Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for March 10th, 2022

Trump thinks Putin is “smart.”

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Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2022 at 10:06 pm

Madison Cawthorn: “Zelensky is a thug” and “the Ukrainian government is incredibly evil”

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The Right in America is closely aligned with Vladimir Putin, as is evident from many comments made by Donald Trump, Madison Cawthorn, and others on the Right. Sarah Jones reports in New York:

To most people, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy is a figure to admire. The former comedian has become the face of a country under siege; his personal courage is emblematic of Ukrainians now resisting the Russian invasion. Yet Zelenskyy has his detractors, and they aren’t all named Vladimir Putin. One is North Carolina representative Madison Cawthorn. “Remember that Zelenskyy is a thug,” he said in a video obtained by WRAL, a local news station. “Remember that the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt and is incredibly evil and has been pushing woke ideologies.” Karl Rove — yes, him — first reported the remarks in a piece for The Wall Street Journal.

Cawthorn wasn’t directly quoting Putin, but he came close. Putin, too, has portrayed the Ukraine government as something akin to evil, saying that Ukraine is run by Nazis and that the “denazification” of the country is a goal of the invasion. (Never mind that Zelenskyy is Jewish.) But Cawthorn, who once visited Hitler’s vacation home and called the Nazi leader “the Führer” in an Instagram comment, probably has a different vision of wickedness in mind. He may share his point of view with Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, who recently blamed the invasion on Pride parades in Ukraine.

Whatever his reasoning, Cawthorn tried to walk back the remarks Thursday in a muddled tweet.

It’s not clear what Cawthorn means by “misinformation,” which is swiftly becoming a close-to-meaningless term. The tweet, however, falls far short of an apology or withdrawal of his characterization of Zelenskyy as a thug. Once again, Cawthorn has created a headache for the rest of his party.

But Cawthorn’s comments at least have the tinge of honesty. In the years since Donald Trump’s election, the average elected Republican has quite a bit of common ground with Putin, a right-wing leader with a penchant for authoritarianism and an antipathy for LGBTQ+ rights. The U.S. Christian right, to which Cawthorn belongs, has strong links to anti-gay conservative Christians in Russia. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine thus puts some conservatives in a difficult position, which people like Cawthorn have resolved by echoing Russian propaganda. On Thursday, Rod Dreher of The American Conservative wondered whether the Ukrainian military may have “baited” Russia into bombing a maternity hospital in Mariupol. . .

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Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2022 at 7:06 pm

Computer problem solved and lesson learned

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I recently had an odd problem. My computer would sound notifications at random intervals, sometimes a cluster of them, sometimes sporadic, and I could not find any app that was notifying me. I eventually exited all running apps, but I continued to hear the chime/beep of a notification from time to time, sometimes several together. 

I of course observed Roy’s Dictum (“Turn it off and then turn it back on”), but that didn’t help. I opened Systems Preferences > Notifications, and turned off sound notifications for every app. 

It still happened. The Wife came over, and I let her take the computer and try looking through it. No notifications, of course, though she had heard them when I was on the phone to hear and got a burst of them. 

We decided I’d just have to take it in for repair — not something I wanted to do. She gave the computer back to me, and I plugged the power cable back in — and immediately heard that distinctive chime/beep! It was the connected/disconnected sound! That was why I got the “notification” even when no apps were running: it was coming from the computer itself, not an app it was running.

I started paying attention to the battery indicator, which shows whether the computer is on battery power or running from wall current, and indeed the chime/beep accompanied a switch from batter to wall current or vice versa. 

So what I was experiencing was some intermittent (but all too frequent) fault in the power hook-up. There were, as I saw it, three possibilities:

1. Faulty cable
2. Faulty adapter
3. Faulty connection in the computer’s plug socket

A faulty cable seemed the most likely, and I recalled some problems I once had in transferring images from camera to computer stopped when I replaced the camera cable. So I ordered a new power cable, which arrived the next day.

I took the old cable out of the computer and adapter, unwound the new cable, somehow got it tangled with the old cable, untangled them, plugged in the cable — and no beeps after the initial “connected” beep. For about an hour. Then, suddenly, the connect/disconnect chime/beep. 

Drat. We took the computer to the store and I explained the problem and why I thought it was the cable, but then this new cable…  The Wife interrupted: “That’s the old cable!” She pointed to stains. 

