Thursday, March 9, 2023

Custom Leather Sheath for Buck 110 or 112. Water Buffalo Antique Brown Leather Sheath. Right-Hand Cross Draw to fit on The Left Side

At Amazon, Custom Leather Sheath for Buck 110 or 112. Water Buffalo Antique Brown Leather Sheath. Right-Hand Cross Draw to fit on The Left Side. Strong and Durable; Made in USA; Sheath ONLY.

Sonora Jha, The Laughter

This is a great novel.

At Amazon, Sonora Jha, The Laughter.

Corporate Diversity Pledges Fizzle Amid Layoffs, GOP Backlash


At Bloomberg:

Workplace diversity and inclusion efforts adopted in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and ensuing protests are fading as sweeping layoffs blunt companies’ bold commitments to boost underrepresented groups in their C-suites and ranks.

The global Black Lives Matter movement that followed Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody in 2020 prompted a hiring boom for diversity, equity, and inclusion professionals and pledges by major employers to address racial inequality in the workplace.

But many of those hired—largely people of color—to diversify the workplace have been let go over the past year amid ongoing layoffs as a cost-cutting measure. Employers have cut DEI roles at a higher rate than others, according to a February study from workforce analytics firm Revelio Labs.

More than 300 DEI professionals departed companies in the last six months, including Inc., Twitter Inc., and Nike Inc., the report found. These diminishing roles have left observers questioning whether the sense of urgency to increase workforce diversity that corporate leaders made almost three years ago was genuine or simply a reactionary business decision to mitigate reputational risk.

“They heard concerns about the need for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Fast forward to three years later, that push isn’t that much present in the media every day and prevalent on social media,” said Robert Baldwin III, founder and managing attorney at Virtue Law Group, a plaintiff-side labor and employment firm.

“Since that push isn’t that prevalent,” they don’t feel the pressure to prioritize racial diversity and inclusion, he said.

DEI U-Turn

The slashing of these roles indicates that some companies don’t see DEI as essential, said Jean Lee, president and CEO of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, which advocates for diversity in C-suites.

“This is concerning,” because prospective workers from underrepresented backgrounds might get discouraged from seeking employment at companies that have taken a drastic U-turn with their diversity and inclusion efforts, Lee said.

It may also take a toll on the output and morale of remaining workers, who would question their employer’s commitment to diversity and be forced to take on the responsibility of reporting workplace issues to management and advocating for their needs.

“I think the most important thing employers must consider is the message they’re sending” if they’re cutting back DEI initiatives, Lee said. “That affects your brand and communication.”

Lee, who advises employers on DEI matters, said many companies are grappling with how to use layoffs to cut costs amid inflation and rumblings of a looming recession without undermining their diversity efforts.

Liability Potential In addition to potentially harming employee morale and hiring efforts, employers risk exposing themselves to litigation because DEI leaders are often the ones who spot pitfalls and report unaddressed workplace issues that carry serious legal consequences, employment attorneys said.

Research by a US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission task force found that a lack of diversity and inclusion in the workplace can promote discriminatory behavior and allow such conduct to go unchecked.

“When you are gutting the roles of people tasked with holding you accountable and ensuring your workplace is diverse and inclusive, what follows is increases in instances of bias,” said Samone Ijoma, an employment attorney at Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP.

“I do think that getting rid of the people with that expertise, and who are working to change corporate culture, would likely lead to more lawsuits in that realm,” she added.

Diversity shouldn’t be treated as a project to fill a quota, but must be viewed as a business strategy that leads to better outcomes, she added...

Beautiful Lady

On Twitter.

There's No Such Thing as Being Transphobic

It's Megan Murphy, on Substack, "Spoiler: it's because there's no such thing as a trans person":

The easiest way to combat transgender ideology is to simply not go along with it. Don’t play along with the notion that one must use “preferred pronouns.” (Sexed pronouns are not a matter of preference, they are not an opinion or a judgement, they are a matter of grammar.) Don’t play along with the idea that it is possible to be “born in the wrong body.” (You are born with a sexed body, and unfortunately you don’t get a say in that.) Don’t play along with the idea that it is somehow special or original to not relate to every single stereotype associated with "masculinity” or “femininity.” (No one does. We are have our own personalities and preferences, and while femininity is more commonly associated with females and masculinity with males, how we feel about those sterotypes does not dictate our sex. If it did, we would be changing sex all the time and we would all be “trans.”)

“Trans” is not a real, valid category with a coherent definition, which means that “transphobia” is also not a real, valid, or coherent concept. I realize some make the argument that being “polite” about such things is a better means to bring people over to “our side” or open people up to listening to our concerns, but I actually think it just creates an incredibly confusing conversation. It also opens us up to debates around things like “trans rights” (not a valid concept) or which kids are “really trans,” and therefore would benefit from being medicalized as “trans kids” (no child should be and there is no such thing as a “trans kid”).

I fail to see why lying is polite or useful when talking about things like legislation and policy. It certainly isn’t polite or useful when dealing with kids whose brains are not fully developed and are at risk of having their bodies destroyed for life on account of said lies.

You might like to think of yourself as a “live and let live” kind of person. You might think there are more important issues than transgenderism. You might think, “Why not just let some people identify however they like.” But we are talking about something much bigger: the truth. And reality. We are also talking about women’s rights and the safety and wellbeing of kids.

But if anything, truth and reality are hills worth dying on.

Trans activists are manipulating reality and impeding our ability to speak the truth via language. Don’t play along.

Has Ukraine Exposed the Russian Military as a Paper Tiger?

At the National Interest, "While Russia may have large amounts of Cold War hardware, the military's performance in Ukraine indicates that its true capabilities may only be a fraction of what most of the world previously envisioned."

12 People Have Died After Record Snows in the San Bernardino Mountains

At the Los Angeles Times, "12 have died since massive snowstorms cut off California mountain towns, official says."

And, at Red State, "Death Toll Climbs to 12 in San Bernardino Mountains, While Newsom's Focused on Walgreens Instead."

Abigail Shrier:

For Hillsdale College:

Mexican Drug Gang Turns In Members It Blames for Americans’ Deaths

Don't travel to Mexico. You're likely to be killed.

At the Wall Street Journal, "Gulf Cartel faction left five men tied up in downtown Matamoros with a sign apologizing to victims and their families."

Also, "Americans Kidnapped, Killed in Mexico Were Victims of Violent Border City: Matamoros is the birthplace of the Gulf Cartel, one of Mexico’s oldest and most powerful criminal organizations."

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Ryan O'Connor, The Voids

This is a phenomenal novel I can't recommend enough.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy today.

See, Ryan O'Connor, The Voids.

How Matt Walsh Exemplified the Freedom Center's Longstanding Strategy (VIDEO)

At FrontPage Magazine, "No More Mr. Nice Guy."

This video is brutal:

Matt Walsh’s winning strategy is the same one that the David Horowitz Freedom Center has been using for nearly 35 years. Horowitz came from the radical Left and understands deeply that his former fellow ideologues are not “liberals” who can ever be seduced out of their radicalism by niceness or fair play or polite debate (hence the Center’s tag line: “Inside Every Progressive Is A Totalitarian Screaming To Get Out”). He understands that they need to be confronted by the bare-knuckled truth.

In that sense, Horowitz’s Freedom Center was conceived not as a think tank, but as a battle tank in the defense of free societies whose moral, cultural, and economic foundations are under assault by radical enemies within and without. And the Center has taken the fight to those enemies unapologetically and uncompromisingly ever since.

Dubious Alliances: Germany’s New Peace Movement Has Some Explaining to Do

At Der Spiegel, "Putin’s war in Ukraine is unsettling many in Germany. A new peace movement is forming in the country, but it is stirring up the ghosts of German history – and has an open flank to the extreme right":

No, she says, she’s not a "Putin sympathizer." And she has nothing at all to do with right-wing agitators. Antje Döhner-Unverricht sees herself as one of many in Germany who long for an end to the war in Ukraine, a segment of the German population that feels politicians are doing too little to make that happen.

