Pic of the Day: Villa Badoer at Fratta Polesine

A view from above

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And what is this about?  Italy mag has a few words on it

Just outside Rovigo is one of Palladio’s sublime villas, the Villa Badoer at Fratta Polesine, built 1557-62. In fact, the landscape in this area is dotted with Palladian villas: he lived and worked in nearby Vicenza

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Check out the link for more about Rovigo!


The Argument Against Mocking Stalin

The film, “The  Death of Stalin” is still stoking controversy and that should not be a huge surprise. After all, we are talking about a comedy about the death of one of the most brutal dictators in history. What of the grim realities for those who suffered during that time.?

And yet, consider the back story (from Richard Overy’s review)

Stalin’s personal physician, Vladimir Vinogradov, was put in shackles on Stalin’s orders after the dictator allegedly found in the doctor’s notes a recommendation that his patient should give up work. It has never been entirely clear if Stalin himself believed the plot really existed, but it never mattered. His brutal authority was maintained on the Hobbesian principle that no one was secure in the Soviet state. “I trust no one,” he is supposed to have said, “not even myself.” One consequence of this final spasm of violence was the difficulty in finding a doctor who could treat the dictator in his dying hours.

Apparently, none was found. At least not in time. Ooops!

It is pathetic, and that is the point of the satire. The pathetic aspects of those who pretend to be above it all deserve attention. And yet, the laughter that the satire provokes has a certain bitter taste as so many could not enjoy the joke.

A Pompeo Whopper!

Mike Pompeo is the Director of the CIA and is a Trump appointee.  This is a highly sensitive top level position. You expect CIA directors to be careful about what they say. Right? Well, fasten your seat belts.

Speaking at the national security summit in Washington, Pompeo said: “We conducted an election that had integrity. And yes, the intelligence community’s assessment is that the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election.”

Errr … Apparently this misinformation was so egregious that the CIA had to issue a correction

“The intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed, and the director did not intend to suggest that it had,”

To be clear — the assessment in question was in a report. That report said that it was the Russian government’s intention to influence the outcome of the election.  The report did not assess the impact of its efforts.

Wishful thinking Mr. Pompeo? And what were you saying about integrity?

Trump Has Lost it. Will America Lose it as well?

Last night I watched Rachel Maddow get rather agitated about the latest Trump fiasco. This time it is over his communications with the family members of slain US soldiers. BTW, his promise to send a check to the father of a slain soldier and then not doing it — until it came out in the press — is indeed sleazy. And it fits the pattern of Trump promising charitable donations and then not following through. That is an old story.

But Rachel went beyond the sleaze to make a point. Her point is that Trump does this outrageous stuff in order to manipulate attention. Remember Trump accusing Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower? Rachel argues that he did it to distract attention from revelations about Russia meetings by his top advisors and family that came out the same day. And Rachel thinks Trump is playing the same game now in order to distract attention from the question what US green berets are doing in Niger.

BTW, that is a good question. What are US troops doing in Niger? How did the ambush that killed 4 green berets happen?  It seems that no one really knows, which is a bit creepy.

Is Rachel right? It is an intriguing theory. But I am skeptical that Trump is capable of the self-control that such a tactic would require.  It is as likely that Trump lashed out in the Rose Garden the other day simply because of something he had heard behind the scenes that he wanted to get off his chest.

The bottom line here is that we have learned from repeated unpleasant experience that the dude can’t help himself from stirring the pot. He just did it again with a tweet where he asks who paid for the Steele dossier — suggesting that it might have been among others …  the FBI!  Here is the tweet

Workers of firm involved with the discredited and Fake Dossier take the 5th. Who paid for it, Russia, the FBI or the Dems (or all)?


As Vox reports

… we know who paid for it and it wasn’t the FBI: (it was) private American political donors, first supporters of Trump’s Republican primary opponents and later Democrats trying to torpedo his general election bid.

This is classic Trump. Throw out an outrageous suggestion in order to fan the flames of controversy and engage his base. You can just imagine him giggling as he wrote it. Politics as professional wrestling. Truth? Why let that get in the way!  I have axes to grind!

