The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.

The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.
The scholar

2022/11/16

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.


2022/10/22

Should we have government control of social media companies?

I haven’t finished reading this interview “Fiona Hill: ‘Elon Musk Is Transmitting a Message for Putin’”, but it answers the objection of the “tankies” quite well. This tanky doesn’t use the Trumpian term “Deep State,” but she means something quite similar. The US is run by people who want to centralize the media under Washington DC’s control. Elon Musk is a brave, brave hero who dares to resist the Deep State that wants everyone united against Russia.

As Fiona Hill makes clear, Musk is just repeating, word for word, the line that Putin wants him to put out there. Seriously, does anyone believe Musk put any time and effort into studying the relationship between Russia and Crimea? Or is Musk simply responding to Putin appealing to Musk’s ego?

A big problem is that Musk doesn’t really appear to understand how social media platforms work. That’s why he wants to cut 75% of Twitter’s work force! He doesn’t have an appreciation as to how society at large versus a social media platform work, how the First Amendment is insufficient to content regulation online. As Regulatory Review puts it:

As they currently stand, social networks are self-regulated. Because of private content moderation, most social media platforms employ a combination of algorithmic and human action to determine what kinds of content to eject from their sites.

This is clearly not a sustainable state of affairs. As social media sites are not simply “The Press,” but are instead sites where abuses need regulation. Content moderation is something Musk just doesn’t appear to understand.

So yes, it’s good that Musk will continue the Starlink service for Ukraine, but yes, the US needs to seriously look at whether large social media platforms like Twitter can remain unregulated. Musk is currently putting up $44 billion to buy Twitter. There appear to be some foreign investors that are contributing to that.


2022/08/05

Amnesty Internation & Ukraine

 Reuters:

Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International's secretary general...called on the Ukrainian government to ensure that its forces were located away from populated areas or for all civilians to be evacuated from those areas first.

I dunno, that seems pretty difficult. Recall that Russia attacked Ukraine from several directions in February and that they’ve fired missiles so that they land all over the country. A real problem with the Amnesty report is that Russians hits civilian targets all the time. 

Balloon Juice blog:

Ukraine responds strongly to criticisms by Amnesty International.

Russian abuse of civilian populations (example: Bucha) means many Ukrainian civilians feel more secure being close to their military.

Amnesty deliberately ignored the opinions of their Ukrainian staff.

The Secretary General of Amnesty International gives a very highly defensive reaction to being criticized.

President Zelenskyy takes very strong issue with Amnesty’s claim. 

And also:  

Russians distributing weapons and ammunition among civilians in the city of Kherson, in violation of the laws of war.

 

The BJ piece also looks at

Russian spies look for missile targets in Ukraine.

Brittney Griner’s fate.

2022/07/29

Thoughts on Supreme Court decision on abortion

 Recently had a lengthy discussion on Twitter about pregnancy choice. The initial entry was all about how much a pregnancy costs. Nothing went particularly wrong with the pregnancy, the baby s fine and the mother is happy. A fellow who claimed to be a neutral centrist but who kept making clearly anti-choice comments, asked a question. I responded. During the course of the conversation, we focused on a particular page taken from Supreme Court Justice Alito's anti-Roe decision. Here are what I regard as the two most critical sentences:

These legitimate interests include respect for and preservation of prenatal life at all stages of development. … The protection of maternal health and safety.

To me, these describe the priorities of the Supreme Court majority in this opinion.

As to the 10-year old girl in Ohio who was raped and found herself very close to the mark of when Ohio did not permit abortions, there's no question that Ohio was seeing to it that they were showing “respect for and preservation of prenatal life”. Would her giving birth have proven fatal or very unhealthy? Doubtful.

The "bodily harm" doesnt even apply because a 10 year old can give birth safely to a child. So the answer to my original question is no there is not an exception that would allow this abortion to take place in Ohio.

So this was not a case of unintended consequences or of things going sideways into unforeseen circumstances. Alito and the rest of the Supreme Court majority had only seen ft to account for the girl's “health and safety.” Once that was satisfied, they had no problem with seeing to it that she would be required to give birth. In fact, the National Right to Life organization made it quite clear that:

“She would have had the baby, and as many women who have had babies as a result of rape, we would hope that she would understand the reason and ultimately the benefit of having the child,” Bopp said in a phone interview on Thursday.

Is Alito himself troubled at all by the obvious problems with the decision as it's currently formulated? Not so you'd know it. He appeared for a speech and didn't appear to be even slightly troubled by problems with the decision.

So when anti-choicers ask you “Why do people hate us?” Well, there's a good reason for that.

Update: The Biden Administration has put out an instruction that women who are suffering complications and might die without an abortion, must receive abortions, regardless of what local and state laws may say. Texas Republicans object to this. They argue that saving the life of a woman via an abortion might put her at risk of being found guilty under Texas law. 

2022/03/26

Motivations for the Ukraine war

 

A buddy of mine sent me a lengthy talk radio piece of almost an hour and a half. I took a pass on that as I can listen to clips of a few minutes, but not to something that lengthy and visually boring.

So I looked around and saw the CPUSA had published a piece on Ukraine. Very typically for the really hard-core peaceniks today, NATO is accused of aggressively expanding over the past three decades. What the piece doesn't look at is how the situation appears from the point of view of countries that have joined NATO and of countries like Finland and Georgia that are favorably inclined towards joining it. As I pointed out here, there are strong reasons not to want to be allied to Russia (and Good Heavens, you do NOT want to be in their army!) and there are positive incentives to join the EU. The journalist Julia Ioffe talks about this phenomenon working in real time, right now, as Finland, Sweden and Bosnia have all suddenly developed a interest in joining NATO.