Arrgh. But since we were there, the guy ran some diagnostics on the computer, which he said would test whether the computer’s power socket was okay. It was. And then he took a look at the (old) cable. He pointed out how it was bent somewhat sharply at the places where the cable entered the plug at either end (see photo).

What to watch out for.

He told me to be very cable not to let the cable bend at the points shown by the arrows in the photo. That sort of bend can readily happen if, for example, you wrap the power cable around the adapter without first unplugging the cable from the adapter. When you wrap the cable without unplugging it and wrap the cable reasonably tight, then the result is a sharp bend — almost a right angle — where the cable enters the plug. Eventually that sharp bend will damage the cable. 

Lesson learned: Keep the cable straight where it joins the plug. He also said that when unplugging the cable (from adapter or from computer), you grasp and pull the plug, not the cable.

I returned home, and I had indeed somehow mixed up the cables. The new cable was lying beside my chair. I hooked the computer to the power source, got one chime/beep for the connection, and nothing since. And I’m making damn sure to keep the cable straight at the plug.

Problem solved.

I write this so that others can learn from my experience.

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2022 at 6:26 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Denyse Thomasos, a stunning artist

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Denyse Thomasos, “Sparrow,” 2010
 acrylic on canvas, 60″ x 72″ (© courtesy the estate of Denyse Thomasos and Olga Korper Gallery, Toronto)

The Wife and I just saw a stunning exhibition of paintings by Denyse Thomasos. Some are large, others medium sized, some small. The one above is, you’ll note 5 feet by  feet. Two in the exhibit were enormous — perhaps 6′ x 10′. Click the image to enlarge it, and perhaps click the enlarged image to enlarge it further.

The paintings are intricate and textured, and in person the colors are absorbing and evocative. The lines suggest perspective and depth, and also suggests objects and perhaps structures, but viewing them is a dream-like experience in that what you think you see shifts and changes from one minute to the next. 

I loved it. Portia Priegert, the editor of Galleries West and based in Victoria on the traditional territory of the Lekwungen-speaking peoples, has an excellent write-up of the exhibit we saw, which runs through Sunday. She writes:

Several mesmerizing paintings by the late Denyse Thomasos, a Trinidadian-born artist who grew up in Toronto, bear the names of birds. It’s an emotive gesture, calling to mind diasporic transience and migration – forced transport across the Atlantic, fuelled by the hateful ideologies of slavery, as well as more recent journeys across the Mediterranean by Africans seeking refuge from desperate conditions at home. 

Other avian metaphors can be found in Thomasos’s stunning solo show, Odyssey, on view at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria until March 13. Essentially, her paintings reflect aspects of the built environment, evoking shifting permutations of boats, coffins and prisons, as well as any number of dwelling spaces, ranging from apartment buildings to shanty-town huts. Occupying an ambivalent space between abstraction and representation, these elaborate and layered constructions can resemble floating islands approached from above – a bird’s-eye view. 

Sparrow, for instance, painted two years before the artist’s death in 2012 at age 47 from an allergic reaction during a diagnostic medical procedure, feels aqueous. It offers a

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Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2022 at 5:46 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life

The American Pundits Who Can’t Resist “Westsplaining” Ukraine

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Jan Smoleński and Jan Dutkiewicz write in the New Republic:

War is hell for anyone in it. And it’s a predictable but regrettable call to arms for people with opinions who aren’t. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, as the fighting on the ground has escalated, so has the volley of opinions about the war. And for Eastern European scholars like us, it’s galling to watch the unending stream of Western scholars and pundits condescend to explain the situation in Ukraine and Eastern Europe, often in ways that either ignore voices from the region, treating it as an object rather than a subject of history, or claiming to perfectly understand Russian logic and motives. Eastern European online circles have started using a new term to describe this phenomenon of people from the Anglosphere loudly foisting their analytical schema and political prescriptions onto the region: westsplaining. And the problem with westsplaining is illustrated particularly well when pundits westsplain the role of the eastward expansion of NATO in triggering Russia’s attack.

Eastern Europe is maddeningly complex. It doesn’t even have a clear definition: Spanning from the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania down (depending on whom you ask) through Poland, Belarus, Slovakia, Czechia, and Hungary, then east to encompass Moldova, and south to Romania and Bulgaria, and perhaps taking in other countries, the region has little to give it cohesion. It’s not unified culturally, religiously, linguistically, racially, politically, or even geographically (Greece and Finland are further east but never get included in the category, Georgia is discontiguous from the others and yet is often counted, and Ukraine’s conceptual membership and very existence are at stake in the current conflict).

