Saturday, December 30, 2023

Sudan: Christians under attack

...Sudanese Christians, while only comprising 5.4 percent of the country’s population, have been largely based in and around Khartoum. As the capital city has been at the epicenter of the war, the Christian community has been heavily impacted. They have been sought out and attacked for their faith, and many have had to flee the country and settle in refugee camps.  

Many churches have been destroyed. Earlier this month, Rapid Support Forces fighters attacked a Coptic Christian Monastery in Gezira State and started using it as a military base. Last month, a Presbyterian Evangelical Church in Omdurman and a Roman Catholic building in the Al-Shajara area were attacked amid Rapid Support Forces and Sudanese Armed Forces fighting. These are just the most recent examples of the ongoing spate of attacks on churches and Christian buildings since the fighting broke out.  

Read the rest here.

Friday, December 29, 2023

SSPX contemplating new bishops?

Fr. Z: SSPX to consecrate more bishops?

I've had my differences with the SSPX in the past. But they do seem to have gone a long way towards putting their house in order when they firmly showed the door to Bp. Williamson and his fellow antisemite/Holocaust deniers. Given the current state of affairs in the Roman Church, they are probably the best available refuge for (small 'o') orthodox Catholics.

FTR I actually met Bp. Fellay around thirty years ago and was much impressed by the man. These are times of extreme crisis and no Orthodox should be indulging in triumphalist pleasure at the catastrophe now in full force within the Catholic Church. 

Nikki Haley just lost any chance of getting my vote

Haley says she’d pardon Trump as president

Not that I could vote for her in the primary anyway. I left the Republican Party in 2016. But realistically she isn't going to be the nominee. If he somehow fails to get the GOP nomination Trump has already made it quite clear that he won't accept the result and will run as an independent. With all the third party and independents running, this is shaping up to be the most bizarre (and consequential) election since 1860. 

Thursday, December 28, 2023

On the decapitation of the satanic idol

Alabama to try nitrogen gas after botched execution

ATMORE, Ala. — Alabama is poised to use nitrogen gas in a planned execution next month, the first state to attempt such a method, setting the stage for legal challenges as officials across the U.S. examine alternatives amid a shortage of lethal injection drugs.

But while Alabama is intent on using nitrogen hypoxia, in which a person breathes only nitrogen and dies from a lack of oxygen, some details of the protocol remain cloaked in mystery to the public.

Even the inmate who is set to die, Kenneth Eugene Smith, told NBC News this month that he is not privy to an unredacted state protocol describing how the procedure will work. His legal and medical representatives were permitted this month to tour the execution chamber and inspect a mask for breathing the nitrogen, but without Smith...

...Adding to the novelty of his case, Smith, 58, is a rare example of a person surviving a failed execution attempt: A previous plan to put him to death by lethal injection in November 2022 was called off when prison staff was unable to find a suitable vein. This, in addition to mounting scrutiny over the use of the lethal injection in other inmates, set off a pause in executions in Alabama.

Read the rest here.

This is barbaric. The state already tried the kill the man and FAILED. His sentence should have been immediately commuted to life without parole. If you are going to do capital punishment, it should be as quick and painless as reasonably possible. The British had it down to less than a minute from the moment the hangman walked into the condemned man's cell to the trap door being released. Why are we one of only a handful of countries that still routinely executes people, and yet we can't figure out how to kill someone quickly and without torturing them?

Here's a free tip for the people of Alabama. A large caliber pistol with a single bullet is all you really need. If you are obsessed with having some kind of contraption do the deed, the French method also works very well and is about as fast as you can get. 

Or better yet, just abolish capital punishment for all crimes except intentional murder committed after being sentenced to life in prison. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

An increasingly secular Scotland is losing its churches

At first sight the lichen-covered sandstone slab seems to be a doorstep for Morham church in East Lothian. Yet four rusting iron rings set into the stone hint at the slab’s true purpose.

