The Widdershins

Archive for April 2014

oligarchy

Oldsmobile, er country.  And I think you know it and I know it.  But in case you needed to have that sneaky feeling confirmed, two researchers at Princeton Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page  pretty much confirmed that our democracy doesn’t really exist anymore.  Welcome to the oligarchy.  And if you are unfamiliar with the term, let me give you a definition of it.

noun, plural ol·i·gar·chies.

1.

a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few.

2.

a state or organization so ruled.

3.

the persons or class so ruling.
We all pretty well know who those folks are:  the Kock Bros. for instance, definitely the oil companies, Big Pharma, Big Insurance companies and the like.
Asking “[w]ho really rules?” researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page argue that over the past few decades America’s political system has slowly transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where wealthy elites wield most power.
Further, when you look at the over 1800 “policy initiatives” they looked at, and when you look at their starting point, you start to see it all coming together.
Using data drawn from over 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, the two conclude that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of or even against the will of the majority of voters.
Let’s see here:  When did Ronnie Raygun get elected to office?  Oh yes.
Ronald Wilson Reagan (/ˈrɒnəld ˈwɪlsən ˈrɡən/; February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004) was the 40th President of the United States (1981–1989).
So are any of us really surprised that the dismantling of our government started when Raygun went in?  Of course I’m not.  As the two write:
“The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy,” they write, “while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”
(bolding mine)
And here’s another little eye-opening (for some) tidbit that they found:
As one illustration, Gilens and Page compare the political preferences of Americans at the 50th income percentile to preferences of Americans at the 90th percentile as well as major lobbying or business groups. They find that the government—whether Republican or Democratic—more often follows the preferences of the latter group rather than the first.
Gilens and Page say this is nothing new that could possibly be attributable to the recent decisions by the Supremes in Citizens United and McCutcheon.

As the data stretching back to the 1980s suggests, this has been a long term trend, and is therefore harder for most people to perceive, let alone reverse.  (B&I mine)

“Ordinary citizens,” they write, “might often be observed to ‘win’ (that is, to get their preferred policy outcomes) even if they had no independent effect whatsoever on policy making, if elites (with whom they often agree) actually prevail.”

 

So you know all of the online petitions we get in our email and are asked to sign so they can then be presented to some congress critter?  Now you know how much of an impression they really make.

I’m not going to badmouth signing online petitions because there is a feeling of satisfaction in doing so, but just don’t hold your breath that anything will change unless somehow the “elites” somehow agree with the thing being petitioned.

There was a 2nd article at TPM

Where Sahil Kapur spoke to Martin Gilens about the study he participated in.  I’m going to paste in part of the interview here for us.

TPM: Let’s talk about the study. If you had 30 seconds to sum up the main conclusion of your study for the average person, how would you do so?

Gilens: I’d say that contrary to what decades of political science research might lead you to believe, ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States. And economic elites and interest groups, especially those representing business, have a substantial degree of influence. Government policy-making over the last few decades reflects the preferences of those groups — of economic elites and of organized interests.

TPM: You say the United States is more like a system of “Economic Elite Domination” and “Biased Pluralism” as opposed to a majoritarian democracy. What do those terms mean? Is that not just a scholarly way of saying it’s closer to oligarchy than democracy if not literally an oligarchy?

Gilens: People mean different things by the term oligarchy. One reason why I shy away from it is it brings to mind this image of a very small number of very wealthy people who are pulling strings behind the scenes to determine what government does. And I think it’s more complicated than that. It’s not only Sheldon Adelson or the Koch brothers or Bill Gates or George Soros who are shaping government policy-making. So that’s my concern with what at least many people would understand oligarchy to mean. What “Economic Elite Domination” and “Biased Pluralism” mean is that rather than average citizens of moderate means having an important role in determining policy, ability to shape outcomes is restricted to people at the top of the income distribution and to organized groups that represent primarily — although not exclusively — business.  

And this was my favorite of the interview:

 

TPM: How does a system like this perpetuate itself when after all it’s ordinary voters who cast their ballots and elect their leaders. Theoretically they can change it in a heartbeat. Why don’t they?