So, the 52-year-old from Dresden took action: She signed the "Manifesto for Peace" organized by German author and feminist leader Alice Schwarzer and the far-left Left Party politician Sahra Wagenknecht. The "manifesto" calls on German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to support negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. "A compromise with Putin is by no means the capitulation of democracy," says Döhner-Unverricht. She speaks calmly and reflectively.

As a psychologist, some of those to whom she provides care are traumatized patients who "are very worried about the current state of war and are having a hard time dealing with it."

"My daily work is about ensuring that we maintain dialog with one another," says Döhner-Unverricht. "That dialog is currently missing from the political landscape."

The Dresden psychologist opposes arms deliveries to Ukraine. "Russia wants to win the war by any means necessary," she says. "We keep escalating it, where will it end?"

Almost every second person in Germany shares Döhner-Unverricht’s view. German society has been divided ever since Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine a year ago. Some are in favor of supplying weapons to Ukraine. Others are opposed – sometimes more and sometimes less strongly – because they fear it could escalate the war and make it go on forever.

Open letters have been published for and against Germany's role in the war, with prominent supporters for each argument. But the "manifesto" brings a new dimension to the debate.

What is happening now, namely the attempt to establish a new peace movement, hasn't been seen in Germany in years. More than a half-million people have signed Schwarzer’s and Wagenknecht’s "Manifesto for Peace," while over the weekend, major protests were held across Germany in support of the manifesto, with at least 13,000 taking to the streets in Berlin alone.

Right-wing extremists mobilized diligently in recent days to hijack the marches. People like Antje Döhner-Unverricht, who distance themselves from Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and from Putin's propaganda on the petition platform and in comments to DER SPIEGEL, want nothing to do with them. They say they are uncomfortable with the idea that right-wing extremists share their position.

But the issue is too important to them to shun involvement just because of the interference from the right wing. With the result that it’s hard to tell who comprises the bulk of the manifesto’s signatories: moderates or radicals.

In the manifesto, Wagenknecht and Schwarzer warn of a "world war" and "nuclear war" and call on the chancellor to "stop the escalation of arms deliveries" and to work for "peace negotiations" between Ukraine and Russia.

What's lacking in the petition, though, is a coherent explanation of how negotiations might look with someone like Russia's president, who clearly isn’t interested in negotiations.

Wagenknecht and Schwarzer have been criticized for their initiative because it lacks clear language distancing itself from the right. Some of that criticism comes from Wagenknecht's own Left Party, but a number of the initial signatories to the manifesto have begun backing away from it.

Theologist Margot Kässmann, the former head of the Protestant Church in Germany, continues to support the "manifesto," but said last week she would not attend demonstrations in support of the movement in Berlin. "There are attempts by the right-wing fringe to hijack criticism of arms deliveries," Kässmann says, lamentingly. "I care about who I am associated with." The AfD, for example, whose chair Tino Chrupalla recently shared Wagenknecht’s and Schwarzer’s petition on Twitter, represents "inhuman views," says Kässmann. "I don’t want to be associated with them," Kässmann says. "Let them hold their own demonstration."

Meanwhile, Roderich Kiesewetter, a politician with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has launched his own counter-initiative as an alternative to that of Schwarzer and Wagenknecht. In it, he and other signatories write: "Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian women and children in this country, whose husbands, brothers and fathers are fighting on the battlefield right now, are shocked at these ideologues who insist on 'peace' by manifesto, whatever the cost might be."

The debate shows that more than 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germans still don't know who they want to be. The thoroughly militarized East Germany was supposedly committed to world peace. And West Germany had a strong peace movement that emerged as a response to the NATO and Warsaw Pact arms race.

Then the war in Kosovo in the 1990s, which saw Germany's Green Party vote in favor of the German military's first intervention since World War II, shook pacifist certainties in both the east and west of the country. On February 24, 2022, though, it because glaringly obvious that the country had never really addressed a number of central issues – the country's defensive capabilities, for example, or the, question of how to deal with an increasingly aggressive Russia...


Epic Tank Battles in Ukraine

Interesting piece.

At the New York Times, "In an Epic Battle of Tanks, Russia Was Routed, Repeating Earlier Mistakes":

A three-week fight in the town of Vuhledar in southern Ukraine produced what Ukrainian officials say was the biggest tank battle of the war so far, and a stinging setback for the Russians.

KURAKHOVE, Ukraine — Before driving into battle in their mud-spattered war machine, a T-64 tank, the three-man Ukrainian crew performs a ritual.

The commander, Pvt. Dmytro Hrebenok, recites the Lord’s Prayer. Then, the men walk around the tank, patting its chunky green armor.

“We say, ‘Please, don’t let us down in battle,’” said Sgt. Artyom Knignitsky, the mechanic. “‘Bring us in and bring us out.’” Their respect for their tank is understandable. Perhaps no weapon symbolizes the ferocious violence of war more than the main battle tank. Tanks have loomed over the conflict in Ukraine in recent months — militarily and diplomatically — as both sides prepared for offensives. Russia pulled reserves of tanks from Cold War-era storage, and Ukraine prodded Western governments to supply American Abrams and German Leopard 2 tanks.

The sophisticated Western tanks are expected on the battlefield in the next several months. The new Russian armor turned up earlier — and in its first wide-scale deployment was decimated.

A three-week battle on a plain near the coal-mining town of Vuhledar in southern Ukraine produced what Ukrainian officials say was the biggest tank battle of the war so far, and a stinging setback for the Russians.

In the extended battle, both sides sent tanks into the fray, rumbling over dirt roads and maneuvering around tree lines, with the Russians thrusting forward in columns and the Ukrainians maneuvering defensively, firing from a distance or from hiding places as Russian columns came into their sights.

When it was over, not only had Russia failed to capture Vuhledar, but it also had made the same mistake that cost Moscow hundreds of tanks earlier in the war: advancing columns into ambushes.

Blown up on mines, hit with artillery or obliterated by anti-tank missiles, the charred hulks of Russian armored vehicles now litter farm fields all about Vuhledar, according to Ukrainian military drone footage. Ukraine’s military said Russia had lost at least 130 tanks and armored personnel carriers in the battle. That figure could not be independently verified. Ukraine does not disclose how many weapons it loses.

“We studied the roads they used, then hid and waited” to shoot in ambushes, Sergeant Knignitsky said.

Lack of expertise also bedeviled the Russians. Many of their most elite units had been left in shambles from earlier fighting. Their spots were filled with newly conscripted soldiers, unschooled in Ukraine’s tactics for ambushing columns. In one indication that Russia is running short of experienced tank commanders, Ukrainian soldiers said they captured a medic who had been reassigned to operate a tank.

The Russian army has focused on, and even mythologized, tank warfare for decades for its redolence of Russian victories over the Nazis in World War II. Factories in the Ural Mountains have churned out tanks by the thousands. In Vuhledar, by last week Russia had lost so many machines to sustain armored assaults that they had changed tactics and resorted only to infantry attacks, Ukrainian commanders said.

The depth of the Russian defeat was underscored by Russian military bloggers, who have emerged as an influential pro-war voice in the country. Often critical of the military, they have posted angry screeds about the failures of repeated tank assaults, blaming generals for misguided tactics with a storied Russian weapon. Grey Zone, a Telegram channel affiliated with the Wagner mercenary group, posted on Monday that “relatives of the dead are inclined almost to murder and blood revenge against the general” in charge of the assaults near Vuhledar.

In a detailed interview last week in an abandoned house near the front, Lt. Vladislav Bayak, the deputy commander of Ukraine’s 1st Mechanized Battalion of the 72nd brigade, described how Ukrainian soldiers were able to inflict such heavy losses in what commanders said was the biggest tank battle of the war so far.

