Wednesday: Hili dialogue

February 23, 2022 • 7:00 am

Good morning on Hump Day, or as they say in Malayalam, ഹമ്പ് ദിവസം: Wednesday, February 23, 2022: National Banana Bread Day, best eaten warm with a thin slathering of butter.

It’s also International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day, Play Tennis Day, Curling is Cool Day, Diesel Engine Day (celebrating Rudolf Diesel’s patent granted on this day in 1893), and World Understanding and Peace Day, commemorating the founding of the Rotary Club in Chicago on this day in 1905 (as for “understanding”, women weren’t admitted until 1989).

In Japan, it’s also The Emperor’s Birthday, birthday of Naruhito, the current Emperor of Japan who was born on this day in 1960.

“Happy Birthday, Mr. Em-per-or!”

News of the Day:

*It sure looks like war in Ukraine. First, Russia issued a series of untenable ultimatums last night, but made some audible noises that he wants not just the two eastern “independent provinces”, but all of Ukraine:

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia demanded Ukraine recognize Russia’s claim to Crimea and relinquish its advanced weapons, declaring what sounded like an ultimatum minutes after Russian state television showed Parliament authorizing the use of military force abroad.

The cascade of developments in Moscow on Tuesday evening offered the clearest signs yet that Mr. Putin was moving toward mounting a military operation against Ukraine. The goals of such an operation remained uncertain. But in setting out his demands on Tuesday, Mr. Putin made it clear that he was seeking to force a drastic political shift in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, as well as to win control of a large area of the country’s east.

Mr. Putin added that he had not decided to send troops into Ukraine “right at this moment.” But asked whether one could resolve issues by force and “remain on the side of the good,” Mr. Putin made it clear he saw military action as a morally defensible course.

“Why do you think that the good must always be powerless?” Mr. Putin said. “I don’t believe so. I think that the good implies the ability to protect oneself. We will proceed based on this.”

Putin isn’t at all good, but evil. I can’t believe that war in Europe is happening. I wonder if the average Russian approves of these actions.

In the meantime, the EU, standing together, has prepared a bundle of sanctions, and, back in the U.S.A., Biden announced two sanctions so far:

Biden said a “first tranche” of U.S. sanctions against Russia would target two financial institutions, Russian sovereign debt and Russian elites and their family members.

“To put it simply, Russia just announced that it is carving out a big chunk of Ukraine,” Biden said. He added that he still hopes diplomacy is possible.

And the U.S. Senate is working on a response package to help Ukraine:

Senators from both parties began working on Tuesday on a multipronged legislative response toward Russian aggression that would provide emergency funds for Ukraine’s defense, sanction Russia’s economy and create a task force to find ways to seize the wealth of Russian oligarchs, and possibly the riches of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, told local reporters in his state that an emergency spending bill and bipartisan sanctions legislation — long delayed in Congress — could pass when lawmakers return from a Presidents’ Day recess.

“I want a sanctions regime from hell next week,” Mr. Graham said. He also had a warning for the broader Russian public: “You can expect bad things to come your way.”

An op-ed in the NYT from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, “Putin is making a historic mistake.” What is the mistake?

Instead of paving Russia’s path to greatness, invading Ukraine would ensure Mr. Putin’s infamy by leaving his country diplomatically isolated, economically crippled and strategically vulnerable in the face of a stronger, more united Western alliance.

Does he care? He knows all this already?

The Upshot: Putin’s won this one already. EU and U.S. sanctions are too little and ineffective when doled out in dribs and drabs. Putin will have Ukraine as either part of Russia or fully under its control, and thousands of Ukrainians will die. It’s the annexation of the Sudetenland all over again. Putin doesn’t give a rat’s patootie about sanctions, and he never did. I always hoped I was wrong, but it didn’t work out that way. There’s still a smidgen of hope, but not much.

*In a new federal trial with the charges of committing a hate crime, all three men convicted in the killing of Ahmad Arbery were found guilty, motivated by the fact that Arbery was black. Merrick Garland, who should be on the Supreme Court, spoke eloquently:

US Attorney General Merrick Garland — responding in Washington Tuesday to a reporter’s question about Cooper-Jones’ statement — appeared to choke up as he answered.

“I cannot imagine the pain that a mother feels to have her son run down, and then gunned down, while taking a jog on a public street,” Garland said at a Justice Department news conference. “My heart goes out to her and to the family. That’s really all I can say about this.”

Before taking that question, Garland thanked prosecutors for their work on the case, and said “no one should fear that if they go out for a run, they will be targeted and killed because of the color of their skin.”