Once the slab is lifted by those four iron rings, stairs lead down into a crypt which hold the remains of some pivotal figures in Scottish history. Their presence is delaying the sale of the church overhead, in a controversy that raises significant questions about the ramifications of one of the biggest property selloffs of modern times.

The Church of Scotland, once one of the most powerful forces in Scottish life, is disposing of hundreds of churches, manses, halls and cottages over the next five years as it faces up to a “perilous” transformation in its fortunes and its place in Scottish society.

Congregations are in steep decline, its clergy are ageing and its finances are in disarray. Like hundreds of other churches earmarked for sale, Morham church should be on the market but that has been halted by an unprecedented row over the fate of the nine people interred there more than 300 years ago.

Morham was once the family church of the Dalrymples, a dynasty that built Newhailes House, a Palladian mansion nearby. Interred in the crypt are the remains of Sir David Dalrymple, the lord advocate who oversaw the union of Scotland’s parliament with Westminster in 1707, and his grandson Lord Hailes, an eminent historian and contemporary of Adam Smith and David Hume.

Adam Fergusson, a former Conservative MEP descended from the Dalrymples, is preparing to take the church to court in February unless it drop its plans to disinter his ancestors and cremate them to clear the way for a sale. “I think the coffins should stay in the church, as their final resting place,” he said. “It’s setting a precedent.”

DJ Johnston-Smith, director of Scotland’s Churches Trust, believes there are up to a dozen similar situations around the country. “Scotland has changed remarkably in our lifetimes, in social attitudes and outlook,” he said. “But these building are anchors in our landscapes and in our collective history.”

The row at Morham illustrates a remarkable trend: the retreat of organised religion in Scotland. Churches of all denominations are being sold across Scotland as congregations dwindle, donations plunge and clerics retire.

The Church of Scotland’s property page advertises one of its most prominent churches in Inverness, the Old High Church, for offers over £150,000, with others in Ballachulish near Glen Coe, Orkney, Shetland, Edinburgh and, in Glasgow, St Columba’s, the city’s last Gaelic church.

The data suggests Scotland’s two largest Christian faiths, Presbyterianism and Catholicism, may be in terminal decline.

In 1982 the Church of Scotland had nearly 920,000 members; last year, that stood at 270,300, a decline of 70%. The average age of its congregants is now 62, and only 60,000 worship in person.

In 1982, the Catholic church conducted 4,870 marriages and had 273 men training to be priests. In 2021, there were just 812 Catholic marriages, with just 12 seminarians in training; it attracted only two new recruits this year. It no longer trains priests in Scotland and this year sold off its most famous seminary in Rome, the Pontifical Scots college, moving into another institution.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Putin aims to leave nothing to chance in Russia’s 2024 election

Russian President Vladimir Putin is working to eliminate what little political opposition remains to his rule in Russia ahead of the country’s presidential election in 2024.

Putin, who is seeking a fifth term as president in what is almost an assured victory in the March election, has moved to clear any obstacles in his path. 

Russia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) last week rejected the presidential candidacy of Yekaterina Duntsova, a former TV journalist, over paperwork errors. Duntsova’s campaign, which is described as pro-peace and pro-democracy, has rejected the commission’s ruling and is appealing the decision through the courts. 

“The CEC’s refusal is directed against the representation of millions of citizens who advocate for a peaceful and democratic future of Russia,” Duntsova’s campaign wrote on Telegram. “With this political decision, we are deprived of the opportunity to have our own representative and express views that differ from the official aggressive discourse...” 

...“I think it’s an insult to the idea of elections and democracy to call what’s happening in Russia an election,” said Bill Browder, a target of the Kremlin for his work supporting Russian anti-corruption activists, in an interview with the U.K.-based Times Radio last week. 

Browder is a key architect of the Magnitsky Act, a federal law that empowered the U.S. to sanction Russian officials involved in significant corruption and human rights abuses, and that has expanded to target bad actors across the globe. 

