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On today's BradCast: We'll leave the drumbeat of military experts and 24-hour, round-the-clock war porn to the cable news nets, and focus instead today on a path to peace, with a longtime expert on the complicated relationship between Ukraine and Russia. [Audio link to full show is posted at end of this summary.]
FIRST UP, however, back here in the U.S., more astoundingly good new jobs numbers were reported by the Labor Department. Some 678,000 new jobs were created last month, and revisions to monthly numbers for December and January add another 100,000 to the already record numbers. Also, the unemployment rate fell even further to a rate of 3.8%, not seen since before the pandemic. Much of that, according to experts, is thanks to Biden and the Democrats American Rescue Plan, passed without any Republican support early last year.
But even while Biden's economy continues to boom with a record 6.6 million new jobs created over the past year --- the most for any single year since record-keeping on this began in the 1930s --- and the highest growth in GDP since the 1980s, Americans appear completely clueless about these facts. Former WaPo columnist, Dan Froomkin, now author of the Press Watch newsletter, explains today why he blames the media for their dismal failures in properly educating the electorate on the basic, cold, hard facts. "When the public thinks up is down," he argues, "it’s time to rethink coverage."
NEXT, regrettably if necessarily, it's back to Russia's horrific, unprovoked war on Ukraine, after a harrowing night during which the largest nuclear power plant in Europe came under attack by Putin's forces, setting part of it ablaze for a time and rattling a lot of nerves in the bargain, and not just in Ukraine.
We're joined today from Great Britain by ANATOL LIEVEN, a former war correspondent in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya and other former Soviet nations. Lieven has served as a professor in Qatar and at the War Studies Dept. at King's College London and has written a number of books about Ukraine and Russia and other Eastern European conflicts following the fall of the USSR. He is now a Senior Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft where, on Thursday, he penned a quite welcome article on "How to get to a place of peace for Ukraine".
Lieven shares his deep expertise not only on that roadmap, and the hard, but necessary choices it'll require from Ukraine, Russia, the U.S., the EU and NATO, but also much more on how we got to this horrific place; what Putin really wants both on a macro historic level and out of this current conflict; what could happen if peace is not achieved; how this war is being understood by both average Russians, amid heavy-handed media restrictions, and those close to Putin; and whether Putin should be taken seriously regarding his recent, repeated, barely veiled threats of unleashing his nuclear arsenal.
We cover quite a bit of ground in this conversation, all of which is well worth tuning in for. But, just to cover a few of the key points from Lieven today...
On whether Putin is really hoping to brush back NATO's eastward expansion following the end of the Cold War or whether his attack on Ukraine is an attempt to prevent the threat posed by a prosperous, Western-leaning, market-based democracy in a neighboring, former Soviet county, Lieven believes it's the former. He explains that while Putin has been previously willing to accept some NATO expansion, he draws the line at border countries like Georgia and Ukraine, as would the U.S. if, for example, Mexico entered a military alliance with China.
"I think the reason so many people in America, in the West, in NATO" are now claiming this is about preventing a blossoming democracy on Russia's western border "is, basically, to cover their own tracks. They were warned, repeatedly, that this was going to lead to war. They didn't want to listen. And now, they're saying that it wasn't about NATO expansion because they don't want to acknowledge they were warned that this would lead to crisis," Lieven argues. "That doesn't, of course, excuse Putin's invasion. We don't know what's going on in Putin's head, but we do know what the Russians have said repeatedly for almost thirty years."
On Putin's claim that the invasion was meant to end an ongoing "genocide" and to "demilitarize and denazify Ukraine," Lieven scoffs, describing some of the realities about the limited reach of the ultra-nationalist Azov Movement in Ukraine. "This is absolutely grotesque Russian propaganda, colossally exaggerated," he says, adding that the accusation about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is Jewish and lost family members to the Nazis during WWII "is unspeakably mendacious and grotesque. This is not Nazi-ism and this is not genocide. That is a lie on a truly monstrous scale by Putin."
As to his proposed plan for peace, and the difficult choices that will come with it for many in the West, as he detailed yesterday at the Quincy Institute, it largely comes down to an agreement where Ukraine declares neutrality (not unlike Austria did in the 1950s), which means they won't join NATO, but they also won't join an alliance with the eastern military bloc either; ceding Crimea and the eastern Donbass regions held by Russia-backed separatists before the war to the Russians (though internationally-observed referendums should be held by the citizens of each region and territory gained during the current crisis would be returned to Ukraine), and all of the Western sanctions on Russia, both before and during the war would be lifted. There is, of course, a bit more to it, but that seems to be the general contours.
I ask if Putin would accept such an agreement and whether it would be seen as rewarding him for his aggression. "If what you really care about is ending the war and saving the lives of Ukrainians, and eliminating the threat of nuclear annihilation, people need to say just what is wrong with an agreement along these lines," Lieven answers. "If this were offered and the Russians then refused it, and introduced new demands, like replacing the Ukrainian government, then we would know that Putin's ambitions went much further. And that, of course, would be totally illegitimate and a peace agreement would be impossible. But we don't know that until that has been offered."
"In international affairs, alas, you always have to mix some combination of respect for international law with respect for realities on the ground if you're not prepared to fight," he tells me. Or, as he quotes Robert A. Lovett, U.S. Defense Secretary from 1951 to 1953, at the beginning of his article laying out this roadmap: "Forget the cheese --- let's get out of the trap."
