Sunday, December 31, 2023

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Our Final "Virtual Route 66" For 2023: Reflections On the Year & A Wish for 2024

2024 is before Us as we are privileged to present the great Cee-Roo's reflection on 2023.  

It has been quite a year.    Our team was focused on key assessments as we worked to aggregate thinkers and leading media players throughout the World.     The US Elections Season began in earnest as Donald Trump dominated the GOP field despite 4 separate criminal trials (and as we went to press, he asked the US Court of Appeals to throw out the subversion charge); the United Kingdom continued to struggle with Post-Brexit, The Right was on the ascendancy throughout Europe, The Ukraine War raged on, Mexico geared up for an Election as the migrant surge to the United States continued and the War in Gaza seemed to have no end with over 20,000 Deaths so far (almost 1 percent of the Gaza Population)) and Putin begins his quest for a fifth term in Russia. 

We will be dark throughout our analytical properties through the end of the year as we close out 2023 with a snapshot of the discourse  we engage as part of our Mission with our  Media Partners  daily:

Israel’s assault on Gaza is unlike any war in recent memory.
It took just two months for the Israeli government to kill more than 17,000 Palestinians in Gaza — a death toll that’s been recognized as accurate by leading humanitarian groups, the US State Department, a senior Biden administration official, the esteemed Lancet medical journal, and even the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

That’s an important statistic, because it’s maybe the leading indicator — but by no means the only one — that what we are seeing play out in Gaza daily is not “just another terrible war” but something altogether different.

Consider the verdict of those who have spent their lives and careers in the world’s worst war zones. Martin Griffiths — a long-serving United Nations humanitarian official who started his career in genocide-ravaged Cambodia and served everywhere from Yemen to post-earthquake Syria — has called Gaza the “worst ever” humanitarian crisis he’s seen. Other UN officials have called Gaza “a living nightmare” and “absolutely unprecedented and staggering,” and have described the conditions on the ground as “apocalyptic.”
Read more

Here’s the latest...

The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled to remove Donald Trump from the state’s 2024 election ballot. The attempt will likely fail and backfire — but it’s indicative of American liberalism’s current distaste for the unpredictable messiness of democracy.

In Wonka, Timothée Chalamet dons the eccentric chocolatier’s purple jacket in yet another film adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryThis one is playful and harmless, but it can’t touch the 1971 original movie.

Though inflation-adjusted wage growth resumed earlier this year, real wages are still down overall since Joe Biden took office. It’s not crazy to suppose that this could be affecting people’s attitudes toward the economy.

The Washington Post editorial board today wrote that “the battle for democracy will be fought—and won” by “explaining to the world why freedom matters to everyone, every day.” So, on an evening when our power has finally been restored, but too late for me to do a deep dive on anything, let’s see what that might look like from today’s news: 

For years now, the U.S. right wing has admired Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán, who has overturned his nation’s democracy. Orbán claims that democracy weakens a nation because it allows immigration—which he calls “a poison” to a nation and says “poses a public security and terror risk”—and requires equal rights for women and LGBTQ+ individuals. The U.S. right wing claims to admire Orbán for what they see as a defense of traditional society.

But the logical evolution of Orbán’s “illiberal” society became clear last week, when the Hungarian parliament approved a new law designed to punish Hungarians who oppose the government. A new “sovereignty protection office” will intimidate and punish those who do not share the views of the ruling party, claiming that they are working for western governments and entities. The U.S. ambassador in Budapest, David Pressman, explained: “This new state body has unfettered powers to interrogate Hungarians, demand their private documents, and utilize the services of Hungary’s intelligence apparatus—all without any judicial oversight or judicial recourse for its targets.”

The U.S. State Department said yesterday: “This new law is inconsistent with our shared values of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law.”

Also today, House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), who has said that immigration is such a national crisis that House Republicans will not pass a bill providing supplemental funding for Ukraine to help it fight off Russia’s invasion without significant changes to the nation’s border policy, wrote a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to make those changes himself through executive action.

Biden has asked Congress for new legislation to address migration at the border since his first week in office, but Trump and his loyalists have demanded extreme measures that Democrats have, in the past, refused. With Republican refusal to fund Ukraine, Biden has said he is eager enough to get funding to Ukraine that he is willing to negotiate, but Johnson sent the House home until January 9 without a deal. 

