Sunday, February 27, 2022

Lessons from Ukraine for the US Putin loving crowd

 Ukraine is a lesson to the US Putin loving crowd: It may dawn on the autocracy lovers that perhaps there is something about democracy worth keeping .and no country is an island. Will this be the eclipse of the MAGA movement? While Ukrainians, regardless of whether they are culturally closer to Russian or Ukrainian ethnic identification, are willing to lay down their lives to oppose the thumb of Putin's governance. In 2014, their population rose up and threw out a corrupt Russian quisling and voted with their feet on the pavement, and later with the ballot box, to turn their country to the West for their economic ties and democracy. They have eight years of making their democracy a more perfect union and enjoying their own way to prosperity. While they are willing to die to continue this course, there are those in the USA who are still beating their drums for Putin. The contrast between the MAGA supporters of autocracy and the Ukrainian resistance civilians willing to die to keep democracy cannot be starker. Those who have lived under both systems, like the Ukrainians, will die to keep their country on track for democracy, even with guns to their heads. The dramatic videos from Ukraine may even have the effect of more in the US realizing how foolish is the US pro-Putin autocratic movement and cherishing more the kind of democracy we have had for 250 years. It is also instructive of how interconnected we have become with the rest of the world, and that isolationism is a fantasy. No country can be insulated against cyberattacks and the threat of a rogue government threatening nuclear war. Both antagonists can assure each other of their mutual self-destruction if they pull the trigger on either nuclear or nation crippling cyber weapons. The use of these weapons can destroy or cripple the lives or the well-being of the survivors in the cycle of retaliation, both of the attackers and of the defenders. A prediction: The blowback from Ukraine: MAGA's appeal will fall out of favor even more.

Here is another lesson from Ukraine:

This USA Today article is well worth your time.
USATODAY.COM
Fact check roundup: What's true and what's false about the Russian invasion of Ukraine
What it does show is that wartime propaganda is a weapon used by both sides in a conflict. That a picture is worth a thousand words is true. The use of those pictures captioned falsely is another truth the captions can be the lie. One final truth: freedom of the press to fact check is a treasure not available to countries governed by dictators and autocrats.


Saturday, February 26, 2022

The critical differences between the Bosnia conflict and Ukraine;;

Update on Polish MIGs: March 13, 2022

Why aren't those Polish MIGs being delivered and no rly zones instituted. Something is going on re the migs we may not know. Let me speculate: Russia is under scrutiny for war crimes in targeting civilians. Russian generals  generals are liable. (per the Hague war times trials in the Bosnian war)Corridors are being announced to give civilians a chance to evacuate.  Interesting that VP Harris yesterday did not accuse Russia of war crimes, only that they should be investigated. Russia is threatening to use air attacks on EU and US supply lines to resistance fighters.. Yet...listen to what is being said: by the Pentagon " now is not the time, maybe later, via the migs." So far neither the resistance nor the Russians have made full use of their air capabilities. I wonder if the air war is in a pause to give resupply and evacuations a chance...and then the migs will deployed. It is not supplying the migs that risks direct confrontation with Russia and WWIII. It is who is flying them and pulling the triggers. Also within Russian boundaries, their anti aircraft missiles have a 200 mile range. Just my surmise. Let's see if this plays out. Once we get the civilians out...then the migs will be delivered to the resistance. The original estimate of refugees was 6 million and half of those are still internally displaced.

 Those following this blog and my Facebook postings are probably aware of my closeness to relatives by marriage in Bosnia and their experiences during the 1990's and the aftermath of the war of ethnic cleansing. Serbia had visions of uniting fellow ethnics in Bosnia under the banner of "greater Serbia" and Putin wants to unite all Slavs in resurrecting the boundaries of the old Soviet Union.  Ukrainians now united in resisting the Russian invasion are more motivated by what historian Anne Applebaum calls civil nationalism fueled by their citizen's desire to be governed by democracy and western economic ties regardless of their roots, Russian and Ukrainian. In Ukraine it appears that civic nationalism trumps ethnic identification unlike Bosnia.  The other difference is control of the air. Who governed the skies, and latent US air cover brought Serbs to the negotiating table and the end of the bloody conflict resulting in the Dayton Accords. . Another difference between the Balkan war and this conflict is that Serbia was not a nuclear power.  A nuclear armed Russia could face a nuclear armed NATO. that would spark a World War III nuclear war, The US has ruled out military intervention to aid Ukrainian resistance. Colonel Alexander Vindman, Ukrainian by birth and a US citizen war hero, former expert on Ukraine in the NSA, is now retired.  He suggested on MSBC Feb26 an alternative way to provide air support and avoid direct conflict with the Russians that was not available in Bosnia thirty years ago: supplying Ukrainian resistance with unmanned armored vehicles...use of drones,

