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Pooty Poop

It has been six long months since Russia invaded Ukraine, and – depending on who you ask – things are either exactly as Putin planned all along (Russians, Tucker), or Russia is on a verge of a military catastrophe (everyone else.) Over the past couple of weeks Ukraine has staged an offensive that has led Russian army to flee dozens of previously occupied towns and villages in the east. Their withdrawal was so hasty that they not only left behind tanks, stolen washing machines, and some of their own soldiers (who then had to flee on stolen bicycles), but also Russian teachers they brought in to begin teaching nothing but Russian curriculum to Ukrainian children. In the midst of all this, Putin has retreated to one of his homes in Sochi (more on that later), while some of his propagandists on TV continue to insist everything is going according to plan, and that if Russia really wanted to, they would take Kyiv in one day. Seems odd that Putin planned all along to bring his troops as close to Kyiv as Chernobyl (where they proceeded to radiate themselves after digging into polluted soil), and then retreat. And then retreat again. And again. And keep retreating, until they’re running back, leaving behind hard-won Ukrainian territories. Maybe that’s the genius of Putin, his 78 dimension chess is so complex none of us understand it. “We have them surrounded in their tanks,” Baghdad Bob once declared as Americans occupied Baghdad.

As hard as Putin’s most loyal propagandists (Solovyov, Simonyan) continue to insist Russia is winning its “special operation,” cracks are appearing on Russian TV. Some commentators are openly questioning what the hell went wrong, how officials managed to screw things up, how they overpromised glory and deliver humiliation. In this clip from Russian TV, many things are said that would have been unthinkable to speak out loud two weeks ago. But the one that struck me the most is the man who asks how Russia thought they could tell Ukraine they were not a real country, that their language does not exist, and then expect Ukraine to embrace them in return. Again, this is rhetoric that would be unthinkable on state television just two weeks ago. And the subdued responses to such criticisms from the more patriotic Russians is also extremely revealing because two weeks ago they would have screamed over any such words.

Meanwhile Putin cancelled a scheduled meeting with his military leaders and retreated to a vacation home in Sochi. A reporter for Kyiv Post added interesting information on what’s happening around Moscow and historical context:

And in St. Petersburg, some members of Parliament called for Putin to be prosecuted for treason. Their punishments so far have been possible dissolution of their districts and some fines. A few weeks ago it would have been arrest and prosecution.

Is there a coup happening? We won’t know until after it’s over. But it’s impossible to ignore the cracks in Putin’s wall.

Hello Widdershins!

Ever since You Know Who became POTUS all of our lives have been an endless whirlwind of news (usually bad) and events. We all hoped You Know Who leaving office would finally let us catch up on some sleep, but alas. The devastation left in is wake is ongoing. Besides the stolen top secret documents he was hiding in his basement (Republican say it’s ok, he is a former President and it’s perfectly safe… but do you remember where Hillary’s secure email server was??? That’s right, in a basement of a former President), anyway, Trump is just yelling non-stop against every government agency he remembers. FBI, IRS, I’m not sure he even knows the difference. At least we are seeing some progress from Merrick Garland. Some people point out that as a prosecutor Garland had a 100% conviction rate. Still, fingers crossed the DOJ not only continues its investigation, but they do it quickly because we have no idea what the midterms will bring, and certainly don’t know what 2024 will bring.

CNN has “fired” its Reliable Sources anchor Brian Stelter. They are cancelling the show. On one hand, Stelter was a both-side hack who allowed Republicans on the show to spew lies while asking about Hillary’s emails. On the other hand, the new chief of CNN basically thinks Stelter is too liberal for CNN. We should be worried about what this means not for Stelter, but for us because I think we will see CNN take a very noticeable right turn in the near future.

