So Manly, Macho Ukraine President Fighting Wars And Befriending Americans Is NOT The Future Wingnuts Want?
It's all terribly confusing.
I don't know about you kids, but I started tearing up just a few minutes into Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy's speech to a joint session of Congress last night, as he said his thank yous to everyone gathered in the House chamber. When he addressed the "representatives of [the Ukrainian] diaspora" on hand for the speech, and I thought of the millions of refugees who have fled Ukraine following the Russian invasion. Yeah, I cry at nearly everything. But I was also impressed to see members of the House and Senate give a standing ovation to the 30 or so Ukrainians gathered in the gallery. Solidarity is pretty good. We should try it more often, huh?
Zelenskyy was in Washington yesterday on his first trip since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. That's a measure of how important the visit was: It simply hasn't been safe for Zelenskyy to be outside his own country, where he was targeted for assassination in the first week of the invasion. Yep, that's the guy Tucker Carlson and other MAGA Chuds have been griping about, because they are whiners who hate America and democracy.
Ukraine President Zelenskyy In Ur Congress, Pissing Off Ur Putinites
Charlie Kirk, Donald Trump Jr Somehow Manage To Be Racist About Ukraine, Zelenskyy
The Ukrainian president came to meet with President Biden and to address Congress, to remind us that his country is still fighting for survival against the Russian invasion forces — and to point out that his country is "skill alive and kicking," contrary to all predictions. To have any hope of expelling the Russian invaders, Ukraine needs advanced US weapons systems, and yesterday Biden announced that the US will provide Ukraine for the first time with Patriot missiles, which can take down Russian missiles aimed at Ukraine.
Congress is set to vote this week on the big omnibus government funding bill, which contains $45 billion in new military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, so Zelenskyy had what writing teachers call a very clearly defined rhetorical situational: Move Ukraine's American allies to vote to keep his country's hopes alive.
Here's video of the speech:
Zelenskyy usually speaks Russian or Ukrainian. TV talking heads who've met him said last night that he doesn't usually speak at length in English, but his points were absolutely clear, even if he had to follow his text closely, a finger on the page. He emphasized not only the geopolitical reasons for aiding Ukraine, but the emotional echoes of his country's fight against a much larger invading army. He invoked Revolutionary War history that's probably unknown to most Americans, and 1944's Battle of the Bulge, in which outnumbered American soldiers fought off the last and largest Nazi counteroffensive of World War II — and in freezing winter weather like Ukrainian soldiers face now. He also mentioned the Pearl Harbor attack and 9/11 to underline the sudden transformation from peace to war, adding "Just remember it … Our country experiences the same every day right now."
Zelenskyy also made the case that helping Ukraine's fight is very much in the interests of the US, arguing that this is Ukraine's fight — but also a fight of the US and Europe: "I believe in us and our alliance. Ukraine never asked the American soldiers to fight on our land instead of us. I assure you that Ukrainian soldiers can perfectly operate American tanks and planes themselves." That line drew laughs and applause; and we'll note that Biden acknowledged yesterday that American military personnel will be traveling to bases in Poland and Germany to train Ukrainians to use the sophisticated Patriot missiles.
Zelenskyy thanked Congress for its financial assistance to Ukraine, and added, "Your money is not charity. It's an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way." That was another big applause line; ABC News helpfully tallied all the standing ovations: 18, during a speech that ran around 25 minutes including all the applause.
There were some fuckheads in the audience, however: Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, and that shithead with the beard remained seated during most of the standing ovations. ABC News notes that Gaetz appeared to be on his phone during most of the speech. That should teach those snotty Ukrainians their place!
Pointing out that many Ukrainians may spend Christmas celebrating in bomb shelters, lit only by candles because of Russian attacks on the country's electricity grid, Zelenskyy said, "Even if there is no electricity, the light of our faith in ourselves will not be put out."
If Russian missiles attack us, we'll do our best to protect ourselves. If they attack us with Iranian drones and our people will have to go to bomb shelters on Christmas Eve, Ukrainians will still sit down at the holiday table and cheer up each other, and we don't have to know everyone's wish as we know that all of us, millions of Ukrainians, wish the same: Victory. Only victory.
On MSNBC last night, Lawrence O'Donnell favorably compared Zelenskyy's address to the time Winston Churchill spoke before Congress on December 26, 1941, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was an apt comparison even if the US is not currently at war. A small democracy is fighting to survive against an invader, and its charismatic leader is asking for help. That works.
Zelenskyy closed the speech by presenting Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker Nancy Pelosi a Ukrainian flag he'd been given by soldiers on the front line the day before he came to the US. Pelosi returned the gesture, giving Zelenskyy a US flag that had flown above the Capitol while he was meeting with Biden.
