Patterico's Pontifications

4/21/2023

Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 11:08 am



[guest post by Dana]

Let’s go!

First news item

Big government guy on the loose:

Mandatory stop-and-frisk. Deploying the military to fight street crime, break up gangs and deport immigrants. Purging the federal workforce and charging leakers. Former president Donald Trump has steadily begun outlining his vision for a second-term agenda, focusing on unfinished business from his time in the White House and an expansive vision for how he would wield federal power. In online videos and stump speeches, Trump is pledging to pick up where his first term left off and push even further.

Where he earlier changed border policies to reduce refugees and people seeking asylum, he’s now promising to conduct an unprecedented deportation operation. Where he previously moved to make it easier to fire federal workers, he’s now proposing a new civil service exam. After urging state and local officials to take harsher measures on crime and homelessness, Trump says he is now determined to take more direct federal action.

“In 2016, I declared I am your voice,” Trump said in a speech last month at the Conservative Political Action Conference and repeated at his first 2024 campaign rally in Waco a few weeks later. “Today, I add: I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution.”

Trump’s emerging platform marks a sharp departure from traditional conservative orthodoxy emphasizing small government, which was famously summed up in Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Trump, by contrast, is proposing to apply government power, centralized under his authority, toward a vast range of issues that have long remained outside the scope of federal control.

Trump team’s bottom line:

“There’s a glove of power needed to beat back the administrative state or deep state,” [former Trump budget director Russ Vought] said, “and if you’re not willing to put your hand in that glove you will fail, regardless of how much credibility you have with the base.”

Trump wants to build “Freedom Cities” from scratch:

The new cities proposal consists of a national contest to charter up to 10 D.C.-sized metropolises on undeveloped federal land. Administration officials discussed the concept toward the end of Trump’s term, but he did not campaign on it in 2020…Trump has discussed the new “Freedom Cities” in utopian terms, with flying cars, manufacturing hubs and opportunities for homeownership, promising a “quantum leap in the American standard of living.” The campaign has provided few details on how the plan would work in practice.

Second news item

**Great news:

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Friday that the U.S. will begin training Ukrainian forces on American-made Abrams tanks in the coming weeks…Thirty-one Abrams M1A1s will arrive at a training area in Grafenwoehr, Germany, in mid to late April, with up to 250 Ukrainian troops beginning a 10-week course there soon after, according to U.S. officials. Follow-on maneuver training might also be done on a different base in Germany…In March, after consultation with Kyiv, Pentagon officials announced a plan to dramatically speed delivery of the 31 tanks the U.S. had committed to Ukraine by refurbishing older models instead of building new ones from scratch, which was the original plan. Building new M1A2 Abrams could have taken years, according to defense officials. Milley clarified that the 31 tanks heading to Germany are training models not suitable for combat. The training will be conducted as the U.S. refurbishes another set of 31 Abrams M1A1 tanks to send to the battlefield, which are expected to arrive on the battlefield this fall.

**“Great news” in that this is finally happening. As I’ve long maintained, the administration needed to move with urgency and provide Ukraine with what *they* they determined they would need to defeat Russia. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Worries about Putin and nuclear threats, thus fears of ratcheting up the tension has slowed down the decision-making. But this is great news if it helps boost morale for Ukrainian troops, knowing that the tanks will be coming soon…but admittedly, perhaps not soon enough.

By providing aid sufficient to produce a stalemate, but not enough to roll back Russian territorial gains, the Biden administration may be unintentionally seizing defeat from the jaws of victory. Out of an over-abundance of caution about provoking Russian escalation (conventional as well as nuclear), we are in effect ceding the initiative to Russian President Vladimir Putin and reducing the pressure on Moscow to halt its aggression and get serious about negotiations.

Third news item

Yikes:

Public schools in Texas would have to prominently display the Ten Commandments in every classroom starting next school year under a bill the Texas Senate approved Thursday.

Senate Bill 1515 by Sen. Phil King, R-Weatherford, now heads to the House for consideration.

This is the latest attempt from Texas Republicans to inject religion into public schools. In 2021, state Sen. Bryan Hughes, a Mineola Republican, authored a bill that became law requiring schools to display donated “In God We Trust” signs.

King believes the bill is necessary because he believes that the Ten Commandments are part of American heritage and thus should be visible in school classrooms.

In an interesting twist and making sense:

In opposition to the bill, John Litzler, general counsel and director of public policy at the Texas Baptists Christian Life Commission, said at the committee hearing that the organization has concerns about taxpayer money being used to buy religious texts and that parents, not schools, should be having conversations about religion with their children. “I should have the right to introduce my daughter to the concepts of adultery and coveting one’s spouse,” Litzler said. “It shouldn’t be one of the first things she learns to read in her kindergarten classroom.”

(The same parents that agree with Litzler regarding the religious teaching of their children would likely include issues relating to sex as well.)