If anything unites the region, it is its historically unfortunate location as the plaything of empires, its borders and definitions made and remade over the centuries, most recently through its emergence from the collapse of the USSR. The defining geopolitical feature of the region is that it is defined from the outside. As the Polish linguist Piotr Twardzisz puts it, “There is relatively little of Eastern Europe in Eastern Europe itself. There is more of it in Western Europe, or in the West, generally.”

In the past week, westsplainers on American televisions and in American opinion pages have suggested that NATO, by allowing in Eastern European countries as members, has driven Putin to lash out like a cornered animal. The story goes more or less like this: After the breakup of the Soviet Union, NATO promised Russia it would not expand. But in 1997 it nonetheless expanded. In 2007, ignoring Russian complaints, it opened the way for expansion into Georgia and Ukraine. Russia was forced to react, hence its invasion and occupation of Georgia that year. Later, when the U.S.-sponsored protests deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych for abandoning the country’s pro-Western course, Putin again reacted, this time invading and occupying Donbass and Crimea in 2014. And now he is trying to take over Ukraine to head off American influence in the region.

This story isn’t surprising, coming from so-called realist international relations scholars intellectually forged during the Cold War. The University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer, for instance, recently claimed in The New Yorker that NATO’s expansion was perceived as a security threat, eliciting a lethal response. To Mearsheimer’s credit, he admits that great powers are predators ensuring that their smaller neighbors are not free to pursue policies of their own choice. But on this reading, it is NATO’s fault, driven primarily by America’s interest in expanding its sphere of influence, that Russia has lashed out, seeking to protect its own sphere of influence. This isn’t a novel view: It’s the position Putin himself laid out in a speech to the Munich Security Conference in 2007.

The prescriptive implications of this position are clear: NATO should cease its efforts to woo countries like Ukraine, and countries like Ukraine should give up any aspirations of becoming members of NATO or potentially the European Union if they want to survive as states. In other words, Eastern European countries should recognize their status as second-class citizens in the community of states and accept their geopolitical role as neutral buffers at the edges of the vestiges of the American and Russian empires.

In recent weeks, this argument has caught on across the political spectrum. It has made bedfellows of Ted Galen Carpenter of the libertarian Cato Institute and the seminal German leftist intellectual Wolfgang Streeck, who wrote that “the war over Ukraine” exploded out of the “uncompromising brinkmanship on the part of both the U.S. and Russia.” (War over Ukraine? Given that the only combatants on the ground are Russian invaders and Ukrainian defenders, the implication that this is a battle between the U.S. and Russia over influence is ridiculous.) It has united the economist Jeffrey Sachs, apparently cured of his intoxication with neoliberalism but not from telling Eastern Europeans what to do, and Greek anti-neoliberal politician Yannis Varoufakis. Fox News’s Tucker Carlson and progressive economist Mariana Mazzucatto both likened the situation to China convincing Mexico to join an anti-American security alliance. The Guardian’s populist columnist Owen Jones suggested that the war could have been avoided had there “been an attempt to craft a neutral buffer zone after the Cold War.” (The tweet in question has since been deleted, and Jones apologized for ignoring the rights of the people living in said zone and “sounding like an imperialist playing Risk with the people of Europe.”) The implication is also there in a tone-deaf statement released by the Democratic Socialists of America that called for an end to the war but blamed “imperialist expansionism” for leading to it.

Leftists in particular may think, when criticizing NATO expansion, that they are correcting their own or fellow citizens’ biases as citizens of an imperial power that has often acted in bad faith. They may think they are adequately acknowledging this fraught legacy by focusing their critique on what they perceive to be Western expansionism. But they in fact perpetuate imperial wrongs when they continue to deny non-Western countries and their citizens agency in geopolitics. Paradoxically, the problem with American exceptionalism is that even those who challenge its foundational tenets and heap scorn on American militarism often end up recreating American exceptionalism by centering the United States in their analyses of international relations. It is, in Gregory Afinogenov’s words, a “form of provincialism that sees only the United States and its allies as primary actors.” Speaking about Eastern Europe and Eastern Europeans without listening to local voices or trying to understand the region’s complexity is a colonial projection. Here the issue of NATO is particularly telling.