“What Putin has done in Russia is basically create a dictatorship. Any person who wants to run against him ends up either in exile, in jail or dead,” he said.

Read the rest here.

"Voters don't decide elections. The people who count the votes do." -Joseph Stalin

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Pope asks Vatican staff to avoid 'rigid ideologies'

ROME: Pope Francis urged Vatican bureaucrats on Thursday (Dec 21) to avoid “rigid ideological positions” that prevent them from understanding today’s reality, an appeal made days after he formally allowed priests to bless same-sex couples in a radical change of Vatican policy.

Pope Francis used his annual Christmas greeting to the Holy See hierarchy to encourage the cardinals, bishops and laypeople who run the Vatican to listen to one another and to others so they can evolve to truly offer service to the Catholic Church.

Speaking in the Hall of Blessings, Pope Francis told them it was important to keep advancing and growing in their understanding of the truth. Fearfully sticking to rules may give the appearance of avoiding problems but only ends up hurting the service that the Vatican Curia is called to give the church, he said.

“Let us remain vigilant against rigid ideological positions that often, under the guise of good intentions, separate us from reality and prevent us from moving forward," the pope said.

"We are called instead to set out and journey, like the Magi, following the light that always desires to lead us on, at times along unexplored paths and new roads.”

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

On the Catholic blessing of same sex couples

First, read this excellent reflection.

My comment in response...

This pope is not interested in reform. He is promoting revolution. He sees the Catholic Church the way a progressive looks at a beautiful old city, thinking "what this place needs is a little urban renewal." Unfortunately, his idea of urban renewal is on the same line as the 8th Air Force's plans for German cities during World War II.

As for the document itself; it is a masterpiece of jesuitical word gaming, carefully avoiding an open affirmation of what is its obvious objective. The problem of course is that with Catholic ecclesiology everybody's hands are tied. And so, while conservative Catholics wring their hands and redouble their prayers, their communion continues to circle the drain of heresy. But we are now reaching a point where decisions are going to have to be made. To paraphrase the Fathers, "you are who you are in communion with." What will (small 'o') orthodox Catholics do as they confront the naked heresy, and even apostasy at the highest levels of their church? I have been waiting for a public declaration from Catholic bishops denouncing the heresy in their church and breaking communion with those espousing it for years. And all I am getting is thunderous silence or at most milquetoast statements from these sorry excuses for shepherds.

Where is the modern-day St. John Fisher who even as he is lead to the scaffold will scream "the fort is betrayed even by those who should have defended it!"

A couple of months ago I opined that the difference between Roman Catholicism and liberal Protestantism (broadly speaking), was about ten years. I am now wondering if I may have been overly sanguine in my timetable.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

One of Putin's fiercest critics has vanished and the Russian government is not talking

After two weeks without word from Aleksei A. Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition figure, his lawyers and allies, fearing the worst, are running a frantic campaign to find him.

Their efforts have included requesting information from dozens of Russian prisons and taking to social media to raise awareness of Mr. Navalny’s disappearance and to call on the Russian government to reveal his whereabouts.

Many Russians living abroad have gone to their country’s diplomatic missions to protest. Some have held up posters saying “Where is Navalny?”

Dmitri S. Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin, told journalists on Friday that the Kremlin had “neither the possibility, nor rights or desire to trace the fate of convicts,” referring to Mr. Navalny.

Here is what we know about Mr. Navalny and his disappearance.

The last time Mr. Navalny’s lawyers heard from him was on Dec. 5. The following day, one of his lawyers waited for seven hours outside the penal colony where Mr. Navalny was being kept but was not allowed to see him, Kira Yarmysh, a spokeswoman for Mr. Navalny, said. Mr. Navalny then failed to appear by video link at a scheduled court hearing the next day, Dec. 7.

