Monday, March 31, 2014

Fascinating Facades

So Ed, Randy and I went to see an Audubon show at the New York Historical Society yesterday - and it was interesting (more later).
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But even more interesting was this odd little thing called Facades.
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I assumed that it was about the Building Facades in New York.  Nope.  It is a series of street scenes shot by eccentric artist Bill Cunningham of his friend Editta Sherman.  He put her in period costumes, then shot the facade of the buildings, where her in the costume of the time it was built.  He did this starting in 1968,
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One of the fascinating things, is that these 2 friends were a few of the last people that lived above Carnegie Hall.  Turns out, for those that don't know - there were apartments for artists above Carnegie Hall.  There were low cost apartments for artists that housed for a short time, famous people like Marlon Brando and Leonard Bernstein.
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Ed and I read about them in the New York Times in 2010, when the owners finally kicked out the last of them.  Editta Sherman was the second to last to leave.  Anyway, while she and Bill Cunningham lived there, the did this project.
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At the end of it, apparently Mr. Cunningham had over 800 period costumes.
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I find the whole thing bizarre. And it was really bizarre to read the footnotes and remember this is the story Ed and I read in the New York Times.
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He found almost all the clothes - that really were period items - in thrift stores in New York.  Remember, starting in 1968 - this wasn't a great time for New York.
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But Wait!  There's More.  There is this quote in the magazine attributed to Ms. Sherman - “I’ve made my name here in Carnegie Hall,” Ms. Sherman said. “I’ve become more famous than ever living here. I don’t know how it’s going to work out now that I’m no longer living here.”
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I am sure they got a big settlement to leave - that is the New York way.  But Ms. Sherman died the very next year (granted at 101 - she was definitely holding out!).
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Video from Bill Cunningham about the studios - very cool.
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http://nyti.ms/1dcGusB

Friday, March 28, 2014

March 28th - Martha's Birthday

I don't really know why, but I am reminded today that it is (was?) Martha's birthday.  Perhaps I am getting maudlin in my old age.
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Martha was my aunt, born with Down's Syndrome.  She lived longer than everyone expected, but - in the big scheme of things - not long.  She died before she was 40.
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She taught me a lot about how to be a better person.  To be more patient.
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Sometimes, you want to thank people that you can't.  So it was like that.
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The pictures are kind of funny to me.  Every year, around the tree, we grabbed a present and the cameras came out.  We had to look excited as we posed for pictures when all we wanted to do was tear them open.
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Martha wasn't always great at hiding her impatience :-).
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Oddly Fascinating

So Alternet (via Salon) has an article on how "learned helplessness" might be a significant contributor to American's rise in depression.
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Forget about the whole "rise in depression" piece and focus, for a moment, on the "learned helplessness" piece.  So, in reading a tiny bit about this, it appears to be a state where in the participants "LEARN" they can execute no control over the outcome.
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Which is a debatable theory in education.  But the article takes it out of the education context and puts it into the day to day context.
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It highlights the infuriating voice call menus, where no matter what you do you can't effect the outcome.  The "wait" state that technology have desensitized us to.  The bureaucratic indifference that makes us all hate politicians.  The idiotic TSA roulette, where your outcome is entirely dependent on the mood of an authority you can't question.  The United Gate attendant who indifferently lies to your face.
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The author's point is that we have been subject to "learned helplessness" from big bad corporations who desire money about all else.  I question that premise.  Just like I question his idea that this is exploited by political parties to give someone for the Tea Party to hate.
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But I don't question the basic premise that technology often teaches us "learned helplessness".  The outcome you get isn't depend on the effort you put in, but a random lucky result. How many of us found out the iPhone did something really cool 4 years after we got our first one?  And only because some geek we don't know happened to spill it on a news site we never heard of.
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How many of us have had a problem with a travel related item (for me it's airplane tickets, but it could be any number of things).  You call back once or twice and - the one perfect time - someone helps you randomly.  It isn't because you were nicer, smarter or more patient.  Just pure dumb luck that you got a nice person.
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And the author also points out that helplessness is corrosive to our mental health.  I agree.
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Anyway, I thought it was interesting.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