Gilens: That’s a very good question. I don’t have a complete answer for you. Part of it clearly is that while politicians need votes while in office, they need money to obtain and retain office. So they need to balance the activities that will benefit them in terms of money with the activities that’ll benefit them in terms of votes. Voters are not particularly effective at holding politicians accountable for the policies they adopt. Voters also have a limited choice set when going into an election. We find that policies adopted during presidential election years in particular are more consistent with public preferences than policies adopted in other years of the electoral cycle.  (again bolding and italics mine)

The entire interview is really an eye-opener and I strongly suggest you go to TPM and read it. Gilens does hand the rich and elite a few smackdowns but is somewhat gloomy about what any different outcomes might be or how they might come about.  I have downloaded the report of the study that these two conducted and I’ll try to upload it and find a place for it on the blog.

Gilens and Page only had documents and info on “policy initiatives” going back to the Ronnie Raygun era, but I’ll bet it has been going on longer than that.  Paddy Chayefsky may have had an inkling about it when he wrote Network.

 

This is an open thread but do check out the two linked articles at TPM.

 

Addendum:  I did get the study uploaded.  It’s on the right side under Activism.  Look for Gilens and Page…
It is in pdf format and should open separately.

 

 

 

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Good afternoon Widdershins.  I hope this Tuesday greeted you appropriately.

Diogenes-statue-Sinop-enhanced

You already know this, but it bears repeating.  The ex-BFF of Sean Hannity and now conservative pariah, Cliven Bundy said:

I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro.  He recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? he asked. They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.

"Diogenes" by Jules Bastien-Lapage (1873)

“Diogenes” by Jules Bastien-Lapage (1873)

Representative and Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan gave a speech in late March and said:

We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.

In order to bolster himself as the conservative’s Conservative, Ryan went on Bill Bennett’s “Morning in America” radio show, where he approvingly invoked the code name of Charles Murray, a conservative “social scientist”  who believes African-Americans are, as a population, less intelligent than whites due to genetic differences and that poverty remains a national problem because “a lot of poor people are born lazy.”

Searching for an honest man by J.H.W. Tischbein, c. 1780.

Searching for an honest man by J.H.W. Tischbein, c. 1780.

Bundy is now deemed a crank. Ryan is an intellectual thought leader of the right. Bundy has undoubtedly worked hard his entire life as a rancher. Ryan has never drawn a private sector paycheck. Bundy seems to be influenced by the conspiracy minded Alex Jones. Ryan claims to be influenced by Russian-American atheist Ayn Rand. Bundy’s perceived power is inextricably intertwined with armed militiamen. Ryan wields power by taking a meat cleaver to the social safety net. Both men have profound concerns about the federal government.

But just for a moment consider:  If there was a modern-day Diogenes dutifully searching for an honest man, of the two who would get a second look?

This is an open thread.

 

Good morning Widdershins! This week I am taking a break from my Russian/Ukrainian obsession to live up to my activist post title. To make up for my lack of actions lately, I am giving you a double whammy – two actions in one!

It is a measure of how low Congressional approval is now, that we are looking at a potential Republican Senate takeover this November. Yes, you read that correctly. People might actually go out and vote for the Party of Rape, Racism and Corporatism. Why? Because it’s the only viable alternative to voting for the do-nothing, wishy-washy Democrats, who always say the right thing, but rarely have the will or cohesiveness to act upon their alleged beliefs.

Despite my oft-stated and continuing disdain for the Democrats, I think it is incumbent upon all of us to do whatever we can to prevent this takeover from happening. If the Republicans gain control of the Senate, they will do exactly what they did in the House, and gerrymander the voting districts so radically that Congress will be under their control for the foreseeable future. (shudder) Unless the Pubs kick the radical wingnuts to the curb and become a more centrist Party (i.e., to the left of Genghis Khan), having the Senate in their unbreakable grip is a future too horrible to contemplate. So, today’s activism is to do whatever you can to support three Democratic candidates running for Senate in 2014.

