Links 4/15/2022

Lambert and I, and many readers, agree that Ukraine has prompted the worst informational environment ever. We hope readers will collaborate in mitigating the fog of war — both real fog and stage fog — in comments. None of us need more cheerleading and link-free repetition of memes; there are platforms for that. Low-value, link-free pom pom-wavers will be summarily whacked.

And for those who are new here, this is not a mere polite request. We have written site Policies and those who comment have accepted those terms. To prevent having to resort to the nuclear option of shutting comments down entirely until more sanity prevails, as we did during the 2015 Greek bailout negotiations and shortly after the 2020 election, we are going to be ruthless about moderating and blacklisting offenders.


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Please do not write us to ask why a comment has not appeared. We do not have the bandwidth to investigate and reply. Using the comments section to complain about moderation decisions/tripwires earns that commenter troll points. Please don’t do it. Those comments will also be removed if we encounter them.

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A Connecticut Mechanic Found Artwork Worth Millions in a Dumpster Smithsonian

Stinky feet or something sweet? Cultures around the world respond to smells in the same way Science


Experienced wildland firefighter explains why he resigned Wildfire Today. “Watching the mass exodus of our operational knowledge is one of the saddest evolutions I have witnessed.”

Lightning-sparked forest fires set to increase in North America Guardian (Re Silc).

Invasive pear trees are reshaping the region’s landscape Greater Greater Washington


Up the line to death: covid-19 has revealed a mortal betrayal of the world’s healthcare workers British Medical Journal. And no political consquences at all. It’s extraordinary.

You Are Witness to a Crime The Baffler. ACT-UP’s legacy; from 2021, still germane.

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Laughing Ourselves to Death at the Gridiron Dinner Gregg Gonsalves, The Nation. I’m not the only one who’s ripsh*t about this.

The Failure of Is Worse Than Inexcusable Bloomberg. Just like when was launched. We learn nothing:

The instructions for finding and getting free masks, for example, are labyrinthine: Clicking on “Learn more about masks and where to get them” just takes you to the standard Centers for Disease Control explainer on masks. That page is out of date — as of this writing, it was last updated in August 2021 and still prominently features an illustration of cloth masks rather than the more heavily protective N95 and KN95 models. 1 And it’s very difficult to navigate. Among the many different links, one does indeed promise to help you locate free masks. But once you get to that locator, you learn that: “This tool shows a list of pharmacies that provide free masks (N95 respirators). It does not show their current inventory.” (Emphasis in the original.) I initially tried to use the link on mobile, and found only one distribution location listed in my ZIP Code. I later tried to search again on my computer, and discovered that more locations were listed, but an invisible (and thus unnoticeable) scrolling interface was required to see the others. In any event, trying to contact one of the listed pharmacies led me to a long phone tree, at the end of which there was no information about current availability.

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Long COVID affects 1 in 5 people following infection. Vaccination, masks and better indoor air are our best protections The Conversation

An experimental COVID drug was so successful that they’re shutting down trials early Fortune. n = 210. Sabizabulin.

The Tobacco Wars’ Lessons for the Vaccination Wars New England Journal of Medicine

We Might Be Looking At COVID “Seasons” For Years To Come Buzzfeed


Coronavirus: Shanghai finds a record 3,200 cases with Covid-19 symptoms as mass tests uncover Omicron lurking in families in cloistered homes South China Morning Post. Commentary, worth reading in full:

China Lockdowns Worry Businesses as Shipping Uncertainty Grows Bloomberg

The Final Obliteration of China as a Covid-19 Role Model The National Review


Dry streets as Myanmar boycotts water festival to protest junta France24. But the junta is doing its best:

Ukraine Crisis Prompts China to Swing Behind Myanmar’s Junta USIP

The problem with postcards from Myanmar The Lowy Interpreter

Thousands of Sri Lankans celebrate New Year at anti-government protest site Channel News Asia. Sounds like Occupy:


Israeli forces attack Palestinian worshippers in al-Aqsa Mosque raid Middle East Eye


Why 1980s Oxford holds the key to Britain’s ruling class FT Context:

Asylum Seekers Deported From Israel to Rwanda Warn Those Remaining: ‘Don’t Come Here’ Haaretz. From 2018, still germane.

