Infopost | 2023.11.22

Turkey dinner with globe superimposed

Thanksgiving is about turkey, family, and lively political discussion. On the heels of another federal budget continuing resolution and headed into a presidential election year, this should be a Thanksgiving for the ages.
Dry run

I was recently reading the comments section of a WSB post about BofA predicting $50B in distressed debt and saw this flamebait:

Euro347 Euro347 we send Ukraine $100B a month. Should be fine.

A robust discussion followed:

Most of the money has been spent already. ATACAMs for example are at the end of their shelf life, some being produced in 1996. It's not that there are palettes with dollar bills being flown over. The equipment gets purchased from US companies so the cash stays in circulation here. But all of this doesn't sound that enraging so let's keep your understanding.
So now we get to spend another 200 billion to make new ones that we will send to X war 20 years from now and say "don't worry that stuff was made 20 years ago and money was already spent". "We need to rebuild our weapons that we depleted sending to Ukraine."
As far as I know ATACAMs are a thing of the past and that program ended, replaced with something else. And again, end of shelf life means you have to make new ones and spend the money anyways if you want to keep that system alive. And yes, you are correct, if in 20 years we have a war X and those newly produced things start to deteriorate, then the cycle repeats. I am not a huge fan of spending so much taxpayer money on military gear, I am just pointing out how things are. But no matter what, in my book the old ATACAMs are being put to great use over there. I don't want Putin being able to expand his wannabe empire. Nothing within his borders does well.
It's the cheapest war with a Russia we're ever gonna get.
For sure, from the view of the US this is the most economical way of depleting Russia's military assets and curb its influence.
ATACAMs are being replaced by Precision Strike Missile. 2 missiles for the same pod. [1]
So.. "end of shelf life", but also fully capable of defending against Russia. Which one is it?
It speaks volumes about the superiority of our equipment and the inferiority of Russia.
It speaks volumes people actually believe fully capable weapons are "phased out" rather than Raytheon and Lockheed Martin just want a new contract to make new stuff. [2]
> So.. "end of shelf life", but also fully capable of defending against Russia. Which one is it?

Both, not sure why you think it's an either/or situation.
If we trust that they are effective enough for ukraine to defend against russia, then why do they need to be phased out? Is the "shelf life" they determined fake or artificial? [3]
Because things don't last forever in storage and it costs money to maintain them, the longer they stay in storage the more it costs to maintain them (more parts fail, less parts are available because the production lines were stopped decades ago) and as technology advances the less useful they are against a peer adversary. Ukraine also isn't fighting current gen tech and much of the equipment we're sending Ukraine, despite being old, was literally designed to fight the hardware Russia is currently using.
That means that soon it becomes useless.
According to.... lobbyists paid by Raytheon or bureacrats that want to pad their budget and will switch jobs to some military contractor after 5 years?

I dont believe their bullshit. Same people that put us into trillions of dollars of debt to fight some goat herders in the desert.
Can you elaborate your claim? Who got paid by whom, how much, when and exactly why? Or are you just spitting out simple queues of words that appear to make sense? Deterioration of rocket propellants are a real thing as well as end of life for seeker heads.
"oh don't worry the cash stayed here with Lockheed and raytheon"

How does that make it ok? At least the cash going to Ukraine would've negated some inflation, cash staying here just adds to inflation. Best would've been just not to spend. Screw Ukraine and screw Lockheed. If they govt has got some extra money then just refund the taxpayers. [4]
Yes we should give the banks 46 billion in surplus military assets to help them out.

Average WS bets level of understanding of what's going on lol [5]

Say what you will about degenerate gamblers, I think they're doing a better job than the House of Representatives or your average podcast. I annotated a few comments to add some clarification/commentary:
  1. From my reading, the PSM isn't yet deployable so ATACMS has a few years left. That said, unless we preemptively station them in Taiwan or invade Iran, they're probably going to be gathering dust.
  2. /u/impulsikk's comment is too reductive to really address but I'd be remiss to not point out that 'Options & Maintenance' dollars are absolutely a priority in the defense-industrial base. Sure the Lockheeds and Raytheons love to sell the next technological leap but those processes are more risky and laborious than O&M wins.
  3. To /u/impulsikk's credit, at least he sticks around the discussion and asks honest(?) follow-ups.
  4. Refunding military contract money to taxpayers would be inflationary as well so it's probably best not to take that narrow view, especially with something that has profound global security implications.
  5. Referencing the media's concern trolling about supporting Ukraine when Maui was devastated by wildfires.
Saddam hiding place meme Ukraine Zelensky lmao
Source. Russia's expectation for a three-day war, exactly as it occured in the timeline where Harambe is still alive.
To the dinner table

Last winter the Ukraine conflict exited its period of dominating the news cycle. The war was no longer new, there weren't as many human rights atrocities, and it became clear that neither side was looking at a near-term military victory. So aside from the occasional cruise missile strike on infrastructure, suicide drones in Moscow, and PMC mutiny, it was easy to lose track of Ukraine's fight for independence.