Did I mention they are women? From states that have never elected women Senators? And did you know there are 25 states that belong in that category? From K. Gill’s email on 4/26:

The Koch brothers and their Super PAC have already spent $22 million on TV ads aiming for a Senate takeover, and they stand poised to dump millions more into races. During the 2012 election cycle, the Kochs’ network raised at least $407 million.

And despite women making up 51 percent of the population, 25 states have still never elected a woman to the Senate – including Kentucky, Georgia and West Virginia. In all three of these elections, we have a chance to change the face of Congress, but Alison, Natalie and Michelle can’t overcome the Kochs without our help.

We need these inspiring women in the Senate, but they urgently need us to help them win.

By giving just $15 ($5 to each woman), we can help counter some of the Kochian onslaught of corporate dollars, which could swing the races to the Republican side. Can we really afford to lose?

I think not. If you agree, please do what you can to support Alison Lundergan Grimes (KY-Sen), Michelle Nunn (GA-Sen) and Natalie Tennant (WV-Sen). If money’s tight, even liking these women on Facebook or following them on Twitter can help.

One more thing: Recently I commented in a LinkedIn women’s group, that Equal Pay Day would not be meaningful until the ERA was passed. I got quite a few likes for that comment. I truly feel that without more women in the Senate and House, this vital step forward will never be taken. Let’s do everything we can to make that happen!

This is an open thread.

 

Good Sunday, Widdershins. Hopefully we are all feeling better today.  Our merry little band has been a train wreck of late – I’ve had a number of nasty episodes of sciatica, Fredster injured his knee, MadamaB has had some respiratory problems, etc. Prolix appears to be still on his feet, but little appears to be certain.  Anhhow, the list of maladies goes on and on and on.  Therefore, our best bet for today is to try some healing tunes.

There are lots of songs about healing.  There are New Age. Native American, and Gregorian chants, as well as music that just tends to make us feel better when we listen.  Let’s concentrate on anything whatsoever that will make us all feel ever so much better, or next week we may need to have a séance.

My selections are posted below in this otherwise open thread.  Have a great day, feel good, and be careful.

(1)  Healing Hands – Elton John

(2) Lakota Healing Song – Trad.

(3) The Healer – Carlos Santana and John Lee Hooker

(4) Healing Music For DNA Repair

(5) Doctor’s Orders – Aretha Franklin and Luther Vandross

What I have to look forward to

What I have to look forward to

Of course it’s not that flat here in Bama, but that’s the weather that is probably heading this way from late Monday possibly through Wednesday, according to the NWS.

weather threatsSo, I’m charging up cell phone batteries, checked the batteries in my Coleman lantern, and checked the batteries in the weather radio,but fat lot of good that may do since the NWS here is having issues with the transmitter:

…BIRMINGHAM NOAA WEATHER RADIO IS BROADCASTING ON A LIMITED BASIS…

THE BIRMINGHAM NOAA WEATHER RADIO TRANSMITTER…BROADCASTING ON A
FREQUENCY OF 162.550 MHZ…IS NOW WORKING ON A LIMITED BASIS.

A TEMPORARY ANTENNA HAS BEEN INSTALLED. HOWEVER…THE TEMPORARY
ANTENNA IS CLOSER TO THE GROUND AND OPERATING AT LOWER POWER. THIS
MEANS THAT AREAL COVERAGE AND QUALITY OF RECEPTION…INCLUDING
TONE ALERTS…WILL LIKELY BE REDUCED. A PERMANENT FIX MAY NOT
OCCUR UNTIL ON OR ABOUT MAY 3RD.

Lovely.  I may have to download one of those weather apps for the cell phone.  I’ll have to see what’s available at the app store.  So moving along…

You know that phrase “acting squirrely “?

Perhaps this is one of the instances that gave us that phrase.  The McMillen Ice Arena in Ft.Wayne Indiana closed in 2009 and the city then spent $1.9 million dollars to transform the place into a community center hosting basketball, an indoor track and other activities for young and old alike. The huge spaces that once held sheets of ice will be home to multipurpose rooms that can house basketball courts and artificial turf for indoor soccer.  The entire project is estimated to cost about $4.5 million. But that was before the squirrel.

