Weekend Reading

Take a day off.

It has been an unusually wet summer in our corner of Appalachia, which makes for foggy, cool mornings. Just the right atmosphere to brew up some coffee and settle in on the back porch with a view of the forest and a batch of enjoyable weekend reading. Some suggestions:

A burst of good stuff from nautil.us yesterday: Strange escapism in Stranger Places, Brief encounters with cuckoos by Adam Petry, and really faraway escapism in Predators, Prey, and Vodka, Surveying muskoxen in the Russian far north by Joel Berger.

What are Chinese authorities up to in the far western Xinjiang region? See Crackdown in Xinjiang: Where have all the people gone? by Emily Feng in Urumqi in the Financial Times.

Two stories about people and whales: We May Never Understand the Ocean-Wide Damage Done by Industrial Whaling by Peter Brannen in The New Yorker, and It’s Tough Being a Right Whale These Days by J. B. McKinnon at The Atlantic.

“To hide in plain sight while on assignment in foreign nations, agents needed precisely tailored clothes made to look local.” Such an obscure topic, the very idea that someone thought to write about it is a pleasure Clothing Britain’s Spies during World War II by Jocelyn Sears at JStor Daily.

Alarming reading from Cynthia Lazaroff, who was in Hawaii when that ballistic missile attack false alarm came in last January: Dawn of a new Armageddon in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Pertinent as voices in the UK urge stockpiling goods in case of a Brexit-gone-bad, Swedish journalist Elisabeth Braw looks at how Global Supply Chains Are Dangerously Easy to Snap in Foreign Policy.

Quillette calls itself “a platform for free thought.” To use a Finnish saying, I’m not sure yet if it’s a fish or a bird, but it mostly seems to enjoy poking at today’s mainline leftish “correct thinking.” In Britain’s Populist Revolt, the point I think Matthew Goodwin, a young academic, wants to make is that if Leave won because the social contract is broken, the Remainers and the anti-Trumpists have no interest in fixing it.

Granted, this is not for everyone: because of the stir created by an emergent “Democratic Socialist” movement in the U.S. ahead of the fall midterms, my weekend mission is to compare and contrast two articles. The first, in Jacobin, A Time to Be Bold by Mathieu Desan and Michael A. McCarthy, and a reply in The Atlantic called Democratic Socialism Threatens Minorities by Conor Friedersdorf.

Enjoy the weekend. See you next week.


Weekend Reading

Much news today about the extremely hot temperatures across Spain. It’s not just hot in southern Europe. In Finland,

“A branch of the K-Supermarket chain in Helsinki’s Pohjois-Haaga district has invited 100 customers to sleep in its air-conditioned store on Saturday.

Finland’s August average is 19C but temperatures approached 30C this week and few have air-conditioning at home. A store manager told the state broadcaster that beer sales would end at 9 p.m. (2000 GMT) as usual though snacks would be available.”

For everyone who’s sweltering in place this weekend, click on through to EarthPhotos.com for a nice, big, cooling view of this waterfall, just up the road from us here in southern Appalachia.

Meanwhile, here are a few worthy articles for your quality time with your air conditioning this weekend:

Debt traps. First Sri Lanka, with the Chinese-financed port at Hambantota. Next maybe, Pakistan. Then, Will Djibouti Become Latest Country to Fall Into China’s Debt Trap? by Amy Cheng in Foreign Policy.

A tour d’horizon looking at the global urban/rural split: Urban-rural splits have become the great global divider by Gideon Rachman in the FT.

Why don’t people feel like they’re getting anywhere? Annie Lowrey explores the government’s role in The Atlantic with the article Jeff Bezos’s $150 Billion Fortune Is a Policy Failure.

Then there’s the other Somalia, in No pirates allowed: The democratic, pro-Western, successful, totally unrecognized Democratic Republic of Somaliland by Geoffrey Clarfield at the National Post. Consider also the related, and frightening-looking new book The Desert and the Sea: 977 Days Captive on the Somali Pirate Coast by Michael Scott Moore.

Patrick Porter argues that we’re never going back to the world as it was B.T., before Trump. Then he argues that it never was that way, anyway: A World Imagined: Nostalgia and Liberal Order.

It’s a depressing summer in British politics, this second summer since the Brexit vote, just months now before the Big Break. Gaby Hinsliff isn’t out to lift your spirits with Dark forces gather as UK politics heads for rock bottom in The Guardian.

