Monday, February 28, 2022
Vladimir Putin has invade the sovereign nation of Ukraine. He has tried to justify the invasion by claiming that Russians were being mistreated in that nation. It was a lie. He then claimed that Nazi's were in control of Ukraine and posed a danger to Russia. That was another lie. Ukraine is a democracy that elected a Jewish president (who has proven to be intelligent and heroic).
The truth is much darker. Putin, a former KGB agent, still laments to dissolution of the Soviet Union. In 2014, he called the collapse of the USSR the disaster of the century. His dream is to re-establish a Russian empire -- with him as its authoritarian head.
Why would he think he could get away with such an outrageous thing? Sadly, because the free world has allowed him to think such a thing was possible. The world did virtually nothing when he sent his troops into Georgia. The world did virtually nothing when he seized control of Crimea (which was a part of Ukraine). Then Trump became president, and instantly began kissing Putin's butt -- and causing dissension in NATO.
Putin got the idea that NATO was a toothless relic of the past - a relic that could not and would not stand in the way of his dream of empire. He decided he could act with impunity, and invaded Ukraine -- hoping to make it the first of his new conquests. If he succeeded, he could then take on the other breakaway republics.
Hopefully, he has misjudged the situation. Ukraine has not rolled over and quickly surrendered as he had expected. They are fighting, and while they may not be able to succeed, they can make it difficult and possibly a lengthy process. And Russians will start to see thousands of their soldiers come home in body bags. There is already some dissent happening in Russia, and this will only increase it.
In addition, NATO has proven stronger than Putin believed. In fact, the invasion has strengthened NATO, and they are now a more powerful force. The NATO countries have joined in much more powerful sanctions than ever in the past. The new sanctions, if left intact, will do serious damage to the Russian economy (which wasn't doing great anyway).
If the economy collapses and the Ukrainians continue to hold out, Putin's position as the Russian leader could even be in danger. I hope so. Putin has overreached, and the West must hold firm. He must pay a heavy price for invading Ukraine -- a price so severe that he will never consider doing that again with any country.
His dream of empire must be stopped now!
These charts are from Everytown For Gun Safety. Despite what right-wing gun lovers would like you to think, they show that sensible (and constitutional) gun laws do save lives. The sates with the strongest gun laws have the smallest gun violence rates, while the states with the weakest gun laws have the largest gun violence rates.
This is not a constitutional issue, as the right wants you to think. The Supreme Court has held that reasonable gun laws are constitutional. This is an issue of saving lives.
The racist right has been using "critical race theory" as a tool to promote white supremacy. They are lying about it, and telling Americans that it is being taught in schools across the nation and making white students ashamed of their history. Of course, that is nonsense. It is a college level course that attempts to find solutions to the racial inequality in our institutions -- and it is NOT being taught in any middle school or high school anywhere in the United States.
We must fight back against this revival of racism. The following is an op-ed by Jamelle Bouie on this issue in The New York Times:
With the Republican crusade against critical race theory still on full blast in states and localities across the country, I thought it was worth sharing the results of a new CBS poll on race and education that sheds a good deal of light on where the public actually stands on these issues.
The survey, conducted this month, asked respondents to weigh in on the impact of teaching about race. When asked if “teaching about race in America makes students understand what others went through,” 68 percent of Americans said yes. When asked if this teaching made students “feel guilty about past generations,” 23 percent agreed. Just 16 percent of respondents said that teaching about race makes current students “less racially tolerant.”
When asked if books should ever be banned for “discussing race” or “depicting slavery,” an overwhelming 87 percent of Americans said no. A similarly large percentage said no when asked if books should be banned for “criticizing U.S. history” or sharing “political ideas you disagree with.” And 58 percent of Americans, including 52 percent of white Americans, say that racism is a “major problem” in America today.
Among the most notable results in the poll is the fact that most Americans — 65 percent — have heard either “a little” or “nothing” about critical race theory. Among those with an opinion on the matter, 49 percent hold a very or somewhat favorable view versus 51 percent with a very or somewhat unfavorable view.