The video:

*A reporter for the Associated Press has created a flutter on Twitter by reporting verbally and fluently in six—count them, six—languages. The reporter is indeed Philip Crowther. But Luxembourgish? I didn’t even know that was a language!

*I love opals because of their fiery and fantastic colors, and always wanted one on a man’s ring, but never got one because I understand that they’re fragile stones, and I’m hard on the gold college ring I wear. But I didn’t know that opals also came in non-fiery versions. Now a very large one (11,800 carats!), but in white, has just sold for $144,000 in an auction at Alaska:

he opal, dubbed the “Americus Australis,” weighs more than 11,800 carats, according to the auction house Alaska Premier Auctions & Appraisals. It also has a long history.

Most recently, it was kept in a linen closet in a home in Big Lake, north of Anchorage, by Fred von Brandt, who mines for gold in Alaska and whose family has deep roots in the gem and rock business.

The opal is larger than a brick and is broken into two pieces, which von Brandt said was a practice used decades ago to prove gem quality.

. . . The auction house said the stone was discovered in the same field in Australia as the opal known as the “Olympic Australis,” which weighs 17,000 carats and is on permanent display in Altmann’s shop. The Olympic had been among the stones that John Altmann and partner Rudi Cherny acquired in 1956, according to Altmann’s company.

Although this has a bit of sparkle, I don’t think it’s as as a fire opal, but I also don’t think diamonds are very pretty:

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 937,380, an increase of 1960 deaths over yesterday’s figure. Remember when 200,000 was thought to be an unimaginable death toll? Now we’re approaching a million, and will be there in a few months. The reported world death toll is now 5,927,7812, an increase of about 16,000 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on February 23 include:

There are 49 copies in existence, all priceless. Here’s the one at the New York Public Library:

Here’s where the Bibles are (from Wikipedia):

Here’s a photo of the remains of the Alamo that I took in March of last year:

Here’s Zola’s letter printed in the newspaper “L’Aurore”, dated January 13, 1898:

  • 1903 – Cuba leases Guantánamo Bay to the United States “in perpetuity”.
  • 1905 – Chicago attorney Paul Harris and three other businessmen meet for lunch to form the Rotary Club, the world’s first service club.
  • 1917 – First demonstrations in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The beginning of the February Revolution (March 8 in the Gregorian calendar).

Demonstrations in St. Petersburg in March, 1917:

Bomb-ready Pu; caption from Wikipedia. It isn’t a critical mass, for that reaction requires a spherical shape:

A ring of weapons-grade 99.96% pure electrorefined plutonium, enough for one bomb core. The ring weighs 5.3 kg, is ca. 11 cm in diameter and its shape helps with criticality safety.
  • 1942 – World War II: Japanese submarines fire artillery shells at the coastline near Santa Barbara, California.
  • 1954 – The first mass inoculation of children against polio with the Salk vaccine begins in Pittsburgh.

Jonas Salk injecting a patient.  “Could you patent the sun?” (see below)

Salk’s famous staetment to Edward R. Murrow. Some people say that we shouldn’t have heroes, but Salk is one of mine:

  • 1988 – Saddam Hussein begins the Anfal genocide against Kurds and Assyrians in northern Iraq.[10]

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1633 – Samuel Pepys, English diarist and politician (d. 1703)
  • 1868 – W. E. B. Du Bois, American sociologist, historian, and activist (d. 1963)

Du Bois (1918):

  • 1940 – Peter Fonda, American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter (d. 2019)
  • 1950 – Rebecca Goldstein, American philosopher and author

Rebecca and her hubby:

Those who succumbed on February 23 include:

The life mask of Keats, who died at only 25 of tuberculosis:

Keats is buried in Rome; here’s his grave (I don’t see his name on the stone):

  • 1848 – John Quincy Adams, American politician, 6th President of the United States (b. 1767)
  • 1855 – Carl Friedrich Gauss, German mathematician, astronomer, and physicist (b. 1777)
  • 1931 – Nellie Melba, Australian soprano and actress (b. 1861)
  • 1965 – Stan Laurel, English actor and comedian (b. 1890)

The last photo of Laurel and Hardy together, taken in 1957:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the tabbies are playing hide and seek, but aren’t hiding very well:

Hili: I can see you.
Kulka: And I can see you too, we both see each other.
In Polish:
Hili: Widzę cię.
Kulka Ja też cię wiedzę, obie się widzimy.

