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Monday, 28 February 2022


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For every Putin in the world there should be a Charlotte Corday.

Yup. Peace. Seems a dream that is unattainable. Problem solving for the greater good of humanity. If only we had governments and leaders around the world interested. I really do not see it anywhere. The vitriolic discourse that is infused in all forms of media lead to a distraction and division from the big picture. Perhaps exactly what is intended.

"A Prayer for Volodymyr Zelensky"

I’ve seen a few of these,- Playing for Change. This was delightful. Made my morning. That was a gift Mike, thank you very much!

[I'm only the messenger obviously! But I'm glad you liked it. --Mike]

Thanks very much for this.

Well said that man !

That was pretty... remarkable!

There are countless relevant lessons in the fall of the Roman Republic (and the later empire) for current peoples. The down-side of government by an exclusive club like land owners for one thing. Socio-economic death spirals, for another. The Roman upper-crust basically caused the Empire's collapse, by pulling political strings to exempt their own estates from taxation. Which made them more prosperous, permitting them to buy out their tax-burdened neighbors, exempting more land from taxation and further increasing the burden on the shrinking pool of taxed citizens until it all collapsed.
My favorite contrarian view is that the Fall of Rome warranted celebration rather than regret. Rome was a brutal militaristic empire that ran on slave labor, extortion of tribute and mercenaries to benefit a shrinking minority of well-connected 'citizens'. Rome's claim to be defending 'civilization' doesn't really bear critical scrutiny.

Thank you for this, Mike. At the moment all voices of sanity and humanism are to be cherished.

". . . all modern Westerners should be schooled in the fall of the Roman Republic."

Any recommendations for remedial self-schooling?

Had to share with TOP this photo of Ukrainian fighters recreating a history painting well-known in Ukraine and Russia. I'm pretty sure that's a Super Graphic press camera on a tripod at lower right.

The story of the painting and the text of the letter can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reply_of_the_Zaporozhian_Cossacks

"Letter to Czar Putin"

Ukrainian troops recreate the famous Repin painting "Zaporizhian Cossacks reply to the Sultan of Turkey" pic.twitter.com/KsOueQddg6

— Business Ukraine mag (@Biz_Ukraine_Mag) February 28, 2022

Nuclear threats? I still remember "Duck & Cover" drills in grade school. Still remember how to do it - but am grown up and won't fit under a school desktop these days.
Nothing is new, just a different time set on "rinse and repeat".


At age 67 one of my earliest political memories is the Cuban missile crisis and ever since the looming threat of the Soviet Union/Russia has been present. I had hopes that nation would come around and join the 21st century but hopes are just that. When one becomes president for life with rigged elections, poisoned and imprisoned political opponents and lies about non invasion all chance of true development and independence of a people are crushed. I feel for the Russian people as this is not the 60’s dark age Soviet era anymore except in the eyes of a few irrational Luddites who hold the ball in their court while hiding behind the blood of someone else’s children.. So sad.

"getting under their desks to take cover from a nuclear attack" Many years ago, a very knowledgeable physics professor of mine told us that in the event of a nuclear war, he hoped to be at ground zero. And he wasn't particularly suicidal in other respects. Let's hope that sane heads prevail and that the nukes stay at home in their nice cozy bunkers and missile silos.

Until recently, I thought I was born in the post-war period. It turns out I was actually born in the inter-war period.

The idea is not original; I can't credit which of the many good thinkers I've been reading lately said that. But it stuck with me.

Mike wrote, "*One of my unpedigreed theories, of which you know I have many, is that all modern Westerners should be schooled in the fall of the Roman Republic."

I was subject to "History" and "Social Studies" lessons throughout my K-12 schooling. I remember it as mostly memorizing the names and accomplishments of the Europeans who "discovered" the New World. Every year. Over and over.

I dreaded the required two college semesters of History but ... then ... I learned HISTORY! It was taught as a story with overlapping and intermingled and interrelated characters, events and discoveries. As my friend George once said, "I hated history in school. And now I stay up all night watching the History Channel."

A great post of yours, put tears to my eyes.

Mr Johnston, you forgot one if not THE thing that hangs over our teenagers head : the environment crisis and the bleak future that comes with it! For many, it is the biggest source of stress they have to live with, coupled with the isolation resulting from Covid.
As a father, I've reach a point where I prefer they avoid following the news, despite preaching for years it was a duty and essential to stay well informed on the worlds events...
I'll have a more positive note next time I promise ;-)

By the standards and traditions and values of the ancient world, Alexander the Great was great. I think if you could ask him, he'd say - “They started it”. (the Persians)

What book would you suggest about the Roman Republic?