Ambushes have been Ukraine’s signature tactic against Russian armored columns since the early days of the war. Working from a bunker in Vuhledar, Lieutenant Bayak spotted the first column of about 15 tanks and armored personnel carriers approaching on a video feed from a drone.

“We were ready,” he said. “We knew something like this would happen.”

They had prepared a kill zone farther along a dirt road that the tanks were rumbling down. The commander needed only to give an order over the radio — “To battle!” — Lieutenant Bayak said. Anti-tank teams hiding in tree lines along the fields, and armed with American infrared-guided Javelins and Ukrainian laser-guided Stugna-P missiles, powered up their weapons. Farther away, artillery batteries were ready. The dirt road had been left free of mines, while the fields all about were seeded with them, so as to entice the Russians to advance while preventing tanks from turning around once the trap was sprung.

The column of tanks becomes most vulnerable, Lieutenant Bayak said, after the shooting starts and drivers panic and try to turn around — by driving onto the mine-laden shoulder of the road. Blown-up vehicles then act as impediments, slowing or stalling the column. At that point, Ukrainian artillery opens fire, blowing up more armor and killing soldiers who clamber out of disabled machines. A scene of chaos and explosions ensues, the lieutenant said.

Russian commanders have sent armored columns forward for a lack of other options against Ukraine’s well-fortified positions, however costly the tactic, he said.

Over about three weeks of the tank battle, repeated Russian armored assaults floundered. In one instance, Ukrainian commanders called in a strike by HIMARS guided rockets; they are usually used on stationary targets like ammunition depots or barracks, but also proved effective against a stationary tank column...


Alex Epstein Explains the Real Climate Crisis (VIDEO)

For Prager University:


Lovely woman.

On Instagram.

Biden Administration to Adopt Trump-Era Policy on Those Seeking Asylum in the U.S.

This is actually an amazing story. 

Sometimes policies have path dependence. Earlier policy choices can have powerful effects on what comes later, and in this case, migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. are going to be in for a shock.

At the Los Angeles Times, "News Analysis: Biden’s new asylum proposal could affect the border forever."

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Carmine Gallo, The Bezos Blueprint

At Amazon, Carmine Gallo, The Bezos Blueprint: Communication Secrets of the World's Greatest Salesman Hardcover.


I love this woman.

On Instagram.

The Conversation About Ukraine Is Cracking Apart

From Stephen Walt, at Foreign Policy, "What government officials are saying in public, and private, is fascinating—and full of contradictions":

I attended the Munich Security Conference for the first time this year, so I may be a member of Washington’s so-called Blob after all. I was grateful for the opportunity and enjoyed the experience, but I can’t say that I came away from it feeling better about the current state of the world.

The war in Ukraine dominated the proceedings, of course, and there were two important dividing lines in the collective conversation.

The first gap was the vastly different perceptions, narratives, and preferred responses between the trans-Atlantic community on the one hand and key members of the global south on the other. Several important media outlets have described this gap already, and a new report from the European Council on Foreign Relations contains compelling survey data documenting it. I attended several sessions and private dinners focused on this issue, and the discussions were revealing.

Diehard Atlanticists tend to portray the war in Ukraine as the single most important geopolitical issue in the world today. U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said the war had “far-reaching global ramifications,” and the head of one U.S.-based think tank called it “the fulcrum of the 21st century.” Similarly, when asked how the war might end, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock replied that anything less than a complete Russian defeat and withdrawal would mean “the end of the international order and the end of international law.”

In this narrative, in short, what is at stake in Ukraine is the future of the entire rules-based order—and even the future of freedom itself. Some American and European speakers seemed to be competing to see who could give the most Churchillian speech, insisting that there was no substitute for victory, dismissing any risk of escalation, and calling for Ukraine’s supporters to give Kyiv whatever it needs to win a quick and decisive victory.

The rest of the world sees it differently. Nobody was defending Russia or President Vladimir Putin in Munich, and the United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine “immediately, completely and unconditionally” passed with more than 140 votes a few days later. But states outside the trans-Atlantic coalition (including important powers such as India, Brazil, or Saudi Arabia) have not joined Western-led efforts to sanction Russia and do not see the conflict in the same apocalyptic terms that most officials in the West do. Atlanticists in Munich seemed baffled by their stance, and a few people were sharply critical. I heard another Western think tank head chide nonaligned states by saying, “This conference is not about moral ambiguity.”

In fact, this gap is not that hard to understand. For starters, people outside the West view the rules-based order and Western insistence that states not violate international law as rank hypocrisy, and they were particularly resentful of Western attempts to claim the moral high ground on this issue. In their view, not only do Western powers make most of the rules, but they are also perfectly willing to violate these rules whenever it suits them. Not surprisingly, representatives from the global south were quick to bring up the United States’ illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003—where was the rules-based order then? Similarly, several speakers pointed out that the same Western governments warning that Russia is violating the post-World War II norm against acquiring territory by conquest did nothing to stop Israel from conquering the Golan Heights and West Bank, annexing the former and filling the latter with settlers. Russia is now heavily sanctioned—understandably—whereas the United States gives Israel generous economic and military aid as well as uses its veto to shield Israel from criticism in the U.N. Security Council. Such blatant double standards make Western moral posturing hard to swallow.

Furthermore, key states in the global south do not share the Western belief that the future of the 21st century is going to be determined by the outcome of the war. For them, economic development, climate change, migration, civil conflicts, terrorism, the rising power of India and China, and many others will all exert a greater impact on humanity’s future than the fate of the Donbas or Crimea. They wonder why Western governments quickly found tens of billions of dollars to send Ukraine but wouldn’t pay enough to mount an effective global vaccination campaign against COVID-19. They ask why Ukraine is now in the spotlight 24/7, but the West devotes only intermittent attention to the lives being lost in sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, or other trouble spots. They are angry watching European states welcome Ukrainian refugees with open arms, given their prior hostility to refugees fleeing equally horrific situations in Syria or Afghanistan. And because the war is affecting their interests adversely (e.g., through higher food prices), they are more interested in ending it than helping Kyiv achieve all its war aims.

The global south’s measured stance does not mean it is “pro-Russian”; it means those states are merely as self-interested as other countries are. It also means the gap between the West and the so-called rest is not likely to go away.

The second gap I observed in Munich was a gulf between the optimism that top officials expressed in public and the more pessimistic assessments one heard in private. In the main events featuring officials such as Harris, Baerbock, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and others, one heard upbeat tales of Western unity and long-term prospects for victory. U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky echoed this message during Biden’s surprise visit to Kyiv last week. While acknowledging that difficult days lie ahead, the focus in Munich was on the victory that would one day be won.

In private, however, the conversations were much more somber...

Keep reading

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Classic Buck Knives 110 Folding Hunter Lock-Back Knife

At Amazon, Buck Knives 110 Folding Hunter Lock-back Knife, Brass Bolsters, Ebony Handles, 3-3/4" 420HC Blade with Leather Sheath.

Matthew Connelly, The Declassification Engine

At Amazon, Matthew Connelly, The Declassification Engine: What History Reveals About America's Top Secrets.

The War Is Right And Just. But Is It Prudent?

From Andrew Sullivan, "A year later, the end-game of the war in Ukraine is dangerously murky":

There are so many ways in which the West’s defensive war against Russia is a righteous cause.

It is right and just to defend a sovereign country from attack by a much larger neighbor; to fight back against an occupying force committing war crimes on a massive scale; to oppose the logic of dictatorships and defend the foundations of democracy; to uphold a post-Cold War international order which forbids the redrawing of borders by force; to unite democratic countries in Europe against a resurgence of imperial Russia; to defang and defeat a poisonous chauvinism that despises modern freedoms for women and gay people.

