Monday, February 28th, 2022


Right Here, Right Now

It's all connected. The years of Trump being manipulated into lauding Putin's savvy and genius. The scene in Helsinki when Trump sided with Putin over America's intelligence agencies. The weapons Trump withheld from Ukraine and the perfect phone call to blackmail the Ukrainian president into digging up dirt on Joe Biden. The failure to adequately punish Trump for that international crime. The attacks on NATO. The abandonment of allies. The dictator love. The labeling of the press as enemies of the people. The America First hogwash. The relentless lying. It's all connected to what we see playing out in the streets of Kiev. And still, the likes of Trump, Pompeo, and Tucker Carlson can't bring themselves to side with democracy over the Moscow Murderer. Ordinary Ukranians have the guts to face Putin's army. The Senate GOP was scared to stand up to Trump. And the broader party is afraid to stand up to him and call him out, even now, as he sides with pure evil.

Fortunately, Europe, Biden, and much of the free world are not so misguided. Putin has unified the alliances he sought to divide. NATO is more determined. The EU is more unified. "The European Union agreed Sunday to close its airspace to Russian airlines, and spend hundreds of millions of euros on buying weapons for Ukraine and ban some pro-Kremlin media outlets in its latest response to Russia's invasion." These nations and organizations understand that this isn't just about a sick, war criminal killing innocent civilians to achieve a hopeless fantasy of piecing back together the Soviet empire, it's a clash between authoritarianism and democracy. As David Remnik writes in The New Yorker, "What threatens Putin is not Ukrainian arms but Ukrainian liberty. "His invasion amounts to a furious refusal to live with the contrast between the repressive system he keeps in place at home and the aspirations for liberal democracy across the border." The fighting is in Ukraine, but the front in this war stretches from Kiev to Mar-a-Lago. Putin's invasion of Ukraine and MAGA's Big Lie are both part of a broad war against democracy. Hopefully Americans will be inspired by Ukrainian bravery and stand up for democracy, because it's all connected.

As a teen during the Holocaust, my dad was hunted by Ukrainian henchmen working for the Nazis. When history pushed, he pushed back. Today, he would be proud of the courage shown by Ukraine's Jewish president Volodymyr Zelensky. When the U.S. offered him an escape route, he responded, "The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride." Man, I wish my dad—who survived the Holocaust because he got a gun and ammunition—was around to hear that line from a Jewish leader in Europe. Zelensky, the former comedian who used to play the part of a fictional president, found himself in a situation that is all to real. The guy Trump thought was so weak that he could be blackmailed during that phone call has proven himself strong enough to become an international hero fighting against a corrupt madman and for democracy. He is the very opposite of Donald Trump. As Franklin Foer writes his Atlantic piece, A Prayer for Volodymyr Zelensky, "The whole world can see that his execution is very likely imminent. What reason does he have to doubt that Vladimir Putin will order his murder, as the Russian leader has done with so many of his bravest critics and enemies?" And yet, as history pushes, the standup stands firm. During the last years of his life, my dad repeatedly lamented that Americans weren't taking the threat to our democracy seriously enough. "Vhy aren't the people out in the streets?" Well, today, inspired by the Ukrainian grandson of a Holocaust survivor, hundreds of thousands of people are taking to the streets across Europe, and even in Russia itself. The fight is there. The fight is here, too. It's the same fight my dad fought. It's all connected.

The world should have stood up to Putin a long time ago and treated him and his oligarch crew as the criminals they are. But from America to Europe and beyond, they are beginning to stand up to him now. And dictators like China's Xi, who obviously gave Putin the greenlight during their Olympics elbow rubbing, are seeing this resolve. The ruble had been turned to rubble. The sanctions are stiff. The West has weaponized Russia's Central Bank against Putin. Even Switzerland says it will freeze Russian assets, setting aside a tradition of neutrality. The Swiss realize the fight is there, too. There's no room for neutrality anywhere. It's all connected.

