Friday, December 23, 2022

A bad day for oligarchs!

Here's a tip of the virtual hat to Lindsey Graham and all the US senators who voted yesterday to add an amendment to the last-minute spending bill that will ask the Justice Department to send the money confiscated from sanctioned Russian oligarchs to the people of Ukraine. 

Yesterday was, as Sen. Graham said, "a godsend to the long suffering people of the Ukraine. It will be a relief to the American taxpayer [and] a bad day for oligarchs."

Canada too hopes to do the same, starting with $26 million belonging to Putin's friend Roman Abramovich, who owns a couple of steel mills in the country. I can't think of a better use of sanctioned funds than to send it along to Putin's victims.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Merry Solstice!

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, this is the shortest day of the year -- and for optimists, that means every day hereafter will be longer than the one before.

Sumer is icumen in
Loude sing cuckou!
Groweth seed and bloweth meed
And springth the wode now
Sing cuckou!

It's all thanks to the Vikings, really. Chaucer no doubt had a lot of Viking blood in him, as did most Europeans who lived within raiding distance of water -- including those in Kyiv, as Vladimir Putin has discovered to his sorrow this year. 

At the winter solstice, the Vikings lit bonfires to drive back the darkness, which began the tradition we now honor in the lights on our Christmas trees. As for the slippage of the date, well, in the Julian calendar, introduced in 46 BC, the winter solstice fell on December 25. By the time the Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1852, however, Caesar's version was four days out of whack, and the solstice had moved back to the 21st. Christmas of course remained on its traditional date, even in the Southern Hemisphere, where it's actually the summer solstice....

Loude sing cuckou!

Thursday, December 01, 2022

A silent scream from China


Friday, November 25, 2022

Something else to be thankful for

Too many Americans today are recovering from a too-ample Thanksgiving dinner and searching for Black Friday bargains on the internet. Meanwhile, in Kyiv, one-third of the Ukrainian capital's homes are without electricity, and the lucky ones have power only for two or three hours a day. We had a scheduling problem and moved our Thanksgiving dinner forward (or is it back?) a day, and soon I'll build the fire in front of which we'll roast a thirteen-pound bird in an 18th-century oven -- not quite as primitive as the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags, but refreshingly old-fashioned.

I began to wonder how I could reconcile our good luck with the misery that Vladimir Putin has visited upon his neighbors. I found it in a story in the online Wall Street Journal about a Ukrainian woman who found refuge in North Carolina through an expedited government program.

Yes, the government can move fast! The Trump administration did it with Operation Warp Speed, which in 2020 developed Covid vaccines in a few months instead of the years normally taken. And now the Biden administration has done it with Uniting for Ukraine in which 85,000 Ukrainians have been granted refugee status in the US. Even more heartening, 171,000 Americans have signed up to sponsor someone. Read the Journal story, and give thanks you are privileged to live in such a country. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

Monday, November 14, 2022

The last Wildcat pilot

  Ah, to be young and invulnerable! Here's Samuel Folsom eighty years ago at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, in his Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter. When he arrived in the South Pacific at the age of 22, Second Lieutenant Folsom had never flown at high altitude, and he'd fired the wing guns on his Wildcat only once, in practice. But like the other young Marine Corps pilots, he met and sometimes bested the far more experienced Zero pilots of the Imperial Japanese Navy. In the end, he was credited with one A6M Zero and two G4M medium bombers shot down. Unlike nearly half the pilots in his squadron, he survived Guadalcanal and the Second World War, and he died last Saturday at the age of 102. Photo courtesy of his son Gerrit and the New York Times  

Blue skies! -- Daniel Ford



There's joy in the streets of Kherson as its people celebrate the city's freedom after eight months of brutal occupation. Photo by Yevhenii Zavhorodnii for the Kyiv Independent -- and if you don't choke up when you look at the newspaper's photo-essay, you must have a heart of stone. While you're there, sign up for the daily newsletter.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Putin v. Snyder

Hilariously, Vladimir Putin has sanctioned Timothy Snyder, the spellbinding Yale professor who teaches History 247, The Making of Modern Ukraine now being streamed on YouTube. (The first lecture has been watched more than 859,000 times.) 

The sanctions do make a kind of sense. Putin's entire reason for invading Ukraine in 2014 and again this year was to erase the idea of Ukraine as a country, with the result that he succeeded in making that nation even more of a country than it was. Its Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelensky, whom Putin unblushingly calls a "Nazi," was a native Russian speaker, who adopted the Ukrainian language as a result of the war, like millions of Ukrainians. (The same was true of Mr Snyder, who could read the language but didn't speak it naturally until he had to interview Mr Zelensky this past summer.) And the sanctions aren't without a sting: Mr Snyder's professional life is partly based on his ability to study Russian archives, which now are closed to him.

Snyder's blog post is very much worth reading: Of sanctions and silencings: Russia's war as cultural suicide. While you're there, you should subscribe to the blog. He's rather proud of himself; that comes out in his lectures, along with occasional cheap shots at the country that has enabled him to prosper as a writer, teacher, and historian. His students enjoy this stuff, and so will you if your house is fronted by virtual-signaling yard signs; but not so much if, like me, you're grateful for the privilege of living in America.