But then the US House of Representatives got involved. If Ukraine aid is something the president and upper house can agree on, surely it's a reason to boot Kevin McCarthy from speakership and go four-plus months without a budget. And so the conflict became a lot harder to ignore because it ground Washington to a halt.

I'll hit the highlights of the rhetoric that flies around the media, previewed in the WSB discussion above.

"The summer offensive failed"

Call an ambulance meme javelin zelensky cope cage

Between the very modest gains of Russia's 2022/2023 winter offensive and Ukraine's summer offensive, not a lot of territory has changed hands. The how and why are way out of my depth, but I'll regurgitate some things I've read:
And so from a territorial perspective, the summer offensive certainly did not push Russia back to its borders. But that might be largely irrelevant when you consider what winning looks like...

"Ukraine is losing"/"Russia is winning"

When people talk about the stalled summer offensive, I wonder what they envision the endgame to be. Is it like Risk where you fight all the opposing pieces in a territory and either succeed or halt your attack and gain nothing?

I'm not sure pushing Russia back to its pre-war borders brings the conflict any closer to a conclusion. Considering Moscow's "NATO expansion" rhetoric and its inability to not invoke the Great Patriotic War, perhaps this would only strengthen their resolve. Since Ukraine isn't going to capture Moscow or depose Putin, their path to victory is to defeat Russia's will to continue the war.

Ukraine is doing an admirable job of eroding that will by inflicting heavy casualties on the invading force. The rest of the western world, except Rand Paul, is doing an admirable job of eroding that will by isolating Russia economically. Are we near the end? As they say, the end will be gradual at first and then sudden. But its portentous to see more waves of mobilization, the Russian central bank doing emergency rate hikes, pro-invasion milbloggers getting locked up, and the MoD hitting up North Korea for munitions.

So yeah, Ukraine pushing Russia back to its 2014 borders would be neat and useful in ceasefire negotiations. But those negotiations won't happen until Russia no longer wants to fight.

"... so why back the losing side?"

Here's one: Russia has threatened nuclear escalation at numerous points in this conflict. They're not even fighting us, just our scrapyard-bound equipment. You'd think Russia, of all countries, would have a kinder view of lend-lease but I'd settle for threats that were in the same ballpark of reciprocity.

There are other reasons of course, another being that they already said, "you're not on our side".

"Blank check..."

Himars system launching rocket

Rand Paul and the Freedom Caucus are quick to describe the Ukraine aid packages as palettes of cash being shipped to Kyiv. Well, they largely let their proxies use the words 'cash' and 'blank check' while they stick to more accurate/ambiguous terms such as 'funding'. Somehow the waters are muddy enough that someone in Washington had to call it out as malarky:

President Biden We send Ukraine equipment sitting in our stockpiles. And when we use the money allocated by Congress, we use it to replenish our own stores, our own stockpiles, with new equipment. Equipment that defends America and is made in America. Patriot missiles for air defense batteries, made in Arizona. Artillery shells manufactured in 12 states across the country, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas. And so much more.

And he wasn't alone:

Senator McConnell If you look at the Ukraine assistance, let's - let's talk about where the money is really going. A significant portion of it's being spent in the United States in 38 different states, replacing the weapons that we sent to Ukraine with more modern weapons. So we're rebuilding our industrial base."

"No Americans are getting killed in Ukraine. We're rebuilding our industrial base. The Ukrainians are destroying the army of one of our biggest rivals. I have a hard time finding anything wrong with that. I think it's wonderful that they're defending themselves.

The shout-outs are gross stump speech pandering but the numbers are available:

PBS CFR Ukraine aid breakdown
Source. From a pretty good PBS article that lists all of the Desert Storm-era materiel shipped to Ukraine as well the per-country aid chart but adjusted for GDP.

