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Monthly Archives: February 2022

February 27, 2022
Heather Cox Richardson
Feb 28
Southern novelist William Faulkner’s famous line saying “The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” is usually interpreted as a reflection on how the evils of our history continue to shape the present. But Faulkner also argued, equally accurately, that the past is “not even past” because what happens in the present changes the way we remember the past.Russia’s attack on Ukraine and the defiant and heroic response of the people of Ukraine to that new invasion are changing the way we remember the past.Less than a week ago, Russian president Vladimir Putin launched an assault on Ukraine, and with his large military force, rebuilt after the military’s poor showing in its 2008 invasion of Georgia, it seemed to most observers that such an attack would be quick and deadly. He seemed unstoppable. For all that his position at home has been weakening for a while now as a slow economy and the political opposition of people like Alexei Navalny have turned people against him, his global influence seemed to be growing. That he believed an attack on Ukraine would be quick and successful was clear today when a number of Russian state media outlets published an essay, obviously written before the invasion, announcing Russia’s victory in Ukraine, saying ominously that “Putin solved the Ukrainian question forever…. Ukraine has returned to Russia.”But Ukrainians changed the story line. While the war is still underway and deadly, and while Russia continues to escalate its attacks, no matter what happens the world will never go back to where it was a week ago. Suddenly, autocracy, rather than democracy, appears to be on the ropes.In that new story, countries are organizing against Putin’s aggression and the authoritarianism behind it. Leaders of the world’s major economies, including Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Singapore, though not China, are working together to deny Putin’s access to the world’s financial markets.As countries work together, international sanctions appear to be having an effect: a Russian bank this morning offered to exchange rubles for dollars at a rate of 171:1. Before the announcement that Europe and the U.S. would target Russia’s central bank, the rate was 83:1. Monday morning, Moscow time, the ruble plunged 30%. As Russia’s economy descends into chaos, investors are jumping out: today BP, Russia’s largest foreign investor, announced it is abandoning its investment in the Russian oil company Rosneft and pulling out of the country, at a loss of what is estimated to be about $25 billion.The European Union has suddenly taken on a large military role in the world, announcing it would supply fighter jets to Ukraine. Sweden, which is a member of the E.U., will also send military aid to Ukraine. And German chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that Germany, which has tended to underfund its military, would commit 100 billion euros, which is about $112.7 billion, to support its armed forces. The E.U. has also prohibited all Russian planes from its airspace, including Russian-chartered private jets.Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, tweeted: “Russian elites fear Putin. But they no longer respect him. He has ruined their lives—damaged their fortunes, damaged the future of their kids, and may now have turned society away from them. They were living just fine until a week ago. Now, their lives will never be the same.”Global power is different this week than last. Anti-authoritarian nations are pushing back on Russia and the techniques Putin has used to gain outsized influence. Today the E.U. banned media outlets operated by the Russian state. The White House and our allies also announced a new “transatlantic task force that will identify and freeze the assets of sanctioned individuals and companies—Russian officials and elites close to the Russian government, as well as their families, and their enablers.”That word “enablers” seems an important one, for since 2016 there have been plenty of apologists for Putin here in the U.S. And yet now, with the weight of popular opinion shifting toward a defense of democracy, Republicans who previously cozied up to Putin are suddenly stating their support for Ukraine and trying to suggest that Putin has gotten out of line only because he sees Biden as weak. Under Trump, they say, Putin never would have invaded Ukraine, and they are praising Trump for providing aid to Ukraine in 2019.They are hoping that their present support for Ukraine and democracy makes us forget their past support for Putin, even as former president Trump continues to call him “smart.” And yet, Republicans changed their party’s 2016 platform to favor Russia over Ukraine; accepted Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria in October 2019, giving Russia a strategic foothold in the Middle East; and looked the other way when Trump withheld $391 million to help Ukraine resist Russian invasion until newly elected Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky agreed to help rig the 2020 U.S. presidential election. (Trump did release the money after the story of the “perfect phone call” came out, but the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which investigated the withholding of funds, concluded that holding back the money at all was illegal.)But rather than making us forget Republicans’ enabling of Putin’s expansion, the new story in which democracy has the upper hand might have the opposite effect. Now that people can clearly see exactly the man Republicans have supported, they will want to know why our leaders, who have taken an oath to our democratic Constitution, were willing to throw in their lot with a foreign autocrat. The answer to that question might well force us to rethink a lot of what we thought we knew about the last several years.In today’s America, the past certainly is not past.