+ Ukraine's ‘Go F*ck Yourself' Heroes Who Defended Snake Island Still Alive.

+ American and British Special Forces veterans are preparing to join Ukraine's fight gainst Russia.

+ Russia is increasing the violence, killing dozens of civilians, as talks end, Ukraine has asked for urgent entry into the EU. Here's the latest from CNN and BBC.


Hot Now

"Heat waves, droughts, floods, wildfires, disease outbreaks and other dire effects of climate change are accelerating more rapidly than scientists expected in many parts of the world, including in North America. And as oceans, rainforests and polar regions heat up, nature is less and less able to help us with the task of adapting to a hotter Earth, the report finds. Still, the authors of the report make clear, humans are not powerless." NPR: Climate change is killing people, but there's still time to reverse the damage. (Just less time.)

+ NYT (Gift Article): Climate Change Is Harming the Planet Faster Than We Can Adapt, U.N. Warns.

+ If you need a reason other than saving the planet, there's always the benefit of not depending on people like Putin. Germany to speed renewables push due to Ukraine crisis.

+ "With Congress doing little on climate change, President Biden must use his executive authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions across the U.S. economy. The Supreme Court appears determined to thwart him." NYT: Will the Supreme Court Frustrate Efforts to Slow Climate Change?

+ How Ketanji Brown Jackson Could Change The Supreme Court. (A lot. But not enough.)


Doc Worker

The media obsesses over bad news and bad people. But we can't forget the great ones. Tracy Kidder on Paul Farmer in the NYT (Gift Article): He Wanted to Make the Whole World His Patient. "Paul's basic belief was that all human beings deserve equal respect and care, especially when they are sick. His dream, he once told me, was to start a movement that would refuse to accept, and would strive to repair, the grotesque health inequities among and within the countries of the world. When I first met him — in Haiti, in 1994 — he had already created a growing health care system in a desperately impoverished area. I thought he'd done a lot already. Now, looking back, I realize that he was just getting started."


Abbott Hole

"Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered the state's child welfare agency to investigate reports of gender-confirming care for kids as abuse, a directive that opponents say is a first by any governor over GOP efforts to restrict transgender rights." Texas governor order treats gender-confirming care as abuse. First abortion rights. Now trans kids. Greg Abbott means something different when he says, women and children first.


Extra, Extra

Shake, Rattle, and Roll: "With careful rebranding, word choice and packaging, products like vibrators and lubricants have become newly palatable to higher-end retailers that cater to women. It's a significant evolution in the public acceptance of such products, helped in part by celebrity endorsements, and it comes amid a broader focus on wellness and self-care spurred by the pandemic." NYT (Gift Article): Bloomingdale's, Sephora and the Embrace of Sexual Wellness. (This is the only category of wellness that I seem to qualify for...)

+ Mole Keeper: "As head of the German soccer federation, Theo Zwanziger was among his sport's most prominent critics of the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. He publicly attacked the energy-rich Gulf nation's human rights record. He questioned the wisdom of staging the world's most popular sporting event in searing desert heat." Qatar deploys ex-spies to blunt German's World Cup criticism. (You wouldn't want it to get out that it's really hot in Qatar.)

+ Gum, Disease: "A type of chewing gum mixed with a protein that is a gateway for infections with the novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, could serve as a low-cost way to help prevent its spread." Chewing Gum with GMO Could Reduce the Spread of COVID. (This sets the stage for the anti-chewing gum protests to take to the streets.)

+ Terrible Stat: "Percentage increase since 2019 in ER visits for suicide attempts by adolescent boys : 4. By adolescent girls : 51." The March Harper's Index.


Bottom of the News

"A teenager in Nova Scotia combined two of his favorite hobbies and set a Guinness World Record in the process. How? By solving a whopping 211 Rubik's cubes, all while bouncing on a pogo stick."