In the days after Mr. Navalny’s disappearance, his allies grew more alarmed as letters sent to him went undelivered and the authorities declined to reveal his location to his lawyers. On Dec. 11, officials in the prison colony that had been holding Mr. Navalny — in Melekhovo, a town about 160 miles east of Moscow — told his lawyers that he was no longer listed among its inmates, Ms. Yarmysh said.

Read the rest here.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Roman Catholic Church OKs Gay Blessings

Roman Catholic priests can administer blessings to same-sex couples as long as they are not part of regular church rituals or liturgies, the Vatican has said in a landmark ruling approved by Pope Francis.

A document from the Vatican’s doctrinal office said such blessings would not legitimise irregular situations but would be a sign that God welcomes all.

It said priests should decide on a case-by-case basis and “should not prevent or prohibit the church’s closeness to people in every situation in which they might seek God’s help through a simple blessing“.

The pope hinted in October about an official change in response to questions by five conservative cardinals at the start of a synod of bishops at the Vatican.

While the response in October was more nuanced, Monday’s eight-page document, subtitlef “On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings“, outlined specific situations. An 11-page section was titled “Blessings of Couples in Irregular Situations and of Couples of the Same Sex“.

The Catholic church teaches that same-sex attraction is not sinful but homosexual acts are. Since his election in 2013, Francis has tried to make the 1.3 billion-member church more welcoming to LGBTQ+ people without changing moral doctrine on same-sex activity. [Bollocks!]

The writing has been on the wall for a while, but it's still a shock. I refer the reader to this post from last October. 

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Saturday, December 16, 2023

On this day 100 years ago

In the first round of what would be his annual Christmas clemencies, President Calvin Coolidge commuted the prison sentences of all remaining persons incarcerated during the First World War for criticizing the government and/or the war. 

Trump takes significant polling lead over Biden in presidential race

Recent polls show former President Trump leading President Biden in key swing states that will likely decide the 2024 election, indicating Trump is not just the overwhelming favorite to secure the GOP nomination but is in a strong position to recapture the White House less than a year before Election Day.

Trump leads Biden in hypothetical match-ups both with and without third-party options on the ballot in states including Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, according to fresh polling. Biden carried each of those states in 2020, and Trump will need to flip at least a few of those states if he is to win in 2024.

The numbers underscore that there is work for Biden to do, even as experts and strategists agree plenty can change in the roughly 10 months until the election. 

“I think it illustrates where we are at in both the former president and the current president’s trajectory heading into November 2024,” Nick Trainer, a former Trump campaign official, said on the “Yes Labels” podcast.

A CNN poll released this week showed Trump leading Biden by 5 percentage points in Georgia, a state Biden carried in 2020 by roughly 12,000 votes. The poll also found Trump leading Biden by 10 points in Michigan, where Biden won by about 155,000 votes in 2020.

The poll found majorities in both states — 54 percent in Georgia and 56 percent in Michigan — believe Biden’s policies have worsened economic conditions as Biden struggles to sell what aides believe is a strong economy to voters.

A Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll released this week had similarly sour results for Biden. 

That survey found Biden trailing Trump in several crucial swing states: by 11 points in North Carolina, by 7 points in Georgia, by 6 points in Wisconsin, by 5 points in Nevada, by 4 points in Michigan and by 3 points in Arizona.

The results came from a hypothetical ballot that included third-party candidates Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Cornel West and Jill Stein. There was also an option for participants to choose an unlisted candidate or answer “don’t know/no opinion,” or choose to forgo voting altogether.

Read the rest here.

A Major Anti-Trump Argument in the GOP is Fading

Joe Biden has done Donald Trump the enormous favor of collapsing before our eyes.

As the 2024 GOP presidential race heads into the first contests, Biden’s abysmal run of polling has boosted Trump and undercut his Republican opponents by hanging a neon sign on our politics reading, “TRUMP CAN WIN.”

It may be that Trump, such is his hold on GOP voters, didn’t need any help establishing a dominant position in the fight for the Republican nomination, but two exogenous events have boosted him.

