The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good …

First, the good.  Yesterday, Senator Susan Collins of Maine announced that she is planning to vote to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson next month.  I have long felt that if any Republicans would stray from the party line and follow their conscience, it would be Collins, Murkowski of Alaska, and Romney of Utah.  We can only hope that with Senator Collins stepping forward with her courage, others may follow suit, realizing perhaps that their oath to We the People matters more than their oath of fealty to party.

UNITED STATES – MARCH 8: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Bidens nominee for Associate Justice to the Supreme Court, meets with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, in her office on Tuesday, March 8, 2022. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

“After reviewing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s extensive record, watching much of her hearing testimony, and meeting with her twice in person, I have concluded that she possesses the experience, qualifications, and integrity to serve as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court.  I will, therefore, vote to confirm her to this position.”

It’s not often these days that a member of the Republican Party has the courage to go against the flow, and I think it’s important to give kudos to those who do.  Thumbs up on this one, Senator Collins.  👍

The Bad …

From Heather Cox Richardson’s newsletter on Tuesday night …

Russian state TV featured a Russian government official calling for “regime change” in the United States, asking the people of the U.S. to replace President Biden with Trump “to again help our partner Trump to become President.”

Our partner???  Well then … can there be any clearer statement than this to confirm what most of us realized early in 2017 … that Russia did assist in the former guy’s election in 2016 and would happily do so again today?  Why?  Because Putin realized early on that Trump was enough of an egomaniac that he could be played like a fiddle.  But this, a Russian official calling for intervention to unseat a sitting president, is even worse, for it is an attempt to not only overthrow an election, but a duly-elected president who is already in office and has been for 14 months!  And yes, for the record I did verify this news via a number of sources.

The Ugly …

Every former president that I can think of in my lifetime has left the limelight with grace and dignity at the end of their term … even Richard M. Nixon tucked his tail between his legs and slunk off into the night.  We did not hear Nixon calling for revenge, nor trying to control the Republican Party from afar.  In fact, we heard very little from Nixon over the years after his exit from the Oval Office on August 8, 1974, and frankly, what Nixon did to force his resignation pales in comparison to what the former guy did during and since his time in office.  So why is the former guy still in the news on a daily basis?  Why is he being allowed by the GOP to continue to make utterly stupid remarks, sparking the wrath of the nation – except, of course, for his rabid followers who would love him even if he threatened to murder their children.

The latest?  From his ‘home’ in Mar-a-Lago, he called on Russian dictator Vladimir Putin to ‘find dirt’ on the president’s son, Hunter Biden.  It’s not the first time … in fact, Trump’s first impeachment came as a result of him asking Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy to ‘dig up dirt’ on Hunter Biden in exchange for military aid that had already been approved by Congress.  But today, he is in no position of power, has no role in our relations with either Russia or Ukraine!  As White House Communication Director Kate Bedingfield, filling in for Jen Psaki who is out with COVID, said yesterday …

“What kind of American, let alone an ex-president, thinks that this is the right time to enter into a scheme with Vladimir Putin and brag about his connections to Vladimir Putin? There is only one, and it’s ****** *****.” [name deleted to protect the integrity of this blog]

What kind indeed?  The kind who, according to his own niece, would burn down an entire nation to protect his own ego.  The kind who thinks, erroneously, that he is some sort of a great mind, when he cannot string together a simple sentence.  The kind who will never care for others, who considers himself the only important being in the world.

Let us remember, folks, that neither the former guy nor Hunter Biden are president of this nation … our president is Joe Biden and he is doing a damn fine job, given all that’s been thrown onto his plate in the past 14 months since he took his Oath of Office!  Meanwhile, I call on the Department of Justice to proceed with all due haste in the indictment of the former guy so that he may reside in a federal prison with few venues for his hateful communications.

