It was a day of some light amid the darkness. As usual, these days, we'll take what we can get. Today's BradCast may lurch you back and forth through both, though we do end on several upbeat notes of lightness and light.
Among both the light and dark stories covered on today's program...
- Russia continued to add to its many war crimes in Ukraine, further assuring Vladimir Putin's ignominious place in the history as one of humanity's most villainous war criminals. On Wednesday, Ukraine charged that Russian airstrikes flattened the historic Donetsk Regional Theatre of Drama in Mariupol, where "hundreds" of civilians were reportedly sheltering. As Ukraine's Foreign Minister tweeted, "the building is now fully ruined," adding "Russia could not have not known this was a civilian shelter." The untold number of victims is added to the thousands already reported as killed and buried in mass graves in the Southern coastal city which has been cut off by Russian forces for weeks now from food, water, electricity and medicine.
- In brighter news, a glimmer of hope for peace over the past 24 hours or so, amid continuing negotiations between Ukraine and Russia. The framework reportedly echoes a similar roadmap put forth on this program by the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft's Anatole Lieven a couple of weeks ago. Both sides are citing progress toward what is emerging as a 15-point plan for ending the war. It includes Ukraine's acknowledgement that they will not become a member of NATO, but will become a defensively armed neutral country along the lines of Austria or Sweden, with security guarantees from allies such as the US, UK and Turkey. In return, Russia would fully withdraw its troops. There are still many questions surrounding what "security guarantees" might amount to, and exactly which regions Russia would fully withdraw from. But the news of both "hope" and "compromise" is both significant and encouraging.
- Meanwhile, Ukraine's courageous President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the U.S. Congress on Wednesday morning via video-conference, eliciting bipartisan standing ovations both before and after his remarks. We share his presentation in full today, as he invoked Pearl Harbor and 9/11 and referenced both Martin Luther King and Mount Rushmore as he asked for additional support from U.S. lawmakers, called for still more sanctions against Russian lawmakers, and asked for President Biden's help in leading the world toward peace. "We need you right now," he said, adding: "I see no sense in life if it cannot stop the deaths."
- Several hours later, President Biden offered his own remarks at the White House, announcing a new round of defensive munitions earmarked for Ukraine. Today's $800 million tranche brings the total, in both military and humanitarian support sent to Ukraine since Biden took office, to about $2 billion. Congress has appropriated another $14 billion or so. In his White House comments, Biden excoriated "Putin's depraved onslaught". Later in the day he described the disgraced Russian leader as a "war criminal".
- Next, with those heavy lifts behind us, we return to domestic politics, as the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by a quarter of a percent on Wednesday, in hopes of easing inflation by forcing the economy into recession. The move follows yesterday's official withdraw of Biden's nomination of Sarah Bloom Raskin to a seat on the Fed's Board of Governors. Republicans in the Senate Banking Committee had denied a quorum to prevent her confirmation by refusing to show up at all. But her fate was finally sealed this week when Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said he would not support her. The phony complaints from the GOP had to do with Raskin's anodyne commentary in the past that the Fed should reconsider its support of the fossil fuel industry amid our worsening climate crisis. Manchin, of course, makes millions from the coal industry and his campaign has raked in huge bucks from Big Fossil Fuel. Republicans, on the other hand, who approved Raskin for other roles twice in the past, may have had an additional reason to block the confirmation of Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD)'s well-qualified wife to a seat on the Fed Board.
- In the brightest news we can find today, the U.S. Senate, which usually only finds bipartisan agreement on matters that have to do with war, found something else to agree on Tuesday. It is unqualified great news and anyone who says otherwise is embarrassingly wrong. The Sunshine Protection Act, co-sponsored by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) was passed by the Senate with unanimous consent yesterday! The measure would make Daylight Saving Time permanent as of 2023. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) correctly lauded the long-overdue initiative by declaring: "No more dark afternoons in the winter! No more losing an hour of sleep every spring! We want more sunshine during our most productive waking hours!" Of course, she's right. And --- even though my remarks on this topic bring more email (both for and against) than just about anything else I ever cover --- I will note that anyone who opposes this, no matter how good their reasons by may be, are still shamefully wrong. If I can find time in the days ahead --- especially if it looks like this will move forward in the House and on to the President --- I'll try to find some time to share some of those amusing emails from listeners, especially those from some our nation's most determined Eeyores of Darkness.
- Finally, after delivering the light that we earlier promised, we end with a rainbow of it! Specifically, it's the return of brilliant satirist and national treasure Randy Rainbow, after a too-long absence. His new tribute to "Karens" Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) closes out today's program with a much needed laugh...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)