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Archive for the ‘Ukraine’ Category

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.

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.

Mariupol, Ukraine. Azovstal steel plant, May 16, 2022

Hello Widdershins,

There are some developments, still a developing story, on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine. Just a few months ago a beautiful ocean front city. Today a complete ruin, with many thousands of its citizens dead from shelling by Russia. The last remaining Ukrainian troops (what’s left of the Azov Battalion, Mariupol’s last defenders, accused by Russia and the Alt-left of being Nazis, which is a lie) and many civilians, have been barricaded inside the Azovstal steel plant. Even the Pope asked Putin to allow people to be evacuated from Mariupol, under Papal flags. Putin refused. But it seems that finally some deal was reached between Ukraine and Russia, to evacuate at least the wounded in the plant. They have already been taken to Russia-occupied territories. The expectation is that they will be prisoner swapped with the numerous Russians being held in Ukraine. Let us hope this happens. Zelenskyy will be delivering a speech in Kyiv about this later. Ukrainian government is saying the order to the Azov Battalion was to hold out at all costs to distract Russia from other parts of Ukraine. If true, certainly they accomplished the unimaginable – at a horrific cost. This story is developing.

When Putin invaded Ukraine, I was told by a few people that Putin is a real genius who plays 100 dimension chess. Well, the stable genius just got Sweden – militarily neutral for 200 years – to officially announce they will apply to join NATO. Finland also said they will join NATO. Interestingly for a few months now Putin and his lackeys were saber rattling, threatening nuclear war, if either country did this. As soon as both Sweden and Finland made their plans official, Putin came back with “Oh well, who cares.” It’s an interesting walk-back from Putin and it should be a lesson to Germany and France, and any other country that demands Ukraine give up some of its territories so Putin can “save face.” If confronted, finally, for the first time in his rule, confronted, Putin is likelier to back off. Sweden and Finland told Putin they didn’t care about his wishes. Putin slithered away. Meanwhile, Macron and Scholz keep talking about partitioning Ukraine so Putin can get an off-ramp. Partitioning of lands does not have a good history of keeping the peace. In our modern times, India and Pakistan are still at war. The Middle East is still at war. And Germany never quite accepted the partitioning of Germany and Berlin. Why do Scholz and Macron imagine giving away pieces of Ukraine will bring about peace? It will simply bring another war later. History tells us this with a lot of examples.

On the American front, there’s much to shake our heads at. A white supremacist murdered 10 people in Buffalo, NY. He specifically targeted people of color, claiming in his manifesto that the “White replacement theory” is real. This is the “You will not replace us” conspiracy theory that inspired the Charlottesville (very fine people!) marches. Tucker Carlson and most of Fox preaches it every day. Republican Representative – 3rd ranking Republicans in the House, Elise Stefanik – was pushing this theory on her facebook pages. (Stefanik replaced Liz Cheney after Cheney was expelled from leadership for not supporting the Insurrection.) JD Vance also pushed this theory. It’s now one of the most prevalent Republican led messages; they shout it out from the rooftops, they are running for office on this.

War con’t

Posted on: April 12, 2022

Marc Chagall’s “The Ukrainian Family” (painted 1940-43)

The War in Ukraine continues. Putin’s endgame is really unclear. He wanted to take Ukraine, but that plan failed spectacularly. He will probably try to settle for officially keeping Crimea and the Donbas region. That’s where Western intelligence agencies believe the final battles of this war will be fought. And they predict it will be bloody. Either Putin wins there and declare victory. Or thousands will die and he will be “deposed” at home because such a humiliating failure (he is already quite embarrassed by how poorly his war has gone) won’t be tolerated in Russia. The long-term problem, of course, is that Ukraine can never trust Russia again. Even without Putin in charge Russian people have shown themselves to be quite excited about what Putin is doing. Going forward Ukraine will have an angry and humiliated enemy on its border. European Union says they are expediting Ukraine’s membership in the EU. They plan to have a meeting (you know, a meeting to plan more meetings) within the next few weeks. That will be a great symbolic gesture, which is important. But it won’t stop Russian aggression in the future. NATO is not and never will be interested in accepting Ukraine. So whichever way this particular conflict ends – and whenever that is – Ukraine will have an enemy right next door. An enemy that will want vengeance.


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