An errant squirrel caused about $300,000 worth of damage to the new McMillen Community Center set to open June 7.

Parks Department officials told parks board members Thursday that on April 1, a squirrel got into the electrical system at the freshly renovated complex in McMillen Park, causing a massive power surge that fried the three new HVAC systems and damaged some parts of the boiler system.

The squirrel did not survive.

Good for the squirrel because had he survived, it may not have been for long once the workers saw what he did.

 Now this is an excellent example of schadenfreude

And don’t think these firefighters in Boston did not get a bit of a chuckle at this.  I’m not sure too many of them could afford a BMW Coupe like the one pictured, but then I”m not totally up on European luxury sports vehicles.

So there was this fire in Boston that eventually went up to an eight-alarm fire. Firefighters arriving on the scene saw that this very nice BMW was parked right in front of a fire hydrant that was needed to fight the fire.  So the firefighters on the scene had a great idea:  break out the driver’s window, run a hose through, break out the passenger window and run the hose out to the firetruck.

“The general reaction is that some people find humor in it,’’ said Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald. “But it’s really a serious situation. That water supply is the lifeblood of the engine company. The engine carries 750 gallons – and that could be gone in just two minutes. With that number of alarms, every hydrant is important.’’

But then there was a complicating factor in the firefighters’ workaround.

At the fire scene, MacDonald said, firefighters noticed that the way the hose was snaked through the car created a major kink, slowing down the volume of water flowing to fight the fire that eventually displaced an estimated 30 people.

A small platoon of firefighters circled the two-door, lifted it slightly and moved it about a foot away from where the driver had originally parked it, MacDonald said.

The Beemer stayed in place until after the firefighters were released from the scene.  The car was also ticketed and the next morning it was gone.

Remember the Corvette museum and the sinkhole?

That would be the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green Kentucky.  And the sinkhole would be…well the sinkhole that swallowed up eight classic Corvettes.  They were finally able to get the last one out and…well, it seems the Corvettes pancaked onto each other and this last one out is probably going to need a bit more than touch up paint.

The Mallett Hammer was donated to the Museum this past December by Kevin and Linda Helmintoller of Land O’ Lakes, Florida, Lifetime Members of the Museum and previous R8C Museum Delivery participants. Upon hearing the car had been located, Kevin traveled to Kentucky to witness the rescue operation. “I expected bad, but it’s 100 times worse,” he said. “It looks like a piece of tin foil… and it had a roll cage in it! It makes all the other cars look like they’re brand new.”

Kevin and Linda spent 13 years modifying the Corvette, a car they purchased new in 2001. The Mallett Hammer conversion was completed in June 2002 and since then has had many AntiVenom LSX Performance modifications with the car boasting 700hp with 575 torque at the flywheel. The car’s speed achievements helped it score a cover of GM High Tech Performance magazine.

There is a video of the car being extracted (for lack of a better word) which you can see here.  I’ll admit it’s painful to watch.

Playing hide and seek?

So this poor Mom in Lincoln Nebraska had to go potty.  Fact of life, we all do it.  But while she was in there, her little 3 year old boy gets out and wanders to a nearby bowling alley, obviously a place he had been before.  I say he had been there before because he obviously knew where the “claw machine” was.  And he was pretty limber and agile as he was able to crawl up into the machine so he could really get to all the stuffed toys and things there.

Madsen’s Bartender, Rachell Hildreth saw the whole thing, “I really don’t think he noticed any of us outside the machine because he was just picking up stuffed animals and putting them down where they come out of.”

There’s only one way the boy could have gotten into the machine, through the prize hole.  Luckily there’s a different way to get out.

Jim Lakey with VVS, the owner’s of the machine, came to the rescue, rushing to the bowling alley with the machine key.

“You have to weave your way in and out so he had to work pretty hard to get in there,” explains Lakey, “I had heard about this happening in other parts of the country, it’s kind of a rarity.”

