Thursday, July 14, 2022


Isaiah's THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS "He Can't Run Again But He Can Scoot!" went up tonight.


I like that comic.  When I was a kid, I liked Woody Woodpecker.  I'd watch his cartoons and think they were great but, honestly, all I ever paid attention to was his laugh.

So we're talking about woodpeckers tonight.  Jon Hamilton (NPR) reports:

The brain of a woodpecker experiences a seemingly catastrophic impact every time beak meets wood.

"When you see these birds in action, hitting their head against a tree quite violently, then as humans we start wondering how does this bird avoid getting headaches or brain damage," says Sam Van Wassenbergh, a researcher at the University of Antwerp in Belgium.

In the past, scientists have suggested the bird's brain is protected from the impacts, perhaps by a skull that acts as a cushion, or a beak that absorbs some of the force, or a tongue that wraps around the brain.

[. . .]

For example, "they close their eyes at the moment they impact the wood," Van Wassenbergh says, to protect their eyes from splinters.

The videos also showed that woodpeckers' beaks often get stuck in the wood. But they break free almost instantly, thanks to a clever beak design that provides independent motion of the upper and lower beak.

What the videos did not show is any sign that the woodpecker's brain is somehow cushioned.

"The way we see the head behaving is very rigid, like you would use a hammer hitting wood," Van Wassenbergh says.

That means the organ repeatedly experiences deceleration that would cause a concussion in a human brain. Yet the woodpecker brain emerges unscathed, even after thousands of impacts in a single day.

Zack Savitsky (SCIENCE.ORG) reports:

So how does the woodpecker avoid concussions? The size and orientation of the bird’s brain safeguard it, the authors say. Even the strongest of wood pecks left the bird brains with less than 60% of the pressure needed to give a human brain a concussion. In addition, woodpeckers may contain specialized mechanisms to prevent and repair minor brain trauma.

Some scientists aren’t ready to rule out the bird’s built-in pillow quite yet. Jae-Young Jung, a biomedical engineer at the University of California, San Francisco, notes that woodpeckers are known to brave opponents tougher than wood—including metal poles. Although he agrees the birds appear not to employ shock absorption for everyday hammering, he suggests they may need it for other scenarios. Still, he says, the study “will open up new questions and new ideas about how woodpeckers really do their job.” And it shows yet again how impressively adapted the birds are to their behaviors.

As for humans, our big brains aren’t cut out for conking, no matter how frustrated we get. So, you should probably stick to wearing a helmet.

The world of science is filled with many mysteries.


"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):

Thursday, July 14, 2022.  Each day brings more proof that Joe Biden is not up for the job.

Lame duck Joe Biden went limping to Israel.  Patrick Martin (WSWS) notes:

US President Joe Biden arrived in Israel Wednesday to begin a four-day trip whose major purpose is to align the main US client states in the Middle East, Israel and Saudi Arabia, with Washington’s plans for war against Russia and Iran. After two days in Israel and the West Bank, he will move on to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to meet with Saudi leaders and with representatives of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes the five other Persian Gulf sheikdoms as well as Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.

It was supposed to be a ten-day trip but White House staffers don't think Joe's up to that so it was reduced to four days.  THE TIMES OF ISRAEL explains:

Concerns regarding 79-year-old President Joe Biden’s ability to weather a 10-day trip abroad were among the reasons why the White House decided to delay the Mideast portion of the tour, according to a Sunday report in The New York Times.

[. . .]

But while the White House hinted the delay had to do with factors regarding the host countries, a US official told The Times that it would have been “crazy” to put the oldest president in American history through a 10-day foreign trip.

He's not fit to be president.  He should step down but he's too senile to grasp that reality so he limps and shuffles across the world stage, creating one embarrassment after another.

