March 1, 2022

In about an hour (West Coast time), Joe Biden will give his first State of the Union speech while holding forth in office during one of the most dangerous and fully-crazed periods in history — nothing heavy!

And not only Biden contending with a massive virus-induced pandemic, a treacherous, cruel Republican party, and now an ominous, nasty war in Ukraine, but somehow Americans can’t see shit.
Despite COVID on the wane (maybe, hopefully), a shitload of jobs added, low unemployment and an economy growing smartly, everybody’s all sad (New York Magazine): ‘So this poll finding from USA Today and Suffolk University is kind of … surprising: “a 51-percent majority of those surveyed say the economy is in a recession or a depression, the gloomiest outlook in six years.”


In the wake of the shitstorm and major Vlad Putin’s fuck-up in Ukraine, Biden’s main concern in the SOTU will be democracy, not only in the US with Republican anti-democratic bullshit, but now on a world scale with Russia the enemy on freedom across the planet. The economy and domestic shit might take a backseat to Russia and the world tonight.
Biden has earth’s center stage (Vanity Fair):

Defending democracy has been a recurring theme through Biden’s presidency. But he has most often focused on domestic threats to those institutions, such as assaults on voting rights and Donald Trump’s efforts to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Now, he is confronting a threat to democracy on the international stage — not in the form of democratic backsliding, but in a literal attack by an autocratic state on a democratic neighbor.
“Liberty, democracy, human dignity—these are forces far more powerful than fear and oppression,” Biden said in a speech condemning the invasion last week.
“They cannot be extinguished by tyrants like Putin and his armies… In the contest between democracy and autocracy, between sovereignty and subjugation, make no mistake: Freedom will prevail.”

Nothing less.

Meanwhile in Ukraine, the Russians with the terrible-killing firepower on the ground:

A shift soon from a meme ingested war zone to a bitter, cruel, siege approach — Lamothe’s piece in The Washington Post late this afternoon:

The Russian military is branching out from relying heavily on guided missiles in its bombardment of Ukraine, firing more artillery, rockets and other weapons that can be difficult to aim precisely and cause devastating carnage in civilian areas, military experts said.

The shift comes as the Pentagon assesses that Russia is pivoting to siege warfare in the cities of Kharkiv and Chernihiv, and could do so in the capital, Kyiv.
Such tactics are notoriously horrifying, trapping civilians under fire as an invading force encircles a city and prevents food, ammunition and medical supplies from entering.

Military analysts said that Russia’s initial battle plan appeared nonsensical and haphazard, with Russian soldiers launching a ground invasion after a brief bombardment that primarily struck military targets but failed to knock out all Ukrainian air defenses.
Invading forces, operating with little logistical support and air cover, appeared to expect little resistance, but instead have clashed with Ukrainians in bloody fights.

A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the Pentagon’s current assessments, affirmed Tuesday that it does appear Russia is “regrouping.”
Russian forces have begun frequent use of a multiple rocket-launch system that can employ unguided cluster munitions and thermobaric rounds, made at least one flight with a Su-34 bomber, and built a 40-mile-long column comprising hundreds of tanks and other armored vehicles north of the capital, Kyiv, Russia’s primary objective.

Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, told reporters Tuesday that Russia also has used a “vacuum bomb,” a colloquial name given to thermobaric weapons because of the way they suck in oxygen from the surrounding air upon detonation to produce a larger explosion.

The Pentagon has stopped short of confirming reports about the specific types of ordnance being used by Russian forces in Ukraine, while acknowledging it is assessing the situation.

(Rob) Lee, with the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his advisers will have difficult days ahead if they cause major destruction.
While Russia leveled residential areas in Syria and Chechnya in earlier conflicts, it is not clear that Putin is comfortable doing so in a nation whose history is closely intertwined with Russia’s when it could have political fallout for him, he said.

“If you’re going to go into cities, you have to be prepared to destroy them, and that’s going to mean that a lot of Russians die, and a lot of civilians die,” Lee said.
“I don’t know if they’re really going to be willing to massacre all these civilians.”

Malcolm Chalmers, deputy director?general at RUSI, a London think tank, said that many observers thought Russia would have done better in dominating the skies, and the fact that Ukraine continues to fly jets and Turkish-made drones exposes a weakness in the Russian military.

Chalmers said Russia has an advantage with its rockets and artillery, but he predicted that plans to take large cities will prove particularly difficult.

“It takes a lot of personnel. You can bomb a city to smithereens but there are lots of place to hide, to go underground,” he said.
“They will have to fight block by block if the resistance continues.”

Overnight and into Wednesday.
Can’t but way-appreciate this (h/t tweet Susie):

Sameer captured the moment: “I am both frightened … and aroused.”
The Ukrainians are most-incredible at the most-right time.

Despite it all, here we are once again…

(Illustration above and out front: ‘Joe Biden,’ acrylic by Billy Jackson, and found here).

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