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        - Nelson Mandela

News 1 July - 31 December 2022 - Click here for current news.

29 December 2022

Sudden Russian Death Syndrome

Here is a list of people you should not currently want to be:  a Russian sausage tycoon, a Russian gas-industry executive, the editor in chief of a Russian tabloid, a Russian shipyard director, the head of a Russian ski resort, a Russian aviation official, or a Russian rail magnate.  Anyone answering to such a description probably ought not stand near open windows, in almost any country, on almost every continent.

One had reportedly expressed a dangerous lack of enthusiasm for Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine.  Another was reported to have fallen to his death from a hotel window.

They are the most recent additions to a macabre list of people who have succumbed to Sudden Russian Death Syndrome, a phenomenon that has claimed the lives of a flabbergastingly large number of businessmen, bureaucrats, oligarchs, and journalists.  The deaths have included alleged defenestrations, suspected poisonings, suspicious heart attacks, and supposed suicides.

Some two dozen notable Russians have died in 2022 in mysterious ways, some gruesomely.  In the span of one month, three more Russian executives — Vasily Melnikov, Vladislav Avayev, and Sergey Protosenya — were found dead, in apparent murder-suicides, with their wives and children.

“It is not uncommon to be told, ‘We can come to you or you can do the manly thing and commit suicide, take yourself off the chess board.  At least you’ll have the agency of your own undoing,’”

Sometimes, the main purpose is to send a message to others:  We’ll kill you and your family if you’re disloyal.  Sometimes, the goal is to simply remove a troublesome individual.

The deaths range in their showiness, but they’re all part of the same overarching scheme:  to perpetuate the idea that the Russian state is a deadly, all-powerful octopus, whose slimy tentacles can search out and seize any dissident, anywhere. This year’s spate of deaths — so brazen in their number and method as to suggest a lack of concern about plausible, or even implausible, deniability — is quite possibly Putin’s way of warning Russia’s elites that he is that deadly octopus.  The point of eliminating critics, after all, isn’t necessarily to eliminate criticism.  It is to remind the critics — with as much flair as possible — what the price of voicing that criticism can be.

Russia’s neighbors sport some of the best performing currencies in 2022 as locals flee conscription

Tens of thousands of Russians fleeing President Vladimir Putin’s brutal Ukraine invasion have sent currencies of their neighboring destinations soaring this year.  Remittances and money transfers in the billions to places such as Georgia and Armenia have occurred.  Armenia’s dram has been the best worldwide performer for 2022, rising more than 22% year-to-date versus the U.S. dollar. Georgia’s lari and the Tajik somoni have gained a respective 16% and 10%, compared with the Russian ruble’s 6% gain against the dollar.

Russians, some escaping Putin’s mobilization order in September, have landed in these tiny countries because their language is spoken, they can easily deposit money in local banks and crossing the border is largely problem free.

28 December 2022

‘Five days that killed the year’:  These trading sessions accounted for 95% of the S&P 500’s losses in 2022

Just five trading sessions accounted for more than 95% of S&P 500 index losses in 2022.  Two were caused by disappointing inflation data, while the others were triggered by weak corporate earnings and commentary from the Federal Reserve Chairman.

Stubbornly high inflation would force the Fed to raise its benchmark interest rate more aggressively than it was letting on.

September 13 — down 4.3%

May 18 — down 4.0%

June 13 — down 3.9%

April 29 — down 3.6%

May 5 — down 3.6%

Through the December 27th session, the index fell during 141 trading days while finishing higher during 107 up days in 2022.

20 December 2022

Unemployment benefits and Obamacare subsidies outpace median income in several states

The labor force participation rate was 62.1% last month, notably lower than the 63.4% mark it was at before the coronavirus pandemic struck the United States in March 2020.

One factor that is contributing to the relatively low labor force participation rate is the combination of unemployment benefits and recently expanded Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies.

In 14 states, unemployment benefits and ACA subsidies for a family of four with two people not working amounts to an annualized equivalent of $80,000 a year in wages and benefits.  Those benefits come out to over $100,000 in three states – Washington, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.

"A key policy question these days that has befuddled federal lawmakers is why so many millions of Americans have not returned to the workplace in the post-Covid era.  The U.S. is ‘missing’ more than three million workers of working age that could be working and were working prior to Covid but are not today. [...] One factor contributing to the dearth of workers is the generous benefits paid to families without workers."

The Inflation Reduction Act, which the Biden administration helped usher through Congress earlier this year, extended subsidies from the American Rescue Plan until 2025.  "The expansion of assistance, especially in subsidized health insurance to families with children and no parents working, can mean that families can earn as much or more income from receiving government assistance than the median household does from working."

Biden's welfare 'handouts' keep Americans 'trapped' on the 'government dole forever'

After writing a scathing report breaking down how the Biden administration fails at helping Americans become financially stable, Heritage Foundation Research Fellow E.J. Antoni expanded on how today’s welfare programs punch down on the poor.  "It's amazing how so many of these programs, which were originally sold to the American people as not handouts to the wealthy and even the upper middle class, but a hand up to the poor, are now doing exactly the opposite of that."

A family of four from New Jersey can receive benefits equal to an annual income of more than $108,000 with no one working.  In Connecticut, families making up to $300,000 per year are eligible to receive ObamaCare subsidies.

The monetary incentive to stay home, Antoni said, could be contributing to a nationwide worker shortage, explaining why certain industries report difficulties in getting eligible applicants to enter the workforce.

Data has proved that unemployment benefits are contributing to the relatively low labor force participation rate:  Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies in 14 states, according to a new study by the nonprofit Committee to Unleash Prosperity, for a family of four with two people not working amounts to an annualized equivalent of $80,000 a year in wages and benefits.

Today’s fiscal policies have made it "very easy" for Americans to "get on the dole" and stay "trapped" there.  "For so many people, especially if you're a single parent with children, you run into the situation where as soon as you earn even a small amount of income, all of those means-tested benefits are taken away.  And so for many people, you're better off staying on that government dole forever."

The Heritage Foundation fellow reminded Americans that the politicians who serve them operate on incentives.  "For them, the incentive is to get reelected.  And so long as we tie that incentive of reelection to all of the handouts that they can give people, this country is going to continue to go in the wrong direction."

The 5 most tax-friendly states for retirement in 2023

1. No state income, Social Security, estate or inheritance taxes, and "a gloriously low average state and local sales tax" of 1.76%.  Also, it has the lowest gas tax in the nation at $0.09 per gallon

2. No state sales tax or vehicle property tax, Social Security income is exempt in the state and residents ages 60 and older are able to exclude up to $12,500 in pension and other retirement income.  It also has lower gas and diesel taxes at $0.22 cents per gallon, and the sixth-lowest property taxes in the nation.

3. No state income tax, estate tax, or inheritance tax. The state sales tax is one of the lowest in the nation, and so are median property taxes at 0.61%.

4. Beautiful weather and tax-friendly environment have long made it a destination for retirees.  The state has no estate, inheritance, or state income tax, nor does it tax Social Security retirement benefits, pensions, or income from IRAs or 401(k)s.  However, "We are seeing an attitude shift due to the mass flood of people moving to the state in search of better weather and lower taxes.  As a result, the cost of living is already on the rise while the quality of life declines."

5. No income tax, nor does it have state or local sales taxes.  Estate and inheritance taxes are also exempt.  In 2022, it committed to phasing out a 5% tax on dividends and interest over the next five years.  The state would have ranked even higher were it not for its 1.86% property tax rate, which is the third-highest in the country.

17 December 2022

Twitter Files 6:  FBI has 'A lot to answer for'

Republican lawmakers have promised to take action after the sixth and latest installment of the "Twitter Files" alleged members of the FBI coordinated with Twitter executives to censor users and their tweets.

Substack writer Matt Taibbi dropped dozens of tweets about the new "Twitter Files" Friday that detailed the FBI's ties with the social media platform — a connection Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, said he will be asking the FBI about.  "[The] FBI has a lot to answer for after the latest drop of Twitter Files 6," Gaetz tweeted Friday.

"Anyone that cares about free speech should be outraged," Comer said.  "Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, this has to stop."  The GOP House Judiciary Committee account, which is managed by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, added:  "Does anyone still trust the FBI?"

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, speculated the FBI’s alleged interactions with Twitter could suggest they were working with Google and Facebook as well.

"The #TwitterFiles are revealing more every day about how the government collects, analyzes, and flags your social media content.  Twitter’s contact with the FBI was constant and pervasive, as if it were a subsidiary," Taibbi wrote.  "Between January 2020 and November 2022, there were over 150 emails between the FBI and former Twitter Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth … a surprisingly high number are requests by the FBI for Twitter to take action on election misinformation, even involving joke tweets from low-follower accounts."

House Republicans will get an opportunity to further question the FBI and intelligence officials, as well as others, when they are sworn in as the majority in January 2023.  At that time, Republicans will lead committee majorities and gain the power to launch House investigations.

15 December 2022

'Weapon of choice': Americans on alert as tech-savvy criminals use tracking device to stalk, steal

Strange chirping sounds and alerts on iPhones have put some Americans on high alert over the last year and a half as they try to figure out why an unknown device is tracking their every move.  It’s one of the latest crime trends that tech-savvy criminals are using to carry out car thefts and stalkings, which has pushed police departments across the nation to warn residents to watch out for the new tactic.

Apple released AirTags in April of 2021 as the latest way to find lost personal items such as keys or handbags, and billed with the instructions "Ping It.  Find It."  AirTag owners can clip the small disc-shaped device to something they often misplace, and simply ask Siri to track the AirTag, which has a built-in speaker that chirps when engaged, or use an iPhone to track its exact location.

But criminals have turned to the device to carry out plots to stalk their exes or even steal cars.

"These little things are being used to mark a vehicle.  What thieves are doing is that they’re walking around, ‘shopping’ outside in parking lots, and when they find a car that they like, they stick these to the car or place them on the car somehow."

"When I got out I had a notification on my phone, and it said I was as being tracked by an unknown AirTag."

An Iowa man was arrested and charged after allegedly placing an AirTag on a woman’s car and following her.  The victim in the case reportedly was alerted to the AirTag by a phone notification and found the device in a spare tire.  The victim then drove the device to a police station in West Des Moines.

"With a price point of just $29, it has become the weapon of choice of stalkers and abusers."

Peter Boghossian teaches 'forbidden classes' as 'truth-seeking' University of Austin raises $100 million

The University of Austin, established last year as a free speech alternative to other colleges, has raised more than $100 million, thanks to donors who are concerned about America's future and global standing.

"For the donors, this is not just a matter of, 'Oh, let's give people an alternative to a broken educational system and help them live better lives,'" Boghossian said.  "There are larger economic issues at play as well."

"This is an issue of global competitiveness," he added, warning that China's dedication to meritocracy will ultimately give the authoritarian nation an advantage over the U.S.

The University of Austin was founded in November 2021 on the principles of "freedom of inquiry, freedom of conscience and civil discourse," its website states.  The nascent institution doesn't yet offer degrees but plans to hold its grand opening in 2024.

"The University of Austin came into being as a result of the ideological capture of American universities," Boghossian said.  "And it was a particular ideology promulgated by people on the far left.  Sometimes it's called ‘woke ideology.’"

The University of Austin has organized limited programs in Dallas — including one Boghossian called "forbidden classes" — while it waits to break ground on newly acquired property in Austin.  "The forbidden classes program are held in person," he said.  "It's a class where diverse views, actually people who hold different opinions, are presented about topics we wouldn't or couldn't or shouldn't even talk about."  "If you have a sincere question, you're welcome to ask that, even if some people may be offended by that question,"

"The solution … to left-wing ideological capture of our institutions is not a right-wing institution," he continued.  "It's a truth-seeking university."

13 December 2022

Musk calls out 'activist employees' on Twitter, makes strongest statement yet against woke politics

Twitter CEO Elon Musk called out "activist employees" at the social media platform before he took over, while making his strongest statement against woke politics.

