Patterico's Pontifications

12/31/2022

Pope Benedict XVI, 1927-2022

Filed under: General — JVW @ 10:51 am



[guest post by JVW]

It must have been a hard act to follow, replacing a Pontiff so charismatic, so brilliant, so influential that calls for his canonization began immediately after his death. But Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger stepped into the role and proved more than worthy to the task, continuing with his predecessor’s clear-eyed reading of the gospel and no-nonsense approach to the catechism. Though it was clear that his health had been declining, the death today of Pope Benedict XVI on the last day of the year leaves so many of the faithful wondering if the Church of Rome will go the way of so many other traditional denominations and replace the teachings of scripture with trendy progressive social justice concerns.

Born during the heyday of the Weimar Republic in a small village in Bavaria, Benedict will be the last Pope — and likely the last Vatican figure — to have any personal involvement with the Second World War (Pope Francis, born in 1936, is an Argentine, and Argentina remained neutral during the War up until twelve days before Hitler killed himself). Young Joseph Ratzinger was naturally forced into the Hitler Youth as a boy, and watched the Nazis round up and kill his special needs cousin in nasty pursuit of their evil eugenics policy, no doubt strengthening his belief in the sanctity of all life at all stages of development. He was forced into wartime service as a sixteen-year-old and assigned to the infantry, deserting his unit in the final months of the war only to end up in an Allied prisoner of war camp anyway. Upon his release he entered the seminary and was ordained a priest in 1951.

A man of vast intellect, Father Ratzinger completed a doctoral dissertation on Saint Augustine of Hippo, the patron saint of brewers. (One of my favorite aspects of Pope Benedict is that he was often pictured drinking beer.) His obvious intelligence and interest in philosophical as well as doctrinaire questions led him to a life as an academic, with Father Ratzinger serving in posts at several German seminaries and universities. At one point he was apparently offered a position as a professor at Notre Dame University, which he declined partly because he didn’t believe his English was up to snuff. In 1977, Pope Paul VI named Father Ratzinger the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, and a few months later he was named Cardinal Priest of Santa Maria Consolatrice al Tiburtino in Rome, marking him as a rising star within the Vatican.

Three years into his own Pontificate, Pope Saint John Paul II appointed Cardinal Ratzinger to the office of Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which he would hold for nearly a quarter-century up until his own appointment to the Chair of Saint Peter. In this role Cardinal Ratzinger enforced discipline on Church theologians, working with his boss to reject heresies such as attempts to diminish the role of Jesus Christ or Mary the Mother of God among the faithful, and to point out the weaknesses and contradictions inherent in Liberation Theology, a Marxist-inspired doctrine then popular among Third World leftists. He chaired the committee convened by Pope Saint John Paul II to create and publish The Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1992, which put to rest many of the questions that the reforms of Vatican II had brought about and reminded the faithful that salvation could be found in Jesus Christ alone.

When John Paul II died in 2005, conservative Catholics such as I feared that the great man’s successor would be a weak imitation of the most consequential Pope of the previous 500 years. At the time, progressive cardinals pushed forward Cardinal Jose Mario Bergoglio of Argentina as their choice, and the fear was that there would be a clear backsliding from the robust theology that John Paul II and Ratzinger had emphasized towards a more lenient and malleable theology that the progressives desired. In retrospect, we were clearly lucky to have followed Pope Saint John Paul II with Pope Benedict XVI for the next eight years, especially in light of the confusion that the current Holy Father often causes among the faithful.

His predecessor had changed the nature of the Bishop of Rome by traveling around the world, meeting Catholics in their own lands rather than summoning them to Rome. While this certainly paid great dividends in rejuvenating the Church, especially in countries in Africa and Asia where the Church was still nascent, it made the job quite rigorous and difficult for an 86-year-old man. Accordingly, Pope Benedict XVI took the extraordinary and rare step of retiring in office and vacating the Chair of Saint Peter once he felt he could no longer bring enough energy to the job. As someone who has long bored readers here with my lamentations against those who refuse to relinquish power well after their effectiveness has diminished, you can imagine how much respect I have for Pope Benedict XVI’s decision.

Not everything about Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate went perfectly. Like his predecessor, he seems to have had difficulty grasping the enormity of the sexual abuse scandals among the clergy, though he did have the good sense to retire the fiendish Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, only to see his successor rehabilitate him and return him to the fold. And his staunch defense of traditionalism in the Church, while welcome by conservative Catholics like me, was certainly off-putting to progressive Catholics. Pope Benedict XVI seems to have lacked Pope Saint John Paul II’s light touch and ability to put a compassionate face on conservative policy, and it wasn’t surprising that progressive cardinals were allowed to choose his successor. But as we say goodbye to him and commend him to the God he so faithfully served, we can be thankful for both a Joseph Ratzinger and a Benedict XVI who reinvigorated the Church in the post-War and post-Vatican II eras, and have left us with strong defenses of the faith and a better understanding of the Salvation of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Kathryn Lopez at NRO has her usual beautiful and moving tribute to the man, aptly titled “God Was Good to Us Giving Us Benedict XVI.” Jay Nordlinger reminds us that Pope Benedict XVI admired and respected America as a force for good in the world. Luther Ray Abel points out that Pope Benedict XVI had a great deal of affection for Protestant theology, even if he didn’t fully agree with it.

