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.

Weekend Reading

Good stuff to read this weekend:

The case for invading America by Scott Gilmore in MacLean’s: “Our invasion may be slowed due to the usual congestion at the border crossings, but if we time our attack mid-week, traffic on the Ambassador Bridge should be manageable.”
Watermarks by Donovan Hohn at Lapham’s Quarterly. A meditation on water.
Teddy Roosevelt on How the Blind Cult of Success Unfits Us for Democracy and Liberty by Maria Popova at Brain Pickings.
The Political Path to GPS: How war and peace forged the universal map by Anthony Paletta at New Atlantis
Mexicans Drive Bus to Russia for the World Cup at El Universal

Last Friday I wrote that

“President Trump is not taking the country seriously, but rather playing it as a television show in which he is the star, with teases and cliffhangers, time-worn entertainment industry tactics to keep us tuning in,” and that “This year the United States has become a cartoon country, with either the complicity or inattention of much of its population.”

Here is an article from Monday that elaborates on that theme: Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the kayfabe.


Birds are strange. Sometimes kind of prehistoric and scary and very unlike humans. But they are not beyond the occasional bad hair day. For one further weekend diversion, I invite you to enjoy 183 entertaining photos of our avian friends at EarthPhotos.com.

Enjoy the weekend.

Weekend Reading

Next week is one to watch, with the Trump/Kim summit in prime time on Monday night in the east of the United States, just as President Trump would have it, then Thursday’s kickoff of the World Cup in Moscow.

This morning the president said that “he wants to meet with NFL players and athletes who kneel during the National Anthem so they can recommend people they think should be pardoned because they were treated unfairly by the justice system.”

President Trump is not taking the country seriously, but rather playing it as a television show in which he is the star, with teases and cliffhangers, time-worn entertainment industry tactics to keep us tuning in. Trouble is, neither are much of the broadcast media playing their traditional role on either side of the partisan divide. Rather they are capitalizing, literally, on our fraught national moment in a frenzy of profit-making.

This year the United States has become a cartoon country, with either the complicity or inattention of much of its population. So perhaps it’s time for a month of World Cup diversion.

Eh. Besides all that, here are a few absorbing reads for your weekend:

500-year-old Leaning Tower of Pisa mystery unveiled by engineers at Phys.org. Why the Leaning Tower doesn’t fall down.
Meet the Economist Behind the One Percent’s Stealth Takeover of America by Lynn Parramore of the Institute for New Economic Thinking. This is just frightening.
Own Goal: The Inside Story of How the USMNT Missed the 2018 World Cup by Andrew Helms and Matt Pentz at theringer.com
All life on Earth, in one staggering chart by Brian Resnick and Javier Zarracina at Vox.com.

And it’s that time of year again. From Mumbai’s weekend forecast: the worst rains since 2005 by Maria Thomas at qz.com:

He explained that this year’s heavy rains are the result of a low pressure system expected to develop over the Bay of Bengal, which will combine with cyclonic circulations over the Konkan coast, Goa, and Andhra Pradesh.

Every year, the monsoon rains bring Mumbai to a standstill…. Because of this, thousands are usually left stranded when it rains heavily, turning railway stations and even arterial roads into filthy swimming pools. The death toll often mounts by the day as residents risk being washed away or losing their lives in landslides.

Monday we’ll continue with this summer’s series of African vignettes with a tiny story from Madagascar (Its capital, Antananarivo, is pictured above). See you then.

Weekend Reading

Relax and enjoy some absorbing writing online this week. A sampling:

Facebook, Snapchat and the Dawn of the Post-Truth Era by Antonio García Martínez in Wired.
Sacrificing at the Altar of the Euro by Thomas Fazi in Jacobin Mag. More in the burgeoning genre of hand-wringing about the inflexibility of the Euro. Case study this time, Italy.
My Mother’s Brilliant Career in Soviet Culture by Anastasia Edel in the NYRB. From the mini-genre of books about Soviet life. Books like Soviet Baby Boomers: An Oral History of Russia’s Cold War Generation by Donald J. Raleigh and Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich (Author), Bela Shayevich (Translator).
Warsaw to Trump: Let’s make a military deal (without NATO) by David M. Herszenhorn in Politico. From the Polish perspective, this might be canny thinking.
Can’t we all just get along? A road trip with my Trump-loving cousin by Bryan Mealer in The Guardian. Mealer is the author of a 2011 book on a rather different topic: All Things Must Fight to Live: Stories of War and Deliverance in Congo.
How we entered the age of the strongman by John Gray in New Statesman.

Gray is a sort of public intellectual iconoclast from Britain. This is a lengthy book review in which Gray writes early of “corporate predation and ravaging of communities …under the regime over which liberals of one kind or another presided,” then later that “The most serious threat to the West comes from its own intellectual inertia.” Corporate predation must not be that ravaging to Gray. He worries, as does everybody else today about “the redundancy of human labour,” and decides that “The western model … has morphed out of shape.” And this:

“In a plausible scenario, the decisive conflicts in coming years will not be between liberal and authoritarian states but among oligarchies within each of them. Will Trump continue to be swayed by the billionaire Mercer family, or will other American oligarchs become more influential? Will the spoils system Putin has established in Russia be destabilised in an intensifying succession struggle? Could the anti-corruption drive through which Xi is cementing his position in China provoke a backlash from oligarchs it threatens? Whatever the answers to these questions, there is little reason to expect any move to more liberal values. Societies that are progressively discarding the freedoms by which liberalism was once defined are ill-equipped in the contest with advancing authoritarianism.”

It’s a lengthy article. Food for thought.

Enjoy your weekend. See you Monday with Africa Vignette #5 from Malawi.

Weekend Reading

It’s a long weekend in the USA and here in Georgia, we’ll be spending some quality time outdoors. Wherever you spend the weekend, here are a few quality reads to load into your portable reader and take along:

This Is What A 21st-Century Police State Really Looks Like by Megha Rajagopalan in Buzzfeed, on Beijing today
If Crisis or War Comes, a pamphlet distributed to 4.8 million households in Sweden this week by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (English pdf)
The Ukraine Model – The last time a country agreed to give up its nukes, it didn’t turn out well by Mary Mycio in Slate
The New Passport-Poor by Atossa Araxia Abrahamian on the NYRB blog. Passports “were invented not to let us roam freely, but to keep us in place—and in check.”

And two sort-of similar stories:

Why a San Francisco Burger King Blasts Classical Music Day and Night by Anne Ewbank at Atlas Obscura, and
The Amazing Psychology of Japanese Train Stations by Allan Richarz at Citilab.com

As for books, I can recommend two works of fiction which are also sort of similar, in that each follows a disparate cast of characters over time, and each has an environmental theme. They’re both really well-written: The History of Bees by the Norwegian Maja Lunde, and a book I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, The Overstory by Richard Powers.

See you next week.