Europe All Like: We Love You Joe Biden Who Is Not Trump, You're Our Only Hope!
President Joe Biden was in Brussels, Belgium yesterday to meet with America's European allies, and got a very warm welcome from European Council President Charles Michel, who said Biden's presence and participation in the meeting "is a very strong signal" of unity among the allies:
"We are very pleased, dear President, dear Joe, to welcome you again in Brussels,” European Council president Charles Michel of Belgium told President Joe Biden today. “Your presence here and your participation in this European Council meeting is a very strong signal.”
Translation: "Oh Joe Biden, lover of us, nice savior man who is not Trump, oh thank fucking GOD that you are here!" [Heather Cox Richardson]
Doing The Unity Two-Step
This week that unity has resulted in concrete action, as we noted yesterday: new, expanded sanctions on Russian individuals and entities, plus billions in military and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine. The leaders also announced they would cooperate to reduce reliance on Russian fossil fuels — on both sides of the Atlantic — and to prevent food shortages across Europe, especially since Ukraine had until a month ago been one of the continent's top producers of grains.
On top of that, the leaders announced a joint US-European effort to strengthen democracy, both in Ukraine and in nearby states that are threatened by Russian and internal anti-democratic pressures. That means money to counter disinformation, shore up press freedom and human rights, and keep human rights activists safe, among other things. That's pretty important as Russia is shutting down much of what passed for civil society there.
Biden said the "single most important thing that we have to do in the West is be united," and that Vladimir Putin's top goal is to
demonstrate that democracies cannot function in the 21st century — because things are moving so rapidly, they require consensus, and it’s too difficult to get consensus — and autocracies are going to rule.
That's why Putin has so long sought to undermine or even break up NATO, said Biden, because he'd "rather face 30 independent countries than 30 united countries with the United States of America." It's all very inspiring, as Richardson notes, and it sure would be nifty if we Americans could manage a bit of unity here at home, instead of say, Russian propaganda being repeated nearly verbatim by the likes of Tucker Carlson and Tulsi Gabbard?
Or if the wife of a Supreme Court justice weren't trading insane lies about the 2020 election with Donald Trump's chief of staff?
Or if the former president weren't pursuing an offensively bogus lawsuit against his 2016 opponent and everyone who voted for her (we think) to either regain the presidency or, let's get real, bring in more donations?
Or this guy, cosplaying as Baghdad Bob?
When endless US and \u201cWestern\u201d commentators claim Russia\u2019s war hasn\u2019t gone \u201caccording to plan,\u201d they never seem to clarify how they miraculously obtained a copy of this \u201cplan.\u201d Can they please post the PDF?— Michael Tracey (@Michael Tracey) 1648211530
In any case, it sure looks to us like our allies aren't, as the former president always said, "laughing at us," but genuinely working together for a serious purpose. How embarrassing! [Letters From an American]
How Presidents Oughta Act, Per Fox News
Still, you have to admit, Biden's visits with European leaders this week won't produce any video nearly as exciting as that time Donald Trump literally shoved the prime minister of Montenegro aside so he could be at the front of a photo op.
That's what national greatness is all about, according to Fox News turdmonkey Jesse Watters, who complained Biden wasn't any fun at all.
"Compare [Biden] with how Trump worked the room at the NATO summit in 2017.
"Remember, he pushed the president of Montenegro out of the way so he could be up front and center on stage, leading? Everybody knew there he was in charge. Not Joe Biden.
"International unity" is all well and good, but how will those useless little countries know you're the alpha if you don't shove them aside whenever possible? [Crooks & Liars]
Ukraine Sank Russia's
Battle Landing Ship!
Ukraine claimed yesterday that it had sunk a Russian landing ship that was docked in the occupied port of Berdyansk. Initially, the Ukrainian military claimed the ship that was destroyed was the Orsk, which had been featured on Russian TV news reports. In a statement Friday, the Ukrainian Armed Forces said that in fact a different landing ship, the Saratov, had been destroyed, and thattwo others, the Caesar Kunikov and Novocherkassk, had been damaged. [BBC / Yahoo News]
Here's video from Canada's Globe and Mail; you can see one ship fully engulfed in flames and explosions as two others pull away from the dock.
Ukraine Using Facial Recognition Tech To Identify Dead Russians. Ew?
Forbes cybersecurity reporter Thomas Brewster reports on a new front in the information war in Ukraine: To counter Russian domestic messaging that the invasion of Ukraine is a limited "special operation" with minimal casualties, Ukraine is using facial recognition software to identify dead Russian soldiers and contact their families and friends in Russia.
On Wednesday, deputy prime minister and head of the Digital Transformation Ministry in Ukraine, Mykhailo Fedorov, confirmed on his Telegram profile that surveillance technology was being used in this way, a matter of weeks after Clearview AI, the New York-based facial recognition provider, started offering its services to Ukraine for those same purposes.
Brewster points out that Ukrainians should have "a good chance of getting some matches" with Clearview, since CEO Hoan Ton-That said in a Reuters interview that the company had a dataset of some 10 billion faces from the internet, including two billion from Vkontakte, the Russian equivalent of Facebook.
Facial recognition software worries US and European privacy advocates, civil libertarians, and human rights groups, because it often makes mistakes, especially when the faces being searched aren't white males. (China, unencumbered by petty concerns like "rights," has gone fucking nuts with integrating facial recognition AI with its huge network of public surveillance cameras, with scary implications for Chinese ethnic minorities.)
Says Brewster, such concerns may be less of an issue in Ukraine's plans for identifying dead Russian invaders, since dead people have significantly fewer privacy rights, like none at all. Still, Albert Fox Cahn, founder of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, said the use of the software could be a "human rights catastrophe in the making" since Russia might use photos and IDs sent by Ukraine to crack down on refugees. The identification errors common in facial recognition tech could also lead to Ukraine falsely telling Russian civilians a family member had died in Ukraine.
We understand the impulse to fight misinformation, but we aren't sure we can get behind this, since our smartphone keeps telling us it's a ducking stoop pet idea. [Forbes / Human Rights Watch / Reuters]
Finland Bogarts ALL The Yachts, Just In Case
Thanks to a lot of creative paperwork and shell corporations, it can be really difficult to tell who a luxury super-yacht belongs to, so to help enforce sanctions against Russian oligarchs, Finland this week prohibited 21 yachts from leaving winter storage, Business Insider reports:
The customs department began telling winter storage facilities of the decision last week, according to Helsingin Sanomat, which first reported the news.
"They're not boats an ordinary citizen would have, but they're not 150 meters long either," Sami Rakshit, head of the enforcement department, told Bloomberg.
"We don't assume that all the detained yachts fall under sanctions, but that is what we are trying to determine now," he added.
Mikko Pellikka, CEO of Yachtcare Finland, told Helsingin Sanomat his company had four yachts in storage at the Port of Loviisa.
"It's hard to interpret whether the boats are Russian because they are registered around the globe," he said. "We can't say who ultimately owns the boat. Official papers do not necessarily read the names of the persons."
We have to say that while we're generally not fans of abuses of police power, dubious search and seizure, and asset forfeitures, we aren't getting too worked up over Finland's actions. Anyone who owns a mega-yacht is probably a questionable character who's up to something no good anyway, right? [Jalopnik / Insider]
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