The Widdershins

Posts Tagged ‘Zelenskyy


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.

Hello Widdershins!

Can you believe it’s still March of 2022? This has been another year of nothing but shenanigans. It feels like we haven’t stopped falling off a cliff since 2016. Just when you think things won’t get crazier, they do. It’s like that old Russian saying: We thought we hit rock bottom. Then someone knocked from underneath.

Speaking of Russia: today in his powerful speech from Berlin, Joe Biden said that Putin can’t remain as leader of Russia. Naturally the media is now tripping over itself that Biden was calling for a regime change in Russia. Well duh. But he wasn’t really saying that, although we are all thinking it. Except Hungary’s mini dictator Viktor Orbán. He’s fine with everything as is. But everyone else knows that nothing will get better in Europe until Putin is gone. We don’t care where he goes, but he can’t stay there. I don’t know if he’s a madman or not, but people are finally realizing he’s not really that bright. His invasion of Ukraine was a clusterfuck from day 1. The estimates of dead Russian soldiers is as high as 15,000 (that’s the Ukrainian estimate; NATO’s estimate is a little lower, but still astronomical.) For reference: if the number is close to 15,000 dead Russian soldiers, that’s as many dead soldiers in 4 weeks as Russia lost in Afghanistan in 10 years of its disastrous occupation there. Putin clearly expected a) Zelenskyy would flee and that b) Ukrainians would welcome him with open arms. Neither thing happened. If Putin expected to win Ukrainians’ hearts and minds, he instead of killed decades of brotherly love between the two peoples. It’s not coming back. Ukraine now sees Russia on par with Nazis. And with good reason.

We also got some banana fireworks at the Senate confirmation hearings of Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson. She is likely going to be confirmed, but that didn’t stop Republicans (their brightest stars: Cruz, Graham, Hawley, Blackburn, Sasse, Cotton, Grassley!) from making asses of themselves, foaming at the mouth, and throwing QAnon at KBJ. They tried, they really tried, to break her down. She didn’t budge. Though I can’t even imagine how horrific those days of testimony were.

And speaking of horrific and foaming at the mouth: Ginni Thomas. WT actual F? We knew she was a rabid QAnon clown, and we knew she paid for some busses to take people to the insurrection on 1/6. But the 1/6 Commission released text messages between her and Mark Meadows in which she urged him to not allow Biden to become POTUS. Clarence Thomas, conveniently, got an infection just as the story broke. He spent a mysterious week at the hospital, nobody saying what actually he was sick with. He was probably sick with the case of Ginni Thomas. And let us never forget Thomas voted – the only justice to do so – to not allow 1/6 related text messages to be turned over to the 1/6 Commission. I mean, does anyone believe it was a coincidence that he voted to block release of those messages and we find out his wife was an active participant in all the texting? Well, Republicans don’t care. Even though Ginni Thomas is everything Republicans think Hillary Clinton is. There is no accountability for Republicans.

This is an open thread.

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.

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