Volodymyr Zelensky was an actor when he was elected President of Ukraine in 2019. Zelensky had appeared regularly on a TV series where he played a history teacher whose rant against political corruption vent viral and made him president. The Ukrainians, widely disillusioned with their own politicians, were so enchanted with the fictional story they made Zelensky the real president. The political party of the history teacher character on the television series, the “Servant of the People,” became the actual political party of Zelensky when he ran for president against incumbent Petro Poroshenko.
Zelensky was what all disaffected voters love – an outsider at least from conventional politics. And, he had said in his fictional viral rant, what many people knew to be true, i.e., that corruption was strangling the life out of the country. Hopes were high for Zelensky when he won election with 73% of the vote.
Two years later, Zelensky is struggling to fulfill some of the promises for fundamental social change he made during his campaign. In 2014, after pro-Russian puppet Viktor Yanukovych (for whom Paul Manafort worked) was ousted from the presidency and had to flee. Russia then seized Crimea and backed (or created) separatists who took over large areas of the region.
When Zelensky came to power, he promised to bring peace to the region and to end conflict in the Dunbas, another region where Russian separatists were taking over. Zelensky criticized his predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, for not negotiating effectively to end these conflicts.
But, Zelensky has not been able to deliver on his promises of peace. The war between Ukraine and the Russian-backed separatists continues and now there is a massive built up of troops on the Ukrainian border.
Zelensky initially made an effort to compromise with the Russians over their territorial claims. There were peace talks between the two countries, prisoner exchanges and moves toward establishing a peace process, known as the Minsk agreement. But, after Russia began issuing passports to the Russian-speakers in the contested territories, talks soured.
To make matters worse, the dictator of Belarus, Alyaksandre Lukashenka, has ceased to be a defender of Ukraine in its struggle with Russia.
When the Russian attack on Ukraine began in 2014, Lukashenka made great efforts to publicize his neutrality. He refused to recognize Russia’s claims to Crimea, politically declared that he would not permit an attack on Ukraine from Belarusian territory, and ridiculed Putin’s historical arguments justifying an invasion of Ukraine.
But, in August of 2020, Lukashenka launched a brutal response to nationwide protests over rigged presidential elections. This made him an international pariah. In the aftermath of the vote there were mass anti-regime demonstrations across the country. Lukashenka appeared to be in danger of losing power entirely. But, Vladamir Putin intervened and propped Lukashenka up with financial assistance, Kremlin propagandists and a public promise of security forces.
From this point onward, the dependence of Lukashenka on Putin only increased. Lukashenka launched a prolonged crackdown on domestic opposition and escalated an increasingly acrimonious confrontation with the West. One of the most widely publicized acts was a May 2021 incident where a commercial EU airliner was forced down while going over Belarusian airspace and a dissident Belarusian journalists was abducted from among the passengers.
After recent talks with Putin, Lukashenka has announced plans to deploy Russian air defense systems along the Ukrainian border.
Zelensky is making a courageous effort to confront corruption in Ukrainian society and fulfill his campaign promises, but he is also confronting a dangerous situation with Russia. It appears that Zelensky has reached the conclusion that Putin cannot be negotiated with and given the retreat of the West from foreign conflicts, he and the Ukrainians face this perilous situation by themselves.
The 2014 uprising in Ukraine, the ouster of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, and the overthrow of the Ukrainian government were severe blows to the pride of Vladamir Putin and the Russian establishment/oligarchy.
Added to the economic importance of Ukraine is the profound cultural centrality of Ukrainian history as part of the Soviet Union, and the political significance of the independence gained by the Ukrainian people.
Putin has reportedly never gotten over the breakup of the Soviet Union, the independence of Ukraine or the movement of the Ukrainian people towards the West.
As was pointed out in the Ukraine World Podcast, Putin and the Russian oligarchy have never conceived of Ukraine as an independent state. They have never considered Ukraine as independent and cannot now accept the status quo.
As Timothy Snyder pointed out, Putin and Russia have never considered Ukrainians as anything but vassals. They do not even negotiate with Ukrainians, but with the West over Ukraine.
And, the status quo, as unpalatable as it may seem, may not remain the status quo much longer.
