Resting On Our Laurels

20 07 2016

Forty-seven years ago, a small spacecraft from Earth set down on the surface of the moon. There were two humans onboard, with a third remaining in orbit. Everyone on Earth- or at least those who had access to global information- looked up into the sky at that moment in awe. For a brief moment in time, everyone on Earth connected to international news looked skyward and said, “D-a-a-a-a-amn!”

Since that day, almost a half-century ago, ten more humans travelled from Earth to visit our nearest neighbor in space. They conducted some scientific tests and collected a lot of samples.Then, they all came back home. By any standards, the Apollo program was an amazing technical achievement. Never mind the fact that it would never have happened if not for political and military posturing by earth’s two most powerful nations, it was a truly amazing feat of engineering and science.

Since December in 1972, when Apollo-17 departed, no one has gone back.Think on that for a moment: the high-water mark of manned spaceflight ended forty-four years ago.What happened? Why did we stop?

The late Carl Sagan also wondered about this. He wrote an article in 1989 saying, among other things, “The Moon is no longer unattainable. A dozen humans, all Americans, made those odd skipping motions they called ‘moonwalks’ on the crunchy, cratered, ancient gray lava- beginning on that July day in 1969. But since 1972, no one from any nation has ventured there. Indeed, none of us has gone anywhere since the glory days of Apollo except into low Earth orbit- like a toddler who takes a few tentative steps outward and then, breathless, retreats to the safety of his mother’s skirts.

Once upon a time, we soared into the solar system. For a few years. Then we hurried back. Why? What happened?

For one shining moment, humanity looked out at the vastness of space and knew that the stars were in our future. Then we turned our backs on the stars and went home. Despite the fact that semi-literate children in countries without regular electrical service now walk around with pocket radios with more computing power than any of the Apollo spacecraft, we’ve never gone farther than low-Earth orbit.

Apollo cost the US about $25 Billion at the time. Adjusting for inflation, that runs to a bit over $100 Billion today. One hundred billion dollars today is only about 16% of the US Defense budget (roughly $600 Billion), or a hair under 3% of the entire US budget ($3.54 Trillion).

By the way, do you know how much of the current US budget goes to NASA? $18.5 Billion. Basically one half of one percent (0.52%) of the US budget is used to fund NASA. That’s for everything at NASA- toilet paper, administrator salaries, office supplies, and space.

To put all the data into words: NASA has been achieving amazing science and developing mind-blowing technology, putting robot spacecraft into orbit around planets, moons, asteroids, and comets and dropping robot scouts onto the surface of Mars on a budget consisting of the spare change Uncle Sam found under the couch cushions.

Those robots are doing some outstanding work. For some exploration, they’re actually preferable to humans. But the robots just aren’t as adaptable as a Mark One, Mod Zero educated plains ape. For one example, the Opportunity rover has been on Mars since 2004, and has travelled a bit more than 26 miles in those twelve years. On Earth, humans routinely run that distance in a few hours.

Humans are far more versatile and adaptable than our robots. But they require a lot of very heavy equipment and infrastructure to get them to the exploration site and keep them in working order long enough to get some science done. This is a significant downside to manned spaceflight, but something we can fix. It just takes time and effort-which means money.

We are totally getting our money’s worth out of the Space program using robots, but manned spaceflight could be accomplishing so much more. All it takes is money and the will to use it. We have the money. Hell, trim 5% off the military budget and give it to NASA. That’s roughly $30 Billion dollars more for space exploration, and the military obviously doesn’t need it- the US spends more on our military than the next dozen countries combined. Almost forty percent of all military spending on Earth goes to the US military.

Granted that we need our military to be the best in the world, even by American standards this is overkill. Let us put some of that cash to use out in space, instead. Let us also note that I am not NASA’s friend. Too many scientists and engineers are being sidelined by paper-pushers and politically-connected bozos. But they are the best game in town, so we (the US) has to use NASA, or nothing.