– JVW

12/30/2022

Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:56 am



[guest post by Dana]

Happy weekend and Happy New Year! I don’t have the wherewithal to compile a Best Of and Worst Of 2022 post. Feel free to share your take on the closing year and hopes for the new year, or anything else that interests you.

Here are a few news items. Ready or not, here we go.

First news item

Trump’s tax returns released:

Trump and his wife…paid $0 in income taxes for 2020, according to a report released late Tuesday by the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation. The nonpartisan committee’s findings also raised several red flags related to the filings, namely Trump’s carryover losses, loans to his children that may or may not also be considered taxable gifts, and deduction-related tax write-offs.

That year, as the COVID pandemic hit, the Trumps reported a loss of $4.8 million. For 2018 and 2019, the then-president’s reported income increased and they paid approximately $1.1 million in federal taxes each year.

What’s more, the Internal Revenue Service only started to audit Trump’s 2015 tax filings on April 3, 2019, more than two years into his presidency…

Second news item

Two despicable peas in a pod meet:

China and Russia should “strengthen strategic coordination” and “inject more stability into the world,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin via video link on Friday, according to Chinese state media Xinhua.

China is “ready to work” with Russia to “stand against hegemonism and power politics” to oppose unilateralism, protectionism and “bullying,” as well as to safeguard sovereignty, security, as well as international equity and justice, Xi said, according to Chinese state media.

Third news item

Read Sudden Russian Death Syndrome:

Here is a list of people you should not currently want to be: a Russian sausage tycoon, a Russian gas-industry executive, the editor in chief of a Russian tabloid, a Russian shipyard director, the head of a Russian ski resort, a Russian aviation official, or a Russian rail magnate. Anyone answering to such a description probably ought not stand near open windows, in almost any country, on almost every continent.

Over the weekend, Pavel Antov, the aforementioned sausage executive, a man who had reportedly expressed a dangerous lack of enthusiasm for Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine, was found dead at a hotel in India, just two days after one of his Russian travel companions died at the same hotel. Antov was reported to have fallen to his death from a hotel window. The meat millionaire and his also-deceased friend are the most recent additions to a macabre list of people who have succumbed to Sudden Russian Death Syndrome, a phenomenon that has claimed the lives of a flabbergastingly large number of businessmen, bureaucrats, oligarchs, and journalists. The catalog of these deaths—which includes alleged defenestrations, suspected poisonings, suspicious heart attacks, and supposed suicides—is remarkable for the variety of unnatural deaths contained within as well as its Russian-novel length.

Fourth news item

It’s done:

President Joe Biden on Thursday signed a $1.7 trillion federal spending bill that includes a number of administration priorities and officially avoids a government shutdown, ending what he called a “year of historic progress.”

“It’ll invest in medical research, safety, veteran health care, disaster recovery, (Violence Against Women Act) funding – and gets crucial assistance to Ukraine,” Biden wrote in a tweet.

He added: “Looking forward to more in 2023.”

The legislation includes $772.5 billion for nondefense discretionary programs and $858 billion in defense funding…package includes roughly $45 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine and NATO allies, an overhaul of the electoral vote-counting law, protections for pregnant workers, an enhancement to retirement savings rules and a ban on TikTok on federal devices…will provide a boost in spending for disaster aid, college access, child care, mental health and food assistance, more support for the military and veterans and additional funds for the US Capitol Police…And the legislation contains several major Medicaid provisions, notably one that could disenroll up to 19 million people from the nation’s health insurance program for low-income Americans.

Fifth news item

Iranian protests and the survival of the IRGC:

It was an understandable impulse to wonder whether Iran’s protest movement might continue to grow until it reached a threshold that would cause the country’s security forces to back down and side with the demonstrators over the regime. Afshon Ostovar, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, explains why this expectation was always rooted in naivete. Iran’s most powerful security force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was designed precisely not to back down in such a situation.

During the Iranian Revolution of 1979, Ostovar explains, “it was the Iranian military’s decision to declare neutrality and stand down that signaled the end of the Pahlavi dynasty, setting Iran on a new course.” But by demanding an end to the Islamic system, Iran’s current “protesters challenge the IRGC’s very raison d’être. The IRGC cannot exist under a form of government that is no longer defined by the Islamic Revolution. If the current order is overturned, the IRGC will have no place in whatever comes next.” Which is why they will fight to protect it to the very end.

Sixth news item

What a neat surprise :

Snowbirds are a common sight in Southern California in wintertime — except when they’re actually a bird. A snowy owl to be exact.

Crowds of bird-watchers have been showing up regularly in an Orange County neighborhood to gawk at a snowy owl, a species normally found around the Arctic, Canada and several northern U.S. states.

It’s current home is a rooftop perch in the balmy city of Cypress.

Nice photo of the visitor at the link.

Seventh news item

Of course they’re keeping quiet:

Weeks after winning a district that helped Republicans secure a razor-thin majority in the US House of Representatives, the congressman-elect George Santos is under investigation in New York after acknowledging lying about his heritage, education and professional pedigree as he campaigned for office.

Santos has conceded he lied about his background, but there is also growing scrutiny over his campaign spending and whether it ran afoul of campaign finance laws.