Patrick Martin also notes:

In pursuit of this military agenda, Biden is simply dropping the issues of “human rights” that have been used to screen the policies of American imperialism. In particular, Biden will hold a face-to-face meeting with the de facto Saudi ruler, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom he once denounced as a “pariah” because of his role in ordering the murder of Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Israel too has been given a pass on murderous actions against the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza, although that is nothing new for the US government. Only a week before Biden left for his visit to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the State Department issued a report on the murder of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akhlef, who was shot to death by an Israeli sniper while she was reporting on Israeli military operations in the West Bank city of Jenin for Al Jazeera Arabic.

The report found that an Israeli soldier likely killed Abu Akhlef, but the State Department claimed that there was no evidence the shooting was deliberate, despite the journalist wearing a bullet-proof vest and a sign clearly identifying her as press. Her death was merely a “tragic accident,” the US government agency declared.

Joe offers nothing to root for, nothing to be proud of.  

His 'accomplishments' tend to be failures.  Lucy Bayly and Alicia Wallace (CNN) report:

Inflation surged to a new pandemic-era peak in June, with US consumer prices jumping by 9.1% year-over-year, according to fresh data released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That's the highest level in more than 40 years and higher than the previous reading, when prices rose by 8.6% for the year ended in May. It is also much higher than the 8.8% that economists had predicted, according to Refinitiv.

 The Consumer Price Index for June also showed that overall prices that consumers pay for a variety of goods and services rose by 1.3% from May to June.

    Much of the June increase was driven by a jump in gasoline prices, which were up nearly 60% over the year. Americans faced record-high gas prices last month, with the national average topping $5 a gallon across the country. Electricity and natural gas prices also rose, by 13.7% and 38.4%, respectively, for the 12-month period ended in June. Overall, energy prices rose by 41.6% year-over- year.

    Old Man Biden, one failure after another.  He should be in a nursing home, not the White House.

    Jerry White (WSWS) observes:

    The rate of inflation in the United States hit 9.1 percent in June, with consumer prices rising at the fastest pace since November 1981, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report released Wednesday. Across-the-board hikes in fuel, food, housing, medical care, clothing and other living expenses are squeezing household budgets. Everything is going up except workers’ paychecks.  

    The increase in the Consumer Price Index, which rose from an already four-decade high of 8.6 percent in May, continued to be driven chiefly by surging energy and food costs. Energy prices shot up 7.5 percent last month and are up 41.6 percent over the last 12 months. Gasoline rose 11.2 percent in June and is up 59.9 percent over the last year. 

    The current national average for a gallon of gas was $4.63 yesterday, according to the American Automobile Association, with prices in California at $6.02 a gallon. This means it takes $60 to fill up an average passenger car or $120 for a pickup truck or SUV. With an average manufacturing wage of $24.95 an hour before taxes, a factory worker now must labor anywhere from three to six hours just to pay for gas to go back and forth to work. Many now carpool to work, while lower-paid and part-time workers find it increasingly unaffordable to drive at all. 

    With electricity costs rising another 1.7 percent in June and 13.7 percent year-over-year, working class families and seniors on fixed incomes are shutting off lights and air conditioners despite the summer time heat wave. Natural gas rose 8.2 percent last month and 38.4 percent over the last year, leaving many wondering how they will heat their homes come the fall and winter.  

    Food costs also continued to jump, with prices rising 1.3 percent between May and June and 10.5 percent over the last year, the highest increase since 1981. Many common food items have risen even higher over the last year, with eggs and margarine up 36 percent, chicken parts up 23 percent and whole milk prices up 18.8 percent.

    The anti-hunger Feeding America program reported in March that 65 percent of its 200 food pantries had seen increased demand compared to previous months. One of its affiliates, the Killeen Food Care Center in central Texas, reported that it served a record 8,830 people in June, including 1,600 seniors. “We have fed the highest amount of people in our 35-year history,” Raymond Cockrell, the center’s executive director, told the Killeen Daily Herald. 

    Joe will take no responsibility, he'll blame someone else.  He keeps doing that and the American people keep seeing that he's not up to the job.  It's causing panic for some Democrats facing re-election.  Rick Klein, Averi Harper, and Alisa Wiersema (ABC's THE NOTE) report:

    Inflation is low-hanging political fruit for Republicans amid everyday reminders -- underscored by weekly and monthly data drops -- that show prices spiraling while policy solutions are fleeting.

