Where we are now: The ship’s real-time map shows hat we’re right next to the Antarctic Peninsula, scheduled to land on Cuverville Island this morning. The weather was too dire for us to visit Neko Harbor yesterday. I’ve been there three times but we never managed to land. But we did visit Brown Station, home of the “snow slide”. Pictures later today, including one of a penguin’s bizarre tongue! The winds are high this morning, and it’s possible that we won’t have a landing, which will make the passengers gripe. But we can’t control the weather, and safety of the passengers is always the first priority here.
The view from my balcony at 6:20 a.m. ship’s time (not Cuverville Island):
And the view OF my balcony: it snowed last night.
And it wasn’t a light snow, either. Here’s what was on the top deck after dinner last night:
Good morning on a humpish day (or, as they say in Mongolian, Бүдүүлэг өдөр (Büdüüleg ödör): it’s Wednesday March 23, 2022. It’s also National Chips and Dip Day. Nothing can beat ridged (“ruffled”) chips with that old Fifties staple, dip made with sour cream and dried Lipton’s Onion Soup (just two ingredients; see recipe here):
If you want to help out with “this day in history”, go to the Wikipedia page for March 23 and give us your favorite notable events, births, and deaths.
Today’s New York Times headline is somewhat heartening (click on screenshot to read):
And the headlines:
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said on Wednesday that peace negotiations with Russia were moving forward “step by step,” even as his nation’s military fielded a fierce counteroffensive and Russia warned that talks were not progressing.
Mr. Zelensky gave his ritual overnight address updating Ukrainians hours before President Biden was set to travel to Brussels on Wednesday for a meeting with NATO allies. He is poised to announce sanctions on Russian lawmakers and will later travel to Poland, as he seeks a stronger international response to Russia.
“Peace talks”? There is no way Zelensky can come out of this mess better than when he went in, and it’s not for his gallant trying. His country is wrecked, infrastructure destroyed, and a quarter of the population in other countries. What is the best he can hope for? Only for the Russians to withdraw leaving his country a wreck. And that won’t happen, of course: Putin needs concessions, whether they be Ukrainian land or a promise not to join NATO or the EU.
*According to CNN, Russia is tightening the screws on both media and dissent. Yesterday dissident Alexei Navalny, already serving a 2½-year sentence for “violating probation,” had another nine years tacked onto his sentence—and in a maximum-security prison to boot—for “fraud”. (He was accused of “stealing from his Anti-Corruption Foundation.”) Navalny doesn’t look well, but does still have his sense of humor:
He added: “I even had a T-shirt with this slogan, but the prison authorities confiscated it, considering the print extremist.”
Remember, the Russians poisoned this guy! And the government’s crackdown on speech continues:
Earlier this month, Putin signed a censorship bill into law making it impossible for news organizations to accurately report the news in or from Russia.
The law, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, makes it a crime to disseminate “fake” information about the invasion of Ukraine, with a penalty of up to 15 years in prison for anyone convicted.
*The NYT also reports that dissent about Putin’s leadership is growing, especially among retired military leaders (active ones, of course, say nothing):
The failures in Ukraine have started to create fissures within Russian leadership, according to Andrei Soldatov, an author and expert on Russia’s military and security services. The top Russian intelligence official in charge of overseeing the recruitment of spies and diversionary operations in Ukraine has been put under house arrest along with his deputy, Mr. Soldatov said. Even Russia’s defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, who vacations with Mr. Putin and has been spoken of as a potential presidential successor, has suffered a loss of standing, according to Mr. Soldatov’s sources.
One can hope, but Putin runs a tight ship, and is willing to kill his opponents.
*And the headline of today’s Washington Post (click on screenshot):
Among other news, U.S. defense officials are exercised because a Russian official refused to rule out the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine:
Dmitry Peskov, press secretary for Russian President Vladimir Putin, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday that Russia would use its nuclear arsenal only in the case of an existential threat.
“We have a concept of domestic security, and well, it’s public. You can read all the reasons for nuclear arms to be used,” he said. “So, if it is an existential threat for our country, then it [the nuclear option] can be used in accordance with our concept.”
Well, maybe this counts as “news”, but of course the Russians would say stuff like this (and already have) to keep NATO off balance. Pay no attention to the little bald man behind the curtain.
*Further, Russian media are disseminating a video, already thoroughly debunked, showing a Russian-speaking woman describing how a 16 year old Russian boy was beaten to death by a group of Ukrainians at a train station near Cologne, Germany. It’s not true, as German police have determined and the woman has apologized for lying, but Russian media continue to use it as propaganda:
Germany, in particular, is on high alert for information warfare by Moscow. It is the main target of Russian disinformation in the European Union, according to a report issued last year by the bloc’s disinformation watchdog.