From Divy, who says, “I have many questions”:

Matthew was in London yesterday giving the prestigious J.B.S Haldane lecture and talking about his new book on genetic engineering. He visited the British Museum before the talk, and sent this photo of a cat statue from ancient Egypt. It’s the Gayer-Anderson cat (ca 600 BC), depicting the goddess Bastet:

From Bruce: “Helga Stenzel makes art hanging laundry.” I love the dinosaur!

From Masih. You can read more about Homa Darabi here.

From Simon: the Republican loon who’s running for governor of Georgia. Her motto: “Jesus, Guns, and Babies.” It doesn’t get much worse than this. (I am not making this up, though the beginning is interpolated):

From Barry: Is there anything sadder looking than a wet owl?

From Ginger K., a cat Valentine poem:


From Matthew. This works but only if you write your “2”s the right way:

Some joker must have written these entries! Read the first one closely. And I wish the second one had continued.

I think this is more like the 45 million year challenge:

85 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. Luxembourgeoise is indeed a language. My experience in Luxembourg was: I started out in French, they replied in what sounded like German, I then replied in German. They replied in what sounded like French, so I switched to French again. We never properly aligned, probably because they were speaking Luxembourgeoise and I didn’t know that.

    This was a day in which we had breakfast in Belgium (Wallonia), morning coffee and cakes in Luxembourg, lunch in Germany, and dinner back in Belgium. It was a language workout that day.

    1. My most memorable foreign language experience took place in 1979 in Brussels. I went into McDonald’s (hey, I was a poor student who hadn’t had a decent cheeseburger in months) and ordered in what I thought was perfectly acceptable French only to have the counter person reply in perfect English, “Will there be anything else?”

      1. On my first day in Germany, while waiting to be fetched from the train station, I ordered a cheeseburger at Burger King. I wanted just meat, bread, and cheese, and said so, and explicitly said what was to be left off. In German. It was understood. Then she said into the microphone “cheeseburger plain”.

      2. I was a foreign exchange student for a month while in high school, living in Freiburg, Germany. One morning I left “my parents” apartment, took a train downtown and began walking around looking at all the shops and enjoying my independence in a foreign country. Around noon, I was to meet some other friends at a local restaurant, but found myself hopelessly lost. Then I spied a Polizist, and thought, aha! he’ll know how to get there. Then I addressed him with the informal “du” instead of the formal “Sie”. He made me feel like an ass, saying something like, “Was? Sie denken Ich ‘du’?” He was serious, though with wore a slight smirk; so I told him sorry, and then asked again, using the proper “Sie”. Lesson learned. And he did tell me how to locate the restaurant. I told this story to the family I was staying with and they had quite the chuckle.

          1. Thanks for the clip, Top Secret is probably my favorite “spoof” film. I recently watched a documentary on Kilmer. I was shocked to find out the extent to which cancer devastated him. I feel really bad for him, but he is still an inspiration even after his ordeal.

    2. I had a similar experience with Alsatian. My French wasn’t up to par yet, and I was thrilled to be in beautiful beautiful Strasbourg speaking German, until the older woman with whom I was speaking responded that she wasn’t speaking ‘German’, she was speaking ‘Alsatian’.

      A few years later, the most confusing decision-point I had was in talking to a train conductor in Belgium, where we couldn’t decide whether to speak in one of the three official languages (Flemish/Dutch, French, or German), or in English… or, for some reason … in Spanish.

      And then there’s Pennsylvania German, which has its own Wikipedia. I’m still wondering who speaks Pennsylvania German (typically the Amish) who is also allowed to use the Internet (typically not the Amish).

      1. Back in the Pleistocene I had a very memorable train trip from Stockholm to Paris with two Swedish women, two Norwegian women, a Dane man, and me. Only one of the Norwegians spoke English and the rest didn’t speak any second language. The five of them could sort of communicate with each other by getting the gist of what each was saying in their own language, and the one Norwegian would translate to/from me. Of course we solved all the language barriers when we got to the ferry and bought a case of beer and several bottles of wine for the rest of the trip. Good times.

        1. Funny generational thing. That was definitely the case several years ago. Today, they would all speak English with each other. The cut-off age seems to be people born somewhere in the 1970s. I know several people who speak German who would rather interact in English than deal with each other’s dialects. A friend worked for Siemens, a German multi-national, where the corporate policy was to speak English, even if everyone on board was a native German speaker.

