The Talking Dog

February 23, 2014, Beginning of the end?

Not so much as "the beginning of the end" in Ukraine (Brother Dmitry explains it all for you here) as the beginning of the end of "the current arrangement" [that would be "everywhere]? And while we can be proud that our intellectual giants like Bob Costas can tell us what's wrong with Vladimir Putin's Russia, even as his own network helps promote the very spectacle Putin has assembled... and we can also all be proud that our prior Dear Leader suggested that "he looked into Putin's eyes and saw into his soul" (or something)...

Anyway, where I was going is that the "arrangement" that may be falling apart in front of us... our current notions of "globalization" and neo-liberal [financialized industrial "capitalism"]... involves the global (economic and hence political) integration of... everything... In Ukraine, what we have are 46 million people, 5 nuclear reactors, and one of the world's top three exporters of a number of critical food grains, along with some ores and some steel... and a healthy dependence on Russian natural gas imports to power its industrial output (such as it is)... and, of course, not to freeze to death in the winter. Ukraine, as Brother Dmitry tells us, long a member of Imperial Tsarist Russia and then the neo-imperial Soviet Union, is, at least ethnically, an agglomeration of Western Poland and Eastern Russia. It is possible that some of my own forbears were part of "Ukraine," or what is now "Ukraine" anyway, as their shtetls and guberniyas were overrun by Russians, Polish, German, Cossacks or whomever. Anyway, it is a crossroads and a flashpoint, even as, unsurprisingly, American "dumb-it-down-for-the-rubes" media wants to pitch this as if the Cold War never ended, and it's still those awful Russians (who by culture and language represent around 2 out of 3 Ukrainians) and those wonderful Western-centric "Europeans..." molotov cocktail throwing protesters good; police and security services bad.

That's fine as far as it goes. But Kiev, anyway, may find itself in the interesting posture of places that have devolved into chaos: how will it eat? The Ukrainian president Yanukovych appears to have fled (somewhere), The parliament, with an angry mob surrounding its members, hastily voted to oust the president from power, and install its own speaker as temporary caretaker... the president (from somewhere) refuses to acknowledge a power-transfer... even as his opulent residence is opened up...

But, I think as you gathered, this post isn't really about Ukraine. Ukraine is simply the current flashpoint of order breaking down as "peak everything" begins to play out around the globe... Ukraine might have gotten out of hand right about now because Pooty Poot was too busy watching Russian teenagers land triple axels, or because the EU [or the U.S. State Department] still thought itself relevant. And that's it, you see.

Russian-energy-dependent Ukraine simply can't afford the current balance of things... the energy expense-- even with a sweetheart deal from Russia-- is killing it, at least in the context of "the current arrangement." And so, what's absolutely fascinating, is that no one is thinking about how to "fix" the current arrangement to avoid, or at least be able to deal with situations like that now playing out in Kiev, or better yet, to consider either making sure some redundancies are built into "the arrangement" to make it, while not exactly fair or equitable, at least "sustainable..." or better yet, scrap it altogether and replace it with something resilient.

Expect neither. We have had a generation of pampered twits grow up expecting everything to run smoothly (not so much the Russians, who expect nothing to go smoothly)... who now fall back on the old scripts as their response to everything...

Don't know. Dubya had a point about Putin: the two of them both understood that everything in our modern existence comes down to three simple letters (those being o and l with an i in the middle)... ,maybe Dubya did see something of his old Texas crony-capitalist/oligarch "oil man" in the ex-KBG colonel...

Anyway, my college classmate, our hopelessly unprepared current President, really doesn't get it-- as he still thinks the answer to everything is to give a speech and talk about "crossing lines" and so forth... it's all missing the point. If Ukraine descends into anarchy, notwithstanding that 46 million people in such circumstance on Russia's border may be "bad" for Russia... it would be bad for everyone... ultimately, us included.

In short, the world is running into the finite nature of its resource base and the limits of its current absurd utilization of those resources... ad hoc responses (and worse, ad hoc doctrinaire responses based on decades-old playbooks)... won't work. Not sure what will-- but I can tell you what won't. (Fracking, like other propaganda and frauds, won't work either, btw.)

I don't know about you... but I'm going to sit down and enjoy Pooty Poot's spectacle (brought to us by Costas's network).

February 12, 2014, Your sad of sads...

Well, it seems to be be happening... on this, what would have been Abe Lincoln's 205th birthday (had that bastard John Wilkes Booth not shot him)... one of the pioneers of my parents' youth, or perhaps even earlier, has left us... thus, the legendary Sid Ceasar passes away at 91. His hey-day as uber-showman was around ten years before my own birth, but his influence on media was incalculable; among his writers were Woody Allen, Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks and Neil Simon.

Interestingly, his death was announced by his family spokesman and long time biographer, my college and law school classmate, Eddy Friedfeld.

Mrs. TD once clued me in to a sign observed in Thailand, to the effect of "Don't Worry... 100 years from now, all new people."

Indeed. Still, the giants among us do seem to be leaving our realm... and they are just not being replaced.

R.I.P., Mr. Caesar.

February 11, 2014, The sad, sad passage of time

Shirley Temple Black has passed away at 85.

The original child star-- one without "the problems" that plague the "child stars" of today (some of whom remain children into their 40's and beyond), who served brilliantly as a diplomat and public servant... in her day, the most popular movie star on Earth... and yet... a functioning human being. I took it as an article of faith that someone who was a huge movie star in an era before my parents were even born was not only still around, but would live forever.

No such luck. Another of the great ones, I now find myself having to mourn. This is really turning into a bad few months for this sort of thing.

R.I.P., Sweet Little Princess.

February 9, 2014, Going, going, gone, goodbye

For New Yorkers of a certain age, the background sounds of our lives featured the quintessential announcers of the New York Mets. The last of them from the "Amazin Mets" era, Ralph Kiner, a Hall of Fame player in an amazing ten year career, passed away at 91. (Here is my tribute to one of his broadcast partners, amazingly, from 2004.

Pete Seeger, of course, recently left us at 94, as did Nelson Mandela at 95. Good runs all.

Hard to believe these giants have been with us for as long (although Kiner, of course, was a Pittsburgh Pirate for most of his playing career).

For readers wondering why I'm going with seemingly maudlin obituaries of men I admire as most of the few posts I still bother to write, a dear friend, just today, coined the perfect "yang" to the "yin" of Barack Obama's signature expression, "Yes we can." That, of course, in the course of quite literally destroying our faith in the power of collective action (thanks, Barack)... is "We thought we did."

In short, in a dying culture, or perhaps a "hospice culture," honoring the greatest among our dead (note who I'm not mentioning) seems as useful an exercise as I can muster. I'm still working on "the Gitmo" thing... the complete lack of domestic public outrage after a dozen years of that abomination as clear a demonstration of a moribund culture as I can think of. But by and large, all I can largely do... is mourn.

R.I.P., Ralph Kiner.