The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.

The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.
The scholar


Number of Russian tanks in Ukraine


The Russian army started the war in Ukraine with 3,300 tanks. Oryx counts absolutely certain losses and comes up with about 1,500 losses, 1,000 destroyed and 500 captured and put back into service by Ukraine. The Ukrainian General Staff comes up with 3,458 because their standard is “pretty sure.” There's no indication that Russia has a large number of new models rolling off the assembly lines, so how are there any tanks left on the Russian side?

Popular Mechanics says that Russia has a thriving tank industry that refurbishes old tanks. The T-62, the model was developed in 1961, is getting rebuilt and sent to the battlefield. The British Ministry of Defense estimates 800 T-62s have been refurbished and sent to Ukraine. .


How credible is Seymour Hersh?


Okay, had a problem with the reporting of Seymour Hersh. He said that the Navy doesn't have to report covert ops whereas the CIA does. The language from 50 USC 3093 states:

The President may not authorize the conduct of a covert action by departments, agencies, or entities of the United States Government unless the President determines such an action is necessary to support identifiable foreign policy objectives of the United States and is important to the national security of the United States, which determination shall be set forth in a finding that shall meet each of the following conditions:…" (emphasis mine)

In other words, Hersh is wrong on that. At the very least, the "Gang of Eight" would have to be notified. Yes, Congress must be told if ANY branch of the government carries out the kind of operation that Hersh describes.

Hersh tells us what his political view is by suggesting that the war will end when Zelenskyy is tired of causing the deaths of fellow Ukrainians.

Daily Kos has taken a look at Hersh’s claims (the story begins several paragraphs and tweets down). They note that the long-time and highly reliable fact-checking site Snopes has also examined those claims. An OSINT fellow (Open Source INTelligence) pursues Hersh’s claims in detail. Sorry, but I think Hersh has just lost it.


Some budget-cutting recommendations

Senator Scott is trying to show that he and his party are not the only ones proposing dramatic changes to Social Security and Medicare. Someone discovered a clip of the current president Joe Biden arguing for serious changes to Social Security. Bit of a problem with using the clip as any sort of evidence is that people, even politicians, can change their minds. If the GOP could show that Biden continued to call for changes to Social Security, then yes, it would be appropriate to call him a hypocrite.

Representative Gaetz demonstrates in his zeal to cut spending that he hates democracy and opposes Western values.

At least Representative Greene has been spending a bit of her time actually looking through the budget so as to make specific proposals. Her budget proposals are based on going line by line through the budget and finding specific items to cut. This, in my own humble opinion, is the only way to approach this job!

Her first recommended cut is to not find a way to build better latrines. This strikes me as the proposal that only a comfortable, middle class woman who has never been outside the US, or at least has never been outside an area that’s been built to be a tourist destination. In the Navy, I’ve been to some non-tourist-type places and believe me, better latrines are a worthwhile project.

Study the emissions of wood heaters? Seems doubtful, but I’d need to see more detail before I could agree or disagree.

“Taxpayers should never be paying unelected bureaucrats to undermine our democracy.” Yeah, okay, but the budget is there as a result of legislators voting on specific projects. Bureaucrats don’t just arbitrarily come up with projects by themselves.

“Global Disinformation Index.” Is there the slightest doubt that the US and the world are awash in disinformation? There may be questions about this project and there may be a need for more oversight and close-up management, but it’s hardly controversial that something needs to be done about rampant disinformation.

Priority: “stopping ALL evil and cruel animal cruelty experiments that are funded by taxpayer dollars.” Yeah, I’ll go with that. Again, I would take a close and careful look at the projects to make sure that that’s what’s happening. The only way “gain-of-function” studies would be dangerous would be if they were carried out under non-scientifically-approved circumstances. That appears to have been the case in Wuhan, China, as the scientists there were apparently rushing through projects without taking the time or spending the money to make sure everything was being done safely.

“We must stop funding war in Ukraine and push for peace!“ Erm, Ukraine is a liberal democracy, Russia is an oppressive, authoritarian, centralized state. Is Greene suggesting that the US doesn’t have a vested interest in supporting democracies when they’re under attack? Is there any reasonable probability that either side is ready to open up peace negotiations? Ukraine wants to regain all of the territory that was lost since Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, Russia wants to rebuild the old Soviet Union, when Ukraine was a Soviet Socialist Republic under the direct control of Moscow.

“We are on the verge of defaulting our country’s debts…” Only and strictly because Republicans insist on playing dangerous games with the debt ceiling! Not because of anything that unavoidable!

Foreign aid has been an easy target since forever. The great majority of it comes immediately and directly back to the US in terms of purchases of arms, food and other types of national assistance. There may indeed be something that can be cut safely without damaging foreign relations, but I’d take a close, careful and detailed look before cutting anything.

“The past 2 yrs Democrats spent more money in history…” Yes, they did, because there was a need for it! Because Republicans have been holding back needed spending since 2011, when the GOP took control of the House and in subsequent years, when they kept control of at least one of the three branches (House, Senate or Presidency). When Democrats finally took control of all three branches, there was a big backlog of spending that needed to be done. Also, Covid required lots of spending.

“It’s easy to cut spending because for decades our government budgets have been the absurdly stuffed with stupid spending.” Ronald Reagan could make a case fo this back in 1981 because Democrats had indeed gotten fat and lazy and had permitted unnecessary spending to occur, but the days of finding “low-hanging fruit,” spending project that can be easily cut, are long gone. Greene made a good attempt, but she has failed to prove otherwise.


Peace proposals for Ukraine

Was just talking with some buddies about the war in Ukraine. They said that the US Peace Council has advocated peace talks between Ukraine and Russia. I then looked at various peace advocates. Russian diplomat Lavrov says that Russia and Ukraine were close to a deal in April, but Zelenskyy agreed with the US and Britain that the deal should not move forward. Found a very interesting paragraph (press people call this the “nut graph,” the paragraph that sums up the most important point in the piece).

