More to ignore, Book 106...

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ukraine update: Mud, mud, and more mud, and Ukraine gets a new long-range weapon

kos

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Ukraine's newest wonder-weapon, the Turkish MCL MLRS, with longer-range rockets than what the U.S. and allies have provided

Way back in March, we were celebrating mud as a savior in Ukraine’s defense from Russia’s military onslaught. The headline, in fact, was “Let's talk about mud, the greatest friend Ukraine ever had.”

Known locally as rasputitsa, Russia’s decision to wait for the Beijing Winter Olympics to end before launching their invasion was one of the most consequential decisions of this entire war—rather than attack over frozen ground, Russian armor and supply trucks got stuck in that unforgiving mud. By early March, the spring thaw was an active participant in the Battle of Kyiv—on the side of the Ukrainian victors.

After a dry summer, the mud is back, and it’s just as unforgiving. Except this time, it’s bedeviling both sides. Here is a look at the miserable conditions in a Russian camp near Svatove



Just as we saw in the spring, entire tanks are getting swallowed in the mud. But this time, the advancing army is the Ukrainian one. And it’s Ukrainian tanks getting eaten:



Remember that video when you hear people say that tracked vehicles are better in these conditions than wheeled ones. Everything suffers in weather like this. Here are some Ukrainian wheeled vehicles flopping all over the place:



And more Ukrainian armor stuck in the mud:



None of this is new to Ukraine.



All of this means that no one is moving much, anywhere. There’ll be a bunch of that “shaping the battlefield” stuff (hitting troop concentrations, supply depots, command and control centers, bridges, and logistical hubs) over the next month as everyone waits for the ground to freeze. It’s just not feasible to wage war from main roads, many of them a muddy mess anyway, after nine months of heavy armor and artillery shells shredding pavement. Too easy to target roads with artillery and set up ambushes—exactly as Ukraine did back in February and March.

Still, it looks like Ukraine has a new friend in its efforts to shape that battlefield.



This is double the range of HIMARS/MLRS rockets, and assuming this is all accurate, will dramatically complicate Russia’s logistical picture, forcing it to pull its main supply depots even farther from the front lines and rendering much of its rail network obsolete.

This is what the attack on Dzhankoi sounded like:



This is what I mean by “logistical hubs”:



There’s something to be said about Turkey providing longer-range rockets while the U.S. and the rest of NATO dither on long-range ATACMS rockets, particularly since Turkey has positioned itself as the chief negotiator between Ukraine and Russia.

That said, Turkey already imposed the grain corridor on Russia, asserting its will in a way that let Putin know who was the boss. This just puts an exclamation mark on Russia’s submission to Turkey, with major consequences for the regional balance of power for decades to come.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Where did $1.4 million in migrant flight money go? DeSantis won’t tell Floridians
Opinion BY THE MIAMI HERALD EDITORIAL BOARD

.....[E]ven if you agree with the governor gleefully using people as pawns — and we certainly don’t — there’s now the matter of $1.4 million in taxpayer money that remains unaccounted for after those September flights. The DeSantis administration paid more than $1.56 million to a politically connected contractor for a program to fly the migrants to northeastern states as part of his political stunt — but the two migrant flights in September only cost a total of about $153,000, according to public records obtained by the Miami Herald......
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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One of the country’s largest private prison companies has defrauded Texas by collecting millions of dollars for in-prison therapeutic programming it hasn’t provided during the pandemic, a new complaint filed with the state auditor claims.

In 2020, as the coronavirus killed thousands of prisoners across the country, a push to release more people eligible for parole was met with firm resistance by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. It continued requiring most prisoners approved for parole to first complete treatment programming, which generally takes three to nine months and focuses on life skills, substance abuse rehabilitation or treatment for those convicted of sex offenses.But with sick staff and prisoners, Texas prisons largely kept men and women confined to their cells or dorms, and people inside told The Texas Tribune in 2020 that much of the required programming wasn’t occurring.

On Monday, prison rights advocacy group LatinoJustice alleged that despite the lack of services, Management & Training Corporation continued charging the state for the programs and forced prisoners to falsify documents stating they had received treatment.......
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Justice Department prosecutors have reached out to representatives of former Vice President Mike Pence to seek his testimony in the criminal investigation into efforts by former President Donald Trump and allies to impede the transfer of power after the 2020 election, according to people familiar with the matter.

Pence’s team has indicated that the former vice president is open to discussing a possible agreement with the Justice Department to provide some testimony, one person said.

The New York Times first reported the outreach to Pence.

The request occurred before the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to oversee two Trump-related investigations, including the January 6, 2021-related probe and another into alleged mishandling of classified materials found at Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida, home and resort. It’s unclear how special counsel Jack Smith’s appointment will affect discussions between the Justice Department and Pence’s team.

