Short Observations on a Busy, Weird Week

The Last Few Days Have Been Long on the Sublime and the Ridiculous


Starting with the Easy Stuff

The Academy Awards

I have long found it increasingly harder to care at all about the Academy Awards. It seems a party of self-congratulation among people whose lives have zero relevance or connection to the rest of the world. But, hey, I have my favorite movies, too and and sometimes the outcomes are interesting. The Big News this time, of course was Will Smith slapping Chris Rock. Four VERY short observations:

  • Way too much has been written and discussed on this little dustup already. Apologies for adding any more – but I will be brief.
  • If what I have been reading is accurate in terms of trends, white people and people of color are often seeing this very differently. An awful lot of White people are decrying the “violence” (I will explain shortly why that is in quotation marks). A great number of the Black people’s comments I see celebrate that Smith stood up for his wife against an unacceptable slight against her.
  • I must admit, my first thought was: What kind of a guy slaps another guy? Why didn’t he deck that guy with his fist? A slap? Really?
  • I am with Black writers on this one. I would buy Smith a beer. Yep, violence is a bad thing and I get why he subsequently apologized, but Rock had it coming – and he is the one who should be apologizing.

There Were Senate Hearings for a New Supreme Court Justice

As expected, the judge did just fine and what a fine Justice she will be. Also as expected, but even worse than I at least expected, a handful of Republican senators made complete asses of themselves. I was embarrassed as an American. You watch that sort of performance and you could be forgiven for thinking we are doomed as a nation, maybe as a species.

Before last week, I would have told you it would not be possible for me to think less of Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, or Josh Hawley.  There are probably not three people in this whole country I think less of. But I would have spoken too soon. My opinion of them actually sank to levels I did not know existed. Their mothers must be so embarrassed.

Domestic Agenda Items

Education Gag Rules, Hate Laws, and Book Burnings

These ugly trends continue to run in much of the country.  Not much is new here, but its our watch now and we either beat this back or give in for the long haul. To put it simply, it has never been more important to simply show up.

Show up at local government and school board meetings to thank officials that do the right things for the right reasons and to let them know that the QAnon diverted speaker who preceded you at the mic does not speak for you or most citizens.

And for goodness’ sake, show up at the polls, for every race, every position on the ballot, every election. People who say it is all hopeless or that both parties are worthess are giving the autocrats and haters an immeasurable gift. Elections have real consequences. Look at Texas and Florida for a start. We are, each of us, part of the solution or part of the problem. Sitting one out is not an option.

The Rise of Reasonable Republicans?

A few do seem to be popping up, at least partially defying Trumpism and related infections. Not enough to save their party – that train has left the station. But maybe enough to help start something new that stands for something besides power.

History is full of groups like the Republican party of today, groups that encouraged the rabid and played on fear and anger, only to find the beast they created consumed them. Here is hoping those few standouts find their way to something better, sooner rather than later. I am not holding my breath, but I will cross my fingers for them.

Miscellaneous Odds and Ends

Quantum Computing and Artificial Intelligence

It has been a while since we talked about these two subjects. I am overdue to dedicate a posting to this domain – will do so shortly. I am reminded of this by a couple of articles I saw this week that mentioned significant progress in both areas.

Programs that can rapidly and profoundly create better versions of itself, exponentially and quickly, are here now, in early stages. Before long, the legendary Singularity, the moment when AI surpasses its human creators in all abilities and the time wherein we as humans may blend with such technology is approaching. Check back later to see if this turns out to be good news, bad news, or both.

Ukraine on the Offense

Remarkably, Ukraine is on the offense in some areas, and have reclaimed some small areas. Their tactical air defense (all those fine systems the West gave them are working) have denied the skies to the Russian air force, leaving only missiles and artillery in the ordnance delivery mode. A similar effect has been taking route on anti-armor engagements.

The end result is two-fold. One, the Russians are not fighting combined arms – that is fatal on the modern battlefield, as we are seeing daily now. Two, the Ukrainians are using the option to go on offense, or at least aggressive defense at every opportunity. This is yielding an exhausted Russian army that cannot seem to catch its breath.

The US Army can vouch for this approach. Mentally and physically exhaust the opposing force, give them no time or space to regroup or feel safe and they will do even worse in battle. No one should break out any champagne yet; the Russians are good at absorbing a lot of pain.  Hats off to the Ukrainians, their armed forces, their leaders, their people.

One set of equipment I have not heard about but I hope we are providing them are counter artillery systems. We have the assets that can pick up an incoming artillery round and pinpoint where it came from, enabling counter fire before the first round lands. The Russian Air Force is not much of a factor; much of the damage is by missiles and artillery. Better counter fire would make operating a Russian artillery battery a very dangerous occupation. Bring it on, please.


Biden Up Close

Many of you, like me, enjoy reading the blog of Heather Cox Richardson. She had a Facebook live session a couple of days ago in which she noted that she had just spent 45 minutes in a one-on-one session with President Biden. Richardson did not know him personally before this meeting. She commented on right wing propaganda trying to establish that he is too old and is losing focus. Would this session show any such problems?

She reported that he was sharp as a tac. In a session lasting about 45 minutes he was engaging and knowledgeable in detail on a wide range of subjects. No preclearance of questions was required, and he used no notes. This is a professional historian and commentator who knows her stuff. She was unequivocal in assessing that he was as sharp and knowledgeable as anyone she has ever engaged in so wide-ranging a session.

Nice to hear that.

The Ghost of Rosemary Woods

Well, we have the White House phone logs from January 6 and it appears that Trump spoke to not one person for over seven hours in the midst of all this. Sure, we all believe that one, don’t we? Somewhere the Ghost of Nixon secretary Rosemary Woods is laughing.  The Watergate tapes were missing 12 minutes on a key tape. The story was that Woods accidentally erased the segment. Yeah, sure, She must be laughing about over seven hours missing.

See you next week.

              Bill Clontz

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