Notes: Power @PowerUSAIDNEW: @USAID & @StateDept are providing an additional $54M in humanitarian assistance to Ukraine for critically needed health care, safe drinking water, protection for vulnerable children & more. This includes food assistance to meet immediate needs of 125k people. February 27th 2022316 Retweets1,064 LikesRiho Terras @RihoTerrasChancellor @OlafScholz just made a super strong statement at the Bundestag. Military expenditure to more than 2% of GDP, thoroughly strenghtening the Bundeswehr, building new LNG terminals to break free from Russian gas. A strong unified Europe und wir werden es verteidigung!February 27th 2022547 Retweets3,006 LikesNick Knudsen 🇺🇸🇺🇦 @NickKnudsenUSBREAKING: The EU is banning RT and Sputnik (state-owned Russian) media outlets, and for the first time is financing and sending arms to a country under attack. “A watershed moment.”February 27th 2022738 Retweets3,733 Likes Sonne @PaulSonneRussian bank Tinkoff now offering to exchange rubles for dollars at a rate of 171 rubles per dollar. It was 83 before the European/US announcement about targeting the Russian central bank. Currency market formally opens tomorrow. This is brutal. February 27th 20224,995 Retweets14,271 Likes Whitehouse @SenWhitehouseGreat news: White House and allies announce “transatlantic task force that will identify and freeze the assets of sanctioned individuals and companies — Russian officials and elites close to the Russian government, as well as their families, and their enablers.” Bravo.February 27th 20221,816 Retweets8,782 LikesChristo Grozev @christogrozevYesterday, multiple Russian state media published an extremely shocking, even for Kremlin standards, essay: it presumed “Putin solved the Ukrainian question for ever” – i.e. it presumed Russia took over Ukraine and essentially annexed it into a forever-new–old-union. But… Andrey Zakharov @skazal_on”Владимир Путин взял на себя — без капли преувеличения — историческую ответственность, решив не оставлять решение украинского вопроса будущим поколениям”. РЕШЕНИЕ УКРАИНСКОГО ВОПРОСА. Колонка на РИА. Я не шучу: 27th 20223,762 Retweets9,316 LikesKyle Griffin @kylegriffin1German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says Germany is committing 100 billion euros ($112.7 billion) to a special fund for its armed forces, raising its defense spending above 2 percent of its GDP. @NBCNewsFebruary 27th 2022866 Retweets5,589 LikesMichael Birnbaum @michaelbirnbaumEuropean Union to supply fighter jets to Ukraine: Russian-made ones, from Bulgaria, Slovakia and Poland, a European diplomat tells meFebruary 27th 20224,170 Retweets26,418 Likes

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February 26, 2022
Heather Cox Richardson
Feb 27
We are in what feels like a moment of paradigm shift.On this, the third day of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, it appears the invasion is not going the way Russian president Vladimir Putin hoped. The Russians do not control the airspace over the country, and, as of tonight, despite fierce fighting that has taken at least 198 Ukrainian lives, all major Ukrainian cities remain in Ukrainian hands. Now it appears that Russia’s plan for a quick win has made supply lines vulnerable because military planners did not anticipate needing to resupply fuel and ammunition. In a sign that Putin recognizes how unpopular this war is at home, the government is restricting access to information about it.Russia needed to win before other countries had time to protest or organize and impose the severe economic repercussions they had threatened; the delay has given the world community time to put those repercussions into place.Today, the U.S. and European allies announced they would block Russia’s access to its foreign currency reserves in the West, about $640 billion, essentially freezing its assets. They will also bar certain Russian banks from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication system, known as SWIFT, which essentially means they will not be able to participate in the international financial system. Lawmakers expect these measures to wreak havoc on Russia’s economy.The Ukrainian people have done far more than hold off Putin’s horrific attack on their country. Their refusal to permit a corrupt oligarch to take over their homeland and replace their democracy with authoritarianism has inspired the people of democracies around the world.The colors of the Ukrainian flag are lighting up buildings across North America and Europe and musical performances are beginning with the Ukrainian anthem. Protesters are marching and holding vigils for Ukraine. The answer of the soldier on Ukraine’s Snake Island to the Russian warship when it demanded that he and his 12 compatriots lay down their weapons became instantly iconic. He answered: “Russian warship: Go f**k yourself.”That defiance against what seemed initially to be an overwhelming military assault has given Ukraine a psychological edge over the Russians, some of whom seem bewildered at what they are doing in Ukraine. It has also offered hope that the rising authoritarianism in the world is not destined to destroy democracy, that authoritarians are not as strong as they have projected.President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has stepped into this moment as the hero of his nation and an answer to the bullying authoritarianism that in America has lately been mistaken for strength. Zelensky was an actor, after all, and clearly understands how to perform a role, especially such a vital one as fate has thrust on him.Zelensky is the man former president Donald Trump tried in July 2019 to bully into helping him rig the 2020 U.S. election. Then, Trump threatened to withhold the money Congress had appropriated to help Ukraine resist Russian expansion until Zelensky announced an investigation of Joe Biden’s son Hunter.Since the invasion, Zelensky has rallied his people by fighting for Kyiv both literally and metaphorically. He is releasing videos from the streets of Kyiv alongside his government officers, and has been photographed in military garb on the streets. Offered evacuation out of the country by the U.S., he answered, “I need ammunition, not a ride.” His courage and determination have boosted the morale of those defending their country against invaders and, in turn, captured the imagination of people around the world hoping to stem the recent growth of authoritarianism, who are now making him—and Ukraine—an icon of courage and principle.In a sign of which way the wind is blowing, today Czech president Miloš Zeman and Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán, both of whom have nurtured friendly relations with Putin, came out against the invasion. Zeman called for Russia to be thrown out of SWIFT; Orbán said he would not oppose sanctions. Even Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson has begun to backpedal on his enthusiasm for Russia’s side in this war.Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who was part of the scheme to get Zelensky to announce an investigation of Hunter Biden, today got in on the act of defending Ukraine. He tweeted: “The Ukrainian People are fighting for freedom from tyranny. Whether you realize or not, they are fighting for you and me.” But then he continued: “And our current administration is doing the minimum to support them, even though Biden’s colossal weakness and ineptitude helped to embolden Putin to do it.”The right-wing talking point that Biden is weak and inept and therefore emboldened Putin to invade Ukraine is belied by the united front the western world is presenting. After the former president tried to weaken NATO and even discussed withdrawing from the treaty, Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have managed to strengthen the alliance again. They have brought the G7 (the seven wealthiest liberal democracies), the European Union, and other partners and allies behind extraordinary economic sanctions, acting in concert to make those sanctions much stronger than any one country could impose.They have managed to get Germany behind stopping the certification of Nord Stream 2, the gas pipeline from Russia to Germany that would have tied Europe more closely to Russia, and in what Marcel Dirsus, a German political scientist and fellow at the Institute for Security Policy at Kiel University, told the Washington Post was possibly “one of the biggest shifts in German foreign policy since World War II,” Germany is now sending weapons to Ukraine and has agreed to impose economic sanctions.Biden has facilitated this extraordinary international cooperation quietly, letting European leaders take credit for the measures his own administration has advocated. It is a major shift from the U.S.’s previous periods of unilateralism and militarism, and appears to be far more effective.Asked tonight what he would do differently than Biden in Ukraine, former president Trump answered: ​​“Well, I tell you what, I would do things, but the last thing I want to do is say it right now.”For all the changes in the air, there is still a long way to go to restore democracy.There is also a long way to go to restore Ukraine. Tonight the Russians are storming Kyiv.—
Notes: Filipkowski @RonFilipkowskiTrump is asked tonight specifically what he would do different in Ukraine than Biden: “Well, I tell you what, I would do things, but the last thing I would want to do is say it right now.” February 27th 2022856 Retweets4,963 Likes Kofman @KofmanMichaelOne aspect of this war is that Moscow has generally been trying to keep it hidden from the Russian public. They not only sought a quick & easy victory, but hoped to suppress news about the fighting, keeping images of mil operations across Ukraine out of the public eye.February 27th 20221,013 Retweets4,992 Likesemptywheel @emptywheelSDNY is currently sifting through this man’s phones for evidence that he acted as an unregistered agent of RU-backed Ukrainian agents. He was pushing RU propaganda right up through the election.…ImageFebruary 27th 2022223 Retweets891 Likes