Fourth news item

From the usual suspects, of course:

A coalition of GOP lawmakers has urged the Biden administration to stop sending “unrestrained” aid and weapons to Ukraine amid its ongoing war with neighboring Russia… The lawmakers noted in their letter the risks associated with supplying Ukraine with necessary aid and weapons, saying how the country’s continued contribution could escalate the conflict between the two countries and create a proxy war with Russia… The lawmakers also said that Biden should prioritize more diplomatic efforts to advocate for a peace agreement between the two countries…

“There are appropriate ways in which the U.S. can support the Ukrainian people, but unlimited arms supplies in support of an endless war is not one of them. Our national interests, and those of the Ukrainian people, are best served by incentivizing the negotiations that are urgently needed to bring this conflict to a resolution,” the letter concludes. “We strongly urge you to advocate for a negotiated peace between the two sides, bringing this awful conflict to a close.”

For the thousandth time: How does one negotiate with a morally bankrupt terrorist state that has unlawfully invaded a sovereign nation, annexed territories, targeted civilians (death, torture, rape, imprisonment), and committed war crimes by abducting thousands of children and sending them to Russia for re-education, and disposed of civilians in mass graves, etc.? Not until Russia pulls out of Ukraine and the annexed territories (including Crimea), then and only then, should negotiations be considered. Why do these far-right Republicans constantly put the burden on Ukraine to end this unjust war? Why don’t they put the responsibility for the war and its end on Russia? These Republicans are the gift that just keeps on giving…to Russian propagandists:

A few excerpts from the letter:

Over the past year, the U.S. has been the principal financier of the Ukrainian defense effort. As the war enters its second year, there is no end in sight and no clear strategy to bring this war to a close. A proxy war with Russia in Ukraine is not in the strategic interest of the United States and risks an escalation that could spiral out of control. The recently announced shipments of M1 Abrams tanks will require months of training and transport. Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs will similarly take months to arrive.2 These announcements signal that your administration is settling in for a long-term conflict. The current strategy of sanctions and drawn-out aid will only prolong the conflict, leading to escalation and more violence.

Our national and economic security demand an alternative. Unrestrained U.S. aid for Ukraine must come to an end, and we will adamantly oppose all future aid packages unless they are linked to a clear diplomatic strategy designed to bring this war to a rapid conclusion.

Our military assistance goes beyond tangible assets to include military training6 and intelligence support. The extent of our aid makes it increasingly difficult to deny Russian accusations of U.S. complicity in a proxy war. Vladimir Putin’s advisors are already framing the conflict as “a military confrontation between Russia and NATO, and above all the United States and Britain.” Russian tolerance for fighting a proxy war with NATO could run out at any point. The decision to invade Ukraine should be evidence enough of Putin’s willingness to use military force and should give us pause in continuing to push the limits at the risk of catastrophe.

Fifth news item

NYC Mayor Adams unloads:

Mayor Adams charged Friday that New York City is getting “destroyed” by the federal government’s failure to contain the nation’s migrant crisis — a thinly-veiled broadside against President Biden delivered just hours before Hizzoner was set to meet with White House officials about the matter.

Adams, who claimed earlier this week that Biden has “failed” the city by not providing more migrant-related financial assistance, leveled the latest jab against the president in remarks at the African American Mayors Association’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.

Sixth news item

His age is the problem, according to those polled:

President Joe Biden intends to announce his 2024 reelection campaign as soon as Tuesday, multiple outlets report, though a new Associated Press/NORC poll suggests that most Americans, even Democrats, would prefer he didn’t run—even as Democrats are still prepared to vote for him in a general election.

The poll, conducted April 13-17 among 1,230 U.S. adults, found only 26% of respondents would like to see Biden run again in 2024, versus 73% who said he shouldn’t.

That includes 47% of Democrats, while 52% of Democrats do not want him to run.

The vast majority of Democrats—81%—say they’re likely to support Biden in a general election if he does run, however, with 41% saying they would “definitely” vote for him and 40% saying they “probably” would.

Seventh news item

Ditto:

Count me out of any overt or covert enthusiasm for [Robert F.] Kennedy’s bid…

Last year, Kennedy said during a speech, “Even in Hitler’s Germany, you could cross the Alps to Switzerland. You could hide in an attic like Anne Frank did… the mechanisms are being put in place that will make it so none of us can run and none of us can hide.” Kennedy later apologized.

Anyone who is going around arguing that today’s Americans have it rougher than Anne Frank needs his head examined.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, and American politics has way more than enough crazy people, statements, and behavior as is. This country’s paranoid schizophrenics are in bad enough shape; they don’t need another presidential candidate running around the country telling them that Cigarette-Smoking Man, the Illuminati and Bigfoot are all teaming up to work against them. Do you want more unhinged paranoid political enthusiasts sending pipe bombs in the mail?