It’s been 44 years since the last humans left the moon. We have been resting on our laurels for far too long. Humans from the United States once walked on the moon. Sooner or later, more humans will be exploring and exploiting the solar system. If we don’t get off our collective asses, we can be fairly certain those people exploring and exploiting the system will not be speaking English.


Current status: Pissed off

Current music: The Future Soon by Jonathan Coulton


Wrapped in the Flag and Carrying a Cross.

18 06 2016

That headline is from a quote by Sinclair Lewis which seems more and more to be chillingly prescient. Here’s another quote appropriate to the topic at hand:

Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”- George Santayana

You may be curious about where I’m going with these quotes. I’m going to post a link to a news article here that will make my meaning crystal clear:

Is everyone all through vomiting at the idea? Good. Let us continue.

For those who may have been living in a cave for the past few decades, there is an election approaching. This country has been mired in an election campaign for what seems like six or seven squintillion years. A campaign where the presumed nominee of one of the two major political parties has been openly espousing fascist ideology and overt racism to throngs of cheering supporters. Those same supporters who appear to be just fine with physically attacking anyone who vaguely hints at disagreement with their Leader or anyone with a less than lilly white skin tone. Supporters who have openly warned they would resort to violence if their Leader doesn’t win.

That’s bad enough, but now we have a retired politician from that same major political party saying- on camera- to a news organization that the country needs to return to the halcyon days of yesteryear in the form of the House Un-American Activities Commission. If you aren’t familiar with HUAC, go look it up. I’ll wait.

Here’s a bit of background for those unwilling to learn from history. In the 1950’s, a US Congressman names Joseph McCarthy claimed that he was in possession of a list of communists who had “infiltrated” the US government. He gleefully exploited public fear over the “Red Menace” (OMFG- the eebil rooshians are gonna come pollute our precious bodily fluids!) to establish the House Un-American Activities Commission in order to search out these communist infiltrators, wherever they might be- presumably including under your bed.

And so, the witch hunt was on. American citizens were accused to being communists or communist sympathizers, and the resulting public furor meant most of them lost their jobs and couldn’t get hired anywhere else. People were exhorted to inform on their friends, neighbors, and relatives if there was even a vague hint of “un-American activities”. Fear and prejudice and panic ensued, resulting in the director of the FBI investigating thousands of government employees to determine if they were sufficiently loyal to the United States- essentially based upon whether or not J Edgar Hoover agreed with their politics. Actors, writers, journalists, and publishers joined government workers in the endless search for the evil commies.

Please note that there was no burden of proof involved. Merely being accused was enough to destroy someone’s life and livelihood, and even successfully avoiding getting convicted in court wasn’t enough to undo the damage caused by being denounced.

This is what “the smartest man in the GOP” has publicly called for. On camera.

Never mind that HUAC was a cynically successful ploy by a small number of senior government officials and congressmen to gather more power for themselves. All these few people had to do was continually warn everyone they were in danger from godless communism and should therefore allow the power of the US government to be turned upon US citizens without check or hindrance. And the American people fell for it.

And a large number of Americans are being led down the same path to Hell today by their Leader.

Ooga booga! The evil moose limbs are coming to kill your children. Only we can protect you from this existential threat, but you gotta let us throw out that pesky Constitution in order to keep you safe. We pinky swear these powers will only be used against “them“. Them. The “others“. The people who don’t worship your god the same way you do. The people possessed of insufficiently white skin pigmentation. People who speak other languages. People who disagree with you politically. “Them“.

Shockingly, this message of xenophobia and bigotry is finding eager listeners among people who aren’t willing to use their brains much. Thinking is hard, and so is remembering lessons learned from long ago. Sure, it turns out that locking up tens of thousands of Americans who happened to be descended from Nipponese immigrants was stupid, expensive, wrong, and totally ineffective. Never mind that. This time is different, because … uh … because reasons.

Actually, there is a reason why dumb white people are buying into this line of thinking. There’s a reason why they have so much trouble articulating the source of their ignorant fear, and that reason is demographics. It turns out that white people will soon be less than half of the population. Oh, the horror! Rather than learning to treat other people equally, these dim-as-five-feet-up-a-pig’s-ass yokels are willing to destroy the very thing that made this country great: our non-homogenous society.