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  Heather Cox Richardson     Feb 26
This afternoon, President Joe Biden nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to the Supreme Court. “For too long, our government, our courts haven’t looked like America,” Biden said in a speech introducing Jackson. “I believe it’s time that we have a court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation with a nominee of extraordinary qualifications, and that we inspire all young people to believe that they can one day serve their country at the highest level.” Educated at Harvard, Jackson clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer, who is retiring and whose seat she will take if she is confirmed. Jackson has shown the same focus on democracy that Breyer brought to the court. While so-called “originalists” defer to what they perceive to be the legal limitations written into the Constitution by its Framers, Breyer defers instead to the purpose of the Constitution, deciding cases in part by figuring out which outcome would best defend and expand democracy. His focus on democracy also means he prioritizes consensus and civility. Republicans who will likely object to Jackson are using her nomination to hit at the Biden administration. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who sits on the Judiciary Committee, said it was “extremely inappropriate” for the president to nominate a Supreme Court justice just days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and she said that “Biden is putting the demands of the radical progressive left ahead of what is best for our nation.” In contrast to Blackburn, one could see the act of nominating a justice in the midst of a crisis in the same way President Abraham Lincoln thought about holding the 1864 election in the midst of the Civil War. In November of that year, he told a group of visitors that no one had been sure that a democratic government could survive in times of emergency, but he believed that if an emergency could interrupt the normal process of democracy, “it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us.” Holding the election was itself a victory for the rule of law. Similarly, it seems to me a mistake to characterize Jackson as a part of a “radical progressive agenda” unless democracy itself has become such a thing. Jackson’s tightly reasoned briefs show a focus on democracy that is similar to that of her mentor, Breyer. She has become famous, for example, for a 2019 opinion rejecting the idea that a president’s advisors cannot be compelled to testify before Congress. “Presidents are not kings,” she wrote. “This means that they do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control. Rather, in this land of liberty, it is indisputable that current and former employees of the White House work for the People of the United States, and that they take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Like Breyer, as well, Jackson has a “reputation for pragmatism and consensus building,” according to former president Barack Obama, who nominated her as a district judge. At today’s event, Jackson defined America as “the greatest beacon of hope and democracy the world has ever known.” If she is confirmed, Jackson will be the 116th Justice in American history, University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck pointed out on Twitter. She will be the eighth who is not a white man; she will be the sixth woman. Anticipating criticism suggesting that Jackson’s judicial experience has been brief, Vladeck also compiled a chart of the judicial experience of all Supreme Court justices since 1900. The information showed that Jackson’s 8.9 years of prior judicial experience is more than four of the justices currently on the court—Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Elena Kagan, and Amy Coney Barrett—had combined. It’s also more experience than 4 of the last 10 justices had at their confirmations, or 9 of the last 17, or 43 of the 58 appointed since 1900. “Today, as we watch freedom and liberty under attack abroad, I’m here to fulfill my responsibilities under the Constitution, to preserve freedom and liberty here in the United States of America,” Biden said. This week was historic precisely because it brought into the open the degree to which freedom and liberty are, in fact, under attack, as Russian president Vladimir Putin launched a war of aggression against neighboring Ukraine. Fighting in Ukraine is approaching Kyiv, where the government has armed its civilians to defend the city. Washington Post military reporter Dan Lamothe tweeted information from a senior defense official, who said that Russia is getting more resistance than it expected and that it has not managed to establish air superiority over Ukraine. The U.S. believes that Russia has launched more than 200 missiles at Ukraine, aimed at military sites but hitting civilian areas as well. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said today that 150,000 Ukrainians have been displaced since Russia invaded. Putin today called for Ukrainians to overthrow their own government and negotiate peace with him. Putin needed a quick victory in Ukraine, and the heroic resistance of the Ukrainians has made that impossible, buying time for pressure against him to build. Last night, 1800 Russians were arrested for protesting the war at rallies around the country; prominent Russians, including the children of leading businessmen and lawmakers, are speaking up against the invasion. When Facebook fact-checked Russian state media accounts and put warning labels on them, the Kremlin limited Russians’ access to the site, where they were sharing their anger at Putin’s war. Apparently, ill-trained Russian conscripts are shocked to be on the front lines in Ukraine—Russian law says only volunteer troops are supposed to be used there. Tonight Meta, the parent company of Facebook, banned Russian state media from running ads or raising money on Meta platforms anywhere in the world. While the ban apparently does not eliminate third-party ads, it does show which way the wind is blowing. Today, members of the European Union and Britain froze the European assets of Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The U.S. also sanctioned Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov, as well as Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, which is intended “to attract capital into the Russian economy in high-growth sectors,” according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki. The Russian Ministry of Defense was hacked and taken down, and the personal information of its employees was leaked; the hacker group Anonymous claimed credit. For the first time in its history, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) activated its rapid response troops that can deploy quickly in case Russian troops cross the borders of NATO countries. Putin is rapidly becoming isolated. Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the invasion and calling for an immediate end to hostilities and the withdrawal of Russia’s troops from Ukraine, but it was notable that China, India, and the United Arab Emirates abstained rather than vote. Also today, President Milos Zeman of Czechia and Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, both of whom have been supporters of Putin, came out strongly against the invasion. So did Romania and Bulgaria. Kazakhstan has refused to send troops to Russia. The Ukraine resistance has given rise to the Ghost of Kyiv, a fighter pilot who may or may not be real, and who may or may not be a woman, and who has shot down six Russian planes. Such a superhuman legend symbolizes Ukraine’s people this terrible week.