    3. Luxembourgish is part of the German language family. I find it easier to understand than Swiss German, for example. But I still need to focus. 🙂

      1. The language-dialect continuum is a funny thing. It’s always fascinating to see which clusters are identified as discrete languages rather than simply dialects. It seems much more political with German than it does with Romance languages. I know a fair number of linguists who consider Dutch to be a dialect of German – but we’re not allowed to tell them that. On the other hand, many ‘dialects’ of Arabic are mutually unintelligible, but pan-Arabists want to claim that they all speak their holy tongue, so they consider all dialects of Arabic to be one single language. My Christian Arab friends do not.

        It’s about as clear as defining whether a clade should be a genus or family.

          1. According to my limited knowledge, Dutch is part of the Germanic language family. But this family also includes the Scandinavian languages or English.

      2. Yes, I could understand what they were saying. It just sounded heavily accented, basically.

        I can also understand (but not read or speak!) Dutch and Flemish, which seem about halfway between English and German, to me.

        But Bavarian dialect? Forget it! My southern German friends liked to slam me with Bavarian! Probably Swiss German is similar.

    4. “A language is a dialect with an army and a navy.”

      Is there any accepted boundary when a dialect becomes another language?

      Luxembourgeoise is indeed associated with a country (forget the military for now), which sometimes pushes a dialect in the language direction. There are certainly pairs of languages generally recognized as such closer than other pairs of dialects generally recognized as such.

        1. I think that it has its own Wikipedia page. The original is in Yiddish: a shprak is a dialect met armee en flot. It was written by a famous Yiddish scholar, but when doing so he noted that he got it from somewhere else (but didn’t say where).

          1. Max Weinreich, and he does say where he got it, but you have to be able to read Yiddish (I don’t think it has ever been translated in full). He got it from a language teacher at a public speaking event he gave. It was emphatically *not* Weinreich’s position – he was dedicated to the recognition of Yiddish as a language in its own right, and Yiddish has never come close to having an army or a navy. Linguists are among the worst offenders in mis-quoting or mis-attribution. A good introduction to the aphorism and how it has been used is here: with links to Alexander Maxwell’s brilliant article.

              1. All the detail I know is in Maxwell’s article where he translates the Weinreich text (I don’t read Yiddish so I have to take Maxwell and his editors on face value): “Let us begin with the witticism’s origin. During the Second World War,
                Yiddish refugee linguist Max Weinreich (1894–1969), founder of the Yiddish
                Scientific Institute (YIVO), taught a course called ‘Problems in the history of
                the Yiddish Language’. One day after class, a student, whom Weinreich described
                as Bronx high school teacher who had emigrated to the United States
                as a child, asked Weinreich the difference between a language and a dialect.
                Weinreich initially took the question as an expression of ‘enlightened contempt’,
                but the student surprised Weinreich by declaring: ‘A language is a dialect
                with an army and a navy [Yiddish in the original which does note replicate here / A
                shprakh iz a dialect mit an armey un flot]’. Weinreich (1945: 13) described
                this conversation in the Yiddish-language article ‘YIVO and the Problems of
                our Time’, published YIVO’s journal, Yivo-bleter. Though this article’s title
                refers to the ‘Weinreich witticism’, the anonymous Bronx teacher is the true
                coiner.” Maxwell, A. 2018. When Theory is a Joke: The Weinreich witticism in linguistics. Beiträge zue Geschichte der Wissenschaft. 28(2): 263-292. I am sure you will enjoy it.

  2. National Banana Bread Day, best eaten warm with a thin slathering of butter.

    Lately I’ve been throwing a little vanilla and about half a cup of chocolate chips into each loaf. Kids like it, and it doesn’t need butter to avoid dryness.

    Ukraine: the inevitable is happening. But even more absurd, Trump went on the ‘Clay and Buck’ podcast and supported Putin’s invasion, calling it ‘genius’. I admit to being a bit surprised at this even though I probably shouldn’t have been. As an optimist, I will try and be surprised again when many major Republicans support Trump in his claim.


    1941 – Plutonium is first produced and isolated by Dr. Glenn T. Seaborg.

    Bomb-ready Pu; caption from Wikipedia. It isn’t a critical mass, for that reaction requires a spherical shape:

    Quibbling, mass and shape are not the same. This *could* be sufficient mass for a criticality, I don’t know. But whether the mass is under or over that amount, keeping it in that shape will reduce the radiation emitted. Thus even for smaller-than-critical masses, it’s a good idea.

    Basically, you want as many neutrons produced by the natural fission events to escape the mass before they interact with more Pu atoms (because that could induce more fission, creating more neutrons, etc…). Thus you want large surface area per unit mass: sphere bad, ring good.