Since his takeover, Musk has removed bans for people like President Donald Trump and Kanye West. On Monday morning he took direct aim at wokeness.  "The woke mind virus is either defeated or nothing else matters," Musk tweeted on Monday morning.

On Monday, the fifth dumping of the Twitter Files were exposed on the platform, this time showing how Twitter ultimately banned Trump.

The Twitter Files show how Twitter 1.0 controlled the message that went out through the platform, oftentimes using visibility filtering to control messages like those from Stanford Professor Jay Bhattacharya, who argued Covid lockdowns would be harmful to children.

Monday’s barrage of tweets from The Free Press Founder and Editor Bari Weiss showed how Twitter staff members pushed almost rebelliously to get Trump banned from the platform, which ultimately happened.  "Under pressure from hundreds of activist employees, Twitter deplatforms Trump, a sitting US President, even though they themselves acknowledge that he didn’t violate the rules," Musk tweeted.

Weiss ended her string of tweets saying, "Ultimately, the concerns about Twitter’s efforts to censor news about Hunter Biden’s laptop, blacklist disfavored views, and ban a president aren’t about the past choices of executives in a social media company.  They’re about the power of a handful of people at a private company to influence the public discourse and democracy."

12 December 2022

Twitter Files Part 5 reveals staffers who didn't believe Trump violated 'incitement' policy

The fifth installment of Elon Musk's "Twitter Files" Monday revealed that staffers believed that tweets written by former President Donald Trump around the events of Jan. 6, 2021, had not actually violated its policies despite the company saying so at the time.

"For years, Twitter had resisted calls both internal and external to ban Trump on the grounds that blocking a world leader from the platform or removing their controversial tweets would hide important information that people should be able to see and debate," Bari Weiss of The Free Press wrote toward the beginning of her thread on Monday.  "But after January 6, as @mtaibbi and @shellenbergermd have documented, pressure grew, both inside and outside of Twitter, to ban Trump."

Weiss cited "dissenters" within Twitter that did not want to ban Trump, including one who wrote, "Maybe because I am from China. I deeply understand how censorship can destroy the public conversation."  "But voices like that one appear to have been a distinct minority within the company.  Across Slack channels, many Twitter employees were upset that Trump hadn’t been banned earlier," Weiss wrote.  "After January 6, Twitter employees organized to demand their employer ban Trump.  ‘There is a lot of employee advocacy happening,’ said one Twitter employee."

After citing the public outcry of "over 300 Twitter employees" who signed an open letter published in the Washington Post pressuring then-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to ban Trump, Weiss revealed, "Twitter staff assigned to evaluate tweets quickly concluded that Trump had *not* violated Twitter’s policies."

"I think we’d have a hard time saying this is incitement," a staffer said, according to Weiss.  "It's pretty clear he's saying the ‘American Patriots’ are the ones who voted for him and not the terrorists (we can call them that, right?) from Wednesday."  "Don’t see the incitement angle here," another staffer agreed, per Weiss.

To provide context about the historic nature of Trump's ban from Twitter, Weiss revisited tweets from controversial world leaders who were allowed to remain on the platform, like Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who in 2018 wrote, "#Israel is a malignant cancerous tumor in the West Asian region that has to be removed and eradicated:  it is possible and it will happen."  He faced zero consequences.

Twitter deleted a 2020 tweet from Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who said it was "a right" for Muslims to "kill millions of French people," and said that the tweet "glorifies violence," but the leader remained on the platform.  Twitter gave similar treatment to Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari.

"Less than 90 minutes after Twitter employees had determined that Trump’s tweets were not in violation of Twitter policy, Vijaya Gadde—Twitter’s Head of Legal, Policy, and Trust—asked whether it could, in fact, be ‘coded incitement to further violence,’" Weiss reported.  "A few minutes later, Twitter employees on the ‘scaled enforcement team’ suggest that Trump’s tweet may have violated Twitter’s Glorification of Violence policy—if you interpreted the phrase ‘American Patriots’ to refer to the rioters."  "Things escalate from there," Weiss continued.  "Members of that team came to ‘view him as the leader of a terrorist group responsible for violence/deaths comparable to Christchurch shooter or Hitler and on that basis and on the totality of his Tweets, he should be de-platformed.’

Yoel Roth, Twitter's then-head of Trust and Safety, wrote to a colleague, "Multiple tweeps [Twitter employees] have quoted the Banality of Evil suggesting that people implementing our policies are like Nazis following orders."  After Dorsey had requested simpler language to explain why Trump would be banned, Roth reacted to staffers, "[G]od help us [this] makes me think he wants to share it publicly."  "One hour later, Twitter announces Trump’s permanent suspension ‘due to the risk of further incitement of violence.’  Many at Twitter were ecstatic," Weiss wrote, sharing communications from staffers celebrating the Trump ban.

Weiss concluded her thread, "Ultimately, the concerns about Twitter’s efforts to censor news about Hunter Biden’s laptop, blacklist disfavored views, and ban a president aren’t about the past choices of executives in a social media company.  They’re about the power of a handful of people at a private company to influence the public discourse and democracy."

11 December 2022

Thought for the Day

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7 December 2022

graphic not found Twitter ablaze as Elon Musk fires lawyer involved in suppressing laptop story, ‘Russian collusion hoax’

Twitter ignited upon the news Tuesday that CEO Elon Musk booted former FBI general counsel James Baker from the company for "suppression" of information.

Baker was "at the center of the Twitter suppression scandal.  Baker has been featured repeatedly in the Russian investigations launched by the Justice Department, including the hoax involving the Russian Alfa Bank."

"In light of concerns about Baker’s possible role in suppression of information important to the public dialogue, he was exited from Twitter today," Musk tweeted.

Among the documents revealed in Friday's Twitter Files was a message from Baker during a discussion about suppressing the New York Post laptop story.

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The revelation of his firing set Twitter ablaze with praise for Musk’s leadership and condemnation for Baker’s career history.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., proposed that while Baker may have been fired from Twitter, he is welcome to testify before lawmakers.  "Republicans should call Baker, former FBI lawyer before he went to @Twitter, to testify on possible FBI attempts to coerce @Twitter into election interference," he tweeted.

Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., made a similar proposal, ".@elonmusk, can you make sure to forward our email inviting James Baker to a @GOPoversight hearing next year?  We sent it to his @Twitter email."

"There should be no space for those who would seek to undermine Twitter's role in the dissemination of truth over establishment narratives."

Liberal media made a number of fictional, misleading, and clearly false comments.

Investor Jason Howertson tweeted a summary of the incident and marveled at media outlets failing to cover the story properly.  "Ex-FBI general counsel Jim Baker (*coincidentally* involved in phony Steele dossier & Alfa Bank hoax) magically ended up as Twitter's Deputy General Counsel & left his fingerprints on everything," he wrote.  "It's amazing to watch journalism that the media REFUSE to do happen live on Twitter."

"It's a bit difficult to maintain the US Security State had no role in Twitter's censorship regime when *the General Counsel of the FBI* - centrally involved in Russiagate and all sorts of politicized abuses - ended up as Twitter's Deputy General Counsel, with paws in everything,"

Staff editor at The Federalist, Sam Mangold-Lenet warned that this case may be part of a much larger problem, "Twitter is *one* tech company and this is the amount of effort the regime and its emissaries are exerting to keep the truth from coming out."  Commentator Steve Cortes wrote a damning statement about the incident.  "Wait, what?! So was James Baker ‘cleansing’ the internal Twitter files of the FBI’s involvement? James Baker is a terrible and dishonest operative, a key player in the nexus of Big Tech / Intelligence Community collusion. Smells terrible…"

Journalist Matt Taibbi indicated that part of the reason Baker was kicked out of the company was because he "vetted" the first installment of the "Twitter Files" without Musk’s knowledge.  "On Friday, the first installment of the Twitter files was published here.  We expected to publish more over the weekend.  Many wondered why there was a delay," Taibbi tweeted.  "We can now tell you part of the reason why.  On Tuesday, Twitter Deputy General Counsel (and former FBI General Counsel) Jim Baker was fired.  Among the reasons?  Vetting the first batch of 'Twitter Files' – without knowledge of new management."

Elon Musk reveals what led to Twitter suppressing Hunter Biden story in 2020

Twitter owner Elon Musk released bombshell revelations about what led the tech giant to suppress the Hunter Biden story in the final weeks of the 2020 presidential election.   After a lengthy delay, Musk outsourced his findings to Substack journalist Matt Taibbi, who published a lengthy thread about what had transpired behind the scenes at Twitter. 

"Some of the first tools for controlling speech were designed to combat the likes of spam and financial fraudsters.  Slowly, over time, Twitter staff and executives began to find more and more uses for these tools.  Outsiders began petitioning the company to manipulate speech as well:  first a little, then more often, then constantly.  By 2020, requests from connected actors to delete tweets were routine.  One executive would write to another:  ‘More to review from the Biden team.’  The reply would come back:  'Handled.'"

Twitter famously blocked its users from sharing the New York Post's reporting of Hunter Biden's laptop in tweets and in direct messages.  Many critics believe the suppression of the Hunter Biden scandal by Big Tech and the media at large was enough to sway the election in favor of his father.

Taibbi shared a screenshot of that October 2020 exchange featuring links to tweets Biden's team allegedly wanted taken down.  Many of them were to tweets featuring pornographic images of Hunter Biden found in his laptop, according to Washington Free Beacon investigative reporter Andrew Kerr. 

"Because Twitter was and is overwhelmingly staffed by people of one political orientation, there were more channels, more ways to complain, open to the left (well, Democrats) than the right.  The resulting slant in content moderation decisions is visible in the documents you’re about to read.  However, it’s also the assessment of multiple current and former high-level executives." 

"The story now has become more about censorship."

"There is much more to come, including answers to questions about issues like shadow-banning, boosting, follower counts, the fate of various individual accounts, and more."

Musk had been vocal about being transparent when it comes to Twitter's past and present actions it takes when it comes to curating content on the platform, including censored content.  Musk himself teased "Episode 2 of The Twitter Files" will take place on Saturday as well as a "live Q&A."

Thought for the Day

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5 December 2022

graphic not found Brittany Aldean, Candace Cameron Bure and Dave Chappelle defy cancel culture, stand firm in their beliefs

Brittany Aldean made headlines last week when she took a public stand against Balenciaga amid the brand's ad campaign scandal.  The 34-year-old mother of two and wife of country star Jason Aldean shared a photo of herself hauling out clear plastic bags filled with Balenciaga clothing, handbags and shoes.  "It's trash day," Aldean declared.

Balenciaga's controversial holiday campaign featured children posing with teddy bear-shaped handbags that were wearing leather harnesses.  The brand also drew backlash over a separate ad for its Spring/Summer '23 campaign in which documents from a U.S. Supreme Court decision involving federal child pornography were allegedly used as a prop. 

Aldean has been outspoken in the past about her views concerning children.  In September, the former "American Idol" contestant posted a video on Instagram with the caption, "I'd really like to thank my parents for not changing my gender when I went through my tomboy phase.  I love this girly life.  Advocating for the genital mutilation of children under the disguise of love and calling it ‘gender affirming care,’ is one of the worst evils.  I will always support my children and do what I can do protect their innocence."  Aldean's Instagram post was met with backlash because many believed her comments were transphobic.

"I'm advocating for children.  I think that children should not be allowed to make these life-changing decisions at such a young age.  They are not mature enough.  They should have parents who love them and advocate for them regardless.  We have ages on everything.  We have it for cigarettes, driving, military, voting ... yet, for some reason, people think that we can let a child choose their gender so young?  It's very baffling to me."

Candace Cameron Bure is another public figure who refused to waver after becoming embroiled in a controversy over her personal beliefs.  The Hallmark Channel alum drew ire when she told The Wall Street Journal magazine that her new network, Great American Family, will not feature same-sex couples in their holiday movies.  "I think that Great American Family will keep traditional marriage at the core."