And I call on those who still consider themselves disciples of the former guy to search high and low for your consciences, for your integrity …

Words …

President Biden gave a speech yesterday in Warsaw, Poland, before heading home.  The speech has been hailed by many, comparing it to two of what are considered the greatest speeches of the Cold War by U.S. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.  While I have not listened to the speech, I have read the transcript … here are a few parts that caught my eye:

  • “A dictator bent on rebuilding an empire will never erase a people’s love for liberty. Brutality will never grind down their will to be free. Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia, for free people refuse to live in a world of hopelessness and darkness.”

  • “Let me say this if you’re able to listen: You, the Russian people, are not our enemy. I’m telling you the truth: This war is not worthy of you, the Russian people.”

  • “For generations, Warsaw has stood where liberty has been challenged and liberty has prevailed. In fact, it was here in Warsaw when a young refugee who fled her home country from Czechoslovakia was under Soviet domination, came back to speak and stand in solidarity with dissidence. Her name was Madeleine Korbel Albright. She became one of the most ardent supporters of democracy in the world. She was a friend with whom I served. America’s first woman Secretary of State. She passed away three days ago. She fought her whole life for central democratic principles. And now in the perennial struggle for democracy and freedom, Ukraine and its people are in the front lines.”

  • “My message to the people of Ukraine is a message I delivered today to Ukraine’s foreign minister and defense minister, who I believe are here tonight. We stand with you. Period!”

  • “President Zelenskyy was democratically elected. He’s Jewish. His father’s family was wiped out in the Nazi Holocaust. And Putin has the audacity, like all autocrats before him, to believe that might will make right.”

  • “And earlier today I visited your national stadium, where thousands of Ukrainian refugees are now trying to answer the toughest questions a human can ask. My God, what is going to happen to me? What is going to happen to my family? I saw tears in many of the mothers’ eyes as I embraced them. Their young children, their young children, not sure whether to smile or cry.”

  • “I didn’t have to speak the language or understand the language to feel the emotion in their eyes, the way they gripped my hand, little kids hung on to my leg, praying with a desperate hope that all this is temporary. Apprehension that they may be perhaps forever away from their homes. Almost a debilitating sadness that this is happening all over again.”

  • “I also want to thank my friend, the great American chef Jose Andres, and his team for help feeding those who are yearning to be free. But helping these refugees is not something Poland or any other nation should carry alone. All the world’s democracies have a responsibility to help. All of them.”

But in keeping with the way this nation is today, the media and others seized on one of President Biden’s last lines …

  • “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”

He uttered the heartfelt words that so many of us are thinking … one way or another, Putin cannot remain in power for if he does … if he does, it is a near-certainty that the world will see another massive war that will touch every nation, every person on the globe.  But immediately people jumped to the conclusion that the president was calling for regime change and that he was willing to be the one to make that happen.  NO, people, that is not what he said nor what he meant!  A statement was issued by the White House to clarify the president’s remarks …

“The president’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region. He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”

I hate it when people try to ‘interpret’ what someone has said.  If I say I’m not hungry right now, that’s precisely what I mean.  I do not mean I am not feeling well, I do not mean that what you’re offering does not appeal … I simply mean I’m not hungry.  Every word President Biden utters is picked apart ad nauseam by those on the right side of the aisle, by the media, and by people who don’t even understand the situation.  Sometimes it’s okay to take a person at their word, to take what they say at face value.  Why on earth would people let 9 short words colour their view of a 30-minute, 3,097-word speech, one of the best Biden has ever given in my view?  Because the free press jumped like a pack of hungry dogs on a bone.  I support freedom of the press to the fullest extent, however with freedom comes responsibility — in this case, the responsibility to speak with conscience, not to put words into the mouth of another, not to twist and turn words into something they were not meant to be.

We, as a nation, really need to get over the finger-pointing, the seizing on every word a member of the opposing political party utters, the lies, the hatred, the divisiveness.  There is much work to be done, but we cannot do it as long as the nation remains so divided that we cannot even listen to one another.

We Were Wrong …

Democracy … It’s not what governments do. Democracy is what people do.

I could not possibly have said this any better than Robert Reich.  Like him, I had some really wrong ideas and the last several years have opened my eyes to the fact that humans have not progressed as much as I had once thought.

