2016

 

Please? Image from Melencholia

 

So, it turns out that billionaire libertarian Trump-supporting James O’Keefe-loving prick Peter Thiel was bankrolling the Hulk Hogan-Gawker trial, in which Hogan was taped during what he thought was a private conversation saying terrible racist things (while having sex with his best friend’s wife). Thiel is using his money to destroy a media company that he doesn’t like, because the media company, who thinks that anything involving a famous person is news, outed him in 2007.

Hogan’s “best friend”, by the way, is “Tampa-area radio shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem”, who you know is just the worst.

This is one of those cases where you have a sliver of sympathy for everyone (except Bubba the Love Sponge), but they are also all reprehensible, and you pretty much just wish the sun would explode.

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A New Blog You Should Read

In a life well and luckily-lived, you get to meet a lot of people who mean incredible things to you. But even in those lives, there are a few who stand out, about whom you consider it a great and good fortune to have intersected with them. There are so many roads and paths, dim alleys and twisted warrens, that every life finds itself plunging down, so when you actually come across someone who changes your life, it’s astonishing.

One of those rare people in my life is Nadja Halilbegovich, and meeting her was lucky in more ways than usual: Nadja is a child of war, trapped in Sarajevo during the monstrous siege, escaping in a fraught journey that ended in America, educated at Butler (go Bulldogs!) and who now spends her life talking to people about the experience of children bombarded by war, whose lives are ripped from them, sometimes physically, but always emotionally, by horrors they can’t comprehend for reasons that never make any sense. Her book, My Childhood Under Fire, is a searing diary of pain, fear, and hope, written as a child who has seen more than most of us ever will.

Nadja’s message of peace, forgiveness, and most importantly, of the strength to live a life full of joy and laughter and chocolate, even while still bearing the scars of war, and the trauma of remembrance, have inspired people around the globe. I don’t know many people with the spirit and the courage and the sly sense of humor and curiosity and intelligence and kindness and intensity of feeling as Nadja, and am honored to call her my friend.

Anyway, she’s blogging now. The message and the lessons she has are sadly always relevant, in all corners of the globe. You should read it.

The New Northwest Passage: On Human Ingenuity

Foreign Policy has an interesting article this week about how the US, short of ice-breakers, is falling behind the “Arctic Game” by not having enough giant-icebreakers, like the nuclear-powered ones Russia has or Finland’s LNG-driven vessels. These are gigantic ships, costing over a billion dollars, and taking almost a decade to build. It’s a story of bureaucracy and priorities, as the Obama administration has slowly pushed for more funding, with limited bipartisan support. It seems America is catching up to its duties, as one of the “Arctic nations.”

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A Russian nuclear-powered ice-breaker, seen here devouring the planet. Image from Wikimedia Commons

It’s sort of a strange thing to think about; that residents of Florida or Arizona can consider themselves part of an Arctic nation, but thanks to the ability of great powers to buy and sell land like one does trinkets, America is one. And more than that, as a great power, we’re honor-bound to explore the Arctic, making it safe for oil and gas producers, as well as our navy, not to mention tourist ships. After all, “(T)his summer, for the first time, a cruise ship will sail from Anchorage, Alaska, to New York City, through the Northwest Passage.”

Think about that, and the whole insane scope of the last 500 years comes into focus. The rise of great, globe-stamping powers, the population clash and transfer between Europe and the Americas, the rise of industry and the way it changed the environment, initially imperceptible on a human level, but then suddenly very quickly.

The whole “discovery” of the Americas was an attempt to find a sea passage to the Asian markets. John Cabot probably was the first person (or at least the first famous person; his four-ship crew might argue on “firsties) to die looking for the Northwest Passage. In doing so, though, he claimed much of the northern part of the Canada for England, which eventually set off the fierce wars between England and France, that also pulled in Spain and the Dutch. These wars, particularly the Seven Years War, sparked by inter-tribal rivalry between the Annishabeeg and Iroquois, helped create the crucible in which the United States was formed, and was later able to buy Alaska from Russia, as if the concept of owning land that people lived in was an inarguable right. These wars helped, as wars always do, spur the industrial advances that changed a planet.

And so, here we are, not too long in the scope of things since John Cabot- who was actually Giovanni Cabato, but in his famous voyage he sailed for the King of England, so we can’t be having any excess vowels, by god- possibly died looking for the Northwest Passage. All it took was pumping poison into the air and sea. All it will take to exploit this discovery is billions of dollars and enormous ships, powered by nuclear energy, so that we can dig up more oil and gas. Cabot was just a little early, was all. We’ve finally achieved the dream.