The boy was uninjured, happily playing with the stuffed toys inside.

Police say no citations were issued to the mother because she acted quickly and appropriately, upon learning that her son was missing.

The youngster did walk away with a new plush toy and gave folks a story to tell for years to come.

Various youtubes

The week in review from The Onion.

As much as I don’t like to fly, I would fly on this attendant’s flights.  At least she would make the misery tolerable.

Poor Biscuit the Corgi pup has the hiccups.

Okay Widdershins, that’s all I’ve got today.  Let me know how your day is going.  I may be busy trying to dig a storm shelter or something in preparation for the weather heading this way.

This is an open thread.

 

 

 

 

Here’s hoping this Friday is yet another good Friday Widdershin friends.

Never stop questioning

Last weekend I reread the long story in The Washington Post of Lee Atwater’s deathbed confessions. Like several members of his family, Atwater was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor at the young age of 39 and lingered just a few days over a year with the debilitating pain of his medical death sentence.

Atwater was stricken just at the time when he was at the top of his game. In Republican circles, he was the amoral engineer of modern-day wedge issues. Giving us such 60-second slam dunks as Willie Horton and ads where white hands wadded up a job rejection letter while black hands held a job offer, he was the Picasso of divisive politics. Atwater defensively said he didn’t create the art form, but without fear of contradiction, his too short life was spent perfecting the technique.

Atwater spent his last year writing gracious letters of apology, shopping religions, and trying to reconcile both his open affair and his marriage. I don’t know if he succeeded in his personal absolution, but undoubtedly his quest was earnest and forthright.

Scratching HeadI was reminded of Atwater by the story about Charles Cooper, the attorney who argued in favor of California’s ban on same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court. It seems he is now in the throes of an earnest and forthright personal quest to “reconcile his beliefs” since he now finds himself planning his lesbian daughter’s wedding.

Then I read of Oklahoma’s ongoing bid to become the most crimson of the red states by making it illegal for local communities to enact raises in the minimum wage. Fearing this would not be enough to secure uber-infrared conservative status, Oklahoma has also enacted a tax on the sun via anyone who dares utilize solar panels.

Then I read about Georgia’s new “guns everywhere” legislation allowing guns in churches, schools, bars, government buildings, almost everywhere — that is except the state Capitol building. The Capitol is still off-limits for random pistol-packers since the sponsor of the legislation said, “We have some ongoing security concerns here in the Capitol.”

Then I found myself thinking about the states where making it harder to vote is all the rage to combat fictional voter fraud. And also thinking about the states where they are spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to prevent 5 million poor people from getting Medicaid coverage.

Then I found myself scratching my head about those who are opposed to both an increase in the minimum wage and food stamp expenditures. If ever there was a self-defeating Möbius loop this is it since an increase in the minimum wage would reduce spending on food stamps by $4.6 Billion a year or $46.0 Billion over the usual 10-year budget cycle.

Color Doubt

How to make sense out of this disparate group of facts and issues? It was then that I ran across an article about marketing and the genius of asking just the right question. Within the article was a quote from Descartes, “Doubt is the origin of all wisdom.”

Given that most of the tea party types have never before been part of the political process — never having sat through school board or city council meetings in seats of authority — they have no reason to doubt what imbued them with their new-found “power” in Congress and statehouses.

No compromise, no respect for another point of view, disrupting town hall meetings, being enthralled by conspiracies fomented by infotainment buffoons — why would they have any reason to doubt? They have ridden a tidal wave of unfocused anger to lead a band of voting pitchfork and torch wielders.

In the arena of politics for profit, doubt has zero purchasing power. Likewise, in a world where opinion has replaced reality, how could the seeds of doubt ever be sown? They can’t be sown in a media echo chamber where even a glimmer of doubt could foster the guilty pangs of responsibility.

Wisdom is rarely a spontaneous event and never is it found by those not seeking it. It took a medical death sentence for Lee Atwater and a father’s love for his lesbian daughter in the Cooper family, but inevitably their doubts led toward seeking wisdom and greater personal truth.

