The Widdershins

Posts Tagged ‘democracy


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.

Hello Widdershins,

According to US intelligence, Vladimir Putin may launch a war against Ukraine this week. Of course none of us have seen this intelligence and who really knows what’s in Donald Trump’s puppeteer’s head. But we do know Putin has been trying to destabilize and take over Ukraine for many years. For one thing, Putin does not want a West-allied democracy next door. It’s bad for his own rule. And Ukraine has, since it first declared independence, been trying to become part of the European Union, not be in Russia’s orbit. Putin doesn’t really believe Ukraine should exist as an independent country at all, never mind as a Western democracy. He – and so many like him – believe Ukraine just an extension of Russia. Putin tried to take over Ukrainian government by interfering in Ukrainian elections and placing is puppets – like Yanukovich – as leaders. The Ukrainian public isn’t having any of that. Through more than one uprising (Revolution) they have kicked Yanukovich out. (Does anyone even know where he is these days?) So with a failed political coup behind him, Putin is once again trying violence. He has invaded Ukraine twice already, an annexed Crimea days after the Sochi Olympics ended. Something about the Olympics that Putin seems to think is a great time to invade countries. Currently Putin has many thousands of Russian troops amassed at the border, plus artillery, machinery (tanks, choppers), and he has sent war ships to the area as well. An invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces would be a catastrophe. We know Putin does not care about human life. What will he do? Only time will tell…but I’m afraid.

Changing the subject, “Live To Tell” is one of Madonna’s greatest songs. Composer Patrick Leonard, who had previously worked with Michael Jackson and was the music director of Madonna’s Like a Virgin Tour, was trying to get a job composing a score for a movie and came up with the music for a theme song. He asked Madonna, as a favor, to write lyrics, which would help him impress the filmmakers and land him the job. Madonna obliged. One of her greatest songs was born. The filmmakers passed on the song and did not hire Patrick Leonard as composer. Madonna ended up giving the song to be used in the film “At Close Range,” which starred her then husband Sean Penn and Christopher Walken. Patrick Leonard became one of Madonna’s closest collaborators for many years, co-writing and co-producing with her many of her biggest hits for more than a decade, including “La Isla Bonita” (which he originally wrote for Michael Jackson, who didn’t want it), “Like a Prayer,” “Cherish,” and “Frozen.”

Hello Widdershins,

It’s election day 2020 and here’s a thread for us to discuss and…celebrate (I’m crossing everything I possibly can.)

This is an open thread.

A wintry Wednesday to all our Widdershin friends. I hope you are warm and enjoying mobility without the assistance of a dogsled team. I’m still on the puny side. This round of meds seems to have me just behind Bruce Jenner in my transition or so it seems. As we say here in the Big Blue Nation of Kentucky Wildcat basketball, this course of steroids has me in the throes of men-o-paws.

About half my day is spent in fits of hot flashes, shaking nervousness, and just general unfocused anxiety. All I can say is if I had had one chromosome of athletic ability, steroids would have been enough to send me back to the library as the nerd I was destined to be. Even watching the Westminster Dog Show, ’roid rage has caused me to be irritated at the Affenpincher.

As a way of introduction into today’s subject, let’s review: In the thirteen years since 9/11, almost 8,000 Americans have Democracybeen killed and somewhere between half a million to a million Iraqis and Afghanis are dead, we have irrevocably broken or maimed hundreds of thousands of others, spent about $3.0 Trillion, and perfected the art of creating failed nation states courtesy of what conservative thought leaders call the “worst foreign policy decisions in the history of the country.”

Astonishingly, in these thirteen years only 65 Americans have been victims of what could be conceivably described as terrorist acts. While uncomfortably close to the modern-day heresy of science, statistically, there is a 1 in 1,700,000 chance of dying at the hands of terrorists. Conversely and with an astronomically higher probability, you have a 1 in 700,000 chance of being bonked in the head by a meteor.

Yet in these thirteen years there has not been an iota of reexamination in the foundational premise of nation building — a neo-con anathema until Dubya’s selection as President. Since that time nation building, premised upon democratization, has been the vestigial tail plaguing the fever dream wars of the neo-cons. No one dares question this last point since one-size-fits-all democracy is little more than a third grade panacea plumbed from the intellectual depths of a dime store mirror.