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Why should Americans care about Ukraine

Why should Americans care about Ukraine? How dangerous and unstable do we want this world to be? What is so great about having the freedom that these messy democracies offer?  If the west does not inflict pain on Russia for this, it could inspire others elsewhere to go and do likewise out of lust for taking and invading other lands their ideology considers their own. The message we send should not be the west is so divided and weak, we can be ignored.  Why wouldn't our adversaries think why not give it a try when think they can succeed if the opposition is weak or unwilling to stop them? Trump refused to support the mutual defense clause of NATO, as well as indicating he would not defend the Baltic NATO members. Biden furthered the impression to Russia that the US was still on an isolationist path with his messy withdrawal from Afghanistan.  Biden reversed Trump's sabotage of NATO and Russia's threats of territorial grabs by military force also contributed to a rejuvenated NATO. The purpose of NATO was originally to stop Russian aggression just like what is happening today. Other areas of the world with predators waiting to invade their neighbors for their related ethnic makeup are North Korea v South Korea, China v Taiwan, Serbia v Bosnia. Except for Serbia (allied with Russia), all of these potential aggressors have nuclear weapons and could start World War III., as Putin reminded us yesterday that Russia has them, too..  There are those on the right in the US who think we should have moved US troops into Ukraine just like the Russians threatened to do. Biden wisely did not want to spark World War III and a nuclear confrontation from Russia.. He took that risk off the table because 1) we did not have a treaty with Ukraine to require this because Ukraine was not a member of NATO. 2) we would be doing what Russia threatened and did that we said was so wrong, only we would have taken the first step.  This is not pre nuclear world. Get real  

In the 1930's, some of the same isolationist sentiments now espoused by FOX talkers flooded the radio waves and radio demagogue Father Coughlin was the supporter of the style of Hitler.  Such isolationists do not need a resurrection of Father Coughlin when we have Tucker Carlson and MAGA followers fawning over Russia and patting them on the back.   Thanks to other similar America First and isolationists advocates and politicians in 1939-1941 public sentiment mostly opposed entry into World War II until after the Blitz in London, Czech's Sudetenland was handed over to Hitler to appease him, Austria was joined to Germany, Poland was conquered by the Nazis, and US looked useless and weak. Japan then took this as evidence they could take over the South Pacific and Pearl Harbor happened. 

There are not many of us left born before World War II or have actually experienced the Soviet Stalinist consolidation of power in post war Berlin or who had firsthand personal relationships and visits to such oppressive autocracies, but I have thanks to student abroad experiences and being married to over 50 years to an east European.  Putin is a throwback to the Cold War and his ambitions are to reassemble the old Soviet Slavic empire. He reaffirmed that even two nights ago in a TV address.   Anyone who opposes him in Ukraine, he threatened this past week, will be treated as dissidents, The KGB colonel that Putin once has not faded away He has already. poisoned, imprisoned, assassinated or executed, Russians who opposed him. He has announced publicly the death and imprisonment of Ukrainian "dissidents" when his chosen government is established.  He controls the media and message to his own people.   He has only yes people around him.  We failed to react strongly to his similar attacks and grabs in Georgia, Syria, Crimea, and infiltration into two provinces of eastern Ukraine.  

Old Cold War terms are being revived, wondering if we call this as a new Cold War.  Perhaps not yet has the Iron Curtain descended over Europe, but it is Putin's Iron Fist at work.  Not all NATO members are liberal democracies, and some have tinges of authoritarianism such as Hungary, and less so Poland. Erdogan of Turkey is a full-blown dictator.  Perhaps the old term of "free world" applies to "our side" best as the contrast between Putin's governing style and the one we call "freedom".. In various shades of authoritarianism. degrees of characteristics are in common.  Allegiance to Marxist Leninism still is the Chinese ideology and measure of loyalty. Otherwise, the allegiance is to the dear leader, from North Korea to Russia. If you disagree with the government policies, corruption, sexual harassment, you are considered a dissident.  The rewards of favoritism go to the loyalists; dissidents need not apply. Dissident leaders and their subordinates are killed or imprisoned, and the only information you get is that which is approved by the government/dear leader/political party since they own, control IT and all journalistic media.   Your neighbors may report any anti dear leader activity and expression to the authorities for their files.  The ultimate difference between a democracy and an autocracy/dictatorship. Regime change in an autocracy only happens with an uprising of population.