Santos spent more than $40,000 on air travel alone, a staggering amount that outpaced other congressional candidates and even leading members of Congress, the New York Times reported…Nick LaLota, another Republican congressman-elect from Long Island, spent $3,000 on airfare, according to the Times.

There are also questions about whether Santos used campaign funds to pay for personal expenses including housing, the Times reported. Dozens of items listed on his campaign disclosures are for $199.99, one cent less than the amount required to keep receipts, according to the paper.

The top House Republican, Kevin McCarthy, and his leadership team have kept silent about Santos, who remains set to take the oath of office on Tuesday even after publicly admitting to fabricating swaths of his biography…Santos has shown no signs of stepping aside, punting the decision to hold him accountable to his party and Congress, where he could face an ethics investigation.

Before Big Media reported on the questionable claism of George Santos, a small local outlet sounded the alarm about the Republican.

MISCELLANEOUS

This is just unbelievable:

And two lovely stories about kindness and generosity:

Couple takes in tour group stuck in the snow:

A group of South Korean tourists whose van couldn’t make it through the wicked winter conditions in the Buffalo, New York area found shelter thanks to a helpful stranger this past weekend.

Alexander Campagna, a dentist, wrote on Facebook that he received a “frantic knock on the door” in the Village of Williamsville on Friday. Two men from a group of ten tourists were at the door to ask for shovels to dig out their vehicle stuck in front of his home…

The couple provided the ten tourists with places to sleep and – during the unexpected weekend stay – the group watched a Buffalo Bills game and also ate Korean meals together, food that the Campagnas love to consume, the newspaper reported.

“It was kind of like fate,” Choi told the Times.

“We will never forget this,” Campagna said.

And also from Buffalo, woman saves developmentally disabled man stranded in the storm:

Sha’Kyra Aughtry said she was home when she heard someone screaming on her street. When she looked out her window, she saw a man calling for help in the frigid cold.

Aughtry’s boyfriend carried the man, 64-year-old Joe White, into the house, and she used a blow dryer to melt the ice off his red and blistered hands and used a “grass cutter” to take his rings off, she said in a Facebook livestream.

White is now recovering in the ICU with fourth-degree frostbite after arriving the hospital Sunday night, his sister Yvonne White told CNN.

“I’m hoping and praying for the best,” she said.

Have a great weekend!

–Dana

12/29/2022

A Look At Privilege: Grown Man Frets Over What His Friends Will Think Of Him Because He Drives A Tesla (UPDATE ADDED)

Filed under: General — Dana @ 12:47 pm



[guest post by Dana]

Frankly, I’d be embarrassed to say any of this out loud. It’s bizarre that an adult is worried about what people will think of him driving a Tesla! (see: Bad Elon Musk), and considers his conundrum worthy of an essay (and the Los Angeles Times (where it originally appeared) considers it important enough to publish). It all seems so…privileged. Apparently, pesky issues like food, clothing, or shelter aren’t a worry for our writer, but rather what his friends will think of him for driving a Muskmobile is what’s keeping him up at night. This just has to be a new definition of privilege:

A few years ago, I bought a used Tesla, not because I’m a car nut but because I had been a hypocrite. For years, I had been outspoken about the dangers of carbon emissions. Yet at the same time, I was driving an old gas-powered heap that got about 25 miles per gallon, and that sounded like a rocket launch every time I turned on the ignition…My environmental activist friends were not impressed by my assiduous urban composting, LED bulb installations and energy-saving appliances. I needed to do more to diminish my carbon footprint. The icebergs were melting, my friends said, and at least one polar bear was wandering around homeless and hungry because of me…Many insisted that Teslas were the best for the environment. Pricey but worth it. So I said goodbye to my gas guzzler and made the leap.

Man, you need to get new friends… It appears that peer pressure brought this adult male to Tesla in the first place. And peer pressure will lead him to ditch the evil car. Did I mention that the writer is not a teenager in the throes of a bone-crushing fear that he will be judged by his adolescent peers?

The author says that after getting comfortable with his Tesla, he began to enjoy it. Until The. Worst. Happened. Well, the worst in his shallow world:

Because of the recent revelation of Elon Musk’s political views — all of which I abhor — I’m starting to worry about what sort of political statement the car is making. Will people see me as a symbol of right-wing environmentalism, a living oxymoron?

When I bought the car, I had no real opinion on Musk’s somewhat clouded political beliefs. Now that Musk has apparently swung to the far right — banning journalists from Twitter while reinstating neo-Nazis — I’m horrified to be associated with his brand whenever I drive anywhere.

I cannot get over that this adult male is stuck in an 8th-grade mentality where his primary concern in life seems to be what people think of him.

More:

Given Musk’s political descent into the dark side, I wonder whether I should sell my Tesla as a form of protest. How would that adversely affect Musk? Not at all, really. The sale of a used Tesla would hardly cause a blip for the company. Even if I were part of a vast movement, and many other politically aware would-be Tesla owners opted for other, newer EVs, would a blow to Tesla stock really change anything about Musk’s politics? There would be collateral damage. How many people would lose their jobs if people stopped buying Teslas?

I don’t know whether to sell, but I do know that I’m just not as comfortable driving it anymore.