It is indeed right and just. But is it prudent?

That’s the question I’m still grappling with, in a week which saw the conflict deepen and the two sides entrench their positions further. President Biden’s trip to Kyiv and his speech in Poland have heightened the stakes, turning this into a more obvious proxy war between the United States and Russia … edging gingerly but relentlessly toward something more direct. He’s all in now: declaring that Ukraine “must triumph” and that Russia cannot win a war that the Russian leader deems existential. NATO armaments are pouring into Ukraine at an accelerating rate. The training of Ukrainian troops is happening across the Continent. Germany is sending tanks. Pressure is building on Britain to send fighter jets.

The US is ratcheting up arms production as fast as it can, while seriously depleting our own Stinger surface-to-air missiles, 155mm howitzers and ammunition, and Javelin anti-tank missile systems. These are good times for arms producers:
The Army is planning a 500% increase in artillery shell production, from 15,000 a month to 70,000, according to Army acquisition chief Doug Bush … and intends to double the production of Javelin anti-tank missiles, make roughly 33% more Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems surface-to-surface medium-range missiles a year, and produce each month a minimum of 60 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles — which were “almost not in production at all,” according to Bush.
When Ukraine’s effective military is made up almost entirely of NATO equipment, and trained by NATO forces, there surely comes a point at which claiming NATO is not actually at war with Russia gets fuzzy.

It’s worth remembering how Biden put it less than a year ago: “the idea that we’re going to send in offensive equipment and have planes and tanks and trains going in with American pilots and American crews, just understand — and don’t kid yourself, no matter what you all say — that’s called ‘World War Three.’ Okay?” Well, technically, he’s still right. We don’t have American pilots and troops in the air and on the ground in Ukraine. But we do have them just over the horizon, along with tanks and planes and highly effective drones on the front lines in Ukraine itself. The munitions are being made in the USA — many in Biden’s beloved Scranton! And Ukraine cannot win without them.

And this is not exactly a proxy war like Vietnam — because the country involved is right on the nuclear super-power’s border and was long part of that power’s empire; and any attempt to reclaim all of Ukraine will obviously spill over into Russia proper at some point. And the logic of escalation in wartime has its own momentum, if we don’t want to seem as if we’re losing ground.

Sure enough, every time the Biden administration has said it would restrict the provision of arms to Ukraine, it has backtracked quickly, as Putin digs in. Upwards of 140 tanks are being sent from NATO, and hundreds more may follow. Long-range missiles capable of hitting Russia have also been sent — on the condition they not be used in Russia. The 2022 dynamic was summed up by the Ukrainian defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov:

When I was in DC in November [2021], before the invasion, and asked for Stingers, they told me it was impossible. Now it’s possible. When I asked for 155-millimeter guns, the answer was no. HIMARS, no. HARM [missiles], no. Now all of that is a yes. Therefore, I’m certain that tomorrow there will be…F-16s.
The Russians are escalating as well: they now have 300,000 troops in Ukrainian territory (way more than they had for the original invasion), are ramping their economy into wartime gear, and are still on the offensive (if ineffectively so). Their economy has held up far better than anyone expected. Last March, Biden assured us that “the totality of our economic sanctions and export controls are crushing — crushing the Russian economy.” The actual contraction was 2.1 percent in 2022, according to the IMF. A crinkle, not a crush.

In fact, Russia has merely diversified its customer base: “for all of 2022, Russia managed to increase its oil output 2 percent and boost oil export earnings 20 percent, to $218 billion ... Russia also raked in $138 billion from natural gas, a nearly 80 percent rise over 2021 as record prices offset cuts in flows to Europe.” This year, the IMF predicts that Russia will have a higher growth rate than either Germany or Britain, and in 2024, it will best the US as well. Yes, sanctions will, in the long run, hurt investment and future growth in Russia and cripple technological essentials for war. And tougher sanctions on oil are underway, and could have an impact. But Russia is far more resilient economically than almost anyone foresaw a year ago.

Russia’s isolation? Not so splendid anymore. The West is indeed united, for which Biden deserves real credit; the rest, much less so. India has increased Russian imports by 400 percent. But the real game-changer is China. Its initial neutrality is clearly shifting. Yesterday, Der Spiegel reported that “the Russian military is engaged in negotiations with Chinese drone manufacturer Xi’an Bingo Intelligent Aviation Technology over the mass production of kamikaze drones for Russia.”

Previously dependent on Iran for these weapons, a serious and reliable supply from China will come in handy. More significantly, as Noah Smith notes, in a long war of attrition, as this is becoming, mass production of weapons matters. And China has a much bigger manufacturing base than the West. Will they use it? It must be tempting to pin the West down in Europe. We’ll learn more when Xi visits Putin this spring.

Politically, moreover, Russia appears stable, if brutally controlled. Muscovites remain relatively protected and are carrying on as if the war didn’t exist. The public sphere has become ever more subsumed in militarism, dissent has been largely crushed, and the invocation of the fight against the actual Nazis seems to have helped galvanize public support. Popular backing for the war, even among non-Russian polls, remains high.

The most intense opposition has come from the far right, military bloggers and crazed TV jingoists, wanting to ramp up the action. In the US, in contrast, the opposition is in favor of less, rather than more. The two likeliest Republican candidates in 2024, Trump and DeSantis, favor talks and a peace settlement, along America First lines. As Biden was in Poland, Trump was in Pennsylvania; and DeSantis was urging restraint. The chances of an American pivot on Ukraine seem at this point higher than a Russian one, do they not?

That’s why, I suppose, the chorus of support this past week in Washington — by almost the entire foreign policy Blob — had a slight air of desperation about it. Two Atlantic headlines blared the neocon message: a surreal piece arguing that “Biden Just Destroyed Putin’s Last Hope,” and “Biden Went to Kyiv Because There’s No Going Back.” Anne Applebaum says Biden’s trip is “putting everyone on notice, including the defense ministries and the defense industries, that the paradigm has shifted and the story has changed.” Europe is at war and there is no going back until Russia is defeated and has withdrawn from all of Ukraine. The off-ramps are being removed.

Which is a little bit concerning when the enemy has nukes. That’s why the US stood by when Soviet tanks went into Hungary and Czechoslovakia during the Cold War — a far greater incursion than a fifth of Ukraine. We held back not because it was right, but because the alternative could have been catastrophic. We can pray that nothing happens this time — but prayer is not that effective against a potentially desperate regime fighting for what it believes is its existential survival and for a leader who knows a loss would mean his possibly literal demise. In short: we’re objectively taking more of a risk now than we did for almost all of the Cold War, excepting October 1962, with far lower stakes. Has the nuclear equation changed that much since then?

Wars are dynamic and unpredictable. Will Putin invade Moldova? Will Belarus go all-in against Ukraine? Will this war cement a Russia-China alliance and deepen Russia-India ties? Or will battlefield success for Ukraine lead to some kind of breakthrough, as the current strategy seems to be aiming at? I don’t know, and none of us know. What I do know is that Russia is going nowhere; that getting it out of the Donbas may require a long WWI-style slog; that at some point, a territorial compromise is inevitable; and that the longer this war goes on, the worse the human and economic toll on Ukraine.

And as Ron DeSantis pointed out this week, the strongest argument for war — that anything less would put all of Europe at risk of Russian invasion — is a lot weaker now that the shambles of the Russian military has been exposed. A military that cannot occupy more than a fifth of a non-NATO country on its border is not likely to be entering Warsaw anytime soon. And the conflict has strengthened NATO immeasurably and accelerated Europe’s transition from carbon energy, both indisputably good things.

