The Widdershins

Posts Tagged ‘Biden

She was right. Of course. Always.

As we head into Labor Day Weekend, I wanted to share President Biden’s speech with all the Widdershins. As the historian Michael Beschloss said afterwards, this moment echoes across time to two other Presidents who, like Biden, spoke on the eve of extraordinarily consequential elections that put America at a crossroads between democracy and ruin.

President Lincoln, before the election of 1860, gave a now-famous speech about slavery, contending that “a house divided against itself cannot stand” – that if America continued to embrace a system that was against the spirit of the Constitution, a system in which only some were free, we would lose our democracy. President Roosevelt, before the election of 1940, had to contend with American apologists for Hitler and Nazism, and clearly laid out what the future would be if we did not enter the war and stand up for democracy.

President Biden made this clarion call for democracy and against the MAGA movement at exactly the right time. Once again, our democracy stands on the brink of falling to an extreme minority who does not believe in the Constitution, the rule of law, the right to free and fair elections, or the peaceful transition of power. These Nazis, these fascists, these white supremacists, simply want to enshrine themselves as the rulers of America – and they don’t care how they do it.

In this speech, Joe Biden did what he doesn’t like to do – he made a clear division into “us” (patriotic Americans, no matter what party) and “them” – MAGA extremists who do not believe in our vision of America.

It’s about fricking time. As we know, Hillary was ahead of him by 7 years! But, better late than never, Joe.

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.

Hello Widdershins,

These has been a difficult week. As you know I was born and raised in Kyiv. And now we watch Russian army slowly approaching the capital of Ukraine, and seemingly we are all powerless to stop it. Though Putin and Russia have suffered many casualties and have not managed to take control of any major Ukrainian city after 11 days since they started this war, they have inflicted an astonishing amount of damage, in terms of human life and infrastructure. Taking Kyiv was always the number one priority since it’s the capital where the government is based. What happens when Russian troops – now apparently with Syrians to help them – finally arrive?

Nothing in this war has gone as Putin expected, even though he claims thing are going exactly as planned. Big Baghdad Bob energy there, obviously. But Putin lies as easily as he breathes. He continues to maintain this isn’t a war, but a “special operation” to put down the Nazis. Or to stop Ukraine developing nuclear bombs. Or developing chemicals. Or picking on Russians. Putin’s reasons change because none of them are sticking outside of Russia itself. Putin expected to take Kyiv within 48 hrs of the invasion and have a new puppet government installed within 72 hrs. That did not happen. I think Putin did not expect a few things: 1) Putin did not expect President Volodimir Zelenskyy to stay in Kyiv and remain defiant. 2) He did not expect Ukrainians to resist as Russian troops marched across Ukraine. And 3) He did not expect the West to finally do what they should have done in 2014 when Putin invaded Ukraine for the first and then second time (Crimea and Donbas, respectively.) Putin did not expect the West to shut down Russian money flow. If the West and the US had done this in 2014, Putin wouldn’t be in Ukraine now. Alas, the West has been appeasing Putin for more than a decade. One can almost not blame him for thinking he’d get away with it again. If Zelenskyy had fled Kyiv, it would have been over by now. Who expected a former TV comedian to stand up to Putin and Russia. Zelenskyy’s defiance was what opened the dam of Ukrainians in general and then the West finally defying Putin. Is it too late? I don’t know, honestly.

What can the West do now besides cut off Russia from the world and turn it into North Korea? They have pretty much ruled out a no-fly-zone and direct engagement with Russia. I understand the thinking, they fear Putin using nuclear weapons. But Fiona Hill has argued that the threat of Putin going nuclear increase with time, the further he gets. For Putin to argue “Now that the West is directly involved, I’m justified in using nukes” is irrelevant. Putin clearly does not care about any treaty or any logic. He invents his own logic and when it’s transparently absurd, it doesn’t matter. Putin will do whatever he will do. And no one thinks he will stop with Ukraine. Putin has already wagged his finger at Finland and Sweden. And Moldova is likely on his list as well. So does the West risk nuclear war by confronting Putin directly in Ukraine? I have no idea and I’m glad I don’t have to make this decision. Once upon a time JFK confronted Russia directly and Russia backed off. Would Putin back off? I don’t know… But Putin continues to dictate the terms of this conflict as he always has. “Nuclear deterrence” works one way right now. Putin is not deterred by anything.

Good afternoon Widdershins. What a week! Since I try to limit myself to Eight Hundred words or so, let’s just look at Tuesday — April 1st.