Russian fascist/neo-Nazi Alexander Dugin

And on the front of Russia’s war on Ukraine – an interesting development overnight. Alexander Dugin is a Russian professor who is a dedicated fascist and white supremacist/nationalist. For years he has been calling for the extermination of Ukrainians (and many others) in the name of Holy Mother Russia. He is something of a spiritual guide to Vladimir Putin. Though officially Dugin is not welcome in polite Russian society, like David Duke and Steve Bannon, Dugin enjoys the notoriety, inspires numerous psychopaths, and enjoys a winking relationship with the Kremlin. Well, last night it seems someone tried to assassinate him. His car was blown up, although at the time it was driven by his daughter Darya. Now, before one feels sorry for Darya, she is neo-Nazi/fascist nationalist as much as her father is. Though not as famous as her dad, she was a loyal follower of his teachings, holds rallies and delivers lectures to spread the Dugin gospel. Who tried to kill Dugin and killed Darya remains to be seen. It could literally have been done by anyone, including Ukraine and Russia. But Ukraine makes no sense here. If they wanted to take out a Russian propagandist deep in the heart of Russia and in a place where people like Putin have a home, Dugin wouldn’t be the first choice. Russian TV people like RT head Margarita Simonyan would have been my first choice. Any of the hosts on Russian TV would be a close second. It’s possible the bombing was carried out by the Kremlin/Putin. Frankly, it could have been carried out by Dugin himself. There was a lecture by Dugin in which he discussed how people having daughters was destroying Russia, and that it was time to start sacrificing some of them. It’ll be interesting to watch how this plays out.

This is an open thread.

Hello Widdershins!

The January 6 Committee continues to make serious headway in their investigation. The most recent brouhaha was the revelation in the press that the Secret Service erased text messages among its members from January 5 and 6 after the Inspector General looking into their actions requested it. To clarify: Secret Service deleted those text messages after the IG asked for them. They argued these were routine actions. The 1/6 Committee sent a subpoena for the text messages. The Secret Service has said they found them (!) and will supply them to the Committee on Tuesday. Let’s keep an eye on that. We can not forget that on 1/6 Mike Pence refused to get into a car with the SS. Trump promoted some SS people to political positions in his administrations. And when Joe Biden won the election he asked some agents who protected him when he was VP – and who had already retired – to return to service to protect him. Because Biden knew SS was corrupt. It’s also being reported that a number of agents were cheering on the insurrection on their personal social media accounts.

Joe Bloody Manchin is at it again. After a year of negotiating a climate change bill – Manchin has pulled the rug out and said “LOL No.” I suppose the most frustrating thing – besides the obvious – is that Manchin keeps lying to colleagues in the Senate by dangling the belief that he can reach an agreement, and then publicly humiliating them. Time and again he has done this. Meanwhile in the UK military runways are melting because of the heat there. But it’s fine. Manchin is worried about how we’ll pay for the climate bill. Of course, coming from West Virginia, there is no other Democrat who can win there. But Democrats need more seats in the Senate.

This is an open thread.

Snitches

Posted on: July 3, 2022

Former White House/Mark Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson swearing in for testimony before House’s 1/6 Committee.

Hello Widdershins,

A big week of 1/6 Committee hearings: former senior aide for Mark Meadows – former Republican Representative (and Freedom Caucus chief) who became Trump’s chief of staff 2020-21 – threw something of a nuke into the proceedings. Cassidy Hutchinson was one of Meadows’ most trusted deputy. A former intern for the likes of Ted Cruz she catapulted into the highest echelons of Republican power. A former staffer for Paul Ryan tweeted that Meadows always insisted that Hutchinson be present in every meeting. They didn’t think much of it at the time, he noted. Up until just a few weeks ago Hutchinson was being represented by a lawyer who was taking orders from Meadows and Trump. But she suddenly fired that attorney and hired her own. The information she provided – privately and in the public hearing – made a real impact. We learned that Meadows texted Hutchinson the day before the public testimony, warning her not to go through with it. (That’s illegal!) Perhaps one of the most consequential parts of Hutchinson’s testimony was her revealing that Donald Trump insisted on going to the Capitol right after his rally, just as his MAGAts began their march and Proud Boys were already on the premises. According to Hutchinson – who said she was told by people directly involved – Trump lunged for the wheel of his car and tried to choke the Secret Service agent, insisting he be taken to the Capitol. While SS (always appreciated that acronym) first insisted no such thing happened, within 24 hrs other people came forward – including from the SS – saying that it did. And a grainy video and photos appeared showing things getting wild inside Trump’s car. That video is now being examined like the Zapruder film.