Every group of immigrants has made America richer. They bring in new ideas, new foods and drink, new attitudes, new beliefs, and America gets better and stronger from adopting the globe-spanning range of new stuff brought here by immigrants. And every single one of those immigrant groups is treated like shit by the descendants of previous immigrants. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was the Irish being vilified by descendants of English and Dutch immigrants.When Italians began arriving on our shores, the descendants of those Irish immigrants who been the subject of bigotry treated the Italians the same way. Asians, Africans, and Jews have been perennial victims of American xenophobia, along with anyone from any cultural background who doesn’t belong to the right religious group. They’re different, and therefore suspicious- if not outright evil.

Here’s a clue chit for the small-minded bigots among us: Different does not equal evil. Stranger does not mean enemy. Those “foreigners” you’re wetting your panties about aren’t foreigners anymore- they’re Americans. What are you imbeciles afraid of?

I want you


The night is black
Without a moon
The air is thick and still
The vigilantes gather on
The lonely torch lit hill

Features distorted in the flickering light
The faces are twisted and grotesque
Silent and stern in the sweltering night
The mob moves like demons possessed
Quiet in conscience, calm in their right
Confident their ways are best

The righteous rise
With burning eyes
Of hatred and ill-will
Madmen fed on fear and lies
To beat and burn and kill

They say there are strangers who threaten us
In our immigrants and infidels
They say there is strangeness too dangerous
In our theaters and bookstore shelves
That those who know what’s best for us
Must rise and save us from ourselves

Quick to judge
Quick to anger
Slow to understand
Ignorance and prejudice
And fear walk hand in hand…

Current status: Appalled

Current music: We Belong by Pat Benatar

Definition and Examples

17 03 2016

Let us all take a look at the accepted definition of Terrorism:

The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives”

With minor variations in wording, this definition is generally the agreed definition for most of the world. Anyone using unlawful force and violence to further their political aims is a terrorist.

Now let us examine the public utterances and actions of a small sub-set of the population:

  • We have a political candidate threatening riots in the event the candidate doesn’t get his way.

  • We have a campaign manager for that same candidate saying that riots might be a good thing.

  • We have a prominent media supporter of that same candidate calling for increased violence in support of that candidate.

  • We have a different campaign manager for that same candidate explaining away the violence of the candidate’s followers by claiming the followers are merely expressing their passion.

  • We have a group of these “passionate” supporters of that candidate forming a posse to protect their Leader from evil-doers in the form of anyone who disagrees with the candidate.×84899

Now let us examine the followers of this political “Leader”. Evangelical christian groups are falling all over themselves to support him, despite the candidate’s abysmal record supporting christian causes. One cannot help but wonder at this. The obvious conclusion (which could very well be inaccurate) is that there must be some other attribute of this candidate that appeals to the christian religious fanatics (as opposed to the far larger group of moderate American christians who make up the bulk of the population). Whatever could this attribute be that appeals so much to right-wing fundamentalist christian lunatics? Perhaps it is the candidate’s well-documented misogyny.

Perhaps the candidate’s campaign has rules to keep out certain undesirables. Oddly, lots of white supremacist organizations are also backing this candidate. Perhaps they’re just overwhelmed by his gravitas and personal charisma. Or maybe the candidate has repeatedly promised to violate US law and the civil rights of US citizens who happen to be less than lily white or worship a slightly different version of the most widely-worshipped deity in the US. Maybe they just think he’d look good in a bedsheet.

I suppose we’ll just have to force ourselves to take a look at some of them. Like this person. Or this one. Ooh! Real winners there.


Let’s re-cap: The leading political candidate for a major political party in the UNITED STATES OF FUCKING AMERICA is threatening that his followers will cause violence if he doesn’t get his way. The same followers who are forming vigilante groups to “protect” their Leader. Many of those followers belong to violent racist organizations and have already used violence against Unbelievers … I mean, non-supporters. Media personalities- both civil and religious- have openly called for violence in support of this candidate.