Putin and Trump have convinced me I was wrong about the twenty-first century

But the people of Ukraine are teaching all of us lessons we thought we knew

By Robert Reich, 12 March 2022

I used to believe several things about the twenty-first century that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and Donald Trump’s election in 2016 have shown me are false. I assumed:

Nationalism is disappearing. I expected globalization would blur borders, create economic interdependence among nations and regions, and extend a modern consumer and artistic culture worldwide.

I was wrong. Both Putin and Trump have exploited xenophobic nationalism to build their power. (Putin’s aggression has also ignited an inspiring patriotism in Ukraine.)

Nations can no longer control what their citizens know. I assumed that emerging digital technologies, including the Internet, would make it impossible to control worldwide flows of information and knowledge. Tyrants could no longer keep their people in the dark or hoodwink them with propaganda.

Wrong again. Trump filled the media with lies, as has Putin. Putin has also cut off Russian citizens from the truth about what’s occurring in Ukraine.

Advanced nations will no longer war over geographic territory. I thought that in the “new economy” land was becoming less valuable than technological knowhow and innovation. Competition among nations would therefore be over the development of cutting-edge inventions.

I was only partly right. While skills and innovation are critical, land still provides access to critical raw materials and buffers against potential foreign aggressors.

Major nuclear powers will never risk war against each other because of the certainty of “mutually assured destruction.” I bought the conventional wisdom that nuclear war was unthinkable.

I fear I was wrong. Putin is now resorting to dangerous nuclear brinksmanship.

Civilization will never again be held hostage by crazy isolated men with the power to wreak havoc. I assumed this was a phenomenon of the twentieth century, and that twenty-first century governments, even totalitarian ones, would constrain tyrants.

Trump and Putin have convinced me I was mistaken. Thankfully, America booted Trump out of office — but his threat to democracy remains.

Advances in warfare, such as cyber-warfare and precision weapons, will minimize civilian casualties. I was persuaded by specialists in defense strategy that it no longer made sense for sophisticated powers to target civilians.

Utterly wrong. Civilian casualties in Ukraine are mounting.

Democracy is inevitable. I formed this belief in the early 1990s when the Soviet Union had imploded and China was still poor. It seemed to me that totalitarian regimes didn’t stand a chance in the new technologically driven, globalized world. Sure, petty dictatorships would remain in some retrograde regions. But modernity came with democracy, and democracy with modernity.

Both Trump and Putin have shown how wrong I was on this, too.

Meanwhile, Ukrainians are showing that Trump’s and Putin’s efforts to turn back the clock on the twenty-first century can only be addressed with a democracy powerful enough to counteract autocrats like them.

They are also displaying with inspiring clarity that democracy cannot be taken for granted. Democracy is not a spectator sport. It’s not what governments do. Democracy is what people do.

Ukrainians are reminding us that democracy survives only if people are willing to sacrifice for it. Some sacrifices are smaller than others. You may have to stand in line for hours to vote, as did tens of thousands of Black people in America’s 2020 election. You may have to march and protest and even risk your life so others may vote, as did iconic civil rights leaders like the late John Lewis and Martin Luther King, Jr.

You may have to knock on hundreds of doors to get out the vote. Or organize thousands to make your voices heard. And stand up against the powerful who don’t want your voices heard.

You may have to fight a war to protect democracy from those who would destroy it.

The people of Ukraine are also reminding us that democracy is the single most important legacy we have inherited from previous generations who strengthened it and who risked their lives to preserve it. It will be the most significant legacy we leave to future generations — unless we allow it to be suppressed by those who fear it, or we become too complacent to care.

Putin and Trump have convinced me I was wrong about how far we had come in the twenty-first century. Technology, globalization, and modern systems of governance haven’t altered the ways of tyranny. But I, like millions of others around the world, have been inspired by the Ukrainian people — who are reteaching us lessons we once knew.

