Tuesday, February 28, 2023

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’ Crypto.com 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...

Monday, February 6, 2023

Kevin Cook, Waco Rising

At Amazon, Kevin Cook, Waco Rising: David Koresh, the FBI, and the Birth of America's Modern Militias.

Chinese Air Balloon Exposes America's Humiliation (VIDEO)

Background at WSJ, "U.S. Air Defenses Failed to Spot Earlier Chinese Balloon Intrusions, General Says."

And Tucker Carlson's opening earlier tonight:

Grammys Go With Devil Worship In Primetime


And from Liz Wheeler:

Our 'Woke Revolution' Versus Mao's Cultural Revolution (VIDEO)

This is hilarious.

The U.K.'s Government-Run Healthcare Service Is in Crisis

Is Britain's National Institute of Health held up as a model of compassionate, government-provided health care? It's often held up as superior in many ways. 

At the Wall Street Journal, "The NHS is struggling under the effects of budget cuts, Covid delays and an aging population."

Huntington Park Police Shoot and Kill Black Double Amputee Wielding Knife (VIDEO)

The video is here.

At at the Los Angeles Times, "Video shows police fatally shooting double amputee who was holding knife," and "Video adds to questions about police shooting of a double amputee holding a knife."


Via Woke Temple:


On Twitter.

Education Issues Vault to Top of the G.O.P.’s Presidential Race

I like it. 

At the New York Times, "Donald Trump and possible rivals, like Gov. Ron DeSantis, are making appeals to conservative voters on race and gender issues, but such messages had a mixed record in November’s midterm elections":

With a presidential primary starting to stir, Republicans are returning with force to the education debates that mobilized their staunchest voters during the pandemic and set off a wave of conservative activism around how schools teach about racism in American history and tolerate gender fluidity.

The messaging casts Republicans as defenders of parents who feel that schools have run amok with “wokeness.” Its loudest champion has been Gov. Ron DeSantis, who last week scored an apparent victory attacking the College Board’s curriculum on African American studies. Former President Donald J. Trump has sought to catch up with even hotter language, recently threatening “severe consequences” for educators who “suggest to a child that they could be trapped in the wrong body.”

Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor, who has used Twitter to preview her planned presidential campaign announcement this month, recently tweeted “CRT is un-American,” referring to critical race theory.

Yet, in its appeal to voters, culture-war messaging concerning education has a decidedly mixed track record. While some Republicans believe that the issue can win over independents, especially suburban women, the 2022 midterms showed that attacks on school curriculums — specifically on critical race theory and so-called gender ideology — largely were a dud in the general election.

While Mr. DeSantis won re-election handily, many other Republican candidates for governor who raised attacks on schools — against drag queen story hours, for example, or books that examine white privilege — went down in defeat, including in Kansas, Michigan, Arizona and Wisconsin.

Democratic strategists, pointing to the midterm results and to polling, said voters viewed cultural issues in education as far less important than school funding, teacher shortages and school safety.

Even the Republican National Committee advised candidates last year to appeal to swing voters by speaking broadly about parental control and quality schools, not critical race theory, the idea that racism is baked into American institutions.

Still, Mr. Trump, the only declared Republican presidential candidate so far, and potential rivals, are putting cultural fights at the center of their education agendas. Strategists say the push is motivated by evidence that the issues have the power to elicit strong emotions in parents and at least some potential to cut across partisan lines.

In Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s victory in 2021 on a “parents’ rights” platform awakened Republicans to the political potency of education with swing voters. Mr. Youngkin, who remains popular in his state, began an investigation last month of whether Virginia high schools delayed telling some students that they had earned merit awards, which he has called “a maniacal focus” on equal outcomes.

Mr. DeSantis, too, has framed his opposition to progressive values as an attempt to give parents control over what their children are taught.

Last year, he signed the Parental Rights in Education Act, banning instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in early elementary grades.

Democrats decried that and other education policies from the governor as censorship and as attacks on the civil rights of gay and transgender people. Critics called the Florida law “Don’t Say Gay.”

Polling has shown strong support for a ban on L.G.B.T.Q. topics in elementary school. In a New York Times/Siena College poll last year, 70 percent of registered voters nationally opposed instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary grades.