"2017-2021: no invasion, 2021-2025: invasion"

Trump tweet Israel attack never would have happened

I have a feeling we're going to hear a lot about this in the near future. Before I get into the validity of the claim, I should say I'm unsatisfied with the response commonly heard from the Left: "It's because when Trump was president, Putin got everything he wanted." This can't be true since we know that Putin wanted Ukraine. He also didn't want Ukraine to receive the blessings of St. Javelin, but that did happen. The claim is not meritless, of course, but it would benefit from some nuance.

So did Trump keep Russia out of Ukraine?

Viktor Yanukovych was Ukraine's president from 2010-2014, during this time Russia did not invade Crimea. Five days after Oleksandr Turchynov replaced Yanukovych, Russia invaded and Crimea. Could Yanukovych campaign under the banner of being tough on national security because Russia didn't invade in his term? Of course not, he fled to Russia to escape prosecution (and, well, all this).

Or, simply, if the former president did keep Russia out of Ukraine it requires something more substantive than a tweet about a counterfactual.

ISW Russian President Vladimir Putin didn't invade Ukraine in 2022 because he feared NATO. He invaded because he believed that NATO was weak, that his efforts to regain control of Ukraine by other means had failed, and that installing a pro-Russian government in Kyiv would be safe and easy. His aim was not to defend Russia against some non-existent threat but rather to expand Russia's power, eradicate Ukraine's statehood, and destroy NATO, goals he still pursues.
United States v. Zackey Rahimi

A couple of weeks ago I got sucked into oral arguments for the payday loan lobby's attempt to destroy the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I noticed we're finally getting a follow up to last year's Bruen ruling wherein Justice Thomas called for a comprehensive reevaluation of firearms regulation. This year we'll see multiple 2A cases but US v. Rahimi went first.

The tldr

There is a federal law that basically says someone under a protective order for domestic violence faces inprisonment for not surrendering their firearms. Bruen's originalism test calls this law into question because, well, there weren't any instances of domestic abusers having their firearms taken away in our country's founding era. And that's what the lower court ruled to land this case in front of Roberts et al.

There's some discretion in the 'histories and traditions' test; the Bruen decision says that a modern law doesn't need an 'exact twin' from 1789. So the Rahimi decision will be the first major guidepost for interpreting the 2022 ruling.

Not exactly a poster boy

JUSTICE THOMAS: And we are -- we have a very thin record, and I'm trying to get a sense of what actually happened in this case.

MR. WRIGHT: So there are allegations that were taken in the federal pre-sentence report, and -- and those are the ones that made their way into the opinion below. And if I could then distinguish between the facts that the court found for purposes of fixing a sentence in this case and the facts that could be contested at a jury, the facts that are the subject of the guilty plea, the ones that are essential to the conviction, in terms of the former category, there was a finding that there was, you know, a physical assault, that someone had attempted to intervene and that Mr. Rahimi had fired a gun into the air at that time. Those -- and -- and -- and there are pending charges right now in Tarrant County for three misdemeanor offenses that are the same allegations that are the -- so -- so the -- the federal pre-sentence report found that those actions preceded and were the cause for the protective order.

Huh. Well we're talking about constitutional rights here so the specifics don't really matter. At a high level, the USG had two potential approaches to defend the constitutionality of Congress's disarmament law:
  1. Assert that the provision fits within the totally acceptable framework of Bruen, lending the originalism test legitimacy in order to win the day.
  2. Try to contest or evade the originalism element of Bruen.
The first option was the USG's position because it kind of had to be. Interestingly, Justice Jackson seems to have adopted the second one and argued it throughout the proceeding.

Elevator pitches

Solicitor General Prelogar, representing the United States: the contested statute falls within the latitude afforded by Bruen in finding historical precedence, the authority to disarm citizens has analogues e.g. children and the mentally incapacitated.

Solictor General Prelogar Like Heller and McDonald, Bruen recognized that Congress may disarm those who are not law-abiding, responsible citizens. That principle is firmly grounded in the Second Amendment's history and tradition. Throughout our nation's history, legislatures have disarmed those who have committed serious criminal conduct or whose access to guns poses a danger, for example, loyalists, rebels, minors, individuals with mental illness, felons, and drug addicts.

J. Matthew Wright, representing Zackey Rahimi: simply there were no founding era laws penalizing firearm possession from persons within the political body.