The upshot of all of this, as far as I can tell, is that Republicans aren’t capturing the public mood on this issue as much as they are successfully using it to mobilize their supporters and send them to the voting booth. This is what appears to have happened in Virginia, where Glenn Youngkin, the Republican candidate for governor, rode conservative backlash to C.R.T. to a narrow victory. But most Virginians aren’t on board with this cultural agenda. As a result, after one month in office, Youngkin is underwater with Virginians, who oppose his effort to ban critical race theory.
For Democrats, then, this is a culture war they can win. They just have to fight it.
Sunday, February 27, 2022
The chart above is from the NPR / PBS NewsHour / Marist Poll -- done between February 15th and 21st of a national sample of 1,264 adults, with a 3.5 point margin of error.
The following editorial is from the editorial board of The Washington Post:
For a year, the streets of Russia have been relatively quiet. Protests in early 2021 in support of opposition leader Alexei Navalny were met with arrests, beatings and prison sentences. But after President Vladimir Putin announced war against Ukraine this week, the streets swelled again with thousands of protesters. These courageous people, making themselves heard despite the fear and risks, demonstrated vividly that Mr. Putin faces opposition at home for what has quickly become known to be a war without a cause.
Mr. Putin draws power from cronies and clans, not the voters. It is not clear if public discontent can change his course. But the outpouring against the Ukraine war at the very outset was far larger than might have been expected. Russia’s educated urbanites were joined in protests by hundreds of journalists, entertainers, social media influencers, athletes, actors, television presenters and others. They have the potential to become a powerful force galvanizing opposition to the war.
The Kremlin fears this kind of opposition. Government censor Roskomnadzor warned the Russian news media to publish only information from official sources and threatened penalties for violators. Russian prosecutors threatened against unauthorized demonstrations, saying marchers could face “criminal charges,” including “severe punishment for organizing mass unrest.” They added ominously that a criminal record would have long-term consequences.
Nonetheless, thousands took to the streets on Thursday. In 60 Russian cities, more than 1,860 people have been detained, according to OVD-Info, a nongovernmental group that monitors political arrests. Alexei Nurullin, an activist from the Ulyanovsk region, picketed with a sign declaring, “A madman is bombing all of Ukraine.” Elena Chernenko, a prominent journalist for Kommersant, organized a protest letter from journalists and others involved in foreign policy. With about 300 signers, the letter condemned the war against Ukraine: “War has never been and will never be a method of conflict resolution and there is no justification for it.” On Friday, Ms. Chernenko was informed by the Foreign Ministry that she was expelled from the press pool, meaning she will be barred from ministry briefings and has lost her access to the minister.
A few celebrities also spoke out against the war. Ivan Urgant, who hosts a popular comedy show, wrote, “Fear and pain. NO to war.” His show was taken off the air almost immediately.
What will happen next depends in part on how Russians perceive the war, whether there are serious casualties, and whether Facebook and other social networks convey the truth from the battlefield. In the early hours, Facebook posts were filled with emotion, outrage and distress. On Friday, the government censor announced the start of an effort to slow down access to Facebook, as was done earlier with Twitter.
Still, opposition voices in Russia have a way of getting through. In an ongoing prison trial, Mr. Navalny declared, “I am against this war. I believe that this war between Russia and Ukraine is being waged to cover up the robbery of Russian citizens and to distract their attention from the problems that exist within the country from the degradation of the economy.” His will not be the last protest.
Saturday, February 26, 2022
These charts are from the Gallup Poll -- done between February 1st and 17th of a nationwide sample of 1,008 adults, with a 4 point margin of error. The poll was done before the Russians actually invaded Ukraine.
The following is part of an article by Corbin Bolies and Aswan Suebsaeng in the Daily Beast:
At the dawn of Russia’s new invasion of Ukraine this week, Donald Trump appeared to be on a Russian roadshow, telling whoever would listen about the wonder of President Vladimir Putin’s ability to take over the country next door on a whim.