    But what might be as telling this week, with President Joe Biden in the Middle East for a high-profile foreign trip, is what some Democrats are saying about the rising cost of goods that’s clearly not transitory and also seemingly not lifting itself from voters’ minds in time for the midterms.

    It’s not just Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who fired another shot across progressive bows with a new declaration -- in the context of ongoing talks with the White House -- that “no matter what spending aspirations some in Congress may have ... we cannot add any more fuel to this inflation fire.”

    Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio -- a member of the majority party in the House who hopes to join the Senate majority next year -- called the latest inflation numbers “awful” in a video posted from the campaign trail: “People are getting absolutely crushed. We need a tax cut now.”

    Pennsylvania's Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, also currently in elected office and also looking to join the Senate, said: “We need bold action NOW to make more s--- in America, fix our broken supply chains, and take on corporate greed to bring down the cost of everything, for everyone.”

    Those three Democrats share something of an everyman profile and also hail from states where Democrats may need to work extra hard to make working-class connections. It’s a brand of politics that isn’t all that foreign to “Scranton Joe,” though.

    How bad are things really?  The International Money Fund is writing about the US:

    The IMF’s annual review of the US economy focuses on the policies needed to return inflation to the Fed’s medium-term target. Most workers’ wages have failed to keep up with inflation, eroding the purchasing power of households and causing significant hardship. Although increases in gasoline and food prices have been affected by global events, the prices of a broader range of items have also risen strongly, including housing and transportation. If left unchecked, these price increases could become long lasting. In our assessment, we conclude that the Fed should act quickly and assertively to tackle inflation and restore price stability.

    Joe Biden's biggest accomplishment?  Turning the US into a third-world nation.  At COMMON DREAMS, Jake Johnson writes:

    Hotter-than-expected inflation data published Wednesday intensified fears among progressive economists that the Federal Reserve—in its single-minded drive to tame price increases—will needlessly lock in another major interest rate hike at its policy meeting later this month, further suppressing economic demand and moving the country closer to a recession.

    "This morning's report highlights the fact that aggressive interest rate hikes by the Fed have done little to combat the inflation that continues to take a toll on workers, families, and small businesses across the country," said Dr. Rakeen Mabud, chief economist at the Groundwork Collaborative. "Additional rate hikes would push millions out of work and... raise the risk of a recession that would only worsen economic pain."

    [. . .]

    At its July 26-27 meeting, the central bank is widely expected to enact another rate hike of at least 75 basis points—and there's some concern that the Fed will go even further with a 100-basis-point increase.

    The central bank appears hellbent on imposing additional rate hikes even though top officials, including Fed Chair Jerome Powell, have admitted that the blunt policy tool will do nothing to tackle sky-high energy and food prices.

    Rate hikes also won't repair supply chain snags stemming from the coronavirus pandemic or tackle corporate profiteering, which progressive economists and lawmakers have argued is a major factor in persistent inflation.

    Andrew Keshner (MARKETWATCH) reveals, "In the meantime, waning purchasing power is grinding people down. It just takes a trip to the grocery store to remember that. The latest inflation data showed grocery prices climbing 1% month over month and 12.2% year-over-year, marking the biggest increase since 1979."

    Meanwhile, the always ridiculous Mustafa al-Kadhimi takes time out from doing nothing to write a piece for FOREIGN POLICY:

    When U.S. President Joe Biden comes to the Middle East this week, he will be arriving in a region facing numerous challenges, from terrorism to food insecurity and climate change. But the Middle East is also a region that is increasingly facing those challenges together under a group of leaders pursuing positive change. I will represent a resilient Iraq that stands more confidently on the international stage and is stronger than when he last visited Baghdad as U.S. vice president in 2016—or even than when we met in the Oval Office last year.