My worry is that the West is committing itself to an end-goal — the full liberation of all of Ukraine — that no Russian government could accept, without regime change in Moscow itself. Which means, as Biden’s gaffes sometimes reveal, that this is ineluctably a war for regime change in a nuclear-armed country — which is an extremely hazardous enterprise. It’s righteous but dangerous. Putin is very much in the wrong, just as Saddam was. Evil men, vile regimes. But the one thing I learned from all that, is that focusing on morality rather than prudence, and letting the former eclipse the latter entirely, can be a righteous and well-intentioned road to hell.

U.S. Aims to Chart New Course for Chip Industry

At the Wall Street Journal, "$53 billion plan, a mix of subsidies and conditions, will be a test of U.S. industrial policy: Companies receiving money to build domestic semiconductor facilities under the $53 billion Chips Act will have to meet a series of requirements imposed by the government."

The newspaper's editorial is here: "The Chips Act Becomes Industrial Social Policy: Gina Raimondo uses semiconductor subsidies to impose progressive priorities via corporations."

Tom Sizemore’s Family Weighs End-of-Life Matters After Actor Has Aneurysm, Stroke

So sad. The guy's exactly my age. It hasn't been all roses for the guy in Hollywood. He's great. A heroic soldier in film.

At the Wall Street Journal, "The ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and ‘Black Hawk Down’ actor is currently in a coma, according to his manager."

And at ABC 7 Los Angeles:


On Instagram:

What the War in Ukraine Has Revealed About Nuclear Weapons

From Nina Tannenwald, at Foreign Affairs, "The Bomb in the Background":

In a major speech this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he was suspending his country’s participation in the New START treaty, Russia’s only remaining major nuclear arms control agreement with the United States. He also threatened to resume nuclear weapons tests. The declarations sent jitters through the international community. These actions constituted yet another example of Putin’s willingness to leverage his nuclear arsenal, dangling it like the sword of Damocles over the West in order to limit NATO’s support for Ukraine.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine last February, Russian leaders have issued numerous explicit nuclear threats against Ukraine and NATO. In April, Putin promised to respond to outside intervention in the conflict with “swift, lightning fast” retribution. “We have all the tools for this,” he added, “ones that no one can brag about.” So far, however, there has been no significant or observable change in the operational readiness of nuclear weapons in either Russia or in Western countries.

Some observers see Russia’s decision to not use nuclear weapons yet as proof that it will never do so. But that assessment assumes Putin is a rational actor and would not risk the calamity and the pariah status that would follow any Russian deployment of such a weapon. Unfortunately, it is far from clear that Russia’s nuclear brinkmanship is mere bluffing. Moreover, nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine are not remarkable in their absence, but rather in how they frame the conflict. By deterring the greater intervention of NATO, the Russian nuclear arsenal has helped prolong the war and make any conventional resolution to the fighting more difficult to attain. The conflict in Ukraine is no doubt the most dangerous nuclear confrontation since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. As the past year of carnage and bluster has shown, nuclear weapons wield devastating power even as they remain locked in their silos—and governments need to reinforce the taboo against their use.


In the context of the Ukraine war, nuclear weapons have mostly benefited Russia. Putin has invoked his nuclear might to deter NATO from any military intervention on Ukraine’s behalf. That deterrence has worked: the West is (rationally) unwilling to enter the war directly or even to give Ukraine long-range firepower that could reach far into Russia, for fear that such help could end up sparking an apocalyptic nuclear conflict. As a result, the war will likely last longer than it would have if the West entered the fray. A longer war will lead to many more deaths and further destruction. Were nuclear weapons not in the calculus, the United States and NATO would be able to employ their superior conventional firepower more effectively in Ukraine’s defense to win the war quickly. But Putin’s nukes neutralize the West’s conventional military superiority.

It is also possible that Russia’s nuclear weapons emboldened Putin to invade in the first place, because he would not have attacked Ukraine without a way of keeping the United States and NATO out of the war. Of course, Putin acutely misjudged the relative strength of the Russian military. But Russian leaders are aware of their conventional military’s inferiority to that of the West. The fact that Russian leaders issued so many explicit nuclear threats suggests that they saw their nuclear arsenal as a way of compensating.

To be sure, the nuclear weapons in the arsenals of several NATO member states presumably have deterred Russia from expanding the war to NATO countries, such as Poland, Romania, or the Baltic states. In this regard, nuclear deterrence has clearly helped prevent a wider war.

But it has also prolonged the conventional war, at greater cost to everyone, especially the Ukrainian people. A grinding, brutal war of attrition could persist for a long time, with no side able to land a definitive knockout blow. In such a war, Russia maintains a significant advantage over Ukraine by virtue of its much bigger population and larger military.


Some Western analysts suggest that the United States and NATO should call the Kremlin’s bluff—they should more forthrightly back the Ukrainians and drive Russian forces out of Ukraine. Russian leaders have repeatedly warned of escalation if the West keeps arming Ukraine, but, the argument goes, the Kremlin will not actually resort to nuclear weapons and break the taboo regarding their use. As a result, many observers, mostly outside government, are taking a cavalier approach to the risk of nuclear escalation.

Some pundits take the fact that Putin has not used nuclear weapons after a year of embarrassing military defeats as evidence that he will not use a nuclear weapon in the future. They argue that the West should do whatever it takes to support Ukraine. They criticize U.S. President Joe Biden for declining to send advanced military equipment to Ukraine and deride the supposed defeatists who fret about escalation. “The greatest nuclear threat we face is a Russian victory,” the journalist Eric Schlosser wrote in January in The Atlantic. The historian Timothy Snyder, one of the most perceptive observers of the war, has dismissed Russian threats as mere “talk” designed to scare the West. In February, he went so far as to mock people concerned about nuclear escalation, writing that discussions of the risks of nuclear war are mere media “clickbait” and “a way to claim victimhood” and “blame the actual victims.” But some close observers of Putin, such as the writer Masha Gessen, disagree. They are much less sanguine about Putin’s rationality. In the warped worldview of the Russian president, Gessen has argued, the use of nuclear weapons could be justified as a rational course of action...

Keep reading.


Woody Harrelson's Opening on Saturday Night Live (VIDEO)

I saw articles saying his opening monologue was controversial --- it spread "anti-vaccine" conspiracies. 

So much bullshit. The guy's a genius. Hilarious. 


Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Buck Knives Fixed Blade Hunting Knife, 4" Stainless Steel Blade

At Amazon, Buck Knives 102 Woodsman Fixed Blade Hunting Knife, 4" Stainless Steel Blade with Leather Sheath​.

Peter H. Wilson, Iron and Blood

Peter H. Wilson, Iron and Blood: A Military History of the German-Speaking Peoples since 1500.


On Twitter.

'Every Parent's Nightmare': TikTok Is a Venue for Child Sexual Exploitation

At the Wall Street Journal, "Law-enforcement officials say platform has emerged as biggest danger zone; adults who watch videos of young people are served up more of them." 

The Left Has Given Up on Ordinary Americans

From Batya Ungar-Sargon, at Spiked, "Batya Ungar-Sargon on how the working classes are being sacrificed to elite virtue-signalling":

The modern left hasn’t just abandoned its former working-class supporters – it has actively turned against them, too. More often than not, in elite leftist circles, ordinary working people are looked down upon with disdain, as having the wrong political views and the wrong cultural tastes. Worse still, many of the left’s preferences are clearly harmful to workers. The green agenda, in particular, shows little regard for the lives and livelihoods of vast swathes of the population. So how did we get here?

Batya Ungar-Sargon is the deputy opinion editor at Newsweek and author of Bad News: How Woke Media Is Undermining Democracy. She recently joined Brendan O’Neill on the latest episode of his podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. What follows is an edited extract from their conversation. Listen to the full episode here.

Brendan O’Neill: Whenever you talk about the working class nowadays, someone will accuse you of making a racist dog-whistle. Why are questions of class and economic inequality being dismissed in this way?