Ilya Yablokov, an expert on Russian digital media at the University of Sheffield in Britain, said the TikTok video squared with Russian objectives. “This is disinformation aimed at the Russian domestic audience to strengthen the idea that Russians are being unfairly treated abroad,” he said.
*Reader Steve notes a good piece by Matt Taibbi posted on his Substack site, with the piece called “World’s dullest editorial launches a panic.” He’s referring to the New York Times editorial praising free speech without understanding it—an anodyne piece I wrote about the other day. And despite its lame and tepid nature, people lost it over the op-ed. I haven’t paid attention to the pushback, but Taibbi did, and he produced a humorous take. Further, like my own piece, he compares the NYT op-ed to the similar but widely criticized letter in Harper’s against “cancel culture” from several years ago. Taibbi:
Its premise, tied to the uncontroversial observation that America has become dangerously polarized, is that “the political left and the right are caught in a destructive loop of condemnation and recrimination.” Citing a poll that 84% of Americans (including 84% of black Americans) who said it was either a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem that people are now afraid to voice opinions out of fear of “retaliation or harsh criticism,” the Times said “when speech is stifled or when dissenters are shut out,” that “a society also loses its ability to resolve conflict, and… faces the risk of political violence.”
The Times piece is pretty transparently a marketing ploy, designed to regain a foothold with the slew of demographics lost to the paper in recent years. It’s a campaign that deserves to fail if it somehow doesn’t. The internal Times debate over whether or not to broaden its ideological horizons has for years run along humorously obnoxious lines, like “Should we hire one never-Trump Republican columnist, or none?” Even this latest offering wringing hands about America’s lack of ideological tolerance doesn’t wonder at the paper’s own near-total absence of columnists and reporters positively disposed (or even just indifferent) to Bernie Sanders, or really any political viewpoint outside the two dominant theologies.
. . . The underlying premise of all these formats is the conviction that the ordinary schlub media consumer will make the wrong decision if the correct message isn’t hammered out everywhere for him or her in all caps by mental superiors. This idea isn’t just insulting but usually incorrect, like thinking Lord Haw Haw broadcasts would make English soldiers bayonet each other rather than laugh or fight harder. Even just on the level of commercial self-preservation, one would think media people would eventually realize there’s a limit to how many times you can tell people they’re too dumb to be trusted with controversial ideas, and still keep any audience. But they never do.
How true, how true! I, like many, am sick to death of being patronized by the “MSM”. “Here’s what you need to know” as a subheadline was just the beginning.
*Sarah Haider has a long essay on her Substack site that you can read for free by giving the site your email, but if you read her regularly you should subscribe.I’d recommend it, for she invariably has something interesting to say, and she does in her latest essay, “The News is bad for you. Stop reading it.” Yes, that’s right: Haider makes the case, which she follows herself, that you should completely stop reading, listening to, or watching the news. (In this case I think she’s wrong.) Her reasons are several, including distortion by the media and a big waste of time (if you’re a new junkie). What do you do instead? Haider suggests reading the original documents. With elections, for example, she says this:
Now election time is here again, and you must decide how to vote – but you (wisely) continue to ignore the news.
In order to inform yourself of the issues and the candidates, you go to their websites directly, reading the value propositions and policy proposals. You may dig deeper too, some issues you care about more than others. So, you research how the candidates have previously acted or voted on those issues, and whether they have made any promises for the future. If you really want to get a feel for the personalities of the candidate – you watch a campaign speech or two, and perhaps, the debates.
Is this alternative-universe-you less meaningfully informed? Have they missed anything truly important to your day-to-day life?
Or have they saved themselves – their time, their energy, their sanity – from a costly but fruitless pursuit?
I disagree. First, how do you find which documents are relevant to making up your own minds without knowing that those documents exist? And that involves reading the news. Further, sometimes the documents, like Supreme Court decisions, require guidance, and there are reliable guides in the media. But most of all, I like the news because the world is interesting, and how do you learn about that without knowing the news?
Haider even recommends ignoring all news about Ukraine and Russia, but this news is part of the human drama—like a novel, but for real. It shows the depths of human depravity and the heights of human kindness. What primary documents can you consult to find that out? Ignoring the news seems to me equivalent to ignoring literature of any sort; you miss the experience of hearing different points of view and adjudicating, with guidance, clashes of opinion. Yes, I abhor listening to MSNBC for hours on end, which I’ve done as background noise on the ship while writing these posts, and Sarah’s right about that. But ignore the news completely? I don’t think so.