“The culture war issues are most potent among Republican primary voters, but that doesn’t mean that an education message can’t be effective with independent voters or the electorate as a whole,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, who worked for Mr. DeSantis during his first governor’s race in 2018.

Mr. DeSantis’s approach to education is a far stretch from traditional issues that Republicans used to line up behind, such as charter schools and merit pay for teachers who raise test scores. But it has had an impact...

Friday, February 3, 2023

Robert Draper, When the Republican Party Lost Its Mind

At Amazon, Robert Draper, Weapons of Mass Delusion: When the Republican Party Lost Its Mind.

The Future of a Broken America (VIDEO)

It's Inez Stepman, my favorite wonky babe on Twitter:

'The Cult of Book Ownership'

Just when you think you've seen it all. 


Beautiful woman, on Twitter.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken Cancels Trip to Beijing Over Chinese Spy Balloon (VIDEO)

This is freaky cold war-level shit. 

At the Wall Street Journal, "Blinken Trip to China Postponed After Suspected Spy Balloon Spotted Over U.S.":

WASHINGTON—The Biden administration said that a suspected Chinese reconnaissance balloon drifting over the continental U.S. violated American sovereignty, and indefinitely postponed a scheduled visit to Beijing by Secretary of State Antony Blinken aimed at easing the acrimony in the nations’ relationship.

Officials pulled the plug on the trip hours before Mr. Blinken was set to depart, underscoring the enormous challenges of finding areas of constructive cooperation, even as both capitals reiterated on Friday their commitment to reviving talks at a later date.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry denied Friday that the craft was for spying, saying it was a civilian balloon designed primarily for meteorological study that had blown off course. “China will continue to maintain communication with the U.S. to properly handle the unexpected situation,” the ministry said in a brief statement.

But the U.S. said it was certain of its assessment of the balloon’s intended purpose, and that conditions therefore didn’t allow for constructive dialogue.

The Biden administration has made competition with China a central tenet of its broader national-security strategy. In doing so, it is bearing down on a range of contentious issues, from Taiwan to technology, while expanding its own military presence in the Asia-Pacific to counter Beijing’s rising influence.

Mr. Blinken on Friday reiterated the U.S. government’s confidence that the craft was a Chinese surveillance balloon, calling it “a clear violation of our sovereignty, a clear violation of international law, and clearly unacceptable.”

“We concluded that conditions were not conducive for a constructive visit at this time,” he said in a joint press conference with South Korea Foreign Minister Park Jin. Referring to the People’s Republic of China, Mr. Blinken said, “The PRC’s decision to take this action on the eve of my planned visit is detrimental to the substantive discussions that we were preparing to have.”

He said that the U.S. was focused on getting the surveillance asset out of U.S. airspace and said it was premature to discuss consequences.

“I can only imagine what the reaction would be in China if they were on the other end,” Mr. Blinken added.

The Pentagon said Friday that the balloon had changed course, was flying east at 60,000 feet over the central U.S. and posed no threat to commercial aviation or to people on the ground. Officials declined to specify its location, but Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall wrote on Twitter that the balloon had been detected over northeastern Kansas. The night before, U.S. officials said the balloon was loitering over Montana, having earlier crossed Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and Canada.

The Pentagon scrambled F-22 jet fighters and at one point considered shooting down the balloon, which one U.S. official described as roughly the size of three school buses, but didn’t over concerns that the debris would pose a risk to people on the ground.

Defense Department spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said that the balloon bore a payload of surveillance equipment and was expected to drift over the U.S. for a few more days. The Pentagon said it was still reviewing options and wouldn’t say whether it would shoot the balloon down before it leaves U.S. airspace.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday that President Biden had first been briefed on the presence of the balloon on Tuesday and had asked the military to present options. All options, she added, remained on the table.

Mr. Biden agreed with the decision to postpone Mr. Blinken’s trip to China, she added, calling it a consensus...

Peter Zeihan, The End of the World is Just the Beginning

At Amazon, Peter Zeihan, The End of the World Is Just the Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization.