    1. Richard Feynman told a great story about the Manhattan project.

      When they were building the production facility, one of his fellow scientists went to inspect it. At the time they were doing dry runs i.e. they were practising doing the processes without actually having any fissile materials involved.

      The scientist saw a workman wheeling a barrel of liquid around. “What’s that” he said. The answer was that it represented plutonium dissolved in some solvent (I forget the exact details). The scientist said “won’t it explode?” Apparently, the solvent slows down the neutrons so that you didn’t need such a big mass to go critical.

      It turned out that the people building the facility hadn’t been told the full story because of security, so they knew things like you can’t store more mass than x of this substance in one place but they hadn’t been told (for example) that two adjacent rooms could count as one space because the wall between them was irrelevant to neutrons.

      1. I remember reading that! He was told to say something like, “Los Alamos cannot be responsible for what happens at Oak Ridge” if his recommendations for changes weren’t followed. I think that was the gist. What a sobering thought. I guess it’s a good example of the difficult and sometimes dangerous mingling of secrecy and scientific/technological innovation.

  3. Putin’s won this one already. EU and U.S. sanctions are too little and ineffective when doled out in dribs and drabs. Putin will have Ukraine as either part of Russia or fully under its control, and thousands of Ukrainians will die. It’s the annexation of the Sudetenland all over again. Putin doesn’t give a rat’s patootie about sanctions, and he never did. I always hoped I was wrong, but it didn’t work out that way. There’s still a smidgen of hope, but not much.

    I don’t think this is correct. I don’t think he will conquer Ukraine as easily as everybody seems to expect. The Ukraine army is well equipped and highly motivated. The Russian army is made up of unenthusiastic conscripts and has suffered from years of underfunding.

    The sanctions are hurting and will hurt more, particularly if they target the Russian oligarchs. I think Putin has painted himself into a corer and is actually panicking.

    Of course, even if all the above is true, it won’t help the Ukrainians who are in for a terrible time.

    Here’s a video on the subject from somebody who knows the country better than I do.

    1. I don’t think his intent is to conquer all of Ukraine (at least not this year). This is another Crimea; he’s planning on carving off sections of it. Then he’ll rinse and repeat: year 1 he sends insurgents into more cities to destabilize local government, calling them ‘Russian enclaves’ or whatever, year 1+x Kiev loses ability to govern them, year 1+x+y he invades to ‘defend’ them.

      That’s my prediction at least…

      1. I don’t think he really cares about the Ukraine at all except for a land bridge to the Crimea. He is just trying to distract Russians from the fact that their economy is in crisis. I agree with the thesis in the video I linked which is that all he really wanted was to extract some diplomatic victory and what he is doing now is a desperate plan B after the West called his bluff.

    2. It is kind of amazing the views we see on this Putin invasion. Some think it is all over before it gets started and others don’t care. I suspect you are closer to correct and the pain Russia will feel is still to be seen. Long term I think Putin will pay. All he has is gas, oil and military. He needs lots of gas and oil sales to keep his military and him protected. That is how shallow Russia is. It will self destruct just like it did before. Afghanistan did in the soviet union just 30 years ago and i think this Ukraine business will do it in again. Question for us in the U.S. – will we be around to see it. We have been doing quite well on the self destruct.

  4. Counter-intuitively, Mr Crowther seems to have a lot more eye-brow action in French, German, Lux and Eng than he does in Portuguese and Spanish.

    1. That IS interesting. I didn’t notice, but then I don’t do facial expressions very well at the best of times. I wonder if it has to do with how he learned the languages, or the habit of those from whom he learned or with whom he usually interacts in a given language, or how much he’s internalized the language rather than internally translating, or what…

  5. Yes. I have a question (or more) for THE NEXT GOVERNOR OF GEORGIA, Kandiss (pronounced “can diss”) Taylor.: When Jesus founded America, did he founded North America or did he founded South America? Oh, also did he founded it from the Atlantic Ocean or the Pacific? Or did he consider the whole hemisphere to be a flyover state? I’ll pass the microphone and quietly sit here like a good bumpkin whilst you enlighten us with your brilliant response.

    1. I don’t know bumpkin. You may have to wait a long time for these Jesus answers. I have a feeling this next governor will be lucky to find the ass with both hands.

    2. Ms. Taylor is from Baxter, in SE Georgia, a town about equidistant from Savannah and Brunswick. She has a Ph.D. in, I believe, Education from Regent University. I suspect she will not get very far in politics, even if it is Georgia politics.

      1. Regent University — founded by tv preacher (and former Republican presidential hopeful) Pat Robertson (still going strong at age 117, or thereabouts) as “Christian Broadcasting Network University.”