My New 'do

Now I was going to title this My New Anderson Cooper 'do, but I can’t for two reasons.
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First – I have turned comments back on and any title that is remotely searchable (such as “Anderson Cooper” ) immediately gets a bunch ‘o spam comments.  And it is annoying to keep deleting Japanese offers of Viagra and Russian offers of Valium.
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Second – well, maybe my new hairdo isn't quite as Anderson as I hoped.
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You see I have, for many years kept my hair in the “hot mess” mode.   Once my hair moved primarily from blond to grey, I cut it fairly short and just messed it up – with a bit of a flop to the side.  This worked well for year.  But as my grey is coming in, I kept having to cut it shorter and my “mess” began to look a little Frankenstein for me (grey hair tends to stand straight up, not flop well).
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So, having seen a picture of Anderson Cooper on Seth Meyers late show, I thought, I could do that.
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It doesn’t look bad, but maybe not the Anderson Cooper look I was going for.
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Maybe a little more grey Tintin than distinguished Anderson.  But whatevs.  I like it.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Whoopsie Daisy

So... working now I tend to wear Uniqlo Airism T-Shirts.  They are nice, don’t shrink and are made with mainly cotton and something else that “whisks away moisture”.  You know, so my sweat doesn’t show.
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I really like them.  But I hate when my t-shirts bunch up, so I tend to tuck them into my underwear.  
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Well, today after a trip to the bathroom I retuck my undershirt, tuck in my shirt – wash my hands and leave.  As I leave, I tend to pull up the top shirt a little so it is okay when I sit down.
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I grasp the shirt and pull up a little, not knowing that my Uniqlo Airism t-shirt is snagged on my downward dog junk (I dress down and right).  So the yank catches my t-shirt on my private parts and unceremoniously tries to rearrange my testicles to a new position above my penis. This not only doesn’t work, it causes a standing ab-crunch with the associated “oafff” noise. 
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Luckily no one sees me.  Unluckily, someone does see me a moment later as I reach into to my pants to unsnag my junk.  I thought about explaining it to the person for a second, but then I realized than this was a contractor from India and he probably just chalks it up to American craziness.  And I let him.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Grand Budapest Hotel


So, I was dying to see Grand Budapest Hotel.  Eddie and I went this week-end.
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Eh…  Eddie really liked it, but I wanted more, I don’t know, more something.  I find Wes Anderson movies great, as a rule.  I love the craziness of it all.  I thought Grand Budapest wasn’t quite crazy enough.  Or was too attentive to its own quirkiness.  That seems odd, but Moonrise Kingdom was artificial but pretended it wasn’t – likewise most of his films.  Grand Budapest seemed to relish its artificiality too much.  It wasn’t the sets or anything – maybe the aspect bugged me.  He shot in 3 aspects for 3 story timelines – which seems a little too hand-holdy.
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But almost everyone was great.  Nice to see Ralph Fiennes doing something good again.  And Tilda Swindon is amazing as always.  And I like hating Adrian Brody – there is something despicable about him that makes me want to root against him. (I felt sorry for King Kong in the end – sorry he lost the girl to Adrian and sorry I had to sit through it).
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And I did love the models and miniatures.  I thought they were good fun.  It’s not that I didn’t like the movie.  I liked it fine.  But I wanted to love it.  Perhaps I was done in by early (too) positive reviews.  My expectations were too high.
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Funny story though.  The first credit says it was based (loosely) on the writings of Stefan Zweig.  When we went to Rio for Christmas, I actually took the memoir of
Stefan Zweig. It is about growing up in Vienna during the Hapsburg (Dual) Monarchy.  I quite enjoyed the first part of the book.  But I had to leave it in Rio – I was over my baggage allowance and nothing else would fit in the suitcase.  (I had to choose between 2 books- turns out I chose poorly.)

Minefields Deftly Maneuvered in Mothers and Sons

(copied from my review on Reviews Off Broadway)

Terrence McNally has somehow created a hopeful show out of pain, anger and loneliness at the Golden Theater, were Tyne Daly heads an amazing cast in Mothers and Sons.  Like only the very best of plays, it leaves you at once both anxious and anticipatory of what comes next.

Bobby Steggert, Frederick Weller, Grayson Taylor and Tyne Daly.
The premise is deceptively straightforward. Tyne Daly plays Katharine Gerard, a formidable Yankee who has dwelled in Dallas since her marriage.  Her son, Andre, died of AIDS almost 30 years ago, and she has come to New York to visit her son’s surviving lover, Cal.

