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May 21, 2019


I hate Putin and everything he stands for, but what people seem to be incapable of understanding is that he's just pursuing the bog standard objectives of politics driven by the "national interest", like many other nations.

I'm not convinced. Putin appears more focused on enriching Putin than anything else.

Skewing the system to favor the local elites is one thing. That is, as you say, not uncommon. But a flat-out kleptocracy is a different kettle of fish. Puts Putin behind other petro-states when it comes to minding the national interest. I've got no brief for the UAE, let alone Saudi Arabia. But they've done better by their nations than Putin's Russia.

Regarding Russia, I hate Putin and everything he stands for, but what people seem to be incapable of understanding is that he's just pursuing the bog standard objectives of politics driven by the "national interest", like many other nations.


But Americans or the British singling out Putin, Iran, China, or whoever the threat du jour might be, is either complete ignorance or astounding hypocrisy.

But last I heard, neither the Americans or British have (for the last several decades) been sending assassination squads to poison political critics/enemies in other nations, not to mention risking local populations' health with secret radioactive substances. (I suppose you can make a case for the assassination of Osama bin Laden, but good luck standing up that equivalence). And also not to mention the astonishingly awful human rights situation in Russia for LGBT people, or indeed internal critics.

1. the US is always wrong.
2. Russia might be wrong, but that doesn't matter because #1

Hey, Girl from the North Country, I've been reading something that made me think "I need to recommend this to someone besides my usual outlets", and realized, it's you. :) So here goes.

Reaktion Books publishes a series called Lost Civilizations. So far I've read The Greeks and am halfway through The Indus, and am loving both. They are, in a good way, at the level of a well-made documentary - they've sent me to the dictionary or Wikipedia a few times, but mostly been fine for me as is.

The Greeks is cool for being exactly what it says: about people identifying as Greek, rather than about the place. From very early on, Greeks spread throughout the Mediterranean and Black Sea, and later all the way over to Afghanistan. The author points out how across a lot of time and space, being Greek could matter a lot in terms of political access and social privilege, but wasn't much a matter of ethnicity at all. Do you speak Greek? Do you know some about Greek culture, history, etc? Do you live in Greek ways - wear the clothes, eat the food, honor the gods, etc? Then you're Greek.

It was profoundly relaxing to read about the opposite of an ethno-state and the successes of governing that way, as you well may imagine.

The author takes his story far and wide, too, and forward in time to the end of the Byzantine empire. He quotes a good line, to the effect of, they said "We are Roman", but they said it in Greek. :)

The Indus is equally engaging but quite different, since it's about the first civilization in eastern Pakistan and western India, with a script the experts cannot decipher, and say that without an equivalent to the Rosetta Stone and/or a whole lot more samples, probably never will. A lot of the book is about what you can and can't know about a society in the absence of its language, how people's whole lives shape their speculations, and like that.

The Indus society itself turns out to be fascinating, as well, for a bunch of reasons. High among them is that there's no serious evidence of warfare! Not much for major social stratification, either.

Obviously this isn't sf/f. But it deeply scratches the same itch that good imaginary world-building does, and I thought you might want to know about them.

I see they've also got a series on animals that's similar. Reaktion Books may be getting a lot of my money this year.

Footnote: the title format is this: "The Greeks: Lost Civilizations", "The Indus: Lost Civilizations", and so on.

The idea that Greek is a culture not an ethnic group was quite a hot topic back then. Aristotle for example insisted on a (as we would say) genetic superiority of true Greeks making them the natural Herrenvolk (and everyone else a natural slave of the Greek masters). On the other hand 'barbarian' was originally a neutral term for those not speaking proper Greek with no automatic assumption of cultural inferiority (that came later).

ROTFLOL! Between history and statistics, you can learn so much.

Men selected as major-party nominees for president have failed to win the popular vote 50 percent of the time. Contrast that to the 100 percent of the time that a female nominee for president has won the popular vote.

Bruce Baugh, I thought I replied - it may be lost in the spam trap. Those books sound very interesting, I will certainly investigate further, thank you

Glad to recommend. I love sharing the enjoyment. :)

Bruce Baugh, you just recommended those books to me, too. Thanks.


Well, maybe Bulgerist

Bulger, quintessentially deplorable, loved them tax cuts, too.

Max Boot:

Trump’s buffoonery is bad enough at home; it’s especially embarrassing when he is supposed to be representing the entire country overseas. He makes me ashamed to be an American. But don’t say you weren’t warned: From the start of his campaign in 2015 until today, Trump has been nothing if not consistent in his contempt for behavioral norms. It’s not his fault that he is so awful; after 72 years, he can’t help himself. It’s our fault that we elected him and might reelect him in 2020.

The State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research drafted testimony for Congress on climate change. It quoted government research on the expected effects. The author refused White House demands to remove those -- they said they "didn't jibe" with the administration's official position on the subject. Even though they were findings already published during this administration.

Read the proposed testimony here:
Well, at least, they aren't (yet) trying to bar the author from testifying in person (as opposed to written testimony).

"It’s our fault that we elected him and might reelect him in 2020."