Batya Ungar-Sargon: I consider myself a left-wing populist. Routinely, people on the left would say that I’m a conservative and that the points I make are conservative talking points. I always laughed at this because, first of all, I don’t think ‘conservative’ is an insult. People expect you to act like somebody just called you fat.

The other point is that it’s basically an admission that caring about class is now a right-wing position, and that being on the left no longer means caring about class.

This comes out in some funny ways. For example, when Elon Musk fired a lot of Twitter staff. We now know that those people were totally superfluous to the operation of Twitter, because the site is still completely operational. It turned out that a large number of people who worked there did an hour or two of work a day and then spent the rest of the time drinking matcha lattes. The average pay was $160,000 per year, for these funny-sounding jobs that didn’t seem to entail much work at all. A lot of Twitter employees were also working from home, and when Musk demanded that they come in at least once a month, they refused to. When they were fired, the left took up their cause like it was some great labour catastrophe – as if the real working class is made up of content managers at Twitter.

You see this a lot in the media as well. They take their unionising very seriously at these knowledge-industry jobs, where the average pay is $100,000 per year. I’m not saying those jobs shouldn’t be unionised, but don’t tell me you’re the proletariat if you sit behind a desk and make $100,000 a year. You’re part of the elites, you’re in the top 20 per cent. You’ve taken a bigger share of the economic pie and, as a result, you believe you deserve a bigger share of the political pie. That’s really what it comes down to.

You shouldn’t speak up on behalf of working-class people just because you agree with their opinions – you should speak up because a democracy requires sharing power. Throughout history, shared power has been tied to shared economic success, to upward mobility and to the middle class. If you don’t have a working class that has access to a middle-class life, then all political power is going to get funnelled to the top, and to the elites. Unfortunately, that’s how the leftist elites like it.

O’Neill: We have a situation now where the elites expressly call for working-class people to be deprived of certain jobs. In the UK, the government has given the go-ahead to a coal mine, which will create hundreds of well-paid jobs for working-class people. But the progressive set is actively agitating against that. What does the ideology of environmentalism tell us about class?

Ungar-Sargon: The coverage of the World Economic Forum meeting at Davos last month comes to mind here. It was amazing to watch. In any other era the left would have seen Davos for the sort of disgusting display of conspicuous consumption and elite vanity that it was. But instead those claiming to be progressive looked at Davos and saw their values being represented there. In a way, it’s genius. Through the green movement, the elites have created what the left always accused the right of doing – they have created a value system that makes the difference between the billionaire class and the educated elites fungible. Both of these groups are on board with the idea of this apocalyptic vision. They agree that the most important thing is the climate, and that we’re all going to die if we don’t solve it.

Getting the top 20 per cent to see their interests as aligned with gazillionaires is what is greasing the wheels of the green movement.

O’Neill: Do the elites really believe in the green agenda? Or do they just benefit from it?

Ungar-Sargon: I think they definitely believe it. I don’t think you can look at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for example, and not see somebody who is deeply sincere. The only thing that makes me think that they don’t believe it is the private jets. If you believed so deeply in man-made climate change, surely the first thing you would do is ban private jets. But on the whole I do think they believe it. It would be very hard to pull off at this scale if they didn’t.

The way the elites think of the economy is very related to green ideology. They picture an economy in which the top 20 per cent keeps making over $100,000 a year and lives in nice neighbourhoods and nice cities. All production is done in China. All service-industry jobs are performed by slave-wage Venezuelans brought in by cartels. And everybody making under $100,000 a year – who used to be the working class – is on universal basic income. That’s the view that a lot of so-called progressives consciously or unconsciously have of their ideal economic system.

Of course, this fits right into the green movement. You can’t have a middle class without cheap, affordable fuel and energy. And climate activists don’t believe in cars, they don’t believe in trucks, they don’t believe in farming. They don’t believe in the jobs that we actually rely on to survive. They’ve essentially given up on America. They’re definitely not proud of America, they’re ashamed of it. They hate conservatives, religious people, Republicans, people who voted for Trump. To them, those people are anathema to the good life...


Thousands Sign Letter Protesting the New York Times' Coverage of Trans People, Coordinated With Letter from GLAAD -- New York Times Defends Its Journalism

A big brouhaha today on the trans extremist world. 

At Neiman Lab, "One open letter draws parallels between the Times’ coverage of trans people and, in earlier decades, its coverage of gay people and HIV/AIDS."

And see Esther Wang, "New York Times Writers Call Out the Paper’s Anti-Trans Onslaught":

On Wednesday morning, a group of almost 200 journalists and writers released an open letter addressed to the New York Times, sharing their "serious concerns about editorial bias in the newspaper’s reporting on transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming people" and criticizing how the Times has "follow[ed] the lead of far-right hate groups in presenting gender diversity as a new controversy warranting new, punitive legislation."

The open letter, whose signees include regular contributors to the Times and prominent writers and journalists like Ed Yong, Lucy Sante, Roxane Gay, and Rebecca Solnit, comes at a time when far-right extremist groups and their analogues in state legislatures are ramping up their attacks on trans young people; just yesterday, South Dakota became the sixth state to ban or restrict gender-affirming care for youth, efforts that one conservative activist recently acknowledged was merely the first step toward their goal of banning transition care altogether.

In recent years and months, the Times has decided to play an outsized role in laundering anti-trans narratives and seeding the discourse with those narratives, publishing tens of thousands of handwringing words on trans youth—reporting that is now approvingly cited and lauded, as the letter writers note, by those who seek to ban and criminalize gender-affirming care.

As the critic Tom Scocca wrote of the Times' reporting, "This is pretty obviously—and yet not obviously enough—a plain old-fashioned newspaper crusade. Month after month, story after story, the Times is pouring its attention and resources into the message that there is something seriously concerning about the way young people who identify as trans are receiving care." He then asked: "If it's not a problem, why else would it be in the paper?"

Loads of links at the article, but see, if you can stomach it, "THE WORST THING WE READ THIS WEEK: Why Is the New York Times So Obsessed With Trans Kids?" (Via Memeorandum.)

J.K. Rowling: My Comments About Real Women Being Real Women Have Been 'Profoundly Misunderstood'. Please Don't Murder Me

At AoSHQ, "She says her comments about sex being real have been "profoundly misunderstood."

Carrie Lukas Checking Progressive Privilege

At Amazon, Carrie Lukas, Checking Progressive Privilege.


On Twitter:

The California Exodus

Was just discussing this in my American government classes this morning. 

At the Los Angeles Times, "California’s population dropped by 500,000 in two years as exodus continues":

The California exodus has shown no sign of slowing down as the state’s population dropped by more than 500,000 people between April 2020 and July 2022, with the number of residents leaving surpassing those moving in by nearly 700,000.

The population decrease was second only to New York, which lost about 15,000 more people than California, census data show.

California has been seeing a decline in population for years, with the COVID-19 pandemic pushing even more people to move to other parts of the country, experts say. The primary reason for the exodus is the state’s high housing costs, but other reasons include the long commutes and the crowds, crime and pollution in the larger urban centers. The increased ability to work remotely — and not having to live near a big city — has also been a factor.

The rate of the exodus may now be slowing as the pandemic’s effects ease, but some experts say it could be a few years before the Golden State starts to record the kind of population growth it has seen in the past.

The census data point to those states that have seen population gains even as California’s has shrunk.

Net migration out of California surpassed that of the next highest state, New York, by about 143,000 people. Nearby states such as Utah have sought to discourage Californians from moving there. A similar story is playing out in Nevada, where California migrants are seeking to re-create their lifestyle.

California gained about 157,000 more people from natural change — the difference in number between births and deaths — than New York did, making New York’s total population loss greater.

During the final year of the two-year span, from July 2021 to July 2022, California lost about 211,000 people, according to data from the state Department of Finance. More than half — 113,048 — were from Los Angeles County, the most populous of California’s 58 counties...

