All Sorts of Interesting and Varied Stories Catch Our Attention This Week
Noticed of Late
As is so often the case, all sorts of things rose to the top our consciousness this week. Let’s poke around a bit, shall we?
Macron Wins. So, Too, Does Democracy
It would be hard to overstate the importance of the just concluded French elections. That Macron won reelection – a first for a French president in 20 years – and by a very wide margin at that, is a relief for all of us. Much has been made of the narrowing of the victory margin from the last time out, but that is standard stuff for reelections.
Hopefully, folks on the Right will notice that the Le Pen family lost a national election yet again. This is the third loss in a row for the lady – her dad never won one, either. Might be time for them to look for new platforms and more normal leaders.
This is not to underestimate the growing power of the Right in France and elsewhere. It is doing so with ugly trends based on autocracy, xenophobia, and old-fashioned hatred of others. The recent election in Hungary underlines that even now Putin buddies can do well. Much to be done, but France did the right thing and gave us some breathing room. More on the allure of autocracy and why it is a system of failure in a future post.
The War in Ukraine
As bad as ever in the East especially, but the Ukrainians keep beating the odds. The amount and quality of materiel the West is finally providing is making a difference. Still seems a long shot, but it is at least possible that this latest offensive, tailor made by Russian military leaders, could also fail. Again, time will tell. If Ukraine has a shot, hard to imagine at this point them negotiating for a deal that costs them territory. But they will have to seriously hurt the Russians to pull this off.
The US Defense Secretary said something very important while in the region this past weekend. He noted we hoped and expected the Russian armed forces would bleed out their capacity to be a serious force, being hammered on the anvil of Ukraine.
Much remains unpredictable, especially Putin, but about now his generals and even Putin himself must be starting to worry about the effects of this war on their capacities and what that does to the world’s perception of the Russian military. It is big and powerful but is surprisingly hollow and vulnerable. Let’s not only help Ukraine but find opportunities to bleed out the Russians while we are at it.
Musk Buys Twitter. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
There is much to admire about Elon Musk. He is a genius in so many ways. What he has done with cars, space travel, AI and medical research, tunnelling, and more is unmatched. His tenacity and vision are legendary. What he is doing to help Ukraine with satellite communications is laudable.
But he is a seriously unstable, oddly immature individual. This is exactly the wrong kind of person to own and run a major social media empire. As this is being written, the sale appears to be a done deal. Musk talks a lot about freedom of speech. Not much about responsibility for the world’s megaphones of social medial. I am betting Trump would love to see Musk buy Twitter, confident he would be welcomed back online by the new boss (even though Trump says he would not come back if invited. Yeah, sure).
We will talk later about two glaring failures in society that this potential sale embodies: the failure to regulate social media responsibly and the excessive power of the wealthiest among us. Both shortcomings could destroy democracy, not just wound it. Past time to deal with both, on a national level for sure, but even better globally.
China’s Latest Lockdown
It is interesting to watch China trying to completely lockdown Shanghai, a city of 25 million. I have been in Shanghai; good luck with that. The lockdown is starting to fail already. Civil unrest is a real prospect, something the Chinese authorities fear the most. I am all for going the extra distance to defeat the virus, but this seems the wrong approach at the wrong time.
The Chinese seem particularly prone to short sighted big policy decisions; this might be one of those. Remember when they were worried about over population and declared the one child policy?
Within a few years, it was obvious that many families ignored the law, but many obeyed, resulting in a generation completely out of balance in gender distribution, meaning millions will never get married. The aging of the population, with traditional family safety nets gone, is now a major concern, directly resulting from the government’s policies.
Moderation and critical internal review seem to be missing attributes in the realm of Xi.
Political Cowardice and Courage – Both on Full Display This Week
The continued leaks of statements by McConnell and McCarthy showed cowardice and greed for power at levels I could not imagine, even from these two. They also showed a complete lack of vision. They had the end of Trumpism in their grasp. Out of fear and lust for power, they walked away from history. Now we all pay the price. These two are unforgivable.
On the other hand, a few Democrats stood up and called out the current Republican nonsense seeking to make gays and others less than human. Speeches this week showed us what courage and righteousness look like. The speech by Michigan state Senator Mallory McMorrow went viral for all the right reasons. She called BS and let it be known she would always fight. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLWo8B1R0MY. Good for her.
Same for the speech by Missouri state Rep. Ian Mackey, who gave a powerful address about growing up gay. He said it all: I am not afraid of you people anymore.https://www.nbcnews.com/video/missouri-lawmaker-ian-mackey-s-passionate-speech-against-anti-transgender-bill-goes-viral-138041925595
May the rest of us join them. Do not let this stuff stand unchallenged. None of it. Ever.
Ah, Spring. Love the Seasons
The weather is still weird all around the world (see that blizzard on the Great Plains last weekend?), but at least in my little corner of the mountains, Spring is here.
Everything is blooming, the days are getting longer, we are overrun with colorful birds busy feeding chicks, and I saw my first bear of the season up close on Sunday.
The seasons are a priceless gift of change and renewal. They are among my favorite things about this planet. You agree?
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