Now it seems Republicans don’t want their own names on any such deal, likely recognizing that such an outcome would take away an issue they hope to exploit  in 2024. They want Biden’s name alone on any new policies or, failing that, to be able to blame him for not taking unilateral action.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre today reminded reporters that the White House has been negotiating with senators to come up with a bipartisan deal despite the absence of House members, and that Biden has been negotiating with the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to address the border situation. 

In the next few days, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, and White House Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall will all travel to Mexico to meet with President López Obrador to discuss border challenges, all in the spirit of the 2022 Los Angeles Declaration for Migration and Protection, an agreement between 21 Caribbean and Latin American nations, including the United States, to strengthen international frameworks to make migration safe, orderly, and humane. 

Also today, Craig Mauger of The Detroit News reported that on November 17, 2020, on a phone call with Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, Trump personally pressured two Republican members of the Wayne County, Michigan, Board of Canvassers not to sign the papers certifying the 2020 presidential election in order to overturn the election’s lawful results.

Trump told Monica Palmer and William Hartmann that they would look “terrible” if they signed the documents. “We've got to fight for our country,” Trump said. “We can't let these people take our country away from us.” McDaniel, too, urged the pair not to sign and promised, “We will get you attorneys.” 

Palmer and Hartmann did not sign the papers, and the next day they tried to take back their votes in favor of certifying, filing legal affidavits saying “intense bullying and coercion” had led them to vote as they did. 

Lawyer Chris Thomas, Michigan’s elections director for more than 30 years, told Mauger it was unfortunate that Republican leaders offered to give the two legal protection for not doing their jobs. "Offering something of value to a public official to not perform a required duty may raise legal issues for a person doing so," Thomas noted. Legal analyst Joyce White Vance pointed out that “[o]ffering an official something of value (services of a lawyer) in exchange for withholding official action (certifying the Wayne County vote) sounds like a classic case of bribery under Michigan State law.”

Trump is currently facing four criminal counts for his attempt to overturn the lawful results of the 2020 presidential election. His attempts to stop Michigan from certifying Biden’s victory are part of those charges. 

After the story dropped, Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s secretary of state, wrote that for her, “the absolute lowest moment in the post election battle we endured to protect Michigan’s accurate and legitimate election results in 2020 was not when armed protestors stormed my home. It was the night of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers meeting.” 

Benson said the board knew about the pressure not to certify and were prepared to fight in the courts, but also knew that such a delay would “create enough doubt and uncertainty to enable the Trump campaign to push Pennsylvania, which was certifying the next week, to delay as well. And we knew other dominos would fall after that. How could we overcome the pressure of the then–President of the United States on local and state officials? Were the facts and law not enough?”

“Well,” she wrote, “then something I’ll never forget happened.

“Hundreds—hundreds (!)—of citizens showed up to the meeting of the Wayne County Canvassing Board to remind them of their duty under the law to ensure their votes counted. Their voices mattered. Their votes mattered.

“In my view that turned the tide. Citizens and election officials in Wayne County and statewide didn’t flinch, stood firm, and demanded their votes be certified as required under the law.

“And in the end, the Wayne County Canvassing board fulfilled their legal duty, followed the law and certified the election.

“What started as the lowest moment of the post election melee became the most inspiring. 

“The voters won. Facts and the rule of law carried the day. 

“Democracy prevailed.” 

Finally, tonight, former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has filed for bankruptcy less than a week after a jury awarded election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss more than $145 million for defaming them by accusing them of election fraud as part of his attempt to overthrow the country’s democratic system.

The Washington Post’s editorial board wrote that “the world’s democracies should create a system to fight back that can speak plainly and consistently about the inherent advantages of democratic systems, while admitting the imperfections, and use creative ways to illuminate the flaws and depredations of authoritarian regimes.”

To be honest, it doesn’t seem that hard. 

Russia’s war against Ukraine

A young Ukrainian servicemember, wearing a tattoo depicting the Ukrainian state coat of arms, in Kyiv on Dec. 20, 2023. (Sergei Supinsky / AFP via Getty Images)

Minister: Ukraine already produced 50,000 FPV drones in December. FPV drones are cheap to manufacture and can be precisely flown into targets. They have the capability of destroying much more expensive military equipment.

Military: Russia moves up to 2 km near Avdiivka in 2 months, loses 20,000 soldiers. Russian forces advanced between one and half and two kilometers in some areas of the Avdiivka sector at the cost of around 20,000 killed and wounded in the past two months, Oleksandr Shtupun, the spokesman for the Tavria group of forces, said on Dec. 20.