"To the members of the media responsible for using this opportunity to fan flames of conflict and hate, I have a simple message:  I love you anyway.  To those who hate what I value and who are attacking me online:  I love you.  To those who have tried to assassinate my character:  I love you.  To everyone reading this, of any race, creed, sexuality, or political party, including those who have tried to bully me with name-calling, I love you."

Dave Chappelle is another star who has continued to defy his critics.  The 49-year-old comedian has faced massive backlash over jokes he made last year about the transgender community during his Netflix comedy special "The Closer."

Chappelle also defended "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling, who has come under fire for sharing her views on gender, which were deemed transphobic by LGBTQ+ advocates and multiple stars from the "Harry Potter" franchise.  "They canceled J.K. Rowling – my God.  Effectively, she said gender was a fact."

"The Closer" was met with outrage, with Netflix employees staging a walkout and protesting alongside activists.  Netflix stood by the comedian and released a memo telling employees to leave the company if they were offended by the special.  The company stated that "as employees we support the principle that Netflix offers a diversity of stories, even if we find some titles counter to our own personal values." 

Netflix also refused calls to remove the special from its platform.  Neflix CEO Ted Sarandos has defended Chappelle, stating that comedians should have the freedom to joke.  He said that part of comedy involves "crossing the line every once in a while."

Public relations expert Kelcey Kintner shared her thoughts on the potential consequences and benefits of celebrities standing up for their beliefs.  "Each celebrity has to decide for themselves how they want to be perceived in the public eye.  If they choose to express views that are controversial, then they need to expect criticism and pushback.  We live in a time where there is instant, very honest feedback from fans and critics on social media platforms.  It's just really impossible to hide if you're going to delve into certain hot-button areas.  And for some celebs, any press is good press.  So some of them might even seek out this attention, and not care whether it's positive or negative.  They are just glad the public is talking about them.  Others just try to stay focused on their work and not let all the social media noise bother them."

21 November 2022

Economic index flashes major recession warning sign

An often-overlooked economic gauge indicated on Friday that the U.S. economy is headed for a recession — or already in one — as the Federal Reserve tries to curb inflation with a series of rapid interest rate hikes.

The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Indicators index "fell for an eighth consecutive month."

There is a growing expectation on Wall Street that the Fed will trigger an economic downturn as it raises interest rates at the fastest pace in three decades to catch up with runaway inflation.

The Fed's rate hikes have thus far failed to tame inflation:  The government reported this month that the consumer price index soared 7.7% in October from the previous year, hovering near a 40-year high.  That indicates the Fed will have to continue charting its aggressive course, raising the odds that it will crush consumer demand and cause unemployment to rise.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell told reporters earlier this month. "It's very premature, in my view, to talk about pausing our rate hikes. We have a way to go."

Hiking interest rates tends to create higher rates on consumer and business loans, which slows the economy by forcing employers to cut back on spending.  Economic growth already contracted in the first two quarters of the year, with gross domestic product — the broadest measure of goods and services produced in a nation — contracting by 1.6% in the winter and 0.6% in the spring.  However, it rebounded over the summer, with GDP growing by 2.6% on an annualized basis in the three-month period from July through September.

19 November 2022

Thought for the Day

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16 November 2022

DeSantis receives standing ovation at Republican confab minutes before Trump announcement

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida received a hero’s welcome on Tuesday night, as he addressed an audience of leading Republicans minutes before former President Donald Trump announced he was launching a 2024 White House bid.

Last week DeSantis won a landside re-election victory for a second term steering Florida.  DeSantis spotlighted how he won Maimi-Dade County, connecting with Hispanic voters.  The governor received an "enthusiastic" response as he "recapped the Florida blueprint and the path to winning Hispanics, women, and independents."

The speech received a very warm reception from an audience that is energized about the possibilities of taking the DeSantis model and applying it to battleground states across the country.  The margins DeSantis was able to run up in his re-election victory last week and his efforts on issues like education and on battling "woke curriculum" received some of the strongest applause of the evening.

While DeSantis delivered his keynote conversation minutes before Trump announced his 2024 campaign, he didn’t mention the former president in his remarks.  A source in the room said that Trump "was not even a topic of discussion" in the DeSantis address.

DeSantis, who at age 44 is 32 years younger than Trump, won his first election as governor thanks to a major assist from the then-president.  But he’s become a force of his own as he’s built a political brand that stretches from coast to coast.  Florida’s governor has seen his popularity soar among conservatives across the country the past two and a half years, courtesy of his forceful pushback against coronavirus pandemic restrictions and his aggressive actions as a culture wars warrior, as he’s targeted the media and corporations.

While DeSantis for over a year has routinely discounted talk of a 2024 White House bid as he stayed laser focused on his gubernatorial re-election, he potentially dropped some hints last week during his Election Night victory speech.  "We have rewritten the political map," DeSantis declared.  "While our country flounders due to failed leadership in Washington, Florida is on the right track."  A chant of "two more years!  Two more years," broke out among supporters urging the governor to consider a national run in 2024.  DeSantis' poll numbers in 2024 Republican presidential polls and his fundraising prowess are matching that of the former president.  "What matters is are you leading, are you getting in front of issues, are you delivering results for people, and are you standing up for folks."

15 November 2022

Inflation risks remain as Congress eyes billions in year-end spending spree

The US has $31 trillion in national debt and additional government spending is causing 'tangible harm' to American families.

The lame-duck Congress is eyeing hundreds of billions of dollars in new borrowing at the year that would create new inflationary pressures in the U.S. just as prices began to ease in October.

Congress will come under pressure in the next few weeks to send the national debt even higher, in the form of extending tax breaks and possibly some new spending items.  Unless Congress agrees to spending offsets, those programs will require even higher levels of federal borrowing.

"Most members have acknowledged that our debt is too high, and everybody would acknowledge that borrowing more contributes to inflation."

Rising interest rates mean the government is about to spend record amounts just to service the national debt.  The U.S. spent more than $500 billion on debt interest payments in fiscal year 2022, an amount that is more expensive than most federal departments and rivals the $700+ billion Defense Department.

"For years people have been able to dismiss concerns about the debt because you couldn’t see the immediate downside of it.  Now we see the debt can cause tangible harm due to inflation."

The temptation among Republicans and Democrats to approve these programs is so great that they might pass regardless of the inflationary damage they might do.

10 November 2022

Musk flips the bird graphic not found

7 November 2022

Musk flips the bird graphic not found

Thought for the Day

Musk flips the bird graphic not found Musk flips the bird graphic not found

26 October 2022

Republican Senators share Hunter Biden's China-linked bank records with US attorney leading criminal probe

Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin are sharing more than 200 pages of bank records related to Hunter Biden's and the Biden family’s alleged "connections to the Chinese regime and persons connected to its military and intelligence elements", with U.S. Attorney for Delaware David Weiss, who is leading the criminal investigation into Hunter Biden.

The records come from Cathay Bank, the oldest operating bank in the U.S. founded by Chinese Americans.  The records reveal transactions between Hunter Biden-linked business entities and Chinese energy firm CEFC, which reportedly had ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

photo of Pres. Biden and Hunter Biden not found. The Biden family’s "extensive links to foreign governments and questionable foreign nationals posed counterintelligence and extortion concerns."  These business trans- actions with Chinese-linked associates CEFC Chairman Ye Jiangming and Gongwen Dong "resulted in millions of dollars in questionable transactions."

Grassley and Johnson outlined the timeline of Hunter Biden’s business relationship with CEFC, dating back to December 2015.  In August 2017, Hunter Biden and his Chinese business associates, Ye and Gongwen, established joint ownership in another company named Hudson West III.

Grassley and Johnson point out that while CEFC remained a private company until Chinese state-owned enterprises assumed control of it in 2018, news reports in 2017 indicated that the company received financing from the China Development Bank and hired a number of former top officials from state-owned energy companies.  The senators also said CEFC had "layers of Communist Party committees across its subsidiaries — more than at many private Chinese companies."

Hunter Biden created multiple joint-ventures with CEFC through his businesses Hudson West businesses.  The ventures, according to Senate investigators, served as funding streams that were never intended for anything other than as ways to "move money."

Grassley and Johnson's letter and production of bank records to Weiss, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, comes as federal investigators are weighing whether to charge Hunter Biden with various tax and foreign lobbying violations, false statements and more.  Hunter Biden has been under federal investigation since 2018.

11 October 2022

Tulsi Gabbard leaves Democratic Party, denounces it as 'elitist cabal'

Former Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard announced she left the Democratic Party on Tuesday, denouncing the organization as an "elitist cabal."

"I can no longer remain in today’s Democratic Party that is now under the complete control of an elitist cabal of warmongers driven by cowardly wokeness, who divide us by racializing every issue & stoke anti-white racism."

"I believe in a government that is of the people, by the people and for the people.  Unfortunately, today's Democratic Party does not.  Instead, it stands for a government that is of, by and for the powerful elite.  I'm calling on my fellow common sense, independent-minded Democrats to join me in leaving the Democratic Party."

She has also become a vocal critic of President Biden, denouncing him for "pouring fuel on the flames" of division in the country.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich praised Tulsi for ditching the Democrats in a Tuesday statement on Fox News.  He argued that she is one of many Americans who traditionally have voted blue but now find the Democrats unrecognizable.  "I think when she ran for president, she realized how really isolated she was from the great majority of the Democratic Party, which is now, frankly, a pretty weird party."

Democrats join in questioning Biden’s ‘mental health’

"Jackie, are you here? Where's Jackie?" Joe Biden says about Rep. Jackie Walorski who died in a car accident in August.

After his latest string of verbal blunders and on-stage wanderings, concerns have surged over President Joe Biden’s mental health.  In just two months, worries about the nearly 80-year-old’s mental state have jumped from 59% to 64% in the latest I&I/TIPP Poll.  And most of the increase has come from Democrats.

The findings could reinforce reports that some leaders in the Democratic Party are hopeful that Biden will step aside and not run for reelection, though they have no obvious replacement.  Vice President Kamala Harris remains down in approval polls and the choice for many Democrats -- former first lady Michelle Obama -- has ruled out a run.

“Recent video snippets show Biden wandering off stage, apparently lost, after speaking briefly; forgetting the name of the Declaration of Independence, the nation’s founding document; not remembering that a congresswoman he was honoring at a ceremony was in fact dead, asking Where’s Jackie (Walorski)?’; invoking the possibility of nuclear ‘Armageddon’ after Vladimir Putin’s military suffered setbacks in Ukraine; and so on.”

The survey analysis suggested that it may be time for Biden to undergo a mental competency test, as former President Donald Trump did -- and passed.

Hunter Biden news cycle exposes latest failed progressive narrative pushed by media – "media corruption"

Left-leaning media networks’ trend of downplaying possible scandals involving Hunter Biden further damages their credibility and shows they are still running the 2020 "playbook" that led to the suppression of the infamous laptop story.

Federal agents said they now have enough evidence to charge the president’s son with tax and firearm crimes.

The latest turn in Hunter Biden's tumultuous public record follows a number of stories about dubious business dealings, as well as concerns over how the FBI, Big Tech, and the liberal media handled Hunter’s laptop, originally dubbed "Russian disinformation" by numerous reporters and intelligence officials.  The laptop has since been verified in numerous mainstream reports.

The Federalist editor-in-chief Mollie Hemingway, a longtime scourge of liberal mainstream media narratives, didn't mince words about the coordinated effort of Big Tech, the press and even the government to suppress the story.

"The coordinated disinformation campaign to falsely label and censor the completely true stories regarding the Biden family business is the most horrifying example of media corruption to date."

Hemingway noted Mark Zuckerberg's admission that the FBI had warned Facebook ahead of the Biden laptop story about possible"Russian propaganda;" Facebook and Twitter would both work in unprecedented fashion to limit sharing of the New York Post's initial reporting on the subject.

