Quotes: Navalny in Court

“No matter how much [Putin] tries to pose as a geopolitician, his main resentment toward me is that he will go down in history as a poisoner. There was Alexander the Liberator and Yaroslav the Wise. Now we’ll have Vladimir the Poisoner of Underpants. The police are guarding me and half of Moscow is cordoned off because we have shown that he is demanding to steal underwear from opponents and smear them with chemical weapons.”

Closing remarks from Alexi Navalny, from rolling Moscow Times coverage of the court session in Moscow underway now.

Naypyidaw Aerobics

Quotes: Guess the Country

Have a guess what large, cold, former-Communist Eurasian country this quote comes from:

“Different statements about someone being afraid of someone else are absolutely nonsense.”

2-1/2 Human Problems

A chilly, gray, overcast Saturday in January in Georgia, USA. We never really descend into the depths of a prolonged, dark winter here in Georgia, and on the morning rounds with our dogs this morning I heard birdsong. It won’t be long here, say, six weeks, until the seasons begin to change.

I remember thinking last spring, as the virus began to close our worlds around us, that the rest of the natural world went on as ever, that the pandemic was a strictly human problem. May we all begin to rejoin the rest of the natural world now, a year on.

And speaking of human problems, while I have you: I’ve encountered some items over morning coffee I really must share. The first two things are about Trump Administration personnel:

Thing #1: Nobody will be more delighted to see Secretary of State Mike Pompeo go than … everybody in the rest of the world. A Google search took half a second to return five million confirmations:

Thing #2: The President’s little trick of using “Acting” cabinet heads to avoid confirmation by the Senate resulted in acting secretaries like Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller. Here, an excerpt from a press gaggle on 14 January. Ladies and gentlemen, the Trump Department of Defense at work:


Read the whole thing here.

And Thing number 2-1/2, not deserving of a full number of its own, sums up of the general gravitas and august nature of the outgoing regime. It’s a headline in this morning’s Washington Post:

Underwhelming Parler

There is a Finnish word, sinisilmäinen, which means blue-eyed, and translates figuratively as “naive.” I think many of us whom “patriots” would deride as cosmopolitan citizens-of-nowhere are probably sinisilmäinen when it comes to the workings of the more radical Trump-supporting fringes of the internet. I know I certainly am. 

So learning of the imminent demise of the social media site Parler over the weekend, I pseudonymously set up an account to take a spin around. What I found was disappointing. 

I don’t quite know what to make of it. It’s not filled with seditious stuff, or if it is I wasn’t looking in the right place. I just ran through a few obvious hash tags like #Trump and #maga. There doesn’t appear to be a ton of original content; many posts seem to be retweeted (they call called a retweet an ‘echo’) a lot. Mostly, parler seems seemed to be populated by a bunch of paranoid nuts. I gotta say, if people believe all the stuff they read there, it’s no wonder they are paranoid, because if your life is was on parler, your world is coming apart. Here are several posts I found for you:

• Obama Detained at Airport Attempting to Leave Country

• FBI Raids Chuck Schumer’s Home, Finds Explicit Epstein Tapes

• Pelosi Kicked Out of D.C Restaurant for ‘Drunken and Disorderly Conduct’

• Cancel your #Amazon account NOW. Tomorrow will be too late. God bless America🇺🇸

• There’s a reason Democrats and Demons start with the same three letters. God almighty is going to fix this country and use Trump as his weapon to do it!

• Three States Pull CNN’s Broadcasting License, ‘They Fail to be Truthful’

• The fact is President Trump did not make any calls for violence.. Subscribe to the Mark Levin podcast and listen here.

• NEW VIDEO: Antifa Hands Out Weapons from Bag During Storming of US Capitol

• This goes past the 6th! Trust in the Lord our God!

• BE PREPARED FOR AN IMMINENT BLACKOUT. President Trump will be using be using emergency broadcast system. We have a man of courage & faith at the helm. He will be at the helm for 4 more years per the RULE OF LAW. Pray for President, our country

• Apple is going to do an update on all phones to shut off the emergency broadcast system. This is Nazi Germany 1938

• DOJ Orders Raid On Obama Compound After Massive Fraud Found In Audit

• Blackout right now at the Vatican in #Rome , #Italy and in all major #Pakistan cities

• Q was right about everything. They are being wiped from the internet now. I wish I had listened more.

And just remember, this is all Michelle Obama’s fault:

See what I mean? Disappointing. And sad.

 

Thoughts to Start the Week

There’s a whole lot going on in the world just now, eh? Here are a few all-over-the-map ideas to start the week. Housekeeping to start: I hope my brand new book, Out There, will go live on all Amazon platforms this week or next. It’s a collection of thirty essays on travel, written from and about disparate locations, Greenland to Vietnam to pandemic-ridden Cincinnati. At 360 pages, your money’s worth.

Elsewhere, one expects a Lukashenka-like, whatever it takes response, but best of luck nevertheless to the people of Uganda and Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, aka Bobbi Wine, in Thursday’s national elections. The pop singer stands against President Yoweri Museveni, who removed Presidential term limits in 2005 and has ruled the country since 1986. Time for a change there.