        Figures, huh?

  6. “Keats is buried in Rome; here’s his grave (I don’t see his name on the stone)” – According to Wikipedia:

    His last request was to be placed under a tombstone bearing no name or date, only the words, “Here lies One whose Name was writ in Water.” Severn and Brown erected the stone, which under a relief of a lyre with broken strings, includes the epitaph:

    This Grave / contains all that was Mortal, / of a / YOUNG ENGLISH POET, / Who, / on his Death Bed, / in the Bitterness of his Heart, / at the Malicious Power of his Enemies, / Desired / these Words to be engraven on his Tomb Stone / Here lies One / Whose Name was writ in Water / Feb 24th 1821

    1. The cemetery is delightful. It is about a 20 min walk from the Forum and backs on to the Aurelian Walls. Shelley is also buried there.

  7. International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day? Looks like Big Dog Biscuit has been throwing their weight around again.

    1. Last time I stopped by the pet-supply store to pick up a bag of dog food, Big Dog Biscuit seemed to have given way to an artisanal, heirloom dog-treat trade.

        1. I suppose. Damned if I was gonna part with the kinda dough they were asking. My Springer likes Milkbones just fine, thank you.

          1. Do you remember Christafuh’s gf’s pocket rat, on whom stoned C sat and smothered and Tony yelled “You sat on the effin’ dog!?”
            My 40-lb Meximutt is a surprisingly picky eater for a rescued street dog, but she’s fine with Milk Bones.

              1. I may have mentioned this before, but some local Canadian friends were down at the Met Opera a few years ago and turned around and saw Christafuh in the row behind them. Speaking of incongruous…

    1. I can pretty much understand anyone speaking French French, Swiss French, African-or West-Indian French, but give me Quebecois and I’m mostly perdue.

        1. Whoops (oop là) how could I have forgotten Belgian French, with the wonderful Jacques Brel, whom I can understand much better than this Bertrand guy, who might be better off oublié.

          1. I suppose it’s somewhat misleading to call Joual Quebec French; It’s more Montreal slang that has developed into a dialect of sorts.

            1. Yeah, I do get that, but even the fairly standard Quebec French, like Justin’s, I find harder to understand than most. Am I right that Jagmeet Singh’s French is more Parisian? Are you an anglophone Montrealer? (I’m a former Californian who lives outside TO).

              1. I am an English Montrealer raised in the Eastern Townships. I’m told Justin speaks with a typical Quebec accent. Don’t feel bad about finding him difficult to understand, French Quebecker acquaintances tell me that Parisians don’t understand a thing they say.

  8. “I wonder if the average Russian approves of these actions” – they are being fed ridiculous and badly made propaganda, which the older ones are likely to believe, apparently. According to The Guardian Russian TV has been broadcasting film clips supposedly showing attacks by Ukrainian armed forces:

    There was only one problem with the Kremlin’s dramatic account of the incident. It was entirely fake. The soundtrack of shooting and explosions was actually more than a decade old. It had been recorded in April 2010, according to open source researchers, during a Finnish military exercise.

    Ukraine’s intelligence service believes the video is the work of the GRU, Russia’s military spy agency, which has worked actively in Ukraine since the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the shooting down of the MH17 passenger plane. The film’s creators appear to have lifted the original Finnish video from the internet. They spliced its sound track on to new video content made two weeks ago – editing out a few excited “ooohs” from Finnish recruits. “Russia has a long record of doing this. It isn’t surprising,” Elliot Higgins, founder of the investigative website Bellingcat told the Guardian. He added: “What’s surprising is they haven’t got any better at doing it. In some ways they have got worse. It’s really dumb and lazy.”

    Higgins said international audiences were mostly impervious to Kremlin disinformation. But he said domestic Russian viewers tended to believe fake TV footage, which was “theatrically” created for state propaganda purposes. This was especially true of the older generation, he said.

    1. “What’s surprising is they haven’t got any better at doing it. In some ways they have got worse. It’s really dumb and lazy.”

      Why should this be surprising? You can go on YouTube and pull up all sorts of easily debunked, heck even shoddily shot miracles, and yet credible people believe them. I bet the Russian disinformation campaign is exactly as realistic as it has to be, and no more.

      1. Yes, it occurred to me that the sloppiness is a deliberate two fingers to the West along the same lines as when the Russian agents accused of the Novichok poisoning of the Skripals in 2018 said they had gone to visit Salisbury Cathedral, “famous not just in Europe, but in the whole world. It’s famous for its 123-metre spire, it’s famous for its clock, the first one [of its kind] ever created in the world, which is still working.”