Is it conceivable that some aspect of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential campaign redounds to the benefit of Republicans? Sure. But for that to happen, Kennedy’s bid has to matter, and for Kennedy’s bid to matter, more Americans have to buy into his nonsense conspiracy theories. That leaves the country as a whole in worse shape, no matter who benefits politically in the short-term.

Eighth news item

Unsurprising:

Aid workers at non-profit organizations in Afghanistan that receive financial support from the U.S. government say they’re being forced to pay fees and provide services to the Taliban. They spoke to CBS News days after the head of a U.S. government oversight office tasked with monitoring how U.S. tax dollars are spent in Afghanistan told lawmakers that his staff “simply do not know” the extent to which the American people may unknowingly be funding the terrorist group.

“Since the Taliban takeover, the U.S. government has sought to continue supporting the Afghan people without providing benefits for the Taliban regime,” Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John F. Sopko said Wednesday in testimony to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Accountability. “However, it is clear from our work that the Taliban is using various methods to divert U.S. aid dollars.”

Ninth news item

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising anniversary:

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the first German president to speak at the commemorations, joined Polish and Israeli heads of state to mark 80 years since a doomed uprising by Jewish insurgents against Nazi German occupiers.

“I stand before you today and ask for your forgiveness for the crimes committed by Germans here,” said Steinmeier, speaking at the annual ceremony held in Warsaw’s former Jewish district.

During his speech, the German president also blasted his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for waging war against Ukraine.

“This war brings immeasurable suffering, violence, destruction and death to the people of Ukraine,” he added.

Ultimately, the Nazis shut down the uprising by setting fire to it. Estimates are that 7,000 Jews died in the battles and another 6,000 in the fires. And yet, incredibly and heroically, the Jews remained determined while knowing the odds were strongly against them:

“The revolt was suicide. We couldn’t win, but we had to do them harm,” ghetto survivor Halina Birenbaum, 93, told AFP ahead of the anniversary.

Tenth news item

Another Russian dissident condemned for telling the truth about Vladimir Putin:

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., along with more than 70 other members of Congress, sent a letter to the U.S. State Department urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken to designate U.S. Legal Permanent Resident and Russian dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza as “unlawfully and wrongfully detained” under the Levinson Act (22 U.S.C. 1741 et seq.). The legislators also called upon the U.S. government to use its resources to free Kara-Murza, who was arrested by Russian police in April 2022 and was recently sentenced to 25 years in prison. Kara-Murza is reportedly in poor health after suffering complications from two previous Kremlin-directed poisonings.

“Since his arrest in April 2022, Mr. Kara-Murza has suffered from unjust treatment. His health has declined, and he has lost 40 pounds. As a result of two poisonings President Putin inflicted on him during trips to Russia in 2015 and 2017, he had already been diagnosed with polyneuropathy. He has now lost feeling in both feet and one arm… It is very likely he will die soon unless he is released,” the legislators wrote.

The legislators cite Kara-Murza’s strong support of human rights and his anti-war speech in their call for his release.

“His only crime is using his voice to oppose Putin’s evil. It is in the U.S. national interest to save his life and liberate him from Russian captivity,” the legislators wrote.

To rid the world of Putin, freedom fighters like Vladimir Kara-Murza, who has been the target of two assassination attempts by the Kremlin, must be supported:

On Monday, a judge in Moscow handed down the harshest penalty ever imposed on a member of the Russian pro-democracy opposition. For the crime of publicly stating his political views, Vladimir Kara-Murza was sentenced to 25 years of hard labour in a decrepit Russian gulag prison camp.

Mr. Kara-Murza was detained in April, 2022, as he told the court last week, “for speaking out against the war in Ukraine. For many years of struggle against Vladimir Putin’s dictatorship. For facilitating the adoption of personal international sanctions under the Magnitsky Act against human rights violators.” He is among more than 20,000 Russians who have been detained for speaking out against the regime over the past year.

Mr. Kara-Murza’s vision for a free and democratic Russia – one that respects the rule of law, human rights and the sovereignty of its neighbours – made him a victim of Mr. Putin’s domestic war on democracy and the truth, but it is a vision that the democratic world should support…

Russian opposition leader and chess grandmaster, Garry Kasparov, says Mr. Kara-Murza’s fate depends on the fate of the Putin regime. “The path to his freedom is readily available: give Ukraine the weapons it needs to win this war and accelerate the downfall of Putin and the liberation of all Russian political prisoners.”

Ultimately:

It’s unlikely the democratic world will be able to bear another 25 years of Vladimir Putin. This is why we must do all we can today, to take the battle to Russia’s crypto-Stalinist kleptocrats by enabling and empowering the movement for freedom and democracy in Russia and supporting brave heroes like Vladimir Kara-Murza.

Have a good weekend.

–Dana


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