Mr. Zelenskyy Goes To Washington

Clay Jones of Claytoonz was spot on yesterday, as he most always is …


As Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky virtually addressed Congress today, I wondered, “What did they do with Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, and Madison Cawthorn? For that matter, how dare any member of the Republican Party attend who had refused to impeach Donald Trump for his attempt to extort the Ukrainian president.

During President Biden’s State of the Union address to Congress, Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene heckled and cackled like mean girls throughout his speech. In order not to risk further embarrassment to his party, or even worse, the nation, did Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy lock them in the congressional basement? There’s no real reason for the most ridiculous members of Congress to attend anyway since none of them have ever expressed any interest in doing their jobs. Did Marco Rubio tweet a selfie with Zelensky on the monitor behind him to show he’s not…

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What Will We Do?

In the past week, I have heard of at least two Republican members of Congress who basically said that what is happening in Ukraine is awful and that we should support Ukraine … with thoughts and prayers, but not anything that costs the U.S. money.  At least one, Warren Davidson of Ohio, was complaining about the inclusion of the $13.6 billion in aid for Ukraine that was included in the larger — much larger — spending bill passed last week.  No doubt the views of these two are largely representative of their party as a whole.  In my opinion, this “America First” bullshit needs to end NOW!  Today there was a newsletter from Robert Reich waiting in my inbox.  It is short but describes ever so well the situation we’re in today …

Helplessness in the face of evil

An allegory

Robert Reich, 14 March 2022

It’s like watching a three-hundred-pound bully beat up a kid half his size, for no reason — bloodying the poor kid, pulverizing him. Yet you don’t dare try to stop the mayhem because the bully has a gun that he’ll use on you if you intervene.

You look for police, but there are none.

You round up your friends, who join you in shouting at the bully. But he pays no attention. They threaten that if he doesn’t stop they’ll no longer go bowling with him or invite him out for drinks. Their threats have no effect. The bully continues beating up the kid.

Your friends refuse to take further action. They don’t want to provoke his wrath. They’re as afraid of the bully’s gun as you are.

By now the kid is desperate. You give him some water. He pleads for a knife. You slip him some brass knuckles.

The kid puts up a good fight. You marvel at the kid’s courage and stamina in the face of such brutality. Maybe he can hold the bully off for a while, you think.

But the kid’s resistance infuriates the bully even further. The bully clobbers the kid with everything he has.

The barbarism is occurring in front of your eyes. It’s revolting to watch. Every moral fiber of your being shouts “do something!” Yet you’re paralyzed. It’s suicide if you intervene, but it’s moral suicide if you don’t.

You want to believe the kid can force the bully to retreat, but you know the kid doesn’t stand a chance.

You can no longer bear witness to this slaughter. You have to avert your eyes. Or you have to act. What do you do?

The time has come to make a decision … what will we do?

On A Personal Note …

Sometimes there is just so much rambling in my head that I cannot focus on a single topic, and this is one such time.  So, I thought to clear out my head by sharing some of those thoughts with you, my friends.

I would like to start by telling you how very proud I am of my daughter, Chris.  Last Friday, she was informed that she had won the monthly “Employee Incentive Award” of $500.  The person who had nominated her for the award was one of her staff members, interestingly, who had argued with Chris on more than one occasion, but in her nomination praised Chris saying she was always there when her employees needed her, worked harder than anybody else, etc.  But all of that isn’t what made me so proud.  That evening, as Miss Goose and I both congratulated her on the win, she asked if there was anything special we would like to do with the money.  Naturally, I told her it was hers to do with as she pleased, and her response was, “Then, I think I’d like to donate it to help the people of Ukraine.”  I get teary-eyed just recalling her words … I’m so very proud of her.