Ive always thought that an underrated part of the Beatles' success was following the biblical admonition, by building their band on a rock.

I wondered whether I was alone in having my "long-slumbering fears" resurface from childhood.

I'm 65 and vividly remember the fear and chill that I, as a six year old, felt as my family listened during a car journey to a series of radio news broadcasts during the developing Cuban Missile Crisis. A nuclear World War Three was imminent.

And here now, all these years later, we have cause to fear it all coming at us again.

It's rich getting lectured by Biden voters. 🤣

If it is true, that "In a democracy people get the leaders they deserve" - (Joseph de Maistre) then Ukrainians are the most deserving people on earth.

The Putin Ruble is becoming rubble-

People do indeed willingly choose dictators - both Hitler and Mussolini were elected - but it's driven by a minority of us. About a third of people have an "authoritarian personality", which is averse to complexity and diversity and wants someone who gives them simple answers and enforces conformity. See "III. The Authoritarian-Putin Love Affair" in https://terikanefield.com/the-renewed-relevance-of-the-great-fox-trump-putin-love-affair/ for an introduction to current thinking about this and links to more. However, authoritarians can be good citizens if they don't feel threatened, so maybe what's really needed is to stop the flood of propaganda that's riling them up.

Maybe you find this nitpicking, but the Roman Republic is different from the Roman Empire. Julius Caesar was a great-uncle of Gaius Octavius. After the assassination of Caesar in 44 BC, Octavius became his successor under the name Caesar Augustus. He was the founder of the Principate, the first period if the Roman Empire. So before 44 BC it’s Republic, after that year it’s Empire.

Photographer Alfred Seiland made two excellent books called IMPERIVM ROMANVM I & II.
I think they are now available combined in one publication.

Dear Mike, I am a couple of years older than you, so I can remember Cuban Missile Crisis. I was then very young and I was really very scared. In fact, I was never after so much scared. Even now.
Not yet.

An easy introduction to the latter days of the Republic is “ Rubicon” by Tom Holland.

Ringo was fine as a drummer …. But in this house we really mourn the loss of Charlie Watts. A true great. I love the story that when Keith and Mick and Brian were always very demanding on tour all Charlie wanted was a good supply of coat hangers for his suits. A class act!

[I read "Rubicon" during my "Roman period" and enjoyed it. --Mike]

Lovely book on the history of Rome is SPQR by Mary Beard. If you want to make a commitment jump into Tacitus.

In situations like these I am often at a loss for words; anything I could write would seem either stupidly obvious or otherwise lame. So I just sigh.

I will say, however, that any drummer who can play the song is a great drummer. I love Ringo.

Thanks for the heads-up on the Parenti book, I have a copy on order. As an old leftist and veteran, I'm looking forward to the diss of Gibbon :D

Beautiful piece, Mike, and the world uniting ‘The Weight’ lifted me up when I really needed it. Thank you. As to the Romans, it is, I think, significant that in Mussolini times the self label ‘Fascists’ was (proudly!} coined after the Roman (Latin) word for ‘bundle of arrows’, ‘Fasces’. The image of a ‘facses’ was used by the Romans of old as a symbol for themselves.

IMHO the best PFC so far....

When the Levy Breaks


Thank you. I'll get the book based on the fact that you have a tremendous track record of good advice. For example, the money I've saved not purchasing meat and dairy, based on your recommendation to watch "What the Health" (savings at the grocery store and at the doctor's office) has more than paid for your other recommendations which are still running strong such as my used Pentax MX with a 50mm 1.7 lens and a Russell & Hobbs toaster, just to name a few. The weird thing is not fully understanding why your recommendations are so successful because, for example, with my favorite writers or musicians, I normally don't like their favorite writers or musicians. Anyway, thanks again.

Nuclear war wasn't the only thing we trained for in school. Getting under your desk might help quite a lot in a tornado. It's "Civil Defense", not "how to be nuked"! The ceiling coming down is a real risk in several scenarios (including a nuclear explosion at just the right distance for that matter; not that that was likely).

But what scared me was the drill where, on announcement of incoming nukes (20 minute warning), those children who could make it home in 20 minutes were sent home and the rest were kept in the school. Took me 10 or maybe 15 minutes to get home, which means we'd have no time left to do anything. Not that it's clear where to go. (We were pretty far away from any obvious first-round targets, but definitely somewhat down-wind of the missile installations in North Dakota.) I also didn't think the full 20 minute warning we got from the DEW line would be passed on to the civilian population, so I'd probably be on the way home when the sky lit up.