The Justice Department declined to comment to CNN, as did a representative for Pence.

Pence recently published a memoir that described some of his interactions with Trump as the former president sought to overturn the 2020 election results. The book’s publication had raised anticipation that the Justice Department would likely seek information about those interactions as part of the criminal investigation.

Pence has rebuffed an interview request from the House select committee investigating January 6, but he has allowed top aides to provide testimony in the Justice Department’s criminal investigation.

This story is breaking and will be updated.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Feb 6, 2014
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Trump Rages After Tax Return Ruling that Supreme Court is 'Political' and 'Lost its Honor'

News Corpse

After half a decade of whining and running away, Donald Trump will finally have to face up to whatever is in his tax returns that has so terrified him of getting out. On Tuesday the Supreme Court ruled that Congress has the legal authority to the documents and that they must be provided to the House Ways and Means Committee.

This ruling comes very late in the game because Democrats in Congress only have a few weeks to study Trump's financial records before the Republican majority takes over in January. But that may be all they need. There's a reason that Trump has fought this so furiously for years. And the American People deserve to know what it is. Trump is the first president in fifty years to refuse to make his taxes public. His efforts to avoid disclosure are typical of his all consuming fear of his crimes being revealed.

The legal authority for Congress to get Trump's tax records was never in doubt, and this outcome was expected by experts. Nevertheless, shortly after the ruling by the Supreme Court was announced, Trump took to his floundering twitter ripoff, Truth Social, to whine petulantly about the decision. His post was just as demented and dishonest as would be expected. He asked...

"Why would anybody be surprised that the Supreme Court has ruled against me, they always do! It is unprecedented to be handing over Tax Returns, & it creates terrible precedent for future Presidents. Has Joe Biden paid taxes on all of the money he made illegally from Hunter & beyond. The Supreme Court has lost its honor, prestige, and standing, & has become nothing more than a political body, with our Country paying the price. They refused to even look at the Election Hoax of 2020. Shame on them!"

Trump is demonstrating his notorious cowardice and victimhood with the bizarre claim that the Supreme Court is always "against me." The Court currently has a six-to-three ultra-conservative majority, including three justices nominated by Trump. What's more, there is nothing unprecedented about his being required to turn over his taxes. In fact, it's actually written into the law mandating that the Treasury Department "shall furnish" tax information requested by the House Ways and Means Committee.

Trump also asks whether "Joe Biden paid taxes on all of the money he made illegally from Hunter & beyond." First of all, there is no evidence that Biden made any money illegally via his son Hunter, or anyone else. And we know that because Biden has been releasing his tax returns for decades. That's just Trump's pathetic way of deflecting from his own criminality.

This is also another example of Trump turning on anyone or anything that fails to be unflinchingly worshipful of him. He will attack his friends and foes alike. If his children criticized him they would be thrown under a fleet of buses without hesitation.

Trump, however, is right when he asserts that "The Supreme Court has lost its honor, prestige, and standing, & has become nothing more than a political body." But not for the reasons in his warped imagination. The Court has suffered numerous embarrassments in the Era of Trump due entirely to the machinations of Trump and his Senate confederate, Mitch McConnell. Together they distorted the make up of the court through nefarious schemes and deceit. Most recently, their ruling in the Dobbs case that overturned Roe v Wade was not only dangerous and legally incomprehensible, it contributed to the election blowout in the 2022 midterms.

Trump's Truth Social rant is dripping with fear as he comes to recognize the legal peril he is in. And it doesn't end with this ruling by the Supreme Court. There are several other civil and criminal probes in progress by authorities in New York, Georgia, and Washington, D.C. Trump's rap sheet is long and getting longer. Thankfully, Sean Hannity of Fox News provided a helpful catalog...


SEE THIS: Sean Hannity Thinks He’s Helping Trump By Scrolling a Long List of His Crimes on Fox News
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Feb 6, 2014
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Twitter's ad revenues are cratering as advertisers flee from the Elon Musk garbage fire

Hunter

It's time once again to check in with Elon Musk's new and improved Twitter and—yep, still a garbage fire. After buying the already-struggling company for a plainly ridiculous $44 billion, Musk's first and only task is to somehow bring in enough money to justify the price he paid for it.

You'd think that, anyway, but in practice, Musk has focused much of his attention on online performance art announcing new but nebulous changes to Twitter's content moderation practices that seem to prioritize right-wing hate and conspiracy accounts while mocking anyone who expresses alarm over it and, inside the company, firing anyone and everyone who might be in a position to tell him how that might backfire. And, you guessed it, now Twitter's financials are cratering. Again.