Nope. Nothing to worry about at all. Never mind that the other remaining candidate in the same political party is actually worse- a christian Dominionist whose father raised to believe was an ordained future christian King  The guy I’ve been writing about here is actually the lesser of two evils in that political party. Think on that and weep. Or gnash your teeth in despair. Why not both?

When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. – Sinclair Lewis

That quote is obviously not pertinent in any way.

One of the people I’ve mentioned is very likely to be a likely contender for the office of President of the United States- a self-demonstrated fascist and a christian Dominionist. We’ve got the flag and the cross covered from one of the two major political parties.

The good news- such as it is- is that the President doesn’t actually run the country. Even if the political party in question manages to get one of the two fuckwits under discussion into the White House, there are Constitutional limits to the damage they can do. What’s scary- about both men- is what damage their fanatical followers will do once their Leader is in the Big Office.

We have to stop these imbeciles.

For it is the natural tendency of the ignorant to believe what is not true. In order to overcome that tendency it is not sufficient to exhibit the true; it is also necessary to expose and denounce the false. – H.L. Mencken

These people, the candidates they support, and the antediluvian ideals they espouse, must be thoroughly and permanently humbled. The best tool for this task is the balm of sweet reason and the sharp blade of derisive laughter. Call the mouth-breathers out on their bigotry and un-American beliefs. Denounce them publicly- early and often. Vote against them, and encourage others to do so. Take the neanderthal bastards to court when there is legal justification,and support others who file criminal or civil complaints against them. Those of us who are NOT out of our tiny little minds must use these tools to repudiate these people and their Dark-Ages ideology- publicly and resoundingly. If we- the more-or-less rational members of this society- fail to confront, ridicule, and humble the neo-barbarians NOW, they’ll never learn how outnumbered and out-of-touch they are.

Because they all think they’re part of a “silent majority” in this country. Like the so-called “moral majority” of three decades ago, these pinheads are neither silent nor a majority. If we let them continue with this delusion, I’m more than a little afraid of how they’ll react after they find out the horrible truth- say, when their Leader finds his will stymied in some way. We already know most of them have only a tenuous grasp of consensus reality and civilized behavior, and they’ve already demonstrated their propensity for violence. I’ve no desire at all to teach them the facts of life at the cost of ripping the country apart because their Leader’s feelings got hurt.

Current status: Alarmed

Current music: Young Blood by The Naked and Famous

Blatherings and Rantings of Dotards

23 12 2015

Oh, yeah. It just keeps getting better every four years. And, by “better“, I mean much, much worse.

It’s bad enough that our political processes have been essentially hijacked by a duopoly run by thieves, liars, and similar offal. But it seems one half of this duopoly is desperate to try and turn back the demographic clock by appealing to the base fears and prejudices of their sole remaining constituency- scared old white people. These people are simple folk. Farmers. The common clay of the new West.

You know- morons.

In their desperation at the prospect of losing control of the levers of power, this political party has descended into nationalism, xenophobia, racism, and overt fascism. Oh my dog! Horrible brown people are infiltrating this country to sully your precious bodily fluids, sodomize your sons, sell your wives and daughters into slavery, and drive down your property values! Boogah! Boogah!

Scary, isn’t it? No, not the nonsense regularly oozing from the sense-organ clusters atop the perambulating mounds of excrement that this party has put forth as contenders for the Presidency. That’s almost to be expected. What is truly frightening are the mindless herds of wannabe Brown Shirts bleating and screaming is support of such nonsense- no matter how vile, fascistic, and profoundly un-American it may be.

In their defense, I suppose one could say that little more could be expected from the panty-wetting and firmly anti-intellectual crowd being pandered to so successfully, but the fact that there appear to be tens of thousands of these mule-headed imbeciles who are willing to stop fucking their kinfolk and/or farm animals long enough to go to political rallies ought to give any rational person pause.