Sky question markIn those states where gun deaths, heightened hunger, deprived healthcare, or impoverishment wages are the spiteful answers for muddled questions of gossamer fictions, there is little hope for curative wisdom creeping into policy decisions. In the near term, the best we can hope for is the enlightenment of doubt.

This is an open thread.

Good Thursday, Widdershins.  Things are happening in the Ukraine at a rapid pace.  I freely confess that, despite being a child of the Cold War, I do not have enough regional knowledge or savvy to walk us through any discussion.  Therefore, we have asked our DYB to update us on this geopolitical nightmare, and he has graciously agreed to do so.   ChatbluPutin Bully

It has now been one month since Crimea declared its independence from Ukraine and ran into Russia’s welcoming arms.  After a hastily arranged vote, overseen by armed men without any country’s insignia (at the time Putin declared the armed men were not Russian.  After all, he smirked, you can buy a soldier’s uniform in any costume shop), the public voted overwhelmingly to secede.  The Crimean government claimed that turnout was over 95% and that of those 83% voted to join Russia.  This is a little odd considering Ukrainians make up about 25% of the Crimean population and Tatars – very much not friends of the Russians – 12%.  I always thought Russians had superior math skills and perhaps this proves everyone else has been doing it wrong this whole time.  Still, Putin eagerly declared the election legitimate and quickly accepted Crimea back into the Russian fold.  The UN decried the vote as a sham.  And new report by the UN found “killings, torture and arbitrary arrests in the buildup to the March referendum that led to its annexation by Russia.”

They said they heard numerous reports of vote rigging in the March 16 referendum, when residents of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to unite with Russia, and expressed concerns about the conditions under which the vote took place, citing harassment and abductions of journalists and activists who were opposed to it, as well as the presence of armed militias.

Some of the journalists and activists who disappeared have since been released, but had been tortured, the report said.”

And Putin also finally admitted in his annual marathon Q&A on Russian television that the uniformed soldiers were Russian after allSo what?  You want to make a federal case out of that?  How else can you ensure a fair and balanced vote if not by presence of your own armed militia?

With Crimea essentially gone the situation in the Ukraine is not improving.  Putin is a master destabilizer.  His forces (he says they’re not his, but see what he said about the soldiers in Crimea wearing costumes, not Russian uniforms) have declared their independence from Ukraine in at least 10 towns in Eastern Ukraine.  Putin expressed his shock at the whole thing, claiming Ukraine is on the brink of a civil war.  One can only recall the immortal moment in “Casablanca” when Claude Rains can’t believe there is gambling going on in Rick’s back room.

“Ukraine is on the brink of civil war. It is scary. And I hope that everyone who is responsible for making decisions at the moment — I mean both, the current Ukrainian authorities, who we can’t consider legitimate, but these are the authorities who came to power as result of a coup — has brains to avoid driving the country to such shocks,” he said at a news conference Tuesday in Moscow.

It is really astonishing to hear Putin talk about it as if he has played no role in the fiasco.  He is pretending to remain outside of it all.  Who?  Me?  What did I do?  He is not delusional. He’s simply playing his part in destabilizing Ukraine, so he can then walk in and say his presence is essential to keep the country from tearing itself apart.  And, naturally, to protect the ethnic Russians.  The same ethnic Russians who handed out flyers to people leaving a synagogue in Donetsk – one of the towns that has declared its independence from Ukraine – ordering all Jews older than 16 years of age to register with the authorities or have their possessions confiscated.  (And for all this trouble they must pay a fee of 50 US dollars.)