"It shows how the only thing worse than our propaganda press is its combination with the information suppression power of Bi Tech and the corruption of the FBI and other politicized intelligence agencies."

"Despite the fact that Hunter could be facing serious charges, dragged into court, and possibly go to prison, liberal media outlets are still denying reality to some extent."

10 October 2022

Happy Columbus Day!

Happy Columbus Day!

9 October 2022

California accuses oil industry of price gouging, Valero hits back

Valero hit back at California’s Energy Commission (CEC) last week after the agency demanded oil refinery executives explain why, despite declining crude oil prices, gas prices have spiked.  CEC Chair David Hochschild accused the executives of not providing an "adequate and transparent" explanation for the price spike.

In response, Valero’s Vice President State Government Affairs, Scott N. Folwarkow, denied any allegations of "price conspiracies" among oil refineries, pointing to a federal judge having thrown out another case finding no basis for them.

graphic not found Instead, Folwarkow said market price was driven by supply and demand, coupled with "government-imposed costs and specifications."  He said the higher prices in California than in the rest of the U.S. had to do with the state being the "most expensive operative environment in the country and (being) a very hostile regulatory environment for refining."

"California policy markers have knowingly adopted policies with the expressed intent of eliminating the refinery sector.  California requires refiners to pay very high carbon cap and trade fees and burdened gasoline with cost of the law carbon fuel standards."  The state’s policies have made it difficult to increase refining capacity and have prevented supply projects to lower operating costs of refineries.

"Adding further costs, in the form of new taxes or regulatory constraints, will only further strain the fuel market and adversely impact refiners and ultimately those costs will pass to California consumers." 

graphic not found While gas prices have recovered somewhat nationwide, they have continued to spike in California, hitting an average of $6.39 per gallon on Friday — $2.58 higher than the national average.  California has the second-highest gas tax in the country and other environmental rules that increase the cost of fuel in the nation's most populous state.

As Valero’s letter was made public Friday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he will call a special session of the state Legislature in December to pass a new tax on oil company profits to punish them for what he called "rank price gouging."

National debt growth under every president from Richard Nixon to Joe Biden

The U.S. national debt surpassed $31 trillion this week and will balloon further as federal government spending continues to accelerate along with interest paid on the balance.

Not since Republican President Calvin Coolidge, who departed the White House in 1929, has an American president reduced the national debt over their tenure in office.

The national debt took a significant leap for the time under GOP President Richard Nixon, who racked up $121.3 billion — nearly three times the debt of Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson.  in 1971, Nixon famously took the U.S. off the gold standard.

Republican Gerald Ford was able to tack another $223.8 billion onto the debt in only three years in office during a period of stagflation.

Democrat Jimmy Carter added $299 million during his single term, marred by a recession.

Ronald Reagan was the first president to push debt accumulation into the trillions, contributing $1.86 trillion to what the U.S. owed during his terms from 1981 to 1989.

Republican George H.W. Bush nearly matched the amount of debt accumulated under Reagan but did so in a single term, adding another $1.4 trillion during his presidency.

During the two terms of Democratic President Bill Clinton, who famously worked with a GOP-controlled House of Representatives to balance the budget.  But the debt still grew by $1.4 trillion by the time Clinton left office in 2001.

Spending surged again, however, under GOP President George W. Bush when another $6.1 trillion was added to the debt from 2001-2009.

Democratic President Barack Obama added another $8.34 trillion during his time in the White House from 2009 until 2017.

Republican President Donald Trump added nearly as much national debt during his four years in office as Obama did in eight, posting another $8.2 trillion.

Less than two years into office, Biden has so far added $1.84 trillion to the national debt.

8 October 2022

graphic not found Russian Has One Main Bridge Into Southern Ukraine. Someone Just Blew It Up.

In 2016, a Russian company began building a bridge from mainland Russia to the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula, which Russian forces had seized from Ukraine two years earlier.  In apparently blowing up the Kerch Bridge, the Ukrainians significantly have boosted their odds of liberating broad swathes of Russian-occupied Ukraine.

In 2018, the bridge became the main overland supply line connecting Russia to Russian-held territory in southern Ukraine.  Until someone — Ukrainian operatives, apparently — blew up the bridge Saturday morning.  An explosion early Saturday morning rocked the double-span Kerch Bridge—a rail bridge running alongside a road bridge.An explosion early Saturday morning rocked the double-span Kerch Bridge—a rail bridge running alongside a road bridge. Videos, shot by motorists, captured both the initial blast and the subsequent blaze. Videos shot by motorists captured both the initial blast and the subsequent blaze.

The partial destruction of the bridge over the Kerch Strait, east of Crimea, further isolates Russian forces in southern Ukraine at precisely the moment those forces need strong ties to Russia proper.  Ukrainian forces in late August launched a counteroffensive in southern Ukraine that in recent weeks has gained momentum, and now threatens to surround significant portions of the Russian garrison in the south.  This garrison no longer has a bridge to Russia.  It now must solely rely on ferries and aircraft for resupply.  Without the Kerch Bridge, the Russian force in southern Ukraine — tens of thousands strong — could begin to starve.

The Ukrainians months ago proved they were capable of striking deep inside Russian-held territory using helicopters, rockets, artillery, drones and saboteurs.  As Ukrainian deep-strike capability expanded, an attack on the Kerch Bridge became inevitable.

Dropping the Kerch Bridge creates favorable conditions for a possible Ukrainian counteroffensive toward the port of Mariupol, which the Russians first destroyed then captured this summer.  If Ukrainian forces can liberate Mariupol, they would sever overland links between Russian forces in eastern Ukraine and Russian forces in southern Ukraine.

Cutting off Russian logistics could have profound consequences for Ukraine’s effort, eight months into Russia’s wider war on Ukraine, to liberate Russian-held territory and push back Russian forces all the way to pre-2014 borders.

6 October 2022

graphic not found Putin Faces Unprecedented Criticism From Russian Leaders as Battlefield Losses Mount

Russian and Kremlin-backed leaders have escalated their unusual public acknowledgements of embarrassing battlefield losses in Ukraine while also beginning to turn negative attention on a previously forbidden target: the decision-making of President Vladimir Putin himself.

Russian state media have acknowledged defeats of forces loyal to Moscow over the weekend.  Ukrainian troops routed Russian invaders in the southern region of Kherson – one of the regions Putin claims to newly control – prompting the leader of one of the pro-Russian separatist militia groups to admit to Russia’s Interfax news agency that the Ukrainians were able to “secure their positions” across the administrative border Moscow claims to control.  That came shortly after Ukrainian troops over the weekend liberated the city of Lyman, a key logistics hub considered the strategic gateway to the areas of Luhansk and Donetsk – two others Putin annexed – which comprise the region known as the Donbas that Russia first invaded in 2014.  They also pushed Russian forces out of Kharkiv in the north outside Ukraine’s second-largest city.  The latest circumstances put the Kremlin in the embarrassing situation of having to confirm Monday that it isn’t entirely sure where the borders exist for the territory it claims to control.

Guests on Kremlin-censored television shows aired since Friday specifically criticized Putin for his decision to force the supposed annexation before Russian troops had effectively controlled those zones and questioned whether they ever will.

Following ongoing, widespread and endemic failures by Russia to press 300,000 reservists into service, prominent commentators on Kremlin-backed media and Russian military analysts “are grieving the loss of Lyman while simultaneously criticizing the bureaucratic failures of the partial mobilization.”  Kremlin sources and military bloggers are attributing the defeat around Lyman and Kharkiv to “Russian military failures to properly supply and reinforce Russian forces in northern Donbas and complaining about the lack of transparency regarding the progress of war.”

Former U.S. commanders have raised new questions about the pressure these latest events place on Putin and his ability to maintain control of the government over which he has increasingly wielded an autocratic grip – despite his growing comfort with threatening to employ Russia’s nuclear arsenal to achieve his strategic goals in Ukraine.  "No amount of 'shambolic mobilization,' forced annexation or nuclear threats can help Putin escape from the situation he has made for himself.  He is losing, and the battlefield reality he faces is, I think, irreversible.  He's going to continue to lose on the battlefield.”  Ukraine can turn its latest victories “into a cascading series of defeats of Russian forces.  What we might be at here is really at the precipice of really the collapse of the Russian army in Ukraine, a morale collapse.  Those forces were hastily trained, thrown into that front, and these are the forces that are collapsing right now.”  A former Russian army commander couldn’t explain the defeat at Lyman.  He blamed a system of lies “top to bottom” within the Russian military system.

Ukraine now has a bigger and more effective army than Russia despite being roughly a third its size with better equipment and more of it.

Senators Graham, Cruz tell DHS Secy. Mayorkas he's on notice for possible impeachment over border crisis
photo of DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas not found

GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, joined forces to send a message to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that they have "grounds for impeachment" if he fails to act swiftly in correcting his "gross dereliction of duty" at the southern border.

The crisis at the southern border has deteriorated since Mayorkas took office 19 months ago.  "Your failure to faithfully enforce this nation’s immigration laws and willful blindness to the very real humanitarian crisis at our southern border amounts to a gross dereliction of duty and a violation of your oath of office.  Despite the heroic efforts by the men and women of Border Patrol, who operate with very little support from Washington, D.C., you have failed to achieve any semblance of operational control of the southern border," the senators wrote.

graphic not found According to CBP, there have been "over 4.4 million illegal crossings, including over 3.5 million apprehensions by CBP and at least 900,000 gotaways, who evaded apprehension."

In addition to the record-high border crossings and migrant encounters, the senators charge Mayorkas with enabling a drug production and smuggling enterprise by Mexican cartels with China-supplied drug ingredients that directly contributed to the "fentanyl-fueled" opioid pandemic that killed 108,000 Americans last year.  Fentanyl, which has become the leading cause of death of Americans ages 18 to 45, is "streaming across our southern border," the senators wrote, noting that just last month 2,287 pounds of fentanyl were seized by CBP agents — enough to kill more than 500 million people.

"Drug cartels produce bulk amounts of fentanyl in Mexico, using the Chinese-supplied ingredients, and smuggle the drug across the U.S.-Mexico border," the senators explained in their letter.  "This amounts to a multi-billion dollar business for transnational criminal organizations, who then launder the money out of the United States and back into China."

"This lucrative illicit enterprise continues to thrive — while Americans die — all because DHS has ceded control of our southern border to the cartels for political gain."

The senators also warned that the "chaos" at the southern border "presents a prime opportunity for terrorists to enter the United States undetected," especially following the "disastrous withdrawal" of U.S. troops from Afghanistan last year, noting that border patrol agents have apprehended at "least 78 individuals on the Terrorist Screening Database" so far in fiscal year 2022 — more than twice as many apprehended in the past five fiscal years combined.  "It is a near certainty that terrorists have already entered the United States undetected, taking advantage of the lenient border policies you have put into place.  It is only a matter of time until we will see an attack on American soil from such terrorists."

Both Graham and Cruz, who serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee, prior to this letter have implored Mayorkas and the White House numerous times to make changes and address the border crisis.  Collectively, the Republican senators have visited the border six times in the last two years.  Neither President Joe Biden nor "border czar" Vice President Kamala Harris have visited the border since taking office, the senators noted in their letter.

"You have stated multiple times that "the border is secure" even as the crisis rages on."

"We fully expect that in a few months’ time a Republican-led Congress will hold you to account for your willful negligence regarding the security of the southern border and the safety of the American people," the senators conclude.

5 October 2022

Kanye West wearing 'White Lives Matter' shirt Kanye is right:  Black Lives Matter was always a scam

Everyone knows Black Lives Matter was a scam,” Kanye West said.  He's right.  The Black Lives Matter movement was built on the lie that Michael Brown was a poor defenseless victim of a racist police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2015.  The myth that he submitted and was shot anyway — “Hands up, don’t shoot” — was a lie.  Physical evidence showed that Brown attacked Officer Darren Wilson and attempted to get his gun before he was shot.