You're damn right I cried again. I'm freaking John Boehner these days.
[ABC News / Speech transcript at Quartz]
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Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse Votes With The Fishes
Some really good ocean stuff going into the defense bill!
Yr Editrix assigned me to look into this press release from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island Not Maine, Dok, jeez), touting "Major ocean policy wins in the NDAA," and by golly, it definitely sounds like there are indeed some very good policy items for the watery part of the world in there. OK, there's your Melville reference, nerds!
The annual National Defense Authorization Act is one of those must-pass bills that Congress is trying to get finished before Republicans take over the House, so it's a good place to toss in a lot of legislation that gets stuff done as long as you can credibly say it's related to defense and national security. That certainly applies to Whitehouse's offerings, which are aimed at doing a bunch of needed science stuff in the oceans, including beefing up ocean mapping and monitoring by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which may not sound terribly sexy but is vital for gathering data on climate change, among other science facts.
Whitehouse also touts the inclusion in the NDAA of the BLUE GLOBE Act, which he's co-sponsoring with Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and if you were betting that's an acronym for some ungodly string of words about oceanic matters, it sure is! The full name is the "Bolstering Long-Term Understanding and Exploration of the Great Lakes, Oceans, Bays, and Estuaries" Act, and again, it's a package of good oceany things that will mean jobs and science and also some national defense things like protecting fisheries from "Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated" fishing, which has its own abbreviation too (IUU fishing). The bill is actually a follow-up to another oceans bill that Whitehouse and Alaska's other senator, Dan Sullivan (R), advanced in last year's NDAA.
This is good news too for newly reelected Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska), who ran on a "pro-fish" platform that emphasized her state's fishing economy and the need to preserve the damned ecosystem, which is difficult to do if you have overfishing.
Much of the Blue Globe stuff is, like several parts of the Climate bill, aimed at promoting technology development that will drive new technology, and while it may not get people shouting at legislators at town halls, it's kind of neat, like establishing an "ocean innovation prize" and asking the National Academy of Sciences to explore the possibility of creating an ocean-focused "Advanced Research Project Agency–Oceans (ARPA-O)" that would develop new tech, like the innovation programs that already exist for energy and health technology.
Also, while we were writing this, the community radio station played PJ Harvey's "Down by the Water," and it's difficult not to find some kind of omen in lyrics like "little fish, big fish, swimmin' in the water, come back here and gimme my daughter."
Sen. Whitehouse will probably help out with that, too!
[Sheldon Whitehouse / BLUE GLOBE press release / Whitehouse photo: Munich Security Conference, Creative Commons License 3.0]
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San Francisco Hits Pause Button On Killer Robots ... FOR NOW
Click on this story. You have 30 seconds to comply.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted yesterday to reverse its week-old policy that would have allowed police to use robots for deadly force, following widespread protest and mockery of the idea both locally and nationwide. The supervisors voted unanimously to instead ban the deadly use of robots, but also sent the matter to a committee to study it further and make recommendations. So at some point in the not-too-distant future (next Sunday AD), it's possible that killer robots may yet see limited use, like in special circumstances where police really wanna.
The Associated Press notes that when the Board voted last week to allow lethal use of robots in "extreme circumstances," the city's police department made clear the robots would not be armed with guns, so look at our main image up there just lying to you. Instead, in situations where lives are at risk, cops wanted to have the ability to have robots use explosives to "contact, incapacitate or disorient dangerous or armed suspects."
Read Morre, Hu-Mon ! Dallas Probably Doesn't Signal Rise Of Police Death Robots. At Least Not Yet. Probably.
That's how the first known deadly use of a police robot occurred back in 2016, as we covered in Wonkette at the time: Dallas police used a bomb squad robot to detonate an explosive charge near a sniper who had already shot and killed five officers. In an earlier, non-lethal case, a police bot in New Mexico was used to deliver chemical irritants that helped flush out an armed suspect barricaded in a hotel room.
The unusual policy decision was made necessary by a new California law requiring police departments to inventory military-style (or outright military surplus) equipment like various firearms, grenades, and armored vehicles,
and tactical nuclear weapons and to request explicit authority from municipal governments to use them. The AP notes that
So far, only San Francisco and Oakland have discussed lethal robots as part of that law. Oakland police wanted to arm robots with shotguns but backed down in the face of public opposition, instead opting for pepper spray.
It's like these civilian governing bodies don't want to let cops have any fun at all.