But maybe stuff like that is no way to start a weekend. So how about some travel writing from Coldnoon.com? Sulila Anar writes about a bus trip from the Ecuadorian Sierras to Amazonia in From Mountains to Jungle: A Not-So-Fast-and-Furious Bus Trip in Amazonia.

Good weekend, everybody.

Weekend Reading

Wishing you a couple of days of plenty this weekend. Here’s an abundance of suggestions for absorbing reading:

Trial runs for fascism are in full flow by Fintan O’Toole in the Irish Times. Pretty well sums up the way it feels out there, doesn’t it?
The Battle of Vienna was not a fight between cross and crescent by Dag Herbjørnsrud at aeon.com.
The Untold Story of Otto Warmbier, American Hostage by Doug Bock Clark at GQ. Heartbreaking.
While We Sleep, Our Mind Goes on an Amazing Journey by Michael Finkel at Nat Geo.
In Mozambique, a Living Laboratory for Nature’s Renewal by Natalie Angier in the New York Times.
Survival of the Richest – Future Human by Douglas Rushkoff at Medium. Depressing reading:

“They were not interested in how to avoid a calamity; they’re convinced we are too far gone. For all their wealth and power, they don’t believe they can affect the future. They are simply accepting the darkest of all scenarios and then bringing whatever money and technology they can employ to insulate themselves….”

– And finally, this seems like it must be significant but I confess I can’t understand a bit of it. See if you can figure it out: The Octonian Math That Could Underpin Physics by Natalie Wolchover at Quanta Magazine.

I’ve been working on editing a piece for publication elsewhere this week. I’ll tell you more about that soon. Next Monday’s African Vignette will take you on a gorilla trek in Rwanda. Cheers for now. See you then.

Weekend Reading

Having a hard time finding the energy for all those weekend chores? Here is a rich roundup of articles you may have missed to occupy your time instead:

Lagos: Hope and Warning – Nigeria’s mega-city, bursting with opportunity but strained with disorder, offers a cautionary preview of the future, by Armin Rosen in City Journal.

– Free advice – don’t become a freelance foreign correspondent: My dream job? Freelance foreign correspondent. Here’s why I’ve decided to give it up by Sulome Anderson in the Washington Post

Why Our Intuition About Sea-Level Rise Is Wrong – A geologist explains that climate change is not just about a global average sea rise, by Daniel Grossman.

– The Spanish ultra-athlete Kilian Jornet has conquered every major endurance event in running, skiing, and biking. Now he is setting records for climbing the world’s highest mountains. But can anybody really climb Everest twice in one week? Are Kilian Jornet’s Speed Records Too Good to Be True? by Nick Heil at Outside magazine.

– Fiona Hill was one of two women at the table with the Trump team on Monday in Helsinki (the other was Marina Gross, the translator). An academic, author and currently Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs, Hill has written a profile of the Russian president in Putin: The one-man show the West doesn’t understand at thebulletin.org.

– Here is a quote from How the Dominant Business Paradigm Turns Nice People into Psychopaths by Lynn Stout at Evonomics:

“It’s conventional wisdom in business circles today that corporate directors should ‘maximize shareholder value….’ Most shareholder-value advocates assume that shareholders care only about their own wealth. But … (t)he problem with the homo economicus theory is that the purely rational, purely selfish person is a functional psychopath.”

– And finally, here, in its best bureaucratese, is the European Commission’s Preparing for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union on 30 March 2019. It makes for train-wreck-viewing reading, including, in the event of a “hard Brexit,”

• The United Kingdom will be a third country and Union law ceases to apply to and in the United Kingdom.

• Citizens: There would be no specific arrangement in place for EU citizens in the United Kingdom, or for UK citizens in the European Union.

• Border issues: The European Union must apply its regulation and tariffs at borders with the United Kingdom as a third country, including checks and controls for customs, sanitary and phytosanitary standards and verification of compliance with EU norms. Transport between the United Kingdom and the European Union would be severely impacted. Customs, sanitary and phytosanitary controls at borders could cause significant delays, e.g. in road transport, and difficulties for ports.

In Monday’s Africa Vignette, we’ll cross Lake Malawi. See you next week.

Weekend Reading…

… and comment.

First, a handful of suggestions for weekend reading from browsing the internet this week:

Is Fixing the Climate Incompatible with American Ideals? Inalienable rights in the age of carbon dioxide by Mark L. Hineline at Nautil.us

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Debt to Me by M. H. Miller at The Baffler: “Now thirty years old, I have been incapacitated by debt for a decade. The delicate balancing act my family and I perform in order to make a payment each month has become the organizing principle of our lives.”

