Wednesday/ about the Abrams tanks ⚙️

President Biden announced today that the U.S. will send 31 Abrams tanks to push back against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

From the New York Times:
But by promising Abrams tanks — which John F. Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman, said would take “many months” to be built by General Dynamics — Mr. Biden was able to give Mr. Scholz political cover to send Leopard tanks by early spring. And Germany’s decision opened the way for Spain, Poland and Finland to do the same, with Norway likely next to announce a similar contribution.

The latest versions of the Abrams and the Leopard tanks. These are models are both the third generation of tanks that were first designed and built in the 1970s.
The Abrams tank is named after WWII tank commander Creighton Williams Abrams, Jr. (1914-1974).

Tuesday/ mail from Malaga, Spain 📨

Very nice: the stamps I had purchased just 11 days ago from my seller in Spain, landed in my mailbox tonight. The mailman should be commended for still doing the rounds at 8 at night.

This time the mailing envelope has the dreaded computer-processed postage label on. (Some philatelists don’t mind: they collect even these machine-generated labels).

Correos (the name printed on the postage paid label) is a state-owned company responsible for providing postal service in Spain.
SWA on the stamps: South West Africa, Namibia’s name until independence in 1990.
RSA on the stamps: Republic of South Africa, South Africa’s official name since 1961 (before 1961 the country went by the Union of South Africa, and like Canada, Australia and New Zealand, it was a self-governing dominion of the British Empire).

Saturday/ a Great Britain stamp enigma

A little side benefit from buying stamps from sellers all over the world is that the senders sometimes paste whole sheets of stamps onto the envelope, instead of using a dreaded computer-generated black-and-white ‘stamp’ .

Why would the seller use these stamps from 30, 40 years ago, though?
He had an oversupply of stock?

Greetings Stamps. ‘Memories’ Set of 10
1992 (28 Jan.) Two phosphor bands
1592 (1st) multicoloured Flower Spray
1593 (1st) multicoloured Double Locket
1592 (1st) multicoloured Key
1592 (1st) multicoloured Model Car and Cigarette Cards
1592 (1st) multicoloured Compass and Map
1592 (1st) multicoloured Pocket Watch
1592 (1st) multicoloured 1854 1d. Red Stamp and Pen
1592 (1st) multicoloured Pearl Necklace
1592 (1st) multicoloured Marbles
1592 (1st) multicoloured Bucket, Spade and Starfish

Greetings Stamps. ‘Smiles’ Set of 10
1991 (26 Mar.) Two phosphor bands. Perf 15×14
1550-1559 (1st) multicoloured

British Anniversaries.
1971 (25 Aug.) Two phosphor bands
891 5p multicoloured Faraday Building, Southampton University

British Trees (2nd Issue)
1974 (27 Feb.) ‘All-over’ phosphor
949 10p multicoloured Horse Chestnut

‘Occasions’ Greetings Stamps
2003 (4 Feb.) Two phosphor bands, Perf 14½x14
2337 (1st) lemon and new blue ‘Gold star, See me, Playtime’
2338 (1st) red and deep ultramarine ‘I♥U, XXXX, S.W.A.L.K.*’
*XXXX is a beer and Sealed With A Loving Kiss, a World-War II postal acronym
2339 (1st) purple and bright yellow-green ‘Angel, Poppet, Little terror’
2340 (1st) bright yellow-green and red ‘Yes, No, Maybe’
2341 (1st) deep ultramarine and lemon ‘Oops! Sorry, Will try harder’
2342 (1st) new blue and purple ‘I did it! You did it! We did it!’
[From the 2011 ‘Collect British Stamps’ Stanley Gibbons Stamp Catalogue]

Thursday/ good news and bad news

Wow, great news that basketball star Brittney Griner will be home soon.
The Biden Administration could not (yet) secure the release of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan who was detained in Moscow in 2018.

There are many other Americans being wrongfully detained by foreign governments as well. A State Department official remarked recently that the number is between 40 and 50.

Basketball player Brittney Griner (32) was swapped for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout (55). The Kremlin had pushed for more than a decade to get him released from prison in the United States.
P.S. I would have loved to travel to Russia, but I am inclined to agree with those that say the US State Dept should lump Russia with Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen (countries on the travel ban list for Americans).

Friday/ honoring all who served 🤝

It was Veterans Day in the United States today, the day to honor the the veterans that had served in our nation’s armed forces.

Wars end, but their costs— in blood and treasure— go on for a very, very long time.

The estimated amount of direct Afghanistan and Iraq war costs that the United States has debt-financed as of 2020: $2 trillion.
The estimated interest costs by 2050 to pay for health care, disability, burial and other costs for roughly 4 million Afghanistan and Iraq veterans: Up to $6.5 trillion.
[Data reported in the Boston Globe in Aug. 2021 from a study by Linda Bilmes of Harvard University’s Kennedy School and from the Brown University Costs of War project].

