Weekend Open Thread
[guest post by Dana]
[Ed. I have just been informed by a smirking direct report that today is Thursday, not Friday! Thus, I am a day early with the Weekend Open Thread. A long vacation coupled with a time change has clearly left me confused….]
A lot of newsy things happened this week besides the midterm election, so I’ll throw some of those interesting items in the open thread too.
First news item
In Iran, a good sign as female morality police members waking up:
But there are plenty of other videos online that show protesters taking on the regime’s female spies and supporters joining the protesters. In one famous incident, a popular Iranian actress who previously backed the wearing of hijabs took it off. Actress Fatemeh Motamed-Arya was one of the 50 hijab-wearing women on a billboard put up by regime-friendly media on a public square. It was titled “Women of my land” and was intended to show support among women for mandatory hijab. But Motamed-Arya refused to be part of the billboard. “I am Mahsa’s mother. I am Sarina [Esmaeilzadeh]’s mother. I am the mother of all the children who were killed in this land,’’ she said in reference to girls killed in recent protests. “I am the mother of all the land of Iran, not a woman in the land of murderers.” In another video, a veiled woman who abused a woman over her hijab was forced out of the bus by other passengers. In yet another video, a girl chases away a veiled woman filming unveiled female protesters. (The regime’s local female spies usually hand over such clips to morality police to help them identify dissidents.)
Shams told Foreign Policy that according to her conversations with eye witnesses, there is growing discontent among female members of the morality police. A girl who was arrested and is known to Shams told her that a female morality police officer helped her escape. Shams added that the same girl said a lot of women who have joined the Basij are on the verge of “leaving their positions” but find it hard to do so because they can’t financially support themselves. “The current regime promises a monthly income and security to the members of Basij and, by doing so, recruit many young women who end up serving as mouthpieces and oppressive forces of the regime in the society,” said Shams.
Second news item
KFC makes a gigantic blunder, apologies follow, blamed it on an error in the system:
KFC has apologized after sending a promotional message to customers in Germany, urging them to commemorate Kristallnacht with cheesy chicken…The fast food chain sent an app alert on Wednesday, saying: “It’s memorial day for Kristallnacht! Treat yourself with more tender cheese on your crispy chicken. Now at KFCheese!”
Around an hour later another message was sent with an apology, according to the Bild newspaper.
Germany takes the 9 November anniversary of Kristallnacht (the night of broken glass) seriously, with numerous memorial events and discussions scheduled to reflect the Nazis’ murder of more than six million Jewish people.
Third news item
Why was Putin invited in the first place:
Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia next week, an Indonesian government official said Thursday, avoiding a possible confrontation with the United States and its allies over his war in Ukraine.
Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the chief of support for G-20 events, said Putin’s decision not to come was “the best for all of us.”
Fourth news item
Further humiliation as Russia retreats from illegally annexed Kherson:
Russia has ordered a retreat from the key southern city of Kherson, the only regional capital it has captured since February’s invasion, in a dramatic strategic setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In the face of Ukrainian advances in the region, Russian troops across the Kherson region will withdraw from the west bank of the Dnipro River, an area that includes Kherson city, Russian state media reported Wednesday.
The order came at a meeting in Moscow between Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, Gen. Sergei Surovikin, as Ukrainian forces approach the city from two directions.
However, Ukrainian officials are taking a wait-and-see position:
“Actions speak louder than words. We see no signs that Russia is leaving Kherson without a fight,” Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser in the Office of the President, tweeted.
Ukraine “is liberating territories based on intelligence data, not staged TV statements,” Podolyak added.
Fifth news item
Xi has used the 20th Party Congress’s “work report” (a speech the CCP’s top leader delivers at each congress outlining the ideological and policy rules of the road for the next five years) to demonstrate to the party and the world that China now has an integrated national and international vision of what he calls “Chinese-style modernization.” This vision calls for decoupling economic modernity from Western political and social norms and underlying cultural beliefs. It offers a new international order anchored in Chinese rather than U.S. geopolitical power. And it involves creating a set of institutions and norms that are compatible with China’s own interests and values rather than with those of the West. It is a Manichaean worldview, pitting China’s blend of Confucian and Marxist-Leninist values against the liberal democracy and liberal internationalism of the West and some (but not all) of the rest of the world. As this congress made clear, Xi wants to demonstrate that the CCP under his leadership has both the audacity and the capacity to translate this bold new vision into reality.