Look, pal, then don’t drive it. This isn’t a decision worthy of hand-wringing. I can only shake my head in amazement that a) an adult male is worried that people might be critical of him and unbelievably, his choice of an automobile because of politics; and b) that the cars we drive, even as adults, are considered political statements. MAGA males favor pick-up trucks, and greenies like Priuses (and Teslas). Who cares! I can’t imagine having “friends” who would smugly criticize me over what I drive. And I say this as a longtime tree-hugger doing what I can in my little corner of the world to mitigate the negative impacts. I drive an Xterra, and frankly, I have no idea what statement that makes other than decent gas mileage and the room to fit a 125-lb dog…

Unlike Mr. Privilege and the do-gooder-scolds, lots of people are concerned about the planet and can’t afford a used Tesla. They simply have other priorities and other places where they direct their money. A gas-guzzling beater might be all they’ve got to get from Point A to Point B. It’s okay. Maybe they like their old beater. So what. You’re allowed to drive what you want as well as be concerned about the planet. And you’re allowed to self-righteously harp about the environment and be a hypocrite too. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you’re also allowed to tell your judgy friends to mind their business.

UPDATE: RL formerly in Glendale and nk think this is a spoof. At the same time, JVW points out that the writer ticks off all the boxes. Either way, I’ll stand by my commentary about the twit, imagined or not. I don’t think it’s a spoof, but if it is, well done!

–Dana

The New York Times Is Wrong: Ukraine Is Not Taking A “Hard Line” In Their Efforts To Be Free Of Russia

Filed under: General — Dana @ 7:49 am



[guest post by Dana]

The New York Times shamefully indulges in false equivalency while opting not to make the distinction between aggressor and victim:

Can we at least agree that a country that has been unlawfully invaded by a thuggish neighboring nation and defends itself while trying to expel said enemy is not taking a “hard line” but is righteously fighting for survival and the right to exist as an independent nation? Can we agree that the onus for ending the war rests on the invaders and not on the victims? Given that Russia doesn’t believe in Ukraine’s right to exist as an independent, self-governing nation, it is doubtful that any meaningful negotiations can even take place. Ukraine has every reason to doubt anything Russia says about ending the war. This is not taking a hard line. This is simply a logical conclusion based on listening to Putin’s own words, observing his real-life actions, and for Ukraine, experiencing some horrific consequences. Thus the need for Ukraine’s conditions for negotiations. As an unlawful invader, it is up to Russia, at the very least, to demonstrate a good-faith effort toward ending the war. And the only thing that might convince me of their sincerity would be a complete and total withdrawal from Ukraine. And I mean all of Ukraine. That might be a starting point. Short of that, why believe anything they say?

In a nutshell:

It’s absurd. The Russian position is to invade Ukraine and kill Ukrainians. The Ukrainian position is not to be invaded and not to be murdered by Russia. Russia can create peace in an instant; Ukraine must fight for it.

Meanwhile, Russia has launched a barrage of missiles at Ukraine, with officials saying that Lviv, Kyiv, and Odesa have been hardest hit:

According to preliminary data, Ukraine’s Air Force said that Russian forces had launched 69 cruise missiles and that it had downed 54 of those, along with Ukraine’s Defense Forces. The Air Force said that it had also repelled attacks from Iranian-made Shahed drones, which are designed to explode on contact with their targets.

Earlier on Thursday, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a post on Twitter that Russia had launched more than 120 missiles in the attack, without giving more details. He said the focus of the onslaught was to “destroy critical infrastructure and kill civilians en masse.”

Unsurprisingly, Putin’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov rejected President Zelensky’s conditions, which includes a condition that Russia withdraws its troops from Ukraine, restore Ukraine’s border with Russia, and establish a tribunal to prosecute “the crime of Russian aggression”:

Ukraine must fulfill Russia’s demands for the “demilitarization and denazification” of Ukrainian-controlled territories, repeating Moscow’s well-worn and false accusation of Nazism against Ukraine, which it has used in an attempt to justify its invasion.

Lavrov also called for “the elimination of threats to Russian security from there, including our new territories” – a reference to four occupied regions of Ukraine which Russia claimed to annex illegally following sham referendums – or else the Russian military would take action, according to TASS.

“There is just one thing left to do: to fulfill them before it’s too late. Otherwise the Russian army will take matters into its own hands,” Lavrov said. “With regard to the duration of the conflict, the ball is now in the court of Washington and its regime,” he added, again referring to Ukraine as a puppet of the US.

–Dana

12/28/2022

Supreme Court: Title 42 Remain In Effect At Least Until Oral Arguments Heard

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:46 am



[guest post by Dana]

From Bloomberg Law:

The US Supreme Court ordered pandemic-era border restrictions to remain in effect, granting a request by Republican state officials who said lifting the rules would have produced an unmanageable surge of migrants.

Voting 5-4, the justices blocked a lower court decision that was set to invalidate the so-called Title 42 rule. The justices also said they will hear arguments in late February or early March on the states’ bid to intervene in defense of the policy…

The order extends a temporary pause Chief Justice John Roberts imposed, keeping the border policy in place while the Supreme Court considers the intervention issue. The court said it won’t be directly considering whether the Title 42 rule is lawful.