US serviceman waves American flag during Veterans Day Parade in New York.
[Picture from history.com]

Friday/ a king-sized rebranding is underway

The Wall Street Journal reports that the wheels have been set in motion in the United Kingdom for a vast effort to (eventually) replace the 29 billion coins and 4.7 billion bank notes in circulation that are carrying the likeness of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The same will be true for stamps. The current definitive series first class mail stamps for the Royal Mail in the United Kingdom all feature the queen.
The Royal Mail has been around forever— well, almost. It was founded 506 years ago in 1516.
Stamps are a more recent invention: the first ones were printed in 1840.

A young Queen Elizabeth II features on the definitive stamps used in the United Kingdom. By 31 January 2023, all definitive stamps will require the barcode strip that it was sold with as well, to be valid. It’s an anti-counterfeiting measure, and the barcode will connect a piece of mail with features on the Royal Mail app (such as indicating to the sender if the mail had been delivered).
[Image from royalmail.com]
A little history: here is the famous Penny Black, the world’s first adhesive postage stamp used in a public postal system. It was issued in the United Kingdom on May 1, 1840, and featured Queen Victoria. The letters in the bottom corners indicate the stamp’s row and column in a printed sheet of stamps. The sheets had 20 rows of 12 columns. One full sheet cost 240 pence (one pound); one row of 12 stamps cost a shilling.
[From wikipedia.com]
 

 

Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022)

Buckingham Palace said the queen, who was 96, died peacefully Thursday afternoon at Balmoral Castle, her estate in the Scottish Highlands.
Her son became Britain’s new monarch, King Charles III.
– From the New York Times

A rainbow emerged as the Union Jack flag was lowered at Windsor Castle, following the news of the death of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday.
[Photo by Chris Jackson/Chris Jackson Collection, via Getty Images]

Saturday/ Balboa Park

Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre historic and urban, cultural park in San Diego.
The park was originally called ‘City Park’, but was renamed after Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa, in honor of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, held in the park that year.

The architecture of the buildings in Balboa Park are a mix of Mediterranean and Spanish Colonial Revival style.

My brother and I have been to the San Diego Zoo (next to Balboa Park) many, many times, and we decided it was time to take a look inside the Natural History Museum instead. This is the main entrance.
The original ‘Jaws’ .. a megalodon model on display in the main exhibition hall. The model is very accurate, and shows the electroreceptors on the shark’s nose between the nostrils. These receptors are filled with a jelly-like substance which help the shark to pick up electrical fields in the surrounding water. They can detect even the slightest of electrical pulses from the muscle movement of potential prey. Megalodons lived approximately 23 to 3.6 million years ago, and are relatives of today’s great white sharks.
Another view of the main exhibition hall, with a Steller’s sea cow (Hydrodamalis gigas) top left. These slow-moving sea creatures grew to 9 m (30 ft) and 8-10 tons and had relatively few predators, but were easy prey for humans. Within 27 years of its discovery by Europeans in the Bering Sea between Alaska and Russia, the slow-moving and easily-caught mammal was hunted into extinction for its meat, fat, and hide. The year was 1768.
The California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) is a New World vulture and the largest North American land bird. They became extinct in the wild in 1987, at which point only 22 birds in captivity remained. Breeding programs at San Diego Zoo and Los Angeles Zoo were launched, and as of December 2020 there were 504 California condors living wild or in captivity.
The Balboa Park Botanical Building. Built for the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition, along with the adjacent Lily Pond and Lagoon, the historic building is one of the largest lath structures in the world.
The beautiful façade at the entrance of the San Diego Museum of Art has detailed full-body sculptures of artists Velázquez, Murillo, and Zurbarán.
The nearly 200-foot-tall Tower and Dome of the California Building are covered with intricate carvings, colorful tile, and glass beads.

Thursday/ throwing down the gauntlet 🤺

gaunt·let
/ˈɡôntlət,ˈɡäntlət/
noun

a medieval glove, made of leather or metal plates, worn by a knight in armor to protect the hand.

throw down the gauntlet
idiom 
issue a challenge to an opponent


Attorney-general Merrick Garland is calling Trump’s bluff. It turns out Trump was subpoenaed in June for classified documents and that he handed over some documents. More documents— that Trump had also stolen and had held onto after the subpoena— are related to nuclear secrets and could be a violation of the Espionage Act of 1917.