Marine Le Pen exploits cost of living fears as French run-off vote looms FT

New Not-So-Cold War

Biden official admits US refused to address Ukraine and NATO before Russian invasion Responsible Statecraft

The Ukrainian conflict is a U.S./NATO Proxy War, but one which Russia is poised to win decisively – Scott Ritter MR Online

China’s Ukraine Response Is All About the US (Not Russia) The Diplomat

Welcome to the “RuZZkiy Mir” Evgenia Kovda (MR).

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Ukraine Live Updates: Russia Appears Close to Capturing Mariupol NYT

Russia accuses Ukraine of helicopter strike in cross-border attack Global News. The final paragraph: “‘If such incidents continue, then consequence from the armed forces of the Russian Federation will be attacks on decision making centres, including in Kyiv, which the Russian army has refrained from to date,’ the defence ministry said.”

EXCLUSIVE: ‘What have the Russians done to him?’ Family’s fury after ‘beaten’ British fighter is paraded on Moscow state TV in handcuffs with a cut to the head and swollen eye after being captured with Ukrainians during battle for Mariupol Daiy Mail. “Captured earlier this week after his team ran out of food and ammo.”

Russian Mercenaries in Great-Power Competition: Strategic Supermen or Weak Link? RAND Corporation

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Russian Black Sea Fleet’s Flagship Goes Down off Odesa Maritime Executive

Sunken Moskva Could Be The Biggest Naval Combat Loss In 40 Years The Drive

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Day 49 of the Russian SMO – a few notes on the propaganda war (UPDATED!) The Saker. More on the Moska.

NED Finances Key Ukrainian Propaganda Organ, the Kyiv Independent Covert Action Magazine

Exclusive: Russian geoeconomics Tzar Sergei Glazyev introduces the new global financial system The Cradle. Big if true. (Not sure about this venue; there’s no About page or working Contact page.)

The Caribbean

Honduran ex-leader Hernández to be extradited to US next week BBC

Biden Administration

An Unintended Consequence of Student-Debt Relief WSJ

Supply Chain

Semiconductor average lead time breaks half-year barrier The Register

CF Industries: Union Pacific Curtails Fertilizer Shipments, Delaying Deliveries and Preventing New Rail Orders from Being Taken GreenStock News

China’s COVID-19 Outbreak Introduces New Implications for the Shipping Markets Hellenic Shipping News

Our Famously Free Press

Elon Musk Urges Greater Transparency at Twitter, Calling Platform The ‘De Facto Town Square’ WSJ. The offer:

Elon Musk and Selling Tickets to the End of the World Matt Stoller, BIG

Elon Musk’s “Threat” to Restore Free Speech on Twitter Provokes Liberal Panic. Today at 3 pm ET. Glenn Greenwald


Nursing Homes Are in Crisis. We Can’t Look Away Any Longer. NYT. Oh, I think we can.

Americans Gon’ Wild: Gonorrhea and Syphilis at Record Highs in 2020 Gizmodo

Decentralization: An Ethical Obligation Endpoints News. Reforming clinical trials.

Class Warfare

San Francisco Rations Housing by Scoring Homeless People’s Trauma. By Design, Most Fail to Qualify. ProPublica. Classic PMC complex eligibility requirements + moralizing.

Branko Milanović – The evolution of Karl Marx: a review of Kevin B. Anderson’s “Marx at the Margins” Branko Milanović, Brave New Europe

12 best ways to get cars out of cities – ranked by new research The Conversation

How Japan Built Cities Where You Could Send Your Toddler on an Errand Slate

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Bonus Antidote:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. East-er Egg

    Some nice Easter reading

    The West 404 – Russia in Global Affairs

    “But we can say that in some way we are an exceptional nation. We are one of those nations that do not seem to form an integral part of humanity, but that exist only to teach the world some great lesson. The lesson we are called upon to give will certainly not be lost; but who knows when we will find ourselves belonging in humanity, and how much misfortune we will experience before our predestination is fulfilled?” (Pyotr Chaadaev. Philosophical Letter. Telescope Journal, 1836).

