1. Blue Falcons. From time immemorial there have been Blue Falcons. They’re the kind of people who would step over their own sainted grandmother or cheat their best friend if they thought it was a chance to get ahead. The ranks of the great green machine are thick with them to some greater or lesser degree. The worst of them, the ones who create a lot of smoke and heat but not much light, are the staff schmucks who think they’ll gain the barest marginal advantage by selling out someone down the hall over an issue that could have been remedied with an email. Being a buddy fucker isn’t a good look, friends. Even if you gain a nominal advantage temporarily, the taint will be on you till the end of your days.
2. Weekends. The problem with the weekend is whole vast swaths of the population are off at the same time. I found myself unavoidably out on Saturday afternoon to do some business with places that don’t obligingly open their doors before 7 AM. To my never-ending horror, there were people everywhere. Traffic backed up at every light. It’s goddamned nightmare fuel. Maybe I need to find a gig where I can take two sequential weekdays off instead of Saturday and Sunday… because weekends are absolutely not relaxing when I have to subject myself to the crowd.
3. There’s been a wave of “climate protests” across Europe. The most recent spate of “protestors” feature assholes damaging and destroying art across the continent who rank right alongside the Taliban scum who blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas or the ISIS fucks who destroyed the Roman theater at Palmyra. At best they’re petulant little shits throwing a temper tantrum because their ideas can’t draw support on their own merits… but in my estimation they’re domestic terrorists who should be delt with as such.
Weekends, especially those that are too snowy, cold, and unpleasant for much else, are good times to ponder. Some, I’m sure, are eager to fill in every moment of the empty hours with active distraction, but I’m happy to spend them reading and thinking over a good brew up.
I had some delightfully long stretches of time to do just that over the past weekend. There was a single thought, though, that kept coming back to me and that’s that whatever we think of as “peace” simply isn’t the natural state of the world.
Europe was lulled into thinking of the “long peace” stretching from the end of World War II to the kickoff of Russia’s most recent misguided adventure in Ukraine. That’s only possible when you forget that Russia has been waging a low-intensity war in Ukraine since 2007. The countries that used to be Yugoslavia fell into brutal genocidal war in the 1990s. Before that, when there was still an Iron Curtain, the whole continent held its breath and armed itself with increasingly powerful tools of war.
The Cold War itself raged, from one degree or another, across South America, Africa, and Asia for half a century. None of that even takes into account the “big wars” of the 20th century, the wars for empire in the Victorian Age, or Napoleon’s setting all of Europe on fire in his wars of expansion in the 19th century. The 18th century could hardly be called peaceful, having birthed revolutionary fervor in both the United States and France. You can carry this line of thought back through the long sweep of history until you run out of written records to consider.
It’s why I chuckle any time someone earnestly tells me that if only there was X, Y, or Z, the people of the world would all live together in peace and harmony. Maybe if they’re the last two people on earth. Maybe. But I see very little evidence to convince me that when societies, cultures, and civilizations bumping up against one another, “peace” isn’t simply a momentary rest between stretches of open, brutal war.
1. Sanctions. There’s a small chorus out there arguing that the fairly dramatic sanctions regime imposed on Russia is only hurting Russian civilians, that it’s somehow “unfair,” or that it’s somehow an escalation of this conflict. I tend to come at it from a much different perspective. Russia’s wholesale invasion of Ukraine is a clear and present threat to the post-World War II free and democratic order in Europe. Under the circumstances, marshalling the full economic might of Western Civilization and arming the Ukrainian resistance with as much material as they can carry feels like the very least America and western Europe can do in response. I can assure you, a President Tharp would be far less ginger in how he approached the whole damned mess.
2. Saber rattling. The nuclear option. Vlad the Invader has put Russia’s nuclear forces on alert. Feels like the good old days of the Cold War when Soviet leaders threatened nuclear apocalypse any time world events didn’t go their way. If you didn’t live through those times, it happened a lot. Like all the time. If we caved in to Russian nuclear threats every time they stomped their feet in a fit of not getting their way, there would still be a wall in Berlin and an Iron Curtain across continental Europe. As the poet said, there are worse things in life than being dead.
3. Propaganda value. I’ve loaded down my social media feeds with images, memes, videos, and commentary on Russia’s war-making over the last week. One thing I’ve refrained and will continue to refrain from doing is posting any of the images of surrendered Russian soldiers. I instinctively recoil every time I’ve ever seen pictures posted of American troops in the hands of the enemy… and seeing what are almost inevitably young conscripts on what must be the absolute worst day of their life being put on display, while it may have a certain propaganda value, doesn’t sit well with me. Better to just march them off to confinement and confirm through the Red Cross that Ukraine is committed to treating its POWs with dignity and in accordance with the Geneva Convention.