 

 

So far the Ukrainian authorities have not done much to stop the pro-Russian militias from occupying public buildings and declaring their independence.  The authorities are asking them nicely and are having exactly the results you’d expect.  Of course going after them with force will leave Ukraine with the prospect of having Putin declare that ethnic Russians are being abused and require Russian military to protect them.  It’s hard to win here.  But it’s also hard to see what Putin thinks he’s going to achieve.  Yes, the Soviets have always thought of Ukraine as an extension of Russia itself.  (Putin has already started calling the Eastern part of Ukraine “New Russia.”)  And he certainly would love nothing more than to have Ukraine in its own sphere, instead of European, which is where much of Ukraine would prefer to be.  If nothing else, it would be a nice middle finger to Europe and the US, which have long tried to bring Ukraine into their fold.  (But not into NATO; contrary to what Putin keeps saying, there were no plans for Ukraine to join NATO.  Not from NATO’s side, not from Ukraine’s.)  But occupying Ukraine with Russian military would work out about as well as US’s occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.  That would truly unleash chaos.  It would cost Russia not just blood, but also a colossal amount of money.  It is money it doesn’t actually have. Its economy, which exists only because of its reserve of natural gas, shrank enormously even before the Ukrainian fiasco and the (fairly weak) sanctions Europe and US have imposed.  Putin might be the biggest rock star of Russia today.  But when the economy shrinks to levels not seen since Yeltsin’s catastrophic rule (which the public probably remembers well), Putin’s popularity will sink along with the mood of his people.  And no amount of his media’s anti-Western/anti-gay/anti-Ukrainian propaganda will help with a cold and starving populace.  And Putin, if there is an ounce of brain matter left in his head, knows it.

Meanwhile in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, authorities are gearing up for new elections on May 25th.  So far the leading candidate for Presidency appears to be the billionaire Petro Poroshenko, the Chocolate King owner of a massively successful confectionary manufacturing group.  Poroshenko largely subsidized the Maidan protestors with supplies, which has already led to pro-Russian forces to accuse him of staging the entire coup so he can be President.  This is when they are not blaming the US of staging the coup, when they are not blaming Europe of staging the coup, when they are not blaming neo-Nazis of staging the coup.  My mother said on Russian television they were speculating that the US intended for the coup to take place in 2015, but somehow the plan got away from them.  Don’t ask because I can’t explain what that means either.  The boxer Vitali Klitschko, who initially intended to run for office himself, has since declared that he will support Poroshenko instead.  Yulia Timoshenko, former darling of the Orange Revolution and President who spent years in prison on legitimate charges but politically motivated prosecution for corruption, is running too. (The man who put her there was Victor Yanukovich – who fled Ukraine but insists from his safe house in Russia that he is still the legitimate leader of Ukraine – was found to have a personal palace with his own private zoo, lake, large collection of expensive cars and a golden toilet.  But these are just details.)

And in a meeting in Geneva (in the same hotel where in 2009 then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once gave her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov the infamous “Reset” button) Ukraine, Russia, Europe and the US came together to try to stabilize the situation and were wildly successful at being laughably pointless.  Although I suppose we can at least be grateful that they didn’t throw shoes at one another.  After the meeting Russia has continued to provoke, Ukraine continues to be helpless, Europe continues to worry how it all affects their demand for Russian gas, and the US is worried about how best to stay out of the whole thing.  One thing we know for sure: Ukraine is mighty sorry they gave up their nuclear weapons in 1994.  After the collapse of the USSR, Ukraine ended up with a stockpile of more nukes than the UK, France and China combined.  But they agreed to give up the nukes and shipped them back to Russia.  Russia, the US and the UK then signed the Budapest Memorandum of Security Assurances promising that all countries would respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity.  It would appear that that Memorandum might need a new reset.

This is an open thread.


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Kellyanne Conway’s new job

Take the kids to work? NO!

That moment when *your* pussy gets grabbed

You go gurl! h/t Adam Joseph

“The” Book

Nice picture of our gal

Time till the Grifter in Chief is Gone

Hopefully soonerJanuary 21st, 2021
2.3 years to go.

Mueller Time!

Wise Words from Paul Ryan

B-I-N-G-O!

Only the *best* politicans bought by the NRA

Marching for their lives

Perfect Picture

Rudy: oh shit the pee tape IS real!

Need Reminders?

Never too early to shop for Christmas

“Look this way”

Manafort’s Jail Photo

Indeed who?

Trump spam

IOW Dumb = Happy?

Simply Put

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