    For many years, Iraq leaned heavily on the United States. We are grateful for the years of assistance and the sacrifice Americans have made to support us. Today’s Iraq is finding its own footing at home, in the region, and in the world. One thing I hope he takes away from our meeting in Saudi Arabia on Friday is the firmness of my and the Iraqi people’s resolve to solve Iraq’s problems with Iraqi solutions.

    Iraq is now a multiparty, multiethnic constitutional democracy. Yes, we are still in a protracted process of forming a new government following national elections last fall. It has taken a long time, rightly frustrating many in Iraq and abroad. I share that frustration—but I’m also proud of how our state has carried on the everyday business of serving Iraqi citizens, safeguarding the country’s natural resources, and leading regional initiatives that promote prosperity and security.

    Mustafa should be out of office.  Iraq held elections October 10th.  No one wants the failure to continue as prime minister.  But Iraq's inability to name a new president and a new prime minister leaves Mustafa in his job for now.

    In their meeting, will Joe press the issue of equality?  Will he call out the push to outlaw LGBTQs in Iraq?  Cowardly and senile, Joe'll probably opt to offer another lecture about Ireland in the 1980s.  Nico Lang (X-TRA) reports:

    Homosexuality has been legal in Iraq for almost 20 years, but some prominent leaders in the country want to change that.

    Aref al-Hamami, an MP representing the State of Law coalition, confirmed last week that he intends to introduce a bill that would recriminalize acts of sexual intercourse between partners of the same sex. On July 8, al-Hamami told the Iraqi News Agency that members of the parliamentary legal committee have agreed to hear a proposal “to legislate a law prohibiting homosexuality in Iraq.”

    “[The] legislation of such a law will be reinforced by legal provisions that prevent homosexuality and the perversions associated with it,” he said.

    Al-Hamami did not outline what kinds of punishments would be mandated for same-sex intimacy or when the Council of Representatives—the formal name of Iraq’s parliament—might take up the bill. The future of the legislature is currently uncertain: 73 parliamentarians abruptly resigned in June after the lawmaking body failed to form a coalition government for nearly eight months, according to Al-Jazeera.

    Among those who exited parliament was one of the bill’s most powerful potential allies: the influential Shia cleric and scholar Muqtada al-Sadr. In a May tweet, al-Sadr cited the monkeypox epidemic—which has disproportionately impacted the LGBTQ+ community on a global scale—as a pretense “for a repeal of laws upholding gay rights to protect humanity.” In a separate post, he called for a “special day against homosexuals and their reprehensible obscenity on earth and in heaven.”

    Oh, that Miss Moqtada, always spreading love, spreading love.  He's disgusting and so is the US Congress which can't say a word on the issue.  They can, however, fret over other things. MIDDLE EAST EYE notes:

    A bipartisan group of US lawmakers has urged President Joe Biden to publicly oppose Iraq's recently expanded law which criminalises the normalisation of relations with Israel.

    In a letter sent to the White House on Tuesday, 24 House and Senate lawmakers urged Biden to further promote normalisation between Israel and Arab countries during his visit to the Middle East this week.

    Earlier this year, Iraq's parliament passed a law that would make it a crime to normalise ties with Israel, with violations of the law punishable with life in prison or the death penalty. The new legislation provides wider definitions for acts considered a violation compared with the original statute dating back to 1969.

    When Clarence Thomas gets around to outlawing gays in the US, remember that the US Congress doesn't work to protect American citizens, it works to protect the government of Israel.  We'll note this Tweet:

    I mean, if you're talking from an American perspective, over 300+ anti-LGBT bills have been filed in 2022 so far and the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has outright stated that gay rights are the next target after Roe v. Wade was overturned 🫤


    Isaiah's THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS "Coffee Wisdom" went up last night.  The following sites updated:

    Wednesday, July 13, 2022

    Black holes

    Isaiah's done a second THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS comic this week and it's entitled  "Coffee Wisdom." 


    coffee wisdom

    Really enjoyed that.  If people care about their country, they shouldn't be afraid to run for president.  If they care about their country, they should be announcing their intent to run.  Joe is an awful president.

    Now this is a good video.