For FSM’s sake, at work the other day I overheard two African-American men speak admiringly of two of the more reprehensible would-be Presidents. Two candidates whose public pronouncements and rhetoric say they would relegate African-American citizens to (at best) third-class citizenship. But these two men- who are not particularly thick-witted on other issues- were speaking at length about actually voting for one of the aforementioned walking stacks of horseshit.

Therein lies the problem. Far too many people are willing to vote against their own best interests solely because they’ve allowed themselves to become frightened of the “other“. The outsider. The foreigner. The immigrant. The non-christian. Anyone who is different.

They say there are strangers who threaten us
In our immigrants and infidels
They say there is strangeness too dangerous
In our theaters and bookstore shelves
That those who know what’s best for us
Must rise and save us from ourselves

Guess what? We are all different, in one way or another. Traveling down this road leads to pogroms, mass-murder, and eventual Balkanization. Sooner or later, those to whom we have given power to save us from the “other“, will determine that we are too different to be allowed to live.

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all. – H.L. Mencken

Out of sheer self-defense, we (the People) must utterly reject these demands that we divest ourselves of our innate decency as Americans and piss ourselves in terror while the Wise Ones in charge “protect” us from the “other”. Every one of those calling loudly for such un-American ideals as preventing people of a certain ideology or a certain religion or a certain skin color from entering the country- even if they are American citizens- must be run out of town on a rail. These people are willing to destroy the very thing that makes the United States of America so successful just so they can gain a tiny amount of short-term political advantage.

I want you

We can do this. We (the People) can metaphorically run these bags of manure masquerading as humans out of town by the modest expenditure of the time it takes to show up and vote. While you’re thinking about that, here’s another line of verse to remind you of what the United States of America is supposed to be all about:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Current status: Appalled

Current music: Brandenburg Concerto #5 by J.S. bach

Je Suis Charlie

7 01 2015

I am again babbling into the ether because of the recent revelations of the depths of human stupidity. Three fundamentalist shitheads decided to “avenge” their prophet by shooting a bunch of unarmed journalists in their offices in Paris. Never mind that Charlie Hebdo was frequently crass and vulgar, or that the magazine was pretty even-handed in its crass and vulgar treatment of every self-important ass-hat who ever existed. They had published cartoons about Muhammad, and the religiously-deluded fuckwits involved decided that the magazine must die.

For those of you with short attention spans, it doesn’t matter that it happened in France, either. The cowards who gunned down unarmed civilians were targeting one of the pillars of liberty in every country- a free press. Never mind that the “press” here in the US has largely lost its balls and has essentially been replaced by a series of comedians from The Daily Show, this worthless demonstration of ignorance and cowardice was intended to quash words, thoughts, and actions that the shooters disagreed with. It might as well have been committed at CNN or Time or the Chicago Tribune.

The worst part is that these pernicious vermin with guns murdered a dozen people in cold blood in “defense” of their imaginary friend.

I don’t care what flavor of religion you believe in. You could follow Hubbard or Buddha or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the fucking Loch Ness monster to your heart’s content. But your right to believe what you wish stops where acting on your beliefs infringes the rights of others. You may sincerely believe that the Invisible Pink Unicorn has commanded you to vanquish the infidel Bronies and conquer YouTube, but a civilized society requires that you be prevented from acting on those beliefs.

I therefore have no problem with Muhammad or Christ or Buddha or whatever the fuck you pray to, but I end up having considerable trouble with their idiot followers. To that end, I am including some of the imagery from Charlie Hebdo that the rabid shitweasels among the general Islamic population find offensive. I’m doing this because the right to believe something does not grant the right to force those beliefs on others. I’m also doing it because your right to believe something does not grant the right to be free from the mockery of those who don’t share your beliefs. The vast majority of people can manage to shrug off mockery of their religion, so the only ones who would probably claim to be outraged by the pics below will be the mentally-deficient goobers who deserve the mockery.