*Over at his new Substack site, “Original Jurisdictions,” lawyer and writer David Lat takes the Dean of Yale Law School (Heather Gerken) to task for failing to respond when the entitled Yale Law students created pandemonium at a free speech event (see here). It’s a good letter. An excerpt:
Progressives are free to think that their opponents are Bad People. They can exclude them from social gatherings. They can make Bad People feel unwelcome in affinity groups (already happening at YLS, with members of certain affinity groups being forced to choose between affinity-group and FedSoc membership). They can make fun of Bad People with satirical fliers.3
But it’s your job, as the Dean of Yale Law School, to tell Progressives that in an academic community based on free expression, there are limits to how much they can act on the view that their opponents are Bad People.4 Progressives can’t shut down duly organized events because they disagree with the speakers. They can’t weaponize anti-discrimination policies to punish the protected speech of their opponents. They can’t make up and spread lies about professors with unpopular views (or the students who dare to associate with those professors). It’s your job, as the Dean of Yale Law School, to remind Progressives of all this—even if they complain, call you “complicit,” or say you’re a Bad Person too.
*And we’ll end like the NBC News does: “there’s GOOD news tonight!” The good news is that, according to Florentine’s Grill, 70 refugee Ukrainian cats, all chipped and vaccinated, were transported to Poland to find forever homes. Although only 5 cats per person are allowed into Poland, they found enough volunteers to take them across the border. Two photos:
The rescue was spearheaded by a Ukrainian rescue organization called UAnimals.
And I’m starting to realize, given all the cat news out of Ukraine, and all the photos of refugees with their moggies, that Ukraine must rank up there with Japan and France as one of the great ailurophilic countries of the world.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has learned, probably because of the attack on Ukraine, that life is unpredictable and people need to be prepared for all eventualities!
Hili: We have to be prepared.A: What for?Hili: Just in case.
Hili: Trzeba się przygotować.Ja: Na co?Hili: Na wszelki wypadek.
And here’s Karolina, the visitor from Kyiv, playing with Szaron:
From Facebook. I think it’s true that appliances don’t last as long as they used to. Am I right? If so, why?
From Off the Mark, by Mark Parisi
Retweeted by Ziya Tong:
— Tim Brannigan (@tim_brannigan) March 21, 2022
From Carolyn Porco. I haven’t heard this theory, but so it goes. I wouldn’t mourn the loss of Putin, for his successor wouldn’t dare continue down the trail that Vladimir broke:
I'm taking this with a grain of salt, though it isn't outside the realm of possibility, I suppose. https://t.co/Gph8d0YgYG
— Carolyn Porco (@carolynporco) March 20, 2022
Tweets from Dr. Cobb, who’s now in America. That’ll do, pigs; that’ll do:
WILD ALTERCATION: Two pigs fought off a black bear in Connecticut that hopped over their enclosure and began attacking. pic.twitter.com/oiBp0AU21O
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) March 20, 2022
This could serve as the definition of “irony”:
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) March 21, 2022
Yes, do zoom in here, but you might be able to discern the zebras in this photo alone:
National Geographic Picture of The Year. Black images are shadows of zebras. Zoom in and you will see zebras. pic.twitter.com/6dwnJ0uBSC
— Lars-Johan Larsson (@LarsJohanL) March 21, 2022
Guinea worm disease, formally call dracunculiasis, is caused by water containing nematode larvae, and although it’s not nearly as fatal as another disease that was eliminated (smallpox), it’s debilitating. (The mortality rate is about 1%.) The cure is not drugs, but clean (filtered) drinking water. Since humans appear to be a necessary host, once it’s gone it’s gone—after the last worms and larvae die out in the wild
1980s – 3,500,000 million cases
2021 – 15 cases
The last mile is the furthest one. But let’s not give up now.
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) March 22, 2022
Well, here’s a bird I never heard of:
Crested Owl (Lophostrix cristata)🐦🦜🕊️🦉🎵🐤❤️🐤 pic.twitter.com/42fpL9VrCf
— World birds (@worldbirds32) October 25, 2021
Thorogood found a rare Rafflesia flower!
Worth every bite, leech and sting. Because I'm the happiest guy in the world right now. pic.twitter.com/XZM4yYXOPS
— Chris Thorogood (@thorogoodchris1) March 15, 2022