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Ben Smith, Traffic

At Amazon, Ben Smith, Traffic: Genius, Rivalry, and Delusion in the Billion-Dollar Race to Go Viral.

The Highest Principle

From Chris Rufo, at City Journal, "Left-wing DEI bureaucracy has captured Florida State University and installed radical politics as the governing value."

BONUS: At the New York Times, "Education Issues Vault to Top of the G.O.P.’s Presidential Race."

Did Anyone Check on 'Miserable' Ben Affleck After the Grammy Awards? (VIDEO)

At LAT, "Ben Affleck attended the 65th Grammy Awards arguably for the sake of Twitter, which could not get enough of the Oscar winner’s “I’d rather be anywhere else” reaction shots during Sunday’s telecast":

The “Gone Girl” star accompanied his wife, actor-singer Jennifer Lopez, to the ceremony and, due to the power couple’s prime seating inside Los Angeles’ Arena, were seen throughout the night reacting to performances, speeches and quips. But Affleck — no stranger to memes of exasperation — appeared disengaged in the background of host Trevor Noah’s frequent roaming monologues and bored or “miserable” during performances throughout the night, much to the delight of social media.

“Someone please check on Ben Affleck #GRAMMYs,” tweeted the Chicks in the Office account.

For the record, we did check on Affleck and a representative for him and representatives for Lopez did not immediately respond Monday to The Times’ requests for comment.

Meanwhile, images and videos of the subdued “Argo” star-director lighted up the social-media platform, especially a clip of a tense moment between him and Lopez that piqued the interest of amateur lip readers searching for trouble in paradise. Affleck and Lopez wed last year.

“When the publicist checks Twitter tells your wife to make you smile for the camera. Oh Ben Affleck,” wrote a user who tweeted the clip.

“Ben Affleck worrying if P Diddy was going to perform in 50 Years of Hip Hop ….” added another, referring to Lopez’s ex’s possible involvement in one of the evening’s standout performance collaborations.

Spliff Star, left, and Busta Rhymes perform onstage during the 65th Grammy Awards. MUSIC

Beyoncé, Harry Styles, hip-hop history and everything else that went down at the Grammys Feb. 5, 2023

And although music legend Stevie Wonder’s and Chris Stapleton’s joint performance got the “Argo” star to his feet, Affleck half-heartedly nodded along to the Motown tribute.

“Ben Affleck would rather be anywhere else than front row at the #Grammys2023 watching Stevie Wonder crush Higher Ground,” tweeted Daily Beast writer Matt Wilstein.

“Ben Affleck wants to go home Jen. Everyone in this video looks like they are vibing to a different song,” tweeted another user.

“Ben Affleck is every introvert everywhere. You can see his batteries draining in real time. Man is already at 23% #GRAMMYs #SaveBen,” wrote another.

“Ben Affleck is the 8-year-old dragged to a wedding, wants to go home and play video games,” tweeted NFL veteran Matt Leinart.

“Ben Affleck giving off big ‘Only sober guy at a wedding where you know nobody other than your wife’ vibes,” wrote another...

Insurrection: Trans Extremists Break Into Oklahoma State House With Intent of Stopping Democratic Vote on Law

At AoSHQ, "You'll be forgiven if the idea of an angry, threatening mob invading a 'sacred space of democracy' with the express intention of stopping or delaying a democratic vote sounds a little "insurrection-like" to you. Before getting to that, let's talk about the other recent incidents of Trans Bullying we're being forced to endure."

Annie's Song

From John Denver:

Tank Deliveries Could Mark Turning Point in War

I'm interested to see how this plays out. 

At Der Spiegel, "There is enormous relief in Kyiv that, after months of hesitation, the West is now willing to supply main battle tanks. But can the Leopard 2s supplied by Germany and its allies really turn the tide on the battlefield?":

It's the end of January, and the industrial city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine can only be reached by a few roads. The threat of being surrounded by Russian troops is ever present. Driving on one of these narrow country roads through the hilly landscape, the thunder of detonations already in your ears, you can make out some of the Ukrainians' old T-72 tanks between the trees – none of Panzerhaubitzer 2000 or Gepard air defense tanks sent by Germany, no American HIMARS multiple rocket launchers. That's not surprising given that, statistically, there is only one of these Western-supplied devices for every 10 or 20 kilometers of front lines?

Instead, a gun on wheels appears from behind an embankment, looking as if it had rolled out of a period film: a 57-millimeter caliber cannon, dating back to the end of World War II and mounted on trucks dating from the 1960s. Target control is adjusted from a delivery van, on whose roof a Starlink satellite link maintains contact with the reconnaissance unit that launches drones.

The front around Bakhmut shows the extent to which Ukraine is reliant on military aid from the West. The Ukrainian military has modernized its arsenal, mainly with NATO's help. But the wear and tear of the war is so great that Ukrainians are forced in some cases to defend themselves against the Russian attackers using ancient equipment.

One of the fighters with the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces, a unit of reservists and volunteers in the Donbas, introduces himself as "Blacksmith." Outside of war, he's an iron craftsman, but now he's an artilleryman. "Pilot" used to be a top manager at a turbine manufacturer. Only the youngest one still seems to have kept his real first name: Dima used to earn his money as a camera assistant on large film productions. Now, he controls the drones.

For over a month, the three milled and tinkered with recycled weapons in an old repair shop. In November, they fired the first of them. And how was it? "Very loud. But it's no big deal. I'm a punk musician on the side."

"A Game Changer on the Battlefield"

Nowhere along the approximately 1,000-kilometer-long front is the fighting in Ukraine currently as fierce as it is in the Donbas. And few cities there have been attacked by Russia's troops as often in recent weeks as Bakhmut. Wave after wave of regular army units and Wagner Group mercenaries have continuously pressed the Ukrainian defenders. Last Wednesday, the Ukrainians admitted that they had to withdraw from the town of Soledar near Bakhmut.

This makes the relief in Kyiv that Germany has agreed to supply modern Leopard 2 battle tanks, after months of hesitation, all the greater. Together with their European partners, the Germans plan to deliver a total of two battalions of 40 Leopards each. The United States announced it would send 31 M1 Abrams tanks. Shortly after that, Britain promised Kyiv 14 Challenger tanks. The development marks a turning point. Previously, the West had been reluctant to export such offensive weapons to Ukraine.

According to Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander of the Ukrainian forces, his army needs 300 Western tanks and 600 armored vehicles to really make a difference against the Russians on the battlefield. Kyiv is nonetheless hoping that the European and American move will mark an inflection point in the war.

Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter that he was sincerely grateful to Chancellor Olaf Scholz and "all our friends in Germany." Deputy Foreign Minister Andriy Melnyk spoke to the news agency Deutsche Press Agentur of an historic moment. He said that Berlin's decision to supply tanks is a "game changer on the battlefield." NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is also convinced that the Leopards could help Ukraine "defend itself, win and prevail as an independent nation" at a "critical moment" in the war, as he tweeted on Wednesday. Russia's ambassador in Berlin, Sergei Nechaev, on the other hand, described the planned delivery as "highly dangerous" on Twitter. He said the move would "take the conflict to a new level of confrontation."

Thus far, tanks have played a largely secondary role in the war. They have primarily been used to provide support to artillery efforts and haven't really been used in direct combat. Military experts believe this could now change. Because of their mobility and range, the Leopard tanks are among the best in the world. They are also more effective than Soviet models at firing accurately while traveling at full speed.

According to a report by CNN, the Americans have already suggested to the Ukrainian military that they should change tactics. Instead of getting bogged down in battles of attrition like Bakhmut, they believe the Ukrainians should make quick, unexpected advances. The Western allies are already providing modern armored personnel carriers and troop transport vehicles for this purpose, as well as additional artillery and air defenses.