Democratic politicians wanted to stoke the flames of racial       Candace Ownes and Kanye West       division heading into the 2016 election, and so they indulged the fiction that Brown was some kind of victim or martyr.  But the Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama confirmed that Wilson did nothing wrong.

Despite being built on a lie, Black Lives Matter became the hobbyhorse of Democratic politicians, celebrities, and establishment media.  Whenever an unarmed black person was shot by police — it happens slightly less often than unarmed white people getting shot by police, according to the Washington Post police shooting database — the media go out of their way to make it a national story.  Sometimes they'll even make it a national story if the person in question was armed and dangerous.

Unmentioned go all the black people murdered by non-police officers every year.  In 2019 alone, for example, 7,484 black people were murdered.  Democratic politicians and activists will mourn a criminal like Brown, but 7,000 black murder victims killed by non-police just don't matter.

And then, of course, there is the actual financial scam.  A Washington Examiner investigation found that millions in funds had gone unaccounted for in the Black Lives Matter organization.  California and Washington, two states run by Democrats, ordered the organization to cease all fundraising. The BLM Global Network Foundation took in $77 million in 2020, which then went on to line the pockets of its executives and their families – such as that $6 million mansion in Los Angeles.

Media worries as Elon Musk closes deal to buy Twitter:  'Be afraid, be actually afraid'

NBC News reporter Ben Collins notably penned a lengthy Twitter thread describing how Musk’s Twitter purchase could affect the 2022 midterm elections.  "For those of you asking:  Yes, I do think this site can and will change pretty dramatically if Musk gets full control over it.  No, there is no immediate replacement. If it gets done early enough, based on the people he's aligned with, yes, it could actually affect midterms," Collins wrote.

"*IF* Musk gets control of Twitter, And Zuckerberg has control of Facebook, And CNN is under new Republican backed management, We have a massive problem.  And do not listen to anyone who tells you differently."

Many of their accusations included personal attacks against Musk, calling him a "sociopath" or "bro-fascist".

Dems in Disarray as ‘Comeback’ Narrative Completely Falls Apart

Unless a miracle happens Democrats look set to lose their majority in the House and possibly even the Senate.

With just a month to go before the election, the seeming shift to abortion as a major issue has evaporated as Americans’ top concerns have landed right back to where they started – the economy.

4 October 2022

Biden White House effort to spin 'Where's Jackie' gaffe raises media eyebrows

White House reporter says Biden aides dodge mental acuity issues:  'Appear clueless or even offended when you ask about it'.  "They do NOT want to have this conversation and appear clueless or even offended when you ask about it,"

Over and over, White House reporters asked press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre last week to explain why President Biden looked for deceased Indiana congresswoman Jackie Walorski in the crowd at an event, and over and over, she wouldn't say Biden simply misspoke.  Jean-Pierre told reporters 14 times that Biden wasn’t confused about whether Walorski was alive and in the room.

"I have no idea why senior communications officials tried to defend Biden's inexcusable comment but if you acknowledge one slip, it validates the rest of questionable moments this president has had."

"I think people were taken aback because the gaffe was not the real egregious part.  It was the subsequent insistence that he hadn't made a gaffe.  And rather than just saying, ‘Hey, he made a mistake, like we all do,' I mean, they just seem to make it worse again and again.  It certainly wasn't a high point.  When you see that cascade effect, that shows reporters are onto something."

At Wednesday's Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, Biden seemingly searched the crowd for Walorski, asking, "Jackie, are you here? Where's Jackie? She must not be here." Walorski was killed in a car accident in August.

Critics who have repeatedly suggested Biden is mentally unfit for office called it yet another example of his decline.  "These moments of confusion are happening with increasing frequency."

"I think that she [was given] a job to do, which was to try and mitigate and lessen this, and spin it.  When overall the White House should have just been like, 'Yeah, the president made a mistake,' I think that the failure here was doubling down rather than just admitting that he made a mistake."

The response online was blistering too, with even reporters from mainstream and liberal outlets taking shots at the White House Press Secretary.

Say it:  The repeated occurrence of incidents like this just adds to the impression that Biden, especially with his addled mind, is a front, managed by others behind the scenes, and has been from before the Presidential election in 2020.

3 October 2022

The world's wealthiest person:  How did Elon Musk get so rich?

"I built these two companies and it was extremely difficult to build them.," referring to Tesla and Space X.  "Rewarding, too, but massively difficult ... and I didn't sell the stock in the companies.  My sort of impression was that you shouldn't take money off the table — or stock off the table — that a captain should go down with their ship."

Currently, Musk's Tesla stake stands at 14.9% of its outstanding shares, an investment that is valued at about $124 billion.

SpaceX was worth $125 billion in June 2022, with Musk's ownership at about 44%, according to Bloomberg.  That would make his stake worth about $55 billion.

Another $3.3 billion of Musk's wealth stems from Boring Company, which is a tunnel construction company he founded.

Musk also has $3 billion in Twitter stock.  He bought about 9% of the business.  Cash is also a big part of Musk's holdings, which has been estimated to be about $17 billion.

"I don't have any offshore accounts; I don't have any tax shelters.  I basically have Tesla and SpaceX stock ... everything is extremely transparent."

Thought for the Day

"I operate on the physics approach to analysis.  You boil things down to the first principles or fundamental truths in a particular area and then you reason up from there."

– Elon Musk

30 September 2022

Poll:  Texas Voters Back Trump Over Biden by 9 Points

Almost half — 49% — of likely Texas voters would vote for former President Donald Trump, while 40% would back President Joe Biden in a hypothetical 2024 matchup, according to a new Emerson College/The Hill poll.

39% said the FBI's raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate makes them more likely to support Trump in 2024, compared to 31% who said it makes them less likely to support him. Thirty percent said it makes no difference.

56% disapproved of the job Biden is doing as president, compared to 37% who approved.

40% said the economy is the top issue, followed by 16% who said abortion access is.

28 September 2022

Thought for the Day

graphic not found

21 September 2022

Illinois's Safe-T Act ending cash bail will also further 'handcuff' police

A controversial, recently passed bill in Illinois that critics have warned will exacerbate the issue of rising crime in the state will also hinder the work of police and negatively affect law enforcement morale, which is already at an all-time low.  "It's opening the door for the anti-police activist community and the attorneys that represent them that are anti-police."

The bill eliminates cash bail.  It also eliminates the requirement that officers accused of misconduct be told the identity of their accuser as well as the identity of the official who is investigating them.  "The problem that nobody sees or turns a blind eye to is the effect on morale, recruiting and retention.  Anybody can just make a complaint against an officer.  The department or the investigating body does not have to tell the officer who it is, which hinders their ability to respond to the complaint accurately and honestly. It has a bad effect on morale."  Plummeting police morale across the country in the wake of 2020’s riots and calls from Democrats to defund the police have come at the same time Chicago has experienced 60% more police officer suicides than the average law enforcement agency.

A provision in the law prevents an officer accused in a use-of-force incident from reviewing his or her body camera footage before giving a statement.  Officers can now amend their statements after viewing the footage, but that, Roy notes, makes two reports — a situation Roy says is "ideal" for attorneys looking to cast doubt on the story of an officer who may not have accurately reported every detail simply from memory in the first report.

Chicago Alderman Anthony Napolitano, who represents the city’s 41st Ward, said that his constituents are "beside themselves" over the "horses---" bill" and that he agrees with Roy that the bill will further downgrade police morale by eliminating cash bail and releasing criminals back onto the streets with just citations.  "It’s just completely wrong in the direction we are going with crime and punishment.  The Safe-T Act basically says if you commit a crime you get a strike two, a strike three, a strike four, a strike five, it’s just the wrong way to go about it."  Napolitano added that police he has spoken with oppose the Safe-T Act and say it will make it even harder for them to do their jobs.  "They don’t even want to, they’re almost wasting pen ink writing paperwork or typing because states attorneys are downgrading charges, judges are throwing charges out.  This is pure nonsense for anyone to support the Safe-T Act."

Illinois, specifically the city of Chicago, has been struck by skyrocketing crime since 2020, and at the same time arrests are dropping to historic lows due in part to sweeping changes being made to how police are allowed to pursue criminals and to prosecutors having a tighter grip on approving felony charges.  The troubling Chicago crime wave is almost certain to get worse if the Safe-T Act were to pass and crimes such as trespassing are relegated to ticketable offenses.  The bill is going to "make a bad situation even worse.  Under the new law, entire categories of crimes such as aggravated battery, robbery, burglary, hate crimes, aggravated DUI, vehicular homicide, drug induced homicides, all drug offenses, including delivering fentanyl and trafficking cases, are not eligible for distinction, no matter the severity of the crime or the defendant's risk to a specific person or the community unless prosecutors prove by convincing evidence that a person has a high likelihood of flight to avoid prosecution,  When you read that list, that's shocking."

People interested in the bill should look no further than the dozens of county prosecutors across Illinois who have voiced opposition to the bill.  "The fact that 100 out of 102 elected county state's attorneys in Illinois are against this bill, those provisions specifically, speaks for itself."

graphic not found Some New Yorkers say bussing migrants is inhumane while others support the move

Republican Govs. Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott have sent illegal immigrants to liberal cities, including Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago, as the migrant crisis continues to overwhelm border states.  Democrats have criticized the move, with some saying the Republicans were committing crimes against humanity.

People in New York sounded off on Republican governors bussing illegal immigrants across the country, with some calling it a crime against humanity while others criticized left-wing outrage.

"I think that’s a crime.  They’re in your state, deal with them in your state don’t send them here."

But others supported the Republican governors' move.  "Where else are they going to go?  Are they going to send them to rural Arkansas or Alabama that doesn’t have the infrastructure or capital to support them like a major metropolitan area like Manhattan?" said one.  graphic not found He saw criticism from Democrats as a double standard since the federal government has transported migrants into the interior of the U.S.  "Biden is flying people across the country with taxpayers' dollars but god forbid Ron DeSantis does it.  Now he’s getting all those crazy names called at him."

Migrant arrests during the 2022 fiscal year eclipsed 2 million for the first time, according to Customs and Border Protection.  By comparison, there were less than 860,000 apprehensions in 2019.

Immigration will be a key issue for voters in the upcoming midterm elections.  "Not a lot of solutions being proposed."

"It’s an international problem.  It’s not a United States problem.  I personally feel for the migrants because I’m an immigrant, but there’s gotta be another way."

graphic not found Putin initiates conscription to bolster military invasion

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization in Russia, which will require citizens to join the war effort in Ukraine.  He also warned Western nations not to attack Russia's territories, which would be met with swift retaliation.  Putin’s address on Wednesday comes as Russia’s invasion reaches nearly seven months and amid a successful counteroffensive by Ukraine’s military.

"Only citizens who are currently in the reserve will be subject to conscription, and above all, those who served in the armed forces have a certain military specialty and relevant experience," Putin said.

The statement also comes one day after Russia announced it intends to hold elections in Russian-controlled regions in eastern and southern Ukraine.  This would allow these regions to join Russia.  Such elections would undoubtedly escalate the war.  The referendums are set to start Friday in the Luhansk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions.  The referendum votes, which were also dismissed by Western leaders, are expected to go in Russia's favor.  US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink said the "sham referenda and mobilization are signs of weakness [and] of Russian failure."  "The United States will never recognize Russia's claim to purportedly annexed Ukrainian territory, and we will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes," she added.

UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace similarly responded to Putin's comments in a tweet Wednesday.  "President Putin's breaking of his own promises not to mobilize parts of his population and the illegal annexation of parts of Ukraine, are an admission that his invasion is failing," he said.  "He and his Defense Minister have sent tens of thousands of their own citizens to their deaths, ill-equipped and badly led."  "No amount of threats and propaganda can hide the fact that Ukraine is winning this war, the international community are united and Russia is becoming a global pariah.  The Russian civilian and military leadership has faced significant pressure over the last two weeks.  These new measures have highly likely been brought forwards due to public criticism and mark a further development in Russia’s strategy."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned these efforts and said such votes amount to just "noise."

