War is brewing.

Ukraine is partly occupied by Russia. I seldom mention current affairs, but something is missing in the news reports.

To understand what the Ukrainians are thinking remember that 80 tears ago the Soviet Russians killed, perhaps, 10e6 Ukrainians.

The current population of Ukraine is 44e6 people.

When the Germans invaded shortly after there was hope that the Germans would rescue them from the Russians. The Germans were more brutal, if less effective. Ukraine was a battlefield between persecuting Germans and persecuting Soviets. The question is less ‘Who to trust?’ than ‘Who has acted less evil?’

In this conundrum I feel for the Ukrainians without knowing anything comforting to say.


Hydraulic Despostism Redux

When the world was young, dinosaurs roamed free, and Mr. Obama and myself were young a common historical concept was current that all educated people knew: Hydraulic Despotisms. Once upon a time there were said to be empires where the central government controlled a strategic commodity. Usually water. By directing water friends could be rewarded and enemies punished. And since water was scarce ot cost vary little. If one province was parched and produced nothing, well a friendly province could use the extra water to produce much more. No net cost to the empire, but a huge incentive to the provinces.

We viewed this as a more primitive system where people were subjects, subject to the power and whims of an emperor intent on farming wealth from his human sheep. Of course,  we were equal citizens under laws that applied evenly to all in a system of mutual respect and freedom. I miss that belief. I especially miss the inculcation of attitudes and ideals that tended to make a just society more real.

Now the Brown administration in California has decided to allocate no water at all to some areas of the Central Valley. Coincidentally, areas which do not support him.  A frisson of recognition thrills my body. Mr. Brown has a classical mind.

In a more sophisticated manner we have Obamacare.  If it stands under its own weight, the health of the people will depend on where the President sends the hospital money and medical education dollars. Also there is an incentive to keep things scarce so that needs respond instantly. To oppose the government is, currently, to be audited. To oppose the government will eventually be to grow ill.

I am so old I can remember when ‘1984’ was not considered an instruction manual.