I keep hearing people say we should stop importing oil and gas from Russia.  I agree that it would be in keeping with the other sanctions we have imposed on Russia and that it would make sense in more ways that one.  BUT … I know what will happen to all those voices who are demanding that President Biden ban Russian oil imports … they will have a 180° turnaround when the see the fuel prices at the pump a month from now.  The cost of a gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel is almost certain to spike to $10 or nearly so, and those same people will be whining and bitching, blaming President Biden.  I want to say to every one of those people, you asked for it, you got it, so shut the #$%& up!!!  People whining has gotten on my nerves so badly that I’m turning into Oscar the Grouch!  They whine about being told to wear a mask, they whine about the increase in food prices, they cry about one thing and another, never stopping to realize just how great they have it compared to the people of Ukraine, Afghanistan, and many other countries too numerous to name.  Being asked to wear a mask and paying $10 for a gallon of fuel pales in comparison to being shot at!  Perhaps … just a thought … they could walk more and drive less, turn the thermostat down by 5°, turn a few lights out, and stay home instead of dining out or going to the cinema?

Even after the IPCC (Interglobal Panel on Climate Change) came out with dire warnings at the end of last month, at least some people are not taking it seriously.  The former guy was talking to a group of rich jerks who had donated to him when he said, in response to the scientific concept that sea levels are rising as a result of our carbon output … “The global warming hoax, it just never ends. There was a big thing about global cooling — what will be next? I say, great, we have more waterfront property.”  Can anybody possibly be more stupid?  But the worst of it is that his supporters will believe him and will fight against those of us who are trying to stall or reverse climate change, just as they fought against things like mask and vaccine mandates that were put in place to fight COVID, which Trump also claimed was a hoax, or nothing to worry about.  We have a large portion of the population that, rather than listen to experts like scientists and doctors, would prefer to listen to clowns like Trump and Carlson.  They are making life riskier for all of us.

Speaking of the former guy … I am calling on editors of the major news outlets to keep both his name and picture out of their publications for a period of one week … 7 days, 168 hours!  Nothing he does is actually news, but his intent is always two-fold:  to rile and divide people and to keep the spotlight on himself.  Publications like The Washington Post, New York Times, NPR, Reuters and others are guilty of adding to the divisiveness in this country by keeping the former guy front and center in the news, reporting on his every irrelevant word or action.  They are giving those of us with some sense an ulcer, and causing glee among the unwashed masses.  Let them try, just for one week, to report actual news and not mention the former guy … let’s see what happens.

The ridiculous ‘trucker convoy’ reached the Washington, D.C. area yesterday.  I find it ironic that they can create havoc by blocking major highways, making people late for work, doctor’s appointments, meetings, classes and more, and yet they are applauded by too many people.  Compare their actions to those of  football player Colin Kaepernick who in 2016 took a knee during the national anthem to bring attention to racial injustice that was on the rise all across the nation, and he was booed, scorned, ultimately lost his job, and still today is a pariah in some circles.  Tell me again that the ‘United’ States is not a racist country … and I will call you a liar.  This nation is every bit as racist today as it was in 1964.  I once thought we had made progress, but we haven’t … not really.

Those in this country who would support the monster Vladimir Putin, who is now killing civilians including children in Ukraine should be made to either shut up or go live under Putin’s autocracy in Russia.  Putin is a murderer and evil oozes from his every pore.  There is not one single reason for people in the U.S. to be praising Putin.  Those who think their rights are so violated here in the U.S. and that Putin is anything less than a cruel madman don’t deserve to live in the U.S. … banish them to Russia and then let them complain about their ‘rights’ … see how long it takes them to find their way to the gulag.

See, I told you I had a lot of things running loose in my mind!  Perhaps now I can focus on something … anything!  Thanks for letting me vent!

How Might This War End?

Thomas Friedman is a political commentator and author whose work I have shared before. He is a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner who has written extensively on foreign affairs, global trade, the Middle East, globalization, and environmental issues.  In his latest editorial for the New York Times, Friedman details three possible outcomes for the war in Ukraine and I find his assessment thoughtful, and also tragic.  This is a bit longer than my usual post, but I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read …

I See Three Scenarios for How This War Ends

By Thomas L. Friedman, Opinion Columnist

March 1, 2022

The battle for Ukraine unfolding before our eyes has the potential to be the most transformational event in Europe since World War II and the most dangerous confrontation for the world since the Cuban missile crisis. I see three possible scenarios for how this story ends. I call them “the full-blown disaster,” “the dirty compromise” and “salvation.”

