September 10, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 PM


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Team Putin Admits Their Worst Case Scenario Is Coming True (Julia Davis, Sep. 9th, 2022, Daily Beast)

In the beginning of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin's top propagandists predicted a swift victory and derided the Ukrainian military as an unwilling bunch of incompetents. As the war dragged on, they continued to claim that Volodymyr Zelensky's government was about to fall. Faced with Ukraine's mounting counteroffensive, which is rapidly achieving impressive gains, Russian propagandists are now describing an enormous horde, armed with the best Western weaponry and swimming in foreign specialists.

With state TV studios full of doom and gloom, prominent pundits and experts seem to be preparing Russian audiences for future losses of occupied Ukrainian lands, which are being painstakingly reclaimed by the Ukrainian military. During Wednesday's broadcast of the state TV show 60 Minutes, host Evgeny Popov said: "We wish courage to our warriors, who are indeed doing very important work, they are resisting an enormous horde that has been trained in the West."

Evgeny Buzhinsky, a retired Lieutenant-General of the Russian Armed Forces, claimed that the Ukrainian military is overflowing with American participants: "There are not only advisers, but specialists. I think that there are thousands of American advisers and specialists on the ground in Ukraine, they're probably present in every unit."

During his Wednesday's radio show, Full Contact, top Kremlin propagandist Vladimir Solovyov--with a noticeably bruised face--surmised: "I'm worried. Naturally, we want for our guys to crush [the other side] and only to advance, but life doesn't work that way." Solovyov refused to address the source of his injuries, but in light of Ukrainian military gains, his bruised ego was likewise on full display.

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Leading the female film revolution: Pam Grier in London (Dr. Tim Sandle, September 10, 2022, Digital Journal)

Such was 73 year-old Grier's enthusiasm and prolonged answers, the forty minute session did not allow for too many questions, but Grier filled the time with an array of anecdotes.

These anecdotes covered her life growing up in relative poverty in a rural community to her attending film school in L.A. Grier as also briefly involved with the music scene, providing backing vocals for Bobby Womack and Sly Stone. She was spotted by horror-centric B-movie director Roger Corman, which provided an entry route into movies. This led to her taking the leading role in half-a-dozen 1970s films.

Pam Grier proved to be a witty, sharp, and amusing. She was also well aware of the interconnection between her work and changing societal norms and values. Not only did she help push actors of colour more into the mainstream she also advanced women in film, especially with the provision of leading roles for women in action orientated movies.

Many of Grier's 1970s works are associated with the 'blaxploitation' genera of movies. These movies, generally profitable and able to extend to a diverse audience, have equally been criticised of perpetuating stereotypical characters for certain sections of the community who often involved in criminal activity.

Grier acknowledges this but also the cultural significance of bringing black actors into the mainstream and with tilting the gender disbalance over certain roles.

In many of these films, the female role would simply be a scene setter for the male Grier's films, she is the lead and one that takes a proactive role. In the film that was shown at the BFI, 1974's Foxy Brown, Grier takes on a bests a criminal gang of largely white men. This movie is representative of Grier's '70s output, where her character displays a cunning ability to exact retribution on men who challenge her.

The iconic status of the role is apparent in the fact that Quentin Tarantino renamed the character of Jackie Burke from 'Rum Punch' to 'Jackie Brown', in his movie of the same name, as an homage to Foxy Brown.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 PM


Artificial Intelligence Could Be a Great Equalizer: The benefits of AI will accrue not only to the wealthy and technologists but also to the poor and disadvantaged (Tyler Cowen, September 9, 2022, Bloomberg)

But the benefits of AI do not accrue only to those in the technology sector. AI makes many goods and services cheaper, and that in turn benefits the poor and disadvantaged. If software routes packages and shipments more efficiently, then transportation costs will be lower. If software and AI programs help economize on the use of electricity, then it will be easier to mitigate climate change. As computational biology improves health care, the sick will benefit.

The people who least need AI are the super-rich. They already can hire armies of servants to manage their obligations, schedules, and so on. They do not need to economize on the use of human labor. The rest of us do, whether directly or indirectly through the businesses we patronize.

Another benefit for lower-income groups is that current manifestations of AI do not usually displace the jobs of the poor. Many poor individuals hold jobs in the service sector or perform manual labor. Those tasks are either hard to automate (a robot gardener?) or, because wages are low, less profitable to automate.

Posted by orrinj at 12:53 PM


Moscow Municipal Lawmakers Demand Putin's Resignation (Radio Liberty, 9/10/22)

Municipal deputies in the Moscow district of Lomonosovsky have appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to resign, saying "everything went wrong" since the start of his second term and they believe a change of power is necessary for the sake of the country.