    2. You are right, unfortunately. I’m Russian and although I do not live there now, that’s what I hear from my relatives (they themselves are not influenced, luckily, but a lot of people are).
      I don’t think there’s one independent TV channel left. Other media are being destroyed one way or another.

  9. I also don’t think diamonds are very pretty …

    Mebbe so. And maybe a kiss on the hand is quite continental, but square-cut or pear-shaped, they’re a girl’s best friend. (Your fault this sprang to mind, since you posted the pic of MM at JFK’s 45th birthday party at MSG in ’62.)

  10. I agree with you about opals versus diamonds…”traditional” opals, I mean. I think the one in the picture is nice-ish, but “real” opals are not only dazzling, and not only my “birthstone”, but also the means by which The Shadow clouds men’s minds to make himself invisible.

    On the other hand, a perfect diamond can, in principle, literally be one gigantic carbon molecule. So they’re pretty cool, but much more boring to look at than, say, rubies or emeralds or amethyst or sapphires, let alone opals.

  11. The long speech Putin gave on Monday made it clear he believes in a manifest destiny for Russia, as in Imperial Russia. Putin made it clear he does not regard Ukrain as a legitimately existing country, but an administrative division created by Lenin. After all, Holy Russia started with the conversion to christianity by the princes of Kiev. Therefore, having Kiev in a different country is an abomination. Especially when Ukrain drifts westward.
    As to the sanctions, most money of Russian oligarchs is not in Europe but in Dubai or such places. The most important sanction until now has been the halting of Nordstream
    Someone above said the Russian army is underfunded. Reports here (the Netherlands) are that the Russian army has been extensivey modernized the last 20 years, and that Russia has ample resserves. Putin can do long term planning, after all.

    1. On the economy, Russia’s public debt is only about 10.6% of GDP compared to 128.6% for the USA and its budget is very nearly balanced (-1.4% of GDP) so Putin is presumably not overly concerned about national finances unless the sanctions can really kick in? (But I’m no economist.)

  12. The juxtaposition of the bible and the Alamo in the post above brings to mind Molly Ivins’s writing that, like most Texans of her generation, she was “raised on the Revised Standard Version” of Texas’s founding myth, “which holds that while it was stupid of Travis and the gang to be there at all (Sam Houston told them to get the hell out), it was still an amazing last stand” — that “in the end there was something romantic and even noble about the episode, like having served in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade during the Spanish Civil War.”

  13. I think Putin wants more than a gateway to Crimea. Here’s a list of assets for Ukraine that makes it sound like a desirable acquisition.
    How the nation of Ukraine ranks:
    1st in Europe in proven recoverable reserves of uranium ores;
    2nd place in Europe and 10th place in the world in terms of titanium ore reserves;
    2nd place in the world in terms of explored reserves of manganese ores (12% of the world’s reserves);
    2nd largest iron ore reserves in the world (30 billion tons);
    2nd place in Europe in terms of mercury ore reserves;
    3rd place in Europe (13th place in the world) in shale gas reserves (22 trillion cubic meters)
    4th in the world by the total value of natural resources;
    7th place in the world in coal reserves (33.9 billion tons)
    Ukraine is an agricultural country:
    1st in Europe in terms of arable land area;
    3rd place in the world by the area of black soil (25% of world’s volume);
    1st place in the world in exports of sunflower and sunflower oil;
    2nd place in the world in barley production and 4th place in barley exports;
    3rd largest producer and 4th largest exporter of corn in the world;
    4th largest producer of potatoes in the world;
    5th largest rye producer in the world;
    5th place in the world in bee production (75,000 tons);
    8th place in the world in wheat exports;
    9th place in the world in the production of chicken eggs;
    16th place in the world in cheese exports.
    Ukraine can meet the food needs of 600 million people.
    Ukraine is an industrialized country:
    1st in Europe in ammonia production;
    2-е Europe’s and 4th largest natural gas pipeline system in the world (142.5 bln cubic meters of gas throughput capacity in the EU);
    3rd largest in Europe and 8th largest in the world in terms of installed capacity of nuclear power plants;
    3rd place in Europe and 11th in the world in terms of rail network length (21,700 km);
    3rd place in the world (after the U.S. and France) in production of locators and locating equipment;
    3rd largest iron exporter in the world
    4th largest exporter of turbines for nuclear power plants in the world;
    4th world’s largest manufacturer of rocket launchers;
    4th place in the world in clay exports
    4th place in the world in titanium exports
    8th place in the world in exports of ores and concentrates;
    9th place in the world in exports of defence industry products;
    10th largest steel producer in the world (32.4 million tons).

