The Bear rolls over and growls


I seldom like seeing the New York Times on my doormat in the morning, but I enjoyed it today. Headline, in that alarming Italic typeface and reinforcing diagonally-slanted layout of theirs:


It’s a haiku, except that each line is short a syllable. And of course the double enjambement into and out of the middle line is genius, sheer genius.


‘With the Russian flag planted atop the regional Parliament, Crimea raised the specter of secession from Ukraine, threatening renewed civil conflict and a showdown between Ukraine’s fledgling government and the Kremlin.’

The Times’ reporters are unfortunately not up to the literary standard of its headline writers. The cliche density in this graf approaches neutron-star levels: specters raised, showdowns, fledglings, and that fine old staple, The Kremlin. Of course I indulge a lot in the last-mentioned myself, so I probably shouldn’t shy any cobblestones at that target. The Kremlin! Even now, doesn’t the mere phrase make your blood run cold? Is there… laughter in The Kremlin? I think there is. I can just hear it. Ah quel frisson!

And what’s this about ‘planting’ a flag? Doesn’t one usually raise a flag? And how are we to construe the curtain-raising ‘with’ clause — a kind of poor man’s ablative-absolute?

Anyway, I’m too lazy to transcribe more, and the version of this story now online has changed a great deal since the print edition went to bed last night:

Masked Forces at 2 Airports in Crimea; Russia Disavows Move

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — Armed men of uncertain allegiance took up positions at two airports here in Ukraine’s Crimean region on Friday, fueling concerns about possible Russian military intervention or a separatist rebellion in a region with stronger historical ties to Russia than to Ukraine’s central government in Kiev.

Although there were no confrontations or bloodshed by evening, the appearance of a large number of masked men with assault rifles unnerved residents and travelers, who were buffeted by warnings from Kiev of military meddling by Moscow and statements from the deposed Ukrainian president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, that the country had been taken over by fascists and “bandits.”

‘Buffeted by warnings,’ eh? How do these people pick a verb — by tossing a coin? ‘Were no confrontations or bloodshed.’ Get me rewrite, doll!

The only thing unpredictable about the Times is how bad the prose will become.

There was, of course, nothing unpredictable about the events themselves. In spite of much nervous whistling past the graveyard in various US media, it seemed quite unlikely that Putin would soak up this intervention without response.

By the way, the map up top — which somehow lost its labels when I plagiarized it — depicts the Russian-speaking areas of the Ukraine with a barred pattern. Maps are always so interesting, don’t you think?

9 thoughts on “The Bear rolls over and growls

  1. I am not drawing any conclusions about the origins and allegiance of ‘the masked men with assault rifles’ until completion of a house to house search for Vernon
    Walters or his ghost.

    • It is Friday at 10:36PM and the Vernon Walters hypothesis has been refuted by Mr. Putin. Thank you, Vlady.
      Now if only D.C. could understand how stupidly it has been behaving these last few centuries and let the dust settle a bit before going on the rhetorical offensive. But I kinda doubt that that will happen. Republicans will start to foam at the mouth and so the Obomber will have to respond and off we go on a new cold war (if not worse).

  2. A Pseudo-Prediction Regarding The Ukraine Scenario:

    I don’t like to, and nearly always refrain from, making predictions, since they are always wrong. But pseudo-predictions can neatly summarize dubitable conjectures. So here’s one for you:

    There will not be a nuclear war (unless someone makes some very stupid mistake). We cannot devastate large cities without causing a decade-long nuclear winter that no one is likely to survive. We cannot even destroy electrical power grids because, as the Fukushima catastrophe demonstrated, that would send 1,000 nuclear reactors into meltdown (it’s claimed there are “only” about 450 of them, but I don’t believe it). Another unsurvivable event.

    So Russia and China send hundreds of thousands of troops into all of Ukraine. These troops conduct extremely surgical operations in order to avoid alienating Ukraine’s population. And they lose virtually all battles with NATO forces that arrive via Poland and so on. NATO also attempts to bomb Ukrainian population centers, and tries to blame Russia for it; however this is largely countered by Russian jet fighters and ground-to-air anti-missiles. But NATO runs out of money, and before too long, some sort of armistice is struck.

    Russia and China will then possess hundreds of thousands of freshly seasoned troops, as well as perfected anti-missile systems.

    Such a narrative is anything but pretty, but it might happen. This could be what the US taxpayers get instead of productional industry, nice homes, good education, etc. Perhaps they will demand score voting and thus finally remove the two-party regime?

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