Russia has repeatedly rejected Ukrainian and Western demands that it withdraw completely from Ukraine as a condition for any negotiations. US President Joe Biden has indicated he would be willing to talk with Putin if the Russian leader demonstrated that he seriously wanted to end the invasion.

It’s very difficult to see how any negotiations can even begin with Ukraine ceding any territory to Russia. That’s not a permanent or lasting peace as the war would simply continue once Russia had rebuilt its currently devastated army.

Is the possibility of nuclear war increasing? Actually, it’s decreasing. China has made it quite clear to Russia that they won’t put up with Russia using nuclear weapons. India has said the same. The US has also stated that it would respond to a nuclear launch by Russia with non-nuclear weapons.

Update: So if I were in Putin's position and wanted peace with Ukraine, how would I begin? I'd probably agree, in principle, that Russia must leave the territory of Ukraine. Russia's doing the exact opposite,  

"I think you only have to look at Putin's own words in a recent conversation with President Erdoğan of Türkiye in which he says unless and until Ukraine accepts the new territorial realities, as he put it, there's nothing to negotiate. In other words, unless and until Ukraine acknowledges and accepts the fact that the territory that Russia has seized by force, it's not getting back, there's nothing to negotiate. That of course is in and of itself a nonstarter," [Secretary of State Antony Blinken] added.


Some rather silly stuff


Dinesh D’Souza says some pretty silly stuff here.

Key differences between Trump and Biden storage of classified docs: 1. Mar-a-Lago is secure b/c it’s under Secret Service protection; Biden’s think tank is not

We went over this when it was first discovered that Trump had numerous government documents that he wasn’t authorized to have in his possession and when Trump was visited by con artists and politically-embarrassing racists. The Secret Service is responsible for seeing to the personal safety of Trump and his family members, period. They are not there to take on the function of secretaries or staff members. They aren’t there to make Mar-a-Lago secure against anything but threats to the physical safety of the former president and his family members.

2. Biden Center is heavily subsidized with Chinese government money

Hard to see what the relevance of this talking point is.

3. Trump had the power to declassify; Biden did not

Declassification is a lengthy process that involves checking with the originating agency to see whether or not a document can be safely declassified. It involves crossing out classification markings. It involves going into databases to change the status of a document. None of that was done in the case of the document that were taken to Mar-a-Lago.

Also, Trump’s ability to legitimately review classified documents ended when his presidency ended. He hasn’t had a security clearance since his term ended.

Has Trump been careful with handling classified data? Actually, no. In 2019, there was a Iranian attempt to launch a satellite into space. The launch failed. A picture of the damaged launcher was shown to President Trump. He tweeted out the picture.

Some officials worried that Trump’s decision to release the image compromised a key U.S. spy capability, potentially giving Iran a leg up in concealing its nuclear and missile programs.

The rest of the piece makes it very clear that the intelligence community was very upset with Trump for releasing the classified image without getting the approval of the intelligence agencies.


Funny stuff

So this is kind of hilarious. In his first two Twitter Files, Elon Musk put out what he thought were two really dread, awful scandals. In the first, the Biden campaign asked Twitter if the company could take some posts down because they appeared to violate Twitter policies. Twitter agreed that they violated policy and took them down. Musk was absolutely flabbergasted that no one was impressed that two private entities agreed between themselves to, y’know, “violate the First Amendment.” But no such violation had occurred.

The second case was where the Arizona Secretary of State did the same thing. She pointed out to Twitter that some posts that her political opponent had put up violated Twitter policies. Twitter agreed and removed those posts. As there were no threats of any kind, simply a notification to Twitter, again, there was no story, no violation.

So I was commenting on a similar case, where lawyers weren’t quite sure that a First Amendment violation had occurred, but where they wanted to conduct a “fishing expedition” to make sure.

Gotta love it! The guy just pulls these “laws” or “rules” out of thin air and just defends them as though they’re actual rules!






Trump's suitability for office

So, on Twitter, I responded that Trump and Putin are, of course, good buddies who completely agree and so that's why World War III didn't happen on Trump's watch. Had Putin said “I'm going to take Ukraine,” Trump would have responded “Why, sure thing, good buddy! Hey, can I wash your car, too?”

Someone responded “Trump and Putin were such good buddies that he told Germany and Europe to get off Russian oil bcs they were too reliant on it ...”

I looked it up, and sure enough, Trump was very critical of Europe for being dependent on Russian oil. “'So we’re supposed to protect you against Russia and you pay billions of dollars to Russia and I think that’s very inappropriate,' Trump said at the residence of the U.S. ambassador in Brussels.”

So okay. Trump had moments when he was thinking clearly and had good insight. Problem is, he never followed up this insight with any policy answer or solution. Clinton, Obama or Biden would have followed up by saying “What can we do to encourage Europe to reject Russian oil? Can the US provide an alternative to Russian oil?” There's no indication Trump ever paid attention to the issue after concluding that Europe was wrong and that he was right.

My solution, of course, would be to encourage Europe to adopt green, alternative energy. The problem with Puerto Rico's energy wasn't that Hurricane Maria had damaged any power plants, but that it tore down miles and miles of heavy cables that carried electricity all over the island. A wind, solar and battery combination is an enormously flexible power solution, It can be scaled from a single household to a small town, without lengthy, heavy cables!

Our dependence on fossil fuels means that we'll always be involved in getting energy from the Middle East and/or Russia. Once we build wind farms off our coasts and set up solar panels over parking lots, we don't have to worry about what Saudi Arabia thinks. We'd be able to, for instance, object to and stop a war on Yemen.