Cal, Frederick Weller playing cautious and wary, has been in a relationship now for over a decade and is now married to his partner, Will.  Tyne Daly and Frederick Weller launch into this odd meeting rather tentatively.  Cal doesn’t know what Katharine is looking for, and it slowly dawns on the audience that Katharine doesn’t either.  Their forays into conversation are stilted and awkward.

Bobby Steggart plays new husband Will.  Will is younger and unconstrained by any history with Katharine.  He is not happy with Katharine’s unannounced visit, and protective of his husband and their son.  He isn’t shy about confronting this directly and he challenges Katharine’s passive aggressive nature.   Bobby Steggart balances this difficult role nimbly, being direct without ever being bitchy.

Their son, Bud, is nicely played without being overplayed by Grayson Taylor.  An honest and direct child, he engages Katharine and the topic of her dead son without any of the emotional baggage that everyone else carries.

Mothers and Sons covers a lot of emotional territory with a whipsawing of mood swings.  The only false moments are in the manufactured entrances and exits during Bud’s bath time.  You know a real parent would get annoyed long before he returns to the stage.


Director Sheryl Kaller gives the drama plenty of room to play out, letting the comedic moments shine, without losing the edge. Mothers and Sons deals with loss and acceptance, it could have as easily been about the loss a child to cancer.  The void, the lack of closure, the pain and the humor in the face of it are nearly universal.  This show packs a wallop that is unexpected.
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Mothers and Sons
Playwright: Terrance McNally
Director: Sheryl Kaller
Cast: Tyne Daly, Frederick Weller, Bobby Steggert, Grayson Taylor

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Goofy Fun with Birthday Hats

My mom got Eddie and I, Montana Grizzly Hats.
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We were goofy with them.


PS - Trevor was not amused.

First Day of Spring?

So Spring has sprung here in the Northern Hemisphere.
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The march of the Sun has crossed the equinox (actually - of course - the Sun hasn't moved, but the Earth's Axis in relationship to it's orbit has changed the relative position of the Sun - but why state the obvious).
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Another thing that is obvious - Springs means pretty much nothing given that it is going to snow here again next week.
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bleh.
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This is a picture of Eddie wearing the lovely hand-made slippers from Bosnia.
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They were very comfortable.
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And hand-made.  But not really hand-made well.
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They were about 7 dollars for the slippers - and I don't think Ed got a dollar a wear out of them.
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Svetlana the Bosnian didn't do a great job of sewing them.
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But I posted this because it is nearly the universal reaction when hearing the first week of Spring will bring snow.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Non-Judgemental Reason Why People Might Not Believe in Climate Change

So, I see an article like this and my first thought is often - how can people not believe it.
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But then I thought differently - let us not assume any evil intentions of those who disbelieve or question the science behind this.  Notice I didn't say "deniers".  Deniers implies that they have moved beyond questioning to argue that it isn't happening - either for political or economic reasons.
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But instead of attributing a motive, let's look at those who question the science.  So, for me, it is a simple - the overwhelming evidence and scientific work in place backs the model of Climate Change.  But the operative wording there is "for me".  I studied a lot of this in College way back in the late 1970s.  I understand the thinking behind it.  And, it is playing out as I was taught in 1979.  Why wouldn't anyone else believe it?
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And THAT is the key question.  Why wouldn't people believe Scientists about this?  I can think of a couple of reasons.  There is the political - "all Scientists are lefties" argument.  But that would be more in line with the "deniers" arguments.
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No, I think it is more probable that all kinds of "scientific consensus" agreements, in the past, turned out to be hooey.
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Not just bad advertising (like cigarette smoking doctors), but real medical treatments that caused permanent damage (Thalidomide babies), scientific consensus that allowed building a nuclear power plant in a Tsunami zone.
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Maybe time has just shown that "scientific proof" is fluid.  And if the cost of combating something is as high as it is trying to stop Global Climate Change, perhaps questioning is understandable.
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Again, I have no doubts, but I spent years studying all this crap in school.  And so, I shall try not to ascribe motive to those that disbelieve - or question how rapidly it will occur.  After all, the idea of a "tipping point" (the point of no return) is NOT agreed to by a consensus of scientists.  The problem is, when it comes - if it comes, it is by definition too late.