    And this is from PHYSICS WORLD:

    Astronomers have spotted a massive object that could be the first free-floating black hole ever observed using gravitational microlensing. The team of researchers was led by Casey Lam and Jessica Lu at the University of California, Berkeley and made the discovery by combining microlensing survey data with observations from the Hubble Space Telescope. Their study was the first exhaustive attempt to identify black holes that do not have a companion star – free-floating objects that are believed to be abundant throughout the Milky Way.

    Stellar-mass black holes are born out of dramatic supernova explosions, triggered as massive stars collapse under their own gravity. Astronomers predict that hundreds of millions of black holes exist throughout the Milky Way, but so far, just around two dozen have been identified definitively. All of these are in binary systems: paired with stars whose movements indicate the presence of an invisible companion. Yet many astronomers believe that these pairs a not a representative sample, and that most black holes are isolated.

    One way to detect a solo black hole is to observe the effect its gravity has on passing starlight. The gravitational distortion of spacetime surrounding the black hole can focus light from a background star onto Earth. This changes the brightness of the star and shifts its position in the sky. Because of the relative motions of objects in the cosmos, the effect lasts for several weeks or months – so microlensing could be detected by looking for temporary changes in appearance of stars. However, numerous microlensing surveys have been done over the past 25 years and so far, there have been no confirmed observations of solo black holes.

    "Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):

    Wednesday, July 13, 2022.  Moqtada al-Sadr may take to the streets on Friday (send his followers out, anyway), Joe Biden inches closer to appointing anti-abortion Chad Meredith to the federal bench, Ukraine sucks up all the money and dreams, and much more.

    Remember, boys and girls, we're all supposed to pretend US President Joe Biden is going to fight for the American people.  We're supposed to pretend that and lie to ourselves.  He led no efforts to save ROE V. WADE.  After DOBBS overturned ROE, he's done nothing of significance.  ROE could be law tomorrow.  But he doesn't really care about it.

    He lies a lot.  Then he lies some more.  And we're supposed to lie to ourselves on his behalf.

    During the fallout after the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade and let states ban abortion, President Joe Biden has been dealing with criticism not just about his administration’s lackluster response to the healthcare crisis, but about a reported judicial nomination.

    HuffPost reported on Tuesday that—despite widespread criticism from progressive lawyers, members of Congress, and a coalition of reproductive rights and justice groups—the Biden administration hasn’t yet backed off plans to nominate anti-abortion lawyer Chad Meredith to a lifetime judgeship in Kentucky. The Louisville Courier-Journal broke the story on June 29 that Biden planned to nominate Meredith reportedly in exchange for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) “agreeing not to hold up future federal nominations by the Biden White House.”

    Reporters asked White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre multiple questions about Meredith at a press conference last week, and she said, “We haven’t nominated anyone—that’s what I would say—as of yet.” When asked if Biden would nominate a federal judge who was anti-abortion, Jean-Pierre replied, “That’s a hypothetical that I can’t really speak to.”

    But privately, the administration doesn’t appear to be backing away. As a source briefed last week on the White House’s plans told HuffPost: “They’re defending it.”

    Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said he spoke to the White House last week about the potential nomination and asked what they would get out of it. “What’s in it for us? They didn’t give a specific answer,” Durbin told Politico.

    They have tried to use the death of ROE to fund raise, to turn out the vote and this entire time, Joe Biden has been planning to nominate Chad Meredith to the federal court -- "a lifteim judgeship in Kentucky."  Stop pretending and stop excusing.  Clearly, Joe Biden is no friend of women.

    That, weeks after ROE was overturned, he could even consider this goes to how low on his list of priorities reproductive rights are.

    At COMMON DREAMS, Julia Conley writes:

    The news of the reported deal followed the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, ending abortion rights for millions of women across the country and likely reducing access even in states where the procedure has not been outlawed.

    Meredith's nomination would be "an enormous betrayal to the very people who worked to put Biden in office," said former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner.