Kampala, Uganda

Whether the incoming Biden administration can restore a little spit and polish to Donald Trump’s smoldering city on the hill is an open question, but there’s no doubt the transition team has assembled a capable bunch. Today’s announcement of William J. Burns to head CIA is terrific. His memoir, The Back Channel, reads like a template for best diplomatic practices.

Notable that leading foreign policy establishment spokesperson Richard Haas and iconoclast Andrew Bacevich each claim last week’s events definitively bring down the curtain on the post-Cold War era.

Who needs a quick primer on the state of Irish politics?

And finally, I took a spin around the now defunct social media site parler.com over the weekend. I’ll share what I found here shortly. Cheers, don’t get sick, and a good week to you.

With a Sigh of Relief…

… or is that exhaustion? Leaver or Remainer or EU citizen, we can probably all agree it’s time. To all parties: good luck with that.

The Georgia Runoffs

Here is my latest monthly travel column as it ran recently at 3 Quarks Daily:

In this column I write about international travel, especially travel to less understood parts of the world. This month, with such travel still a wee bit constrained, how about a little political tourism from here in Georgia, where unlikely circumstance handed our state the fate of the Senate, and we are shaky stewards. 

Beware national pundits bearing wisdom. When they bring instant analysis and self-assurance about, say, Flint’s water supply, or that crazy Sturgis biker thing, be careful. Because all punditry has right now is conventional wisdom. Here on the actual battlefield the candidates compete against one another, the Republican party competes against itself, dark money scurries in the shadows, QAnon jeers from the sidelines and the truth is, nobody has any idea what’s going to happen.

Georgia Democrats’ justified pride in turning the state for Joe Biden comes with a fistful of contradictions. Consider that the Democrats’ two national MVPs this year are black southerners from neighboring states who punched way above their weight, US House Majority Whip Representative Jim Clyburn, Democrat from South Carolina, 80, and former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, 46.

When the primary season began national Democrats looked destined for tag-team fratricide, Sanders and Warren and The Squad on the left, Biden and Klobuchar and Buttigieg glued to the middle. No one had any particular expectations for Joe Biden. He finished 4th in Iowa, 5th in New Hampshire and 2nd, barely, in Nevada. No one was taking charge of the Democrats and the alternative was four more years.

Clyburn took charge. He steadied the party with a ringing endorsement of Biden before his South Carolina home crowd and in a well-meant, astonishing nearly unanimous coalition against Donald Trump, Democratic centrism prevailed. While here in Georgia, Stacey Abrams rejected all that, explicitly.

Before Abrams’ day, Georgia Democrats took the gradual approach to changing red to purple and maybe one day to blue. Before Abrams centrist Democrats, like former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn, showed the (eventual, theoretical) path to – one day – turning blue.

Nunn’s daughter Michelle ran for her father’s seat in 2014. Republican David Perdue, a plug-in, generic businessman who spent a career at companies selling food, household products, jeans, then shoes, then as the CEO of a textile company and a discount chain, defeated Senator Nunn’s daughter. He is standing for reelection.

Abrams, as Minority Leader of the Georgia House, was narrowly defeated in a 2018 race for Governor marked by accusations of voter suppression. She ran against the then Secretary of State, our current Governor Brian Kemp, who effectively presided over his own election.

Stung when denied the Governorship she was convinced she’d won, Abrams torched the centrist playbook and set about registering Georgia voters with unabashed appeals to the left. With help from her New Georgia Project (under investigation by the current Secretary of State), and other groups like Georgia Stand Up, Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by 12,670 votes. Georgia turned blue for the first time since ‘92.

Perhaps Clyburn’s centrism is the only way to victory for Democrats in South Carolina. Probably. But next door in Georgia, where Atlanta’s surging growth suddenly accounts for 57% of the state’s population, Abrams found a new way to move the party forward.

Continue reading

New 3QD Article Today

Check out my monthly column at 3 Quarks Daily. With physical travel still constrained, it’s political tourism from here at home, about the Georgia runoffs. Read it here now, and I’ll post it here on CS&W in a few days.

 

Ain’t Gonna Happen

With their breathless talk of crisis, protests and turning points in Belarus, pro-democracy pundits are making their most common mistake, namely, prematurely declaring victory over authoritarianism because they want it to be so. In the Belarusian protests it’s particularly important to consider the position of Vladimir Putin, for whom a functioning democracy on Russia’s border is utterly impermissible.

Note that after he took in the fleeing Ukrainian Viktor Yanukovich (tour Mezhyhirya, Yanukovich’s former residence outside Kyiv here), as he doubtless would Lukashenka, Putin found it necessary to seize Crimea and disrupt the Donbas, in order to be able to upend the larger Ukrainian political situation as he sees fit, at a moment’s notice, until further notice.

Kudos to the Belarusian people, credit to their bravery, and a paean to the heart’s indomitable spirit. And apologies for my cynicism. I may be wrong, and it would be nice if it turns out that way, but in this case it’s hard to imagine the Russian president permitting free elections, leading to something close to democratic rule, in his fellow Slavic, White Russian buffer state.