 February 24 update: A lesson in the difference between autocracy and the US kind of democracy that gives us our freedom happened February 24. 1700 protestors against Russa's invasion of Ukraine in Russia were arrested even after Putin warned them, they would be arrested. In spite of this, the brave still protested in the thousands.   There is no protection for anyone to gather and redress grievances peacefully in an autocracy, that our US Constitution guarantees us. Putin's attempt to lie about any justification for invasions and to squash media coverage contrary to his lie failed because Russia populace knew the truth via internet and smart phones.  This is not communications of even ten years ago and knowledge travels at warp speed and penetrates government control of communication.  If you are arrested for protesting in an autocracy, there are no for protections civil rights or human rights to protect peaceful demonstrators from being abused, imprisoned, or killed. Might makes right and sets the rules and controls the means of enforcement. You no longer have the ability to freely express your opinions that do not follow the party/loyalist line.    It does not have to be socialism or communism that drives these autocrats, but only a lust for power, keeping power, and gaining more power and in fact, they often join hands with oligarchs engaged in capitalism.  Both Hitler and Putin have harnessed their capitalists to increase and consolidate their power.   This is what these lovers of autocracy want?  The end of personal freedom to protest corruption and abuse? The end of the ability to change leadership short of violent revolution?        


Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Democrats need to shift emphasis and messaging now

Update: 3/27/2022  The crime increase is due to Democrat's soft on crime policy is a bunch of BS given a study that showed 8 out of 10 highest per capita rates occur in states voting for Donald Trump. .   Per The Red State Murder Problem – Third Way

  • "In 2020, per capita murder rates were 40% higher in states won by Donald Trump than those won by Joe Biden.
  •  8 of the 10 states with the highest murder rates in 2020 voted for the Republican presidential nominee in every election this century."

In contrast to stupid slogans like "defund police" and "legitimate political discourse", , Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe came up with a smart one, given current polls showing even among the Democratic base and the Republican moderates Democrats have a weakness. They are fighting past wars instead of current ones. Here is what I am sensing.

 By just focusing on racial issues, they are losing both Democrats and independents because the current concerns on the immediate burner are in particular kitchen table issues. Scarborough hit the nail on the head with the Three C's:  COVID, CRIME, COST OF LIVING.  This is critical as we come up to the midterms and so far Democrats are relying alone on "we are not Trump" and "our opponent is".  It is a question of emphasis and whether Democrats are showing "we care about you" more than the other party. Those issues are the fierce urgency of now with more voters. Democrats need now to give priority to issues shared by both Democrats and independents, urban and suburban voters of all races. Arguing over who is rightfully woke or not is unhelpful in appealing to the broader Democratic base and falls into the divisive GOP trap of CRT.  The GOP has seen it as a wedge issue that works. Democrats need to refocus their message on shared concerns. They are preaching to the choir and have already well-positioned themselves working in the interest of civil rights, but they now also need to focus on issues affecting broader constituencies given the fast-approaching midterms.  This does not mean dropping vigorous civil  and voting rights, but also adding to the message with it impacts everyone regardless of any affiliation.  Biden can rightfully tout his bi-partisan agenda success: COVID relief, infrastructure, and Ukraine and that is well worth the appeal to independents and never Trumpers.

 These 3 C's are ticklish issues because the GOP touts individual freedom on mask-wearing and anti-vax, Democrats are against the police so blame the recent crime wave on that, and there in unmistakable daily experiencing of inflation, even though jobs and income are up and it is only temporary  (not true). Just passing the BBB to offset inflation is now a no starter since that one is dead for now.   Instead of solely being defensive (Biden supports better and more police funding, and has his messaging clear). down-ballot candidates need to show what support they would give to solving that problem of inflation, especially the cost of fuel at the pump and dealing with crime in a way that is better and more effective than what the GOP is proposing. " More is not enough; better is also critical? Being defensive is not enough; Democrats should also go on the counterattack.

 It is fair game to attack the GOP for dragging out COVID because of catering to those defying common-sense measures, but even Democrats are removing mask mandates, and Democrats have done their part by getting their shots.  60% of Republicans have not and they are the ones in hospitals and dying. A US News study found that counties that voted strongly for Trump also had the highest death rate from COVID. Counties That Voted for Trump Have Higher COVID Death Rates | Healthiest Communities Health News | US NewsThe GOP seemed" they only hurt the ones they love". It is no longer a matter of mandates. It is a matter of personal responsibility, and the victims now are those who followed the GOP advice to be irresponsible to themselves and others.

.On crime. take the Biden approach. Police funding has not been cut, yet urban crime is indeed increased. . He gets that. It may or may not be a COVID thing.  What should be done is making it even better policing as well as putting more on the streets with the training of how to defuse violence, crafting anti-no-knock rules, and tightening bonding out "catch and release" practices that release those arrested for violent crimes back onto the streets without bonds as they. await trial. This has racial implications since the ones most hurt by imprisonment, even temporarily awaiting trial, are racial minorities, so focus on those charged with violent offenses which is where fear and safety drives opinions...    This is a local by local, by-election-district approach, more than a federal one, except for Feds setting national standards, and criteria for extra funding.  It is not much of a rural issue. It is an urban/suburban one.