Ahh.. What I Wouldn't Give to be a Billionaire with Those Problems.

Another day, another Billionaire comparing recognition of income inequality to Hitler (LINK).
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Gay people are getting murdered in Texas (by their fathers), young kids bullied (for a "My Favorite Pont" lunch box), black youth in Florida hunted and their killers those afraid for their life set free, Christians Bakers in New Mexico forced to serve gay people.
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But Billionaires.... they are getting their feelings hurt - they feel so bad they can barely fly their private planes to parts unknown and lock themselves behind their private gates.  And even then, EVEN THEN, they have to have the maids go through the newspapers to cut out hurtful things.
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My goodness, it is Nazi Germany all over again.

So... Hell in a Hand Basket

The other day I was warning that the Ukraine Crisis could quite possibly be the End of Peace (LINK).  Well, it seems to be barreling along quicker than ever -as the world watches what did, didn't or might have happen to a Malaysian Jet Liner.
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Russia has annexed Crimea as of today (LINK).
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"Sanctions" are a joke - confined to just 21 individuals and nothing at a corporate level  - expanded after the annexation to others in the Arms Industry (LINK).
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As I predicted, Russia is now agitating Eastern Ukraine LINK (actually I said But if Russia is allowed to annex Crimea, then spoils to the powerful.  There is no (military or political) reason Putin shouldn’t take Eastern Ukraine (where the Russians are a majority).  
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It is going in the shitter faster than even I expected.  Serbians have been flocking to Crimea to support the independence, now annexation (LINK).  Jochen Bittner, a German with experience in the region, sees even more frightening parallels to Yugoslavia than I do.  Even worse, he thinks that Putin might have lost control over the situation already.  Muslim jihads, aware of the slaughter in Bosnia, are heading towards Crimea to protect Tartars.
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And our politicians in the US, a crap-tastic lot in the best of times, are flailing about like chickens with their heads cut off, content to scream "OBAMA" "BENGHAZI" and "DRONES" with nary a verb between - no matter how relevant to the current discussion.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Eddie is in LA - And Showing Off

Somy honey is in LA and showing off.  First it was the weather (yeah yeah, it's 78 shut-up).
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Then this morning he was awoken by this...
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And then this afternoon to make me feel even more homesick, there was this.

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If you don't know... that, my friends, is a Burger from Islands.  A Makaha - which isn't on the menu anymore, but they always make it if you ask.  At least he had to have it before a meeting so he couldn't have the frozen margarita with it.  A picture of that burger with a big frosty Margarita would have put me and my frozen ass right over the edge.
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Me, I had a 7:30 Web Video meeting on "Big Data", more meetings throughout the day and one later tonight (at 9:00PM) on Business Requirements for data.  Boo.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Explorer's Club

And now for a little nincompoopery whiplash (meaning the post below is very serious and this post is very not serious)
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So tonight I went to a new members orientation of The Explorer's club.  One of those old "clubs" in New York.  This was one of the precursors to the National Geographic Society.  It is very cool.  I was accepted as a member late last year, and this was the new member orientation.
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I had a blast, and I thought I would share a couple of the pictures.  The Club itself is on the Upper East side in a 1910 Mansion redone as a club.
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So this is the "Trophy Room"  on the 5th floor .  The trophies are kind of politically incorrect now, but they were all from back in the old days.  The Lion skin on the map case was from a Lion Teddy Roosevelt shot in Africa.  The Emperor Penguin carcass was brought back by one of the first Antarctic Expeditions (one of Amundson's sleds is in the club).  That curved tusk from the ceiling above the Penguin? Wholly Mammoth Tusk.  Cool huh?


These "boring" paintings are on the stairway from floor 2 to 3.  Yes, they are simple and boring.  But they are the exact diorama backgrounds for the animals that are in the Natural History Museum.  How can you be sure, you ask?  Well, they were painted one the safaris when Teddy Roosevelt (and team) got the specimens for the dioramas.  ("Got the specimens", doesn't that sound better than "killed hte game".)