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We continue the impossible balancing act on today's BradCast between coverage of the chilling news out of Ukraine and the somewhat less grim --- but still (mostly) grim --- news out of the federal judiciary in our own teetering democracy. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]
FIRST, in our quick round-up of the latest developments in Russia's horrific assault against Ukraine:
NEXT, it's back to U.S. news focused on the federal judiciary, with the great MARK JOSEPH STERN, legal journalist at Slate, who, on the day that Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement from the U.S. Supreme Court back in January, told us that his "likely" successor would be Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Last week, she was nominated by President Biden to the High Court.
Among the many court-related matters discussed with Stern today (including several of them in a lightning round, as we tried to catch up with a boatload of news that has otherwise been overshadowed by the war in Eastern Europe)...
FINALLY, Desi Doyen joins us for an only slightly less insane Green News Report: On Biden's SOTU, on Russia's oil and gas industry getting pummeled because of its attack on Ukraine; and some VERY encouraging news about wind energy...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Biden touts infrastructure and clean energy in State of the Union address; Majority of Americans willing to shoulder higher gas prices to help Ukraine; PLUS: Russian oil and gas industry getting pummeled as another oil giant pulls out... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Australia's record-breaking floods can be traced back to one thing; Climate responses that backfire are a growing problem; For the first time, nations band together in a move toward ending plastics pollution; Wildfires may slow recovery of the ozone layer; Congress has historic chance to protect America's free-flowing rivers; GAO concerned by flood risk management at nation's hazardous chemical facilities; Oil industry stirs blowback after weaving war into US lobbying; Why Ford didn't spin off its EV business; Florida's beloved Key Deer close to climate extinction... PLUS: World's insect population is in decline, and that's bad news for humans... and much, MUCH more! ...
"Democracies are rising to the moment," President Biden forcefully asserted during his first official State of the Union address on Tuesday night. "And the world is clearly choosing the side of peace and security." Is he right? We discuss that and much more on Biden's impossible address last night on today's BradCast.
Before we jump in, however, it was also Election Day in Texas on Tuesday, the nation's first primaries of the 2022 mid-term cycle. We briefly cover the reported results of the top-line races for Governor and Attorney General, as well as some interesting House races with progressive challengers on the Democratic side. There were also several curious anomalies we are looking into out Houston's Harris County, regarding the reported shutdown of some polling places to Democrats (and others, purportedly, shut down to Republican voters); some post-election squabbles on delayed results from the County, reportedly due to problems tallying long ballots on their new, 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting systems; and continuing concerns about thousands of rejected vote-by-mail ballots thanks to new restrictions on absentee voting enacted by the Republican lawmakers last year in the state's newly adopted SB1 law.
Our main focus today, of course, is on Biden's first SOTU. This one, amid a newly raging war on Ukraine, as the autocratic Russia continues its appalling attack on its democratic sovereign neighbor, and as the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday condemned Russia's aggression and atrocities by a lopsided 141 to 5 vote. There were 35 abstentions (including China) and support for Russia offered from Belarus, Cuba, North Korea and Syria.
As if Biden didn't already have enough to worry about with the continuing, if waning (for now), pandemic; an insurrectionist and obstructionist Republican Party; two obstructionist Democrats blocking the bulk of his domestic agenda; and both an opposition party and corporate media hell-bent on weaponizing predictable post-pandemic inflation, even amid a booming economy with growing wages, record corporate profits, record low unemployment, and the highest growth in GDP since the 1980s. All of which has resulted, reasonably or not, resulted in Biden's approval ratings plummeting in advance of this year's critical mid-terms.
Any one of those issues (and, yes, there are more!) would be enough for one State of the Union address. Biden, somehow, had to deal with them all on Tuesday night.
There is a lot to discuss today, as we break down key moments from Biden's remarks. But, just for a taste, while they both Parton and Eskow laud the President for rising to the moment and bringing the world together regarding Russia, on the domestic front, political trouble may loom.
"Democrats always have this problem," Parton notes. "The historical pattern here is clear. The Republicans come in and they wreck the place, and Democrats come in and have to clean up the mess. And in the first two years, it's really hard."
"He's not getting a break from the media," Eskow argues. "I think people are also terribly sick of COVID, and he's had to bow to that fatigue. On the grand scheme of things, the big lesson here is the limits of Presidential power, and the fact that he would love to be doing a lot more. Here's a man who spent 50 years running for President, now he's got it, and I feel sorry for him."
Did last night serve to help Biden and the Democrats change their trajectory as we head toward a mid-term election which the media continues to remind voters is (almost always) a historically difficult one for the party in power? Tune in for our special coverage and conversation on that and much, much more...
Gotta keep this very brief as tonight's State of the Union address begins shortly (full coverage on tomorrow's BradCast), but the madness of Putin's war on Ukraine continues today, as some Republicans here at home seem to be rooting both for him and against democracy itself. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]
We begin again today with coverage of the latest noteworthy news out of Russia/Ukraine, along with a few warnings about propaganda from all sides and the potential for erroneous reports amid the fog of war. Among the many stories covered today...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Western countries escalate sanctions against Russia, but not yet on Russia's energy exports; Dire new U.N. assessment warns we are running out of time to adapt to climate change impacts; PLUS: U.S. Supreme Court hears challenge to EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): How can I reduce my gas consumption?; One way to combat Russia: move faster on clean energy; Operator of Nord Stream 2 files for bankruptcy; Biden's first offshore wind lease sale shatters records; 15 nuclear reactors are in the Ukraine war zone; California's Sierra snowpack vanishing months early, drought looks inevitable; U.N. to agree on 'historic' plastics treaty; Biden could score a climate victory in a single word: 'plastics'... PLUS: Chicken Frenzy: a state awash in hog farms faces a poultry boom... and much, MUCH more! ...
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