Charlie 1 Charlie 2 Charlie 3


The religiously-deluded fuckwits out there might be scandalized by these pictures. Three words: TOO FUCKING BAD. I don’t share their religion, so I have no compunction about posting images that rabid muslims might find objectionable. And for those who find the “insult” too much to bear, I’ll just mention that- unlike the editors and cartoonists from Charlie Hebdo- I will be able to shoot back. I note that the vast majority of these fundamentalist imbeciles seem to avoid targets that can shoot back. They like to pretend they’re really tough guys when it comes to raping women or gunning down unarmed civilians, but they seem to get slaughtered in boxcar lots whenever they run into anyone with a gun.

Je suis Charlie. We are all Charlie. And we will not let the childish tantrums of the tiny-brained fundamentalist of any flavor stop us from heaping derision and mockery upon them.

Because they deserve it.

Current status: Furious

Current Music: Worlds Away by Strange Advance

Lambasting the Imbeciles

11 05 2014

I have a very low tolerance for stupidity. Stupidity, not ignorance. The ignorant can often be cured of their condition, but the stupid cannot. Sometimes, it is not the stupid person’s fault that they are stupid. Far too often, however, you encounter people who are willfully and deliberately stupid. They take pride in their stupidity, and actively resist any effort to free them from their debilitating condition. Worse, they insist on forcing everyone else to partake in their stupidity- to make everyone else be just as stupid as they are, by violence if needed.

These people are my natural enemies.

I take pride in Lambasting the Imbeciles, mocking their stupidity and denouncing them as stupid as publicly as possible. It is basically the entire purpose of this electronic broadsheet. I feel free to ruthlessly mock stupid people because I try to treat myself just as harshly when I do something stupid.

I’ve been intellectually aware that there are better Lambasters out there, but I discovered that actually encountering one is a bit disheartening. If you encounter someone who speaks about the same topic, but does it so much better than you did, it can be a bit of a shock. It’s taken me a while to get over that shock.

There are lots of writers who are vastly better than me. There are even lots of bloggers who write better than I do. Even if I am philosophically opposed to their message (as with the Barefoot Bum), I read their contributions with relish. Sometimes, they can even convince me to change my mind on an issue by virtue of their reasoning and writing ability. Their sheer ability with the language is a joy to encounter- even if you disagree with their premise or conclusions

It is sobering to encounter a writer who has views closely matching your own who is a much better wordsmith. Such is the case with the author of Stonekettle Station. When he lays a verbal smack-down on the mindless herds of stupid people, you can feel his ire and exasperation in every sentence. It is simultaneously exhilarating and discouraging to read his work. After all, if Stonekettle Station is doing such a fine job Lambasting the Imbeciles, why bother adding my brace of small copper coins? My contributions are the literary equivalent of firing a rifle at the target of an artillery barrage.

That said, I think I’ll keep going. There are so many imbeciles out there that we Lambasters exist in a target-rich environment. I’ll choose to treat my berating of the mindless as sort of a clean-up action after the artillery barrage- just to catch the few enemies he didn’t get. I just need to remind myself to write my own stuff before reading his.

Current status: Sober

Current music: Thimbledrome by Pain

Breaking the Silence

13 04 2014

Haven’t been around for a while. You may have noticed. No excuses. There’s been a lot of important things happening around the world, and I’ve had opinions about all of them, but a lot of what I intended to say was said by others- and usually done far better than I could. So, it became a habit to not write anything. This is a bad habit to get into, by the way.

At the urging of one of the Unusual Suspects, I’ve decided to resume hurling my mental feces into the ether. For better or for worse, I will now hold forth on various topics of interest to me. You’ve been warned.


I’ve been to Ukraine- mostly the areas around the Black Sea, including the Crimea. The people were all friendly, the countryside was lovely, and I generally enjoyed my visits- to Odessa in particular.

I was therefore very attentive to the political events in the country, starting with Yanukovich rising to power and including the recent revolution. Given the history of the area (Ukraine is historically getting alternately fucked over from east and west), I rather expected the revolution to end badly for the protesters. People like Yanukovich rarely go out quietly, and a situation much like that in Syria appeared to be the most probable outcome. I was quite pleased to be wrong, and looked forward to the next bit of political theater which usually ensues in the aftermath of a revolution: payback.