But as Russia continues to attack Ukraine, several advisers and associates have practically begged the former president to end his effusive-sounding praise of Putin. Trump’s warm words for the Russian leader, who the ex-president regularly brags about knowing “very well,” has startled even some of Trump’s onetime lieutenants who were already conditioned to mask their disgust with the 45th U.S. president’s actions.
“I was stunned to hear that,” Dan Coats, who previously served as then-President Trump’s director of national intelligence, told The Daily Beast on Thursday night. “I cannot think of any other U.S. president that would in a situation like this say what he said.”
Over the past few days, as reports of preparations and execution of the bloody invasion grew increasingly dire, Trump—who was famously impeached for pressuring the Ukrainian government to use bogus dirt to investigate the Biden family—couldn’t resist the urge to regurgitate his anti-democratic “Big Lie,” nor could he stop himself from repeatedly flattering the Russian leader in multiple venues.
It got to the point that by Thursday afternoon, several longtime associates who had spoken to Trump since Tuesday told him that he might want to avoid lavishing too much praise on Putin, and perhaps refrain from complimenting the Russian president’s intellect so much, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter. At least one adviser recently mentioned to Trump that it would be more advantageous to simply stick to calling Biden feckless and bumbling.
Neither of them had high hopes that the ex-president would take the advice.
Friday, February 25, 2022
The charts above are from the Freedom House's 2022 Freedom In The World Report. It shows that, for the 16th straight year, democracy has declined worldwide -- including in the United States.
You can go here to see the democracy score for each nation.
The Labor Department released its weekly unemployment statistics on Thursday. It showed that about 232,000 workers filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending on February 19th. This was a slight decrease over the previous week.
Here is the official Labor Department statement:
In the week ending February 19, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 232,000, a decrease of 17,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 248,000 to 249,000. The 4-week moving average was 236,250, a decrease of 7,250 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 243,250 to 243,500.
While in the White House, Trump seemed to favor Vladimir Putin (and other dictators) over leaders of democracies. He has not changed. While most of the world is condemning Putin's invasion of Ukraine, Trump makes it clear he admires Putin and the actions he has taken there. In short, Trump is still kissing Putin's butt, and acting more like a Russian agent than a former president.
The following is an op-ed by Ja'han Jones at MSNBC.com:
Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday praised Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military aggression against Ukraine as fears of war in the region grow. The deluded Russian despot seems set on recreating the Soviet Union and reliving a bygone era.
Trump's fawning statements in response are the latest reminder that America — not too long ago — was under the thumb of a Kremlin fan boy. We’ll address that shortly, but first, here are Trump’s comments from his Tuesday interview on “The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show," an ultraconservative radio talk show:
I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius.’ Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine, of Ukraine, Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful.
The praise didn’t end there.
“So Putin is now saying, ‘It’s independent,’ a large section of Ukraine," Trump continued. "I said, ‘How smart is that?’ And he’s going to go in and be a peacekeeper. That’s the strongest peace force. We could use that on our southern border. That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen."
He then called Putin a “very savvy” person whom he claimed to know “very, very well.”
Trump’s obsequious praise for Putin is part of a well-known pattern. Even before Russia targeted Black voters with misinformation and hacked Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign in an effort to help Trump win the election, Trump — perhaps you remember — was desperately, longingly and publicly angling to become Putin’s “best friend.”
And that’s to say nothing of Trump’s constant deference to Putin once he took over the White House in 2016. That includes — you know — installing Rex Tillerson, a pro-Russian businessman, as secretary of state; praising Putin’s lack of response to Obama-era sanctions as a “great move” while enabling his lackeys to communicate with Russia through a secret backchannel; repeatedly downplaying U.S. intelligence showing Russia interfered in the 2016 election; publicly excusing violence committed by Putin’s murderous regime; firing James Comey as FBI director over his investigation into Russian election interference; and the list truly goes on.