Or perhaps Trump’s private investigators are still somewhere in Hawaii digging up “incredible” information about Obama’s birth certificate. Remember that absurd episode brought to you by the Donald before the election? Does anyone care now that the Donald never produced any information or even any real investigators? It is just one discarded story line in the enormous garbage heap of Trump’s ongoing mendacity.

The situation is untenable. The question is how do we get beyond it. At this stage, I do not think that the republicans in Congress will suddenly decide that Trump should be impeached. Folks who feel otherwise may not like this, but we should accept it as their decision. And they and Trump should be held accountable for the mess that we now are in as a result of Trump’s repeated malfeasance and republican decision to ignore it all.  Scandal? What scandal? In other words, the way beyond the mess is through the 2018 mid-term elections.

Don’t just sit there – get ready, get set, get out the vote! And if you do not vote, don’t blame anyone else if this nonsense becomes the defining feature of American politics for the foreseeable future.

Nervous about Information Flow?

Some years ago, I found myself in an argument about American culture. My friend had said that American media is controlled by American corporate interests, and the notion that America has a free press is largely a myth While I agree that American corporate interests do try to manipulate media, I disagree that the system is controlled. To the contrary, it is a free for all.

I still think this is the case. And I am more persuaded when I compare the flow of information in the US to other countries. The Russian model? Errrr … state funded troll farms in St. Petersburg? And China? Fred Wilson writes from Shanghai

… the entire notion that China has chosen to block some of the world’s most essential services inside of China’s borders seems crazy to me.

I do not mean to say that all is well in the US and not anywhere else. But there is a big difference between what is happening in the US and in Russia and China. And the scary part is that at the current moment, it is not clear that more freedom will trump less freedom.

Some Life Management Skills, Anyone?

Life design is an “in vogue” topic now – in part thanks to

  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – Flow
  • Sir Kenneth Robinson and his books on finding and using your natural gives
  • Burnett and Evans – Designing Your Life (based on their Stanford Course)

There are other resources, but the above three are huge for me. I have been thinking about what they offer for some time now, and condensed some of the key ideas into a one day “primer” or “adventure”.  The goal of the quickie course is to offer an “an off the shelf”! tool that you can apply to daily activities and decisions to step by step upgrade how you think about and how you live your life.

Note – I do not tell you how to live your life. That is totally up to you. I assume that you have some idea of what you want in life, and help you realize it over time.

We just did our one day course here in Tartu yesterday, and I was very pleased.  The energy in the classroom at the end of the day was very high, and everyone was chomping at the bit to get out there and go for it!

What a great day!

Sixers Opener: They Lost. I loved it!

The Sixers opened the season with a road game against the Wizards and wow! What a great game to watch.

Both teams have high hopes for this season. The Wizards are fast, with fantastic guards and they are very physical. The Sixers are just testing out their young talent with Embiid, Simmons, etc.

I have to give both teams a ton of credit. For an opening game after a shortened pre-season, both teams played with pace and executed well most of the time The Sixers could easily have won this game if they had converted in one of three of the last possessions – that is how close the game was.

The final score was high – any time you give up 120 points — as the Sixers did — you know you have to work on your defense. The Sixers did not block out well, and they did not handle interior defense well. Then again, part of that has to do with John Wall and Bradley Beale – an amazing guard tandem. who can finish and dish it off. They did both at a very high skill level.

On the Sixers side, Ben Simmons had an awesome debut. He showed that he can lead the team on offense and, even in his first NBA game, control the pace of the game at times. He drove, he dished off, he finished well, and he posted up. We did not see an outside shot from him and in this game, we did not need to. Embiid was very good, though it seemed to me that he got gassed. Fultz played well but we also did not see his outside shot. Covington was very hot. from 3 point land. His defense was less great. Dario was not a factor today.  JJ Redick hit some 3’s and might have won the game with a 3. It was a good look that just missed.

So, ok, the Sixers lost their opener. BTW so did the Warriors. But I really, really liked what I saw from the Sixers. This is a fun team to watch, and they are playing better (more cohesively) than I thought they would at this early stage.  Barring injury, when this team gels, the Sixers could be  even better than some are speculating.

Onward to the Celtics on Friday! Did I mention that the first part of the Sixers schedule is brutal?