There is, of course, plenty to criticize about NATO and American foreign policy, not least the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. As The New Yorker’s Masha Gessen points out, this has been used by Putin to justify his expansionism. But by focusing almost exclusively on the wrongs of NATO, critics ignore the broader question of Eastern European states’ right to self-determination, including the right to join military alliances. Westsplaining ignores Eastern European history and the perspective of the Eastern Europeans, and it selectively omits facts on the ground about NATO expansion.

As much as U.S. militarism and imperialism should be criticized, it has to be acknowledged that in Eastern Europe it is not the U.S. or NATO who have been an existential threat. In the twentieth century the formative experience for the countries of the region was direct and indirect Soviet control. States like . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2022 at 11:31 am

Interesting side-effect of the return of earmarks: Political performance artists (Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Madison Cawthorn, et al.) will actually have to do some legislative work.

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Jason Linkins writes in The New Republic:

The Republican Party’s retreat from meaningful policymaking in recent years hasn’t just ensured that robust and productive debates over governance and ideas have faded from the scene. The vacuum produced by the lack of substantive activity has created opportunities for a new breed of troll lawmaker to fill it with a never-ending display of “own the libs” spectacles. The newly minted members of Congress from the MAGA-QAnon set—Madison CawthornMarjorie Taylor Greene, and Lauren Boebert—have been this movement’s leading lights, and they barely pretend that they have a legitimate role to play as lawmakers. As Defector’s David Roth said of Boebert, who melted down after being asked to comply with a bag check by Capitol Hill security, “This is what she understands the job to be. She’s not there to sit in subcommittee meetings, she’s there to do this shit every day, and also to post.”

In recent weeks, the flamboyant trollery of this gang of extremists reached a new apogee, when Greene and her colleague Paul Gosar attended the America First Political Action Conference, or AFPAC—essentially a white nationalist confab thrown together by Nick Fuentes, who summarized his own politics like so: “All I want is a total Aryan victory. All I want is revenge … I’m just like Hitler.” Greene and Gosar may have brought embarrassment on their party, but Republican leadership struggled to mete out any type of strong punishment.

But there’s some good news on that front: Congress is currently eyeing the passage of a $1.5 trillion omnibus spending package to fund the government. According to Politico’s Jennifer Scholtes and Connor O’Brien, the bill will grow domestic spending by $730 billion, while kicking yet another pile of cash ($782 billion) to the Pentagon. But the most interesting part of the bill isn’t the top lines: It’s the fact that the measure would bring back earmarks “for the first time since Congress banned the practice more than a decade ago.” And that’s very bad news for Boebert, Greene, and the like.

I know that sounds strange: How will bringing earmarks help tamp down these wild and untamed MAGA members of Congress? Well, earmarks will help responsible congresspersons draw a stark contrast with their idiotic colleagues. The primary purpose of a member of Congress is to allocate and spend taxpayer money. Thanks to the formal ban on earmarks, they’ve been doing it with one hand tied behind their back. Moreover, the lack of earmarks has allowed Greene and Boebert to luck into a situation where they can thrive in Congress doing little more than occasional headline-grabbing stunts. But if Congress reverts to its former, earmark-happy self, touching off a hunt for money and perks to bring back home to constituents, then that will require a different skill set for members to succeed—one that I do not believe members like Greene currently possess.

In the interests of full disclosure, . . .

Continue reading. There’s quite a bit more, and it’s interesting.

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2022 at 11:13 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government, Law

A French shave except for the excellent Old Type

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My tub of vintage Lenthéric continues to present an excellent fragrance and luxurious lather, this morning by virtue of my Plisson synthetic.

The RazoRock Old Type is an excellent razor — I would even say “surprisingly excellent,” because given its price, I did not expect such a comfortable and efficient shave. But there it is, and I rank it among my favorites. The handle on mine, which I like a lot, is no longer available, but at the link you have a choice of handles.

Three passes to perfection, and then a splash of Guerlain’s Vetiver EDT, augmented with a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel to bring it into an aftershave aspect. 

What a great start to the day, amplified and modulated by this mug of Murchie’s CBC Radio Blend I’m enjoying as I write: “A blend of choice Ceylon and China black teas, Jasmine and other green teas with a touch of citrus. Blended in 1996 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.”

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2022 at 9:19 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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