First, the indictments from the Justice Department and Democratic prosecutors created a predictable rally-around-Trump effect that put him on a fundamentally higher trajectory in the race, and second, Biden’s execrable polling has completely eliminated any possibility of making an electability argument against Trump.

There’s picking your opponent through underhanded ads — something Democrats did to help get vulnerable MAGA opponents in 2022 — and then there’s picking your opponent through your own incredible weakness that makes him look even more alluring to his partisans.

The most salient doubt about Trump among on-the-fence Republicans has never been his policy priorities, governing effectiveness or conduct after the 2020 election, but his ability to win.

Read the rest here.

Will the Georgia election workers see any of the $148 million award from Rudy Giuliani?

Rudy Giuliani has been ordered to pay nearly $150 million in damages to former Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, whom he defamed following the 2020 presidential election.

But as with all major jury awards, the question is whether Freeman and Moss will see any of that money.

Giuliani, the former New York mayor and onetime attorney to former President Donald Trump, has vowed to appeal the jury’s verdict. During the trial, he and his attorneys repeatedly said that he already doesn’t have funds to cover his various debts, but it’s unclear how much the former New York mayor actually has.

Attorneys for Freeman and Moss said in court they had tried to find out Giuliani’s net worth, but because he hadn’t responded to many of their subpoenas in the lawsuit, they couldn’t determine a figure.

A spokesman for Giuliani declined to comment Friday on his current financial state.

Attorney John Langford told CNN’s Erin Burnett on “OutFront” Friday evening that they plan to ensure that Moss and Freeman “see every bit of money that Mr. Giuliani has available to him, to pay and satisfy this judgment” and are “looking at every option (they) have to obtain the money that he owes Ruby and Shaye.”

They plan, Langford said, to move quickly toward getting a final judgment entered in order to go to other jurisdictions where Giuliani has assets.

Ryan Goodman, a former special counsel at the Department of Defense, told Burnett that it’s likely the election workers will collect only “a fraction” of the awarded amount. “There is no way they’ll collect (the total judgment), and I don’t think they’ll collect half the amount or a quarter of the amount, just a fraction. But I do think maybe they will collect millions. It depends on what his assets are,” he said.

Giuliani was ordered to pay $16,171,000 to Freeman for defamation, $16,998,000 to Moss for defamation, $20 million to each woman for emotional distress and $75 million total in punitive damages. When the verdict was read, even Judge Beryl Howell appeared taken aback by the figure.

Giuliani had already been fined more than $200,000 for some of Freeman and Moss’ attorneys’ fees, which he hasn’t paid. He also owed more than $1 million to defense attorneys who’ve helped him on other matters, prompting them to sue him this year, and hadn’t paid nearly $60,000 for years-old phone bills.

Yet at times he’s had help – including from Trump – to try to fundraise to offset some of his debts, and he was able to take a private plane to his arrest on criminal charges related to 2020 election interference in Georgia this summer.

Read the rest here.

Unlike Alex Jones, who is known to be extremely wealthy and has been going to great lengths to defy the courts and the families he defamed by obfuscating and hiding his assets; I suspect that Rudy probably really is broke or close to it. This is going to be a symbolic victory for justice and the rule of law, albeit an important one.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

James Bennet: The New York Times has lost its way

Are we truly so precious?” Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the New York Times, asked me one Wednesday evening in June 2020. I was the editorial-page editor of the Times, and we had just published an op-ed by Tom Cotton, a senator from Arkansas, that was outraging many members of the Times staff. America’s conscience had been shocked days before by images of a white police officer kneeling on the neck of a black man, George Floyd, until he died. It was a frenzied time in America, assaulted by covid-19, scalded by police barbarism. Throughout the country protesters were on the march. Substantive reform of the police, so long delayed, suddenly seemed like a real possibility, but so did violence and political backlash. In some cities rioting and looting had broken out.

