Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The Russian vision of a world order based on force, could backfire.

Ukraine’s resistance to Putin’s invasion has demolished the idea of Russian invincibility. Everyone knows Russia is not the unbeatable empire Moscow was at pains to portray itself as both outwardly and inwardly. And just as Russia is trying to claim Ukraine as its own, other countries are eyeing chunks of Russian land, spotting an opportunity as the war shows just how weak the Russian army is. Nations within Russia are waiting for the right time to oust the bully. The Kremlin should be wary of promoting a world where it is acceptable to seize territories through force; it only invites others to join in and claim parts of Russia for themselves.

Japan was the first country to break its silence after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year. Tokyo said of the Kuril Islands that it was “completely unacceptable that the Northern Territories have yet to be returned since the Soviet Union’s illegal occupation of them 77 years ago”. That annexation saw the expulsion of Japanese people from the southern islands, and since then, the countries have failed to reach a compromise. Talks broke down when Putin showed he was not willing to share lands but only to gain new ones. 

Then China started drawing maps marking part of Siberia and the Russian Far East region as originally Chinese. Great areas of Chinese land were annexed by Russia in the 19th century. Unable to claim this territory back in a peaceful way, Beijing has pursued economic expansion around Baikal and has been actively purchasing and leasing lands near the border. 

In Poland, there are narratives suggesting that Russia occupied the Kaliningrad region in 1945, and that Warsaw has the right to claim it. Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and even Ukraine could also stake interests in vying for Russian lands. Russian fighters infiltrating the Belgorod region under the Ukrainian flag served as a reminder to Putin that others could also reclaim their “primordial territories”. Kyiv aims to restore its 1991 borders and end the war. Yet the prospect of exiled Russians on tanks turning Russian border regions into “national republics” is seen as a welcomed payback for Moscow’s deeds in the Donbas.

As Moscow pursues the expansion of its European borders, national autonomies in Russia and their exiled leaders envision the decolonization of Russia, dreaming of dividing it into 34 independent states. For now, national liberation movements are absent due to oppression and persecution within Russia. When the Soviet Union fell apart, several regions of Russia declared their state sovereignty but were silenced. These regions have constitutions stating their sovereignty as separate states, with power-sharing treaties governing their relationship with Moscow. These norms are “dormant”, but they can be activated as soon as the regime demonstrates its inability to keep the empire under control. 

Read the rest here.

Monday, May 29, 2023

A letter

July the 14th, 1861

Camp Clark Washington

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days - perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure - and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine 0 God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing - perfectly willing - to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows - when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children - is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?

I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death -- and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.

I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles have often advocated before the people and "the name of honor that I love more than I fear death" have called upon me, and I have obeyed.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me - perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar -- that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours - always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.

As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God's blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.


Sullivan Ballou was mortally wounded a week later at the first Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861. He was 32.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Henry Kissinger is 100

One of the most respected, and controversial figures in American political history was born 100 years ago today. Uggh. I'm old enough to remember hearing his name on the evening news when I was a kid. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Some Political Thoughts

It's still extremely early but here are a few random thoughts on how the 2024 election is shaping up.

The Democrats might be in trouble. Their presumptive nominee is already the oldest, by far, sitting president in US history and people of all political stripes are worrying about his health and fitness for office. Beyond which, Democrats are apathetic about him, independents are cool, and conservatives loathe him. That's not a recipe for four more years of Democratic administration. Like someone else we could name, his ego is at odds with political reality. Which is to say that pretty much any Republican whose last name does not start with a 'T' has a reasonable to good shot at beating him. 

If there is any good news for Democrats, it is that the most probable Republican nominee's last name does start with a 'T.' 

Of the various GOP candidates, the ones with the least likelihood of appealing to the base and getting the nomination, would probably be the strongest in the general election. The Donald is obviously the weakest. No one can energize Democrats like Donald Trump. His nomination would guarantee a massive turnout of their base and his poll numbers among moderates and independents are so poor that it is difficult to see how he carries the swing states, that any Republican must in order to win a general election. All of which said, and I've made this point before, Trump's hold on around a third of the party, including those most likely to turn out in a primary, is cult like. With his opposition deeply divided, he is easily the most likely nominee. The only thing that could derail him IMO would be conviction for one or more serious crimes. And even that is not a given.

Of the various not Trump candidates for the nomination, DeSantis is the strongest. But, while his "Stop Woke" culture war has played well in Florida and with the religious right, it might come back to bite him in swing states in a general election. His support for a near absolute ban on abortion will not help him. Nor will his obsessive feud with Disney, which is making him look petty and vindictive. Not to mention causing alarm among libertarians about his willingness to use the power of the state to punish those with differing political views. 

Of the others, none stand out in a way that makes me believe they have a serious shot at the nomination with so many running and dividing the anyone but Trump vote in the GOP. Though, FWIW I think the strongest of the "also running" crowd is Tim Scott. If he somehow got the nomination, Scott would wipe the floor with Biden and win a general election by around five points. Given the level of geographic balkanization in the country, I doubt that would translate into a Reaganesque electoral landslide. But I do think he would sweep all of the swing states and maybe even pick up some left leaning though not dark blue ones, like Virginia and Illinois. 

But for now, it's looking like a rematch of the 2020 election with each party set to nominate old, weak and generally unpopular men. It will probably come down to who is the most intensely disliked, and my guess is that Trump will once again win that honor. 

(Note: This is a tinfoil free zone. I will not approve comments that promote any kind of kookery, including, but not limited to QAnon, Biden stole the 2020 election & etc.)

Sunday, May 21, 2023

More leftist idiocy

Normally I don't condone this sort of thing. But if leftists can tear down statues they find offensive, and vandalize both public and private property to promote their cause de jour; one can hardly complain here. This is simply asinine and whoever came up with the idea should be sacked. Meanwhile, waiting for the condom dispenser in the lady's bathroom. 

HT: Brian.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023


There are stupider things to do than arguing with a culty fundamentalist. As the late great Jim Croce reminded us, you don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, and you don’t pull the mask off the ol’ Lone Ranger. Arguing with a culty fundamentalist is, I admit, not as stupid as any of these things, but it is pretty stupid nonetheless, for it is a waste of precious time and utterly futile.

Read the rest here.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Friday, May 12, 2023

Pope Francis Formally Recognizes 21 Coptic Martyrs- Adds them to the Roman Church Calendar

A highly unusual act. FWIW there is not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that these are true martyrs. I have long believed that 95% of what was thought to divide the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox from us was basically a failure of communication. Alas, there does remain the small matter of four (+?) ecumenical councils. That said, in many parishes here in N. America it has become accepted practice to allow properly disposed OOs to commune, though of course concelebration between clergy is not yet here. 

Saturday, May 06, 2023

The State of American Protestantism and the Decline of the Mainline

This is a pretty good overview of where things are and seem to be going. On which note, I've seen a number of this young man's videos and generally found them to be both informative and interesting.

Monday, May 01, 2023

Russia Moves Against Wikipedia

Not surprisingly, the Russian government has launched multiple attacks on Wikipedia for its coverage of the invasion of Ukraine. There is now open speculation that at some point Russia will simply move to ban the online encyclopedia entirely. 

On a side note, but also of possible interest, there is quite the ongoing contretemps over Wikipedia's presentation of Polish history, especially as it relates to World War II, the Nazi genocide of the Jews and other atrocities from that era. See this

[Full Disclosure: I have been an active contributor on Wikipedia for many years.]