Notes: Steve Vladeck @steve_vladeck Judge Jackson has 8.9 years of prior judicial experience. That’s more than four current Justices (Thomas, Roberts, Kagan, & Barrett) had *combined.* It’s also more than 4 of the last 10 Justices had at their confirmations; 9 of the last 17; and 43 of the 58 appointed since 1900: Image February 25th 2022 4,722 Retweets13,941 Likes Dan Lamothe @DanLamothe Out of a background briefing this morning with a senior U.S. defense official. Notable updates about the war in Ukraine: February 25th 2022 750 Retweets3,830 Likes

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Since the reconstruction era (an oxymoron), the Bill of rights has been misconstrued, stretched and bent backwards to suit the industrialists and the richest of our (US citizens) country. This has always been evident in the political sphere as shown by the ridiculous amounts of money used to mount and wage a campaign for an “elected” office. We “the people” have been essentially victims of what money can buy and receiving little to no general benefit from any of it. Our only salvation is real information (not misinformatSince the reconstruction era (an oxymoron), the Bill of rights has been misconstrued, stretched and bent backwards to suit the industrialists and the richest of our (US citizens) country. This has always been evident in the political sphere as shown by the ridiculous amounts of money used to mount and wage a campaign for an “elected” office. We “the people” have been essentially victims of what money can buy and receiving little to no general benefit from any of it. Our only salvation is real information (not misinformation and speculation). We currently have at minimum 3 Judges on the high court who are as miscreant as any felon except they have never been arrested (as far as we know). We an unknown number of Congressional members who are morally corrupt and out for themselves. One example: they fought “Obamacare” but proceeded incorporate their own healthcare into it. Our solution: stop taking sides against one another and see the true enemy: those we elected.