The court also indicated the Biden administration could continue its effort to repeal the policy, a push that is at the center of a separate legal fight. A federal trial judge has blocked that effort, and the case is now before a different appeals court.

Judge Gorsuch joined the court’s three liberals in dissent. He opined:

Reasonable minds can disagree about the merits of the D. C. Circuit’s intervention ruling. But that case-specific decision is not of special importance in its own right and would not normally warrant expedited review. The D. C. Circuit’s intervention ruling takes on whatever salience it has only because of its presence in a larger underlying dispute about the Title 42 orders. And on that score, it is unclear what we might accomplish. Even if at the end of it all we find that the States are permitted to intervene, and even if the States manage on remand to demonstrate that the Title 42 orders were lawfully adopted, the emergency on which those orders were premised has long since lapsed. In April 2022, the federal government terminated the Title 42 orders after determining that emergency immigration restrictions were no longer necessary or appropriate to address COVID–19. 87 Fed. Reg. 19944. The States may question whether the government followed the right administrative steps before issuing this decision (an issue on which I express no view). But they do not seriously dispute that the public-health justification undergirding the Title 42 orders has lapsed. And it is hardly obvious why we should rush in to review a ruling on a motion to intervene in a case concerning emergency decrees that have outlived their shelf life.

The only plausible reason for stepping in at this stage that I can discern has to do with the States’ second request. The States contend that they face an immigration crisis at the border and policymakers have failed to agree on adequate measures to address it. The only means left to mitigate the crisis, the States suggest, is an order from this Court directing the federal government to continue its COVID-era Title 42 policies as long as possible—at the very least during the pendency of our review. Today, the Court supplies just such an order. For my part, I do not discount the States’ concerns. Even the federal government acknowledges “that the end of the Title 42 orders will likely have disruptive consequences.” Brief in Opposition for Federal Respondents 6. But the current border crisis is not a COVID crisis. And courts should not be in the business of perpetuating administrative edicts designed for one emergency only because elected officials have failed to address a different emergency. We are a court of law, not policymakers of last resort.

I believe that Gorsuch is correct. The Supreme Court is not meant to be in the business of policymaking for either side of the political aisle, and we shouldn’t expect or want it to be. Even if lifting Title 42 complicates the situation at the Southern border (which it likely will), a policy put in place specifically because of the Covid-19 emergency, which has now run its course, makes it clear that Title 42 is not the vehicle to use to gain control of the border. For better or worse, control of that remains the responsibility of this administration and lawmakers.

–Dana

12/24/2022

Weekend Open Thread – Christmas Edition

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:01 am



[guest post by Dana]

For those of you who want to discuss anything but politics, this is your thread! Feel free to talk about anything non-political, whether it be where you’re spending Christmas, what the weather is like in your neck of the woods, what you’re cooking for Christmas dinner, movie and/or book recommendations, etc. Let’s keep this thread nice. No snark unless directed at yourself.

I’ll start: I made cranberry muffins because they looked so beautiful on a baker’s Instagram account as well as sounding yummy. And mine would have looked just as beautiful and been yummy if I hadn’t forgotten to add one teeny-tiny ingredient…the cranberries! I blame it on the fact that I was simultaneously listening to the Dumbest. Mystery. Ever. and was so intently rolling my eyes and snorting over the implausible situations in which the characters found themselves that I lost track of where I was in the recipe. But given that they are called cranberry muffins, that’s a pretty weak excuse. But hey, it works for me.

Request: My lovely neighbors dropped off a huge orchid for Christmas. It’s just beautiful. And now I feel this intense pressure to keep it alive. If you know anything about orchid survival, let me know. I’m an avid gardener, but these mysterious beauties are beyond my ken.

Merry Christmas!

–Dana

12/23/2022

Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:21 am



[guest post by Dana]

First news item

It’s still jarring to see Americans who boast about their patriotism, claim to love democracy, and exhibit an America-first thinking, complain bitterly about Ukraine and yet don’t complain or condemn Putin and the unlawful invasion of Ukraine and subsequent war. As if Ukraine is responsible for all the misery taking place now. I’m not going to post any of the tweets, you can search them out yourself, but suffice it to say that Russia is now praising useful idiots in America, like Tucker Carlson:

Garry Kasparov responds:

Because it’s so outrageous, I’m going to start at the bottom of the barrel with Tucker for this thread on Zelensky’s visit to DC, the Biden admin’s success and failure, and the future of American support for Ukraine and global security. 1/10

Carlson has moved from advocating for Putin to endorsing Russia’s genocide in Ukraine. I don’t know why Murdoch is allowing this on his network, or why advertisers support it, but I will not appear on Fox News again while Carlson is there. A bloody line has been crossed. 2/10

Carlson’s attacks on Ukraine and Zelensky personally are designed to dehumanize and to justify Russian atrocities, which are already ongoing, documented, and publicly known. It’s like still backing the Nazis after Auschwitz was uncovered. 3/10

Slandering Ukraine & Zelensky as anti-Christian, undemocratic, etc. sends the message it’s fine for Putin to slaughter as many as he likes. The truth is that Ukrainians are fighting and dying for the American values Carlson sold out for Trump and Putin. Go to hell. 4/10

Zelensky’s visit to DC was overwhelmingly cheered, so wasting time on a few GOP America First buffoons isn’t needed. Just don’t call them conservatives. They are undermining global & US security for.. what, exactly? Why is weakening Ukraine so important to them? I wonder. 5/10

Don’t squawk about budgets and resources. Helping Ukraine devastate the invading Russian military for 5% of the US defense budget is a bargain, mostly using warehoused arms. Even Kissinger admits eliminating the Russian threat long hanging over Europe is a boon. 6/10

Helping Ukraine isn’t charity. It’s paying a debt after decades of enriching and empowering Russian aggression. It’s a wise & essential security move, because if Putin attacks Lithuania American soldiers would go and die. Ukrainians are dying to prevent that risk. 7/10

More at the link.

