Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Russia, Ukraine, and Reaganism

Or, Owned by George F. Kennan

Writing in 1998, George F. Kennan, interviewed by Thomas Friedman:

I think it is the beginning of a new cold war. I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. […] [NATO expansion] was simply a light-hearted action by a Senate that has no real interest in foreign affairs.

I was particularly bothered by the references to Russia as a country dying to attack Western Europe. Don't people understand? Our differences in the cold war were with the Soviet Communist regime. And now we are turning our backs on the very people who mounted the greatest bloodless revolution in history to remove that Soviet regime.

Russia's democracy is as far advanced, if not farther, as any of these countries we've just signed up to defend from Russia. It shows so little understanding of Russian history and Soviet history. Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are — but this is just wrong. – George F. Kennan, 1998, “Foreign Affairs; Now a Word From X.”

When the USSR fell, its citizens turned to the United States, the arsenal of democracy, for aid, and we sent them Reaganist plutocracy. There were no guarantees of democracy, of course, but the USA did nothing to prevent the rise of the Russian oligarchs, even helped them emerge, in the naïve belief that capitalism necessarily gave rise to democracy. The United States could, instead, have worked to promote democracy in Russia, rather than allowing it to become subordinate to the oligarchs. Russia would then have been a much easier neighbor for the eastern European states.

It is an utter shame that so many of our most influential legislators are so ignorant.

And here we are.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Covid: Long Notes

The people who are spreading covid, they want us to get used to the deaths, to treating some people as disposable. That way when they build the death camps and start the summary executions, some of the public will already have accepted mass killings.


(Largely from a number of tweets directed at anti-maskers.)

  • Three dose vaccines are not uncommon – the polio vaccine takes four. The three-dose mRNA covid vaccines are some of the best ever, but no vaccine is enough by itself.
  • Covid, it seems, is going to enter the ranks of those diseases that cause long-term post-viral syndromes of obscure origin.
  • The rate of full recovery from Covid is probably below 90%, not 99.8%. It could be as low as 50%. One cannot look only at deaths in doing the accounting.
  • Covid has a five day pre-symptomatic infectious period when you don’t know if you have the virus or not. When covid is widespread in the community masking is one of the effective steps to control it.
  • The anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers seem to think that controlling an infectious disease is like shooting an enemy – one good shot and it's over. It's not. To control an infectious disease takes multiple measures, each of which reduces the odds of transmission. So: vaccines, masks, distancing, quarantine, ventilation and air purification. If enough steps are taken, the infection dies out. This “Oh, this isn't perfect therefore it's useless” is nonsense. WHO has just approved a malaria vaccine that is only 50% effective – this after decades of research. Malaria is tough. But, in conjunction with other measures that vaccine makes a difference, so it's being distributed. The best covid vaccines are much better than 50% effective. If vaccination, masking, distancing, quarantine, ventilation and air purification were seriously undertaken and well carried out, we could kill covid.
  • It is striking how the advocates of individual responsibility refuse to take even the most modest steps to control a deadly disease.
  • These people who are so gleefully unmasking: they don’t have any idea of what is about to hit them.


The fight for adequate infection control measures for covid and other new diseases, like the fight to get seat belts and other automobile safety measures accepted, will be won over a generation. Over time building codes will be rewritten to require better ventilation. We could work towards modernization of the legal response to infectious disease. It seems to me that, at least, the laws about spreading an infectious disease could be modernized – currently there is no legal standard and limited legal grounds for action against even egregious abuses. Another thing activism could do is normalize mask-wearing when people have symptomatic respiratory infections. This will at least control flu and colds (not a small thing) and prepare us for future waves of airborne infectious agents.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Is the Department of Justice Investigating Donald Trump?

Well, I don't know. The Department of Justice can't, really can't, comment on an investigation before they bring charges. FBI Director Comey did that, and look how it turned out.

I do know that the Department of Justice has been steadily climbing the chain of command of the insurrectionists in their January 6ᵗʰ prosecutions. They started with the small fry, getting some of them to turn states evidence. Now they've gotten Oath Keeper Joshua James to plead guilty to seditious conspiracy and obstruction of Congress in exchange for his testimony, the first conviction for seditious conspiracy in these prosecutions. I expect they will charge Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes at least. But James was also one of Roger Stone's bodyguards, and Stone was and probably still is one step away from Donald Trump.

So I don't know that Trump will be charged, but the investigation is getting close to him.

If you want to know the details of these prosecutions, there is no better source than Dr. Marcy Wheeler, at her blog emptywheel.