These 3 C's are mostly urban problems, but that is where the Democrats are vulnerable because threat is where most of their base is..  Fuel costs are very rural issues, too. (Tread lightly on 2nd Amendment issues for the sake of rural voters but cracking down on gun-trafficking are real urban concerns) These issues in time may be old news in a year, but timing is everything and they likely will be still issues of concern in November. 

Update 4/19/22:  (parts of this posting is included in a 4/19 post: Election integrity means" "Keep your partisan hands off my ballot" Per the publication Colorado Politics, a bill is making it through the state  to senate greater election integrity and to make it harder for anyone to mess with the actual paper ballots and tabulations. It passed out of committee.  It addresses the issue on which Mesa County Clerk Tima Peters was indicted for criminal acts for giving non staff access to the room where ballots are secured.  It would require card access and more than one staffer to accompany anyone entering the secured location.  The bill  has the word " integrity" in its title. On local issues such as the election of those supervising elections, as a former Clerk and Recorder o Denver and past president of the elections board, , this one is particularly close to my heart.  Election integrity means different things to different constituencies. For Republicans, election integrity means put Republicans in control of the rules and compliance and the tabulation. For Democrats, just keep them secure, accessible, independent, with administrators directly accountable to voters and not to a partisan dominated body like a state legislation comprised of politicians who have a self-interested stake int he outcome.   Democrats have got a strong hand in appealing to their base and swing voters touting free and fair elections and accusing the GOP of rigging the vote count and ballot access in ways that are so partisan we cannot trust them.  Forget the Trumpster voters and go for the Democrats and independents on this issue.  Go on the attack. This one is fair game in taking on the likes of Trumpists who want to deprive all but their loyalists of ballot access and control of counting the vote.  This one should be:  "don't trust the GOP to play it fair" They have a track record on this in ignoring the popular vote, laws, rules, and regulations, and overturning the will of the people) Instead, trust administrators pledged to follow the rules, not to circumvent them, and demand paper ballots electronic tabulators kept secure from tampering in case there is an audit (official or "forensic". .  On voter access, a cross-racial/ideological approach would be "GOP wants to make it inconvenient to note, harder for everyone. Convenience affects everyone.   While fair and free elections are keys to a democracy, calling the GOP autocrats and anti-Democracy is just too abstract. Having fair and free elections is not just a racial issue; it is everyone's concern.  Voters should demand their will is expressed through the ballot box, not distorted, lied about, ignored, and are willing to let the chips fall where they are.  Just do not get hung up on who stole what from whom in 2020. Instead, demand proof instead of opinions. (Use "opinions" instead of "conspiracy theories" and no proof with enough evidence has been found the election was stolen. Using "opinion" is less divisive than "conspiracy theory"  when appealing to swing voters)  Conspiracy theory is a bit derisive of those who think that if there is smoke there must be fire. The opinion is more respectful of those who are on the fence. Focus on how trumpsters want to screw with the term "fairness"., making the process only fair to them and controlled by them, not to or by anyone else. This is a state by state, district by local district approach that should work in swing and blue venues.  Ruby red states and election districts have already swallowed the Trumpster cool-aid and see being unfair working to their advantage.

 Colorado is a generally blue state with some enclaves of Trump land.  Some county clerks, known partisans of Trump in Colorado, have been charged with giving the keys and passwords and hard drive copies of the ballots and tabulators to their partisans. They should be called out as the poster child of abuse and one now wants to run (or ruin) Colorado's gold standard system. Republican Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters announces candidacy for Colorado secretary of state (denverpost.com) They were in violation of laws designed to keep partisan hands-off.  Ballot and tabulation machine security procedure is the way to insure they and anyone else are unable to mess with them if and when there is an audit. . "We just can't trust them". Is a possible slogan.  Above all, Democrats should support the election reform laws currently put on the back burner in DC.  It is fairer for everyone.   This is particularly true for Colorado that has an exemplary system in which all ballots cast are paper ballots. How Colorado's Stellar Voting System Was Improved in 2020 (5280.com) " Possible slogan to pin on such abusive clerks : " if it ain't broke, don't break it" 

Update 4/19/22  Per publication Colorado Politics:.. "to fortify Colorado's elections against those with "inside access" to harm themSB 153 increases basic security measures, such as requiring 24/7 surveillance and key card access to rooms where election equipment is stored. In any county of more than 100,000, the bill would prohibit any elected official or candidate from having key card access to a room with voting equipment or devices without being accompanied by someone else with authorized access. For smaller counties, the bill sets up a $1 million grant to pay for the round-the-clock surveillance or key card access."