    Biden reportedly initially planned to announce his choice of Meredith on June 24, but scrapped the plan after the Supreme Court's right-wing majority handed down its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. The White House, along with the rest of the country, had known for weeks at that point that the justices were likely to overturn Roe due to a leaked draft opinion from the court.

    "Why is a Democratic White House doing more for anti-abortion right-wing extremists than they have for the majority of us who just lost our reproductive freedoms?" asked Pennsylvania state House member and U.S. House candidate Summer Lee.

    Exactly.  The Democratic Party is not earning votes right now.  The betrayals add up daily.  Right now, they do have the power to codify ROE.  That will likely be impossible to do after the mid-terms.  

    Zoe Marks and Erica Chenoweth (MS. MAGAZINE) explain:

    U.S. feminists have been raising alarms about persistent assaults on gender equality. Across the country, GOP-led legislatures are rolling back reproductive rights, legislating against trans youth and their families, and censoring school curricula about racism, sexism, LGBTQ+ issues and even what to expect at the gynecologist’s office.

    These developments in the U.S. reflect a troubling pattern: Around the world, patriarchal authoritarianism is on the rise, and democracy is on the decline. The connection between sexism and authoritarianism is not coincidental, or a mere character flaw of individual misogynists-in-chief.

    Women’s political power is essential to a properly functioning multiracial democracy, and fully free, empowered women are a threat to autocracy. Assaults on women’s and LGBTQ+ rights—and attempts to put women “in their place”—constitute a backlash against feminist progress expanding women’s full inclusion in public life.

    As women’s participation becomes more prominent in domestic and international politics, our research sheds light on why political sexism and gender policing are also becoming more virulent—and what to do about it.

    Patriarchal Authoritarianism

    Authoritarianism rejects political competition and promotes a strong central power that upholds the political and social status quo. Autocrats try to maintain control by attacking the rule of law, separation of powers, political expression and fair elections.

    But strongmen and their enablers also tend to usurp power in part by promoting a conservative and binary gender hierarchy. Patriarchy is, in the words of political scientist Valerie Hudson and her colleagues, the “first political order.” And it is closely related to authoritarianism.

    Authoritarian backsliding occurs when women are stripped of equal access, opportunity and rights in the workplace, in the public sphere and at home. By strengthening men’s control over the women and girls in their lives, authoritarian leaders strike a patriarchal bargain, doling out private authority in exchange for public loyalty to the strongman. Incidentally, many women buy into the bargain, too. Women from dominant groups and classes are often willing to promote conservative gender norms and policies that retrench the status quo. The policing of gender expression and relations becomes a powerful tool for promoting a hegemonic racial, religious or ethnic national identity.

    Betrayed, betrayed and betrayed.  And where is Joe's attention?  Like everything else in the US, he's given it to Ukraine -- specifically to the right wing nazis that he and Barack Obama installed in 2014.  Dave DeCamp (ANTIWAR.COM) reports:

    The US on Tuesday announced it was sending $1.7 billion in new aid to fund the Ukrainian government that is meant to pay Ukrainian healthcare workers and support other “essential services.”

    The funds are coming from the US Treasury Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and are being pulled from the $40 billion Ukraine aid bill President Biden signed into law back in May.

    Also on Tuesday, the EU approved a new Ukraine aid package for 1 billion euros ($1 billion) in loans. The 1 billion is the first payment that’s part of an EU plan to provide Ukraine with 9 billion euros in financial assistance.

    While Western nations have been shipping billions of dollars worth of weapons into Ukraine, the leadership in Kyiv keeps asking for more, including more economic assistance. Last month, the head of the Ukrainian parliament’s financial committee said the government needs $5 billion in external aid, or it will have to make drastic budget cuts.

    Do those nazi cowards ever stop begging?  They have to beg.  They're pushing something unpopular even in Ukraine.  That's why they have to keep censoring political parties and news outlets.  Cowards.  That's what they are.  Jason Melanovski (WSWS) explains:

    As the Ukrainian forces have continued to lose territory in the eastern Donbass region, including the entire Lugansk province, and reportedly suffer record casualties of over 500 per day, Zelensky and his entourage have implored the United States and its NATO allies to rapidly send even more powerful weaponry in an attempt to continue the war for as long as possible. 

