Peak Misery

Today is Saturday March 19th, 2022. Kia ora.

This morning I awoke to the news that Putin’s address to a rally at a stadium crowded with flag-waving fans (remember Trump’s rallies?) had been interrupted on live television by something else – some singing.  Putin was praising Russian unity! Meanwhile, the Russians were bombing the beautiful city of Lviv. There’s a wonderful book about Lviv (Lemberg, Lvov) by Philippe Sands, called East West Street. Most of his family came from there; his parents escaped, but others perished in the Holocaust.  He’s a lawyer, and went there initially for a conference. Lviv was in Poland during World War II; it had Hans Frank as Hitler’s Governor – general. He was found guilty at the Nuremberg trials, and consequently executed.  Lviv is now in Ukraine, and has been a gathering point for shelter for refugees, on their way to safety.  

After the rally, Putin seemed to walk stiffly, and had trouble with the stairs, it’s reported; he quoted the Bible (one of the ten commandments is Thou shalt not kill, by the way), and talked about Crimea, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova as being part of Russia. He has no intention of stopping at Ukraine, assuming he’s successful. So what does that mean?  Success on one side assumes that the other side admits defeat.  Sadly, in this needless war, that’s not happening yet.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainians have attacked Kherson Airport (not long ago a destination for Ryan Air).  Kherson was the only major city in Ukraine to be taken by the Russians, but the scenes of devastation look horrifying.  Evidently the Russians had set up a military base there, from which to operate, but it appears that the Ukrainians may have destroyed 10 (others say 6) helicopters. 

As it goes on, Russian troops continue bombing, and make it very difficult for sheltering Ukrainians to escape.  Meanwhile, Ukrainians continue to sabotage Russian equipment, and the photos are portrayed on line. (The website I referred to yesterday is oryx.com).  So what is winning?  There’s a terrible line from the Vietnam War being quoted, about needing to destroy the village to save it.  Meanwhile, Ukrainian lives have been totally disrupted, people have been hurt, killed, or rendered homeless, they don’t have power or water (or food?), there’s a refugee crisis, and there’ll be widespread hunger because Ukraine is a fertile area for growing grain.  The Russians bombed a food store  yesterday!  Why? Programs and podcasts go on about Putin’s imperial ambitions (Peter the not so Great is his hero, evidently), and how to topple Putin (or not), and the bravery of the Ukrainians and the Russians who resist Putin. Still the dreadful destruction continues, although the US has supplied much more weaponry. Somehow this is different from putting “boots on the ground”.  Putin is reportedly calling in his favour to Syria, asking for their help in his military operation in Ukraine. What a surprise, that no one wants to go there. Uzbekistan has turned him down, apparently.

Here in New Zealand there is cautious optimism that new cases of covid 19/omicron may have peaked.  I guess if we have both BA1 and BA2 at the same time, that’s a win of sorts, seeing that another wave of omicron (BA2) is sweeping some parts of the world: the UK has more cases than it’s ever had! Luxon recommends relaxing Covid 19 rules: what rules are still in place?  There are limits on numbers at gatherings – you can have more people if they’re fully vaccinated, but really and truly, you’d be a brave person to go to any gathering at present.  The church I normally go to is going to continue with Sunday services, despite having someone test positive for Covid 19; I think that with disappointment, I’ll be zooming. At Kenepuru Hospital, they’ve diagnosed more Covid 19 cases; a bit of an outbreak there, then. Wellington Hospital has cancelled most non-urgent surgery (I thought they had already).  The Milk Crate Café in Wellington’s Ghuznee St is to join the growing list of those closing.

Today’s Covid 19 report shows 18,514 new cases, and 10 deaths, there are 939 people in hospital, and 24 of them are in Intensive Care; there are 45 new cases at the border.

This afternoon the NZ Herald reports this afternoon that one of Putin’s top military commanders has been killed in Ukraine. Kyiv and state tv in Moscow have confirmed the death of Colonel Sergei Sukharev and his deputy. Evidently the colonel masterminded a massacre in the 2014 conflict, when 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers were not allowed to leave safely the city of Ilovaisk in Donbas.

During this time, prosecutions continue for the January 6 insurrection in the US, but there isn’t a great deal of reporting on them or the work of that committee, given that the conflict in Ukraine is taking up all the oxygen, the Prime Minister of Ireland has diagnosed positive for Covid 19; he was with President Biden and Nancy Pelosi, and it’s hoped that they haven’t been infected.