Putin may feel that the window of time for pressuring Ukraine back into the Russian sphere is rapidly closing.
Not long after Biden took office, Russia announced itself fed up with the status quo relating to Ukraine and NATO expansion.
Also, around the first of the year, Zelensky expressed more publicly than he had in the past, an interest in Ukraine joining NATO.
Since Ukraine is not currently a member of NATO, there is no automatic responsibility of the West to react if Ukraine is invaded. If Ukraine joins NATO, however, this changes completely.
Note: I cannot see after withdrawing from Afghanistan, Biden involving military troops in any conflict in Ukraine. Putin, of course, knows this and it adds to the likelihood of intervention.
There is, of course, a great deal of debate about whether Putin intends to invade or just threaten. But, as has been pointed out, not only is there an unprecedented movement of troops, but also a structuring of support for an invasion, like locating medical supplies near the border.
It would probably be an error to suppose that Putin’s choice is binary. Even though U.S. officials persist in talking about the choice as either an invasion with a full scale military operation and seizure of territory, or backing down and not invading. But, as others point out, Putin has stated that he would never invade any territory unless he were certain of victory.
So, a number of regional experts foresee an operation that includes pinpoint strikes and then strategic withdrawals. The object, according to these commentators, is to destroy Ukrainian military capability. Occupation is not the goal.
Putin, so the theory goes, wants to demonstrate to Ukraine and the rest of the former Soviet Block that all their efforts towards independence can be negated easily and quickly, leaving them vulnerable and back inside the Russian sphere.
While there have been strides in the development of Ukrainian military capability, it cannot even compete with the highly technological, mobile Russian military expertise.
Putin pursued economic strategies to block Ukraine from moving out of the Russian sphere of influence and toward the west.
In 2014, it became evident that that strategy had failed. Ordinary people rose and drove out the pro-Russia president who had to flee to Moscow to keep from being imprisoned. The Ukrainians made their choice clear when they drove out a Russia friendly president and ushered in the pro-western government.
Putin saw this as a coup engineered by the West and the CIA to divide the Russian sphere of influence. So, Putin seized Crimea.
Putin intended to demonstrate that he cares more about the fate of Ukraine than the west.
Putin also sees the writing on the wall in the policies and actions of Zelensky. In early 2021, Zelensky’s government began cracking down on Russian controlled media inside Ukraine and a Russian connected oligarch. The government also participated in military exercises with Western forces.
Putin’s actions have actually alienated people in Ukraine. Polls indicate that more people than when Zelensky first took office support joining NATO and a move toward the West.
Putin, evidently, does not believe this. He has indicated that a move toward Russia is the will of the people and that Russian forces would be welcomed, regarded as liberators.
And, Putin may estimate that a war now could be less costly than later.
While U.S. officials bandy around the threats of “sanctions” according to specialists, Putin has been sanction proofing the Russian economy since 2014.
And, sanctions on Russia will affect powerful interests around the world. In order to enact meaningful sanctions, Biden would not only have to take on the Russians, but banking and other interests internationally. There is little indication that he is prepared to do this.
What Putin wants is not to annex Ukraine, but to influence it. He wants to alter and control the structure of security in Eastern Europe.
While this mobilization near the border of Ukraine may be only an example of “coercive diplomacy,” the intent is to keep Ukraine out of NATO and get an agreement to limit NATO expansion in Eastern Europe.
If Biden agrees to this in order to avoid a war, he will violate the concept of self determination that has influenced policy in the post-war era.
The Daily, NYT (12/8/21) Interview with Moscow Bureau Chief, NYT, Anton Troianovski
Ukraine World Ep. 58: The New Russian Attack on Ukraine.
On the internet: Video after video of police officers behaving abusively, escalating situations, cursing at people, threatening them, intimidating them, killing them, all over the country. CNN has an expert on to explain that our brains work differently when we’re under stress.
The “stress professor” and the Vanderbilt guy both agreed that we need more training for police.
I’ve been involved in criminology in one way or another for fifty years. I did research on female police partners and male use of deadly force in the 70s. Training is not the problem. Minneapolis, for example, spent a small fortune on training.
Police culture will win out over all the training and policy in the world.
If you look at the Derek Chauvin case as an example, Chauvin didn’t take the stand because basically his defense is that he didn’t do anything wrong and that he would do it again if he had the chance.
It appears that Alexander Navalny is dangerously close to dying. In the past, he told colleagues he couldn’t understand people using hunger strikes to advance their cases. It seemed, to him, merely a way to hand the state a tool. But, evidently the situation for him in prison was so bad, he resorted to using his own body as a tool to try to get help. It’s unlikely to work. The world stands by and watches.
Gary Kasperov, former Russian chess player and current activist, pointed out on Twitter that the West continues to deal with Putin as if he were some quasi-democratic head of state. Kasperov noted that Biden’s decision to turn around a ship to try to appease Putin was the wrong tactic. Autocrats, kleptocrats, authoritarians view offers of compromise as weakness.
Biden deals with Putin the way the Democrats deal with the Republicans. When will they learn that authoritarians cannot be compromised with or appealed to?
Joe Scarborough, who helped elect Trump, is now back to his rabid Republican heckling. It is difficult for me to understand how anybody could think that Scarborough was an ally. He and the dreadful Mika were up Trump’s ass until Trump threatened to reveal their adulterous affair. People need to remember we have Mika on tape asking Trump’s permission to ask him a “hard” question. Morning Joe as outlived its usefulness if it ever had any. It belongs in the Chris Matthews trash bag of programming. MSNBC needs to do better.
While I’m on MSNBC, the nightly news programs continue to use Jason “island of misfit black girls” Johnson as a commentator. He lost his job at the Root for his nasty, racist comment about the women who worked for Bernie Sanders, and MSNBC punished him with a few weeks off air. But, he’s back now with a vengeance. Joy Reid loves him because she actively worked to destroy Sanders’ campaign. The lesson here? You can say anything and get away with it if it’s about Bernie Sanders or his campaign.
The new feral cat we are socializing woke me up at 3:30 in the morning because his food bowls were empty. I’m wide awake, but he’s back asleep, stretched out at the foot of the bed on a quilt. They learn so quickly. Cats are the masters of psychological manipulation. His name is Oliver Wendell Holmes.
I despise the celebrity culture that has taken over this country. The Democratic National Convention was nothing other than a cheap, vacuous, celebrity infomercial devoid of policy and full of “cult of personality” programming. It was an embarrassment.
Somehow, we were supposed to believe that because Joe Biden is a nice guy and has lost family members, he should be president of the United States. Somehow, we were supposed to pat ourselves on the back and glory in the fact that we had nominated an African American, Asian woman to be vice president. Never mind the policies of these two people. Never mind their histories. It is supposed to be enough that these two are telegenic, just as nice as they can be, and fit certain categories of human beings.
That is evidently where we are.
After the convention we were treated to more infomercials. In one of them, Kamala Harris had a charming, laughing, conversation with Barak Obama about Biden liking ice cream and wearing a certain kind of sunglasses. This was seriously intended to get us to vote for the Democrats – the fact that the party elite could chat on television and laugh about the personal foibles of the candidate. This is what they think of us. This is nothing but insulting.
In the true fashion of this celebrity worship culture we have going on, the corporate media is this weekend, endlessly talking about the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We are in the middle of a war for a democratic society, and we are engaging in celebrity worship.
As Elie Mystal pointed out writing in the Nation, we don’t have time for this, and Ginsburg would be the first person to see that we don’t have time for this.
Ginsburg occupied a pivotal position on the U.S. Supreme Court and her death has created a crisis that just illustrates the dysfunction of the government and the society. The death of a judge, one judge, shouldn’t throw the country into a crisis. The appointment of one judge shouldn’t mean the difference between democracy and authoritarianism. But, it does. It hands to the Republicans the opportunity to conclusively warp this society into an authoritarian kleptocratic state devoid of rights for regular ordinary human beings.
This is where we are. We have to fight this authoritarian take-over with everything in our beings. But, tonight, on CNN they are hosting Scalia’s son to discuss (out of all the other things about Ginsburg’s life) the beautiful relationship between Ginsburg and one of the arch enemies of law and therefore democracy, Antonin Scalia.
I’m sorry but I just can’t stomach this. I suppose there is somewhere, something laudatory about being able to be friends with people who are sitting at the peak of privilege and wealth and power and working to destroy democracy and the rule of law for the rest of us, but I just don’t see it.
If we have to sit through this eulogizing of Ginsburg, the last thing we need is to have right-wing Federalist Society zealots to talk about her. The last thing we need is to try to convince people that what we need is more bipartisan cooperation. No, we need less, and we need to fight for democratic law and democratic institutions.
The corporate Democrats who have much more reason to talk about Ginsburg, are bad enough. Last night, Nina Totenberg was on Rachael Maddow talking about her friendship with Ginsberg. She said wistfully that Ginsburg had planned to retire in 2016 and have her successor named by the first woman president. Isn’t that special? I might plan to have thoroughbred horses fly out of my ass, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.
This story was presented as if it demonstrated something positive about Ginsburg, and it has been retweeted today by people who obviously think the same thing.
To me, it just demonstrates what was wrong with the Democratic Party elite in 2016 and what is still wrong with the Democratic Party elite today.
Barak Obama declined to tell the American people the truth about something crucially important to them. He refused to tell them that Russian operatives had intervened in the 2016 election to the extent of penetrating the voting systems in 50 states.
Obama made this decision, as far as I can tell, because first, he was afraid of the reaction of Republicans if he came out and told the American people without bipartisan support. He was so afraid of appearing partisan he lied by omission, lied about something vital to the functioning of democracy. Mitch McConnell refused to join Obama and make a public, bipartisan statement and Obama didn’t have the guts to do it alone.
Second, Barak Obama was afraid of tarnishing his cherished legacy by appearing to be “partisan” in the 2016 election. He was more concerned with his legacy (to people who despise him) than his country.
Third, Barak Obama was so sure Hillary Clinton was going to win, he decided he wouldn’t have to tell the truth to the American people. Clinton could solve the problem after she was elected.
All three of these excuses stink to high heaven and again illustrate something characteristic about the Democratic corporate elite.
This professional class of Democrats think they know better than the American people how to run the country. They think that their judgement is better than everybody else’s.
They can handle, among themselves, an unprecedented intrusion into the election process. Why tell the unwashed masses?
Obama reportedly thought that telling the truth would shake the confidence of the American people in the election process. He’s not the only member of the Democratic elite to think this. There are an astounding number of people out there who will react like vicious dogs if the integrity of the election process is even questioned.
The logic of this position just amazes me. It goes something like this. The election process has been corrupted but we mustn’t tell the American people because it might shake their confidence in an election process that because of corruption can be no longer relied on. So, it’s better to have the American people believe a lie, continue to trust an election system that can’t be trusted. It’s better because we (the Democratic elite) can deal with it ourselves, behind closed doors. That worked out really well.
This same kind of hubris evidently led Ruth Bader Ginsburg to think she could continue (in ill health and advanced age) to sit on the Supreme Court and have Clinton name her replacement. Having the first woman president name her replacement made a good story, a fitting end to her career. And, like Obama, she was convinced (so convinced she was willing to risk our future) that Clinton was going to win. Even with a compromised election process (which they all knew about), Clinton’s baggage and low approval ratings and an e-mail scandal, Clinton was going to win. Why? Because they wanted her to.
I’ve got news for these people. They don’t get to determine what’s going to happen. They don’t control events. What kind of delusional hubris leads one to stay in a position at the Supreme Court, a crucial position, a history changing pivotal position, counting on the fact that they are going to waltz out with the first woman president because that’s what they want to happen?
I’m sorry. Ginsburg appears to have been a wonderful person, lawyer, activist, but someone genuinely concerned with and committed to the struggle, with the future of the country for ordinary people, would have resigned during Obama’s administration to make sure that the ideals she believed in and fought so hard for, had a chance of continuing.
And, I fault not only Ginsburg but Obama and his administration for not pushing her resignation. I ask you: What is wrong with these people?
I keep going back to a film quote. As Yankees are overrunning Atlanta, Aunt Pittypat is concerned about Scarlet having a chaperone. Dr. Meade, in utter and complete frustration yells: “Good God, woman, this is a war, not a garden party.”
But, this Democratic elite – the politicians, the “strategists,” the pollsters, the pundits – all of them are so filled with pride and smug assuredness that they can’t see what is happening around them.
Even now, after all the mistakes of 2016, the Democratic corporate elite seems to be waltzing off an electoral cliff supported by their own delusions.
Ginsburg wasn’t a healthy 50-year-old. They knew she was ill, had known for years. If they couldn’t convince her to resign when Obama could nominate a successor, they should have had a strategy for what they were going to do if she suddenly died during Trump’s administration. They should have hit the ground running on Friday night, not sat stunned, grief stricken, and still counting on the Republicans to “do the right thing.”
I mean, Jesus F…ing Christ. Anybody who is now, four years into this administration, relying in any way on the Republicans to do the right thing, is just brain dead (I include Cory Booker in that category).
For the first time on Friday night, I heard Chris Hayes interview somebody (Rebecca Traister) who sounded like I and a lot of other people have felt for four years. Traister was and said she was terrified and furious. She sounded like somebody who was terrified and furious, not like the stable of “calmers”, the “institutions are holding” gang on MSNBC who have been interviewed today. Cory Booker, Klobuchar, the presidential historians, Hirono (as much as I love her), Capehart, Jarrett.
I swear I think that part of the deal to convince all the corporate democrats to drop out of the race and endorse Biden was an agreement by MSNBC to interview them every fifteen minutes.
Last week, Cory Booker was on Ari Melber’s (also disgustingly celebrity laden) show claiming that what we needed was a “return to civic grace.” That’s Booker’s answer to an authoritarian take-over, a return to “civic grace.” I’m sure Mitch McConnell will take that “return to civic grace” and stuff it up Booker’s nose.
The British government and intelligence agencies failed to conduct a proper assessment of Kremlin attempts to interfere with the 2016 Brexit referendum, according to a long-delayed Russia report.
The contents of the report indicate that the government and intelligence agencies failed to investigate Russian interference because they didn’t want to know, and that they delayed a report until after the election that would have revealed the fact.
Stewart Hosie, a Scottish National party MP who sits on the cross-party committee that issued the report stated:
“The UK Government have actively avoided looking for evidence that Russia interfered. We were told that they hadn’t seen any evidence, but that is meaningless if they hadn’t looked for it.”
Britain has become “a favourable destination for Russian oligarchs and their money”, observed the committee.
Citing no names, the committee also warned that it was “notable that a number of members of the House of Lords have business interests linked to Russia, or work directly for major Russian companies linked to the Russian state.”
“…the facts make you wish they were fiction, but that is all the more reason we need to hear them.”
Greitens, governor of Missouri
“Whereas once mere publicity about his scandals would have prompted resignation, Greitens proved that hanging on to executive power to dodge or manipulate prosecution remains a viable option in an era of unfettered corruption—a lesson the Trump administration knows well. One of the most awful things about the Greitens case is that Missourians felt lucky he left, like peasants relieved at the passing of an evil king. There was never accountability, there was never transparency—there was just luck, otherwise known as dead expectations.
“When asked to vote on a specific issue, Missourians chose the most progressive options. But when asked to vote for a politician, over half of Missourians chose Republicans who sought to strike down the very ballot initiatives for which they had voted.”
The 1980s: Roy Cohn’s Orwellian America
“In 1984, one year after the tower’s completion, Soviet army veteran David Bogatin purchased five luxury condos for six million dollars—a purchase so substantial that Trump made sure to personally oversee the closing.”
“In 1987, Bogatin admitted he had purchased the Trump Tower condos “to launder money, to shelter and hide assets…”
“…a Senate investigation revealed him to be a leading figure in the Russian mafia. The Russian mafia had been growing in New York City due to a wave of Soviet émigrés and a crackdown on the Italian mob…”
“…Comey, who replaced Mueller as FBI head in 2013, the FBI removed Mogilevich—the dangerous Russian mafia head who had been ancillary to Trump since the 1980s—from the Ten Most Wanted list in December 2015 and replaced him with a bank robber. “
“When the press works against its own financial interest—as it did by rejecting the harrowing truth of Trump—there is a deeper problem.”
“…documents to claim that, beginning in 1977, Trump would remain “completely tax-exempt for the next 30 years” thanks to a mysterious arrangement between his company and the American government; that he was contractually bound to have three children with Ivana (which he did); and that he was being groomed to run for president in 1988 (which he nearly did).”:
“February 20, 2017, one month after Trump’s inauguration, Churkin died suddenly at the age of sixty-four….Churkin had been the fifth Russian diplomat to die unexpectedly and in an unexplained fashion since Trump won the election.”
“…1987, he (Trump) told journalist Ron Rosenbaum that he sought to partner with Russia on nuclear weapons with the aim of threatening other countries into compliance.”
“Stone was involved in every Trump presidential run thereafter as well as in Trump’s near-run for New York governor in 2014.
“Trump had one condition for entering a race: his win needed to be preordained.”
“…crime committed brazenly is over time redefined as something other than crime. It is entertainment, and then it is autocracy, and then it is too late.”
“That a significant number of today’s high-profile journalists did know the Trump family personally is cause for concern.”
“These powerful sectors of society have been overtaken by connections rather than merit, and dynasties rather than unbiased workforces.”
“The deep secret of all Trump coverage is that it is cost-effective news—”
“David Cay Johnston, author of multiple bestsellers about Trump, noted that in addition to refusing to cover the rape of Ivana, the 2016 press would not report on Trump’s documented ties to organized crime.”
“..confessed drug trafficker. [The trafficker is Joseph Weichselbaum,”
“This is called “normalcy bias”: the idea that if a situation is truly dangerous, if massive crimes are being committed in plain sight, someone will intervene and stop them.”
“Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present, controls the past,” Orwell wrote in 1984. “Past events, it is argued, have no objective existence, but survive only in written records and in human memories. The past is whatever the records and the memories agree upon. And since the Party is in full control of all records, and in equally full control of the minds of its members, it follows that the past is whatever the Party chooses to make it.”
Five aides to Rep. Jeff Van Drew, the only Democrat to come out against impeachment, have resigned. Van Drew announced that he will not vote for impeachment.
In a letter of resignation the staff members told the Chief of Staff: “Van Drew’s decision to join the ranks of the Republican Party led by Donald Trump does not align with the values we brought to this job when we joined his office.” “Over the past year, Trump Republicans have sided with special interests over the needs of working people,” they said. “Worse, they continue to aid and abet Trump as he shreds the Constitution and tears the country apart. They have refused to grapple with how the President of the United States has jeopardized our national security for his own political advantage.” “Van Drew’s decision to join the ranks of the Republican Party led by Donald Trump does not align with the values we brought to this job when we joined his office.”
It should be a serious subject for discussion just how craven men and women will become to hold onto a position in Congress. One only has to think of the enormous increase in the personal wealth of Mitch McConnell to understand just how much money these man and women expect to make from their positions of public service.
As I used to tell my students when I taught Criminology – they don’t come to public office and become corrupted, they go into public service because they are corrupted and plan to become more so.
The Republicans Cannot be Shamed
I have a little clue for CNN and MSNBC. Both cable news networks have shown clips of Lindsay Graham asking members of Congress to wait and weigh the evidence before deciding on impeachment when Clinton was the object. They then show video of Graham proudly proclaiming that he is not an objective juror in the Trump impeachment.
Trying to point out the hypocrisy of Lindsay Graham, Mitch McConnell or any other Republican is a waste of time. THEY DON’T CARE.
The Republican party is trying to install a one-party religious state in this country. They are fighting what to them is a holy war against the rest of us and against democracy. They cannot be shamed or embarrassed. They cannot be reasoned with because they are trying to colonize reason and use it for themselves and their own power.
Appeasers like Joe Biden, Cory Booker and Buttigieg are our worst enemies. They encourage people to believe that when Trump is gone (if he ever is) things will return to “normal.” But “normal” is what got us Trump. The Bill Barr’s, the Mitch McConnell’s, the Jim Jordan’s, will still be there. The Fellowship Foundation will still be there.
Those who don’t see the fight and won’t engage in it, must get out of the way and be left behind.
All you have to do is read this book to see how Robert Mueller was either a Chickenshit (See book by Eisinger) or part of the project to cover up the Trump/Russia collusion. Neither alternative is a good one.