Why change the horseman in the middle of the apocalypse?

Who cares but at this moment I’m sitting in Detroit Tigers stadium next to my son and they’ve played Jimmy Mack and a bunch of Isley Brothers songs on the PA system so far.

That and a sausage sandwich with three different sausage in it and it couldn’t get better if the Beatles, Mickey Mantle and James Joyce showed up.

He makes me ashamed to be an American.


JDT, that sounds like one hell of a good day. Carry on!

Treme bids the Doctor adieu.

h/t BJ

Speaking of Mickey Mantle, herewith one of the all-time-great entries from Letters of Note:

I particularly love, under the circumstances, how he signs it "Mickey Mantle, The All-American Boy"

Treme bids the Doctor adieu.


Thanks for that, GFTNC.

So he has the edge in the Mantle versus Mays debate.🤫

At least he didn’t lie like a republican.

All kidding aside regarding the Mick, however, he gave one of the great heroic mea culpas for a life decimated by alcohol and some of the other deadly sins about the time he was dying of liver cancer in his final interview with Bob Costas.

He coulda been a contenda.

As an aside, it strikes me that NOLA must lead the world in trombones per capita.

As an aside, it strikes me that NOLA must lead the world in trombones per capita.


On the Mickey Mantle thing, I realise after reading JDT's responses, that I knew nothing about him, except that he was a famous ballplayer. I had (lazily) taken the response that I posted to signify that he was being self-satirical, and particularly about his sobriquet, and I was (lazily) approving. But it didn't occur to me that it might have meant that he was a self-sabotaging fuckup, and that his response might have been considered pretty boorish, even by people who were not prudish about the actual experience described. Apologies if this was a misunderstanding of an American (anti)hero.

Most of Americas heroes are deeply flawed. That's who we are.

But then most human beings are deeply flawed, requiring all of us to see the essential goodness of humanity through that prism.

All I can say, GFTNC, is that you gave me a deliciously colorful piece of Mantle trivia with which to stump my Mantle- and Beatle-loving best friend.

I have a very similar piece of information regarding John Lennon at one of their clubs off the Reeperbahn in Hamburg during their early days.

Alexander Portnoy had nothing on those two.

No, To put a finer point on Marty's statement, Mantle was both a self-sabotaging fuck-up and the all-American boy hero of his time.

He was like a Greek God when I was a kid. Blond, clean cut, aw-shucks Oklahoma muscled kid fastest from home to first when he debuted with the Yankees the year I was born, could hit the ball 490 feet from both sides of the plate, and chase any ball down among the on-the-field monuments of the old Yankees Stadium, whose outfield sported the largest acreage of just about any park in the country despite the short distances down the foul lines.

His myth accrued early as all of the males in his family, his Dad and one son the last, died early from genetic Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and Mickey was sure he would too. Then his knees went early in his career hand by the end he running bone on bone, but gritted his teeth and did it.

The drinking stories are, first tragic, but Irish in their prodigious hilarity, especially when you consider his booze companions Whitey Ford and Billy Martin were along with, the latter the one who came up with the most outrageous dares during their bibilous hunting trips and other off-the-field "activities".

On the field, to which his hangovers accompanied him, it could be spellbinding too, amid the life-as-train-wreck accoutrements. One early afternoon Yankees game late in Mantle's career, Manager Casey Stengel looked down the dugout for a pinch hitter, and there sat Mantle, eyelids at nearly full mast with a very recent snoutful, having come nearly directly from the bars to the game, and Casey said, "Mick, kid, you're up."

Mantle limped over to the bat rack, dragged himself to the on deck circle, then half-heartedly dug-in at the plate and swatted the ball a country mile, blindly found his way around the basepaths by vague memory, and the Yanks took the lead.

It's not for nothing that Stengel, the raconteur and witnessing chronicle-ler of these feats, said: "Being with a woman all night never hurt no professional ball player. It's staying up all night looking for a woman that does him in."

Course, Stengel also ordered his players to not "drink in the hotel bar. that's where I do my drinking."

They obeyed.

For good measure, it wasn't like Mickey couldn't put things in perspective.

He observed: "During my career, I came to bat almost ten thousand times. I struck out about 1700 times and walked almost 1800 times. You figure a ball player will average about 500 at bats a season. That means I played almost seven years without ever hitting a ball."

To say that sums up what it is to play baseball, both the queer metaphysical beauty of it, and the unspeakable rate of failure (not the walks, though a guy likes to put the bat on the ball) is an understatement.

As Stengel said about baseball players propensity for uncommon humor, and regarding the amount of time a player has on his hands during games, "they tend to develop peculiarities of the mind."

This business advice too: "The secret to managing is to keep the five guys who hate you away from the four guys who haven't made up their minds."

Detroit may be a distant second for trombones par capita on the sidewalks.

per and what's with the "m" on my name?

Memphis is second. Best guess. Mr Thullem

Baseball teaches a valuable life lesson: you have to be able to fail, pick yourself up and try again . . . knowing you will most likely fail again, but you still have to try.

Consider. As a major league hitter, if you fail 3 times out of 4, you're batting .250 and about average.