Friday, March 14, 2014

The End of Peace

Following a series of intelligent decisions, each making perfect sense, we are stumbling into a time of war as surely this year as the world did in 1914. 
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Russia will, this week-end , violate international law and the treaties Russia signed with Ukraine less than 30 years ago by annexing Crimea.  In the best of all possible worlds, this would be a de facto annexation, with Crimea making nice noises that it is “independent” of Ukraine or still has some “political arraignment” with the country.  But after all the bluster, neither the Crimeans nor the Russians will probably be amenable to face saving and they will go full on annexation.   Given what has happened up until now, this makes logical sense.

The United States foreign policy establishment will want to take some strong steps to make Russia pay a price for this.  Serious economic sanctions, at the very least.  These will fail.  They will fail for three main reasons, all perfectly logical, – in order of importance:

1. Major Companies would lose money, so they will work hard to water down any sanctions.  Their public reasons will run from “the Europeans will just go in and scoop up money” to “American jobs will be lost” to “Better to engage quietly”.  And they donate to politicians of all stripes – expect a lot of bluster that goes nowhere tangible.
I saw this AFTER I wrote my diatrab

2. Republicans don’t want to hand President Obama a “victory” so will oppose what-ever he says.  There is a slim chance that some adults (John McCain) might be able to counter this knee-jerk reaction in a normal year – but it is an election year (aren’t they all?) and the Republicans won’t support anything.  The old “politics stops at the water’s edge” is sadly dead. Republicans don’t want to hand President Obama a “victory” so will oppose what-ever he says.  

3. European businesses are even more serious about no reforms than Americans.  Most of European is supremely dependent on Russian gas for energy.  Expect vicious push back from the European businesses, consumers during winter and many governments.
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Because we Americans aren’t in the cross hairs, we won’t care all that much – and the world will accept this annexation.
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This will prove to Russia - AND OTHERS – that borders are no longer invulnerable.  And that, ladies and germs, is a terrible idea that will cost hundreds of thousands of lives within years. 
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One of the few world-wide consensus responses to aggression in the last 50 years was when Iraq invaded Kuwait.  Despite the cost, the world (granted led by the US – but it was really approved by everyone and the UN) pushed Iraq out of Kuwait.  Borders, however haphazardly set up, were considered inviolate.
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The world also responded (after a shameful wait) to Serbian attacks against Bosnia.  Again borders were inviolate.  The resulting country, Bosnia Herzegovina, might not make a lot of sense as a unit, but the borders drawn by the Ottoman Empire and held in place by both Austria Hungary and then Yugoslavia were considered as sacrosanct.
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There have been successful cases where sub areas with internal borders have succeeded and graduated to self-rule (Kosovo, Eritrea, Bangladesh, Slovakia), but annexation – well that is considered an international No No.  That is why I said the best possible outcome is a Crimea that says it is independent, and everyone pretends to believe it despite the Russian troops, flags and military bases.
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But if Russia is allowed to annex Crimea, then spoils to the powerful.  There is no (military or political) reason Putin shouldn’t take Eastern Ukraine (where the Russians are a majority).   
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Logically then, Serbia should move to annex the Sprska section of Bosnia – after all the Bosnians are demanding better government by demonstrations right now.  And any demonstrations can be spun to seem revolutionary – and so Serbian moves would be to “safeguard” Serbian speakers (the analogy is direct to Crimea).
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There are a lot of regional border issues that have not blown up because America (and usually Russia and China) don’t accept border changes.  If we start here, it plays out in Pakistan / Afghanistan, Israel / West Bank, Burma / Bangladesh, Turkey/Iraq, the Baltic countries / Russia.  These seem like little places to us.  Far away and perhaps not important.  But they are critically important to the millions that live there.
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And some of these are our allies.  We have pledged American to the defending of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - our NATO allies (countries 6, 13 and 14 in the map above - that giant green country bordering them is Russia.  After the 2008 grab of Georgian land, some in Congress wanted to extend NATO to include Ukraine and Georgia.  That would would have made this week-end really difficult.
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This land grab also reinforces the need for the Weak to get nuclear weapons.
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Why, you ask?  After the break up of the Soviet Union, the Ukraine had the 4th largest supply of Nuclear Warheads and missiles in the world (behind Russia, The US and Great Britain).  In return for a guaranty of sovereignty and set borders from the three countries, Ukraine gave up all their weapons.  Russia might be a little slower to push around the Kiev government if some crazy mofo in Ukraine had his finger on the button.
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Crazy Kim Jon doesn't look so crazy now, does he?