The disaster scenario is now underway: Unless Vladimir Putin has a change of heart or can be deterred by the West, he appears willing to kill as many people as necessary and destroy as much of Ukraine’s infrastructure as necessary to erase Ukraine as a free independent state and culture and wipe out its leadership. This scenario could lead to war crimes the scale of which has not been seen in Europe since the Nazis — crimes that would make Vladimir Putin, his cronies and Russia as a country all global pariahs.

The wired, globalized world has never had to deal with a leader accused of this level of war crimes whose country has a landmass spanning 11 time zones, is one of the world’s largest oil and gas providers and possesses the biggest arsenal of nuclear warheads of any nation.

Every day that Putin refuses to stop we get closer to the gates of hell. With each TikTok video and cellphone shot showing Putin’s brutality, it will be harder and harder for the world to look away. But to intervene risks igniting the first war in the heart of Europe involving nuclear weapons. And to let Putin reduce Kyiv to rubble, with thousands of dead — the way he conquered Aleppo and Grozny — would allow him to create a European Afghanistan, spilling out refugees and chaos.

Putin doesn’t have the ability to install a puppet leader in Ukraine and just leave him there: A puppet would face a permanent insurrection. So, Russia needs to permanently station tens of thousands of troops in Ukraine to control it — and Ukrainians will be shooting at them every day. It is terrifying how little Putin has thought about how his war ends.

I wish Putin was just motivated by a desire to keep Ukraine out of NATO; his appetite has grown far beyond that. Putin is in the grip of magical thinking: As Fiona Hill, one of America’s premier Russia experts, said in an interview published on Monday by Politico, he believes that there is something called “Russky Mir,” or a “Russian World”; that Ukrainians and Russians are “one people”; and that it is his mission to engineer “regathering all the Russian-speakers in different places that belonged at some point to the Russian tsardom.”

To realize that vision, Putin believes that it is his right and duty to challenge what Hill calls “a rules-based system in which the things that countries want are not taken by force.” And if the U.S. and its allies attempt to get in Putin’s way — or try to humiliate him the way they did Russia at the end of the Cold War — he is signaling that he is ready to out-crazy us. Or, as Putin warned the other day before putting his nuclear force on high alert, anyone who gets in his way should be ready to face “consequences they have never seen” before. Add to all this the mounting reports questioning Putin’s state of mind and you have a terrifying cocktail.

The second scenario is that somehow the Ukrainian military and people are able to hold out long enough against the Russian blitzkrieg, and that the economic sanctions start deeply wounding Putin’s economy, so that both sides feel compelled to accept a dirty compromise. Its rough contours would be that in return for a cease-fire and the withdrawal of Russian troops, Ukraine’s eastern enclaves now under de facto Russian control would be formally ceded to Russia, while Ukraine would explicitly vow never to join NATO. At the same time, the U.S. and its allies would agree to lift all recently imposed economic sanctions on Russia.

This scenario remains unlikely because it would require Putin to basically admit that he was unable to achieve his vision of reabsorbing Ukraine into the Russian motherland, after paying a huge price in terms of his economy and the deaths of Russian soldiers. Moreover, Ukraine would have to formally cede part of its territory and accept that it was going to be a permanent no man’s land between Russia and the rest of Europe — though it would at least maintain its nominal independence. It would also require everyone to ignore the lesson already learned that Putin can’t be trusted to leave Ukraine alone.

Finally, the least likely scenario but the one that could have the best outcome is that the Russian people demonstrate as much bravery and commitment to their own freedom as the Ukrainian people have shown to theirs, and deliver salvation by ousting Putin from office.

Many Russians must be starting to worry that as long as Putin is their present and future leader, they have no future. Thousands are taking to the streets to protest Putin’s insane war. They’re doing this at the risk of their own safety. And though too soon to tell, their pushback does make you wonder if the so-called fear barrier is being broken, and if a mass movement could eventually end Putin’s reign.