Second news item

Government funding bill passes:

The Senate passed a $1.7 trillion government funding bill on Thursday in a 68-29 vote, sending the package to the House for approval on Friday…Before the bill cleared the upper chamber, senators voted to add more than a half-dozen amendments to the bill, including major policy provisions that would expand federal protections for pregnant workers and nursing mothers, in addition to helping 9/11 families…Congress now appears to be on a glide path to pass the spending package, which gives the Pentagon a 10 percent budget boost, includes about $45 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine and provides nearly $40 billion for disaster aid…Among the amendments added to the omnibus is one from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) that would add workplace protections for nursing mothers, known as the PUMP Act, which was approved in a 92-5 vote…Senators also added a proposal from Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) in a 73-24 vote that attaches the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to the year-end spending bill. That measure, which requires employers to provide pregnant workers with accommodations like bathroom breaks, has been stalled in the upper chamber over GOP concerns about religious liberty exemptions…In a voice vote, the upper chamber easily adopted a provision from Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) that allows the seizure of Russian assets to be used as Ukraine aid. Senators also unanimously approved a tweak allowing states to use leftover federal pandemic aid for infrastructure, in addition to a proposal that extends pay and benefits to a Navy lieutenant currently jailed in Japan…Defeated amendments include one from conservative Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) that would strip funding for earmarks, or federal cash for lawmakers’ home-state projects, in the bill.

The hurdle:

The main hang-up centered on an amendment from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), which aimed to tie Department of Homeland Security funding to the preservation of Title 42…Lee had demanded a lower majority-vote threshold on his amendment, hoping to sway some Democrats who support the Title 42 policy. If even one Democratic senator had joined with all 50 Republicans to add the proposal to the bill, it would have tanked the broader spending agreement, generating pushback from House progressives…Instead, Democrats who support Title 42 were able to avoid that politically difficult vote, thanks to a competing proposal from Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) that would have maintained Title 42 while increasing funding for immigration courts and other border-related issues.

Third news item

Electoral Count Act:

Eighteen Senate Republicans rebuked former President Trump this week by voting to clarify that the vice president does not have the power to overturn a presidential election as Trump pressured then-Vice President Mike Pence to do on Jan. 6, 2021…Republican senators across the political spectrum said they want to slam the door on the notation that Pence had the authority to throw out a state’s slate of electors, which could open the door for future vice presidents to attempt to interfere with the Electoral College’s vote…

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who voted twice to convict Trump on impeachment charges and helped lead the negotiations to reform the Electoral Count Act, said Trump “certainly wouldn’t want [Vice President] Kamala Harris to pick the next president, right?”

Trump in a post on Truth Social Tuesday argued it is “probably better to leave” the Electoral Count Act “the way it is so that it can be adjusted in case of fraud.”

“What I don’t like are the lies and ‘disinformation’ put out by the Democrats and RINOs. They said the vice president has ‘absolutely no choice,’ it was carved in ‘steel,’ but if he has no choice, why are they changing the law saying he has no choice?” Trump posted.

Romney countered Trump by pointing out that argument would give Democrats, who now control the White House, the right to block a Republican from becoming president.

“Let’s do something which he’s not fond of doing, which is taking that to the next logical conclusion. On that basis, that means that Kamala Harris would be able to choose the next president. Does he really think that’s the right way to go?” he said.

Fourth news item

January 6 committee recommendation:

The House Jan. 6 committee’s final report asserts that Donald Trump criminally engaged in a “multi-part conspiracy” to overturn the lawful results of the 2020 presidential election and failed to act to stop his supporters from attacking the Capitol, concluding an extraordinary 18-month investigation into the former president and the violent insurrection two years ago.

In a series of recommendations, the seven Democrats and two Republicans on the committee suggest that Congress consider barring Trump from holding future office. The findings should be a “clarion call to all Americans: to vigilantly guard our Democracy and to give our vote only to those dutiful in their defense of our Constitution,” says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a foreword to the report.

Fifth news item

As the Iranian protests continue, popular Iranian footballer accused of involvement with the deaths of three security officers, reportedly set to be executed:

Shahid Alikhani square is a nondescript part of the historic Iranian city of Isfahan. Its sole claim to prominence is the grand entrance to one of the city’s main metro stations.

But now it has become a place of pilgrimage for supporters of the high-profile Iranian footballer Amir Nasr-Azadani who fear the young man could be executed in the square, where an execution platform has been installed, a witness close to Nasr-Azadani in Iran told CNN.

Terrified Iranian families believe that while the Western world is preoccupied with Christmas celebrations, a wave of executions in the country is imminent…

CNN has verified documents, video, witness testimony and statements from inside the country which suggest that at least 43 people, including Nasr-Azadani, could face imminent execution.