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February 18, 2022
Heather Cox Richardson
Feb 19
There are four big stories today.The first is that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has confirmed that it found classified documents among those its staff recovered from former president Donald Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago. David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, wrote in a letter to Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, that NARA is in the process of inventorying the 15 boxes of material Trump took out of the White House and that it has found “items marked as classified national security information within the boxes.” Because Trump removed classified information from its required security protection, NARA staff have alerted the Department of Justice to that national security breach. There is more. Ferriero said that NARA has identified social media records that the Trump administration neglected to preserve. NARA “has also learned that some White House staff conducted official business using non-official messaging accounts that were not copied or forwarded into their official electronic messaging accounts,” as the law required. In addition, even after news reports of Trump tearing up records led NARA to remind the White House that records must be preserved, it nonetheless received records that were torn into pieces. But her emails.(Sorry. Willfully destroyed records make historians a bit salty.)Meanwhile, the second story is that John Durham, whose court filing in a case drove the story about Trump’s mishandling of presidential records out of the news this week, has responded to the accusation that he deliberately politicized and exaggerated a story to inflame Trump loyalists. Durham’s filing presented information in such a misleading way that right-wing media and lawmakers have howled incorrectly that it proved Hillary Clinton was spying on Trump both before and after he took office. The defendant in the case asked the court to strike from that filing the inflammatory paragraphs.Today, Durham responded that “if third parties or members of the media have overstated, understated, or otherwise misinterpreted facts contained in the Government’s Motion, that does not in any way undermine the valid reasons for the Government’s inclusion of this information.” In other words, the right-wing media frenzy misrepresents what happened, but that misinterpretation is not Durham’s problem.  The third story is that U.S. District Court Judge Amit P. Mehta rejected Trump’s attempt to dismiss three lawsuits that blame him for inciting the January 6 riot. Eleven members of the House of Representatives (in their personal capacities) and two Capitol Police officers have accused former president Trump, Donald J. Trump Jr., Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL), and right-wing militia groups including the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, the Warboys, and so on, of conspiring to prevent them from performing their official duties. This is a federal crime thanks to a law first passed in 1871 to stop Ku Klux Klan members from preventing Black legislators and their Republican allies from doing their jobs.  After reviewing the events of January 6 and the days leading up to it, the judge concluded that those launching the lawsuits “establish a plausible conspiracy involving President Trump.” He noted that the president and others worked together to disrupt Congress and stop the counting of the certified Electoral College ballots on January 6. The president undermined faith in the election, falsely claiming it was stolen, and urged supporters to go to Washington, D.C., on January 6, telling them it would be “wild.” He planned the rally, and at it he gave a barn-burning speech that concluded: ““We fight like hell, and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”Trump’s role in a potential conspiracy was “to encourage the use of force, intimidation, or threats to thwart the Certification from proceeding, and organized groups such as the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers would carry out the required acts.” The judge also noted a pattern of “call-and-response” between the president and his militia followers. When he told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by,” for example, one of their leaders tweeted: “Standing by sir.”The court concluded that it was plausible that Trump was part of a conspiracy to stop the performance of official duties. The fourth story is that this evening, President Joe Biden addressed the nation to update us on the threat of Russia’s launching another invasion of Ukraine. He emphasized that we and our allies stand behind Ukraine and pledge to continue diplomatic efforts to prevent a war, and yet will deliver “massive costs on Russia should it choose further conflict.” He urged Russia “to de-escalate and return to the negotiating table.”Political scientist and journalist David Rothkopf tweeted that Biden is speaking as the leader of the free world. “It has been a long time since a U.S. president filled that role. His remarks were concise and pointed…and underscored Western resolve. But the headline: He is convinced [that] Putin has decided… to invade.”Indeed, that was the big takeaway from the speech: Biden said that intelligence sources think Putin has made his decision. Biden said: “we have reason to believe the Russian forces are planning to and intend to attack Ukraine in the coming week—in the coming days. We believe that they will target Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, a city of 2.8 million innocent people.” Former director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Chris Krebs pointed out that the advances the United States intelligence community has made in the last few years in counteractive measures have enabled the U.S. to head off plans “before they’re set in motion.” U.S. officials are alerting Putin to the fact there are leaks in his team, putting his plans at risk. This can cause strife and perhaps make leaders rethink their policies. As Krebs tweeted, it “[p]uts some sand in their gears, creates mistrust, and can slow down planning and operations…. The deliberate approach by western gov[ernmen]ts to anticipate Russian disinfo[rmation] & get in front of it is a positive evolution.”We do not know where the next several days will lead, of course, but it is notable that the solidarity of the countries allied against authoritarianism, strengthened by U.S. diplomacy, is holding strong.—Notes: Rothkopf @djrothkopfBiden speaking now as leader of the free world. It has been a long time since a U.S. president filled that role. His remarks were concise and pointed…and underscored Western resolve. But the headline: He is convinced the Putin has decided to make the decision to invade.February 18th 2022999 Retweets6,720 LikesPresident Biden @POTUSI spoke today with Transatlantic Allies and partners to discuss Russia’s military build-up in and around Ukraine. We agreed on our support for Ukraine, to continue diplomatic efforts, and affirmed our readiness to impose massive costs on Russia should it choose further conflict.February 18th 20223,296 Retweets17,323 LikesPresident Biden @POTUSI say again: Russia can still choose diplomacy. It’s not too late to de-escalate and return to the negotiating table.February 18th 20226,461 Retweets41,472 Likes Krebs @C_C_KrebsIt’s pretty remarkable how far the US intel community has come in counter-active measures efforts in the last few years. The analysis paralysis of the past has been replaced by an intentional workstream declassifying intel to expose plans before they’re set in motion. Kudos.February 18th 20221,175 Retweets6,711 Likes

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Opinion by Michael Hiltzik – LA Times Wednesday February 16.2022

The final tally is in, and the numbers are grim: Donald Trump’s huge trade deal with China — the deal he trumpeted as a “transformative” victory for the U.S. — turned out to be a massive bust.

The deal, it may be remembered, required China to make $200 billion in new purchases of agricultural and manufactured goods, services and crude oil and other energy.

The idea floated by Trump was that the deal would end the trade war he had started with China, while producing a massive infusion of new income for American manufacturers and growers.

Today the only undisputed ‘historical’ aspect of that agreement is its failure.

Today the only undisputed ‘historical’ aspect of that agreement is its failure.

Chad P. Bown, Peterson Institute for International Economics

None of those outcomes happened. Although the trade war stopped escalating, most of the tariffs Trump had imposed on Chinese goods remained in place, as did retaliatory tariffs China imposed.

More to the point, “China bought none of the additional $200 billion of exports Trump’s deal had promised.”

That’s the finding of a study just published by Chad P. Bown of the Peterson Institute of International Economics, who has assiduously tracked China trade since the deal was reached.

Trump called the deal a “historical” agreement — and even bragged that China would buy not $200 billion in new goods and services but $300 billion. As Bown writes, however: “Today the only undisputed ‘historical’ aspect of that agreement is its failure.”