What got me thinking about this was last Sunday morning’s discussion on Meet the Chuckles Todd. Senator Jack Reed was giving the Democratic perspective and John “Get off my yard” McCain was giving the Republican spin. As might be expected, Reed thought we should have never invaded Iraq and McCain thought we should have never left Iraq. Yawn. Neither inquiry was much beyond the old axiom of, “If all you have in your toolbox is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail.”

Translated into the lack of American foreign policy self-reflection, this axiom becomes: When you have the most lethal and effective armed forces in the history of the world, everything begins to look like a war. Here’s a news flash — we can bomb extremists with impunity, but it will never eradicate the extremism. We have tried to force the hammer of participatory democracy into hands ill-prepared to do much beyond break, harm, or kill based upon insular tribal philosophies.

My thinking on this subject was bolstered by an excellent piece of long-form journalism in The New Yorker by Jon Lee Anderson entitled The Unraveling. The subject is Libya and the east/west civil war now consuming the failed nation. It is a long read, but a good one detailing the unintended consequences of a possible Somalia on the Mediterranean. Given the long historical affiliation of France and Libya, France led the interventionist charge with the U.K and the U.S. reluctantly agreeing, but agreeing nonetheless.

A French philosopher named Bernard-Henri Levy was one of the first to lead the charge for intervention. Here are his reasons when asked, “Why did you support attacking and intervening in Libya?”

Why? I don’t know! Of course, it was human rights, for a massacre to be prevented, and blah, blah, blah — but I also wanted them to see a Jew defending the liberators against a dictatorship, to show fraternity. I wanted the Muslims to see that a Frenchman — a Westerner and a Jew — could be on their side.

At its essence are these words any different from the heraldic claims of “American exceptionalism” surrounding the Iraq War? Granularly, it’s the same egotism as “American exceptionalism” — whatever that is — showing the world we are draped in deep blue hero stuff and whatever we do couldn’t possibly be as bad as the unknowns lurking just beyond the horizon.

Gen. Khalifa Haftar, former Qaddifi operative and financed political refugee, former CIA affiliated Virginia resident, now, General of the Libyan National Army

Gen. Khalifa Haftar, former Qaddifi operative and financed political refugee, former CIA affiliated Virginia resident, now, General of the Libyan National Army

What is politically suicidal in questioning this type of American egotism is a simple truism: Need begets despair and that desperation fathers violence. It is this orphaned violence that then looks for meaning by craving a sense of self and needing a place to be. It is this type of violence that easily falls prey to the perfect predator of a cause, be it ISIL, Al Qaeda, jihadists, ethnic militias, tribal warlords, or disaffected young men trolling the internet.

To dare advance such a notion is inviting an instantaneous political scrum with you at the bottom. A perfect example is Deputy State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf who said essentially what I have written here and was met with a vociferous cacophony of derision.

It seems as if this lesson though, without being enunciated as a policy, might be gaining purchase. We can no longer police the region of the Middle East while at the same time being criticized by the beneficiaries of that unending patrol. For instance, after twenty-one Egyptian Christians were symbolically beheaded on the Mediterranean shore facing Rome (either old Rome or “new Rome” of Constantinople), another 45 burned alive, Egypt started bombing Libya. Jordan and the U.A.E. are bombing Syria. Europe is now reexamining its own security and reconsidering criticism of the intelligence troves we have supplied them through NSA phone intercepts.

All in all, sixty countries are now contemplating their own positions and policies regarding terrorism and radicalization. It seems nothing so much as concentrates an autocratic despot as his impending demise at the hands of a murderous mob.

It is just this simple — a ballot box will never resolve radical extremism without first being preceded by a lunch box. We can never expect a mishmash of 7th century theology to be superimposed on the realities of the 21st century and translate into anything other than unfocused anger. It is this anger, unfettered by law or cultural ostracism, that finds its most productive channel in conspiracy theory atrocity barbarism.

There are successful models of this type of delayed democratization transformation — Singapore, Taiwan, One Size Fits AllSouth Korea, Malaysia — of setting in place the necessary structures for economic success before subjecting the transitioning government to the ballot box. It isn’t neat. It isn’t 30-second sound bite friendly. It isn’t quick. It does make us face an uncomfortable reality. Before we dismantle a country’s social structure — no matter how offensive it is to our traditional sensibilities — a compatible social structure must be in place to regulate and eventually modify behavior.