Even for Russians staying quiet, life is suddenly being disrupted in ways small and large. As my colleague Mark Landler put it: “In Switzerland, the Lucerne music festival canceled two symphony concerts featuring a Russian maestro. In Australia, the national swim team said it would boycott a world championship meet in Russia. At the Magic Mountain Ski Area in Vermont, a bartender poured bottles of Stolichnaya vodka down the drain. From culture to commerce, sports to travel, the world is shunning Russia in myriad ways to protest President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.”

And then there is the new “Putin tax” that every Russian will have to pay indefinitely for the pleasure of having him as their president. I am talking about the effects of the mounting sanctions being imposed on Russia by the civilized world. On Monday, the Russian central bank had to keep the Russian stock market closed to prevent a panicked meltdown and was forced to raise its benchmark interest rate in one day to 20 percent from 9.5 percent to encourage people to hold rubles. Even then the ruble nose-dived by about 30 percent against the dollar — it’s now worth less than 1 U.S. cent.

For all of these reasons I have to hope that at this very moment there are some very senior Russian intelligence and military officials, close to Putin, who are meeting in some closet in the Kremlin and saying out loud what they all must be thinking: Either Putin has lost a step as a strategist during his isolation in the pandemic or he is in deep denial over how badly he has miscalculated the strength of Ukrainians, America, its allies and global civil society at large.

If Putin goes ahead and levels Ukraine’s biggest cities and its capital, Kyiv, he and all of his cronies will never again see the London and New York apartments they bought with all their stolen riches. There will be no more Davos and no more St. Moritz. Instead, they will all be locked in a big prison called Russia — with the freedom to travel only to Syria, Crimea, Belarus, North Korea and China, maybe. Their kids will be thrown out of private boarding schools from Switzerland to Oxford.

Either they collaborate to oust Putin or they will all share his isolation cell. The same for the larger Russian public. I realize that this last scenario is the most unlikely of them all, but it is the one that holds the most promise of achieving the dream that we dreamed when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 — a Europe whole and free, from the British Isles to the Urals.

Today It Is Ukraine. Yesterday It Was Elsewhere. Tomorrow? This Never Rests.

Our friend Roger is the ultimate historian and today he provides us with a thought-provoking post about the current war Russia has started against Ukraine … really, against the rest of the world. Thank you, Roger, for this timely post and your valuable insights!

Writing Despite Computers and Programmes

Where do we begin? How do we explain?

24th February 2022. Another Date To Remember….So many events, actions and commentaries since the day Putin and his court decided to take the next step in their endeavours to bring The Ukraine back under Kremlin control. The avalanche into the medias has been such that I literally had to check the start date. It was as if Time measured in days had ceased to be a relevant method of recording, all that counted was The Narrative, every daily action is affected by The Narrative, even Sunrise and Sunset are but part of the backdrop. So many folk are asking ‘How could this happen?’ Understandable.

Under the lens of the seemingly disturbing and dispassionate study of International Relations’ Realism theories what is happening in the Ukraine is predictable, almost inexorable. However this is not the arena to be bandying terms such as ‘Anarchic…

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Wise Words

When I read on Sunday that Putin had put Russia’s nuclear forces “on alert”, I was aghast and furious.  I shouldn’t have been surprised, though, for Putin is a ‘man’ without a conscience, one who will do “whatever it takes” to expand his empire, even if it means the destruction of millions of lives.  The best, most realistic and logical of the many editorials I have read on this topic comes from Joel Mathis of The Week, and I would like to share it with you.

Putin just dramatically raised the stakes. What should the U.S. do?

Escalating is easy. Prudence is difficult.

Joel Mathis, February 28, 2022

Once the cycle of escalation starts, it’s hard to stop.

So it’s both alarming and unsurprising that Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Sunday put his country’s nuclear forces on alert, pushing back against the flood of sanctions and angry rhetoric from Western leaders that has followed his decision to invade Ukraine. “Top officials in leading NATO countries have allowed themselves to make aggressive comments about our country,” Putin said. He might have been referring to last week’s comment from the French foreign minister that “the Atlantic alliance is a nuclear alliance,” which itself was a response to Putin’s own nuclear-tinged warning against outside countries interfering in his war. Every tit-for-tat heating up of rhetoric just ratchets the tensions a little bit higher.