In the end, Bown calculates, China bought only 57% of all the exported goods and services it had committed to purchase under the deal, “not even enough to reach its import levels from before the trade war.”

If you’re looking for more evidence that Trump’s vaunted negotiating skills were a sham from the start, there you have it.

It’s proper to look back at the trade atmosphere that prevailed when the deal was announced, and the skepticism that met the deal from the start.

Trump launched his trade war under the influence of Peter Navarro, an intensely anti-Chinese economist on the White House staff. He consistently proclaimed that the tariffs would cost China billions, but that notion was ridiculed by trade experts, who were virtually unanimous in concluding that they’ve been paid entirely by Americans.

A paper issued in 2019 by trade economists from the Federal Reserve and Columbia and Princeton universities reported that the trade war was costing the U.S. economy $1.4 billion per month by the end of 2018.

That was the consequence of higher prices for U.S. consumers, lower manufacturing growth and the cratering of agricultural exports, all driven by Trump policies.

American exports to China fell because of retaliatory tariffs imposed by Beijing on more than $110 billion in goods such as steel, aluminum and agricultural products.

The farm economy was profoundly harmed; for example, purchases of soybeans by China, formerly the leading export partner of U.S. soybean farmers, fell to zero in November 2018. The Trump administration announced roughly $28 billion in emergency aid to farmers affected by the trade war — another bill falling on U.S. taxpayers.

The tariffs covered Chinese-made parts needed by U.S.-based auto manufacturers, which increased the price of the vehicles exported to China. To circumvent the costs, manufacturers including Tesla and BMW moved production out of the U.S. and into China.

Even after the agreement, the average U.S. tariff on China imports remained at about 19.3%, more than six times its level of 3% before Trump launched the tariff war.

There were always doubts that China could absorb imports on the scale that the deal called for. The arrangement required China to import $52 billion in oil over two years. But the country was then importing about $8 billion a year in crude oil, liquefied natural gas and other energy products from the U.S. Experts were dubious that Chinese energy imports could more than triple, considering that the country has other import sources and was trying to develop domestic exploration. In any event, soon after the deal’s announcement, oil industry leaders told Trump’s aides they couldn’t provide products at the level the deal required.

An unanticipated factor contributed to the deal’s failure, Bown writes: the pandemic, which struck both countries about the time it was announced, shutting down both economies and cross-border trade. The pandemic shuttered the tourist trade, a major component of China’s pledge to step up service purchases. Business travel fell by 90%.

“The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic undermined any chance of success,” Bown acknowledges. But it was not the only factor. Others included the relocation of U.S. auto manufacturing to China and elsewhere to avoid the tariffs. The collapse of U.S. aircraft sales in the wake of the 2018 and 2019 crashes of Boeing’s 737 MAX airliner also contributed.

But China was never on track to meet its commitment — a fact that both countries probably knew at the time of the deal.

In the end, however, it turned out worse than even some of its doubters expected. Trump’s trade war was disastrous for the U.S. almost any way one calculates.

Bown reckons that the trade war caused export losses of $119 billion from 2018 through 2021. That’s not counting the higher prices American consumers had to pay for imported goods, parts and raw materials, along with the farm subsidies.

In the final analysis, Bown writes, Trump did succeed in setting the U.S.-China trade relationship “on a new path.” But not the right path. “Nearly four years later,” he concludes, “different terms for the trade relationship are still needed.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.


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February 14, 2022
Heather Cox Richardson
Feb 15
It appears there was a reason for the former president’s unhinged rant of yesterday suggesting that members of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign had spied on him and that “in a stronger period of time in our country, this crime would have been punishable by death.” Trump is likely unhappy because of a letter his accountants, the firm Mazars, sent to the Trump Organization’s chief legal officer on February 9. That letter came to light today when New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is investigating the finances of the Trump Organization, filed new court documents to explain why she wanted to question Trump and his adult children under oath. The Mazars letter told the Trump organization that Trump’s financial statements from years ending June 2011 through June 2020 could not be relied upon to be accurate, and that it should tell anyone relying on those documents—banks, for example—that they were not reliable. It went on to say there was now a “non-waivable conflict of interest” with the Trump Organization that meant that Mazars was “not able to provide new work product” for the organization. Lawyer George Conway interpreted the letter for non-lawyers. He tweeted:“‘decision regarding the financial…statements’=they are false because you lied‘totality of the circumstances’=the D.A. is serious ‘non-waivable conflict of interest’=we are now on team D.A.‘not able to provide new work product’=sorry we’re not going to jail for you”That is, it appears that Mazars is now working with James’s office. Last month, James’s office alleged that there is “significant” evidence that the Trump Organization manipulated asset valuations to obtain loans and avoid taxes. Now Trump’s accountants appear to be working with her office and have said that Trump’s past ten years of financial statements “should not be relied upon.”This will probably be a problem for the banks that have loaned money to Trump. Their officers have likely relied on the accuracy of the information Trump provided, and according to lawyer Tristan Snell, the lenders could now call in loans early or otherwise change the terms of their agreements.The Trump Organization jumped on the statements in the Mazars letter that “we have not concluded that the various financial statements, as a whole, contain material discrepancies,” and that “Mazars performed its work in accordance with professional standards” to claim that it is exonerated from any wrongdoing. “This confirmation,” it wrote, “effectively renders the investigations by the DA and AG moot.” NBC legal analyst Glenn Kirschner tweeted: “Trump Org[anization] tries to spin it as a complete exoneration (& G[eorge] Orwell blushes).” Orwell was famous for identifying “doublespeak,” language that reverses the meaning of words.But while the fear of what it means for him that his accountant has dropped him might have inspired Trump’s rants about executing Hillary, the same does not hold for Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), who on Sunday’s Fox & Friends broadcast agreed with Trump that Clinton’s aides had spied on him, and implied the punishment for such alleged espionage should be death. The normalization of violence as part of the mainstream Republican Party is cause for concern.—