From the New York Times:
Speaking from a podium at the Justice Department, the attorney general said he had personally approved the request for a search warrant. He denounced the “unfounded attacks on the professionalism” and integrity of the F.B.I. and prosecutors.
And — most importantly — he announced that the Justice Department had filed a motion to unseal the warrant used in the search, as well as the inventory of what the F.B.I. took away, so that the government could make them public.

Update, Fri 8/12: The FBI found 11 sets of classified documents, several of them top secret (‘Sensitive Compartmented Information’) at Mar-a-Lago. Trump’s lawyer was given receipts. Will Trump pay a price for his crimes?—that is the perennial question.

‘Dark Merrick Garland’, tweeted out today by the The Lincoln Project*.  It is a play on the meme of Joe Biden called Dark Brandon.
*The Lincoln Project is an American political action committee (PAC) formed in late 2019 by former and current Republicans.

Tuesday/ the Mar-a-Lago raid 🚨

On Monday morning at 10 a.m. EST, two dozen FBI agents and technicians executed a raid at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence (with a search warrant signed off by a federal judge for probable cause)— a first for an ex-President.
There is an opinion piece in today’s Wall Street Journal, titled ‘The FBI’s Dangerous Trump Search: Merrick Garland is taking the U.S. down a perilous path’.

Here is Prof. Yascha Mounk from Johns Hopkins University (@Yascha_Mounk on Twitter):

A few thoughts and principles about the FBI raid in Miami:
1 The rule of law applies to everyone. If Trump committed a crime, he should be punished for it.
2 Prosecutions against possible political candidates always deserve special scrutiny to ensure they are above the board.
3 The best way to beat an authoritarian populist is at the ballot box, not by disqualifying him from running.
4 If Trump is to be prosecuted, it would ideally be for a morally highly significant crime (like 1/6), not a procedural one (like mishandling classified documents).
5 One overlooked political risk is Trump getting acquitted, allowing him to claim he was exonerated.
6 We know very little about the FBI’s case against Trump so far. Anyone declaring with certainty that it is either appropriate or inappropriate is getting ahead of themselves.

Law enforcement officials stationed at the entrance to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday.
[Photo Credit: Josh Ritchie for The New York Times]
Trump supporter (extra large-ridiculous hat), saying ‘The Democrats are weaponizing the FBI, and it has to stop’.
1. You confuse the Department of Justice with the Democrats.
2. Did your lawless President not say ‘Law and Order’?
[Still from a video by Blair Guild/The Washington Post]

Thursday/ the red dragon 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

I picked up my notebook computer today in Redmond— and stopped by the British Pantry store to replenish the South African marmalade and chutney in my own pantry.

The Welsh flag outside the British Pantry store, with the Red Dragon (Y Ddraig Goch), passant (standing with one foot raised). The current flag was officially adopted in 1959, and is based on an old royal badge used by British kings and queens since Tudor times. The Red Dragon itself has been associated with Wales for centuries, though, steeped in folklore and myth.

Tuesday/ tell us more, tell us more 💬

Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, testifies during a Jan. 6 committee hearing on national television on June 28, 2022.
[Photo by Getty Images]
The American public learned shocking new details today, of the frenzied days in the White House in the run-up to Jan. 6, and on the day itself. Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson was the only live witness at today’s Jan. 6 hearing, but boy— did she have things to tell.

Trump was aware that his supporters had deadly weapons, and he still encouraged them to march on the Capitol. He tried to go, too, but the Secret Service would not let him. (In the days before the attack, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone was frantically warning staff that if anyone from the White House, let alone the president, went to the Capitol on Jan. 6, they’d be charged ‘with every crime imaginable’).
Trump wrestled with a Secret Security agent in ‘The Beast’ (the heavily armored vehicle), wanting to go to the Capitol after his speech at The Ellipse, and not back to the West Wing.
Trump threw dishes against the wall in the White House dining room, and would pull off the tablecloth with dinnerware and food and all onto the floor —regularly.
Trump really, really did not want to call off the rioters.
From inside the White House, the President can go on national TV on a moment’s notice. Trump never did.
2.24 pm: Sent the now-infamous tweet condemning Mike Pence.
2.38 pm: Tweeted that ‘protestors should stay peaceful’, as the violent break-in into the Capitol with the loss of life unfolded.
4.17 pm: Tweeted the ‘we love you, go home’ recording to the rioters.

Thursday/ conspiracy against the United States 💀

Screen shot of reporting from the New York Times online

It was Day 5 of the Jan. 6 Committee’s hearings, and man! – brazen, shameless, and flagrant are all words that come to mind, when one hears the testimony of what Trump was attempting to do, in the run-up to the Jan. 6 certification of the votes for President-elect Joe Biden.