He Just Doesn't Want to Murder You

From Suzy Weiss, at the Free Press, "Scores of Facebook groups called ‘Are We Dating The Same Guy’ promise sisterhood and security. But they’re a lot more like a crowd-sourced Stasi":

The screenshot, taken from dating app Hinge, shows software engineer Evan,* with thick black hair and a big, toothy smile. His profile says he is 5 feet 8 inches and graduating from Berkeley. Underneath reads a caption:

“Evan, 26 🚩🚩🚩”

The way the screenshot is positioned, it looks like Evan is gazing at the red flags next to his name.

Evan’s profile had been posted anonymously on the Facebook group “Are We Dating The Same Guy? | New York City NYC”—which started in March 2022 as a place where women compare notes on men. It currently has more than 82,000 members.

In the past year, scores of similar Facebook groups have sprung up across the U.S. in cities including Charlotte, Philadelphia, Tampa, St. Louis, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, and Austin, and in far-flung locales such as Kosovo, Melbourne, and Thailand. Some have more than 30,000 members, others less than a hundred. Almost anybody can join as long as you agree to a few rules. One requirement is usually a variation of this: Do you swear that you will not screenshot or share anything found in this group with anyone outside of this group? This is vitally important to the integrity of our group and safety of our members.

There are rules against “bullying, gaslighting, shaming, victim blaming, or aggressive behavior,” too. But regardless of the Fight Club–style bylaws, the groups are pretty much a free-for-all.

The anonymous woman who posted about Evan regaled her group with stories about their four-month relationship before he dumped her.

“He struggles with empathy,” she wrote. “He also never tells you what he needs and expects you to guess what he needs.”

“He sounds like a classic love bomber to me,” opined one commenter, whose profile photo shows her posing on an Adirondack chair with a corgi.

“Borderline personality disorder,” another commenter snarked.

“This push and pull is part of the hunt if he is a covert narcissist,” said a third. “They are skilled predators and usually have had this same relationship over and over again.”

Another: “Textbook narc.”

Dozens of similar comments followed, speculating about Evan and his various pathologies...


Predator's Paradise

A must-read to understanding the obscenely deranged leftist-Democrat polices now taking over the once-Golden State. 

From Abigail Shrier, at City Journal, "On the grounds of creating a more welcoming environment for LGBTQ youth, State Senator Scott Wiener is making California a haven for human trafficking."

Siddharth Kara, Cobalt Red

At Amazon, Siddharth Kara, Cobalt Red: How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives.


Lovely lady, on Twitter.

U.S. Added 517,000 Jobs as Hiring Accelerated in January

Well, that recession everyone's been predicting hasn't materialized. This economy is sizzling, *despite* the loathed Biden administration's efforts to throttle it.

At the Wall Street Journal, "U.S. added 517,000 jobs in January, snapping five-month string of slowing employment growth":

The U.S. labor market accelerated at the start of the year as broad-based hiring added a robust 517,000 jobs and pushed the unemployment rate to a 53-year low.

January’s payroll gains were the largest since July 2022 and snapped a string of five straight months of slowing employment growth, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate was 3.4% last month, its lowest level since May 1969.

Wage growth continued to soften last month, despite the strong job gains. Average hourly earnings grew 4.4% in January from a year earlier, down from a revised 4.8% in December. Annual revisions to employment and pay data suggest that wage growth has been cooling—but at a slower pace than previously thought.

The average workweek rose to 34.7 hours, the highest since March 2022.

“This is just incredibly, surprisingly strong,” said Kathy Bostjancic, chief economist at Nationwide. “Not only are you hiring more workers but the workers you have overall are working more hours. It doesn’t really get stronger than that.”

The hiring gain was well above economists’ expectations. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected 187,000 new jobs last month.

The report likely keeps the Federal Reserve on track to raise interest rates by another quarter-percentage point at its meeting next month and to signal another increase is likely after that. The central bank raised its benchmark rate by a quarter point this week to a range between 4.5% and 4.75%.

The Fed is trying to keep the economy growing at a slower-than-average pace to weaken demand and cool inflation. But the report Friday suggested the labor market had been even more resilient in recent months than recently reported, with the growth in average hour earnings and payrolls revised higher at the end of last year.

Stocks fell and bond yields climbed following the jobs report.

Payrolls grew in a range of sectors, including leisure and hospitality, professional and business services and healthcare. The hiring surge contrasted against high-profile corporate layoff announcements, particularly by tech companies that have cut back amid economic uncertainty...