Update: February 17, 2022

There are several lines of attack by the GOP that cannot be ignored and need to be called out as Bull   Stuff. in House district races.   1) "Democrats are socialists because they use taxpayer money to support undeserving poor people. " The hypocrisy of those who scream the loudest is astounding.  They have their roots in the Southern states who get far more subsidies for their state coffers than they collect and pay back in tax money to the feds. It's the blue states who are subsidizing these red taker states.  Remind their constituents what their incumbent candidate voted against, as well. This is what the GOP calls awful socialism   child tax credit and early childhood education. and this is what your GOP represented/Senator voted against.  2)To " blame the BBB for inflation is equally amazing since the BBB was never enacted or a penny spent on it and it would have been completely funded by raising taxes on the ultra-rich.  3)  When candidates in the GOP cutting ribbons for highway and infrastructure bills take credit for getting the money to their state or districts yet they voted against it, they deserve gold medals for the best performance in hypocrisy.

 In Ukraine, the final scene has not played, but a new twist on the old Reagan cold war mantra of "Trust but Verify", is becoming "don't trust but verify"...and diplomacy backed up by economic threats in the wings   There are always the American Firsters and isolationists hovering in the background of American politics just as there were in the late 1930's in the lead up to World War II.  How did that work out? They forgot history or want us to repeat it with the denial we have economic and defense entanglements with the rest of the world to a much greater extent than the way it was 80 plus years ago. In the face of the Ukraine crisis their voices disconnected from reality are fortunately a small voice. Why is Ukraine important to the US when they are not part of mutual defense NATO.  These, by the way, who applauded Trump's attempt to defang NATO's purpose, a trans-Atlantic alliance to defend themselves against an aggressive Russia and to claim the Baltic states were not important enough to defend in spite of their access of ports to the Atlantic. (The only time Article 5 of NATO has been invoked until now was in 9-11 when Europe came to the aid of the US).  Russia is trying to pick off non-NATO neighbors and if he pays no penalty for that, he will put his sights on those protected by a hoped for weakened NATO. again, if some others like Trump get back in office.  Trump foolishly refused to support Article 5 5, an attack on one member is an attack on all. This Ukraine crisis is due to Russians' naked aggression and Putin's desire to bring back UISSR satellites into the Russian empire, whether they want to be part of it or not.  The biggest threat Ukraine is to Russia is not whether they join NATO but that they make Russia look bad with their free-market economy and freer democracy by comparison, per columnist Thomas Friedman.  NATO only expands to countries who want to join and, Ukraine had no plans to apply. It defies credibility to believe Ukraine is about to pick a war with the second largest army in the world, Russia's, which is the nonsensical line Putin is feeding his media-controlled citizens.  If Putin figured he could weaken NATO and drive a wedge between those more dependent on Russian natural gas, he miscalculated. His plans backfired. NATO has never been so unified since the fall of the Berlin wall thanks to Biden's leadership and Russia's threatened armed and unjustified invasion. Putin's aggression reminded the alliance members of NATO's purpose in the first place...defense against Russian expansion

An unanswered question:  Is Putin a rational actor or not? If threats to ruin the Russian economy if they invade seems not to affect his resolve to take over Ukraine.  On the irrational side, using his own words Putin believes he will be known by uniting all Slavs under the Russian banner, that breakup of the old USSR and satellites jointing the West, was a national tragedy that he wants to reverse.  It is as if the USA decided to march its military into Canada and take it over, divide it, annex it, put quislings in charge, on the pretext that they are culturally the same and speak the same language (Quebec notwithstanding.   It is as if he believes in the "manifest destiny" of his beliefs.  Simply marching in with overwhelming military force to grab another sovereign country or dividing it into half, separating the Russian speaking part from the Ukranian nationalism of the west half (a most likely outcome) , changing boundaries, annexing a part into Russia, went unchecked before in Georgia and Crimea. No wonder he thinks he can get away with it in Ukraine, but this time he may have miscalculated with the reaction from the NATO allied nations.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/19/opinion/democrats-biden-voters.html?   Ouch.. A lot of truth in this Maureen Dowd column

to "fortify Colorado's elections against those with "inside access" to harm them, 

SB 153 increases basic security measures, such as requiring 24/7 surveillance and key card access to rooms where election equipment is stored. In any county of more than 100,000, the bill would prohibit any elected official or candidate from having key card access to a room with voting equipment or devices without being accompanied by someone else with authorized access. For smaller counties, the bill sets up a $1 million grant to pay for the round-the-clock surveillance or key card access.


Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Stupid political slogans: Defund Police and Jan 6 riots "legitimate political discourse"

 Among stupid political slogans were "defund police" and now the RNC came up with one of their own:" Legitimate Political Discourse" per excusing the Jan 6 rioters who were obviously on video discoursing in violence. Aside from the First Amendment that protects peaceful assembly to address grievances and pointedly leaves out protecting a violent assembly, both stupid slogans needed a lot of backpedals and if and buts to qualify what they ""meant. (Biden repeatedly rejected the defund police slogan so stop painting him as for it, right-wingers...and more money was poured into policing in his first year as president. If the RNC's slogan becomes a mantra, does that mean that the rioters in Seattle and the summer of George Floyd protests which also had some violence were also "legitimate political discourse"? Those who say, well they got off so also should the Jan 6 rioters and applaud Trump for saying if elected again, he would pardon them, might take look at what happened to the vandals and police attackers in the Geroge Floyd protests. As usual, those supporting the right-wing when complaining about unequal treatment of the Jan 6 rioters are quick to make a "what about" the George Floyd rioters. First, it is sheer BS that George Floyd protestors were not prosecuted. Per an Associated Press study "An Associated Press review of court documents in more than 300 federal cases stemming from the protests sparked by George Floyd’s death last year shows that dozens of people charged have been convicted of serious crimes and sent to prison. "https://apnews.com/.../records-rebut-claims-jan-6-rioters...

The difference is the George Floyd riots were mostly conducted by African Americans and the Jan 6 rioters were white. Strange how that works.

There were reforms made in Colorado following high profile cases elsewhere.. https://www.denverpost.com/2020/06/13/colorado-police-reform-bill-passes-legislature/
However, no knock warrants it not included in the 2020 state reforms. Aurora was the first Colorado city to ban no-knock warrants in response to cases elsewhere. Aurora becomes first Colorado city to ban "no-knock" warrants (denverpost.com)

Monday, February 7, 2022

Did Putin miscalculate? updated Feb. 21. April 7, May 8, 2022

Update April 7, 2022, May 8, 2022: Within a few days after the Feb.21 update, Russia invaded.  It was clear Putin had miscalculated, but so had the rest of the world. The common wisdom was that Putin's army would be in Kiev and 'Zelenski would have been taken out in three days.  The Feb. 21 column below missed an important element, the leadership of Zelenski who refused to be evacuated as Russian troops advanced into Ukraine and told the US offer, don't send me transportation, send me weapons. Further rallies were from the Snake Island defenders, who told the Russian warship to go f ...yourself...an icon that became a battle cry of defiance.  /The rest is playing out before our eyes on  television.Russia’s Grave Miscalculation: Ukrainians Would Collaborate - The New York Times (nytimes.com.  We all, Putin included, underestimated the strength of the human spirit to resist tyranny.   

Update February 21, 2022 continues. This may have been Putin's epic miscalculation. Over 50 percent of Ukrainians oppose Putin's invasion...and most of those would take up armed opposition or civil demonstrations. Ukrainians were supposed to put their ethnic ties with Russia above national identity and desire to be in the western economic and democratic orbit. In fact, there was a bloodless coup that resulted in the pro-Russian president fleeing to Moscow. and a democratic election of a new president. Putin may have expected Ukrainians would quietly accept a Russian quisling government and Russian troop occupation. Putin was only half right. His problem is where he is half wrong. The opposition was going to be deadly and drawn out as the outgunned Ukrainian military planned to fade into the population and undertake urban guerilla warfare. They have been trained and weaponized for that by the West. In effect, there was going to be a bloody civil war. The question is whether the Russian public has much stomach for that, believing Ukrainians were close ethnic cousins. This is why there is speculation Putin planned to cook up Ukrainian aggression against Russians within and outside Ukraine as an excuse to give Russians a justification and why the body bag count of dead Russian soldiers could damage Putin's political grip in Russia itself. With 100,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainian borders, that Ukraine would attack Russians is a very unbelievable story. The US landing tons of small arms weapons and ammunition for use by pro-western Ukrainians is part of the credible threat that body bags filled with Russian soldiers would be sent back to Russia is a real threat to Putin and as a rational actor, he may be taking into account and his calculation in the timing. It takes time for the effects to be felt and perhaps he thinks he can beat down opposition and consolidate power before his own populace feel the blowback. . The Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan once the maimed and dead soldiers were in critical numbers to overcome their government propaganda to any contrary. That Putin cares about sanctions, no matter how extreme, is doubtful and it would take some time before Russian consumers would feel the pinch. Those massive refugees would result in the Russian invasion is also a slow developing anti-Russian propaganda impact. He may save face by a smaller incursion where the population is more to his liking, formalizing his prior stealth take over Donbas and breaking it from the rest of Ukraine and getting a better land bridge to Crimea. We will see. with a few weeks while frozen ground can give tanks traction. Update Feb. 21: https://www.vox.com/2022/2/21/22944995/russia-vladimir-putin-orders-troops-ukraine-east-donbas /The response from the West will determine whether he gets away with that without triggering massive sanctions and succeeds in taking the whole enchilada.