1, “Therefore, we also call on Russia to withdraw troops.”

There is absolutely zero prospect of that happening. The only way that serious peace talks can happen is if Russia feels they’re losing.

2. “ All sanctions must be ended and borders secured and respected.”

Which would make peace talks even LESS likely!

3. “Agreements reached in 2014…”

Were signed at the point of a gun. They were forced onto Ukraine in the wake of the occupation of Crimea. The Ukrainian army was far too weak and riven with corruption to resist.

The reason Biden has been cited as having worked to push out a Ukrainian prosecutor is that Viktor Shokin, the prosecutor, was highly corrupt.

Why was Ukraine corrupt in 2014? Same reason many African countries were run by dictators in the 70s and 80s. It takes time to move from a dictatorial regime to a fully inclusive and democratic one. It takes time for internal checks and balances to begin to work.


From The Black Agenda report:

To secure the interests of the Russian and Ukrainian people, there must be good faith negotiations between the Russian Federation, representatives of the peoples of Donbas, the Ukrainian state, and the U.S.  The EU and the U.S. must end their continuous shipments of arms and other “lethal aid” to Ukraine.

Again, how is this going to happen without serious Russian reversals on the battlefield? This looks like just serious wishful thinking.

2022/03/10

Difference between Ukraine and Palestine

 

A woman named Lizzy Savetsky complains that a fashion model in Vogue drew a parallel between Ukrainians and Palestinians. Her reasons for objecting to the comparison are 1. Russia did not invade Ukraine because Ukraine pose a security threat to Russia. True, Ukraine and Russia were engaged in active, if low-level hostilities since 2014, but the fighting was confined to the far Eastern edge of Ukraine. On the other hand, Palestinians have undertaken many types of attacks on Israel, using all manner of tactics and methods.

2. Ukrainians use very limited forms of violence. Again, true. Fighting in the Donbas has been through standard infantry, air and tank assaults.

3. Israelis have offered peace to Palestinians many times, all of which Palestinians have rejected. True. Palestinians don’t want to live in a “bantustan,” they want a fully independent state with borders they control. Israel feels that their security needs outweigh the need of Palestinians to have such a state.


What is the primary difference in the relationships between Russia and Ukraine versus that of Israel and Palestine? I think Russia-Ukraine had more of a Roman-type model of colonialism. When Rome acquired a colony, it would take over all of the government functions, would draft a portion of the men for its army and would collect taxes.

With “settler colonialism,” on the other hand, like what was practiced in South Africa, the colonists would take over individual parcels of land, pushing the indigenous population into bantustans or over into other countries. There are individual tribes or groups of Palestinians that are administered Roman-style, but others were pushed into Gaza or the West Bank and still others were pushed into neighboring countries, starting with what Palestinians call the “Nakba.”

Palestinians do not, at this time, have anything close to a viable state of their own. Gaza, ruled by Hamas, has been under siege conditions since 2007. Their every entrance and exit for travel and commerce is controlled by Israeli checkpoints. The West Bank isn’t in much better shape, split up into dozens of parcels, each one separated by walls and checkpoints.

It’s difficult to see how Palestinians could form a viable state out of these two parcels. Negotiations would have to produce serious changes in how Palestinian land is configured.

From Wikipedia: “There are also various economic and political restrictions placed on Palestinian people, activities, and institutions which have had a detrimental effect on the Palestinian economy and quality of life. Israel has said repeatedly that these restrictions are necessary due to security concerns ... The key obstacle therefore remains the Israeli demand for security versus Palestinian claims for rights and statehood."


2022/03/03

Alternative demo

In addition to the demo being held by the Granny Peace Brigade, Code Pink is sponsoring anti-war demos at Dilworth Park at 1:00pm and at Independence Plaza at 4:00pm.

Personally, I think Code Pink offers a “BothSides” platform “We oppose the Russian invasion and call for the immediate withdrawal of all Russian troops. We recognize that the expansion of NATO and the aggressive approach of Western states have helped cause the crisis and we demand an end to NATO expansion.“ I've addressed the charge of aggressive NATO expansion here.

Fundamental to the Code Pink recommendation is the idea that we and the Russians should open negotiations immediately. Problem with that is that successful negotiations are dependent on what's happening on the battlefield.

When the North Vietnamese attacked South Vietnam in 1975, they made a breakthrough very quickly and after a few weeks, it was clear they were going to roll over what was left of the South Vietnamese army. The US offered to negotiate. The North Vietnamese figured, yeah, they could do that, but as the South was going to soon fall into their laps anyway, why bother?

TFG (The Former Guy) or the former President Trump, offered to begin re-opening negotiations with Iran over the nuclear deal of 2015. Iran didn't see any point in that as Trump wasn't offering any positive incentives. TFG was simply offering a way for them to make unilateral concessions and to get nothing in return. They passed on that.

Is there any reason to think that negotiation with the Russian President Putin will produce positive results?

Tweet by Natasha Bertrand - “Putin told Emmanuel Macron that he will continue military operations in Ukraine during a 90-minute call initiated by Putin, an Élysée Palace source told reporters today.   Putin told Macron he will 'continue military interventions and go all the way,' the source said.

And from Kevin Rothrock - “Russian lawmakers have introduced legislation that would conscript into the military anyone arrested for protesting against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. These people would be forced to fight in the invasion itself. What the fuck is happening to Russia. This is absolute madness.

Putin thinks he's on a roll. He has absolutely no reason to seek to negotiate. The Granny Peace Brigade has a better idea. Putin's at fault. Period.