Russia rattling its nuclear saber and its foibles being the butt of jokes is honestly just more fuel for the way back machine. If you didn’t listen too carefully to the news over the last few days, I think you could be forgiven for wondering if you woke up sometime in 1985. New faces, new flag, but the same old, worn playbook of threats played out against the backdrop of an economy teetering on the brink of collapse. The only difference this time is in the internet age, the entire world can see the rot and dysfunction in Russia when back then it was largely hidden behind the iron curtain and a wall of silence.
For all his bluster, Mr. Putin can’t hide that his country is a shambles if not an outright sham. Seventy years of Soviet policies followed by 30 years of kleptocracy apparently don’t build up a productive and vibrant system. Who would have guessed, right? I, of course, mean aside from anyone who was alive to watch the Soviet Union collapse under the weight of its misguided and misbegotten policies.
I don’t in any way intend for this to sound triumphant, because I know well enough that even a tired, sick, and old elephant hurts if it happens to fall on you. The takeaway, though, is that we need a full reevaluation of how we think about Russia and Russian power in the future. We should also use this brief period of western democratic ascendency and unity to put as much of our own house in order as we can while it lasts. Putin or no Putin the world is a dangerous place that’s markedly more well ordered when its great democracies aren’t busy bickering among themselves.
I grew up in the 80s… not so very long ago in geo-political terms. Back there and back then, the Soviet Union was an Evil Empire run by faceless party bosses and apparatchiks in far off, shadowy Moscow. As a cold war kid, having Russia back as the Big Bad feels like the most natural thing in the world. It’s the way things ought to be.
Russia, in the guise of “first among equals” in the USSR, had a long history of intimidating, invading, and occupying its neighbor states if they strayed too far from the edicts issued from Moscow. The old countries of the Warsaw Pact and former Soviet republics, spent half a century or more under the heel of or at least under threat from the Red Army.
My Point? It’s mostly just a way of saying that the ongoing invasion of Ukraine doesn’t represent anything new under the sun. It’s Russia being true to form and returning to old patterns from the 20th century. The difference now is that the Warsaw Pact is long dead and the former Soviet republics have been independent for decades – many joining NATO as they are well aware the threat that an expansionist Russia represents,
Even as the United States and the USSR postured across the German plains, the post World War II global order kept the peace in Europe for the better part of three generations. Since the end of the Second World War, Europe has known an almost unprecedented period of peace. If history is a guide, that’s not necessarily the natural state of things in the region. Today, it seems, we’re closer to a general war in Europe than at any time since 1945… driven almost entirely by one man’s obsession to restore an empire that hasn’t existed in over thirty years.
It seems that we’ve gone back to the future in the worst possible way.
1. President Trump. Say what you want about Europe and the NATO alliance, but they represent most of our oldest and strongest allies. Maintaining strong working relationships there is a key element of American national security. If ever there was a moment for the president to reign in his normal impulse to ratchet up the drama, it would have been this week’s London summit. Pitching a hissy fit in the face of mean words isn’t a good look internationally.
2. Impeachment. The House of Representatives seems to have the votes to move forward with articles of impeachment against the president. The Speaker is a good enough politician not to bring the vote if she didn’t have the numbers. Soon enough the whole thing will be thrown over to the Senate for trial… where I can only assume the Majority Leader will manage the case every bit as politically as the Speaker has done laying the charges. Prediction: The president remains in office while Republicans and Democrats retrench and emerge more divided than ever.
3. Lyft assault accusations. About a million years ago when I was growing up, we were all consistently warned about the dangers of getting into cars with strangers. Now, here in the oh so advanced 21st century we’re suddenly surprised when bad things happen when you get into cars with strangers. It’s the kind of thing we use to call having some goddamned common sense.
Over the last ten years we have seen multiple Islamic extremist attacks in Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and in the United States.
These nations represent some of our oldest allies and newest friends. They represent the bulwark between 1000 years of western civilization and religious fanatics who would see that civilization burn for their own sick purposes.
It is time the allies address Islamic extremism for what it is: a vile and evil tumor spreading across the globe. It is time that the allies declare that we will take not one more step backwards in the extremist campaign of a thousand cuts. It is time the allies eradicate those who threaten the peace and stability of the world.
This is the cause of our generation and it is far past time that we see it through.