The original February 7, 2022 posting continues: There is speculation that Putin may have been influenced by the USA's messy withdrawal from Afghanistan, thinking that the America was so weak and lacked resolve or desiring isolationism, that it would not get heavily involved in a Russian military invasion of Ukraine. This is the danger of MAGA. It makes the US look weaker, not greater. We do not know what is in Putin's head, but if he thought the isolationist had won in the US, as evidenced by the messy withdrawal from Afghanistan, the weak response to Russia's military grabs in Georgia, Syria and Crimea, he miscalculated. If Putin pays little for marching into Ukraine and the west does not inflict pain on him for doing so, others will take that as a green light and try it elsewhere such as China with its designs on Taiwan. Serbia and Bosnian Serbs still have hopes the northern half of Bosnia (ethnic cleansed of Muslims and Croatian Catholics in the 1990's civil war) would become part of Greater Serbia and are watching for the intensity of western response to Russia's actions in Ukraine. The MAGA movement period is similar to the America First and isolationist era in the 1930s. The pro-fascist movement in the US gained steam and adherents in spite of FDR's disposition to the contrary. Before TV and and the internet, America had radio and fascist, isolationist media personalities like Father Coughlin, with a large radio following and an anti-Semitic demagogue supporting German fascism. . The 1938–39 deplatforming of Father Coughlin. (slate.com)The Father Coughlin of our era is FOX news and Tucker Carlson. Carlson's spiel is not anti-Semitism, but an admirer of autocracy instead of democracy and an apologist of Putin's rule and expansionism. He ignores the anti-Semitism that tinges these autocrats, especially Viktor Orban of Hungary.. Tucker Carlson Says Ukraine Isn’t Important. These Key GOP Voters Beg to Differ. - POLITICO. Tucker Carlson, Hungary, and the right’s embrace of authoritarianism - Vox   Hitler, maybe have thought, thought the US would be content to remain in Fortress America. Before Pearl Harbor, America stood by while Czechoslovakia's ethnic German Sudetenland province was handed over to Germany, (to get Peace in our Time0, Poland was invaded, Anschluss with Austria was finalized, France and Norway fell to the Germans, Britain was pulverized in the Blitz and the US was asleep at the wheel until December 7th, 1941. One wonders what kind of a country we would have been had not Pearl Harbor happened. It gave FDR the political winds in his back to fight a two-front war as the American public realized that isolationism did not work with airplanes as the new weapon in the sky. The world in 2022 is even more intertwined by trade, alliances, and technology, cyber vulnerability, and nuclear weapons with intercontinental reach than it was then.

These kinds of conflicts do not end well. This reminds me of the horrific Bosnian war of ethnic cleansing in the first half of the-1990s and the death of 100,000 civilians.. Until now, this was the only hot war in Europe since World War II. The Serbs lost their attempt to expand the boundaries to encompass all of their ethnic kinfolks and their president died in the Hague awaiting trial for crimes against humanity. The result is that the current population of Bosn1a, once similar to Colorado's, has decreased from 5 million in 1991, the beginning of the conflict, to 3 million, resulted in massive emigration, is the poorest per capita economy in Europe, still subject to ethnic strife and threatened with renewed violence and break up. My fear is that Ukrainians would devolve into this tragedy. The size of the impact dwarfs the Bosnia conflict. The population of Ukraine is 44 million. and the threat extends to all former Russian satellites bordering it

My interest in this is personal. I also fear for any number of my relatives by blood and marriage and good friends with similar ties in Poland, the Baltics, and the Balkans though less so Hungary and Austria, who have maintained cordial relations with Russia. Even friends with relatives in Germany are nervous about a Russian invasion in their neighborhood. All of them are targets of Putin's desire to reassemble the old Soviet Union boundaries and spheres of influence. They have enjoyed the peace and more prosperity after the fall of the Berlin Wall. I have often written about eastern Europe in this blog, drawing on over 50 years of being married to a remarkable person from the Balkans, studying in post-war Berlin, in seminars on eastern Europe in college, and spending a measurable part of my life there on family visits. My particular interest is Bosna, with close relatives by marriage there, a fascination with its history of cultural conflicts beginning my first visit in 1959. In 2020 I completed a six-year project of humanitarian aid through Rotary, writing, and championing three grants there that brought me physically there and close friendships. Our family business is the importation and distribution of cosmetics to the US from Croatia.