  14. Some people say that we shouldn’t have heroes, but Salk is one of mine …

    I’m with you on that one, boss; “Jonas Salk” was a name spoken with reverence in my childhood home.

    I was too young to have a clear recollection of receiving my shot of the Salk vaccine, but I do recall a few years later returning for a redundant dose of the Sabin vaccine (which my siblings and I were relieved to learn would be administered via a drop on a sugar cube rather than by needle & syringe).

    1. Poker players may be familiar with the adage “The guy who invented poker was bright, but the guy who invented the chip was a genius.”

      Kinda similarly, Salk inventing the polio vaccine makes him great. Salk giving away the patent makes him heroic.

    2. I still have my polio vaccination card from the first round of vaccinations. I received injections on 4/28/54, 5/5/54, and 6/2/54. We lived just outside Salt Lake City. Two uncles and one aunt had polio. All survived. Two had serious problems later in life. What I recall being told some years later is that we received the cards some months after the vaccinations because not everyone received the actual polio vaccine. Some were given a placebo. That first round of vaccinations was part of the final test for efficacy. My father was a microbiologist and this was what I recall him saying but I was young and that was a long time ago.

  15. Trump has offered his opinion on Ukraine:

    Donald Trump has said that Vladimir Putin is “very savvy” and made a “genius” move by declaring two regions of eastern Ukraine as independent states and moving Russian armed forces to them.

    Trump said he saw the escalation of the Ukrainian crisis on TV “and I said: ‘This is genius.’ Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine … Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful.”

    The former US president said that the Russian president had made a “smart move” by sending “the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen” to the area.

      1. Well, at least he’s made the ‘Trump bandwagon’ a clear litmus test for reasonable vs. unreasonable conservatives. But I expect many will fail.

        The GOP really needs a “have you no shame, sir” moment. They want to be anti-immigrant, pro-wealthy, well that’s fine. Lot’s of Trump’s policy turns can be retained in the party and they’ll still fit within the range of standard political disagreements. But his support of dictators…they really need to deal with that. If the party has any sense at all, this needs to be squelched.

        1. I think the ship of “have you no shame, sir” has sailed years ago. The modern GOP is truly a shameless bunch; as a matter of fact, I bet they regard shame as a weakness. There is a righteousness and arrogance that permeates the party to its core and goes all the way up to its godhead.

          1. The GOP has not just a leadership problem, but a followership problem, too.

            The Party has been cleaving to its bosom series after series of deplorables, going back to Nixon’s embrace of the Southern Strategy (and culminating in the Tea Partiers and Birthers of the Obama era) — the fuel to which Donald Trump eventually set a match.

            Now, it’s come to pass that the pusillanimous Republican establishment (or what passes for it nowadays) is scared shitless of its own base.

    1. That was a very insightful and meaningful speech. Too bad it’s falling on deaf ears. Plus, do you think Putin is going to listen to a black person?

  16. In her NY Times “guest essay,” Madeleine Albright said:

    ” . . .I recorded my impressions. “Putin is small and pale,” I wrote, “so cold as to be almost reptilian.”

    She knows he’s male. Does she think him also “stale”?

    By what percent would Vladimir Putin’s frame have to increase in height and bulk; the melanin concentration in his skin increase; and his conviviality increase that it would never occur to the Honorable Madeleine Albright to burble such congenial and mellifluous sentiments?

    (I remember that Hitch referred to Putin as “piggy-eyed.” Do ad hominems constitute an argument?)

    A diary is an excellent vehicle for self-reflection and self-examination, even for this “Exceptional American” and citizen of and advocate for “The Indispensable Nation.” The locutions are refulgent – nay, exigent – with humility, epistemic and otherwise.

    Pray tell, Madam Secretary, was George Kennan wrong in his prediction of what is now happening? (Andrew Bacevich of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft has thoughts worth hearing on this matter.)

    Anne Applebaum was recently on Andrew Sullivan’s “The Dish” podcast. Sullivan brought up Kennan’s prediction about the result of NATO eastern expansion. Her response was to the effect that Kennan was wrong, and that he was wrong about a lot of things, as if that constituted an argument, as opposed to merely a proposition. She also dismissively said to-the-effect that she “didn’t buy” the idea that Russia was justified in claiming its equivalent of a Monroe Doctrine, a “sphere of influence,” again as if such a statement constitutes an argument.

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