Sunday, October 11, 2015

Putin leaves the Donbas in Ruins

This is eastern Ukraine, the Donbas, after Putin.
 The ruined Donetsk airport.
"With much of its infrastructure destroyed or crippled, the vast majority of its industrial workplaces idle, many of its skilled workers and professionals internally displaced and in exile, and its banking and administrative systems in ruins, occupied Donbas is beset by a collapsing GDP, massive unemployment, high prices, and growing poverty. Around 50 percent of its residents are pensioners, a further number are unemployed — victims of the fact that as many as 70 percent of the occupied region’s factories and mines are not functioning." Adrian Karatnyckyand Alexander J. Motyl, "Putin changes the subject," Politico, 9 October 2015

Debaltseve, January 2015
So Putin's war in Ukraine has demolished much of Lugansk and Donetsk oblasts in eastern Ukraine, the industrial Donbas, and Stalinized and militarized Crimea in an illegal occupation.  He gave those Russian soldiers, bike gangs, special ops and mercenaries their game to play, because that's all they can do and that's all they want to do.  

Who wants to govern a wasteland with no infrastructure and a destroyed economy, inhabited by mostly pensioners and the unemployed.  

Some of Putin's soldiers--and make no mistake, Putin is the conductor of this military orchestra--are getting bored with the lack of action in Ukraine these days and are moving on to fight in Syria. Not to worry. Putin will create another war zone for them, the consequences be damned.   

Putin has moved on to Syria to support the murderous Assad with awesome airpower and naval power, including those cruise missiles that can travel 1,000 miles from the Caspian sea to targets in Syria.  I'm still amazed at that, although it doesn't always go as planned.  Think of those poor terrorist cows in northern Iran that got hit with a missile that fell short of its target. 

Jud's Sunflower, weeping.
I also remember and will never forget the Russian BUK missile that took down MH-17 in a wargame over the sunflower fields of Ukraine, for which Putin is ultimately responsible. 

Putin has blood on his hands. He is an expert at subterfuge and dissembling. He is a master at creating wastelands. 

Some folks see this as strength, as "leadership." Violence trumps peace.  The planet is an armed camp for guns and weapons of mass destruction.  

Others, myself among them, see it as weakness and lack of the commitment and brilliance required to seek diplomatic solutions. What has war ever accomplished? Shouldn't we do everything in our power to safeguard our planet, our "Common Home," as Pope Francis calls it. 

And yet there is something about human nature that guarantees war and violence will always be with us. Yes, evil exists, and all we can do is fight it. 

My brother Loren believed, and I agree with him, that as long as patriarchy and patriarchal values rule the world, this will be so.   

Friday, October 9, 2015

Another Sea, Another Region of Conflict: The Caspian

This map (Enclyclopedia Britannica) shows the countries around the Caspian Sea, a massive contemporary contested region on the world stage.  And Russia the Bear hanging over all of it.  It's an eyeopener.  I didn't realize that Russian interests in this region are historic and significant; also Persia, now Iran, and the former Soviet Socialist Republics of Kazakhstan Turkmenstan, and Azerbajan.  The region between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea also looks strategic, with its potential for transportation routes, pipelines and expanding markets. An awesome perspective. 

Seeing the geography of the Caspian Sea is mindboggling.  So is its ancient, historical, economic and geopolitical significance. It's not that far from the Black Sea, with Turkey looming large, and Syria and Iraq right there on the border. Those rugged mountains, which we hear a lot about in today's news, are the main barrier.
Where is the Caspian Sea?  The Russians are launching cruise missiles on "terrorists" sites in Syria from four of their ships in the Caspian Sea. The missile attacks support ground troops that are also being supported by Russian air power. These missiles travel 1,000 miles over Iran and Iraq to hit their targets in Syria. Incredible.  1,000 miles!  Look at the map (below left)!
Graphic look at those missiles from the Caspian. 
After their initial amazing success, about which Putin gloated, the Caspian Sea continues to be the staging ground for Russian warships firing missiles at anti-Assad forces in Syria.   But the latest round of missiles missed their mark, landing somewhere in northern Iran. Oops. So is northern Iran close to the Caspian Sea?  And why is the Caspian Sea, and not the Black Sea, say, a staging ground for launching cruise missiles?

My curiosity led to a little online research. Here are some things I learned.
* Do you know that the Caspian Sea (in Russian Kaspiyskoye More, in Persian Darya-ye Khezer) is the largest landlocked salt lake or salt sea in the world, lying to the east of the Caucasus mountains and to the west of the vast steppes of Central Asia?  It's where Southeastern Europe connects to Asia.

* Do you know the sea is bordered in the northeast by Kazakhstan, in the southeast by Turkmenistan, in the south by Iran, in the southwest by Azerbaijan, and in the northwest by Russia?  A real eyeopener this one.

* Do you know that it's name derives from the ancient Kaspi peoples who lived in the Transcaucasis to the west, plus from other tribes like Khazarsk, Khvalynsk,and Girkansk who also lived there at different times? The region goes back at least 11 million years to some of the earliest human beings on earth.  My brother Loren placed the location of Jean Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear in this region and loved talking about its ancient and prehistoric significance. I wish Loren were here now.