Media: Ukrainian hackers hit Russian utility company. The Ukrainian Blackjack hacker group launched a cyber attack against Rosvodokanal, a Russian water utility company, Ukrainska Pravda reported on Dec. 20, citing undisclosed law enforcement sources.

Ukraine, 10 partner countries launch new cybersecurity mechanism. Ukraine and 10 partner countries established on Dec. 20 the Tallinn mechanism on cybersecurity to help protect Ukraine against cyber threats.

Poll: Majority of Ukrainians would disapprove of Zaluzhnyi's resignation. An overwhelming majority (72%) of Ukrainians would disapprove of the resignation of Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi, and only 8% believe that there are serious disagreements between him and President Volodymyr Zelensky, a poll by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) released on Dec. 20 found.

Your contribution helps keep the Kyiv Independent going. Become a member today.

SBU puts Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman on wanted list. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) added Russian-Israeli business tycoon Mikhail Fridman to Ukraine's wanted list, according to the Interior Ministry's website.

Bloomberg: Tankers carrying 5 million barrels of Russian oil fail to reach India. Six vessels carrying almost 5 million barrels of Russian oil failed to reach their destinations in India, some idling kilometers off the coast for weeks without providing a reason, Bloomberg reported on Dec. 20.

General Staff: Russia using low-quality, defective North Korean shells. In particular, the General Staff said that this appeared to be happening with Russian troops in the Dnipro Group under the command of Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky, operating in the south of Ukraine.

Former TV journalist bids to challenge Putin in Russian presidential election.

Yekaterina Duntsova, 40, a local politician in Tver Oblast and mother of three, has publicly supported peace in Ukraine, though she refrains from using the term "war" in her remarks to journalists.

Putin holds 'private' talks with Kazakhstan's ex-president. Russian leader Vladimir Putin held "absolutely private" talks with the former president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov confirmed on Dec. 20.

Coop Scoop: A Cornucopia of Crap

Trump, Texas, The House, Gaza, Musk, Stefanik and The Hunter Biden Show



December 13, 2023

By Marc Cooper

As one wag put it the other day, politically. It’s now everything everywhere all the time in terms of pure craziness.

Have a drop of sympathy for us newsletter writers like me, it’s like trying to ride a boogie board in the midst of a roaring hurricane.

As I am theoretically on vacation in heart of DeSantistan, I would very much just like to just go bury my head in the sand 200 feet out my door and forget about it all for a week or so, but I am not made that way.  I am neurotic enough to say something about at least one or two of the dazzling spectacles of dysfunction we are all witnessing.

Not going to focus today on the continuing decline of the GOP, which has morphed into a flock of dangerous clowns who now prefer to engage full-time in scurrilous and dangerous stunts rather than in governing. 

Not going to focus on how the House goes on vacation tomorrow abandoning any aid for Ukraine just as the Russians advance toward some sort of “victory.”  Ditto on blocking any aid for Israel and for all the wrong reasons.

Not going to focus on the House not dealing with funding the US govt before it takes off.  So what if the government shuts down for a couple of weeks or months.

Not going to focus on the stunt underway to “formally” open the inquiry into Joe Biden’s impeachment even though the House Republicans led by Mullah Mike Johnson lack the votes to pass any articles of impeachment, let alone a single stated supposed crime by the president (a minor detail apparently) which would justify such a thing.

Not going to focus on the putrid Rep. Elise Stefanik and her persecution of muddle-tongued university presidents accusing them of anti-Semitism while she has no problem getting in bed with raging anti-Semite Carl Palladino (go look it up). Her congressional show the other day, was nothing but one more transparent Republican distraction from the their real Orange Leader now facing 91 felony counts including collusion to overthrow the US government.

Not going to focus on the rotten state of Texas where the all-male reactionary state Supreme Court now acts as the only authorized gynecologist barring emergency abortions to save the lives of endangered women.

Not going to focus on the growing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza which Netanyahu is bombing into the stone age apparently with no plan other than to kill as many people as possible in order to keep his stinky ass in power.

Not going to comment on the shocking details made public this week by The New York Times on how this same thug along with US complicity, kept funding Hamas with literally millions of dollars per month right up to October 7 with suitcases full of cash carried and protected by Mossad agents to keep the Palestinians divided and to avoid any negotiations over a two-state solution.

Not going to focus on the near 20,000 dead civilians (so far), the 185 UN workers  in Gaza who have been bombed out of existence along with some 70 mostly Arab journalists—whose lives simply do not even show up on the scoreboard.