Several other countries issued statements condemning Putin's statements, including China, Germany, Netherlands, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Ukraine braces for Russia's fury over military losses in Kharkiv

"We need to keep the pressure on them," said Yuriy Sak, adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister.  "If we allow them time to recuperate, if we allow them time to rebuild their capacity, then it will be more possible for them to strike back.  We need to keep the momentum, and we need to keep going," noting that the momentum must also continue to come in the way of international arms if Ukraine is going to be successful.  Ukrainian forces have taken back nearly the entire northern region of Kharkiv, liberating more than 400 towns and cities and forcing Russian troops to withdraw.

But even Kyiv was surprised by its success in Kharkiv, where it managed to take Russian forces by surprise and force them to hastily retreat, in some cases back across Russia’s own borders.  "This was a mission that for a good reason was kept secret for a long time," Sak said. "The outcome of this counteroffensive actually exceeded even our own expectations."

Sak claimed that for every Ukrainian soldier killed in the counteroffensive, somewhere between "9 to 10" Russian soldiers were killed.

But Western officials have said it is too early to say if Ukraine’s ability to recapture some 3,300 square miles is a turning point or whether Russia has another operational ploy up its weathered sleeve.  "We're not fully aware of what they're capable of in this state of desperation — in which they definitely are in now," the adviser said.  "We have to be prepared for everything.  Again, this brings us back to the issue of haste and speed.  "They are learning from their own mistakes," he continued. "From a purely logical point of view, it is possible to assume that the next stages will be accompanied by a more sophisticated response.  We understand that this war is far from over."

Russian troops boxed in by Ukrainian forces and Dnieper River, barge carrying supplies to Russian troops sinks

Russian troops have become boxed in between advancing Ukrainian forces in the southern Kherson region and the Dnieper River, with access to supplies and eastern routes blocked.

Ukrainian forces sank a Russian barge transporting troops, equipment and weapons across the major river crossing.  Attempts to establish an alternative crossing over the River Dnieper near Nova Kakhovka and Kozatske were unsuccessful," Ukraine’s Operational Command South said.  "A barge carrying weapons, equipment and military personnel joined the occupiers’ underwater fleet."

Reports of guerrilla warfare in the city of Kherson reportedly broke out over the weekend between Russian troops who are looking to take what they can before they "flee."  the fighting in downtown Kherson showed a "manifestation of growing tension" between the Kremlin-linked militant force the Wagner Group, Chechen forces led by Moscow-appointed Ramzan Kadyrov, Russian soldiers and intelligence officials affiliated with Russia’s Federal Security Service – the successor agency to the KGB.  "[The] number of ‘domestic conflicts’ is increasing.  Parties divide the loot before [they] flee considering the news about Armed Forces of Ukraine approach."

Russian forces in the region are losing a sense of purpose and morale remains low.  Some Russian officials have allegedly initiated contact with Kyiv to negotiate a cease-fire in the region.  "They’ve been offered to surrender under the auspices of international humanitarian law or to return home – although it’s unclear how [they] would manage that."

graphic not found Mexican Cartels Fly 9,000 Drone Flights into U.S. to Surveil Law Enforcement Operations

Mexican drug cartels have conducted more than 9,000 drone flights into U.S. airspace in the last year to surveil American law enforcement and security operations in the southern border region.

The drones are observing federal, state, county, and city agencies near the Mexican border, including the U.S. Border Patrol, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas National Guard, county sheriffs and local police.  The Border Patrol, which operates under Customs and Border Protection (CBP), has captured about a dozen of the drones, and accessed the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’ (UAVs) guidance and memory systems to gain intelligence information.

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request has been filed with the CBP, the 60,000-member agency charged with keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S., for all records regarding the use of drones by criminal organizations operating along the U.S.-Mexico border for the purpose of surveilling U.S. law enforcement officials or otherwise facilitating illegal activity.  The federal public-record request includes, but is not limited to, all information depicting the known or estimated number of instances of the use of such technology, as well as all reports, intelligence assessments, analyses, or similar records related to their use.

Federal officials on the ground say that the cartels use the UAV surveillance flights to facilitate human smuggling and drug trafficking.  Specifically, they help identify gaps in border coverage and assist the cartels in overwhelming certain areas to create a diversion for moving sensitive or high value loads through alternate border locations.

The drones are also used to smuggle small amounts of drugs into the U.S.  “They are dropping fentanyl.  They fly into certain locations, drop them to the ground and fentanyl is taken off of them and they take back off into Mexico.”  The drones are not military grade, but rather “run of the mill” that can be purchased anywhere.

Reports of Mexican cartels using UAVs to enhance their illicit operations began surfacing within the last few years.  In fact, three years ago agents in the El Paso sector around 750 miles from the Rio Grande Valley revealed in a news report that they had witnessed what they believed to be the first use of a drone by a Mexican cartel to act as a “look-out.”  In the story CBP officials from the El Paso sector are quoted saying that agents “discovered a new tactic in counter surveillance,” referring to the UAV.  An agent monitoring the border with an infrared camera discovered the drone traveling north into the U.S. from Mexico.

Last year Mexico’s largest newspaper reported that some of the country’s most notorious cartels, including Jalisco Nueva Generación, used drones with explosives to attack police in the western part of the country.

Back in 2018, an academic study found that cartels use drones to look for Border Patrol agents and inform drug smugglers of their positions.  The research focused on the complex security landscape of military drones for border security and non-state actors with sharply diverging motives to develop their own drone surveillance capacities.

20 September 2022

Fed unlikely to cut interest rates until 2024

The Federal Reserve is unlikely to pivot and cut its benchmark interest rate until 2024 at the soonest as it tries to crush the hottest inflation in four decades.

Economists predicted that the U.S. central bank will raise interest rates four more times between now and the end of 2023, eventually holding them at a range between 4.25% to 4.50% until 2024.

The prediction comes ahead of the Fed's two-day meeting, during which policymakers are expected to approve a third consecutive 75-basis-point interest rate increase — triple the usual size.  Some on Wall Street think that central bankers could go even bigger with a full point increase.

Although experts initially thought the Fed would reduce the size of rate increases after July, that changed after the August inflation data released last week came in hotter than expected. The consumer price index unexpectedly rose 0.1% in August from the previous month, dashing hopes for a slowdown. On an annual basis, prices are up 8.3% — near the highest level since 1981.

Thought for the Day

graphic not found

15 September 2022

Ukraine firepower thunders, Russian troops flee to the border

Ukraine has retaken thousands of miles and more than 300 villages and towns this month.  The Ukraine Defense Ministry said Russian troops fleeing the Ukraine advance are massing at the Belgorod border, where other Russian troops are keeping them from crossing over.  "They have no communication with the command.  There is no supply of food and ammunition."

The Russian retreat from the Kharkiv region, where Ukrainian forces have been consolidating their recently recaptured territory, was in some instances orderly but at other times the troops "fled in apparent panic."  The Russians left behind valuable equipment "essential to enable Russia's artillery-centric style of warfare."  The Russians abandoned "high-value equipment" which included at least one Zoopark counter-battery radar and at least one IV14 artillery command and control vehicle.  Such abandonment illustrates "localized breakdowns in command and control."

Some residents have fled to Belgorod from villages in Ukraine after working for Russian administrations – only to have the Russians abandon the Ukraine towns.  Now they fear payback from Ukrainian authorities who view them as traitors.

Putin acknowledges China's 'concerns' about war in Ukraine

“We highly appreciate the well-balanced position of our Chinese friends in connection with the Ukrainian crisis.  We understand your questions and concerns in this regard."

Putin’s rare mention of Chinese worries comes as Beijing has been anxious about the impact of volatile oil prices and economic uncertainty resulting from a war that has lasted nearly seven months and has seen Russia experience some embarrassing battlefield setbacks.

China's economy has already taken a downturn this year in large part because of its strict anti-COVID measures.  Russia has dramatically increased energy sales to China in recent months as Europe purchases declined because of sanctions.

China's Xi did not make any references to Ukraine in his public comments during the meeting on the sidelines of the eight-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security alliance created as a counterweight to U.S. influence.  The alliance also includes India, Pakistan and four ex-Soviet nations in Central Asia.

Florida Flies 2 Planeloads of Migrants to Martha’s Vineyard

About 50 migrants unexpectedly arrived by plane on Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday, local officials said, escalating a tactic in which Republican-led states have shipped busloads of migrants to liberal bastions like Washington and New York to protest the significant rise in illegal immigration under President Biden.

The migrant group, which included children, arrived on two planes around 3 p.m. without any warning.

As the migrants received Covid-19 tests, food and clothing, there was confusion on the ground about who had sent them to Martha’s Vineyard, a popular getaway for the moneyed and powerful.  Migrants said they had started the day in San Antonio, but it was the Florida governor’s office that took responsibility.  The migrants appear to mostly be from Venezuela.

Taryn M. Fenske, the communications director for Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, said the two flights were part of a state program to transport undocumented immigrants to so-called sanctuary destinations.  This year the Florida Legislature set aside $12 million for the transportation program.

“States like Massachusetts, New York and California will better facilitate the care of these individuals who they have invited into our country by incentivizing illegal immigration through their designation as ‘sanctuary states’ and support for the Biden administration’s open border policies.”

Two migrant buses arrive outside Vice President Kamala Harris' Naval Observatory residence in DC

graphic not found Two migrant buses from Del Rio, Texas, arrived near Vice President Kamala Harris' residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., Thursday morning.

Between 75 and 100 people who were picked up in Eagle Pass, Texas, were sent by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The group includes migrants from Venezuela, Uruguay, Colombia and Mexico. Multiple migrants said they think the border is open, contrary to what Harris said Sunday during an interview.

This latest convoy of buses arrived just hours after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis followed through on his similar promise to drop off illegal immigrants in progressive states, sending two planes full of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday.

Abbott has sent dozens of buses filled with border-crossers to Washington, D.C., New York City and Chicago in recent weeks.

The ongoing relocation of incoming illegal border-crossers has become a popular method of protest for southern states overrun with migrants that are feeling ignored by President Biden's administration.

14 September 2022

Costly rail strike just before mid-term elections self-inflicted by Biden administration

A shutdown would be absolutely devastating, costing upward of $2 billion per day and disrupting an already fragile supply chain while hurting businesses and consumers alike.

If the NMB had stuck to the original schedule, the cooling-off period would have ended in mid-November.  But instead, the board decided to cut things short.

"That this might occur right before the midterm elections is entirely self-inflicted by the Biden administration, where two of President Biden's National Mediation Board [NMB] members took the bizarre step in June of terminating board-guided mediation two months early and starting the 90-day countdown to a possible rail strike."

The timing of the impasse could hurt the administration and Democrats as a whole, putting vulnerable lawmakers in a tough spot ahead of the upcoming midterm elections in November.

12 September 2022

Border sheriffs slam DC mayor, officials for declaring emergency over migrant buses:  'They have seen nothing'

Washington, DC, has been sent approximately 10,000 migrants from Texas and Arizona since April.

Sheriffs dealing with the crisis at the southern border are taking aim at Washington, D.C., for declaring a public emergency over the migrants that have been bused into the sanctuary city by Texas and Arizona -- and bristling at claims that the buses have turned D.C. into a "border town."  "They have seen nothing.  They are not a border town.  They don't know what a border town is,"

graphic not found The DC Mayor is one of a number of liberal mayors and officials of self-proclaimed "sanctuary cities" who have sounded the alarm over the influx of migrants -- which represent just a fraction of those encountered at the border.

A D.C. councilmember sparked pushback when she declared that "in many ways, the governors of Texas and Arizona have turned us into a border town."