J. Matthew Wright Justice Kagan, I'm looking for a ban [from the founding era to use as a Bruen analogue]. I'm looking for a ban, some criminal punishment for just the keeping of a firearm. That's what I'm looking for. And it's based not on the loss of status of citizenship, you know, or being outside the community. I'm looking for a ban that applies to a rights-holding American citizen. I mean, that's -- I'd start with that.

Short of that, again -- and I suspect the response to that is this Court has tentatively approved felon in possession. But felons are so different. They have all kinds of process. There's a long tradition of denying people convicted of infamous crimes all manner of rights of citizenship or not.

Facial challenge, due process challenge, and trying again next year

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, but it -- it's a facial challenge.

MR. WRIGHT: Right.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: And understand your answer to say that there will be circumstances where someone could be shown to be sufficiently dangerous that the firearm can be taken from him.


CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: And why isn't that the end of the case?

MR. WRIGHT: Because --

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: All you need to do is show that there are circumstances in which the statute can be constitutionally applied.

I wonder of Chief Justice Roberts is hoping to make this one go away quietly. After ethics scandals, politicization, and the near-abandoment of stare decisis, re-arming domestic abusers is probably the last thing he wants added to his legacy.

Justice Jackson v. originalism

JUSTICE JACKSON: Then what's the point of going to the Founding Era? I mean, I thought it was doing some work. But, if we're still applying modern sensibilities, I don't really understand the historical framing.

GENERAL PRELOGAR: The work that history and tradition are doing is helping to discern those principles in the first place. The idea, for example, that you can ban firearms in sensitive places, the fact is that the Framers didn't ban firearms in schools even though they existed at the Founding, but the Court has already recognized that those analogues and the historic banning of firearms in places where they present safety concerns can justify a modern-day regulation that does require the banning of weapons in schools.

Justice Jackson seemingly tried to bait the Solicitor General into condemning the originalism part of Bruen. Prelogar's responses seemed to be, "you can fit a lot under the originalism umbrella, here is what the Court has already put there...". She also asked the respondent if 'histories and traditions' makes sense as a general principle:

JUSTICE JACKSON: But we have a history and traditions test. I -- I guess I -- I'm a little troubled by having a history and traditions test that also requires some sort of culling of the history so that only certain people's history counts. So what do we do with that? Isn't that a flaw with respect to the test?

MR. WRIGHT: Your Honor, I think what you do is the Bruen test starts with the text. And so, ultimately, historical tradition as I understand it is something the Court does to make sure its textual interpretation is correct and consistent with the original understanding of the amendment.

So, in the situation that you're describing, those laws, they were not people who were part of the community. They never -- they weren't seen as the people. And when these laws were challenged, including in this very Court, that was the reason.

The architect

JUSTICE THOMAS: My -- my question -- the reason I'm asking you that, you made the point that that was a -- a small matter and it has huge consequences. I think you said that even if Respondent moved to another state or across the country, the consequences would be the same, even though he would present no danger in Texas.

And just to be clear, are you -- you're not challenging the state court aspect of this?

MR. WRIGHT: That's -- that's correct, Your Honor.

JUSTICE THOMAS: But solely -- and your language was it was a per se violation or automatic violation of 922, and that is your problem?

Justice Thomas appeared to lay the foundation for an opinion that a federal-level disarmament is overkill, probably handwaving away stalkery behaviors and cities like Cincinnati and Memphis. Even more nonsensical is the idea that states could handle disarming domestic abusers in their own jurisdictions when the Rahimi challenge is a constitutional one.

In fact, this makes so little sense that I'm almost certain this isn't what he's getting at.

The bigger picture

It's possible that the Court will try to make this one go away and not decide if there is historical precedent for disarming non-felons. As Prelogar points out (and everyone predicted last year), Bruen declared open season on firearms legislation and lower courts have interpreted the originalism test in a variety of ways:

Solictor General Prelogar I think that it's important for the Court to understand the destabilizing consequences of that reading in the lower courts.

Just last week, a court invalidated Section 922(g)(1), the felon prohibition statute, on its face as applied to the most violent and horrific crimes imaginable on the theory that the government didn't have a sufficiently precise historical analogue to justify a permanent ban on felons... And a court has also invalidated on its face the provision of federal law that prohibits possession of firearms with obliterated serial numbers, again, on the theory that we don't have a Founding Era analogue that is sufficiently precise that says you have to serialize firearms possession.
Now you're ready for Thanksgiving

Enjoy, just keep in mind that if you're done with dinner and still sitting at the table, talking politics, and swirling your third gravy martini, it might to time to punch out.

F-22 Raptor demo flares

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