It was the kind of crisis in which journalism could fulfil its highest ambitions of helping readers understand the world, in order to fix it, and in the Times’s Opinion section, which I oversaw, we were pursuing our role of presenting debate from all sides. We had published pieces arguing against the idea of relying on troops to stop the violence, and one urging abolition of the police altogether. But Cotton, an army veteran, was calling for the use of troops to protect lives and businesses from rioters. Some Times reporters and other staff were taking to what was then called Twitter, now called X, to attack the decision to publish his argument, for fear he would persuade Times readers to support his proposal and it would be enacted. The next day the Times’s union—its unit of the NewsGuild-cwa—would issue a statement calling the op-ed “a clear threat to the health and safety of the journalists we represent”.

The Times had endured many cycles of Twitter outrage for one story or opinion piece or another. It was never fun; it felt like sticking your head in a metal bucket while people were banging it with hammers. The publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, who was about two years into the job, understood why we’d published the op-ed. He had some criticisms about packaging; he said the editors should add links to other op-eds we’d published with a different view. But he’d emailed me that afternoon, saying: “I get and support the reason for including the piece,” because, he thought, Cotton’s view had the support of the White House as well as a majority of the Senate. As the clamour grew, he asked me to call Baquet, the paper’s most senior editor.

Read the rest here.

Monday, December 11, 2023

The latest from Constantinople

Hence, from Asia Minor, we proclaim in every direction that the genuine and only Mother Church is the Great Church of Constantinople. It exclusively bears the legacy of Jesus’s sacrifice on the Cross for all humanity, giving birth to numerous Churches from Bulgaria to Ukraine. This declaration isn’t a modern invention in ecclesiology but an experiential truth and legacy inherited from the Fathers of the Ecumenical and Local Synods.

From here.

We are living in challenging times. Between the quasi-papal pretensions of the EP, the clear affinity for Byzantine Rite Episcopalianism being demonstrated within the leadership of the Greek Archdiocese here in North America, and the abject surrender of the Russian Church to the Putin dictatorship; it is difficult not to conclude that God has chosen to permit His Church to be placed under some great trial.

Kyrie eleison.

The Alliance between Palestine and the Left

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Javier Milei is sworn in as president of Argentina amidst grave economic crisis

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — It wasn’t the most uplifting of inaugural addresses. Rather, Argentina’s newly empowered President Javier Milei presented figures to lay bare the scope of the nation’s economic “emergency,” and sought to prepare the public for a shock adjustment with drastic public spending cuts.

“We don’t have alternatives and we don’t have time. We don’t have margin for sterile discussions. Our country demands action, and immediate action. The political class left the country at the brink of its biggest crisis in history,” he said in his inaugural address to thousands of supporters in the capital, Buenos Aires. “We don’t desire the hard decisions that will be need to be made in coming weeks, but lamentably they didn’t leave us any option.”

South America’s second largest economy is suffering 143% annual inflation, the currency has plunged and four in 10 Argentines are impoverished. The nation has a yawning fiscal deficit, a trade deficit of $43 billion, plus a daunting $45 billion debt to the International Monetary Fund, with $10.6 billion due to the multilateral and private creditors by April. “There’s no money,” is Milei’s common refrain. He repeated it Sunday to explain why a gradualist approach to the situation, which would require financing, was not an option.

But he promised the adjustment would almost entirely affect the state rather than the private sector, and that it represented the first step toward regaining prosperity.

“We know that in the short term the situation will worsen, but soon we will see the fruits of our effort, having created the base for solid and sustainable growth,” he said.

Read the rest here.

Friday, December 08, 2023

RIP: Ryan O'Neal

Stanley Kubrick's visual love letter to the 18th century. One of the best movies that most people have never seen. The cinematography is possibly the finest ever for a period drama. Seriously. This movie should be hanging in the Louvre. 

Germany and Georgia: Two worth a read

How deeply split are Germany’s (Catholic) bishops? 