Sixth news item
In his role as head of the party, Donald Trump has made life extremely difficult — and extremely unpleasant — for anyone who does not agree with him completely, and for anyone who decides to run for office without his imprimatur. And people have noticed. Doug Ducey, a product of the 2014 wave, decide not to run for the Senate in Arizona. Chris Sununu, a product of the 2016 wave, decide not to run for the Senate in New Hampshire. Larry Hogan, a product of the 2014 wave, decide not to run for the Senate in Maryland. Why didn’t Cory Gardner, a 2014 winner, passed on a run in Colorado. Pat Toomey retired. Rob Portman retired. Surely, these decisions are not all accidental. Certainly, they are enough to form a pattern. Ducey, Sununu, Hogan, Gardner, Toomey, and Portman are all intelligent people who may well have reasonably concluded that they didn’t want their lives ruined by challenging a Trump-backed candidate in a primary, or by being an elected officeholder in a party still overly in thrall to his whims. As Joe O’Dea found out, as Brian Kemp found out, and as Ron DeSantis is about to find out, the only thing that ever prevents Trump from throwing grenades at his own side is his current mood. Why bother?
The GOP should have been taking advantage of these figures for years to come. Instead, Donald Trump kept them on the sidelines — and, even worse, pushed for replacements chosen from the third-tier of possibilities, rather than the top. That’s a choice, and one that Republican voters ought to consider as they decide whether working hard to put good people into office is worth their effort and their care.
Seventh news item
In the words of Trump himself this morning:
Remember, I am a “Stable Genius.”
Eighth news item
Kremlin buddies and the midterm elections:
The midterm elections in the United States were a hot topic in Moscow. Convinced that the “red wave” was coming, Russian propagandists rushed to take credit for the anticipated landslide victory that would ensure a Republican majority in Congress and Senate.
On Tuesday, Russia’s Tucker Carlson, top propagandist Vladimir Solovyov, greeted his audience by wishing them a “Happy Interference in the U.S. Election Day.” Yevgeny Prigozhin, known as “Putin’s chef,” who was indicted as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference, likewise decided to publicly fess up to the allegations he previously denied.
This plan to discredit the U.S. elections and convince the Republicans that the mighty Kremlin hand covertly helped push them to victory had backfired. On Wednesday, state TV propagandists were scratching their heads about the wave that turned out to be but a trickle. During the broadcast of 60 Minutes, host Olga Skabeeva asked an expert: “How are our guys in America?” Political scientist Vladimir Kornilov clarified with a chuckle: “Our Republicans.”
Dmitry Abzalov, Director of the Center for Strategic Communications, noted that the outcome was much different than the predictions: “Even the Democrats predicted the red wave that will mow everything down, but it turned out to be quite modest.” Political scientist Vladimir Kornilov said, “The worst fears of the Democrats are now behind them. They easily won the states they were most concerned about.”
Ninth news item
Biden and Xi to meet in person:
At a news conference Wednesday, Biden told reporters that he would use a meeting with Xi to “lay out what each of our red lines are, understand what he believes to be in the critical national interests of China, what I know to be the critical interests of the United States, and to determine whether or not they conflict with one another.”
Biden said he also anticipated discussing issues related to Taiwan, the self-ruling democracy of 24 million people that Beijing claims as its territory, trade, nuclear weapons and China’s relationship with other countries in the region.
[A] senior administration official said Biden would “be honest about a number of our concerns,” including the increased Chinese military activity near the Taiwan Strait, China’s “harmful economic practices” and human rights violations. They will also discuss their policies toward North Korea and Ukraine, the official said.
Tenth news item
You know who to thank/blame for this:
Democrat Hillary Scholten will represent Michigan’s third congressional district. The Grand Rapids area seat was held by Peter Meijer, the freshman Republican who defeated Scholten in 2020 and soon thereafter voted to impeach Donald Trump for his role in instigating the Capitol riot.
As a result, Trump had a vendetta against Meijer. He found a willing challenger for him in John Gibbs, a conspiracy-mongering former Trump administration employee. With a cynical strategic assist from Democrats, who boosted him in the primary with ‘attack’ ads that functionally bolstered his conservative credentials, Gibbs narrowly prevailed over Meijer in August’s primary.
Does Trump’s decision — prioritizing personal vengeance over electoral success — make him more politically viable? Or does it make him a loser? Does any of this make him a more worthy object of Republican voters’ support and trust? Or does it provide yet more evidence that Trump has failed the very voters he claims to represent by pretending that his grievances are equivalent to their interests?
Apparently, to a large swath of Republicans, the risk (and reality) of having a Democrat win a race is more perferable than having a Republican with integrity retain the contested seat.
I realize it’s just a typo, but it nonetheless made me laugh:
I’m sure our enemies are quacking in their boots while we are still over here trying to count ballots.
— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene🇺🇸 (@RepMTG) November 10, 2022
If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck!
Always ducking the truth!
What a quack!
(Apologies. I got a little quarried away there…)
Have a great weekend.