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.

 

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

It’s Not Just our Corrupt President

I agree with Sarah Chayes, former NPR foreign correspondent, adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and currently a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, who wrote this morning that our entire influence-peddling, revolving-door system of governance needs a thorough housecleaning. Having visited Ukraine last month, I’ve had a lot of smug fun showing you pictures like the two below and those in this previous post. They show the excess and corruption Ukrainians tried to upend by ousting President Viktor Yanukovich in 2014. President Yanukovich lived in this place on a salary of around a thousand dollars a month.

Yanukovych’s fleeing to the protection of Russia was a victory for everyday Ukrainian people who forced him out, no question. But it is not to the honor of the United States that as soon as Yanukovych was safe in Vladimir Putin’s arms the American Vice President’s son came ’round, and as Chayes put it in her article headlined No Excuses for Hunter Biden,

“He had no prior experience in the gas industry, nor with Ukrainian regulatory affairs…. He did have one priceless qualification: his unique position as the son of the vice president of the United States, newborn Ukraine’s most crucial ally. Weeks before Biden came on, Ukraine’s government had collapsed amid a popular revolution, giving its gas a newly strategic importance as an alternative to Russia’s, housed in a potentially democratic country. Hunter’s father was comfortably into his second term as vice president—and was a prospective future president himself.”

Despite any apparent qualifications beyond bloodline, Biden-the-younger was named a director of Burisma, Ukraine’s largest natural gas producer.

Most of us, all but President Trump’s 30-something percent hardcore supporters, can agree that this president has to go. To my fellow Trump opponents who advocate electing Joe Biden to “get back to normal,” I suggest that the status quo ante won’t do, either.

So now for more of the self-satisfied display of corruption and greed, Ukrainian-style:

Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s home from the rear. The balcony leading from the President’s bedroom, top right, afforded him a lovely private view of the Dnieper River. The corresponding balcony, on the left, opened from his girlfriend’s bedroom.

The view from the front of the former president’s home.

Emergency?

There is a debate this afternoon about whether the president’s speech tonight should be aired by the broadcast networks (the cable channels will carry it). I believe there is a more important topic for discussion. If the president uses the speech tonight to declare a state of emergency, go and immediately read this.

Quotes: The American President on Pollution

“You look at our air and our water and it’s right now at a record clean. But when you look at China and you look at parts of Asia and you look at South America, and when you look at many other places in this world, including Russia, including many other places, the air is incredibly dirty, and when you’re talking about an atmosphere, oceans are very small. And it blows over and it sails over. I mean we take thousands of tons of garbage off our beaches all the time that comes over from Asia. It just flows right down the Pacific. It flows and we say, ‘Where does this come from?’ And it takes many people, to start off with.”

From an interview with Donald Trump in The Washington Post.

Shock and Awe

President Trump called the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership the worst arrangement ever concocted by mankind anywhere, pretty much. In his words, it would have been “a continuing rape of our country.”

He similarly criticized NAFTA, savaged Mexico and Canada and tore at the United States’ relationship with both close allies. He was particularly vocal in his anger at the Canadian dairy industry “Because in Canada, some very unfair things have happened to our dairy farmers,” Trump has said.

Thank goodness our savior is making American great again. The Negotiator in Chief has wielded his magic wand and voilà! A miracle! In an article headlined USMCA deal seen as win for Canada’s Trudeau, the Trump-friendly Washington Examiner reveals the awesome might of Trump the Negotiator:

“The move is expected to allow U.S. producers to gain 3.6 percent of the Canadian (dairy) market, up from the 3.25 percent that had previously been negotiated under the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, which Trump pulled the U.S. out of.”

That’ll show ’em.

Sad!

“In May 2015, there were 69,460 jobs in coal mining itself — only 15,900 of which were extraction workers or helpers, mining machine operators or earth drillers. That’s 0.019 percent of the American workforce that month.”

– That’s from the Washington Post. The Bureau of Labor Statistics website says there are 2,800 more coal mining jobs now than in the month President Trump was elected.

Count me as an opponent of the Trump administration, but doggone it, it’s hard not to feel bad for the president (Yep, I just wrote that) out rallying tonight in West Virginia, working the 0.019 percent, looking for friends.

Because back in Washington today his 2016 campaign manager was convicted of corruption, while his personal lawyer pleaded guilty to eight crimes, naming the president as a co-conspirator in campaign finance violations.

The president is a Tweeter, not a poet. But if he were:

“Witch hunt witch hunt,
crooked Hillary, Pelosi too!
Remember we hire only the best,
that I can tell you.” Believe me.

Helsinki

The site of the Trump/Putin summit is a compact, handsome, livable low-rise town of around 600,000. Click these photos to enlarge them.

President Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg is a little less than 400 kilometers up the road. The high speed Allegro train connects Helsinki with St. Petersburg in three and a half hours, four times a day.

Mr. Putin must feel – almost – at home. The lay of the land, the lakes and forests, is the same in Finland as where the Russian president grew up. Here is Mr. Putin with Sauli Niinistö, the Finnish president, on a boat tour when we saw them last summer. Saimaa, the name of the ship, is also the name of the lake:

There are many more photos from lovely Finland here, at EarthPhotos.com.