    While Zelensky and his advisers are attempting to portray themselves as scrappy underdogs taking on a treacherous bully, in reality, billions in military aid have already been sent to the country in order to provoke and exacerbate a war, which in its current form would never have occurred without massive training and funding from Western sources.

    According to the Department of Defense, amid rapid worldwide inflation the US has contributed approximately $7.6 billion in military aid to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on February 24, including an additional $820 million authorized on July 1. The Biden administration has pledged over $50 billion in military and economic aid since coming into office.

    The supplies include anti-aircraft systems, tactical drones, rocket systems, howitzers and artillery rounds. Recently, Ukraine has claimed success in hitting Russian ammo depots after the arrival of the first four American-made High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) with four more on the way. In addition, Ukraine is also receiving 18 tracked Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) from the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Norway.

    While the United States and NATO have moved to rapidly arm Ukraine since February, the history of NATO involvement and funding reveals that the current war was both planned for and provoked by the imperialist powers for years. 

    The ties by NATO to Ukraine go back to the Stalinist destruction of the Soviet Union and restoration of capitalism. In the 1990s, Ukraine’s Yaroviv Combat Training Center in the Lviv region of western Ukraine became the center of NATO operations and training. In March, the base, which had housed as many as 1,000 foreign fighters being training as part of the Ukrainian Foreign Legion, was hit by a Russian missile strike. 

    Since 1997 Ukraine has also cooperated with the United States and NATO forces annually in the “Sea Breeze” multinational military exercises on the northwestern Black Sea coast. Russia participated only once in 1998 and since then has openly opposed the presence of NATO and US warships so close to its Black Sea fleet as the exercises were obviously intended to displace Russia as the predominant naval power in the region.

    However, prior to 2014, previous Ukrainian administrations had attempted to maintain historical economic and political relations with Russia while simultaneously increasing ties with Western imperialism and NATO. In 2006 as prime minister and later in 2010 as president, Viktor Yanukovych had effectively stopped Ukraine’s path towards NATO membership leading the NATO Review Journal to condemn what it called a “significant slow-down” in the country’s NATO integration. 

    In 2014 in a US-and EU-backed coup, the Yanukovych government was overthrown. The coup triggered not only the Russian annexation of Crimea, a peninsula in the Black Sea, which hosts Russia’s Black Sea fleet, and an eight-year-long civil war in East Ukraine. Above all, it marked the beginning of the systematic, multi-billion dollar transformation of Ukraine’s military into what is essentially a proxy army of the NATO alliance, in order to prepare for all-out war with Russia. 

    Building up and restructuring the Ukrainian army

    Following the 2014 coup, NATO pushed Ukraine to conduct a major restructuring and buildup, providing billions in funding for military training and equipment. 

    The Ukrainian army, which had over 800,000 personnel in 1991, had shrunk to just 130,000 in 2014. Out of these, it was estimated in 2014 that only between 6,000 and 7,000 Ukrainian troops were combat-ready in terms of training, equipment and personnel when hostilities in the Donbass first began. Mass desertions quickly crippled the war effort of Kiev against pro-Russian separatists in the civil war in East Ukraine that raged for eight years before Russia’s invasion in February 2022. 

    Thanks to massive funding from NATO and an increase of Ukraine’s military spending to a massive 6 percent of GDP, the armed forces roughly doubled in size between 2014 and 2022, reaching 246,445 in 2021 (with over 195,000 military personnel). Thus, within just a few years, Ukraine’s army became one of the largest armies in the region, second only to Russia’s armed forces.

    Beginning in late 2014, the Ukrainian army was also rapidly transformed to operate according to NATO standards. At the same time, the Ukrainian government authorized the formation of far-right militias, such as the Azov Battalion, who could now count on government assistance and training both foreign and domestic. 