If you only fail 2 times out of 3, you're hitting .333, and quite possibly the top hitter on your team. (Keep it up across a career, and you're in the Hall of Fame. After all, only 2 guys ever had lifetime averages over .350.) Fail only 3 time out of 5, and you're one of the legends of the game. But note that, in every case, you've failed more than you've succeeded.

I keep meaning to read the book/watch the movie Moneyball. My impression of the thesis is that the right mix of good players can beat all-star teams while saving money on payrolls.

Both book and movie are worth the time.

I have many thoughts and second guesses not coalescing at the moment, so it's time for a song.

By way of introduction, I met this woman recently who introduced me to this band. We danced in my apartment. I now have new shoes. That is all.

She was that bad a dancer, huh?

Maybe it was the soles he wore out? Rather than damage to the tops of the toes. At least that was my thought on first reading....

I met this woman recently who introduced me to this band

All the young Russians I work with and all the middle aged beatniks I know worship Gogol Bordello. Crazy-ass Ukrainian gypsy punk. The singer shows up in the film Everything Is Illuminated when he plays basically himself in the form of shady driver-slash-tour guide.

There is a cynical, joyfully anarchic street level vibe to a lot of Eastern European stuff that can be kind of attractive if you just take it face value and go with it. We're all screwed, the institutions are all corrupt, let's crash all the parties, raid all the open bars, steal the hotel towels, and have fun.

Have fun, JDT.

"She was that bad a dancer, huh?"

I skipped some steps.

The new shoes came later when she decided I needed a funky upgrade.

I acquiesced.

Ralph Houk, not Stengel, might have been Manager of the Yankees when Mickey hit that alcohol fueled home run, but what the heck, the story is funnier with Stengel involved, and what's a little exaggeration beside the sewer of today's conservative fake everything.

It was a joke, though obviously not a good one!

I loved the alcohol-fuelled home run story...

Your joke was a great one.

The "That is all." was meant to be a tease to speculation, while also, natch, maintaining plausible deniability in the face of the rich imaginations round these here parts.

Kind of on the same tip, if you squint a bit, Macedonian jazz guitarist meets gypsy brass band in a tribute to the great NOLA drummer Ed Blackwell.

Politics is politics, and then there's people doing their thing and living their lives.

Plus, it has a good beat and you can dance to it.

Yup, the manager was Ralph Houk.

The pitcher who threw the home run pitch was the itinerant late bloomer hurler George Brunet.

It's not beyond the pale to assert that alcohol may have been a factor on both sides of the ball.

Pretty cool, Russell. Thanks.

The wrong low people in high places can somehow dance to this while misunderstanding the lyrics:

The case for reparations, redux:

Neither as scary or as impractical as its opponents pretend.

The case for deforestation:

All the young Russians I work with and all the middle aged beatniks I know worship Gogol Bordello.

I was *this close* to seeing them on New Year's Eve in Philly some number of years ago. I don't remember why it didn't happen, but I regret it. That probably would have been the best NYE of my life.

Neither as scary or as impractical as its opponents pretend.

What's scary about reparations isn't something like the cost. It's the very idea that slavery is something to be apologized for. A lot of these folks are, after all, fans of the Lost Cause. (They still, even today, make remarks about how blacks were better off as slaves.)

So yeah, for them it's every bit as scary as they say.

Sometimes, you can actually see an upside to all the gritters. At least when it isn't our tax dollars they are taking.

What's scary about reparations isn't something like the cost.

Well, that is until you have to include the multitudes of Irish slaves who suffered comparably to African slaves (according to some very well-informed people). You might not know about such things, though, if you've only heard the "official" story.

They still, even today, make remarks about how blacks were better off as slaves.

For an alternative view of slavery and much of the rest of American history:

"In this groundbreaking book, noted historian Thaddeus Russell tells a new and surprising story about the origins of American freedom. Rather than crediting the standard textbook icons, Russell demonstrates that it was those on the fringes of society whose subversive lifestyles helped legitimize the taboo and made America the land of the free."
A Renegade History of the United States

it was those on the fringes of society whose subversive lifestyles helped legitimize the taboo and made America the land of the free

Slavery having been "legitimized" by people at the very center of American "society", it's hard to argue with the proposition that anti-slavers were "on the fringes". But "subversive lifestyles"?!


They still, even today, make remarks about how blacks were better off as slaves.

Famously, Pat Buchanan.

First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.

No doubt I am taking his remarks out of context.

You simply have to define freedom and prosperity as having Europeans (or the descendants thereof) impose a way of life upon you. Then it makes all the sense in the world.

hsh, but those Irish were papists*, so they too got the chance to learn the true faith in America (OK, that seems to have been a failure for the most part) ;-)

*and as Celts of course not 'really' white either.


Good faith all round, I’m sure.

It's all part of Make America Great Again.

If you want to outdo the Harding administration on its core competency (and it was, until Trump, the unquestioned champion), then you have to do the whole "favors for friends"/"it's not what you know it's who you know" thing. If you (and your people) don't, you have no chance at Most Corrupt Administration Ever!!! -- and wouldn't that be sad?

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