Notes: Conway @gtconway3d”decision regarding the financial financial statements”=they are false because you lied “totality of the circumstances”=the D.A. is serious “non-waivable conflict of interest”=we are now on team D.A. “not able to provide new work product”=sorry we’re not going to jail for you Maggie Haberman @maggieNYTAG James’ office has submitted a court filing Re Trump case that includes a letter from his company’s accounting firm saying nearly a decade worth of financial statements can no longer be relied upon. 14th 20221,509 Retweets6,248 Likes Snell @TristanSnellBigger problem for Trump: The loan agreements relying on the fraudulent financial reports likely have “representations and warranties” — including one in which Trump was vouching for the accuracy of all info he provided. So Trump may now be in breach of the lending agreements.February 14th 20223,376 Retweets17,944
LikesGlenn Kirschner @glennkirschner2So w/Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars, walking away from Trump Org. & declaring that 10 years of their accounting work cannot be viewed as reliable (obviously because Trump & Co. fed Mazars false info), Trump Org. tries to spin it as a complete exoneration (& G. Orwell blushes). February 15th 2022791 Retweets2,680 Likes

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Robert Reich

Robert Reich

A treacherous alliance is growing that will undermine democratic institutions in the US and elsewhere

FILE - In this July 24, 2021, photo, former President Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a Turning Point Action gathering in Phoenix. Trump remains the most popular figure with the GOP base as he considers another bid for the White House. He's flexing the power of his endorsement in several high-profile midterm contests. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
‘Capitalism is consistent with democracy only if democracy reduces the inequalities and poverty that accompany unbridled profit-seeking.’ Photograph: Ross D Franklin/AP

Sun 13 Feb 2022 06.16 EST

The United States presents itself as the beacon of democracy in contrast to the autocracies of China and Russia. Yet American democracy is in danger of succumbing to the same sort of oligarchic economics and racist nationalism that thrive in both these powers.

After all, it wasn’t long ago that Donald Trump – who openly admired Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin – encouraged racist nationalism in America while delivering much of the US government into the hands of America’s super-rich.

Now state-level Republicans are busily suppressing votes of people of color and paving the way for a possible anti-democratic coup, while the national Republican party excuses the attack on the Capitol – calling it “legitimate political discourse” – and censors Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, the only two congressional Republicans serving on the panel investigating that attack.

America’s oligarchic wealth, meanwhile, has reached levels rivaling or exceeding those of Russia and China. During the pandemic, America’s 745 billionaires increased their holdings by 70%, adding $2.1tn to their wealth in just over a year.

A portion of this wealth is going into politics. As early as 2012, more than 40% of all money spent in federal elections came from the wealthiest of the wealthiest – not the top 1% or even the top tenth of the 1%, but from the top 1% of the 1%.

Now, some of this wealth is supporting Trumpism. Peter Thiel, a staunch Trump supporter whose net worth is estimated by Forbes to be $2.6bn, has become one of the Republican party’s largest donors.

Last year, Thiel gave $10m each to the campaigns of two protégés – Blake Masters, who is running for the Senate from Arizona, and JD Vance, from Ohio. Thiel is also backing 12 House candidates, three of whom are running primary challenges to Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for the events of January 6.

It’s not just Republicans. Last year, at least 13 billionaires who had previously donated to Trump lavished campaign donations on Democratic senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission records.

The combination of oligarchic wealth and racist nationalism is treacherous for democratic institutions in the US and elsewhere. Capitalism is consistent with democracy only if democracy reduces the inequalities, insecurities, joblessness, and poverty that accompany unbridled profit-seeking.

For the first three decades after the second world war, democracy did this. The US and war-ravaged western Europe built the largest middle classes the world had ever seen, and the most buoyant democracies.

The arrangement was far from perfect, but with the addition of civil rights and voting rights, subsidized healthcare (in the US, Medicare and Medicaid), and a vast expansion of public education, democracy was on the way to making capitalism work for the vast majority.

Then came a giant U-turn, courtesy of Ronald Reagan in America and Margaret Thatcher in Europe. Deregulation, privatization, globalization, and the unleashing of finance created the Full Monty: abandoned factories and communities, stagnant wages, widening inequality, a shrinking middle class, political corruption and shredded social support.

The result has been widespread anger and cynicism. Even before the pandemic, most people were working harder than ever but couldn’t get ahead, and their children’s prospects weren’t any better. More than one out of every six American children was impoverished and the typical American family was living from paycheck to paycheck. At the same time, a record high share of national wealth was already surging to the top.

Starting last July, America did an experiment that might have limited these extremes and reduced the lure of racist nationalism. That’s when 36 million American families began receiving pandemic payments of up to $3,000 per child ($3,600 for each child under six).

Presto. Child poverty dropped by at least a third, and the typical family gained some breathing space.

But this hugely successful experiment ended abruptly in December when Senator Joe Manchin joined 50 Republican senators in rejecting President Biden’s Build Back Better Act, which would have continued it.

