Thursday, March 18, 2021

Last Call For Some Killer Diplomacy

President Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a "killer" in this week's ABC News interview, and Moscow is having absolute fits over the subject.

President Vladimir V. Putin dryly wished President Biden “good health” on Thursday after the American leader assented to a description of his Russian counterpart as a “killer,” and long-running tensions morphed into a furious exchange of trans-Atlantic taunts.

The previous evening, Russia took the rare step of recalling its ambassador to Washington after Mr. Biden’s comments in a television interview, warning of the possibility of an “irreversible deterioration of relations.” On Thursday, seated in a gilded chair on the seventh anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Mr. Putin all but called Mr. Biden a killer himself.

“When I was a child, when we argued in the courtyard, we said the following: ‘If you call someone names, that’s really your name,’” Mr. Putin said, quoting a Russian schoolyard rhyme. “When we characterize other people, or even when we characterize other states, other people, it is always as though we are looking in the mirror.”

Despite Mr. Biden’s long-running criticism of Mr. Putin, some Russian analysts had voiced hope that the Kremlin could forge a productive working relationship with the new administration in Washington on areas of common interest. But Mr. Biden’s combative stance in an interview with ABC News that was broadcast on Wednesday seemed to puncture those hopes, even as many of Mr. Putin’s critics praised the American president’s comments.

In the interview, when asked whether he thought Mr. Putin was a “killer,” Mr. Biden responded: “Mmm hmm, I do.” He further pledged that Mr. Putin is “going to pay” for Russian interference in the 2020 election, which was detailed in an American intelligence report this week.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration announced sanctions against Russian officials after declassifying an intelligence finding that Russia’s domestic intelligence agency had orchestrated the poisoning of the opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny.

“He said everything right,” a top aide to Mr. Navalny, Leonid Volkov, posted on Twitter, referring to Mr. Biden’s comments.

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, told reporters Thursday that Mr. Biden stood by his words. “He gave a direct answer to a direct question,” she said.
Yes, Putin said "I know you are, but what am I?"
Putin's pretty pissed. That alone makes Biden better than Trump by orders of magnitude. 

These sanctions are going to hurt, gang.


The GOP's Race To The Bottom, Con't

 To recap why I call Republicans the party of White Supremacy, Wisconsin Republicans, in control of the state legislature by dint of the most gerrymandered districts in America by some accounts, chose to overwhelmingly honor the death of Rush Limbaugh, but voted down Black History Month. Again.

Wisconsin Senate Republicans voted 18-12 Tuesday to pass a resolution honoring Rush Limbaugh, the divisive conservative commentator and radio host who died February 17. Two Republicans, Sen. Dale Kooyenga and Eric Wimberger, did not vote.

In the same Senate session, Republicans turned down Democratic efforts to include slavery and Black history in a bill requiring public schools to teach the Holocaust and other genocides; they also rejected another attempt at a Black History Month resolution after passing on a similar effort last month.

“The Republicans have issues with who we as a Black body choose to honor, but yet we have to sit in this body and honor somebody like Rush Limbaugh who was a homophobic, xenophobic racist,” Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee) said.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in a press conference earlier in the afternoon said some Republicans had objected to some of the people included on a list honoring Black History last month. Rush Limbaugh, on the other hand, he said had the wide support of the GOP caucus.

“We asked them to do [a Black History Month resolution] that was more generic, like the ones we had done in the past. They really didn’t want to,” Vos said. “So we never reached consensus.”


Teaching kids about slavery is too controversial. Rush Limbaugh, a man who was an unrepentant, Black-hating racist for decades, is fine.

This is who Republicans are.

The Day Hell Froze Over In Texas, Con't

Remember that in the end, Republicans will take advantage of everyone they can find, then tell the victims those people are the bad guys while counting the money they took while people watch and applaud.
While many Texans last week were worried about sky-high electric bills from February’s winter storms, the state’s sole utility commissioner was privately reassuring out-of-state investors who profited from the crisis that he was working to keep their windfall safe.

Texas Monthly has obtained a recording of a 48-minute call on March 9 in which Texas Public Utility Commission chairman Arthur D’Andrea discussed the fallout from the February power crisis with investors. During that call, which was hosted by Bank of America Securities and closed to the public and news media, D’Andrea took pains to ease investors’ concerns that electricity trades, transacted at the highest prices the market allows, might be reversed, potentially costing trading firms and publicly traded generating companies millions of dollars.

“I apologize for the uncertainty,” D’Andrea said, promising to put “the weight of the commission” behind efforts to keep billions of dollars from being returned to utilities that were forced—thanks to decisions by the PUC—to buy power at sky-high prices, even after the worst of the blackout had passed.

Billed as “Learning the Texas Two Step: A Chat with the PUCT,” the call originally was scheduled for early February but was postponed until after the winter storm. The conversation shows a coziness between a top Texas regulator and some of the biggest players in the electricity market at a time when the PUC’s oversight is under fire from lawmakers. At one point, during a discussion about whether natural gas, which also saw huge price spikes during the crisis, would be “repriced,” D’Andrea said no, adding that most legislators understand that gas is priced by global markets and is out of their purview. “But I’ll let you know if I hear anything crazy on it,” D’Andrea said.

PUC spokesman Andrew Barlow said the call was part of regularly scheduled discussions between commissioners “with constituent groups across the spectrum who are interested in myriad issues.” He stressed that D’Andrea did not reveal confidential information or make comments that he hasn’t said publicly or in recent testimony before the Legislature.

Much of D’Andrea’s discussion focused on the issue of repricing some of the most expensive electricity trades during the crisis. Wholesale power prices rose 10,000 percent during the third week of February, hitting the state-imposed maximum of $9,000 per megawatt-hour and staying at those levels for days.

The PUC mandated that the $9,000 prices stay in effect for 32 hours after the market had returned to normal, a move that has angered many municipal utilities and retail electricity providers. Those providers are now struggling with huge bills that they say are unjustified and could push them into bankruptcy, while potentially eventually driving up bills for millions of residential and commercial consumers in Texas. The independent market monitor for ERCOT, the grid operator overseen by the PUC, has called the prices artificially inflated and recommended that billions be returned to purchasers. Some lawmakers have also called for contracts sold during that extended period to be repriced, and lawmakers are debating a bill this week that would force D’Andrea to issue refunds.

Understand that the job of Texas power grid regulators isn't to provide Texans with reliable power at a reasonable cost, it's to make Wall Street energy investors as much profit as possible. Once you understand that, everything makes sense.

Oh, and Arthur D'Andrea has resigned.

On Tuesday night, PUC chairman Arthur D’Andrea, who was appointed chairman by Governor Greg Abbott less than two weeks ago, has resigned. In a statement, Abbott said, “Tonight, I asked for and accepted the resignation of PUC Commissioner Arthur D’Andrea. I will be naming a replacement in the coming days who will have the responsibility of charting a new and fresh course for the agency. Texans deserve to have trust and confidence in the Public Utility Commission, and this action is one of many steps that will be taken to achieve that goal.”
Trust and confidence in being ripped off.
It's what Republican-led governments do.
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