The main take-away from this information isn’t that Trump was throwing a hissy fit and choked his Secret Service agent (who, incidentally, remains loyal to Trump.) That’s absurd and salacious. But the important part of that story is why Trump demanded to be taken to the Capitol, when you add the other known parts of the Insurrection. Trump continued to demand that Pence not certify the votes, and was pleased that Pence’s life was threatened. The Proud Boys had already arrived on the premises of the Capitol well ahead of the MAGAt rioters. The Proud Boys were organized. We know the Proud Boys were coordinating with Roger Stone, who was coordinating with Trump and Rudy Giuliani. We know that there are only a handful of unfortified windows in the Capitol and the Proud Boys knew exactly which ones. Why did Trump wanted to go to the Capitol so violently? Trump insisting to go the Capitol – combined with the other things – can only mean he intended to declare himself the winner of the election just as the votes were counted. The violence was the cover so he could declare martial law or something similar. Proud Boys were hunting for Pence and Pelosi. Just imagine the horrors if the rioters found them – and Trump arrived to declare himself the winner.

This is an open thread.

Shchedryk

Posted on: June 17, 2022

Hello Widdershins,

The 1/6 Commission continues to hold hearings, revealing more and more details about how much planning Trump and Friends were doing to overthrow the US Government. 99.999999% of Republican went along with Trump’s plan. And they are all continuing to support him now. The notable exceptions you can count on maybe two hands. The coup is ongoing.

Also ongoing is the war in Ukraine. Putin continues offensives in parts of the country, even as other regions – including the capitol Kyiv – have seemingly resumed their normal lives. How odd to live a normal life in Kyiv while war rages not far away. Germany, France, and Italy continue to enable Putin by calling for Europe and US to not humiliate Putin. They continue to veto providing certain weapons to Ukraine. They continue to cast doubt on Ukraine being able to join the EU. This week the three leaders of these nations finally came to Kyiv to meet Zelenskyy. But someone called this image of Emmanuel Macron embracing Volodymyr Zelenskyy “Judas’ Kiss.” That may be what Zelenskyy is thinking.

French President Emmanuel Macron embracing Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.
Mykola Leontovych

The ancient Ukrainian folk chant Shchedryk (based on a simple 4 note pattern, which people used to believe had magical properties) about a swallow that flew into a house on New Year (before Christianity came to Ukraine, New Year was in April), sang about all the good things the family had achieved, and promised to return the following New Year/Spring. The word “shchedry” actually means “generous.” After Christianity came to Ukraine, New Year moved to January and the chant became associated with the Feast of Epiphany, which took place on January 18th – what is called “The Old New Year” – which was New Year on the Julian calendar. Ukrainians called this the “Shchedry vechir,” or “Generous Evening.” (All other things aside: that’s how old Ukraine is, in spite of what Putin likes to believe when he discusses Russian history.) Back to Shchedryk: in 1904 the Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych (1877-1921) composed a song based on this ancient 4-note motif, for a cappella choir, though the song was not premiered until 1916. On January 21-22, 1921, Leontovych was visiting his parents for the Eastern Orthodox Feast of Nativity in the town of Tulchyn. A man asked the family to stay with them for the night because he had nowhere else to go. They agreed and he shared the room with Leontovych. In the morning the man – who turned out to be a Chekist (Soviet secret service agent) Afanasy Grishchenko – shot Leontovych, who bled to death from the wounds. Later that year, in October 1921, the Ukrainian National Chorus performed Leontovych’s Shchedryk in a concert at Carnegie Hall. Among those present was the American composer Peter Wilhousky – who was so struck by the work that he replaced the ancient Ukrainian text with completely unrelated English words, eventually copyrighted them, and today the composition is known in the West as the Christmas carol “Carol of the Bells.” While Leontovych is revered in Ukraine (in his own time, the French called him the Ukrainian Bach), in the West he is forgotten and and no one even knows he composed one of our most frequently performed songs. Here it is then: as composed by Leontovych in 1904, using the ancient 4-note motif, with its original ancient Ukrainian text.


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