Brexit Blunder? by Peter Zeihan at RealClearWorld.com

Stuff you should know: The Entire History of Steel: From hunks of iron streaking through the sky, to the construction of skyscrapers and megastructures, this is the history of the world’s greatest alloy, by Jonathan Schifman in Popular Mechanics

‘They will die in Tallinn’: Estonia girds for war with Russia The head of the tiny NATO member’s special forces details his country’s preparations for a conflict many here see as inevitable by Molly K. McKew at Politico.eu

My wife’s native language, Finnish, is kin to Estonian, and I’m a big Estonia fan. Apart from whether NATO’s decision to embrace the three Baltic countries was wise, and I’m not expert enough to know, the idea that our American president might back away from a now-made commitment to pretty little brave Estonia drains my American can-do, freedom-defending spirit.

Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart — Or His Handler? A plausible theory of mind-boggling collusion by Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine. This is New York Magazine’s characterization of our president’s relationship with Russia, not mine. I’m no conspiracy theorist. It’s a long article, convincing if from nothing other than accretion.

These quotes come from a fellow non-conspiracist, Tom Nichols, in a review of Chait’s article titled What Jonathan Chait Gets Right About Trump and Russia at Politico:

“…if the Russians hadn’t zeroed in on Trump—a man whose venality, vanity and vulgarity are like a menu of recruitable weaknesses—they’d have been guilty of intelligence malpractice.””

“…the litany of direct and indirect contacts with the Kremlin exceeds all possible exculpatory explanations.”

“If Trump was in deep with the Russian criminal and financial worlds, the Russian intelligence services knew it, and so did Russia’s top spook, Putin. Trump must know this as well.”

“The key is to induce the target to do what you want without telling him to do it—to be a friend, helping out friends.””

“…there is no way to read Chait’s story—or to do any judicious review of Trump’s dealings with the Russians over years—and reach any other conclusion but that the Kremlin has damaging and deeply compromising knowledge about the president. Whether it is using such materials, and how, is a matter of legitimate argument. That such things exist, however, and that they seem to be preoccupying the president, should be obvious.”


While our leader rattles around the United Kingdom this weekend breaking China, official Finland has canceled valuable summer vacation time at beloved lakeside saunas (ours, below) to prepare for Monday’s Trump/Putin summit. Here is Reid Standish at Politico.eu, setting the stage – in English – from the Finnish perspective. Let us all enjoy a quiet weekend until Monday, when all eyes will be on Helsinki.

While we’re here, why not take a look at a little bit of Finland in Pictures, from EarthPhotos.com.

Cheers for now.

Weekend Reading

A few more interesting articles for you to sink your teeth into this weekend:

How China Got Sri Lanka to Cough Up a Port by Maria Abi-Habib in the New York Times. Graft and intrigue in the southern resort town of Hambantota, Sri Lanka.
The Strange Brain of the World’s Greatest Solo Climber by J. B. MacKinnon at Nautil.us. Alex Honnold doesn’t experience fear like the rest of us.
The great firewall of China: Xi Jinping’s internet shutdown by Elizabeth C Economy in The Guardian. The largest and most sophisticated online censorship operation in the world.
A Rattle with Death in Yosemite by Kyle Dickman in Outside Magazine. Don’t ever, ever, ever get bitten by a rattlesnake.
After the Fall by John Lanchester in the LRB. Lanchester is such a great writer. Yep, even on the aftermath of the 2008 credit crunch.

I’m compiling a few worrisome quotes by/about our, um, leadership for over the weekend, and we’ll be back to Africa with another vignette on Monday. For now, a good weekend to you.

Weekend Reading

Searching for some meaty articles to sink your teeth into this weekend? A few suggestions:

Address by Minister Freeland when receiving Foreign Policy’s Diplomat of the Year Award at the Canadian government’s web site. An appeal to America’s better angels from Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Disposable America: A history of modern capitalism from the perspective of the straw. Seriously. by Alexia C. Madrigal at theatlantic.com

Cleaning up Chelyabinsk, at meduza.io

Some revealing background on Matteo Salvini, now Italy’sinterior minister and deputy prime minister, b Stephanie Kirchgaessner at The Guardian, and

Going nowhere fast. Is particle physics in crisis? by Ben Allanach at Aeon:

“null results are now encrusting the hull of the Standard Model, like barnacles on a beautiful old frigate, and dragging her down to the ocean floor. It looks like the centuries-long quest for top-down unification has stalled, and particle physics might have a full-blown crisis on its hands.”

Have an entertaining weekend. See you next week.