Not going to focus on the demented Rudy Giuliani, now flat broke and loonier than ever, still lying about the election workers suing him for lying while on the front steps of the courthouse on the second day of his trial, motivating his counsel to contemplate hari kari.

Not going to focus on the relatively very good news that Special Counsel Jack Smith has trumped Trump by asking SCOTUS to leapfrog over the district courts and a hear a case ASAP knocking down Trump’s claim to have absolute immunity so that his January 6 trial can begin and conclude before the 2024 election. And the good news…so far.. that the Supremes are going to fast track the process.

Not going to focus on the other possible good news that the aberrant behavior of the Republicans from coast to coast, along with their gerrymandered map in New York being thrown out, combining to probably spell the GOP loss of the House a year from now.

Not going to focus on the soon-to-be bankrupt Elon Musk whose online show now starred such scum buddies as Alex Jones, Andrew Tate and the self-watering fool Vivek IamSmarmy. Nor on today’s recall of 2 million Teslas for being too dangerous to drive. Not going to ask why former Musk toady Matt Taibbi has now gone silent on his once so-adored Twitter idol.


Instead, I am going to (briefly) focus on probably the least consequential of the claptrap in front of us that is also among the most superficially understood or reported by the media.

Hunter Biden!

Well, it’s not THAT inconsequential. He is the son of the US President and his predicament could cost the Old Man the election if the Republicans continue with their dangerous theater around him.

And be advised, I have not come to praise Hunter Biden but rather to bury his persecutors.

First…a few of those fading things knows as FACTS. 

Hunter Biden is facing several criminal counts because the plea agreement that included no jail time was cocked-up by the US Attorney in Washington D.C., a Trump-appointed prosecutor, another clown, kept in place by Jellyfish-In-Chief, Merrick Garland.

Biden is faced with lying on a background check when he purchased a hand gun that he never used and kept for exactly 11 days. He lied about never having used drugs.  Which means that tens of millions of gun owners have done the same thing when filling out their own gun purchase forms, conveniently forgetting how many times they have fired up a bowl or hit the pipe.

Gun background checks eventually pass through the FBI.  If you lie to an FBI agent, you face a serious felony.  Ask Mike Flynn who pleaded his case and…. got no jail time.

Guess how many people failed their gun background checks since 1998?  Oh, just 1.7 million people. I have taken that check maybe ten times in my life and I know what’s on the form you are filling out.  You are swearing to the Feds you are telling the truth (even about smoking weed which is a no-no).

Now guess how many of those 1.7 million people who did what Hunter Biden did, not admitting to any drug use ever, got in legal trouble because of their lying.

Drumroll: TWENTY-FIVE over the last 25 years were charged by the FBI. 25 out of 1.7 million because in this great land of ours it’s no biggie to get a gun illegally while the Deep State snoozes or shrugs it shoulders.

Oh, one other fact: of the 25 charged, only 12 gun background check liars were ever prosecuted from 1998 till today.

So roughly rounding up the number over the last 25 years, the prosecution of Hunter Biden for not admitting drug use on his gun purchase forms, is a one out of a hundred fifty thousand occurrence. Did somebody out there just utter “selective prosecution?”

The other charges pending against Hunter Biden are about taxes.  The IRS claims that between 2016-2019, while he was severely drug-addicted, Biden did not pay $1.4 million in taxes. Until he did repay them and rather promptly.

 You can most certainly and eventually go to jail for back taxes and the easiest way to avoid the clink is to simply pay back what you owe plus interest and you’re done.  That’s what Hunter Biden did, but the Trumpy US Attorney still wants to lock him up.

I am not nearly in the same financial category as Hunter Biden but unfortunately I do have a rich history with the IRS.  When I returned to the US in 1979 and had only a small income, I proceeded to even file tax returns for the next years, let alone pay anything.  When the IRS finally called me in, there was no trauma. 

For some of those years they owed me money! And for a couple of others I had to pay a couple of hundred in filing fines. 

Subsequent to that, as my income suddenly edged into six figures in the 1990’s with a WHOLE LOT of deductions being a self-employed writer, I got audited four or five more times (last time was a three-year audit in 2001). 

These audits are not pleasant, but they are hardly run by Torquemada. In the end, unless you are a career criminal and bad taxes are the only way for the government to get you a-la-Capone, the IRS is usually more than  satisfied if they can squeeze anything they can out of you and then be done with you.  They’d rather have you out their working and paying taxes than locked up and unemployed.

