Like most Americans, I am not intimately familiar with the political landscape in and around the Ukraine. But I now will become more attuned to what is happening there because Russia has launched a full-scale invasion of the country. My obligation, though, is not simply to accept this administration’s explanations about the genesis of the current state of affairs. Nor should I buy into the predictably partisan response. Neither should I accept Russia’s defense of its rights or obligations to take control of the country. My obligation is what it was before the invasion: to examine information from all angles and to make my own decision. There may be some truth, for example, in Putin’s assertion that Ukrainian separatists deserved to have been recognized long ago. It is possible Ukraine simply held onto power over certain regions because the thirst for power overrode the belief in giving citizens the right to self-governance. It’s also possible that the Ukrainian separatists were simply Russian “plants,” intended to create the appearance of widespread support for the return of parts of the Ukraine to Russia.

Just as invasion is the true and tried weapon in the hands of capital against the class struggle, so on the other hand the fearless pursuit of the class struggle has always proven the most effective preventative of foreign invasions.

~ Karl Liebknecht ~

Put simply, I will not accept information spoon-fed to me by any government, nor any media that’s unwilling to openly question the veracity of information provided by any officials. I love the concept of government under the umbrella of self-governance. I am deeply skeptical, though, of “government officials;” their motives often are purely partisan. Their motives have nothing whatsoever to do with self-governance; but only their hunger for power.

Who knows how Russia’s invasion will impact our daily lives? Media reports suggest gas prices will skyrocket.  The stock market already has reacted with a sharp shiver. Will housing prices, recently so high, plummet? Will the cost of products rise dramatically as either a direct or indirect response to the cost of goods and the cost of transportation? I wish I knew the answer. And I wish I could take my long-sought trip to New Mexico, to that little adobe hideaway; my imaginary oasis that might protect me from a perpetually mad world.


The process of finishing our house—painting the walls, having new flooring installed, renovating the master bath, having most of the doors adjusted, installing new plumbing fixtures, getting those final touches regarding lighting completed—still seems months away. I signed a $1600 “change order” yesterday, giving the flooring contractor the go-ahead to tear out the jet tub, and cap off the related plumbing. The costs of tearing out and replacing the shower will be in addition to that. The ice and snow and freezing rain yesterday and today have delayed the process another two days. Weekends are wasted, except for painting. I feel like I’m frittering away time as if I expect to have all of it I could ever want. At my age, that attitude could be fatal. I try to acknowledge the briefness of life and to behave accordingly. I try to appreciate every moment and recognize the next one may not be mine to experience.

And I pose these questions to myself: Are the time and money I spend on a new place to spend my time and store my possessions worth the return on investment? Or am I spending a limited store of time on ephemeral circumstances with questionable value? As much as I’d like the answer to those questions, only time will respond, and only on its own terms.


The New York Times called Oriana Fallaci, “a dissecting interviewer of the powerful and an iconoclastic journalist.” Fallaci was born and died in Florence, Italy. Famous for her coverage of war and revolution (she was a partisan during World War II), she was well-known “long, aggressive and revealing interviews” with world leaders. Until I spent just a little time reading a bit about Fallaci’s life, I knew very little of her. I knew the name and that she had been a global journalist, but little else. When I read a little about her recently, I learned that she became increasingly well-known through several provocative and controversial articles. Her outspoken criticism of Islam earned her both praise and condemnation. Her engagement with the Ayatollah Khomeini, regarding the obligation for women to wear a head covering called a chador, during her interview of him in 1979 got worldwide attention. Here is a translation of the exchange, as reported in the Corriere della Sera:

Fallaci: I still have to ask you a lot of things. About the “chador,” for example, which I was obliged to wear to come and interview you, and which you impose on Iranian women…. I am not only referring to the dress, but to what it represents, I mean the apartheid Iranian women have been forced into after the revolution. They cannot study at the university with men, they cannot work with men, they cannot swim in the sea or in a swimming-pool with men. They have to do everything separately, wearing their “chador”. By the way, how can you swim wearing a “chador”?

Khomeini: None of this concerns you, our customs do not concern you. If you don’t like the Islamic dress, you are not obliged to wear it, since it is for young women and respectable ladies.

Fallaci: This is very kind of you, Imam, since you tell me that, I’m going to immediately rid myself of this stupid medieval rag. There!

Whether one agrees with her position or thinks she should have given more respect for a culture in which she was a guest, it is hard not to respect her for her assertiveness. I respect her for her dogged determination to get at the facts when reporting on world events. But a journalist like her, one with obvious biases, makes one a touch more conservative in believing everything journalists report. When they have an obvious bias (like her bias against Islam), one has to question whether reporting is filtered through an image-altering lens.