The court last week said it obtained “video and sufficient documentation that prove he [Nasr-Azadani] is part of an armed group” and that the footballer had confessed to his crimes, state media IRNA reported.

Previous CNN investigations have found prisoners have been subjected to torture and sexual assault. Human rights groups say torture-tainted “confessions” have been used against the defendants in sham trials.

Iranian officials have defended the trials nevertheless. In recent days, one Iranian MP said he believes that those involved in the current unrest must be executed within 5 to 10 days after their arrest.

Sixth news item

The Taliban has always been this, nothing new. There will never be a kinder, gentler Taliban:

The minister of higher education in the Taliban government on Thursday defended his decision to ban women from universities — a decree that had triggered a global backlash.

Discussing the matter for the first time in public, Nida Mohammad Nadim said the ban issued earlier this week was necessary to prevent the mixing of genders in universities and because he believes some subjects being taught violated the principles of Islam. He said the ban was in place until further notice.

Other reasons he gave for the university ban were women’s failure to observe a dress code and the study of certain subjects and courses.

“We told girls to have proper hijab but they didn’t and they wore dresses like they are going to a wedding ceremony,” he said. “Girls were studying agriculture and engineering, but this didn’t match Afghan culture. Girls should learn, but not in areas that go against Islam and Afghan honor.”

What a vile and feeble-minded pathetic pustule on the ass of humanity.

Sixth news item

Christmas weather nightmare:

Storms on either side of the country this week are threatening to leave thousands in the dark and bitter cold…

With the eastern storm, winds are forecast to howl at nearly 50 mph as the storm system bombs out while moving toward the Northeast. Gusts as high as 70 mph are not out of the question. All of this happens as temperatures plummet.

At that speed, winds will most likely take down some trees and power lines and create power outages from the Great Lakes into the Northeast. Widespread power outages are possible in western New York and a large swath of interior New England. The coasts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut also face the threat of widespread power outages.

In the West, both Ice Storm and Winter Storm warnings, as well as Winter Weather Advisories, are up across Washington state and Oregon. As much as a half-inch of ice could accrete from Portland north to near Seattle along the Interstate 5 corridor. An icy glaze that thick will certainly weigh down trees and power lines, which could lead to numerous power outages. Snow elsewhere in the region could also bring down trees and power lines.

I hope you are safe and warm during this Christmas season. Out of state loved ones messaged me yesterday and said the temperature was -7 degrees there.

Wherever you might be, I hope you have a warm and wonderful weekend.

Merry Christmas to you all!

–Dana

12/21/2022

President Zelensky Comes To Washington D.C.

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:53 am



[guest post by Dana]

He made the announcement on Twitter:

The schedule for Ukraine’s president includes meeting with President Biden, a joint press conference, and tonight, Zelensky will speak before Congress. Reports suggest that he will thank the United States for all of the aid provided to Ukraine. Also, in a significant move, it is being reported that the U.S. will send a Patriot missile system to Ukraine to help support its air defense capabilities

In reading about Zelensky’s visit, there seem to be two camps in which people fall. Simplistically put: It’s a great thing that President Zelensky is visiting the United States and speaking before Congress about his country’s ongoing battle for Democracy and freedom from the aggression of Putin because it will shine an even brighter spotlight on the dangers of letting fascism get a foothold in Western nations, or, Zelensky’s visit is simply an opportunist coming to plead for more financial aid after having already receiving billions of dollars from the United States “while Americans go hungry.” The former considers the situation with an eye toward the lives lost and the devastating impact on Western nations if Putin is successful in taking over Ukraine. There is a belief that, at the very least, Western nations have both a moral and strategic obligation to push back on this as much as is in their power to do so. The other view is more blinkered, believing that we have no business being involved in the business of other nations’ conflicts, let alone providing financial aid. There seems to be no real strategic consideration or long-term view of how a Putin win might impact the West or any real consideration of the ongoing humanitarian crisis and devastation wrought by the hands of the invaders.

With that, I’m going to point you to this analysis, which delves into the political motivations behind the latter view of the situation. And it isn’t pretty:

Congress, meanwhile, is about to decide on sending billions more in aid. Ukraine needs this money not only to continue the fight but also for its people to survive as they face a harsh winter of violence from the man who vows not to end this war until Ukraine is under his control.

It seems apparent that Zelensky decided to make the trip to Washington because he is worried about the imminent GOP takeover of the House. He should be. Many of the Republicans who are about to become members of the majority—and to chair committees—have descended into reflexive mulishness about Ukraine, opposing whatever it is that President Joe Biden wants, solely as a matter of partisan showboating. Goaded on by the trolls and contrarians in the conservative press, people who professed to care little what was happening in Ukraine a year ago have pledged to exercise tight “oversight” of U.S. aid to Ukraine—as though the largest war in Europe since World War II is an over-budget consulting contract in suburban Virginia.

The real question, though, is whether anything Zelensky can say will matter to a Republican Party that has decided to torment the ghost of Ronald Reagan by taking sides with a neo-imperial Soviet nostalgist.

