Sunday, December 27, 2015

Bad Vlad, Julio Jones, and the trouble with getting the NYT in the colonies

The Panther's undefeated streak came to an end today. I'm not much of a NFL fan, but I had to sit down and catch this game. Wasn't that Julio Jones snag a beauty? Two guys all over him and he just pulls that ball out of the air and skedaddles into the end zone!

It's moments like that that make the NFL worth every penny!

Because there were no other winning streaks on the line, that was the end of my sports fandom for the day, and I found myself watching that PBS offering, Great Houses. Host Julian Fellowes took us through a bit of the history of Goodwood today; the ancient history, not the history of the race course.

What I find fascinating is the extreme wealth that these grand estates must have consumed in upkeep. Most of the aristocratic dynasties have long since sold off all or part of their holdings in order to finance what's left. Goodwood has been fortunate in that events like the Festival of Speed have allowed the owners to bring in the cash to keep up the place in the modern era.

And who can afford that kind of opulence today? It's a small club no doubt. The million a month folks. CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. The elite of the entertainment world. Hedge fund managers - at least the upper echelon. Sports stars. The guy who snagged that pass in Atlanta this afternoon is in the club, at least till his knees give out and he succumbs to an early demise after one too many concussions.

But Sunday isn't just about the NFL and idling your life away in front of the TV. No, Sunday is also the day that the munificent brain trust that runs the Toronto Star treat the peons to their weekly dose of high-falutin' news and opinion from the centre of the universe. Actually, it's probably more of a marketing committee than a brain trust, but whatever...

Yes, on Sunday us hicks in the sticks get our New York Times supplement!

Today my eye was drawn to a story titled No More Questions About NATO by Steven Erlanger, which is actually this story which I read online two weeks ago. There is in fact a corner store in town that has yesterday's New York Times for sale today, which isn't bad, but it's like $6.50, so I'm happy enough to just read today's NYT today on their website for free.

Erlanger is one of the regular Putin experts that the Times employs to provide the mandatory Putin-bashing materiel for each and every issue. As we all know, Putin's quest for world domination is more than a well-trod trope; it's a true fact. How do we know? The NYT tells us every day. There's always some expert with an axe to grind who is willing to offer up the straight skinny on what Bad Vlad is up to. If it's not Mikhail Khodorkovsky, it's Masha Gessen. If it's not Gessen, it's those bold brazen bitches of Pussy Riot.

On this occasion it's NATO. As the title tells us, NATO, after fumbling in Libya and bumbling in Afghanistan, has finally found the mojo that seemed to go missing with the collapse of the USSR. And what is NATO's newfound reason d'ete? 

Why, stopping Bad Vlad in his tracks, that's what!

And it's working! According to Erlanger, it's working so well there is "anger in Moscow." Not only that, but "annoyance" too! Yup, they pretty much have Putin on the run!

What's gonna finish him off is this business of inviting Montenegro into NATO! Wheehaaa!!! What a master stroke of provocation! There's some mid-level think-tankers in the Beltway gonna rise to the upper ranks on the strength of that one!

What Erlanger forgets to mention is that Montenegro is a politically unstable tinderbox. The populace, such as it is, has been protesting in the streets to get their corrupt president-for-life out of office. News of the NATO gambit just doubled the numbers in the streets! No serious person imagines that the NATO invite is taken seriously either in Brussels or in Podgorica, but it makes for great propaganda! 

Erlanger does not flinch from mentioning the other ogre of our era, Islamic State. That's got to be the most over-hyped threat I've ever seen. Western victims of IS are barely in the hundreds. Not hundreds of thousands, but hundreds. And this is the greatest threat to our civilization?

Get outta here!

Get some perspective. In 1815 the Battle of Waterloo took 50,000 lives. In one day. At a time when the population of this planet was perhaps a billion, and the population of Europe less than one quarter of that. And it was a family affair; European on European. 

That was a threat to Western civilization. What I read in my "International New York Times Weekly" today is just bullshit.

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