The deputies posted their protocol decision on the Lomonosovsky district's website, including a 30-minute video of their meeting on September 8.

In their appeal, the deputies emphasize that the aggressive rhetoric of Putin and his subordinates has thrown Russia back into the Cold War era. They disputed economic data showing a doubling of the country's GDP and said the minimum wage did not increase to the level declared by the government.

They also said smart and hard-working people have left Russia en masse, and there is no trace of the promised stability.

Addressing Putin directly, they said: "Your views, your management model are hopelessly outdated and impede the development of Russia and its human potential."

Posted by orrinj at 9:51 AM


Kyiv claims 'astonishing' advances in east Ukraine (AFP, September 10, 2022)

Kyiv said Saturday its forces were making lightning gains in the east of the country in a shock counter-offensive to recapture territory that fell to Russia shortly after Moscow's February invasion.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock meanwhile arrived in the Ukrainian capital for a surprise visit, which she said was to demonstrate Berlin's support for Ukraine in its battle against Russia.

"Ukrainian troops are advancing in eastern Ukraine, liberating more cities and villages. Their courage coupled with Western military support brings astonishing results," foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said in a statement on social media. 

"It's crucial to keep sending arms to Ukraine. Defeating Russia on the battlefield means winning peace in Ukraine," he added.

Posted by orrinj at 9:39 AM


Advocates make push for Montreal-to-Boston passenger rail (David Sharp, 9/09/22, Associated Press)

Rail advocates are dusting off a proposal for passenger train service between Montreal and Boston, riding a renewed interest in train travel to bolster a concept that has been around for more than a decade.

"It's not a hard sell at all. A lot of people want this," said Francois Rebello, a former national assembly member in Quebec and a consultant on the project.

Hundreds of travelers would ride a privately operated, overnight train each day if obstacles can be overcome to make the service a reality in coming years, according to a ridership study.

It wouldn't be a high-speed affair. Promoters envision a different experience -- a relaxed ride with a meal and sleep before arriving bright-eyed at the destination. The 14-hour ride would travel through Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Quebec.

The proposal comes against a backdrop of a rail revival, and more than $100 billion in railway infrastructure funding approved by Congress.

Posted by orrinj at 9:03 AM


An Icon, Not An IdolThe genius of a monarchy embedded in a democracy. (Andrew Sullivan, 9/09/22, Weekly Dish)

You can make all sorts of solid arguments against a constitutional monarchy -- but the point of monarchy is precisely that it is not the fruit of an argument. It is emphatically not an Enlightenment institution. It's a primordial institution smuggled into a democratic system. It has nothing to do with merit and logic and everything to do with authority and mystery -- two deeply human needs our modern world has trouble satisfying without danger.

The Crown satisfies those needs, which keeps other more malign alternatives at bay. No one has expressed this better than C.S. Lewis:

Where men are forbidden to honor a king, they honor millionaires, athletes, or film stars instead; even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.

The Crown represents something from the ancient past, a logically indefensible but emotionally salient symbol of something called a nation, something that gives its members meaning and happiness. However s[****]y the economy, or awful the prime minister, or ugly the discourse, the monarch is able to represent the nation all the time. In a living, breathing, mortal person.

The importance of this in a deeply polarized and ideological world, where fellow citizens have come to despise their opponents as enemies, is hard to measure. But it matters that divisive figures such as Boris Johnson or Margaret Thatcher were never required or expected to represent the entire nation. It matters that in times of profound acrimony, something unites. It matters that in a pandemic when the country was shut down, the Queen too followed the rules, even at her husband's funeral, and was able to refer to a phrase -- "we'll meet again" -- that instantly reconjured the days of the Blitz, when she and the royal family stayed in London even as Hitler's bombs fell from the sky.

Every Brit has a memory like this. She was part of every family's consciousness, woven into the stories of our lives, representing a continuity and stability over decades of massive change and dislocation. No American will ever experience that kind of comfort, that very human form of patriotism across the decades in one's own life and then the centuries before. When I grew up studying the Normans and the Plantagenets and the Tudors, they were not just artifacts of the distant past, but deeply linked to the present by the monarchy's persistence and the nation's thousand-year survival as a sovereign state -- something no other European country can claim.

The Queen was crowned in the cathedral where kings and queens have been crowned for centuries, in the same ceremony, with the same liturgy. To have that kind of symbolic, sacred, mystical thread through time and space is something that is simply a gift from the past that the British people, in their collective wisdom, have refused to return.

Long live the King.

Had George simply given us our own Parliament we'd not be so bereft.