Wednesday, August 31st, 2022


Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

It's beyond ironic that the man most responsible for the breaking up of the Soviet Union died at the very moment one of his successors is doing everything he can to piece it back together. Mikhail Gorbachev helped usher in a new world and, in some ways, helped usher in Vladamir Putin's political traits, the wrath of which is currently being felt throughout the world. Gorbachev, "who set out to revitalize the Soviet Union but ended up unleashing forces that led to the collapse of communism, the breakup of the state and the end of the Cold War, died Tuesday. The last Soviet leader was 91."

+ "The fall of the Berlin Wall had happened by accident, after all; it was not something Gorbachev had ever planned. He had not set out to break up the Soviet Union, to end its tyranny, or to promote freedom. He presided over the end of a cruel and bloody empire, but without intending to do so. Almost nobody in history has ever had such a profound impact on his era, while at the same time understanding so little about it." Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic: Gorbachev Never Realized What He Set in Motion.

+ "Even at his worst moments, he exuded warmth and sparkled with optimism and humor. A passionate political animal, he refused to cling to power for power's sake. Such qualities gave Gorbachev the determination to push forward with the policies of perestroika and glasnost ... His place in Russian history, however, is more complex—and still to be determined. Russian nationalists and stalwarts of the old order generally view him as a dupe or a traitor, in large part because he oversaw the collapse of the Soviet Union. Other Russians and members of the former Soviet bloc praise him as a farsighted liberator who tried to free them from the yoke of corrupt totalitarianism. For his part, Gorbachev, who suffered from the sort of cheerful vanity that led him to speak of himself in the third person, told biographer William Taubman that 'Gorbachev is hard to understand.'" FP: Gorbachev's Disputed Legacy. One part of his legacy that can't be disputed is his early and aggressive focus on issues related to climate change and the environment. And, of course, there was the Pizza Hut commercial.


A Goalie Moves Forward

"One day in August, Fati was working inside the women's soccer department of the Afghanistan Football Federation when an employee from the president's office burst in, shouting that the Taliban were closing in on Kabul. Gather every document they could find, he said, and put the paperwork in a pile. They needed to destroy anything the Taliban could use to target female athletes. 'Hurry!' the man said. 'We're going to burn everything.'" An amazingly detailed piece of reporting from Juliet Macur in the NYT (Gift Article): The Keeper: How an Afghan soccer player and her teammates fled their homes, outran a murderous regime and forged the uncertain beginnings of a new life.


Carpet Burn

"In a late-night filing this week, prosecutors blasted what they called 'wide ranging meritless accusations leveled against the government.' And then, in 36 pages, they proceeded to set the record straight on the unprecedented search of the home of a former president." The question is whether, in today's America, the record can ever actually be set straight. After all, we can't all seem to agree that Trump tried to overturn an election, fueled the Jan 6 insurrection, and did nothing to stop the violence — and we all saw that crime play out in front our eyes. In filings, Justice Department rebuts Trump's claims on Mar-a-Lago search.
NYT: Documents at Mar-a-Lago Were Moved and Hidden as U.S. Sought Them. (We may never see Trump indicted, but the lawyers and other staff who moved these docs will be. And they will be thrown under the Mar a Lago shuttle bus before they can yell, "Fore!")

+ Some documents retrieved from Mar-a-Lago were so sensitive that FBI agents needed a special clearance to look at them. (A special clearance should be required before looking at that carpet.)


Intra Venus

"Venus Williams walked onto the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium wearing an emerald green tennis set Tuesday, no cape. It sure didn't look like there were diamonds encrusting her shoes. Gayle King was nowhere near the post-match interview ... But throwing a little ceremony Venus's way is necessary as her sister's legacy is analyzed in the coming days because of one thing: No retrospective on Serena's career is complete without her." I've seen so many tributes to Serena, all well deserved, but I'm glad someone is finally focusing on her big sister. She lit the spark that helped Serena blaze the historic trail. WaPo (Gift Article): Without big sister Venus, the Serena Williams story could never be told. The media is overhyping Serena's chances to get far into the singles draw. But Venus and Serena in the doubles could be fun.


Extra, Extra

Shot in the Dark? "The updated shots, retooled to target the BA.5 strain that accounts for most cases in the U.S. today, are expected to become available after Labor Day." The FDA has authorized the Omicron boosters. "The reformulated mRNA shots got regulators' blessing without first being tested in humans."

+ Inaction Jackson: "The city of Jackson, even when we're not under a boil water notice, even when we're not contending, at that present moment, with low pressure, we are in a constant state of emergency." Families are bearing the brunt of Jackson's latest water crisis. "Recent flooding strained the city's largest water treatment plant, O.B. Curtis, which was already dogged with problems. Plus, there was another issue with water pumps at a secondary treatment facility known as J.H. Fewell. As a result, many of the city's water towers remain nearly empty, leaving the system without enough water or water pressure to fill pipes in homes, schools, and businesses." A crisis that's left thousands of residents with no running water was decades in the making.

+ Lost in the Flood: The scenes out of Pakistan are really remarkable. Photos: A third of Pakistan is under water in catastrophic floods.

+ Rolling in Dough: "'As far as NIL goes in the locker room, you see stuff, but no one ever talks about it,' Oklahoma wide receiver Marvin Mims admitted. 'It's never like, a competition, like, ‘Oh, I got this much more money than you did. I've got this deal. You couldn't get this deal.' 'But you do notice the NIL deals that other guys are getting.'" You notice it less in the locker room and more in the parking lot. New rules make star college football players millionaires.

+ Cocaine and Crack: "U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers discovered more than 1,500 pounds of cocaine hidden in a place where you would least expect it: a shipment of baby wipes." The last thing that needs any additional stimulation is a baby's bottom...


Bottom of the News

"Thanks to Winnie the Pooh becoming a public domain work in the United States, we now have Blood and Honey. And it's definitely not for kids." I never trusted Eeyore.

+ Yesterday, we tried Highway Marinara. Today, it's Freeway Alfredo. At this point, I'd recommend not driving behind any trucks carrying basil.