A new Media Matters analysis reports that 50 of the top 100 recent advertisers on Twitter have effectively stopped advertising on the platform in the last few weeks. Some announced the suspension of their ad campaigns, while others ended their ad campaigns without public explanation. The advertisers who paused their campaigns were big spenders before the Musk takeover, accounting for more than $750 million in revenue in 2022. A similar analysis by The Washington Post counts the number of top-100 advertisers who have now paused Twitter ad campaigns in the last two weeks at "more than a third."

By either metric, Twitter's spendiest advertisers are holding off on giving Elon Musk money until they get a clearer idea of what, exactly, their brands might soon become tied to. As an expert told the Post, Musk is becoming "a very strong brand himself, and a controversial brand."


That might be an understatement. One of Musk's first public acts after taking over Twitter was to personally promote a hoax news site's fake coverage of the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband. He's mingled with some of the most notorious conspiracy promoters on the hellsite, both before and after, in apparently unending quests to seek out public approval from anyone willing to give him some.



The man has a brand indeed, and the brand is "what if MAGA conspiracy crank, but rich."


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As for why Elon Musk is proving so blazingly incapable of managing a social network, we all have our theories. One anecdotal account that's getting traction today is a Tumblr post by a self-identified former SpaceX intern who describes high-level company management as being focused primarily on keeping Musk from doing damage: "I cannot stress enough how much of the company culture was oriented around managing this one guy."

"Twitter has neither of those things going for it. There is no company culture or internal structure around the problem of managing Elon Musk, and I think for the first time we’re seeing what happens when people actually take that man seriously and at face value."

We can't vouch for that account, though it does contain some anecdotes (ahem, "rocket cake") that can be verified elsewhere. Almost anyone who has worked inside corporate culture, however, is very familiar with the notion of instituting layers of management whose primary task is to keep the higher-level boss from constantly shattering underlings’ projects by instituting new weird demands that range from the impossible to the absurd.

Sure enough, when Musk came to Twitter, he brought along a team of top-level yes men from his companies to perform "code reviews" and otherwise allegedly judge the fitness of Twitter's current architects, and nearly all of the Twitter executives who did
not have years of experience fluffing Elon Musk's ego were swiftly kicked to the curb.





It's a vanity project for Elon; he imagines himself enough of a genius to turn around a company he knows nothing about and wants to learn nothing about. His primary tool to turn Twitter into a profit center will be to insult people incessantly until that magically happens, but, in the meantime? He's losing more of the company's top advertisers by the day, even as his Twitter purchase is putting a billion dollars worth of new pressure on the social network. That still doesn't sound like a plan to us, but what do we know?
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Feb 6, 2014
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Ukraine update: E.U. Parliament designates Russia as terrorist sponsor, Russia responds with terror

kos

There’s no way to consider Russia anything but a terrorist nation. More than its unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine, its indiscriminate targeting of civilians is textbook terrorism. Russia doesn’t even hide it—Russia is demanding negotiations to freeze the conflict in exchange for stopping its terror campaign against civilian targets.

The European Union has finally responded.



The United States has refused to follow along for complicated legal and diplomatic reasons. A terror designation, under U.S. law, would mean anyone doing business with Russia would be subject to U.S. sanctions. That would include … Europe. While trade has been severely curtailed between Russia and Western nations, there are still goods excluded from the current sanction regime. An American terror designation wouldn’t account for those exceptions, hence Joe Biden’s caution. Europe isn’t operating under such stringent legal requirements.

Regardless, Russia is furious. Why, how could anyone accuse it of terrorism? So, in a very Russian fashion, it decided to respond with more terror, launching 70 cruise missiles and an untold number of suicide drones against Ukraine’s electrical and thermal grid, plunging Ukraine into darkness.



It’s noteworthy that Ukraine didn’t mention the number of suicide drones launched by Russia. It’s likely the intercept rate of those drones wasn’t as great as that of the cruise missiles, which modern anti-aircraft systems are designed to interdict and destroy. It is in that context that today’s Pentagon announcement of new aid made perfect sense: “150 heavy machine guns with thermal imagery sights to counter Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS).” Those suicide drones are slow and low-flying, with tiny radar profiles. Mount these machine guns on pickup trucks, and they can chase after the slow-moving loitering drones.

Meanwhile, Russia thinks Ukrainians will rise up against the Ukrainian government because of the cold and the dark. But this is how Ukrainians respond:



Some Russians are daring to utter this, even in Russian state propaganda channels:



Note the one panelist around the 2:30 mark who says that “it’s obscene, it’s not constructive, it’s criminal to bomb peaceful cities.” He notes that bombing peaceful cities has never led to a people surrendering in war. Hiroshima and Nagasaki might have something to say about that, but that’s the exception that proves the rule.

This is another remarkable moment, unfortunately related to my Japanese example above:



Note the panelist laughing at the idea that Kherson and the Donbas are Russian territories: “It wasn’t our territory until we declared it as ours.” He also laughs off the notion that Russia is at war with NATO. We all know that if that were true, this war would have been over, and quickly. But this is not the kind of pushback that Russians are used to seeing.