It’s now Sunday March 20th.

This morning I zoomed into a friend’s service for the Catholic parishioners of South Wellington.  It was lovely, and nice to do something, since I don’t feel comfortable about going to my usual church at present.  Yesterday afternoon we went for a walk at Oriental Bay. It was lovely, and there were lots of people out.  Chloe Swarbrick has diagnosed positive with Covid 19, with what she describes as “gnarly symptoms”.  Everyone who writes about having this disease claims it hit them quite hard; certainly it seems to be not a light flu. Heard of man flu, anyone?  I read somewhere that half the people still to get Covid 19 don’t know they will get it.

Last night I watched the movie Quartet again on Māori television. I have seen it before, at least twice, but it is worth watching again for the great acting (Dame Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly, Tom Courtenay and others), and the magnificent quartet from Verdi’s Rigoletto at the end. I have a very good recording on Youtube, with Maria Callas and Giuseppe di Stefano. My only beef with the movie is that old people are sometimes presented as being quite agile!  This doesn’t ring true.  I’ve been watching Inventing Anna, The Tinder Swindler, and Bad Vegan on Netflix, much to JD’s annoyance.  There’s a morbid fascination with these stories, but one wonders how can women be so gullible, and have so much money?  The sums they give away are absolutely mind-boggling to someone like me. And surely if you’re forming a relationship with someone you’d do more to find out what they do for a living (probably work hard at ripping you off!), what their family and friends are like, what faiths and values they hold, and what kind of future you might have together.  It seems like a huge risk to throw your lot in with someone just because you like their online photo. The mind games played are quite disturbing, too. How gullible are people?  Cults prey on people’s emotions, too. There are several horrible series about cult involvement, and there’s a ghastly kind of consistency to the believe that you always have to do more to show your commitment.  This is really quite the opposite of a basic belief in grace and forgiveness. Why do things have to be so complicated?

The dreadful tragedy in Ukraine grinds on.  It’s said that four Russian generals have died in Ukraine, but that doesn’t stop the cruelty of continuous bombing raids.  Apparently Putin said the breakup of the Soviet Union (the USSR) in the early 1990’s was the greatest tragedy of the 20th century.  Really! Well, there are several contenders for truly horrible acts, where millions of people died: WW1, the Russian Revolution in 1917, the Holodomor, Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the Balkan Wars, and, of course, the Second World War and the Holocaust, which would probably come top of my list. This of course does not include the Syrian Civil War, the war in Vietnam, and various other conflicts, including human rights abuses in many places, and great suffering and oppression in places like Myanmar and present day China.

China has reported its first deaths (two) from Covid 19 in a year.

Today’s Covid 19 report again shows a trend: there are fewer new Covid 19 cases at 12,020, but there have been 9 more deaths and there are 957 people in hospital. 26 of them are in Intensive Care. It’s reported that new cases detected by PCR and RAT tests overnight are in Northland (416), Auckland (2,768), Waikato (1,093), Bay of Plenty (804), Lakes (330), Hawke’s Bay (676), MidCentral (540), Whanganui (169), Taranaki (373), Tairāwhiti (210), Wairarapa (146), Capital and Coast (795), Hutt Valley (443), Nelson Marlborough (308), Canterbury (1,897), South Canterbury (171), Southern (840), West Coast (22) and nine are unknown. Of the nine who died, four were in Auckland, three in the Bay of Plenty and one each in Capital and Coast and Waikato. The eight men and one woman were aged between their 50s and 90s. I would have to say that’s a welcome reduction in the Wellington and Hawkes Bay areas. Perhaps we have peaked, in terms of new cases, but the number of deaths is still disturbing. More than 110 aged care homes are battling coronavirus, and 27 residents have died after catching the virus. They are also short-staffed. Meanwhile, epidemiologist Michael Baker says it will take a long time for cases to drop in schools especially.

In the afternoon I learn of two ominous developments. The UK Defence Ministry claims that the Russians have used a thermobaric weapon; and thousands of Ukrainian citizens have been deported from Mariupol to northern Russia. This is next level stuff.  After all, refugees in Poland or Hungary or other parts of Europe can expect to return to Ukraine after the conflict; it will be very much harder if they’re in Russian territory.  Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi.

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