Hitting the nail on the head:

Overall, of course, rank-and-file Republicans support aiding Ukraine against Russia. But the Trumpian GOP is now controlled by its fringe, the same activists and primary voters who wear the i’d rather be a russian than a democrat T-shirts. Although much of the aid for Ukraine (including the Patriot system) is already in the pipeline, GOP grandstanding for the base could create more danger for Ukraine by encouraging Putin to believe that America’s commitment to freedom will wane over time. Indeed, the Russian president’s decision to invade Ukraine, as The New York Times reported this weekend, was predicated in part on his belief in the West’s weakness and short attention span.

Republicans performing for their base are unlikely to change their views now. But Zelensky is about to speak to all of America, and his presence in Washington will help remind people that this is not some esoteric foreign-policy tangle, but a brutal, bloody human contest between democracy and authoritarianism. His presence in front of a divided Congress might—at least, we can hope—help Americans ignore the cartoonish objections of right-wing pundits and strengthen the broader bipartisan coalition in the United States dedicated to protecting freedom in Europe and around the world.

And right on cue:

Ah, this:

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has undertaken a surprise trip to Beijing and held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping during which he said they discussed the Ukraine conflict…Medvedev said he and Xi had discussed the two countries’ “no limits” strategic partnership, as well as Ukraine. He did not provide further details…”We discussed cooperation between the two ruling parties of China and Russia … bilateral cooperation within our strategic partnership, including on the economy and industrial production. We also discussed international issues – including, of course, the conflict in Ukraine,” Medvedev said.

–Dana

12/20/2022

Jan. 6 Committee Makes Several Criminal Referrals To DOJ

Filed under: General — Dana @ 12:57 pm



[guest post by Dana]

Just a quick post here. I’m away from a computer and am using an iPhone, so…

The Jan. 6 committee concluded its work yesterday, and as expected (by some of us), several criminal referrals were made to the DOJ concerning Donald Trump and his role surrounding the events of Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol:

The charges include obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make a false statement, and and insurrection.

In a sweeping 160-page summary released by the committee to explain its findings, the committee labeled Trump as the “central cause” of the attack.

“That evidence has led to an overriding and straight-forward conclusion: the central cause of January 6th was one man, former President Donald Trump, who many others followed. None of the events of January 6th would have happened without him,” the summary said.

“[Trump] entered into agreements, formal and informal, with several other individuals who assisted with his criminal objectives,” Raskin said during the meeting. “That said, the subcommittee does not attempt to determine all of the potential participants in this conspiracy, as our understanding of the role of many individuals may be incomplete because they refused to answer our questions.”

“We trust that the Department of Justice will be able to form a more complete picture through its investigation,” Raskin said.

Trump responded to the referral news (and Electoral Reform news) with the standard humble regret for his actions that we’ve come to expect from him… I felt that these posts best represent his delusional state of mind (they are not necessarily in chronological order) but you can read more comments by him at the link below:

The Fake charges made by the highly partisan Unselect Committee of January 6th have already been submitted, prosecuted, and tried in the form of Impeachment Hoax # 2. I WON convincingly. Double Jeopardy anyone!…

I don’t care whether they change The Electoral Count Act or not, probably better to leave it the way it is so that it can be adjusted in case of Fraud, but what I don’t like are the lies and “disinformation” put out by the Democrats and RINOS. They said the Vice President has “absolutely no choice,” it was carved in “steel,” but if he has no choice, why are they changing the law saying he has no choice?

…Simply put, it is because the Vice President did have a choice, and looking back at it now, the 2020 Voting Fraud was far greater than anyone thought possible, with even our Government, through the FBI, changing the results of the Election by millions and millions of votes.

In addition to everything else, our Government, through the FBI, RIGGED the 2020 Presidential Election!

Also, per the Jan. 6 committee, Leader Kevin McCarthy, Rep Jim Jordan, Rep Scott Perry, and Rep Andy Biggs will be referred to the House Ethics Committee.

—Dana

Oh Dear, He’s Doing It Again

Filed under: General — JVW @ 9:24 am



[guest post by JVW]

From National Review Online:

President Biden’s recent claim that he awarded his war hero uncle a Purple Heart during his tenure as vice president is not supported by a timeline of historical events.

At a military veterans event at Delaware’s National Guard headquarters on December 16, Biden said that his uncle fought in World War II and was eligible for the Purple Heart but never received it, Factcheck.org first noted. Once he was elected vice president, Biden claimed that his father encouraged him to give his uncle Frank a Purple Heart. Awarded strictly to service members who were wounded or killed in action, the Purple Heart is the military’s highest commendation.

“You know, I — my dad, when I got elected vice president, he said, ‘Joey, Uncle Frank fought in the Battle of the Bulge.’ He was not feeling very well now — not because of the Battle of the Bulge. But he said, ‘And he won the Purple Heart. And he never received it. He never — he never got it. Do you think you could help him get it? We’ll surprise him,’” Biden said in his speech.

However, Biden’s uncle passed away in 1999 and his father passed away in 2002 — years before he became vice president in 2009.

Maybe this isn’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, except that it once again calls into question President Biden’s mental acuity, especially now that he is a month past his 80th birthday. Telling harmless stories about family members isn’t the worst sin an elected official can commit, though certainly those who fib about inconsequential things tend to lie about important matters too.

– JVW

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