Escalating is easy. Prudence is difficult. But prudence is exactly what is needed from U.S. and European leaders in the days and weeks ahead. 

What does that mean in this case? It doesn’t mean surrendering to Putin’s aggression by giving up sanctions against Russia or the (so-far) limited efforts to aid Ukraine in its defense. But it does mean remembering — as if he’d let us forget — that Putin has command of a large arsenal of nuclear weapons, and that any direct confrontation between NATO and Russian forces might turn a regional calamity into a worldwide disaster. It means (as my colleague Damon Linker put it) being very careful that the “urge to do something” doesn’t make a bad situation much worse. 

It means being calm, even when events seem to demand otherwise.

For example: It’s easy to see how the U.S. response to Putin’s nuclear provocation could spin out of control. As The New York Times’ Max Fisher pointed out on Sunday, it’s unlikely that Putin actually wants to start a nuclear war — but it’s also possible the combination of itchy trigger fingers and simple misunderstandings could end in calamity. “Putin is not insane; he is not going to deliberately start a nuclear war,” Fisher wrote. “Rather, the main risk is a freak accident or miscalculation that sets either side hurtling toward last-ditch ‘defensive’ strikes in error — very unlikely, but not impossible.”

Which is why America’s best response to Russia’s nuclear alert is probably to do nothing for now. “Putin would like nothing better than to take everyone’s mind off Ukraine and focus us all on a game of nuclear chicken,” The Atlantic’s Tom Nichols wrote Sunday. So why give him that opportunity?

The good news is that the Biden Administration is indeed playing it cool for the moment. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called Putin’s escalation “totally unacceptable” — but there was no announcement that American forces were raising their own nuclear alert status. Prudent. 

The bad news is that President Biden will be faced with dozens more moments like Sunday’s, endless crises that will demand a fresh choice about whether or not to respond, and then how to respond effectively without being too provocative. With the stakes so high, it will be much easier to get those decisions wrong than to get them right. And those decisions — no matter how wise or unwise they end up being — will be instantly castigated by a Republican Party that has collectively decided that there will be no rallying around the flag for a Democratic president.

And if, as likely, things get worse in Ukraine in the short-term future, the voices calling for a “tougher” reaction from the United States are likely to get louder. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) is an honorable man, but his proposal of a U.S.-enforced “no-fly zone” over Ukraine would immediately, and probably violently, pit American forces against the Russian military. Similarly, glib talk of “regime change” in Russia will probably produce more problems than solutions. The hawkish impulse might be understandable in the current crisis — who doesn’t want to see a bully get a bloody nose, and get it right this instant? — but that doesn’t make it smart: If a bully has a gun, the satisfaction that comes from punching him might be short-lived. That would be … imprudent. 

As always, President Biden might get every decision right and still end up with an unsatisfactory outcome: It remains very likely that Ukraine or some significant portion of it ends up under Putin’s thumb. There may be no winning scenario for the good guys, only a series of less-bad possibilities. Anybody who says they have a secret-but-magical solution to the Russo-Ukraine war — like, say, former President Trump — is selling you something. Sometimes, there is no easy way forward.

The Week’s Best Cartoons: Russia Invades Ukraine

While there are many things happening here in the U.S., such as the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, a new report on climate change, gerrymandering and other voter suppression attempts by states, and the list goes on … the dominant story is Russian tsar Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.  Rightly so, as people are dying at the hand of a power-hungry dictator and since the outcome will, in one way or another, affect millions of people around the globe, including here in the U.S.  Thus, what is happening on the other side of the pond was the focus of last week’s political cartoons.  Our friend TokyoSand scoured the ‘Net and found the best of the best for us …

This is only a sampling, so be sure to See all the ‘toons at TokyoSand’s Political Charge!