HT: Dr. Tighe

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Mass for the Feast of St. Nicholas

Jamie Dimon on Crypto

“I’ve always been deeply opposed to crypto, bitcoin, et cetera,” the head of the largest U.S. bank by assets said under questioning from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) during a Senate Banking Committee hearing. “The only true use-case for it is criminals, drug traffickers … money laundering, tax avoidance.” 

“If I was the government, I’d close it down,” he added.

Quote of the day...

“We will go out and find the conspirators, not just in the government, but in the media, yes, we’re going to come after the people in the media, who lied about American citizens, who helped Joe Biden rig the elections, we’re going to come after you... Whether it’s criminally or civilly, we’ll figure that out, but yeah, we’re putting you all on notice.” 
-Kash Patel former senior National Security Advisor and close confidant of Donald Trump

Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Happy 21st Amendment Day

Why is this not a national holiday dedicated to the triumph of liberty?

Monday, December 04, 2023

A preview of the second Trump Administration.

In the spring of 1989, the Chinese Communist Party used tanks and troops to crush a pro-democracy protest in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Most of the West, across traditional partisan lines, was aghast at the crackdown that killed at least hundreds of student activists. But one prominent American was impressed.

“When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it,” Donald J. Trump said in an interview with Playboy magazine the year after the massacre. “Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak.”

It was a throwaway line in a wide-ranging interview, delivered to a journalist profiling a 43-year-old celebrity businessman who was not then a player in national politics or world affairs. But in light of what Mr. Trump has gone on to become, his exaltation of the ruthless crushing of democratic protesters is steeped in foreshadowing.

Mr. Trump’s violent and authoritarian rhetoric on the 2024 campaign trail has attracted growing alarm and comparisons to historical fascist dictators and contemporary populist strongmen. In recent weeks, he has dehumanized his adversaries as “vermin” who must be “rooted out,” declared that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country,” encouraged the shooting of shoplifters and suggested that the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, deserved to be executed for treason.

As he runs for president again facing four criminal prosecutions, Mr. Trump may seem more angry, desperate and dangerous to American-style democracy than in his first term. But the throughline that emerges is far more long-running: He has glorified political violence and spoken admiringly of autocrats for decades.

Read the rest here.

See also this discussion of Trump's view of presidential authority.

Saturday, December 02, 2023

Russia to expand military draft

Russia is boosting the number of troops in its military for the second time in 15 months, citing the war in Ukraine and the expansion of the NATO defense alliance.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday ordered the military to increase the number of troops by nearly 170,000 to a total of 1.3 million as the Ukraine war grinds on after 21 months. Putin’s decree, which entered into force immediately, brings the overall number of Russian military personnel to 2.2 million, including 1.3 million troops.

The Russian defense ministry in a message posted on Telegram cited the war in Ukraine and NATO's expansion — which was spurred by Putin's invasion of Ukraine — as the reasons for the increase in army personnel. Finland joined the Western defense alliance this past spring, and Sweden said this week that Turkey has promised it will ratify Stockholm's bid "within weeks."

NATO's “combined armed forces are being built up near Russia's borders and additional air defense systems and strike weapons are being deployed," the Russian ministry said in its post. "The potential of NATO's tactical nuclear forces is being increased,” it added.

“Under the current conditions, an additional increase in the combat strength and size of the Armed Forces is an adequate response to the aggressive activities of the NATO bloc,” the ministry said.

It is the second time Russia has boosted its troop numbers since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The previous increase of 137,000 troops was ordered by Putin in August 2022.

As of August 2023, western intelligence services conservatively estimate that Russia has suffered combined casualties (killed, wounded and taken prisoner) in excess of 300,000 men. The Russian government has not issued any updated casualty figures in more than a year and the numbers previously released were generally treated as not credible by independent journalists and academics, as well as western governments. Additionally, it is estimated that at least 900,000 people have fled Russia since the start of the war. A very large percentage of those are believed to be young men of military age. While no reliable poll has been conducted, informal surveys suggest that many, perhaps most of these migrants have little or no interest in ever returning to Russia.