Tuesday, March 1st, 2022


Putin’s Pitchfork in the Road

There's no doubt that Putin's invasion is not going as planned. As Kori Schake writes in The Atlantic: Putin Accidentally Revitalized the West's Liberal Order. "Vladimir Putin has attempted to crush Ukraine's independence and "Westernness" while also demonstrating NATO's fecklessness and free countries' unwillingness to shoulder economic burdens in defense of our values. He has achieved the opposite of each. Endeavoring to destroy the liberal international order, he has been the architect of its revitalization." The pace at which Putin thought he could take Kyiv instead was the pace at which Europe and America reacted. In just 72 hours, Europe overhauled its entire post-Cold War relationship with Russia. The sanctions have been harsh. The unity against Russia has been stong. And the trend continues. Major oil companies have pulled out of the Russian market. Diplomats walked out of Sergey V. Lavrov's speech at the U.N. in Geneva.

But we could still be early on in this rolling war crime. Putin has reached a fork in the road. If his history is any indicator, he'll take the low road and increase the violence in coming days. For now, that low road is manifested in a "serpentine armored convoy, some 40 miles long, bristling with tanks and troops," slowly approaching Kyiv. Fiona Hill on Putin, targeting civilians, and nukes. "Every time you think, 'No, he wouldn't, would he?' Well, yes, he would.'" And Bill Browder on Putin: When You Believe Your Time is Almost Up, You Start a War. On MSNBC on Monday night, Alexander Vindman predicted that Putin's reaction to setbacks would be to double down. And from the reports on the ground, he appears to be doing just that. (This seems like a good to time to be reminded that Trump forced out some of our best experts on Putin and Ukraine because they told the truth.) Here's the latest from CNN and BBC.

+ "President Donald Trump was willing to see pro-Russian kleptocrats return to power in Ukraine because they served his corrupt political ends, and because he and his followers despise liberal democracy and admire naked 'strength,' especially when it's exercised to break rules and heads. It was no accident that Trump's first impeachment had its origins in Ukraine, with his attempt to blackmail President Volodymyr Zelensky to obtain political favors. The two countries are entangled, not just because of the war with Russia but because Ukraine is where the battle for democracy's survival is most urgent." George Packer in The Atlantic: Ukraine Is Redefining America's Interests.

+ What's happening in America and what's happening in Ukraine are part of the same battle between democracy and dictatorship. As I explained yesterday, From Kyiv to Mar-a-Lago, It's All Connected.


Sotu Whom it May Concern

"As President Biden is set to make his first formal State of the Union address Tuesday night, he and the country are facing pressing issues, from Russia's invasion of Ukraine to inflation and the continuing pandemic." Those big three just about sum things up. Let's unify for democracy and against Covid. Both could make inflation even more challenging. Russia's war on Ukraine could triple ocean shipping rates. (It's all connected).

+ On a positive Covid note, California, Oregon, Washington to drop school mask mandates.


Beseech Your Children Well

"Ali Zaidi, who worked in the Obama White House and is now Biden's national deputy climate adviser, a job that did not previously exist, told me, 'The outer reach of what was possible, in terms of climate policy, is now table stakes.' He added that, throughout American history, 'whenever we have achieved a phase change it's been young people making it happen.'" Andrew Marantz in The New Yorker: The Youth Movement Trying to Revolutionize Climate Politics. "Sunrise has already shifted the conventional wisdom about climate change. Now it wants to create a mass movement, combining street protest with policy negotiation, while there's still time."

+ Hey kids, hurry. Thousands evacuate from worst Australian floods in a decade.


Shall We Play a Game?

"Within three hours, Microsoft threw itself into the middle of a ground war in Europe — from 5,500 miles away. The threat center, north of Seattle, had been on high alert, and it quickly picked apart the malware, named it 'FoxBlade' and notified Ukraine's top cyberdefense authority. Within three hours, Microsoft's virus detection systems had been updated to block the code, which erases — 'wipes' — data on computers in a network. Then Tom Burt, the senior Microsoft executive who oversees the company's effort to counter major cyberattacks, contacted Anne Neuberger, the White House's deputy national security adviser for cyber- and emerging technologies. Neuberger asked if Microsoft would consider sharing details of the code with the Baltics, Poland and other European nations." Tech giants are the new nation states, and they're starting to act like it. David Sanger: As the Tanks Rolled into Ukraine, So Did Malware. Then Microsoft Entered the War. (They should force Putin to use IE 6...)

+ NYT (Gift Article): Ukraine War Tests the Power of Tech Giants.


Extra, Extra

You Can Check Out Anytime You Want, But You Can Never Leave: "The technology is comparable to what's in driverless cars. It identifies when we lift a product from a shelf, freezer or produce bin; automatically itemizes the goods; and charges us when we leave the store. Anyone with an Amazon account, not just Prime members, can shop this way and skip a cash register since the bill shows up in our Amazon account." NYT (Gift Article): Here Comes the Full Amazonification of Whole Foods. My homie Jeff O'Keefe predicted this kind of supermarket experience decades ago with an ad for IBM.

+ Get Ripped or R.I.P.: "Half an hour of muscle strengthening activity such as lifting weights, push-ups or heavy gardening each week could help reduce the risk of dying from any cause by as much as a fifth." (According to that math, 2 1/2 hours a week and you could reduce the risk of dying to zero...)

+ The War on People: "For the investigators, the human foot -- burned, but with some fabric still attached -- was the tipoff: Until recently, this squat, ruined house was a place where bodies were ripped apart and incinerated, where the remains of some of Mexico's missing multitudes were obliterated." At cartel extermination site; Mexico nears 100k missing.

+ Show Some Spine: "While digital media completely upended industries like music, movies and newspapers, most publishers and authors still make the bulk of their money from selling bound stacks of paper." NYT (Gift Article): How a Book Is Made. Ink, Paper and a 200,000-Pound Printer. Start the Presses!


Bottom of the News

"It seems only natural that two probably attractive movie stars pretending to get it on might end up actually getting each other a little hot and bothered. It's something we've all wondered, and yes, according to a real-life Hollywood intimacy coordinator, it does happen." What Happens When People Get Turned on While Filming Sex Scenes? (At my age, I'm more concerned about what happens when they don't...)

+ Yes, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Voiced Paddington Bear.

+ Just Steph Curry, Calmly Being Impossible.