So, one has to respond to the following assertion with both curiosity and skepticism:

Europe is no longer Europe, it is Eurabia, a colony of Islam, where the Islamic invasion does not proceed only in a physical sense, but also in a mental and cultural sense.

~ Oriana Fallaci ~

An attack against a religion seems so awkward and fundamentally wrong…until one looks inward to the United States and sees the infiltration of Christian dogma into government and the education system. How can rational people NOT attack a religious sect whose core intent it to inject fundamentalism into every aspect of our lives? Or is my perspective jaundiced because of my innate skepticism about religion in general?

I like—but have some significant issues with—another of Fallaci’s pronouncements:

We must take positions. Our weakness in the West is born of the fact of so-called ‘objectivity.’ Objectivity does not exist – it cannot exist!… The word is a hypocrisy which is sustained by the lie that the truth stays in the middle. No, sir: Sometimes truth stays on one side only.

~ Oriana Fallaci ~


I do not enjoy arguing. I do not enjoy debate…unless it results in a shift in my perspective on any given matter. “Knowing” is better than “believing,” from my point of view. Getting the facts and interpreting them as clearly and as cleanly as possible is far preferable to unquestioningly accepting information given to me. Clearly, I am opinionated. I believe very strongly in my perspective until someone shows me or I otherwise come upon information that changes my mind. Unlike many people (but probably like many others), I am not married to my beliefs. I readily can change my position on a matter when presented with facts or perspectives that successfully challenge that position.

Yesterday, my girlfriend and I had a conversation about the Supreme Court’s agreement to hear a case in which a website designer asserts her right to turn down website commissions for same-sex couples.  Not long ago, I would have said the website designer should be required to provide that service, regardless of a client’s sexual preferences. Now, though, I think the designer should not be forced to take that business. But I think the designer’s bigotry should be broadcast far and wide. And I think the right to be a bigot should also extend to the other end of the social/political spectrum: I should have the right to refuse to do business with right-wing Republicans because their beliefs or actions conflict with my moral code.

My girlfriend argued that the government should protect people against the kind of bigotry the web designer’s assertion illustrates. She suggested that incorporating my position into public policy could lead to businesses expressing an unwillingness to serve Blacks or other groups who are different in some way. I agree that freedoms, even the freedom to be stupid and unfriendly, should have some limits. But the fine line between “obnoxious but permissible” and “obnoxiously hurtful and prohibited” can be very hard to define. And it changes, depending on a society’s evolution.

There should be more rational, unemotional conversations about delicate issues. Those conversations could lead to an economically unproductive world peace, though. Then, where would we be?

Needless to say, we did not reach unwavering agreement on the bigoted web designer. I say give her the rope to hang herself. My girlfriend suggests the prohibition of refusing to do business with someone because a person’s beliefs or actions are somehow objectionable is objectionable of its own accord. And I see that. But I don’t see government intervention as the cure. I view economic strangulation as the cure. Tell enough people about a business owner’s bigotry and eventually the business will fold. “Or grow much stronger,” my girlfriend might say.

I say I do not arguing, then go on to express appreciation for arguments. Again, it’s not the conflict that is attractive to me, it’s the illumination…the increase in knowledge or the decrease in ignorance.  Depending on one’s perpective.


I enjoy conversations that may not yield certainty about an issue but that provide significantly more illumination on a matter. A friend and I used to have such one-on-one conversations on occasion—sitting out on the deck or at the dining table, we would drink wine and talk about weighty matters of humankind—but lately our conversations have been less philosophical and more about pragmatic or practical issues. I’d like to spend some time with her, exclusively, and allow the natural flow of conversation to lead to those philosophical matters. I miss that with her.


I’ve written far more this morning than I should have done, if I want anyone to read the entire thing. My reasons for writing do not necessarily stand on a desire for being read; rather, they stand on having said what was on my mind. I’ve had a lot on my mind these last three hours or so. So I document them in one way or another. I fashion a blog post out of scraps of thought that zip in and out of my consciousness.

I do think of specific people when I write. It depends on the topic. The reader who reads these words—if that reader knows me personally—can be certain I think about her or him when I’m writing. Every person I know (especially those I like) contributes to my writing in ways unique to each individual. For example, when writing about issues involving the climate or the environment or the impact of co-housing on of a few friends who are deeply interested in environmental issues. I think about a specific friend when I write about being extremely sensitive and emotional. And I think about specific people when I write about different ways of demonstrating assertiveness.

Right now, I think I should stop writing. It’s 6:00 on the dot and I’m ready for breakfast of some kind. Even if I have to eat alone at this early hour.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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