On Jan. 3, 2021, with 17 days to go in his disastrous presidency, he pushed as hard as he can to replace former Acting Attorney General Rosen with a guy called Jeff Clark (so that Clark can contend the election was stolen).
Now: the AG oversees 115,000 people, including the FBI. Clark was utterly unqualified for the position.

Former DOJ officials Rosen, Donoghue, & Engel testified before the Jan. 6 committee that they had told Trump many DOJ officials would resign if Trump were to replace Rosen with Clark.

As Teri Kanefield notes on Twitter: What finally got through to Trump wasn’t the threats of resignation (and the damage it would do to the Dept of Justice), but persuading Trump that the con wouldn’t work.

It’s all very Title 18 U.S.Code § 371 a case of conspiracy against the United States.

Monday/ commemorating Juneteenth ⓳

This year’s Juneteenth* (June 19th) is the first one as a designated federal holiday. Since June 19th fell on a Sunday this year, today was a public holiday.

*Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans.

From blackpast.org:
Following the Union Army victory at Antietam, Maryland on September 17, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary emancipation proclamation. This document gave the states of the Confederacy until January 1, 1863 to lay down their arms and peaceably reenter the Union; if these states continued their rebellion all slaves in those seceding states were declared free.

Fearing the secession of neutral border slaveholding states such as Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation excluded those states, which left almost one fifth of the four million slaves in bondage. Their freedom would come with the 13th Amendment, ratified in 1865.

An embellished version of the Emancipation Proclamation (the original handwritten version of the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, is in the National Archives in Washington, DC).

Thursday/ ‘your dishonor will remain’

The Jan. 6 committee of Congress held its first prime-time (televised) hearing tonight, about the attack on the Capitol and the events leading up to it.
There were clips of pre-taped testimony from Bill Barr (Trump’s former Attorney General that had interfered with the first impeachment trial), and even from Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
Viewers were also shown new footage of the attack from the blood-thirsty mob that had been egged on by President Trump.

The Jan 6. insurrection at the U.S. Capitol now lies 18 months behind us, and more than 800 people across the U.S. have been charged.
Of these, 189 had been sentenced, with sentences ranging from probation to five years in jail. High-profile trials involving the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys are expected to start in the fall.
Several of their members are charged with seditious conspiracy (a serious but lesser counterpart to treason).

Will any of the really big fish, or the Mob Boss himself, pay a serious price? Nobody knows— and ultimately that will be up to US Attorney General Merrick Garland and his Dept. of Justice, not the Jan. 6 committee.

Memorial Day

“They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
– For the Fallen, a poem by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

Flag (1954-55) by artist Jasper Johns, from Museum of Modern Art, New York City.
In 1951, Johns was drafted into the army and spent two years in service during the Korean War at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and in Sendai, Japan.
The forty-eight stars and red-and-white stripes depicted here picture an American flag from the year this work was made (Alaska and Hawaii had not yet become part of the union).
Medium: Encaustic (using pigments mixed with hot wax that are burned in as an inlay), oil, and collage on fabric mounted on plywood, three panels.
Dimensions: 42 1/4 x 60 5/8″ (107.3 x 153.8 cm)
[Picture Credit: moma.org]

Monday/ about that Russian convoy

The extended 40-mile parade of Russian armored vehicles, tanks and towed artillery headed from the north on a path toward Kyiv has both alarmed and befuddled watchers of this expanding war. It’s not just its sheer size. It’s also because that for days, it has not appreciably been moving.

U.S. officials attribute the apparent stall in part to logistical failures on the Russian side, including as a result of food and fuel shortages, that have slowed Moscow’s advance through various parts of the country. They have also credited Ukrainian efforts to attack selected parts of the convoy with contributing to its slowdown. Still, officials warn that the Russians could regroup at any moment and continue to press forward.
-Reported by the Washington Post

..the convoy’s progress — or lack thereof — continues to capture popular fascination, thanks to a steady stream of satellite images and video recorded and disseminated by Maxar Technologies, a space technology and intelligence company, says the Washington Post. (Looking at the map, it sure looks like the convoy made its way through the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Some areas in there still contain dangerous amounts of radiation). 

Saturday/ Ukraine’s nuclear power plants

Russian attacks on nuclear sites could destabilize Ukraine’s energy supply
Russian forces attacked the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on March 3 and are now reportedly pushing toward the South Ukraine nuclear power plant. These are Ukraine’s two largest nuclear power plants, together responsible for one-third of Ukraine’s electricity generation.
Ukraine has a total of four nuclear power plants consisting of 15 reactors that generate roughly 50 percent of the country’s electricity. After nuclear power, coal is the largest source of electricity generated in the country. Many of Ukraine’s coal-fired power plants lie in the Donbas region, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.
-From the New York Times, as reported by Lazaro Gamio and Eleanor Lutz