I was already an SF reader then, so post-apocalyptic societies were familiar territory.

It's old, and long, but The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon is absolutely captivating. I read it on nightshift at work during quiet times, and for a while I actually understood what had happened. (Then shiftwork dementia set in and I lost a bunch of stuff.) The parallels to modern American events are obvious. My opinion is that America has become a failed state.

For people interested in Rome I can't recommend this series enough:


It goes from the beginning of the republic up to the fall of the Western empire. Very well done.

Duncan has now done another long series of shows on various revolutions, and written two books.

I have many Ukrainian and Russian friends, including a Russian-Ukrainian couple, who had met as students in the 1990s in Moskow. I recently made friends with a wonderful Russian couple in their late 20s, "distance-working" while traveling through the world on a shoestring budget-- Sasha and Sasha, both from Russia, declined to talk politics even over good wine. Inevitably, politics overtook them. They are fearful of what might come next. Who knows what will happen to their jobs, banks they depend on. My Ukranian-Russian couple friends still have parents in Ukraine and Russia, respectively. War separates them now. None of these people ever wanted any part in any of this madness. I am left with a memory of Sasha trudging uphill with groceries against a sunlit Quito shimmering in the background. I had missed the shot.

That collaboration on The Weight is fabulous. Their version of All Along The Watchtower is similarly wonderful IMHO.

To learn more about Ringo Starr's qualities as a percussionist this 15-minute video is a great place to start:

I stand gently (but duly) corrected, Mike! Always an honor to learn from an Ivy League educated English major who was editor of the finest American periodicals of yesteryear.

[I wasn't correcting you Mani, I was agreeing with you! Just adding a little finer grain is all. --Mike]

I’m not sure about that version of “The Weight”. One of the things I always liked about the original version was the spaces, the little moments of silence; and I feel that version has lost them.

Now for some bragging rights: In 1969 I saw The Band perform The Weight at the Isle of Wight festival. Dylan was the main attraction, and why I was there, but in fact he failed to impress (or perhaps the audience weren’t ready for what he doing then - this was the Nashville Skyline period, all “Lay Lady Lay”, whereas we in the audience were expecting - something else). But before he performed, The Band did a short set which included The Weight. Even though were the support act, theirs were the songs I remembered from that night. 53 years ago, this year - oh my!

Thank you, Mike and commenters, for this diverting and enlightening thread!

I now have a more informed appreciation for Ringo's genius and his "zen". He gives perhaps too much credit to his cross-handedness in this interview https://youtu.be/vl9188EPdLI (h/t Sina via commenter Simon). The gem is his next admission, that he's unable to "struggle . . . it comes naturally or it doesn't come at all", Ringo-speak for understanding and respecting both his talent and his limitations, which IMO is the essence of mastery.

Looking forward to reading Michael Parenti's The Assassination of Julius Caesar, which turned up on Hoopla.

I do not see any value of this war. Like the Iraq 2 weapon of mass destruction it is the craziness of people in power.

But whilst we were all pacifist, at the same time we knew we do violence directly and indirectly. We are hybrid. Both image of god and Satan at the same time. And eu by showing its weakness (German in particular) you can into trouble. Some saw weakness and took advantage in spite of warning. It is luck that uk is off and is limited by German doctrine not allow even its weapon parts be involved.

Generalised it even higher level, not all war is bad. You even a the great. Whilst we want other way to spread cross culture, war of this scale cut across culture and boundary. As the Nobel peace winner lau said it is better to have china colonised for 3 hundred years … I am not sure it worked given the Hong Kong but it helps a bit for those too single minded. In fact, and even bad things (like my home land Hong Kong totally fall to communist China) has its silver lining … it ring the ball and hopefully save Taiwan. Not all war is bad.

The collapse of Hong Kong and this war totally change my world view. Whilst keep my hybrid view and still think market and even sport competition is better than battlefield, I accept certain blood letting as said in the book of godfather. Still this war ….

The Playing for Change video that I have had on repeat for the last week has been 'When the Levee Breaks' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LH0-WXUFY2k

Maybe I have been playing it so much because it is their latest or it could because of events in Ukraine and the extensive (climate change induced) flooding in eastern Australia or it could just be because I love Derek Trucks guitar playing!

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