They cited concerns over the experiment’s cost – an estimated $100bn per year, or $1.6tn over 10 years. But that’s less than big corporations and the rich will have saved on taxes from the Trump Republican tax cut of 2018. Repeal it, and there would be enough money. The cost is also less than the increase in the wealth of America’s 745 billionaires during the pandemic. Why not a wealth tax?

The experiment died because, put simply, the oligarchy didn’t want to pay for it.

Oligarchic economics coupled with racist nationalism marks the ultimate failure of progressive politics. Beware. When the people are no longer defended against the powerful, they look elsewhere.


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February 13, 2022
Heather Cox Richardson Feb 14
Tonight, while those who observe watched the Los Angeles Rams win the Super Bowl, we are in a holding pattern waiting to see if Russian president Vladimir Putin launches a major European invasion, and supporters of the former president of the United States, Donald Trump, are insisting that Trump’s opponent in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, committed treason by spying on his campaign.There’s a lot going on.So I thought tonight I would take a little detour and share one of my favorite stories about Valentine’s Day, which is on the calendar tomorrow. It’s one of my favorite stories not because of the way it starts, but because of the way it ends….On Valentine’s Day in 1884, Theodore Roosevelt lost both his wife and his mother.Four years before, Roosevelt could not have imagined the tragedy that would stun him in 1884. February 14, 1880, marked one of the happiest days of his life. He and the woman he had courted for more than a year, Alice Hathaway Lee, had just announced their engagement. Roosevelt was over the moon: “I can scarcely realize that I can hold her in my arms and kiss her and caress her and love her as much as I choose,” he recorded in his diary. What followed were, according to Roosevelt, “three years of happiness greater and more unalloyed than I have ever known fall to the lot of others.”After they married in fall 1880, the Roosevelts moved into the home of Theodore’s mother, Martha Bulloch Roosevelt, in New York City. There, they lived the life of wealthy young socialites, going to fancy parties and the opera, and traveling to Europe. When Roosevelt was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1881, they moved to the bustling town of Albany, where the state’s political wire-pullers worked their magic. Roosevelt’s machine politician colleagues derided the rich, Harvard-educated young man as a “dude,” and they tried to ignore his irritating interest in reforming society.In the summer of 1883, Alice discovered that she was pregnant, and that fall she moved back to New York City to live with her mother-in-law. There she awaited the birth of the child who Theodore was certain would arrive on February 14.As headstrong as her father, Roosevelt’s daughter beat her father’s prediction by two days. On February 12, Alice gave birth to the couple’s first child, who would be named after her. Roosevelt was at work in Albany and learned the happy news by telegram. But Alice was only “fairly well,” Roosevelt noted. She soon began sliding downhill. She did not recover from the birth; she was suffering from something at the time called “Bright’s Disease,” an unspecified kidney illness.Roosevelt rushed back to New York City, but by the time he got there at midnight on February 13, Alice was slipping into a coma. Distraught, he held her until he received word that his mother was dangerously ill downstairs. For more than a week, “Mittie” Roosevelt had been sick with typhoid. Roosevelt ran down to her room, where she died shortly after her son got to her bedside. With his mother gone, Roosevelt hurried back to Alice. Only hours later she, too, died.On February 14, 1884, Roosevelt slashed a heavy black X in his diary and wrote “The light has gone out of my life.” He refused ever to mention Alice again.Roosevelt’s profound personal tragedy turned out to have national significance. The diseases that killed his wife and mother were diseases of filth and crowding—the hallmarks of the growing Gilded Age American cities. Mittie contracted typhoid from either food or water that had been contaminated by sewage, since New York City did not yet treat or manage either sewage or drinking water. Alice’s disease was probably caused by a strep infection, which incubated in the teeming city’s tenements, where immigrants, whose wages barely kept food on the table, crowded together.Roosevelt had been interested in urban reform because he worried that incessant work and unhealthy living conditions threatened the ability of young workers to become good citizens. Now, though, it was clear that he, and other rich New Yorkers, had a personal stake in cleaning up the cities and making sure employers paid workers a living wage.The tragedy gave him a new political identity that enabled him to do just that. Ridiculed as a “dude” in his early career, Roosevelt changed his image in the wake of the events of February 1884. Desperate to bury his feelings for Alice along with her, Roosevelt escaped to Dakota Territory, to a ranch in which he had invested the previous year. There he rode horses, roped cattle, and toyed with the idea of spending the rest of his life as a western rancher. The brutal winter of 1886–1887 changed his mind. Months of blizzards and temperatures as low as –41 degrees killed off 80% of the Dakota cattle herds. More than half of Roosevelt’s cattle died.Roosevelt decided to go back to eastern politics, but this time, no one would be able to make fun of him as a “dude.” In an era when the independent American cowboy dominated the popular imagination, Roosevelt now had credentials as a westerner. He ran for political office as a western cowboy taking on corruption in the East. And, with that cowboy image, he overtook his eastern rivals.Eventually, Roosevelt’s successes made establishment politicians so nervous they tried to bury him in what was then seen as the graveyard of the vice presidency. Then, in 1901, an unemployed steelworker assassinated President William McKinley and put Roosevelt—“that damned cowboy,” as one of McKinley’s advisers called him—into the White House.Once there, he worked to clean up the cities and stop the exploitation of workers, backing the urban reforms that were the hallmark of the Progressive Era.

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