Taking Trump’s latest pro-Putin comments and his long history of Russophilia into account, it’s remarkable there’s ever been doubt that Trump is a pro-Russian agent — at least in the broad sense. Though Trump may not fit the U.S. intelligence community’s technical definition of an agent, his eagerness to advance Russian interests in palpable.
To be clear:Trump isn’t a secret agent like you see in the movies, a la James Bond or something. He’s not hacking mainframes and scaling walls to do Russia’s bidding in the dead of night. Instead, he’s flaunting his pro-Russian bias in the open. And that open agency for despotism, combined with the hold he has over the Republican Party, is a true threat to American democracy.
In the media, especially, there’s been a reluctance to acknowledge the serious danger Trump’s affinity for Russia — and the Republican Party’s willingness to fall in line — poses to the U.S. Some members of the press have repeatedly downplayed allegations of Trump-Russia collusion, or dismissed the allegations as purely political.
And those doubts have looked all the more ridiculous as Trump has continued — as he did on Tuesday — to be open in his support for the Russian government and its goals.
Thursday, February 24, 2022
The chart above is from the Gun Violence Archive. It shows that the United States has had 64 mass shootings (where at least four people were shot) in the first 54 days of this year. We are still averaging more than one mass shooting for every day.
There have not been any mass shootings making national news lately, so it has been easy for our politicians to ignore the issue. But the tragedy of too many mass shootings, and too many gun deaths (6,283) is not going away. They are still of epidemic proportions.
No other developed nation has this problem (either mass shootings or gun deaths). We have the problem because our society has too many guns floating around (more than one gun per citizen, including children). We also have very lax gun laws, and a background check law with too many loopholes (which allows anyone, including terrorists and criminals to easily get any kind of gun they want).
Our politicians could fix this -- especially the porous background check law. A huge majority of the population would support that. But donations from the NRA and gun manufacturers are more important to many of our politicians than the lives of American citizens.
It's time to change that -- and the only way to do it is to vote those politicians out of office!
The charts on this page are from a survey done by the Pew Research Center. It was completed between January 10th and 17th of a nationwide sample of 5,128 adults, and has a 2 point margin of error. It shows the issues considered most important by the public.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was hoping to get through the 2022 elections without telling American voters what the Republican Party wants to do, probably because he knows that a majority would not like what Republicans want to do. But other Republicans disagree. One of those is Rick Scott of Florida. He has issued an 11-point agenda for Republicans. It is nothing more than a call to promote a culture war. While conservatives may like it, I doubt that most Americans would. It is just a roadmap back to the 1950's -- when white men ruled the country and others had few, if any rights. It is a nightmare scenario!
Here is Scott's 11-point agenda:
1. We will inspire patriotism and stop teaching the revisionist history of the radical left; our kids will learn about the wisdom of the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the founding fathers. Public schools will focus on the 3 R’s, not indoctrinate children with critical race theory or any other political ideology.
2. We are going to eliminate racial politics in America. No government policy will be based on race.
3. We will enforce our laws, all of them, and increase penalties for theft and violent crime. We will clean up our cities and stop pretending that crime is OK. We have zero-tolerance for “mostly peaceful protests” that attack police officers, loot businesses, and burn down our cities.
4. We will secure our border, finish building the wall, and name it after President Donald Trump.
5. Socialism is un-American and always leads to poverty and oppression. We will stop it. We will shrink the federal government, reduce the government work force by 25% in 5 years, sell government buildings and assets, and get rid of the old, slow, closed, top-down, government-run- everything system we have today.
6. We will eliminate all federal programs that can be done locally, and enact term limits for federal bureaucrats and Congress.
7. We will protect the integrity of American Democracy and stop left-wing efforts to rig elections.
8. We will protect, defend, and promote the traditional American family at all costs.
9. Men are men, women are women, and unborn babies are babies.
10. Americans will be free to welcome God into all aspects of our lives, and we will stop all government efforts to deny our religious freedom and freedom of speech.
11. We are Americans, not globalists.