* Do you know the Caspian is rich in oil and gas reserves, like the Arctic, and has similar issues about borders, access and ownership?  Although not as huge an area, the Caspian sea region is geographically more strategic than ever.  
* Do you know that 90% of the world's sturgeons, which are prehistoric fish, live in the Caspian, and the eggs, or roe, are the source of the world's best caviar, like Beluga? This makes the Caspian essential to the Russian economy, an enormous industry.  

What an incredible geopolitical region!  Today the Caspian sea and the entire region are front-page news, especially with the Syrian war, changing socio-economic dynamics, and terrorists uprisings.  But its status and future are up for grabs.  It's truly mindboggling to study these maps and realize the area's strategic economic and political importance.

Just looking at the maps, I have a better understanding of why there is enormous geopolitical jockeying taking place among the five Caspian-bordering countries. It's more pronounced now in light of Middle East instability and the subsequent recasting of many Western countries' energy policies. What are the water boundaries? Who has control over which areas and which oil and gas reserves? Where should new pipelines be built or old ones expanded? Complicating matters is the US military deployment in the Central Asian region and now Russia's direct and substantial armed intervention in the Syria conflict on behalf of Assad.

Reading about the Caspian Sea is like reading about the Arctic Circle in many ways.  Its geography, oil and gas reserves, contested political and water borders, as well as its contemporary importance in major conflicts in the Middle East and in the Baltics, encompass the major global conflicts of the 21st century going into the 22nd century.  What will become of the Caspian region?
This World Atlas map shows the major cities
around the Caspian Sea. Small islands hug the coastline around the sea,
along with the oil and gas resources that are the source of major border issues. 

130 rivers flow into the Caspian Sea, the largest being the Volga
River, the next largest the Ural River, starting way up in
Russia's Ural mountains. What long journeys these river make.
These are all important transport routes,
and there are lots of plans, contested, for canals and pipelines.   
                           I would never have guessed where this beautiful scene is.
I might have guessed the Costa Rican rain forest.
It's Iran's northern Caspian Hyrcamian mixed forests, maintained by moisture
captured by the Caspian Sea in the Alborz mountain range of Gilan, Iran! Wow!
wikimedia image and caption

From the Encyclopedia Britannica: "Scientific studies have shown that until geologically quite recent times, approximately 11 million years ago, the Caspian was linked, via the Sea of Azov, the Black Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea, to the world ocean. The Caspian is of exceptional scientific interest, because its history—particularly former fluctuations in both area and depth—offers clues to the complex geologic and climatic evolution of the region. Human-made changes, notably those resulting from the construction of dams, reservoirs, and canals on the immense Volga River system (which drains into the Caspian from the north), have affected the contemporary hydrologic balance. Caspian shipping and fisheries play an important role in the region’s economy, as does the production of petroleum and natural gas in the Caspian basin. The sea’s splendid sandy beaches also serve as health and recreation resorts."

Some interesting articles:, "Caviar and the Caspian Sea."
I would never have guessed where this beautiful scene is.
I might have guessed the Costa Rican rain forest.
It's Iran's northern Caspian Hyrcamian mixed forests, maintained by moisture
captured by the Caspian Sea in the Alborz mountain range of Gilan, Iran! Wow!
wikimedia image and caption

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Main Street, Sylvania: Red Bird Art Walk

First Red Bird Art Walk featuring Main Street galleries, boutiques and restaurants. Opening of River Centre Gallery; some art in the gallery; Dani Herrera collages, glass work; people admiring the variety of art.  Upper right, art piece by Matthew Squibb at Gabe's computer store Spacebar.  
Hudson Gallery photo, a Main Street gem.
 Owners Scott and Barb Hudson helped
create the new Art District and Art walks
with Sylvania Community Arts Commission
Art and nature were in harmony on Main Street Sylvania last night for the first "Red Bird Art Walk," sponsored by the Sylvania Community Arts Commission. I liked the Red Bird logo. The beautiful cardinal is, afterall, Ohio's state bird! And a gorgeous red sunset added to the theme. All the art galleries were open and welcoming, the boutiques and specialty shops had great sales and offered snacks, and the restaurants were crowded.  

"More people than I've seen on Main Street for quite a while," someone said as we sampled pastries at the new River Centre Gallery, which just opened after a long renovation to the old Main Street building. Everyone seemed to like it.  Kudos to Dr. David Garner, the founder of the River Centre Clinic, which treats eating disorders, and the new Gallery. Dani Fuller, the River Centre Foundation's Art Director, did a great job of selecting a variety of art in a range of mediums, all beautifully displayed. Dani Herrera and other artists were around to talk art. The River Centre Gallery will continue the tradition of the venerable American Gallery by showcasing local and regional artists.

Elissa, Mark, and I strolled up Main in the setting sun, with Philip in tow. Even nature cooperated: the sunset was amazing.  Blazing red.  Sylvania was aglow!  We look forward to the next Red Bird Art Walk on the first Friday in November. Philip was rewarded with his favorite pizza from J&Gs afterward.
Our beloved Philip with his GranE and Nana Franna at another time, because I didn't get photos at the Art Walk
Philip's 8th Birthday.  He likes art!

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