In a future advance, the Leopards could ideally attack Russian positions while the transports carrying the infantrymen break through into enemy territory. Mobile flak tanks like Germany's Gepard would protect against air strikes and at the same time create more space for Ukraine's own fighter jets. Artillery support would come from the the rear with, for example, Germany's self-propelled Panzerhaubitze 2000 howitzer.

The Ukrainians already successfully tested a surprise strategy, even with their limited resources, in late summer during their counteroffensive in Kharkiv. Since then, however, the Russians have become more attuned to the enemy and have reinforced their positions...

Keep reading.


Putin’s Plot Against America

It's Julia Ioffe, at Puck, "There is a growing fear in Washington that Russia will resort to hybrid tactics to inflict pain on Western powers in ways that it can no longer achieve through conventional warfare alone":

From Moscow’s vantage point, it isn’t simply the gross incompetence of its military and intelligence services that prevented Russia from seizing Ukraine in a flashy blitzkrieg last February. It was the fact that Ukraine was armed with NATO weaponry, its troops trained by NATO advisors, its intelligence services constantly fed information by Western intel agencies. Moscow has made no secret of this frustration or its assertion that the battle for Ukraine was a proxy war against the West, itself. This is why, from the very beginning, Moscow has framed this war as one not between Russia and Ukraine, but rather one between Russia and what Vladimir Putin and his coterie love to call “the collective West.” And, according to this consensual ideology, it is this collective West—not the incompetence of any generals or advisors—that has thwarted Putin’s aims of swallowing Ukraine and fulfilling his dream of a pan-Slavic super state with Moscow at its capital.

The Ukrainian military, which has come to be known as the MacGuyver army in defense circles, has fought bravely and with great flexibility, able to deftly outmaneuver what was once considered the second most potent army in the world, doing so with a patchwork of various weapons systems from all the various countries of Europe and the U.S. That’s not as easy as it seems. But Putin is not totally wrong. And, indeed, while Russia has punished the Ukrainian people a bushel and a peck and a noose around the neck, what about the West?

Yes, there have been inflationary pressures but that’s not enough: on the whole, the West is wealthy enough to withstand them. Last summer and fall, the West worried about a hard, cold winter exacerbated by the potential twin punch of high energy prices and Moscow’s ability to weaponize Europe’s dependence on Russian energy. As I explained in my dispatch last week, Russia originally thought it could punish the collective West, but that gun didn’t fire. Europe quickly diversified away from Russian oil and gas, depriving Russia of its main energy market.

The nuclear threat? Well, that worry seems to have abated a bit for now, too, mostly because, as I noted before, Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi have made very clear to Putin that they will wash their hands of him if he goes nuclear. Right now, isolated from the West, Putin needs them too much economically to risk his own isolation.

So what is left? People in the Biden administration are worried that this leaves Putin with one remaining option: unleashing a wave of asymmetric chaos across the West. Think political interference, cyberattacks, assassinations. “The Russians wrote the book on this but they haven’t turned it on,” said Marc Polymeropoulos, who once ran the C.I.A.’s operations in Europe, countering the Russian threat. “Why is that?”

Keep reading.


China Has More ICBM Launchers Than U.S., American Military Reports

Great. *Eye-roll.*

At the Wall Street Journal, "While the U.S. leads in intercontinental missiles and warheads, China’s gains are fueling debate in Congress":

The U.S. military has notified Congress that China now has more land-based intercontinental-range missile launchers than the U.S., fueling the debate about how Washington should respond to Beijing’s nuclear buildup.

“The number of land-based fixed and mobile ICBM launchers in China exceeds the number of ICBM launchers in the United States,” the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees nuclear forces, wrote the Senate’s and House’s Armed Services Committees on Jan. 26.

The notification comes as the U.S. is facing the challenge of deterring Russia’s substantial nuclear forces as well as China’s growing nuclear arsenal. U.S. lawmakers are involved in an increasingly heated debate about how best to counter Beijing, including the Pentagon’s response to the Chinese surveillance balloon that recently traversed the U.S. and hovered over Montana, where a portion of the American military’s ICBM arsenal is deployed.

The U.S., which is modernizing all three legs of its land, sea and air based nuclear arsenal, has a much larger nuclear force than China.

Many of China’s land-based launchers still consist of empty silos, according to U.S. officials and experts outside government. The Strategic Command also notified Congress that the U.S. has more intercontinental-range missiles based on land, and more nuclear warheads mounted on those missiles, than China.

The command’s notifications also don’t include submarine-launched missiles and long-range bombers, where the U.S. has a decided advantage, U.S. officials say.

Republican lawmakers, however, have cited the ICBM launchers as a portent of the scale of China’s longer-range ambitions and are urging the U.S. to expand its own nuclear forces to counter the Russian and Chinese forces.

“China is rapidly approaching parity with the United States,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, the Alabama Republican who chairs the House Armed Services Committee. “We cannot allow that to happen. The time for us to adjust our force posture and increase capabilities to meet this threat is now.”

Mr. Rogers said that limits on long-range forces set by a treaty between the U.S. and Russia, known as New START, are inhibiting the U.S. from building up its arsenal to deter Russia and China. That accord, which China isn’t party to, is set to expire in 2026.

Arms-control proponents say rather than trying to surpass China’s and Russia’s nuclear forces, the U.S. has more to gain by trying to preserve treaty limits with Russia and by attempting to draw Beijing into a discussion of nuclear-arms control.

They also note that the U.S. is undergoing a major modernization of its nuclear forces that will give Washington the option of adding more warheads to its missiles and bombers should China’s buildup proceed faster than anticipated in the 2030s.

“It’s in our national interest to keep the Russians under the New START limits. We need to complete our nuclear modernization according to plan, not pile on new requirements,” said Rose Gottemoeller of Stanford University, who negotiated the landmark treaty for the U.S.

Mr. Rogers raised the notification Tuesday morning at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on China and U.S. national defense, which focused mostly on Taiwan, the recent incursion by a Chinese surveillance balloon and other concerns.

The Biden administration has acknowledged that the challenges posed by nuclear-armed adversaries are complex and wants the U.S. to deal with them using a mix of arms control arrangements and upgraded nuclear forces.

“By the 2030s the United States will, for the first time in its history, face two major nuclear powers as strategic competitors and potential adversaries,” the Pentagon said in a policy document known as the Nuclear Posture Review last year.

An immediate challenge for the administration is preserving the New START treaty. The Biden administration said last week that Moscow is violating the accord by refusing to allow on-site inspections. Russian officials said Moscow is still adhering to the limits on warheads, missiles, bombers and launchers.

China, which has rejected arms-control talks with the U.S., is on track to field about 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035, up from an estimated operational stockpile of more than 400 in 2021, according to a Pentagon report that was released last year.

China’s nuclear buildup has raised concerns that it might use the threat of nuclear escalation to dissuade Washington from rushing to aid Taiwan during a crisis. The U.S. has refrained from providing Ukraine with long-range weapons or sending U.S. forces to the country because it wants to avoid a direct clash with a nuclear-armed Russia.

The growth in China’s nuclear forces also raises the risk that any potential conventional conflict between Beijing and Washington could become a nuclear one, though the Pentagon has said that a military confrontation over Taiwan doesn’t appear imminent. China operates a fleet of mobile ICBM launchers and has about 20 liquid-fueled, silo-based missiles. It is also building three ICBM silo fields that are intended to house at least 300 modern solid-fueled missiles, the Pentagon says.

Researchers have debated whether China plans to fill all of the silos with nuclear-tipped ICBMs, whether some might be left empty or whether some might be filled with conventionally armed systems.

Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists said commercial satellite images of the Chinese silo fields provide no indication that China’s military has been training to load the new silos with ICBMs or conducting exercises at the silo fields...