After a successful revolution- such as the American Revolution- there is normally a modest period of near-chaos, as the loudest voices suddenly discover themselves without an enemy to rally against. There are always disparate factions in any revolution, and they generally only work with each other out of necessity against a common enemy. Take away the common enemy, and they tend to fall out among themselves. In the US, there was a significant period where each state was its own little nation. The leaders of those “independent” states eventually realized that their “separate but equal” status was causing more problems than their original issues with Great Britain, so they worked out a new system of government with a new constitution.

In Ukraine, the western parts of the country have historically been far more European than Russian. Thanks to Soviet-era population management measures (such as Stalin transplanting hundreds of thousands of ethnic Russians to eastern Ukraine), eastern Ukraine has been a bit less focused on Europe, and more interested in Mother Russia. Geography plays a part, too. The Soviets were not fond of roads. The road network in the west is fairly extensive, but less so in the east. The roads east of the Dnieper river mostly run toward Russia. The roads west of the Dnieper mostly run to Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Rumania, and Byelorussia.

In a post-revolutionary society, such divisions are often amplified in the immediate aftermath of the revolution, but the cultural demands for separation can be worked out by compromise between the different groups. Despite the rhetoric, they all have more in common with each other than with anyone else- including the russophiles in eastern Ukraine. The common bonds between fellow countrymen will generally overcome feelings of separatism, given time.

Alas, Ukraine was not given that time. A greedy neighbor immediately set about taking advantage of tgeh post-revolutionary chaos period. Small numbers of well-financed agitators were inserted into Crimea to foment a “popular uprising”. Suspiciously well-equipped armed men with current-issue Russian equipment suddenly appeared to “protect” the “protesters” by taking over government buildings and dealing with undesirables- such as the minority Tartar population, which wants nothing whatsoever to do with Russia.

Since the Ukrainian government was still in transition, with the chain of command thoroughly shattered and widespread insecurity about who is in charge, they wisely decided against overt measures in response to fairly blatant Russian provocation. By itself, Ukraine cannot stand against Russia militarily. And so Crimea was lost. Russia appears to be trying to repeat this tactic in eastern Ukraine, despite the fact that everyone knows what is really happening. Russia is also trying to squeeze Ukraine by arbitrarily raising the prices of oil and gas.

Why is Russia doing this? All of these actions are demonstrably not in Russia’s best interest. Pissing off the whole world- especially those nations who actually have the wherewithal to punish Russia- is counterproductive. Russia cannot withdraw into a closed bubble, trading only within its borders and with client states seized by force. For good or ill, Russia is tied into the global economy. Without access to foreign trade, Russia will clunker along for a while before everything starts falling apart.

Russia is facing the same demographic bubble as the rest of the more-or-less developed world, but that bubble is revealing a dark secret: Russia is running out of Russians. The population in 1991 was reportedly about 148 million. Twenty years later, the population is about 143 million. The largest country on Earth has fewer people than Bangladesh, Pakistan, or Nigeria. Getting into a military contest with First World nations and alliances while dealing with a demographic crisis and increased economic isolation is not rational. Suicidal, even.

The end result of all this stupid maneuvering by Russia is to alarm all of its neighbors and drive them into the arms of the European Union. By playing the gas card, Russia has demonstrated its willingness to use raw economic force to achieve its goals, leaving everyone doing business with Russia to reconsider doing so. Military adventurism and posturing by Russia along the border with Ukraine has brought heavy NATO reinforcements to Poland and Rumania, and the Turks have closed the Bosporus to all Russian traffic. Note that none of those reinforcements are headed into Ukraine. Ukraine is not a member of NATO or the EU. We have no legal standing to contest Russia’s blatant land grab.

Maybe it’s just me. Perhaps I’m not privy to the Big Picture, and I’m not using the right type of political calculus. I concede the possibility, but I contend that Russia’s leadership isn’t using the right math, either.

Current status: Perplexed

Current music: I Want You To by Weezer