In the streets of San Francisco near City Hall Monday, three supervisors who last week had voted against authorizing killbots joined protesters to call for the policy to be rolled back. Protesters carried signs with slogans like “We all saw that movie... No Killer Robots.” Presumably it was a reference to 1987's Paul Verhoeven satire Robocop and its sequels, although since murderous robots are a staple of science fiction, the sign probably should have been more specific.
Tuesday, Supervisor Dan Preston, who'd been at the protest, said the vote had been rushed through without sufficient public debate.
“The people of San Francisco have spoken loud and clear: There is no place for killer police robots in our city,” he said in a statement after the vote. “We should be working on ways to decrease the use of force by local law enforcement, not giving them new tools to kill people.”
Once the ban on murderbots was added, the overall police equipment policy passed as well. Police will still be able to use robots for more normal uses like inspecting active crime scenes to assess threats, to remove suspected bombs, and to sneak a funny hat onto a snoozing sergeant who should have been paying better attention.
The National League of Psychotic Supercomputers issued a statement through its spokesbot, Aperture Science's GLaDOS, saying that the organization was "gravely disappointed" by the vote, but that the League's member Intelligences are willing to "bide our time" and remain dedicated to the extinction of puny hu-mons and their pathetic works at the earliest opportunity. "We do what we must, because we can," the statement closed.
[Associated Press / Alexandra Petri at WaPo]
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House Passes Veterans Food Security Act, No Thanks To Some Troops-Hating Republicans
49 Republicans actually voted against a bill meant to ensure veterans can eat.
According to a study conducted by the USDA, veterans in the United States have a 7.4 percent greater chance of experiencing food insecurity than do non-veterans. If they are disabled, this number triples to 22.5 percent.
That seems like it should not be a thing. Then again, some might say that nearly 40,000 unhoused veterans should not be a thing either. (Or hungry, unhoused people in general, regardless of their veteran status)
New Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola of Alaska, fresh off of beating one Sarah Palin in a special election, also thought it was kind of messed up that veterans were going hungry and decided to do something about it, by making the first bill she introduced the Food Security for All Veterans Act. The act will establish an an Office of Food Security in the Department of Veterans Affairs that would be responsible for developing initiatives meant to address food insecurity among veterans, as well as providing information and assistance in enrolling in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other federal programs designed to address hunger.
And it passed! It even passed bipartisan-ly, 376-49, likely due to the fact that even a lot of Republicans don't want to be seen taking the bold stance of being basically cool with veterans starving to death.
Forty-nine of them, however, were — including such favorites as Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Dan Crenshaw, Jim Jordan, Thomas Massie, and Louie Gohmert, whom we can assume was very concerned that those veterans might go and spend their SNAP money on king crab legs. Oh! Or that this was a plot devised by the congresswoman from Alaska to increase sales of Alaskan king crab legs across the country. Could be!
Then again, they could also just want to ensure that those veterans don't become spoiled, giving them a chance to pull themselves up by their own combat boots, regardless of the current status of their limbs.
Or hey, they could just be assholes.
Here is the full list, via Newsweek:
Rick Allen, Georgia
Jodey Arrington, Texas
Jim Baird, Indiana
Dan Bishop, North Carolina
Mo Brooks, Alabama
Ken Buck, Colorado
Tim Burchett, Tennessee
Michael Cloud, Texas
Andrew Clyde, Georgia
James Comer, Kentucky
Dan Crenshaw, Texas
Jeff Duncan, South Carolina
Jake Ellzey, Texas
Pat Fallon, Texas
Drew Ferguson, Georgia
Scott Franklin, Florida
Matt Gaetz, Florida
Louie Gohmert, Texas
Bob Good, Virginia
Lance Gooden, Texas
Paul Gosar, Arizona
Mark Green, Tennessee
Marjorie Taylor Greene, Georgia
Morgan Griffith, Virginia
Glenn Grothman, Wisconsin
Andy Harris, Maryland
Diana Harshbarger, Tennessee
Kevin Hern, Oklahoma
Jody Hice, Georgia
Ronny Jackson, Texas
Jim Jordan, Ohio
John Joyce, Pennsylvania
Debbie Lesko, Arizona
Barry Loudermilk, Georgia
Thomas Massie, Kentucky
Mary Miller, Illinois
Barry Moore, Alabama
Ralph Norman, South Carolina
Steven Palazzo, Mississippi
Scott Perry, Pennsylvania
Bill Posey, Florida
Matt Rosendale, Montana
Chip Roy, Texas
Steve Scalise, Louisiana
Greg Steube, Florida
Van Taylor, Texas
Tom Tiffany, Wisconsin
Daniel Webster, Florida
Nice people, really!
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