array of experiences” in the judicial system provide her with a unique perspective she will bring to the court.
“I am confident Judge Jackson is supremely qualified and has the disposition necessary to serve as our nation’s next Supreme Court Justice,” he wrote.
Third news item
On the non-diversity of diversity:
Similar to the reduction in the types of ideas that are acceptable to teach, the pedagogical techniques that educators are permitted to utilize are becoming less diverse. Educators who don’t adjust their content and assessment strategies to fit with the inclusivity agenda risk pushback from students and their institutions. Because continued employment is increasingly tied to student evaluations, which assess satisfaction rather than learning, those who seek to challenge students to grow rather than stagnate are forced to adjust their practice or leave the university.
Contrary to its intended aims, the inclusivity agenda works to disadvantage all students. Those who came to the classroom equipped to deal with educational hurdles become bored and disengage as their dissatisfaction with completing simple assignments develops into the realization that they have spent their time at university in vapid pursuits. And those who came to the classroom ill-equipped to mount these hurdles will leave still disadvantaged, gaining none of the experience necessary to develop that which they lacked.
Fourth news item
Putin whines about being Russia being canceled, points to J.K.Rowling’s experience:
There is also a campaign against Russian composers including Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff, the Russian president added in a bizarre rant during a televised meeting with cultural figures.
He appeared to be referring in part to the cancellation of events involving Russian music in some Western countries since his invasion of Ukraine.
“Today they are trying to cancel a whole thousand-year culture – our people,” Mr Putin commented.
“They are banning Russian writers and books.”
Regarding JK Rowling, he said the Harry Potter author was cancelled “just because she didn’t satisfy the demands of gender rights”.
However, Rowling wasn’t having it:
Critiques of Western cancel culture are possibly not best made by those currently slaughtering civilians for the crime of resistance, or who jail and poison their critics. #IStandWithUkraine https://t.co/aNItgc5aiW
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) March 25, 2022
It’s really not hard to puzzle out Putin’s current strategery:
Putin is desperate for western allies. So here he is trying to woo American right-wingers by imposing a familiar culture-war template on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. If the people leading the charge against Russia are the same people who hate J.K. Rowling for believing that women and trans women are different, doesn’t that tell you whom you should be rooting for in this war?
By which he means “the side that’s bombing Ukrainian children around the clock.”
Fifth news item
NYC Mayor Eric Adams exempts select groups from vaccine mandate:
Mayor Eric Adams exempted the city’s athletes and performers from the Big Apple’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate on Thursday following weeks of pressure after it kept Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving from playing in home games — and was expected to block some baseball players from taking the field next month.
…Adams said Thursday that he has signed the order. The exemption was effective immediately.
“Being healthy is not just about being physically healthy, but being economically healthy,” he said.
Adams also prefaced his announcement by saying: “I’m going to make some tough choices. People are not going to agree with some of them. I must move this city forward.
“Generals lead from the front. I was not elected to be fearful, but to be fearless.”
Among those who blasted Adams’s decision was the city’s next-highest elected official, fellow Democrat and City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams of Queens, who voiced “serious concerns” over what she called “a step away from following sensible, public health-driven policies that prioritize equity.”
“I’m worried about the increasingly ambiguous messages that are being sent to New Yorkers about public health during this continuing pandemic,” the council speaker said.
“This exemption sends the wrong message that higher-paid workers and celebrities are being valued as more important than our devoted civil servants, which I reject.”
Mayor Adams is facing considerable backlash from various worker groups:
But unions representing other workers, including police officers, firefighters and teachers, are accusing the mayor of a double standard. And in some cases they are threatening legal action.
Adams says he made the decision to help the economy.
“By putting our home teams on equal playing field, we increase their chances of winning and then has a real impact on our city. This is just not fans in the stands but it is people in the stores.”
The mayor is now under fire from virtually every major municipal union.
Unions representing teachers, police, correction officers, EMTs and paramedics want the exemptions extended to city workers.
They’re also calling for fired workers to be called back or compensated for their lost wage.
Sixth news item
U.S. defense officials told reporters this week that the Pentagon assesses that Russia has launched more than 1,100 missiles of all kinds since the war began. The U.S. officials have so far not said how many of those hit their targets and how many failed to do so.
Citing U.S. intelligence, three U.S. officials said the United States estimated that Russia’s failure rate varied day-to-day, depended on the type of missile being launched, and could sometimes exceed 50%. Two of them said it reached as high as 60%.
One of the officials said the intelligence showed that Russia’s air-launched cruise missiles had a failure rate in the 20% to 60% range, depending on the day.
Russia had lost 530 tanks as of March 24, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including some that were captured by Ukrainian forces.
The ministry also said that more than 15,800 Russian military personnel have been killed since the beginning of the conflict.
Forbes, citing Oryx, a military website that monitors open-source information on social media to work out losses of military equipment during the war, on Friday said that Ukraine has lost at least 74 tanks since Russia started the war on February 24, but it had captured at least 118 Russian tanks. This means that Ukraine has more tanks than it did at the start of the conflict.
Of the 74 lost tanks Ukraine has lost, Russia has captured at least 38, according to Oryx.
Seventh news item
Russian colonel killed by his own forces:
A Russian brigade commander has been killed by his own forces in another indication of boiling discontent among Russian forces deployed in and around Ukraine, Western officials said.
The colonel, commander of the 37th Motor Rifle Brigade, was run over by an armored vehicle and suffered grave injuries to both legs.
“The brigade commander was killed by his own troops, we believe, as a consequence of the scale of losses that have been taken by his brigade,” one official said. “We believe that he was killed by his own troops deliberately. We believe that he was run over by his own troops.”
Eighth news item
A sanctioned Russian oligarch has said he’s struggling to pay bills and isn’t sure if he’ll be able to employ a cleaner or driver.
In an interview with the Financial Times published Friday, Petr Aven, whose wealth is estimated by Bloomberg to be around $5.6 billion, said: “We don’t understand how to survive.”
In the interview, Aven also asked the question: “Will I be allowed to have a cleaner, or a driver?” and added: “I don’t drive a car… maybe my stepdaughter will drive.”
Aven was sanctioned by the EU on February 28 and described as “one of Vladimir Putin’s closest oligarchs.” He was also sanctioned by the UK on March 15 because of his complicity in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said at the time.
Have a great weekend!