 In my case, the IRS could never get an extra penny from me and in that last audit they had to refund me $800. LOL. And that last auditor in 2001 apologized for taking up so much of my time (less than two days).

I am no way saying that I am in the same category as Hunter Biden.  I am saying that through my own experience, and in conversation with various IRS agents,  accountants and CPA’s, it is very very hard to get prosecuted for back  taxes if you have paid them back– especially as quickly as Hunter Biden did.

We are not privy to the fine details of Hunter Biden’s case but from all appearances it is a crude, partisan show trial staged by a totally corrupt Republican Party – one whose leader is currently on trial in the civil courts as a serial corporate tax cheater for hundreds of millions of dollars (that he does not admit to nor has paid back). And that is in the civil courts, not the criminal ones.

What can you say, then,  about a world-class schmuck and ignoramus like  GOP Rep. Comer who had the temerity to say to a laughing and bewildered Jake Tapper of CNN that the  (pro-Trump) US Atty indicted Democrat Biden as a favor, a “cover-up” to shield him from more serious and totally unsubstantiated charges??

Roll over Lewis Carrol!

And wake up America if you please.  We are less than one year away from the possible election of Donald Trump and the onset of not only authoritarian rule, but authoritarian rule managed by clowns, weak-minded gargoyles, and lying sons of bitches. 

Do not count on the courts or some deux ex machina to save us.  Just mobilize and vote. And vote for the Democrat no matter how much you don’t like him because the alternative is to be governed by feeble minded fascists. It’s a pretty simple choice.++

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Archive selection

December: the longer view

The forever war against the Palestinians; Germany and Israel's long strange relationship; when it comes to climate change, smarter adaptation is not enough. Our entire archive, going back to 1996, is free to read for subscribers. Here is a series of pieces related to our December issue.

EU: new members are welcome

Benoît Bréville
When, on the morning of 28 February 2022, four days after the Russian invasion began, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to the European Union on Facebook to let (...)

Ukraine and the EU: a border too far

Mathilde Goanec • June 2008

US faces dilemma over arming Ukraine

Hélène Richard • January 2023

Ukraine and Russia, still frozen

Igor Delanoë • February 2020

Israeli far right's plans for expulsion and expansion

Gilbert Achcar
'There needs to be a path to a Palestinian state,' says Joe Biden, but it's far from clear what that path looks like. Meanwhile, Israel's right see an opportunity in the (...)

Gaza besieged

Olivier Pironet • September 2019

Gaza: Palestine first and last

Alain Gresh • August 2014

Even war has rules

Anne-Cécile Robert
A key aim of the Geneva conventions was to minimise harm to civilians in wartime. They prohibit reprisals and collective punishments. So why have Israel's actions been treated (...)

The deadly spiral to war

Akram Belkaïd • November 2023

Reasons for war: lies, lies and more lies

Dominique Vidal • February 2009

Israel's war crimes

Richard Falk • March 2009

Germany rallies to Israel

Pierre Rimbert
After Hamas's attack of 7 October, Chancellor Olaf Scholz called Israel's security a 'reason of state for Germany' (12 October). This position, which combines diplomatic dexterity (...)

The Corbyn controversy

Daniel Finn • June 2019

Are the French really antisemitic?

D. V. • December 2002

The red flag over Palestine

Shlomo Sand
In the early 20th century, the Palestine Communist Party regarded the creation of a Jewish state as an imperialist plan to continue to divide and rule. The second world war (...)

Israel in the grip of hardline religious nationalism

Charles Enderlin • September 2022

Why Moscow championed the creation of Israel

Gabriel Gorodetsky • February 2016

A conflict shaped by fear as well as hatred

Sophie Bessis
Unregulated private security has plugged a gap where the state has failed, tackling petty crime and even providing social services. But too often it's become embroiled in (...)

Why Bulgarians want to leave

Laurent Geslin • January 2014

A pedigree for the dogs of war

Pierre Conesa • April 2003

Security states

Martin Mongin • March 2008

Smarter adaptation is not enough

Alain Grandjean, Claude Henry & Jean Jouzel
Complex life on earth cannot adapt to 4°C of warming. As COP 28 opens in Dubai, the focus of efforts must be rapid emissions reduction - and accountability - as well as more (...)

COP26, one last chance before disaster?

Frédéric Durand • November 2021

Six degrees of disaster

Ph. D. • November 2015

Heating the planet is an ecocrime

Agnès Sinaï • November 2015
See the full list:

December: the longer view