It’s a busy weekend. That’s good in so much as it means that this post more or less writes itself. That’s bad in that the world seem shell bent of flinging itself apart at the seams. Terror attacks on three continents that may not have been coordinated, but the timing of which is certainly close enough together to be suspect. A political fracas in the US that covers all the ground from heritage to hate to healthcare to marriage. The greeks have declared a bank holiday and appear all but determined to drive their country over their own fiscal cliff and straight into default while the European Union hopes the rest of them can shrug it off.
If you’ve kept an ear on the news, there’s a lot of information coming in on all fronts. Weekends are usually where they bury the stories we’re not supposed to pay attention to, but any one of the headlines this week would usually have legs all by itself. Combined, there’s almost something in there guaranteed to keep everyone stirred up at least for a few more turns of the news cycle.
I’m not fool enough to think any of these problems amounts to a hill of beans in this crazy world, but they pace at which they keep coming is a little troublesome. I’ve got at least half a dozen methods of information delivery in an arm’s reach right now… and I find myself wondering if we all weren’t just a little bit better off when we got our news from the morning edition, the evening edition, and 30 minutes of TV highlights at 6PM.
The world’s always been a complicated place, but it’s only recently that we’ve all gotten the opportunity to watch the sausage made each and every day. I wonder if it isn’t time I try to force myself to tune it out for just a little while.
1. Greece. What’s the problem? You ginned up a mountain of bills and now suddenly don’t want to pay because it’s too hard. It’s unfair. The big countries are picking on you. God it sounds so familiar – like exactly what happened when so many people in this country found themselves in homes they couldn’t afford “through no fault of their own.” Except see, there is fault. There is definite fault when you spend other people’s money without any reasonably expectation of ever being able to pay it back. Putting your financial house in order is painful. It sucks. All the free stuff people thought they were entitled too is suddenly not free – or not there because you can’t afford it. And the only way the economy keeps on working is if people who loan money can expect to get that money back. It’s a loan, not a gift after all. I feel ever more strongly that the US is headed in a similar direction to our Greek friends. $18 Trillion in loans aren’t going to pay back themselves – and they’re certainly not going to get paid while we continue to add more debt to the pile. If Greece’s gnashing of teeth is any indicator of the howl that will go up when the US realizes we can’t afford to be all things to all people, we’re in for one hell of a rough ride.
2. Negotiating with terrorists. According to the US government it’s now OK for our fellow citizens to negotiate with terrorists. While I won’t pretend to imagine the nightmare that is having a family member or loved one in the hands of ISIS, I can tell you that I wouldn’t want my family to be responsible for providing aid and comfort to the enemy in the form of a substantial cash donation on my behalf. What I would like, on the other hand, is for the armored fist of the most powerful nation in the world to come crashing through the terrorist’s front door in an effort to a)rescue me and b) eradicate the terrorists who believe kidnapping an American citizen will end well for them. If Option A and Option B are mutually exclusive, please feel free to exercise Option B with as much lethality as necessary to get the job done. And then drop a few more 1000-pound bombs just to stir up the dust and make the rubble bounce a bit for good measure.
3. The joys of home ownership. Don’t get me wrong, I love the house. It crossed off just about every feature I had on my list. Having been in it now for three months, though, some of its warts are showing… and by warts I’m referring to the perpetually moist basement / piss poor foundation grading and drainage / sieve-like window well combination that I’ve been fighting since spring time turned into Maryland’s version monsoon season. Between the landscape contractors looking at fixes to my own modest efforts at improving the around-the-house drainage situation trying to get a grip on the underside of this not so old house has become something of a second job. Now I know it’s mostly just a function of sealing up the window well, correcting the drainage, and adding on a secondary source of electricity to keep the pumps chugging along… but just now, with another couple of days of rain in the forecast, my patience – something never know to be in vast supply – is wearing even more thin than usual.
So Russia is back on the road towards rebuilding the old Soviet Empire. That’s bad, but it’s not what’s dominating my thoughts today. I’m my head I’m already projecting forward to Monday morning and wondering if the projected “winter weather event” will be enough to buy me just one more day of weekend. Maybe I’ve got my priorities all sorts of jacked up on that one, but Monday is the closest problem to me. Statistically, its arrival (and the ruination of the weekend) is an absolute certainty, making its bad results guaranteed to happen. Ukraine, on the other hand may or may not dissolve into civil war through the prodding of the Russians… and even if it does, that badness is less of a direct impact on me. Sure, it probably makes me a bad person to be more worried about Monday than another potentially catastrophic war starting in Eastern Europe, but if the rest of the world isn’t bothered that it’s on the fast track to hell in a handbag, I’m not going to waste a lot of time worrying either.