My views of Russia are not frozen in the cold war any more than are Putin's He was the last KGB station chief in Dresden, as the wall came down. Those former satellites have enjoyed peace and increasing prosperity with their alignment with the west since then. They have understood and cherished the freedom of political expression and economic advantages of a freer market society. Putin has replaced Marxist-Leninist doctrine with oligarch capitalism and hyper-nationalism. His methods of governance however are similar to the old USSR, punishing those who challenge his accumulation of wealth, power, and loyalty to him with more finesse and secrecy than the show trials of old. Poison, imprisonment, mysterious assassinations of dissidents are his tools. The breakup of the old Soviet Union he believes was a tragedy and the reassembly of that empire is his stated goal. So far he has been successful in Georgia, Syria, and Crimea. Putin is apparently planning to go "full Stalinist" if he takes over Ukraine by military force. This would be right out of Putin's KGB playbook: "The U.S. has warned the United Nations that it believes Russia has plans to kill large numbers of critics, dissidents and "vulnerable populations" in Ukraine" https://news.yahoo.com/russia-plans-target-dissidents-ukraine-060948378.htm
https://news.yahoo.com/russia-lists-ukrainians-killed-sent-055416138.html "Washington has warned the UN rights chief that Russia has lists of Ukrainians "to be killed or sent to camps" in the event of an invasion, according to a letter... "     If  US intelligence agencies know about this list, hopefully they know who is on it and is warning them.   

It is assumed both Russia and the West have more accurate polling, but here is what is public:Poll: Over half of Ukrainians will actively resist Russian invasion (kyivindependent.com) /The pollster is the CNN like news network of India, which does not have a stake in the outcome of any Russian invasion of Ukraine)Every third Ukrainian ready to put up armed resistance to Russians: Study, World News | wionews.com

Saturday, February 5, 2022

.Anti Wokeness and anti masking: issues come to a blue state county

 Update April `6, 2022:  The fired school superintendent is proceeding to sue the school board . Former DougCo superintendent says he was fired illegally over support for masking, equity policies | Colorado Public Radio (cpr.org) 

Anti-wokeness and anti-masking come to a blue state county. Douglas County, a fast-growing southern suburb, one of the richest counties in the US. , is also one of blue state Colorado's largest school districts, It has been the site of tumult as conservative movements, anti-maskers and the opponents of "wokeness" in anti-Critical Race Theory have gained their control on the local school board in a recent election.  The race which gave the school board a 4-3 majority involved local wealthy supporters and dark money from national political action committees opposing teaching of certain issues of race and gender equity in schools and others also opposing masking mandates. The money supporting these extreme right candidates totaled three times the money raised by their more mainstream opponents. The conservative effort to take over school boards reaches fever pitch in one Colorado district (nbcnews.com).    An opponents of the winning candidates admitted " they were asleep at the wheel ".  If this newly elected majority attempts to impose their views of curriculum that whitewashes racial history to reverse gender equity in school district, years more of turmoil can be expected. The new board has already acted to reverse equity policies and to oust the superintendent. As we learn to live with COVID and the virus abates, the masking issue will also become diminished as a hot button issue. 

 The last time in Douglas County the conservative majority got national attention is when they attempted to impose controversial programs regarding taxpay funded vouchers for religious affiliated schools.  In 2011, that issue of school vouchers sparked a 7-year battle as religious conservatives controlled the board and tried to institute a voucher system that would have provided student taxpayer funded scholarships for their students to attend religious affiliated schools. Subsequent elections changed the makeup of that board. That attempt to institute vouchers ended in 2018 after the US Supreme Court had ruled against a similar case in another state. The US Supreme Court referred the matter back to the Colorado Supreme Court that had ruled earlier that the plan violated the state constitution. In 2018, the Colorado Supreme Court dismissed the case ending the voucher case attempt and the Douglas County School Borad ended the plan, which had never been put in place due to lawsuits and court challenges.

 Dougco school board removes superintendent - feliciamuftic@gmail.com - Gmail (google.com)  

Teachers, students protest new Douglas County school board's alleged plot to oust superintendent - Colorado Newsline

Colorado school board votes to end voucher program | AP News  2017

Douglas County school board members decry move to oust superintendent (coloradosun.com)

Douglas County School Board votes to remove Superintendent Corey Wise | Colorado Public Radio (cpr.org)



   Douglas County school voucher program now officially dead after case dismissed by Colorado Supreme Court, officials say – The Denver Post