There is so much to be said, but today I will only say a couple of things: first, how impressed I am with Volodymyr Zelenskyy. I thought he was sort of an accidental president, and maybe he was, but he is surely proving his worth right now. There is something extra meaningful about his being Jewish, given the painful history of the Jews in Ukraine – Babi Yar, Pale of Settlement, not to mention so many Ukrainian collaborators during the Holocaust. Zelenskyy himself is the grandson of Holocaust survivors and lost many family members at the hands of the Germans. Ukraine has its own horror in recent memory – the Holodomor – at the hands of Stalin. Interesting fact: Zelenskyy’s grandfather served in the Red Army during World War II. And when I reread this paragraph I remember something my mother said about Europe, when I asked her if she would like to go back there, either to live or visit. “No,” she said. “Europe is a graveyard.” She was right, of course, though for about 75 years after World War II, largely because the United States was the world’s dominant power, it was less of one. I fear what will happen now, with a weak U.S. president. (Compare him and our clown of a prime minister with Zelenskyy and weep.)

Second: this invasion ought to be uniting people. It isn’t. And that is very upsetting. Where are the angry social justice folks? They are awfully quiet about Russian aggression. They will scream and yell when Israel defends itself or when a building in their own free and safe country doesn’t have a unisex bathroom. But a large swath of them are either saying nothing or – you can guess it – blaming the United States. They will probably find a way to blame Israel/Jews too, soon enough. There is an element on the Trumpian right that is also spewing similar nonsense – this sort of, “Ukraine is a client state of the U.S. so Russia is justified/it’s our fault/everyone but Putin is to blame,” foolishness. It’s beneath contempt. Useful idiots all. The extreme left and the extreme right meet in the worst places.

I wrote that I would only say two things and I have ranted a bit. I will add that I don’t think this will end in Ukraine, and places like the Baltics and Taiwan should not count on the West to guarantee their sovereignty. Neither should Israel. All of that said, I am glad for the sanctions and the international condemnation. I am in awe of the anti-war protesters in Russia. I am in awe of so many Ukrainian acts of defiance. Good column here from Bret Stephens and another from Bernard-Henri Levy and a prescient piece – from six weeks ago – by Niall Ferguson. Oh, and Mitt Romney was right. Read about it here and here.

Finally, Condoleezza Rice this morning.

Dry January

I decided to do “Dry January” this past month. I also decided to add potato chips to my list of banished foods for the first month of 2022. Significant Other and I had got into the habit, during the pandemic, of nightly wine with some snacks – usually highly-caloric snacks. Now, we never had more than a glass (or two), but still, when something becomes a daily habit or ritual, especially when it involves an addictive substance, it is probably a good idea to challenge it. Also, I wanted to lose some weight and give my arteries and organs a bit of a break to start the year, a “reset,” to use an over-used term. I had read numerous first-person columns about all of the great things that happened to other people when they signed up for however many “dry” days. You will feel better, look better and sleep better, I was told. Ha! Now, I have lost some weight, so I probably look a bit better and yes, weight loss is often a good feeling. But the thing I was most looking forward to – the sleeping better – never came to pass. I am still a terrible, restless and anxious sleeper. I can honestly say that, sans wine in my life I did not notice one wee iota of difference in my sleep patterns. So there goes some motivation for future wine-free months. That said, I do think I will forego nightly wine and keep potato chips to a minimum. The very good news is that I missed the junky food more than the wine. I was concerned the opposite would be the case, but after a couple of nights, I did not miss wine. I think habits are just that: habits. You replace them with another. I began having more herbal tea, sparkling water and diet gingerale than in previous months. I also partook of some alcohol-free wine. It was not bad, actually, but it did lack something…oh yeah, the thing that makes one’s shoulders go down apace.

Dry January: I give it seven out of a possible ten stars. Good to check one’s habits lest they become something more fiendish. But not the answer to all of one’s woes (real or imaginary).