As I publish this, Ukraine announces power is mostly restored:



Still, each attack makes Ukraine’s grid that much less resilient, likely held together by duct tape, gum, and some MacGyver ingenuity. Russia’s rocket and missile fleet remains substantial, even if today’s missile barrage cost them more than $100 million.


..........
Today’s reminder of why MAGA loves Russia so much.



It’s all the fault of the women-folk, of course...
......
Russian mobilization is going so well:



Don’t feel too sorry for them. They still want to fight! I’m sure they’ll get the chance to be human speed bumps to the Ukrainian advance. And I say that with zero relish. I’m tired of senseless death. I’d rather they sneak back to Russia since it’s clear no one knows who or where they are, or even cares about it. Likely no one would notice if they simply went home and told the local authorities they’d been properly released.

This is the alternative:



I truly do wonder if anyone actually believes this idea that Russia is genuinely threatened. No one wants Russia and its corruption. They have all that empty land mass already—develop that! If they only minded their own business, everyone could go happily on their merry way.

.......
Yesterday, I wrote about the Turkish TRLG-230 MLRS making an appearance in Ukraine, with its 150 km range—doubling Ukraine’s reach from typical HIMARS/MLRS rockets. Now we have video:



That’s the good news. The less-good news is that ammunition supplies are reportedly limited.



Ukraine will have to be judicious about how it uses those rockets, and I do wish that this wasn’t reported publicly. It would be better for Russia to think Ukraine had hundreds of rockets, further motivating it to push its supply depots farther back. With limited supply, Russia may simply decide to absorb some losses in order to benefit from the logistical advantages of the current setup.

On the other hand, those “dozens” of rockets might simply be the initial shipment, with more coming down the pike.

And, in case you're wondering what the difference is between a rocket and a missile: A missile is guided and can change trajectory during flight, while a rocket depends on the angle of the launch tube and the amount of propellant. Obviously, guided GMLRS rockets and these Turkish ones blur the distinction, but they still require the proper launch angle and merely tweak their flight trajectory to hit the designated target (via GPS for GMLRS, and laser designation for these Turkish ones). You wouldn’t launch these straight up in the air and expect them to hit their targets, and you certainly wouldn’t expect them to change targets mid-flight.
.......
There’s a Telegram account that consists of nothing other than pictures and videos of dead Russian soldiers. The images out of Bakhmut and Pavlivka, where Russian forces keep sending wave after wave of infantry, were so bad I finally left that Telegram group. I’ve seen enough mass carnage to last a lifetime. But I also fear that people think Mark Sumner and I are exaggerating when we talk about those mass Russian casualties. So here is a tweet showing some of those images, not the worst by a long shot, but a hint of what Russia is doing to its own people. I promise you, there's no exaggeration.


The latest trend is for Russians to dig random holes in the middle of fields and huddle together for safety or warmth or to more easily share their vodka as Ukrainian drones drop grenades on top of them. Here’s an example, and again, click at your own discretion. It’s f’n brutal. Their lethargy might be alcohol, sure, but could very well be hypothermia.
.........

On the diplomatic front, the Collective Security Treaty Organization—Russia’s answer to NATO—had a meeting.



As you might recall, Armenia begged for CSTO assistance when it was recently invaded by Azerbaijan and got only crickets in response. With the West cozying up to Armenia (Nancy Pelosi visited recently), its days in the CSTO are likely limited.

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan is pretty much done with Russia, and China has wrapped an embracing arm around the country, literally threatening Putin to stay out of China’s internal affairs. With Turkey increasing its own aggression in the region, it seems every regional player is interested in increasing its influence in the Middle East and Central Asia at Russia’s expense. Nature, after all, abhors a vacuum.

..........


No thanks. And if you want to know why not, this thread covers it well:



By all indications, Russia has wiped the air over Ukraine clean of TB-2 Bayraktar drones. In fact, they may have been wiped out much earlier in the war than previously indicated, as Russia didn’t really engage its air defense systems until weeks after the invasion began. And despite all its failures, the one thing that seems to be working for Russia is its air defenses. That is also the reason, incidentally, that Russia’s Air Force is inoperable in this war—Ukraine also has Russian-built air defenses. There’s a reason Russia has shifted to killer drones instead of committing its modern warcraft to the battlefield.

Remember, NATO’s war-fighting doctrine depends heavily on air power. So it’s only natural that Russia would expend considerable resources in countering that threat. This means, ultimately, that Ukraine’s allies are better off bolstering Ukraine’s ground forces and anti-drone capabilities than they are investing in expensive (financially and logistically) aircraft with limited ability to impact the outcome of the war