Unlike cheese, not everything from Wisconsin ages well...

Unlike cheese, not everything from Wisconsin ages well…

The day began with some promise. CNN, the Consistently Nonsensical Network, actually spent eight minutes, that’s eight whole minutes, covering something other than holographic airplanes, a guy in a plaid shirt trapped in a flight simulator, and Don Lemon prolifically musing about a hybrid Rapture and alien abduction regarding Malaysian Air Flight 370.

The President and grinnin’ Joe Biden announced 7.1 Million Americans had purchased policies through the ACA exchanges. Just as important, those millions were joined by almost another 7.0 Million covered by the Medicaid expansion. All this while aggregate health care costs dropped for the first time in decades.

Then there was a tidbit lost in the shuffle — most likely by design. It was an event with an extraordinary punch line, “Let’s strengthen the gazillionaire safety net.”

Tuesday, Paul Ryan released his latest homage to Ayn Rand also known as the House Budget. You have to admit, releasing such a hollowed-out, callous document on April Fool’s Day is a bit cheeky. Sounding much cooler than I am, Ryan “dropped it like it was hot“. Throughout the press conference, Ryan’s pained expression looked as if he had just gone to a dentist who performed root canals via a colonoscopy.

Without glazing your eyes, here are the highlights. Ryan proposes cutting $4.3 Trillion over the next ten years. Three Trillion Dollars comes from programs for the poor and working class. He doesn’t touch the military spending. He wants to privatize Medicare. Oh, and he says “April’s Fool” to the aforementioned 14 Million who just acquired health care for the first time.

Mitt Romney with BenNow here’s the head-exploding part. In order to save gazillionaires from the ravages of destitution by merely being billionaires, he proposes massive, I’m talking Kardashian-butt-sized massive, tax cuts of $6.0 Trillion over the next ten years. And to make all this mishegas balance out — he forecasts fantastical economic growth despite overwhelming data to the contrary. The only thing that would have made the presentation more magical might have been a unicorn and a flurry of pixie dust.

It is without a doubt the beleaguered gazillionaires breathed a collective sigh of relief. For instance, they no longer have to worry about the three different kinds of subsidies for their private jets. They will still have their accelerated depreciation, total avoidance of any private taxes, and continue to receive free airport rights and air traffic control courtesy of us “takers” flying commercial thereby paying all the taxes.

If you were worried about those pilloried hedge fund and private equity managers, don’t. They get to keep their “special, super-secret carried interest” allowing them to reclassify their outrageous salaries and automatically erase 17% off their tax bills.

And those poor Wall Street bankers — not to worry, they get to continue their arbitrage windfall of $83 Billion a year by continuing to enjoy an implicit “too big to fail” guarantee underwritten by us working stiffs.

Roughing it Billionaire style...

Roughing it Gazillionaire style…

After all they have been through, these tycoons will undoubtedly need a vacation. Conveniently, their yacht and beach home tax subsidies will remain in effect.

Corporations can sleep soundly too (if they have free speech and religious rights, they deserve sleep too) since the grand shell game of parking profits abroad can continue. For instance, Caterpillar, Inc. evaded $2.4 Billion in taxes by shifting U.S. profits to Switzerland — no word if they received any chocolate delivered by a Swiss Miss driving a bulldozer.

Remember about a year ago when the Republican Party released their autopsy report — fitting name since something has to be dead before an autopsy can be performed.  They said they had to modernize their policies on gun control, immigration, gay marriage, healthcare, climate change, unemployment benefits, minimum wages, and most importantly taxes and spending. The Ryan Budget resoundingly declared — not so much.

This season, don't dare be caught in anything other than a $65 Million G6...

This season, don’t dare be caught in anything other than a $65 Million G6…

To their credit, there were Republicans who wanted to do the right thing like Sen. Tom Coburn and Rep. Dave Camp. Both are retiring in the face of the protection afforded gazillionaires by the marionettes of the sycophantic power brokers.

As incongruent as it seems to subsidize steaks, caviar, and liquor with $12 Billion in corporate tax write-offs while cutting aid to women with infant children, those are the exact options being offered. The Ryan Budget finds it more palatable to swaddle a fat cat in a Gulfstream VI than to feed an avarice infant who had the audacity to not be born rich.

Tuesday was April Fool’s Day alright, but the punchline of the Ryan Budget was neither funny nor clever. It was just plain cruel.

This is an open thread.

 


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