Why is this important? This issue will be the central focus of the 2016 Presidential campaign. Hillary is uniquely qualified to understand the inherent weaknesses of the old neo-con dogma. Let’s hope she has the opportunity and strength to bring that much-needed learning to the world.

Take the conversation in any direction you might like.

Is This Who the Democrats Want to Be?

In 2008, the National Democrats decided (against the wishes of a large portion of their delegates and their voters) that Barack Obama was going to be the next President. Although we were only guessing at the time as to why the Party was so bent on Obama, it seems obvious now that the Democrats had decided to throw in their lot with the top 1%, and had chosen Obama to conceal that decision from their base. Obama’s skin color; his relative youth and attractiveness; his teevee-friendly family; the un-contradicted, yet utterly unsubstantiated narrative of his success; the relentless hagiography of the corporate media; the non-stop sexism and accusations of racism from the Party and the media against his opponents; the putsch from Oprah; the tribes of zombie devotees derived from politically naïve youngsters and paid Democratic operatives pretending to be “progressives;” all contributed to mask this man’s true nature and the nature of the Democrats’ deal with the devil.

But now that Obama has actually been President for two and a half dreadful years, the truth is undeniable: The Democrats have banked all their post-Dubya political capital on a man whose every action betrays every principle they claim to hold. And now, they must decide between two dangerous options: either double down on Obama in hopes that the “2% less evil” approach will work, or find a reason to force him to halt his run in 2012 and allow Hillary to become the nominee.

The “2% less evil” approach may seem foolproof at the moment, due to the sheer volume and density of the Right’s insanity (Republicans’ recent assaults on the “evils” of public school teachers, Medicare, Medicaid, unions and Social Security have backfired spectacularly). However, if the Democrats stick with Obama, it may be impossible for them to gin up the necessary enthusiasm to get that all-important winning turnout in 2012. I’m not the only one who knows this: Obama’s people know it, too. As the President’s campaign manager all but admitted this past Monday, the magic of 2008 is gone.

Cautioning that the landscape will be more challenging this year, Messina notes that Republican outside groups are planning to increase their involvement in the campaign, taking advantage of rules relaxed by the Supreme Court’s Citizen United ruling. Referring to a New York Times story about the conservative group American Crossroads, Messina says “they’ve already announced a $120 million campaign to defeat your president. We have to compete with that.” [MB: Golly, last time I checked, ONE BEEELLION DOLLARS was a lot more than $120 million. Cry me a river, Messy.]

Messina acknowledges that the GOP will have enthusiasm. “Republicans are going to be fired up to take on President Obama,” he says.

President Obama has told friends that 2008 was a unique “lightning in a bottle” campaign, and almost wistfully Messina says that the 2008 campaign “was the most special thing a lot of us have ever been a part of” but if they run the same campaign in 2012 “we stand a good chance of losing.”

In the roughly 6 minute video presentation, Messina say the keys to re-election are: Expanding the electorate; Building something new; Growing the grassroots in the states; Measuring progress; and Working for every vote.

Uh, HUH? This message, pardon my crudity, BLOWS. It is not inspirational. It is not specific. It does not evoke an emotional response. It is, in fact, the REAL face of the Obama campaign, unmasked like the man himself: with Obama’s popularity low, gas prices and unemployment high and no popular achievements to tout (so much for the awesomeness of Obamacare!), the campaign is devoid of passion, content or direction. Team Obama clearly expects its supporters to do all the work of GOTV and “firing themselves up,” arming them not with “Hope” and “Change,” but with flavorless talking points culled from a throwaway corporate focus group session.

It seems to me that this strategy would not enthuse the most hypnotized Obamazombie, much less the very long list of formerly reliable Democrats who have been permanently turned off by Obama’s even more permanent middle finger in their faces. In 2012, the Party Leaders know they will not be able to count on women, LGBT, the working-class and poor, or left-leaning Independents to come out in droves to vote for Obama. Who the hell is left? Mon Dieu, Mitt Romney must be measuring the Lincoln Bedroom for magic underwear drawers even as we speak.

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