Texas has sent less than 10,000 migrants to D.C. since April, while Border Patrol has so far encountered over 2 million migrants this fiscal year, with monthly encounters regularly hitting the 200,000 mark.

"I think it's all a bunch of political grandstanding, trying to get themselves some attention and squeeze a little bit of money out of the federal government or somewhere else that they can use for whatever they think it's needed for.  If they want to see what it looks like. They can come down here for us.  It's being shoved on us by the federal government and their policies and their lack of enforcement."

A number of sheriffs and border officials say D.C. and New York are just getting a taste of what they have experienced daily since the crisis began.  "‘Welcome to our world’ is what they say.  Welcome to the everyday problems we are facing, and you have been ignoring and that you continue to want to blame someone else for."

"They've been criticized for asking for help with what they're going through.  And now that major cities are starting to feel this pressure, it seems to be a whole different scenario for them than it is for the people who live it every day.  So we don't have sympathy for these people."

'Situation more difficult by the hour':  Ukrainian forces break through to Russian border.

Ukraine took several more northeastern villages Monday as the invaded nation's counteroffensive gained momentum, forcing Moscow to withdraw overwhelmed troops from the region.  A Russian-installed official in the Kharkiv region said Ukrainian forces outnumbered Russian troops by 8-to-1 and had broken through to the Russian border.

A captured Russian tank        

Kyiv’s sudden momentum comes after months of little movement, save Russia's small gains in the Donbas region.  Ukraine's encouraging counteroffensive has lifted morale and provoked some rare public criticism of President Vladimir Putin’s war.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy marked 200 days since the war began by lauding the efforts of his military.  "The world is impressed. The enemy is panicking," Zelenskyy said. "Ukraine is proud of you, believes in you, prays for you, and is waiting for you."

Institute for the Study of War:  Ukraine 'routing' Russian forces

Ukrainian forces have penetrated Russian lines to a depth of up to 70 kilometers in some places and captured over 3,000 square kilometers of territory in the past five days since September 6 – more territory than Russian forces have captured in all their operations since April. The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War issued an assessment Monday saying the Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kharkiv was "routing Russian forces and collapsing Russia’s northern Donbas axis." Russian forces are not conducting a controlled withdrawal but rather "hurriedly fleeing" southeastern Kharkiv Oblast to escape encirclement around Izyum.

"Ukrainian forces have penetrated Russian lines to a depth of up to (45 miles) in some places and captured over 1,150 square miles of territory in the past five days since Sept. 6 – more territory than Russian forces have captured in all their operations since April."

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, September 11

by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War

The Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kharkiv Oblast is routing Russian forces and collapsing Russia’s northern Donbas axis.  Russian forces are not conducting a controlled withdrawal and are hurriedly fleeing southeastern Kharkiv Oblast to escape encirclement around Izyum.  Russian forces have previously weakened the northern Donbas axis by redeploying units from this area to Southern Ukraine, complicating efforts to slow the Ukrainian advance or at minimum deploy a covering force for the retreat.  Ukrainian gains are not confined to the Izyum area; Ukrainian forces reportedly captured Velikiy Burluk on September 10, which would place Ukrainian forces within 15 kilometers of the international border.

Ukrainian forces have inflicted a major operational defeat on Russia, recapturing almost all Kharkiv Oblast in a rapid counter-offensive.  The Ukrainian success resulted from skillful campaign design and execution that included efforts to maximize the impact of Western weapons systems such as HIMARS.  Kyiv’s long discussion and then an announcement of a counter-offensive operation aimed at Kherson Oblast drew substantial Russian troops away from the sectors on which Ukrainian forces have conducted decisive attacks in the past several days.  Ukraine’s armed forces employed HIMARS and other Western systems to attack Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) in Kharkiv and Kherson Oblasts, setting conditions for the success of this operation.  Ukrainian leaders discussed the strikes in the south much more ostentatiously, however, successfully confusing the Russians about their intentions in Kharkiv Oblast.  Western weapons systems were necessary but not sufficient to secure success for Ukraine.  The Ukrainian employment of those systems in a well-designed and well-executed campaign has generated the remarkable success of the counter-offensive operations in Kharkiv Oblast.  The Ukrainian recapture of Izyum ended the prospect that Russia could accomplish its stated objectives in Donetsk Oblast.

11 September 2022

Russia in retreat:  Thousands flee key cities after surprise Ukraine advances

Thousands of Russian troops have retreated in the face of Ukraine’s lightning-fast counter-offensive in the north-east of the country.

For days, Ukrainian troops have been advancing through Kharkiv in a military operation that could be a turning point in the nearly seven-month-long war.  Russia’s defence ministry confirmed today its forces have retreated from Izyum, a key military stronghold, and Balakliya after Ukraine burst through its front line.  Only six months ago, Russian troops seized control of Izyum after a weeks-long battle and planned only yesterday to beef up the city’s defence.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in a briefing Ukrainians burst through as much as 50 kilometres through Russia’s chokehold of Kharkiv.  ‘Russian forces were likely taken by surprise.  The sector was only lightly held and Ukrainian units have captured or surrounded several towns.’  This had left Russian forces around Izyum ‘increasingly isolated’ and would likely cut off their supplies.

Ukrainian troops have also captured Kupiansk, a major railway city that supplied Russian troops in the region.

Across the last week, Ukraine has taken back at least 2,500 square kilometres of once pro-Kremlin Kharkiv.

Ukraine offensive 'snowballs' with fall of Russian stronghold

Ukrainian forces kept pushing north in the Kharkiv region and advancing to its south and east, Ukraine's army chief said on Sunday, a day after their rapid gains forced Russia to abandon its main bastion in the area.  Ukraine's chief commander, General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, said the armed forces had regained control of more than 3,000 square km (1,158 square miles) since the start of this month.  "In the Kharkiv direction, we began to advance not only to the south and east, but also to the north. There are 50 km to go to the state border (with Russia)."

The offensive had gone far "better than expected", describing it as a "snowball rolling down a hill".  "It's a sign that Russia can be defeated."

The retreat from the city of Izium, an important logistics hub for Russian forces, was their worst defeat since they were repelled from the capital Kyiv in March, as thousands of Russian soldiers left behind ammunition and equipment as they fled.

"Russia will be defeated in Ukraine if it doesn't declare a nationwide mobilisation."  Nationalist anger at military failure is potentially a far greater problem for the Kremlin than pro-Western liberal criticism of Putin.  "Either Russia will become itself through the birth of a new political elite ... or it will cease to exist."

graphic not available Ukrainians in Kherson Resist Russian Occupiers and Hope for Their Army’s Arrival

After six months under occupation in the southern city, Ukrainians are trying to thwart Russification.

Explosions shake the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson throughout the day.  Internet, electricity and water are sporadic.  Prices for basic goods, such as food and soap, are skyrocketing.  Hundreds of cars are lined up trying to leave the city.  By 4 p.m., the streets are empty.

Ukraine has launched a military offensive aimed at retaking Kherson and upending a key goal of Vladimir Putin’s war:  eliminating independent Ukrainian identity.  How that liberation effort plays out is a test case for Russia’s efforts to mold the territory and its people in its own image.  As Ukraine recaptures territory this weekend in a lightning offensive in the country’s northeastern Kharkiv region, residents of Kherson are trying to hang on, waiting for their army to arrive and doing what they can to resist Russification.  “We realize dangerous times are coming.  But it’s the only way to be liberated.”

Two weeks ago, Ukrainian troops began pushing southeast toward the Dnipro River, after weeks of airstrikes on bridges, as well as ammunition depots and command posts.  Their aim is to deprive Russian troops of supplies and squeeze them out of Kherson, located on the Dnipro’s west bank.

The offensive has forced Moscow-installed authorities to put on hold plans for a vote on joining Russia.  Still, they are pushing ahead with efforts to consolidate their hold on the region—and cracking down on anything that looks pro-Ukrainian.  They opened schools on Sept. 1, despite the shelling, and have warned parents that children who aren’t enrolled could be taken away from them.  On TV, banner ads at the bottom of the screen promise 10,000 Russian rubles, about $165, to anyone who turns in Ukrainian sympathizers.  Troops roam the city in trucks, pulling down garage doors and breaking into apartments in search of Ukrainian partisans.

“We’re avoiding anywhere Russian soldiers might be.  At first, you could show you were pro-Ukrainian.  Now, you could be detained even for some picture on your phone that they don’t understand.”  Signs of defiance still abound.  Yellow-and-blue ribbons, the colors of the Ukrainian flag, hang from fences.  A former Ukrainian member of parliament who was collaborating with the Russians in Kherson was recently assassinated in Kherson.  Though supermarkets have been rebranded and filled with Russian products, the Ukrainian hryvnia, not the Russian ruble, remains the dominant currency.

Russian troops captured Kherson on March 2, the first major city seized during the full-scale invasion, and the only regional capital.  Residents say the Russians in Kherson set up surveillance operations reminiscent of Soviet times.  More than half of Kherson’s residents have fled for Ukrainian-held territory.  “We’re in a cage, without any rights.  If Russians set up a rocket system next to my house, I would give the coordinates to the Ukrainians,” she said. “It means I’d lose my house, but I’d still do it.”

'We ask you to relieve yourself of your post': Kremlin officials have begun a mutiny against Vladimir Putin

Halfway through his invasion of Ukraine's sixth bloody month, Russian President Vladimir Putin's grip on power in Moscow is imploding as scores of Kremlin officials are calling upon the 69-year-old autocrat to quit.

Putin had anticipated his February 24th "special military operation" to be a cakewalk through the Russian-controlled East into the Ukrainian capitol of Kyiv.  But with the aid of a Western coalition led by the United States, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's unshatterable resistance campaign has decimated Putin's combat forces and depleted his military's offensive capabilities.

Casualties have climbed into the tens of thousands.  Numerous allegations of genocide committed against Ukrainian civilians have flooded international watchdog organizations.  The global economy has suffered major setbacks.  Europe quivers on the brink of potentially multiple atomic disasters.  And Moscow's finest are either bogged down or on the run.

"Just one day after several municipal deputies in Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg called on the State Duma to try the Russian leader for treason, their colleagues in Moscow joined in and demanded he steps down because his views are 'hopelessly outdated.'"

“The rhetoric that you and your subordinates use has been riddled with intolerance and aggression for a long time, which in the end effectively threw our country back into the Cold War era.  Russia has again begun to be feared and hated, we are once again threatening the whole world with nuclear weapons,” the officials wrote.  “We ask you to relieve yourself of your post due to the fact that your views and your governance model are hopelessly outdated and hinder the development of Russia and its human potential."

10 September 2022

The Ukrainian Army Is Surrounding 10,000 Russian Troops In The East

Two days after punching through Russian defenses (see below) outside the city of Kharkiv, Ukrainian forces have fought all the way to Kupyansk, a critical node in Russia’s supply lines in Kharkiv Oblast in northeastern Ukraine.

Separately, Ukrainian troops farther south around Izium also are on the move.  The twin attacks are closing a noose around 10,000 or more undersupplied, demoralized Russian troops caught between Ukrainian brigades in the south, west and north and the Oskil River in the east.

According to Ukrainian estimates, the Russians are losing as many as 600 troops a day as the Ukrainian counteroffensives gain momentum — not just around Kharkiv, but also in the south around the Russian-occupied port of Kherson.  The Russian army hasn’t suffered losses this severe since the early weeks of Russia’s wider war on Ukraine.

It’s worth noting what happened in those first weeks.  The Russians overextended their logistics while trying to encircle Kyiv.  Ukrainian drones, artillery batteries and missile teams targeted the unprotected supply convoys, eventually starving the front-line battalions and forcing them to retreat from Kyiv.

Retreat might be the most favorable outcome for Russian forces along the Kharkiv axis, as well—assuming, of course, they can find a way through Ukrainian lines or across the Oksil River.  But Ukrainian artillery already has poked holes in the main bridge across the Oksil near Kupyansk.