    Such forces would be used to continue the civil war against Russian-backed Donbass separatists while Ukraine collaborated with the US and NATO to transform its moribund and corrupt military. By 2020, Reuters estimated that such militia forces, largely consisting of and run by far-right extremists, constituted 40 percent of Ukrainian forces and numbered 102,000. 

    The internal transformation of Ukraine’s Army to NATO standards was achieved with significant training from both NATO and the US, focusing on changes to command structure and the building of non-commissioned officers (NCOs), who were given permission to quickly make their own decisions in contrast to a more hierarchical Soviet command structure. Interoperability with other NATO forces was a major goal, recognizing that any “winning” of a war with Russia would require fighting alongside NATO forces. Officers suspected of being Russian sympathizers were arrested, discharged or chose to flee to Russia or the Donbass. 

    Binoy Kampmark (DISSIDENT VOICE) observes:

    On May 1, after travelling to Kyiv, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi raised the colours.  “America,” she declared with earnestness, “stands with Ukraine until victory is won.”  She made little effort to expound on what this would entail, be it the expulsion of Russian forces from all Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, or the “meat grinder” solution, leaving Kyiv and Moscow to bleed, weakening the latter and strengthening NATO security over a dead generation.

    Her remarks did enough to worry Michael T. Klare, defence correspondent for The Nation.  “Nowhere, in her comments or those of other high-ranking officials, is there any talk of a negotiated settlement in Ukraine, only of scenarios leading to Russia’s defeat, at whatever cost in human lives.”

    The vagueness of the term has led to grand, sanguinary calls to battle unenlightened Russian barbarism, with the UK and US governments repeatedly calling this a conflict that involves the whole west, even the world.  Peering more closely at the rhetoric, and another sentiment comes to the fore: the desire to bloody Russia vicariously while arms manufacturers take stock.

    For over a decade, Ukraine has been something of a plaything in branches of the US State Department, and US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman can be found telling the BBC’s Newshour that Russia had to “suffer a strategic failure” in Ukraine.

    The checklist for doing so, as outlined by US President Joe Biden, is lengthy.  “We will continue providing Ukraine with advanced weaponry, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, Stinger antiaircraft missiles, powerful artillery and precision rocket systems, radars, unmanned aerial vehicles, Mi-17 helicopters and ammunition.”

    Joe Biden's war of choice, like his own administration, has been one failure after another.

    Turning to Iraq, Michael K. Lavers (LOS ANGELES BLADE) reports:

    An Iraqi lawmaker has said parliamentarians plan to introduce a bill that would ban homosexuality in the country.

    Middle East Eye, a website that covers the Middle East and North Africa, reported MP Aref al-Hamami on July 8 told an official Iraqi news agency that members of his Parliamentary Legal Committee have agreed “to collect signatures after returning to session to legislate a law prohibiting homosexuality in Iraq.”

    “[The] legislation of such a law will be reinforced by legal provisions that prevent homosexuality and the perversions associated with it,” said al-Hamami.

    Miss Moqtada al-Sadr is the 'genius' behind this discrimination.  Having failed at being a kingmaker, Miss Moqtada has little else to do but live a pathetic life.  Sadr's also making noise about protests this Friday against 'the government.'  That would be the government that, month after month, he was unable to form.  Moqtada al-Sadr is the dirty joke of the Middle East.

    MIDDLE EAST EYE notes:

    Though Sadr no longer has any MPs, he still controls about half of government positions - including the premiership. But it’s expected that he could lose all of them within six months of a new government being formed, one of Sadr’s aides told MEE.

    The aide said Sadr will not allow his opponents to form a government under any circumstances, and that the cleric and his movement’s leaders now see the dispute as personal, as well as political.

    “If they succeed in forming the government, everything will be over and they will control everything, including the position of commander-in-chief of the armed forces," the aide said.

    "Regardless of any other considerations, Sadr is currently wounded. They hurt him and made him feel that he is an outcast and that he does not represent the Shia and does not deserve to lead them.

    Isaiah's THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS "Joe's Support" went up last night and the following sites updated: