Ukraine. A Russian Civil War?

if the Russian leadership does not want to sit at the table with us for the sake of peace, perhaps it will sit at the table with you. Do Russians want war? I would very much like to answer this question, but the answer depends on you, the citizens of the Russian Federation.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy – Feb. 23, 2022

I’ve never been a fan of a foreign leader before. I have a fanboy crush on Volodymyr Zelenskyy (Who doesn’t these days?) I think I have to reveal my crush right up front in this article because I’m not thinking clearly right now. Or maybe I’m finally thinking clearly for the first time in years. Who knows? What I do know is that I love Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Despite all the odds, he stood up to Vladimir Putin’s aggression and has defined courage for the world in the current European crisis:

I need ammunition, not a ride

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…and inspired the citizens of the world to come together in support of his country. I love the guy. If I was 20 right now I’d get on a plane and fly to Ukraine to fight beside him in defense of him and his people and their homes. His is a profile in courage.

Stonekettle asked the collective consciousness of Twitter back on February 19th:

…and that is the essential question here; should we support Ukraine or not? We being the United States in this question means that there is no easy answer. Each individual can make that choice for themselves, certainly. However, this isn’t a question that can be answered with a single word, positive or negative when it comes to the participation of outside groups in what amounts to a regional power struggle.

Modern warfare is evil incarnate and this makes it hard to justify any action that isn’t self defensive in nature. Is it in our own defense to save Ukraine from Russian aggression? That is a difficult question to answer with anything other than a regretful no or a twenty page essay explaining why it should be yes but can’t be.

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What follows will probably a twenty page essay. We’ll start with a grammar lesson. It is Ukraine not the Ukraine. It is a country, not just a place, no matter what Vladimir Putin says. You don’t go around saying “we’re going to the Texas” unless you’re going visit the battleship museum. It’s Texas or Ukraine. It is the name of a country or a state.

The United States of America is a union of states or nations. That’s why it was historically referred to as a union or The Union. The United States was never supposed to be the name of the country. They argued about the name for a long time, just like they argued about what to call the office of the president until just giving up and referring to him as the President (a practice that has spread widely) they gave up on giving the collection of states or nations another name, and just used the kludge of a name that was on the Constitution itself.

It’s quite possible that this was a signal of the imperial aspirations of the founders. They knew that there was a lot more land out there to conquer to their west, not to mention to the North and the South, before they ever needed to worry about the phrase of America in the name on the founding document.

Both the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the European Union (EU) were styled after the founding ideals of the United States; principally, the enrichment of the powerful inside those unions, clothed in the garb of caring for the general welfare of the masses of its residents. Neither of those Unions bothered with popular direct elections for representatives for those bodies. The powerful within the United States have come to regret including those provisions in their documents.

Providence, Rhode Island is a city, county, state and nation all at the same time. Let that understanding sink in for a minute. All fifty states are nations tied together within a federal structure, yet retaining independent laws and governing structures. The only interests of the various states that were ceded to the federal government were the issues of interstate trade and the relationships with foreign governments. Everything else was and in a general sense still is an internal issue to be settled within the state itself. This arrangement has the advantage of hiding from view most of the politics that matter for governing inside the United States.

You don’t get a view of local politics unless you dig for it; ask any resident of any decent sized town whether they care more about their local infrastructure or their federal government’s policies. Anyone with an understanding of just how precarious our system is will know that the politics that really matters is local politics. It determines the priorities of all the levels above it that can interfere with its operation.

When that power structure is reversed the result is almost certainly catastrophic. Case in point; the recurring lack of preparation or understanding on the part of the whole state of Texas has led to individual suffering on an unprecedented level all across the state. Power outages, healthcare unavailability, etcetera. The city has to be able to act to protect itself or it becomes the victim of charlatans and demagogues.

Governor Greg Abbott is hereby submitted as exhibition A for the court’s perusal.

All governmental requirements radiate out from the needs of individuals that go unmet; whether those requirements are more doctors or more police officers. More housing or more jails. Federal mandates almost always miss their targets because federal mandates almost never take the needs of the suffering into consideration. That level of granularity is almost beyond grasping from the distance of the White House whether the White House is at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or 1010 Colorado Street.

The problem of Ukraine being frequently referred to as the Ukraine is easily understood. I’ve done this too, refer to it as a place by putting “the” in front of it. This was a forgivable act when Ukraine and Ukrainians were inside the USSR or just a key part of the Russian empire. Ukraine was just a word in Russian meaning borderlands when the leaders in Moscow slapped that name on the area between Russia and Europe. The Soviet Union was largely a face-saving measure designed to mask the hands of Vladimir Lenin and then Joseph Stalin controlling the daily lives of millions of Russian people directly. That was their desire. The leader of the Soviet Union couldn’t call himself a Czar and get away with it. After all, the whole revolution had been fought to get rid of the Czar, hadn’t it?

So Joseph Stalin took a different title after he arranged his ascension to power, but he held pretty much the same power as the Czar; and life went on in the USSR under different management, the lot of the common people possibly worse than it had been under the Czar, but nobody being willing to say anything about it. Ukrainians no different than Poles, no different than Czechs no different than Kazakhs, Tajiks or Tatars. All suffering equally under the yoke of the new leadership.

Ukraine was a country though. The primordial Marxist state that Lenin and his Bolshevik’s created out of the ruins of the former Russian Empire engineered a compromise to maintain control of those lands. Granted them all a measure of cultural autonomy within the bounds of the Soviet Union’s authoritarian political control (Correction: Stalin did not give the Crimea to Ukraine. He died in 1953 and the transfer was in 54. I will however maintain that the USSR continued essentially on autopilot for almost forty years before expiring. –ed.) Then Stalin died and not too long after he died his empire crumbled as empires tend to do without the leaders that created them.

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Throughline – Ukraine’s Dangerous Independence – March 10, 2022

What the Bolsheviks and Lenin did really for the first time, they created a separate state, a separate institutions and a separate territory for Russia, which became known as the Russian Federation. Separating, at least symbolically, for the first time Russia proper from what used to be the Russian empire. Before that, there was no such separation.

Serhii Plokhii

Russia was a creation of the Bolsheviks, not Ukraine. Before there was Russia there was Kievan Rus’ and all three core nations of the former Soviet Union claim this nationality as their birthright. What is the true Russian state? That’s a good question. A better question is, can there be a true Russian state and why does it have to be just one state? Why is one of them named Russia in the first place? The country we call Russia is no more and no less than the region ruled as Muscovy immediately before the creation of the Russian Empire. They no more deserve the name than either of the two other countries who claim the heritage.

As a typically educated person in the middle of the American West I was shocked and outraged while watching all the maps I had spent so much time trying to learn and understand change overnight. So many more countries to try to keep track of. Gone were the days when the Northern half of the Eurasian continent was engulfed in a sea of red with a yellow hammer and sickle on it. What was most puzzling to me, as an outsider, was the breakup of what I had thought of as traditionally Russian countries. How could there be three Russian governments?

That is what also seems to puzzle Vladimir Putin. He has done his best to preserve as much of the historical Russian empire under some semblance of Moscow control since he took control of Russia in the 1990’s. Crushing rebellions here, subverting elections there, the kinds of things that a leader with imperial aspirations engages in.

It seems like we’ve been on tenterhooks over the subject of Ukraine forever here in the United States. I know I’ve written several articles on the subject dating back to the release of Dan Carlin’s Common Sense podcast #270 Poking the Bear in 2014. When Putin-backed insurgents shot down a civilian airliner over Ukraine later that year, I was done listening to anyone who was sympathetic to Putin’s empire re-building effort. It was Obama’s reaction to Putin’s aggression in Ukraine in 2014 (too strong or too weak? it’s hard to say) that put us on the course to where we are now in history.

It was obvious to me then, just as it remains obvious to me now, that if the United States is a free country then its citizens can and should go where they like and agitate for change that some governments may or may not approve of. Even take up arms against governments against the sincerely expressed wishes of the United States government. If we are free, then we are free to do these things, too.

It is virtually impossible to discern the difference between a non-government organization (NGO) working for democracy and economic reform for its own unique purposes, and NGO’s that have been infiltrated by the CIA or any other nation’s intelligence service. If the intelligence services are doing their jobs properly, ALL OF THEM have been infiltrated by all of the intelligence services, and the various NGO’s should take this fact into account when they go about doing the business they are doing.

However, there remains a difference between acting in accordance with your government’s wishes, and acting on the orders of your government’s officers (where Buchanan’s predictions fail) Putin has had NGO’s working in the United States for every bit as long as any American NGO has been working in Ukraine, and it never started American’s thinking that Russia was trying to control its citizenry. We let Russia Today (RT) run unfettered promotions of Donald Trump for a year and never even thought to ask why RT loved Donald Trump so much.

The results of the NGO’s and the US government’s combined campaigns in Ukraine, stamping out corruption, un-rigging the electoral process, were that Viktor Yanukovych lost the Ukrainian Presidential elections that were called in 2014 after he acted against the expressed wishes of the Ukrainian people. In a huff, Vlad the Corrupter invaded and annexed Crimea, his preferred summer vacation spot. Queue the outrage from everyone who thought that Ukraine was Russian all along. Add to it the fearful outrage of people who will do anything to avoid a confrontation with Vladimir Putin on the international stage. Queue my exodus from Dan Carlin’s listening circle due to his clueless insistence that Pat Buchanan was some kind of a reputable psychic, as if that phrase isn’t an oxymoron in and of itself.

Vlad the Corrupter then sits and waits for the resulting storm to calm, rigging foreign elections and screwing up other governments all the while in hope of being allowed to do what he is doing right now. The invasion has taken longer to happen than I expected, that is the only surprising thing about it.

The Russian interference in the the 2016 election that put Donald Trump into the White House was one of the responses to the sanctions that President Obama imposed in 2014 after Putin annexed Crimea. We know this because Trump promised to get the sanctions lifted and then had to backtrack on the promise when it became public (the idiot never could figure out how not to say the quiet parts out loud) Fast forward to 2018 and Donald Trump’s attempt to blackmail Ukraine into playing dirty tricks in the 2020 elections lead to his first impeachment.

thebulwark.com

Ukraine just can’t seem to leave the front page. I’m sure they’d like to. Fast forward again to 2022. Putin continues his aborted invasion from 2014. He was always going to do this just like the United States was always going to invade Iraq under a Republican president. It was always the plan. Invading Ukraine was what he planned when his puppet (Paul Manafort’s buddy, Viktor Yanukovych. You remember Paul Manafort, right? Trump’s campaign chairman?) lost his election.

It is a sad historical truth that Ukraine was stupid enough to give up its nukes. The preservation of Ukraine’s independence that all concerned parties signed onto (including Vlad himself) in exchange for Ukraine giving up the nukes stored inside of its national borders was just the initial move in an undeclared war. If Ukraine still had nuclear weapons we would not be seeing this invasion live on screens today. Is it really any wonder why Iran wants nuclear weapons? It should be obvious by now. If you have the ability to destroy life as we know it at your fingertips, people take you seriously. Weird how that works, isn’t it?

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Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in 1994, Zelensky said, in return for a security guarantee signed by the U.S., the U.K., and Russia. What happened to those guarantees? Ukraine had been told that the doors to NATO membership remained open, but Ukraine had never been invited inside. Because the Ukrainians are not members of NATO, they know they cannot count on allied forces to come to their support. And as for those “lessons of history” that Baerbock and other German politicians have referred to in recent days, Zelensky wondered aloud whether they had been learned: “I just want to make sure you and I read the same books.” And then, in defiance of everything that everybody else had said, he used the word appeasement, to describe not Munich in 1938, but Munich in 2022.

Anne Applebaum – theatlantic.com (gift subscription for the blog author still greatly desired)

At the end of the day, it’s going to be the Ukrainians and their bravery and their dedication to this very old idea, the idea of sovereignty, the idea of freedom. It will be their dedication to that that determines what happens.

Anne Applebaum – Rachel Maddow – Feb. 21, 2022

The fog of war has descended now. Nobody can have all the facts any longer and yet facts still remain facts and facts are generally indisputable.

Here’s a fact; Putin is behaving like a new Hitler. Hitler’s bullshit excuse for claiming the Sudetenland and starting World War Two is exactly the same language that Vladimir Putin used to claim his right to invade and occupy Ukraine. There is no other conclusion that can be made when looking at that speech made by Vlad the Corrupter. He is a Hitler, a fascist, an authoritarian, and he is bent on a reconquest of historically Russian possessions with majority Russian speakers.

That is what it looks like from the UK, it’s what it looks like from France and Germany and from the Balkan states that are right now very, very thankful that they joined NATO. Putin being a twenty-first century Hitler is what it looks like when you see any Ukrainian being interviewed; whether they are in the UK worried about relatives or in Kyiv worried about what’s going to happen next. If they are being interviewed on the BBC, maybe the BBC has an agenda, maybe they don’t, but they’re interviewing ordinary, regular people; people who probably would be sitting at home watching TV at that precise moment and would prefer to not be interviewed by anybody except that a lot of shit is happening right now. Shit that has forced two million Ukrainians to leave their homes in fear.

(h/t to Stuart Surridge)

Ukraine was recognized as an independent state by Russia more than 30 years ago. The Charter of Paris, signed in November 1990 by the United States, Russia and 30 European countries, established essential principles for a post-Cold War era based on international law and global norms. Subsequently, Russia, the United States and Great Britain guaranteed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine in 1995 in the Budapest Memorandum.

Moscow has no more legal basis to insist on any portion of the territory of Ukraine than Germany has the right to demand the return of Alsace and Lorraine from France. If the West accepts such Russian claims, it will not only undermine the sovereignty of all countries but also invite other nations to seek territory through military force.

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I would prefer that there was never another war but that has no bearing on whether Putin is an aggressor or that Volodymyr Zelenskyy was heroic when he chose to stay with his people and fight to the bitter end. If the US had supported a real leader during our fiasco in Afghanistan the Taliban would not be in power there now. Volodymyr Zelenskyy is a real leader.

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Ukraine has been an independent state for thirty years. It’s President will likely give his life for his country as will many thousands of it’s men, women and children. It is time and long past time to start treating it the way we do every other country; and with Ukraine, Belarus and Russia now being separate governments today, separate governments and distinctly unique peoples, it is long past time to admit that there is no longer a Russian empire. There are just the three countries who were once the core of the empire, two of which are lead by the same cruel little spider, Vlad the Corrupter in Moscow.

All of this is aside from the fact that we, the United States government, cannot be allowed to be seen as starting a war in Europe, which is what it will look like if we were to interfere in Ukraine directly now or in the near future. What is going on in Europe is a Russian or Eastern Slavic Civil War, no different than all the other uprisings that Vlad the Corrupter has put down in the former Soviet Republics. He saw all of them as the unwanted intervention of the United States and its allies and accomplices in strictly Russian affairs. Up to this point, he has been allowed to do what he wants with these places.

spotifyCommon Sense 323 – Gas Up the Cold War – March 1, 2022

I don’t like any of this in terms of how it worked out because I don’t want a more militarized Europe, I don’t want another cold war, I don’t want the massive defense spending, I don’t want everything that this is going to entail; but I’m not the one that invaded Ukraine. Sometimes it’s not up to us what we want.

Dan Carlin

If you grew up during the Cold War you can understand why most people don’t want to return to those years, and resuming hostilities with Russia because of Vlad the Corrupter’s actions feels a lot like the cold war is starting back up again. However, this isn’t a return to the cold war if we can keep Ukraine independent and opposed to Russian control.

…And we want to avoid a return to the cold war almost as much as we want to avoid a nuclear Armageddon. That outcome would be a setback for world peace and our need for mutual cooperation on limiting climate change. The world-wide antagonism that comes with a return to a cold war footing that might as well be read as the end of life as we know it on this planet, much the same as an all-out nuclear war will spell the end of life.

It isn’t a nuclear exchange that I fear. We are already in WW3 as far as I can tell and it may well end in a nuclear exchange for all that any of us can tell. What I fear is capitulation to Russia on the one hand and the resulting rise of authoritarianism around the world that would follow; as opposed to the standard American military response that will end in a nuclear exchange at some point.

On the other end of the spectrum from Dan Carlin’s handwringing about potentially starting a nuclear war we have this:

We must not only stop what’s happening in Ukraine, we must stop it before it happens here. 

Stonekettle (answering his own question before I can)

We cannot go into Ukraine and fight Russians directly. That is the conflict that every nationalist everywhere has been primed to fight to the death over. Being in the war should not equate to “running the war.” We must avoid that impression at all costs if we want any chance of victory for democracy and Ukraine. This has to be, first and foremost, Ukraine’s war against Russian aggression. Against Putin’s aggression, his denial of their own separate personhood as a nation. As individuals who don’t want to bow down to his criminal organization.

The United States needs to figure out how to assist Ukraine and the wider European theater of operation without making the conflict all about us. It ain’t about us. It’s about Ukrainians not wanting to belong to Vladimir Putin’s Russia. IF WE RUN THIS WAR we will lose this war. There is nothing that Russians want more than to make the United States suffer after all the suffering they’ve been through, suffering they’ve been told is at our hands for more than seventy years now.

We can not be the center. Ukraine has to be the center.

spotifynytimes – Ezra Klein, Volodymyr Yermolenko 04/12/2022

We should make Russia pay for all this destruction. This is what didn’t happen in Syria. This is what didn’t happen in other countries. Russia is saying, I will destroy, you will pay. And this is incredibly wrong.

One of the light motifs of Russian culture, by the way, is the motif of “Crime and Punishment,” as we all know. The novel of Dostoyevsky. But actually, what we have in Russian political culture, in Stalinism, for example, is crime without punishment and punishment without crime. All those people who were sent to gulags without any trials or were exterminated, killed, they were punished without a crime.

And I think this is the most dangerous thing when we’re looking for — when somebody is looking for compromises with Putin, something that we need to avoid. Because if Russia is not punished, is not kept responsible for its crimes, obviously it will continue them.

Volodymyr Yermolenko

We as a country have to stand on the sidelines and do the equivalent of provide resources to the defenders of democracy and independence. Ukraine has to dictate what its victory conditions or cease fire conditions are. Ukraine has to meet at the table with the Muscovy-Russians as equals. If that is what come to the aid of means in the question that started this article, then the answer is yes. If anything more than that is what it means, then the answer is no. No, because we can’t destroy all life on the face of the planet in the name of protecting it. Anything short of that should remain on the table. How to successfully draw that line is where we are in this war, six months later.

So much for Vlad’s promises of a short war and a glad reunion of brothers. The Ukrainian regions he lays claim to now lie in ruins. The regions that Ukraine still controls are actively being rebuilt and returning to whatever passes for normal in the middle of a war. Vladimir Putin will pay, eventually. His own people may well make him pay before this is over.


I get most of my news from NPR:

spotifyNPR – State of Ukraine

Even though I don’t link any of their podcasts in this article. Most of what they broadcast is transitory. The feeds mount up and the information becomes stale and the attempt to narrativize the information becomes unwieldy very quickly.

Biden vs. Reagan

For the past thirty years, every single time we’ve had a new President, that first year of the new president, the president’s party lost both the Virginia governor and the New Jersey governor. Every single time.

Except this time Democrats didn’t lose New Jersey. In a rational world this would not be a cause for Democratic panic. Quite the contrary.

Democrats have beat the odds. They’ve done better than everybody’s done going back to the great communicator, Ronald Reagan, who’s the last president who pulled this off.

The last time a president managed to only lose one of those governorships in the first year he was in office, it was the great communicator himself Ronald Reagan.

Biden has done something that no other President has been able to do since Reagan. You would think this would be cause for celebration in the Democratic party.

Rachel Maddow – November 3, 2021

In the meantime, this is what has happened to the party of Reagan:

youtubeRachel Maddow: November 3rd
dallasnews.com

Scores of QAnon believers gathered Tuesday afternoon in downtown Dallas in the hopes that John F. Kennedy Jr. would appear, heralding the reinstatement of Donald Trump as president.

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NBC App Wants Feedback?

I’ve been catching The Rachel Maddow Show via her audio podcast for years now. I occasionally watch the partial video podcast too, but only on days when I want to see what she’s talking about. Wednesday was one of those days.

There was some bit or other that was visual later in the show on September first, and so consequently not in the video podcast which is generally the first thirty minutes of the show or the first story, whichever comes out to about half of her airtime, and I thought I would try to catch that bit on MSNBC’s website (they do eventually get a transcript up. Not really useful for a show conducted in a visual medium. -ed.) While looking around on MSNBC.com I noticed that there was an NBC app that they said I could watch the show on, so I downloaded and installed the app.

The Rachel Maddow Show is indeed on the app, but the ability to search for clips from that or any show is almost non-existent, the same problem that I run into on the website. The content is almost always more easily found on YouTube than it is on MSNBC.com or NBC.com, even when NBC puts the video on YouTube themselves.

I couldn’t find the current episode of Rachel’s show that day. So I gave up and finished listening to the audio podcast. The next day it was the same problem when I thought I would start with the NBC app instead of heading straight to the podcast. I could find yesterday’s show (now I had forgotten what it was I had wanted to see in that show) but not that day’s episode. Back to my podcast app then.

What good is yesterday’s news? It is of little use unless you are constructing a narrative that spans the subject in question, as Rachel did when digging up what the news was on the day that Roe versus Wade was decided by the supreme court. I don’t need to see yesterday’s news if I’ve already heard that news. I had heard it. I heard it elsewhere.

Today I opened the app to watch Rachel Maddow for September 3rd, 2021. It isn’t available on the app yet. The feed helpfully says “finish watching” on the episode I’ve already seen elsewhere and queued previously. When I scroll through to the end of the episode, the app queued all the ads from the episode for me to watch just to finish the show. If I wanted to check that I’ve seen the end of the days news from her, I have to watch five thirty second ads.

I’m not going to watch five ads, not even five ten second ads. I won’t remember what the first two ads were about by the time I get to the fifth one. No, I’m going to close the app and do something else. Everyone would close the app and do something else.

When I exit the video stream, the NBC programmers incautiously ask me for for feedback on my dissatisfaction. My feedback? You might want to change the way that scrolling feature works. You won’t retain too many watchers if you don’t. You might want to rethink not putting the latest news show on the feed. Everyone will have seen the episode elsewhere before they will see it in the app, making including all of your news programming in the app pointless, those viewers permanently lost.

Also? The feedback page errored out when I went to send this novel to you. You might want to fix that issue as well. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Postscript

The reality of the situation is even more ridiculous than I described. I have to have a cable subscription to be able to access MSNBC content on my phone. Never mind that the content comes with ads embedded, ads that they pretend pay for the content (clearly the ads do not pay for anything. So why must I watch them?) I have to pay the middleman, the cable company or some similarly set up other middleman, in order to watch content that is available on the web for free if I simply wait a few hours and then go to a pirate site to download it.

I don’t mind paying for entertainment, I do that all the time. I do mind being charged for access to information that is necessary for the proper functioning of a self-representational governmental system. Access to current news is essential unless we are all going to just bow to the man and let him make our decisions for us.

Mirror Earth

While listening to the Rachel Maddow show tonight, I noted that she casually referenced Earth 2 as the place where Donald Trump is still president. It was an amusing bit of Science Fiction trivia to bring back to the front of mind for a few minutes while contemplating the looming destruction of democracy as we know it at the hands of the Republican’s favorite tyrant. The idea of a mirror Earth is one of the tropes that you hear repeatedly over and over again wandering around in and out of fandom. Pramila Jayapal can be forgiven for not knowing the reference later in the show. I doubt very many people do know it, or they might even be confused as to which Scifi/fantasy experience is the one being referenced.

I mean, there are multiple references that will come up if you go looking for the phrase Earth Two on Google. There was a recent television show and even a 2011 movie that run along the same vein. I had to go looking for the title of the movie that I was pretty sure Rachel was referencing myself because I hadn’t seen it since I moved out of that garish Abilene apartment that I shared with a friend back in 1984.

My roommate had one of the first VCR’s on the market, and he had compiled a pretty impressive catalog of movies including an off-air copy of Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, the film by Gerry Anderson’s production company that was released in 1969. That is where the phrase Earth 2 comes from. The uneducated rube that I was at the time made fun of the cheezie effects in the film, even though I had been a serious fan of the Thunderbirds series produced by the same company back in 1966.

The movie was named Doppelgänger in Europe. Americans had to have a more explanatory title. Mystery isn’t a thing that the mundane American viewer can appreciate, I guess. here’s the trailer:

Journey to the far side of the Sun – Trailer (USA)

This is where the idea of a mirror Earth came from. While Star Trek’s Mirror, Mirror episode aired earlier than this movie it wasn’t in production before Doppelgänger was and doesn’t feature a mirror Earth suspended in space in the same universe as our own.

The fascination with evil twins predates this film, true. That goes back to the beginning of recorded history; and if you wanted to, you could say that Earth 2 is a reference to the duality of existence that has been a part of philosophy for a very long time. I don’t know how that could be seen as anything other than a hasty generalization, though. Give credit where credit is due, Doppelgänger is where the idea of a mirror Earth comes from today, no matter how widely spread the fear of the evil twin is in the media we consume.

I can’t find the movie anywhere that I can watch it without paying for it at the moment. I’ll have to keep looking because I really would like to sit down and watch it all the way through at least once without mocking it again. It’s the least I can do.


I have a lot of nostalgia for those old marionette shows, and not just the Thunderbirds series. I doubt that I would still find them edge-of-the-seat suspenseful like I did as a six year old child. There have been multiple attempts to restart Thunderbirds with modern digital effects and new stories:

Thunderbirds Are GoOfficial Global Trailer – Mar 13, 2015

…and I have resisted the urge to watch any of it as an adult, even the old shows themselves. They were so cool back in the sixties when they came on right after school. I would run home just to watch them with Major Astro and they were probably why I wanted to watch Star Trek when it debuted. I can’t imagine how they could be anything other than embarrassing to watch as an adult. Like the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift, the adult experience can’t hold a candle to the memories of a child.

Postscript

The featured image is a screenshot I took of a pivotal scene in the movie. I discovered a version of it streaming online and watched it through for completions’ sake. It was much better than I remembered it being, and yet just as flawed as I thought it would be on watching it again. It was both memorable and flawed in fundamental ways. If you can find it to watch somewhere, you should give it a chance and let me know what you think.

Bag Man

The story of the downfall of Spiro Agnew, Tricky Dick Nixon’s Vice President. He was insanely popular with American conservatives of the time, just as Richard Nixon was popular with the majority of Americans of the time. They were both popular when they were elected. Spiro Agnew had a secret that wasn’t much of a secret in Baltimore where he had come from, and that secret would lead to some strange twists and turns in the near future as Richard Nixon broke laws in his attempts to stay in office.

It was the conjunction of these two popular people on the office of Vice President and President, two popular people who had both committed crimes that they could be removed from office over, that lead to the memo from the Justice Department that advised that a President can’t be indicted (the Atlantic) as Rachel Maddow discusses in this segment of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert:

The Late Show with Stephen ColbertWhat Mysteries Does Rachel Maddow Hope Are Solved Once The President Is Out Of Office? – Dec 10, 2020

Without that advisory from the Office of Legal Counsel Donald Trump would have been indicted for his crimes before he was impeached, and his impeachment and removal would have been a foregone conclusion because you can’t be President of the United States and conduct the business of the United States from prison. Well, Mitch McConnell and the cult-like followers of QAnon would have said he was railroaded and that the superhuman Donald Trump could easily do the country’s business from prison, but they wouldn’t have represented a majority. They would have been an even smaller minority than the one that came out and voted for Donald Trump in the November election.

Bag Man: The Wild Crimes, Audacious Cover-up, and Spectacular Downfall of a Brazen Crook in the White House by Rachel Maddow 

I’ve mentioned the podcast that spawned the book she is out stumping for three times on the blog over the past few years. Unfortunately all the links that were in previous articles now lead to non-existent feeds as far as I can tell, so I will have to re-edit them eventually to point to a new feed location (Done. However the feed was restored when I started editing, so I left some of the old links in. Fingers crossed that the feed stays up this time. -ed.) In the meantime, the podcast is also on Youtube just like the segment of LSSC that I linked above.

MSNBCBag Man Podcast – Apr 10, 2019

If you love a good yarn, especially a true tale of intrigue, check out this podcast and book. you’ll definitely enjoy the story. I did.

Trump Impeachment Anniversary

A year ago today, the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

In his plea to Senators to convict the president, Adam Schiff (D-CA), the lead impeachment manager for the House, warned “you know you can’t trust this president to do what’s right for this country.” Schiff asked: “How much damage can Donald Trump do between now and the next election?” and then answered his own question: “A lot. A lot of damage.” “Can you have the least bit of confidence that Donald “How much damage can Donald Trump do between now and the next election?” and then answered his own question: “A lot. A lot of damage.” “Can you have the least bit of confidence that Donald Trump will… protect our national interest over his own personal interest?” Schiff asked the senators who were about to vote on Trump’s guilt. “You know you can’t, which makes him dangerous to this country.’’

Heather Cox Richardson

A year later, a month away from Trump’s ouster from the White House after losing the election to Joe Biden, the damage that President Trump has done is all around us, impossible to ignore:

The Senators who voted to acquit President Trump are accomplices in the murders of all of the people who died unnecessarily this year. They are accomplices in the theft and corruption that they have enabled over all of the span of the Trump administration. The most corrupt administration in the history of the United States, hands down. They are as guilty as Trump is when it comes to the destruction of the US economy, a destruction that they are now stoking in hopes of destroying any chance of Biden being able to be successful in reviving the country before 2022.

These are the kinds of people that the Republican party sends to Washington. These are the values of the party of the Moral Majority laid bare. President Trump is actively working to destroy the country, and Mitch McConnell is helping him. Who wants to bet that the slowdown in delivery of the Pfizer vaccine isn’t Caudito Trump lashing out at the American public who rejected him?

Rachel Maddow won’t say it, but I will. I will go so far as to suggest that this is not only possible but probable. When Trump and his Republican lackies are willing to risk the kinds of global destruction we are potentially heading for right now if the United States collapses in upon itself in an orgy of self-destruction, what it means to plan for the failure of the Biden administration, the notion that a petty narcissist would stop delivery of life-saving medication out of spite is entirely believable.

What Trumpismo and its supporters have done is prove that Adam Schiff and the Democrats who impeached President Trump a year ago undersold us on the hazard that the country could face in his hands. If only we could go back in time, what would we say to them? What could we say to the Republican base that might possibly have changed their minds?

The Battles You Choose

Maddow speaks to AOC last night on her news program.

MSNBCRachel Maddow ShowRep. Ocasio-Cortez Warns Of Severe Fallout As Trump Rejects New Covid Relief – Oct 6, 2020

In that clip, and in other segments in the show, Rachel and her guests seem to be incapable of understanding what it is that Trump and McConnell are doing right now. She uses the phrase politically inexplicable several times. This is an incorrect assessment.

Telling Americans and their representatives in the House and Senate of the legislature that they won’t get coronavirus aid until after Trump’s SCOTUS nominee is confirmed is politically explicable, if you understand that the Republicans are fighting on a different battlefield than the rest of the country is fighting on.

The battlefield that the Republicans are willing to die on is the battlefield where they turn the United States, through control of its courts, into a Christianist country perfectly aligned with the prosperity gospel dogma espoused by their evangelical base. The dogmatic anti-abortion hordes that were created by Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority, promoted to power by Ronald Reagan, that went into resistance mode under Newt Gingrich and then the Tea Party, and are now given voice my Mitch Mcconnell and the last, dying coronavirus-infected gasp of Donald Trump. They are demonstrably ready to die on that battlefield, and they are determined to take us with them.

V.P. Pence’s attitude towards Kamala Harris and the extra COVID-19 precautions that the council on debates has proposed confirm this assertion of mine. He is quite likely a super spreader himself now, since he spends so much time sucking Donald Trump’s cock in their private meetings. It is only a matter of days before he too shows a positive coronavirus test result, and he’ll get the same gold-star treatment that is reserved for the politically powerful in the United States of today. This is the country that America’s evangelicals have been working towards since 1978. Do you like it?

The war the rest of us are fighting is the one where the coronavirus is destroying our country with the president’s help. The president that has done nothing but pander to his evangelical, white nationalist base since he took office. The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has given them all one last chance to lock in the changes to our government that they have been seeking for more than forty years now. They think that with six solid conservative votes on the SCOTUS they will finally be able to enjoy the fruits of their Christianist efforts, establishing the dogmatic supremacy that the evangelical faith was established to produce more than a hundred years ago.

(Roe v. Wade Was a Conservative Decision)

Liberals should not capitulate. The Democratic party should continue blocking the efforts to replace RBG with Amy Coney Barrett. She, like Kavanaugh and Thomas, has no business being on the highest court in the land, much less being there for the next sixty or seventy years. Her willingness to subvert fact with dogma precludes her from ever being suitable for the federal bench, at all. Do not give in and allow them to fast track the corruption of our courts. If the Senate confirms no more judges until after next January 20th it will be a service to the country, even if that service comes at the cost of more lives destroyed by the coronavirus. Don’t do anything, if that’s what it takes. I’m betting the conservatives will blink first. Especially once the coronavirus finishes working its way through the ranks of Washington elites.

h/t to Stonekettle on Twitter for the featured image. Who created that image Jimmy Kimmel?

News Addiction

If you are depressed stop wallowing in the outrage culture. Think happy thoughts, you’ll feel better.

That was the gist of the suggestion offered to a friend who posted the image featured in yesterday’s article Depression. As if depression is something you can turn off, like a switch. It isn’t like that.

I do follow the news closely these days, as does my friend. I was a news hound for decades before Meniere’s took my joie de vivre. I was active in the Travis County Libertarian Party, taking a hands-on role in as much local politics as I could handle while still holding down a full-time architecture job. I listened to news and radio talk shows constantly while working on whatever architecture project was in front of me that day so as to keep informed of whatever the current trends were. It was crucial to know what was happening if you wanted to have a hand in changing it. I switched to podcasts for my news well before most other people even knew that podcasts existed. I read newspapers and news sites. I immersed myself in the political realities of Austin, of Texas, of the United States, and did my best to be the positive change that I thought the world needed. Just as every good citizen of the world should do.

But then I got sick, and I didn’t get better. I didn’t have a livelihood any longer and I couldn’t look forward to finding one again, probably ever. The constant stream of information about what was going on in the world became a distraction from what it was that I needed to deal with. The barrage of things that I couldn’t change externally just drove home how helpless I was to even be able to alter what was happening in my own body.

That was what was important. Figuring out what was wrong with me. Finding ways to cope with the new reality of my disabilities. I didn’t have time to spend on informing myself about things that weren’t directly impacting my health until I found a way to stabilize my own internal situation.

So I quit the news

I quit listening in 2006-ish. I just quit, cold turkey. I’m not saying that I didn’t know what was happening in the world, I simply quit seeking out that information. There is no way to stay completely uninformed (a perfect idiot) so long as there are people who tell you things they think you want to hear. But I put science, medical and skeptical podcasts at the top of my queue starting at about that time and stopped even listening to news feeds that didn’t include other information that I might personally find useful.

I only started back listening to the news directly, for news content, when all the hatred for Barack Obama made me decide to find out what all the fuss was about. That was when I realized that the news culture had split into two camps that couldn’t even agree on basic facts. While I hadn’t been paying attention, FOX had lead conservatives and Republicans down a dark alley that lead to a thousand foot cliff and then expected all those lemmings following them to walk off the cliff in blind subservience.

In determining what the facts were I came to realize just how poor my understanding of the world was prior to that point, and just how poorly the average American, the average human, understands anything that isn’t forced into their stream of consciousness. I stopped seeing Rachel Maddow as someone who brought up questionable narratives about accepted truths and instead saw her as the accomplished storyteller that the current crop of news consumers clearly see her as today.

However, It’s going to take an American version of the Extinction Rebellion protests that have been taking place in London and New York to also take place in everytown, USA to wake the average FOX news watcher up to the requirement that we do something about climate change. I’m not even certain that anything short of re-education will make them understand just how scandalous their behavior and the behavior of their leaders are.

The Extinction Rebellion Returns | Jonathan Pie | 9 October 2019

But I remain hopeful, for the time being.

After all, the Wife was telling me “they won’t impeach Trump” just two weeks ago. Now Rachel Maddow has said it is a foregone conclusion that they will impeach him. I have to agree with Rachel. I don’t see any way for them to not impeach him given the crimes he has committed that we know of, to say nothing of the crimes we suspect him of but still don’t have the proof to convict him of. The sticking point remains the Senate and Trump’s co-conspirator, Moscow Mitch McConnell.

I’m reserving judgement until after the power hand-off that should occur in 2020-2021, impeachment or no impeachment. We’ll see just how bad things really are at that point. To draw this circular argument to a close and tie it in with the title, I quit listening to the news precisely because I felt that my health was suffering from spending so much time obsessing about what was going on in the world and what the proper solution to the problems were. I’m glad I stopped paying attention then. The solutions that I would have embraced back then are completely different than the ones I would embrace today. 180 degrees different.

https://ranthonysteele.com/2015/03/a-big-bowl-of-crow/

So I improved my health by breaking the news addiction. I’ll break it again if I feel that following the news is negatively impacting my health. So long as the authoritarians that back the Orange Hate-Monkey lose power, I’m pretty sanguine with whatever else happens along with it. Which means, my depression isn’t based on my news consumption. But I do appreciate the suggestion.

Wildly expanded from Facebook comments.

What Debate?

You can tell that CNN needs to retire and let younger people take over. How can you tell? Simple. I needed to time-shift the second Democratic primary debate tonight (07/30/2019) so that I could listen to it while I sort laundry. While I sort laundry, after the Tuesday 7:30-10:30 pm raid that I simply will not miss unless a nuclear blast takes out the power grid and sends us back into the stone age. Then I won’t be able to log onto the game servers anyway, so it won’t matter.

I timeshifted watching/listening to the last one, no problem. Rachel Maddow put the entire debate audio on her podcast stream, I listened to all four hours of it and sorted all the laundry. Two tasks accomplished at the same time.

This week? I go online looking for the audio or video. Can I find it anywhere? No. CNN won’t let anyone post the stream online. They’re trying to figure out how this whole streaming things works. It’s live on the cable! Go watch it! Save it to your DVR! What is it? 1990 still? I’m surprised they remember how to make the television cameras turn on and off. I’m going to have to go to youtube and watch a pirate version (editor’s note, Google is whacking accounts for putting the public feed online) or give up and go to pirate bay and risk my ass on a torrent to be able to watch/listen to the thing without having to have it spoonfed to me by CNN’s nannies.

WTF!?!

I don’t want them to tell me who won or lost. They don’t know. I don’t want them to tell me what the high and low points were. They don’t know. They know how to put on their Depends and which shelf the Ensure is on in the refrigerator, and that’s about all they know. Give it up CNN. Let the young people take over. Go play golf with the Orange Hate-Monkey. You’ll never know how much he cheats because you won’t remember that golf is played with balls and clubs.

…my apologies to old people everywhere. I am one of them. There is a difference between being old and being dangerously out of touch with reality. CNN’s management is in the latter category.

Facebook


Thursday morning, when everyone who has an interest in the subject has already been spoonfed the take-away that CNN wants them to accept, the video of the debate(s) (It’s still a round-robin not a debate. More like a free-for-all.) is up on CNN’s website. With the first question to Elizabeth Warren, CNN exposes themselves as the servants of big business that they are. At 15:31 in the first video Jake Tapper asks,

Are you with Bernie on raising taxes on middle class Americans to pay for [Medicare for all]?

CNN – NIGHT ONE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY DEBATE – 07/30/2019

Editor’s note. Notice the way the video is fubar? (you will on your phone) That ain’t me, that’s CNN not being able to supply a feed properly.

A question framed in that fashion doesn’t even deserve an answer, and Warren essentially refused to answer it. It’s about as misleading a question as “so have you stopped beating your wife?” How do you answer a question like that? You can’t, not without conceding that the battle will be fought on the moderator’s terms and not on the terms of the candidates themselves. As the rest of the first 30:00 minute video plays out, it becomes increasingly clear that the knives are out for the progressives on the stage. As Bernie Sanders rightly noted “you are repeating Republican talking points.”

Skip ahead an hour (ten minutes into video three) and you can hear Tim Ryan, who has been attacking his progressive opponents all night, talk about creating the office of Chief Manufacturing Officer. Just what we need, another bureaucracy that will centrally plan how America makes widgets and where. Anyone who proposes something like this hasn’t got room to criticize anyone for their plans to overhaul other parts of the system.

We make things in America. We are still one of the largest manufacturers on the face of this planet. The fact that the automobile industry is floundering is not because we don’t make things in the US. It is because the US car manufacturers are busy chasing profits instead of making cars that people will buy. It is because the average American simply can’t afford to buy vehicles the way they used to. Because half of America is poor. Let’s talk about that subject. Poverty in America. Let’s talk about the problem at the root of all the other problems. Don’t hold your breath.

There were several areas of agreement. Reparations for slavery was one of them. You want to point to an issue that will hand the election to Trump? That would be one of those issues. I’m not saying reparations are not owed. What I am saying is that racialising the issue of the wealth gap in the US is a surefire way of pitting all the white people against the black people. How about we just admit that poverty is the problem and set out to end poverty as we know it? It’s still more than what we’ve done in the past, but at least that approach will not set half the country against the other half right from the start.

We are fools to saddle our children with debt and then send them out into the world to try to pay all that debt back. This is why student loans are a bad idea. All of the hand waving on the stage won’t change the truth of this one way or the other. How we make sure that education is available and inexpensive to the student is the real question, not whether or not we give people who currently have student loans a free pass. The loans should be forgivable, and in most cases forgiven. But there shouldn’t be student loans in the future. This fact is demonstrable. That they argued about this subject at all baffles me.

What the hell did Marianne Williamson even say in closing? Did any of that make sense? I don’t know what debate everyone else was watching, for my money the clear winners here were Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Mayor Pete looked good and did well, as did Beto. But making Warren and Sanders the targets was the mistake of the other candidates. They look petty and mean, and their repetition of Republican talking points will not do them any favors with a Democratic audience.


CNN – NIGHT TWO DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY DEBATE – 07/31/2019

Night two. Is it just me, or did they arrange for Joe Biden to shine all by himself in this, the second night’s round? Kamala Harris seems less coherent this week than she did in the last debate. I was hoping to see her continue to shine as one of the possible alternative front-running candidates. Once again CNN’s agenda that the progressives be the targets is on full display, and Harris is the sole defender of the audacious ideas put forward by the progressive wing on the stage tonight. If she’s not the only defender, CNN would clearly like her to be perceived that way. Again, MSNBC did so much better with their debate. Maybe CNN should have taken notes?

…I’ve gotten all the way to the last thirty minutes of the second night, and I have yet to see a moderator attack any candidate on stage tonight the way that Jake Tapper went after Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Softball questions all the way around through the entire event. The only ones scoring points on Biden were his opponents. That is as it should be in a debate, but why was the first night so different? Joe Biden is clearly the candidate that CNN wants to be the next president. If anything, that is the most important reason not to vote for the man.

In the greatest movie of the 1980s, Streets of Fire, in the climactic scene, Willem Dafoe and Michael Pare fight with sledgehammers.

That’s right, sledgehammers.

Ten minutes. No soundtrack. Just the sound of two large men smashing the shit out of each other with those giant iron mallets. The ring of steel as they block and parry. The thud of metal slamming into flesh. In the end they both drop the hammers and resort to fists and there’s this great moment when Dafoe clenches his hands and screams in absolute rage before charging his opponent — only to get the crap punched right out of him by Pare wielding fists like a pair of canned hams.

Why bring it up?

No reason.

I’m just sitting here brainstorming some ideas for better leadership selection methodologies than this idiotic debate.

Stonekettle Station, July 30
The best image from the 2016 election. There is a 2020 version of this as well.

Condemning President Trump

Whereas the Founders conceived America as a haven of refuge for people fleeing from religious and political persecution, and Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison all emphasized that the Nation gained as it attracted new people in search of freedom and livelihood for their families;

Whereas the Declaration of Independence defined America as a covenant based on equality, the unalienable Rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and government by the consent of the people;

Whereas Benjamin Franklin said at the Constitutional convention, ‘‘When foreigners after looking about for some other Country in which they can obtain more happiness, give a preference to ours, it is a proof of attachment which ought to excite our confidence and affection’’;

Whereas President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, ‘‘Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists’’;

Whereas immigration of people from all over the Earth has defined every stage of American history and propelled our social, economic, political, scientific, cultural, artistic and technological progress as a people, and all Americans, except for the descendants of Native people and enslaved African-Americans, are immigrants or descendants of immigrants;

Whereas the commitment to immigration and asylum has been not a partisan cause but a powerful national value that has infused the work of many Presidents;

Whereas American patriotism is defined not by race or ethnicity but by devotion to the Constitutional ideals of equality, liberty, inclusion, and democracy and by service to our communities and struggle for the common good;

Whereas President John F. Kennedy, whose family came to the United States from Ireland, stated in his 1958 book ‘‘A Nation of Immigrants’’ that ‘‘The contribution of immigrants can be seen in every aspect of our national life. We see it in religion, in politics, in business, in the arts, in education, even in athletics and entertainment. There is no part of our nation that has not been touched by our immigrant background. Everywhere immigrants have enriched and strengthened the fabric of American life.’’;

Whereas President Ronald Reagan in his last speech as President conveyed ‘‘An observation about a country which I love’’;

Whereas as President Reagan observed, the torch of Lady Liberty symbolizes our freedom and represents our heritage, the compact with our parents, our grandparents, and our ancestors, and it is the Statue of Liberty and its values that give us our great and special place in the world;

Whereas other countries may seek to compete with us, but in one vital area, as ‘‘a beacon of freedom and opportunity that draws the people of the world, no country on Earth comes close’’;

Whereas it is the great life force of ‘‘each generation of new Americans that guarantees that America’s triumph shall continue unsurpassed’’ through the 21st century and beyond and is part of the ‘‘magical, intoxicating power of America’’;

Whereas this is ‘‘one of the most important sources of America’s greatness: we lead the world because, unique among nations, we draw our people — our strength — from every country and every corner of the world, and by doing so we continuously renew and enrich our nation’’;

Whereas ‘‘thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we’re a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas, and always on the cutting edge’’, always leading the world to the next frontier;

Whereas this openness is vital to our future as a Nation, and ‘‘if we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost’’; and

Whereas President Donald Trump’s racist comments have legitimized fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) believes that immigrants and their descendants have made America stronger, and that those who take the oath of citizenship are every bit as American as those whose families have lived in the United States for many generations;

(2) is committed to keeping America open to those lawfully seeking refuge and asylum from violence and oppression, and those who are willing to work hard to live the American Dream, no matter their race, ethnicity, faith, or country of origin; and

(3) strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color by saying that our fellow Americans who are immigrants, and those who may look to the President like immigrants, should ‘‘go back’’ to other countries, by referring to immigrants and asylum seekers as ‘‘invaders,’’ and by saying that Members of Congress who are immigrants (or those of our colleagues who are wrongly assumed to be immigrants) do not belong in Congress or in the United States of America.

RESOLUTION Condemning President Trump’s racist comments directed at Members of Congress. via NBC

First heard on the Rachel Maddow Show podcast. See how your representatives voted. I wrote a letter to mine.