Ukrainian Brigades Have Punched Through Russian Lines Around Kharkiv

Eight days after Ukrainian forces counterattacked in southern Ukraine on Aug. 30, advancing miles toward Russian-occupied Kherson and a key Russian pontoon bridge, a separate Ukrainian force launched a second counteroffensive–south of Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine.

The Kherson counteroffensive has been successful.  The Kharkiv counteroffensive has been even more successful – punching through thin Russian defenses and barreling into the Russians’ unguarded rear area.  Now a key Russian supply hub, and all the troops it feeds and arms, are in big trouble.

As Russia’s wider war in Ukraine grinds into its seventh month, the momentum clearly is with Ukraine.  The battered Russian army is buckling along at least two fronts.  It’s not clear the Kremlin can mobilize enough fully equipped and trained reserves to prevent a catastrophic collapse.

Ukraine’s southern counteroffensive came as no surprise.  Officials in Kyiv hinted as early as May that liberating Kherson, a strategic port with a pre-war population of 300,000, was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s top priority.  That month, the Ukrainian armed forces began a long campaign of deep strikes–rocket barrages, drone strikes, commando raids–targeting Russian supply lines all across Ukraine, but especially in the south.

The deep strikes isolated the Russian battalions in and around Kherson, but also signaled to the Kremlin that a Ukrainian counteroffensive was coming.  Anticipating the attack, the Russians shifted a dozen of their 100 or so battalions in Ukraine from the northeast and east to the south, growing by a third the starving Kherson garrison – but at the cost of thinning out defenses in the Donbas region in the east as well as around Kharkiv.

8 September 2022

Thought for the Day

graphic not found

America is not a democracy.

America is a constitutional republic, with the law – the Constitutionabove the government and beyond its ability to amend or change, without the consent of the States.  America elects its politicians by democratic vote, but it is not a democracy.

The Democrats would very much prefer to end the Constitution's dominance, and to replace it with a democracy, with no immutable protection of individual rights, and with the law being subject to the ruling party's whims and all the other pitfalls so clearly demonstrated by Britain's parliament as a result.

1 September 2022

Texas sends buses of migrants to Chicago

Chicago is the third Democrat-run city where Texas officials have sent migrants.  Two buses carrying migrants from Texas arrived in Chicago on Wednesday night.  The buses arrived at Chicago's Union Station at around 7:30 p.m., carrying migrants who crossed the southern border illegally.  An estimated 80 to 100 people were on the buses, including 20 to 30 small children.  Many of the migrants said they were from Venezuela.

graphic not found Chicago is the latest city where migrants have been bused to from Texas, following New York City and Washington, D.C., all of which have Democrat mayors.  Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement that he looks forward to seeing Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot welcome the migrants since Chicago is a sanctuary city.

"President Biden's inaction at our southern border continues putting the lives of Texans—and Americans—at risk and is overwhelming our communities.  To continue providing much-needed relief to our small, overrun border towns, Chicago will join fellow sanctuary cities Washington, D.C. and New York City as an additional drop-off location.  Mayor Lightfoot loves to tout the responsibility of her city to welcome all regardless of legal status, and I look forward to seeing this responsibility in action as these migrants receive resources from a sanctuary city with the capacity to serve them."

Thought for the Day

30 August 2022

graphic not found Surprise attack on Russian airfield destroyed as many as 13 war planes

Satellite images show devastation at a Russian airfield in occupied Crimea in the aftermath of an attack Tuesday when as many as 13 warplanes were wrecked.

The specifics of the attack remain unclear — Ukraine has avoided explicitly taking responsibility, though its air force on Thursday did post a jubilant image of the destroyed planes.

The losses appear to be a mixture of Su-30 and Su-24 jets, both of which have been used for decades by Russia's air force.  The Su-24 is meant for precise attacks on ground targets, which the Su-30 is a fighter, meant to engage other planes.

"I can't think of a time Russia has lost this many air assets in one day in recent memory, and they have to be deeply concerned about Ukraine's ability to do similar strikes elsewhere."

Ukraine has not formally claimed it as an attack, with its defense ministry saying it couldn't "determine the cause of the explosion."  However, an anonymous official said that Ukrainian special forces were responsible.

Asked if the blasts could be considered part of a Ukrainian counter-offensive in Crimea, an anonymous official said: "You can say this is it."  Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the he aimed to ultimately retake Crimea, the first tranche of Ukrainian territory seized by Russia, eight years before the mass invasion of 2022.  Without mentioning the Saki airfield, Zelenskyy said: "Crimea is Ukrainian and we will never give it up.  We will not forget that the Russian war against Ukraine began with the occupation of Crimea.  This Russian war ... began with Crimea and must end with Crimea — with its liberation."

Russia has not pointed the finger at Ukraine, attributing the blasts only to an "explosion" during which "several aviation munitions detonated."  The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington DC-based military think tank, said that this was likely because Russia is not prepared to admit that its defenses failed badly enough to allow Ukraine to pull off such an attack.  "The Kremlin has little incentive to accuse Ukraine of conducting strikes that caused the damage since such strikes would demonstrate the ineffectiveness of Russian air defense systems."

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20 August 2022

Thought for the Day

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Thought for the Day

15 August 2022

Thought for the Day

11 August 2022

Thought for the Day

4 August 2022

Pennsylvania Democrat switches parties after 34 years, says party 'abandoned' its voters during pandemic

More than 39,000 Pennsylvania Democrats switched their party registration in 2022.

"I think the economy is huge, and I also think a lot of the school issues for parents across the state of Pennsylvania, it's just been horrific watching what's happened to our kids academically, socially, emotionally."  Many parents are "fed up and disgusted with what's happened here over the last two and a half years" with surging inflation and gas prices.  As a former Democrat for 34 years prior to the pandemic, I too thought that the Democratic Party was really focused on the people that they pretend to support.  The Democratic Party basically abandoned all of those people.  And so that was why I left the party, or as I like to say, the party really left me, and I think that a lot more people are really starting to see that."

According to the Pennsylvania Department of State, more than 39,000 Democrats have switched their party registration in 2022.  In contrast, only around 12,000 voters have switched to the Democratic Party from the GOP.

The high-profile Senate race in Pennsylvania continues to gain steam as Trump-backed Dr. Mehmet Oz is set to face off against Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman in November.

Dr. Mehmet Oz claims Democratic opponent John Fetterman ‘was living off Daddy’s money until he was 46'.  Throughout his time in the political scene, Fetterman has never denied his comfortable upbringing and has been open about accepting money from his parents in adulthood.

"Here are facts:  John Fetterman was living off of Daddy’s money until he was 46.  During this period, he failed to pay his taxes 67 times.  Now, he’s running for Senate, and wants to raise your taxes by trillions and spend billions more than even Biden."

Fetterman and Oz won their primary races and are set to battle in the November midterms for the open Senate seat.

Thought for the Day

2 August 2022

Supreme Court Delivers Big Deal Decision For Freedom

The Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency struck a stunning, historic blow against unbridled, unaccountable bureaucratic power.  The court decisively declared that the EPA had vastly exceeded its authority with regulations to force utilities to switch from fossil fuels to so-called renewables, most notably windmills and solar panels.

graphic not found. The Court was clear:  If an unelected agency is going to issue rules that will make a major impact on society, it must have explicit authority from Congress to do so.  It can’t conjure up justifications based on twisted readings of laws.

In this case, the EPA several years ago began putting arbitrary caps on greenhouse gas emissions, with the ultimate goal of making it illegal to use oil, gas or coal to generate electricity.  The trouble was, there was no legal mandate to impose such sweeping changes.  In fact, Congress had repeatedly refused to pass such legislation.

Frustrated, extreme environmentalists resorted to getting regulators to do what they hadn’t been able to get done through the democratic process.  The EPA’s overreach wasn’t isolated.  For decades federal agencies have been taking on increasing power.

Manchin Supports Inflation Reduction Act of 2022

4 July 2022

Biden tweet graphic not found. US energy producers roast Biden for demanding 'companies running gas stations' lower pump prices

The U.S. Oil & Gas Association took a hit at President Biden after he tweeted on Saturday that "companies running gas stations" should simply "bring down the price you are charging at the pump," telling him that he should "please make sure the WH intern who posted this tweet registers for Econ 101 for the fall semester."

Biden's tweet comes as gas prices are averaging at $4.812 nationwide, which is up 5 cents from one month ago.  In some states, however, prices are much higher.  California gas prices graphic not found. In California, the average price per gallon of gas is $6.244 and in Illinois, it's $5.325.

Biden has attempted to deflect blame for the increase in gas prices, despite his campaign promise to always take responsibility and not blame others.

The call for action from Biden follows a failed proposal from the Oval Office to implement a 90-day gas tax holiday, which was dismissed by even Democratic lawmakers as outlandish.

During the presidential campaign, Biden vowed to sacrifice the energy boom, low prices, and even jobs for the sake of his green agenda.  In the December 2019 Democratic debate, moderator Tim Alberta asked:  "Three consecutive American presidents have enjoyed stints of explosive economic growth due to a boom in oil and natural gas production.  As president, would you be willing to sacrifice some of that growth, even knowing potentially that it could displace thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers in the interest of transitioning to that greener economy?"  "The answer is yes," the former vice president said.

California gas prices graphic not found. Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have delivered about 870,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada to Texas refineries, and "paused" oil and gas leases on federal lands during his first hours in office.

Biden has veered between embracing high gas prices as the price of an "incredible transition" to a "green" economy, to blaming Putin, to blaming energy producers, and now blaming gas station owners, who only make a few cents per gallon of gas they sell.

Proving once again that Democrats are clueless about how economics works.

Biden's tweet demanding gas stations bring down prices gets praised by Chinese state media

Biden's tweet garnered support from Chinese state media, with Chen Weihua, China Daily EU Bureau Chief, responding that Biden "finally realized that capitalism is all about exploitation."

Proving once again that the Chinese are clueless about how economics works.

2 July 2022

Supreme Court rules proposed EPA regulations unconstitutional

The US Supreme Court Thursday ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not have the authority under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act to enforce proposed power plant emission limitations in West Virginia v. EPA. The majority relied on the Major Questions Doctrine, a doctrine that has never been used in a Supreme Court opinion.

The court interprets this to mean that “given both separation of powers principles and a practical understanding of legislative intent, the agency must point to ‘clear congressional authorization’ for the authority it claims.”

In West Virginia v. EPA, the court is in a unique position as it is examining a rule that has yet to be implemented.  Prior to this case, under the Obama Administration, the court stayed a graduated emissions “cap and trade” plan.  Then under the Trump administration, the plan was scrapped entirely, implementing a new rule based primarily on a state-to-state approach.  Finally, under the Biden administration, the EPA began crafting a new emissions rule, which did not go into effect.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts concludes that the “EPA is generally limited to determining the maximum safe amount of covered pollutants in the air.”  The Chief Justice also found that the EPA has not met the strictures of the Major Question Doctrine and has not shown that Congress specifically intended for section 111(d) to be used in this way.

"One of the Judiciary’s most solemn duties is to ensure that acts of Congress are applied in accordance with the Constitution in the cases that come before us.  To help fulfill that duty, courts have developed certain 'clear-statement' rules.  These rules assume that, absent a clear statement otherwise, Congress means for its laws to operate in congruence with the Constitution rather than test its bounds.  In this way, these clear-statement rules help courts ‘act as faithful agents of the Constitution."

Sixth Circuit Affirms First Amendment Protections for University Professor Refusing to Use Transgender Pronouns

The Sixth Circuit first addressed Meriwether’s free speech claim and held the First Amendment protects the academic speech of university professors.

The university argued that it has a compelling interest in stopping discrimination against transgender students.  But the court rejected this argument because the government does not always have a compelling interest in regulating employees’ speech on matters of public concern.  If it did, the analysis is left meaningless.

Academic freedom is paramount to the First Amendment, the court said, and that was especially the case here given that Meriwether spoke on a matter of public concern.

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