  2. Mikerw0

    One of my brothers was very active in ACT-Up, and arrested multiple times in the round-ups by the police. In a civilized society the lengths that they had to go to address an epidemic of death should never have had to occur. And, now seeing another political wave anti the LGBTQ community is depressing.

    We are headed back to America “love it or leave it” but where a small minority aided by the Supreme Court will define what America is.

    1. jsn

      Number of Americans who died of AIDS peaked in 1995 at 50,000.

      We’re doing Half a million a year now with Covid, where’s the protest? Where’s the quilt?

      It appears the roll out of the internet is the most effective tool of absolute political control the dark heart of humanity has yet produced.

  3. timbers

    Marine Le Pen exploits cost of living fears as French run-off vote looms FT

    “Exploits” cost of living fears.

    Well, guess there’s no reason for Glinda Good Witch of the North asking Le Pen “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?”

    1. Maritimer

      I guess she wanted to “piss off” FT. These MSM rags disgrace themselves over and over again. Blunt force bias, no subtlety at all.

  4. Stick'em

    re: An Unintended Consequence of Student-Debt Relief – WSJ
    Will young Americans volunteer for the armed forces in adequate numbers?

    My father went to the largest university in the US – U of Texas in Austin – during the ’60s. He says tuition was free. He paid something like $50 a semester in “student fees.”

    Fast forward to the ’90s. I went to a state university and the tuition was no longer free because the powers that be kicked away the ladder for my generation. The student loan nightmare was in full effect. My best friend in college was a Navy Seal who, like me, was a little older than the rest of the students on campus. He didn’t share the nightmare because of the GI Bill.

    The massive student Vietnam War protests in the ’60s brought us an end to military conscription as well the end of a free education to punish those “dirty hippies.”

    So the question remains, if we put the ladder back and get young people college educations for free, who among us will volunteer to go to some hellhole like Afghanistan?

    Perhaps a better question is why does the US insist on paying for a standing army we spend more $ on than the rest of the world combined?

    1. hunkerdown

      Price tags and property claims are so much inky confetti without a judge to back them up. One might look at NATO et al. funding as interest payments on the value system as a whole.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Read a tweet some time ago that said that the GI Bill created wealth and opportunity for a whole generation but that student loan policy over the last 20 years is a “Reverse GI Bill” in that that will reduce economic prospects for multiple generations.

      1. flora

        The GI Bill starting with WWII vets came about because pols remembered what happened to the WWI vets who were summarily dismissed as worthy of any concern after WWI, and the enormous numbers of WWI vets who went to DC to protest for their “promised” WWI bonus (which they never got) during the Great Depression. The children of WWI vets fought in WWII, and they’d heard stories. WWII pols didn’t want to have a repeat of the dismal treatment of war vets.

      2. Telee

        Another reason not to vote for Biden or main stream corporate democrats, that is the right wing conservative democrats who have so much in common with the ultra right wing republicans. It’s a one party system made up of a right wing and an ultra right wing party. See we do have a choice?

    3. DorothyT

      In 1960, the University of California at Berkeley was $60 a semester and included entrance to all sports activities. I believe they accepted the top 10% or so of California high school graduates.

    4. John

      Perhaps a better question is why does the US insist on paying for a standing army we spend more $ on than the rest of the world combined?

      All that money gets cycled back to our oligarchs and the MIC PMC. Those sheet rock palaces in the NOVA and Md suburbs don’t build themselves, as Lambert frequently reminds us. And their children don’t borrow money for college.

    5. MRLost

      My first semester at UT Austin in 1972 cost less than $75 for tuition and fees for 13 hours credit. That was about one-and-a-half months rent in a group house with three or four bedrooms and three to five people. The price of books was a whole different animal.

      1. Questa Nota

        How times change.

        College in the 1960s and well into the 1970s was affordable for many at state universities via a summer job or two, perhaps with some work-study job on campus. The total cost included room, meals, books and those minimal fees.

        Many students also received Pell Grants or their predecessor, Basic Educational Opportunity Grants, and some also signed up for what were then more honestly-presented student loans with less punitive terms.

        How did post-secondary educators, if that is still a viable term, decide to aid and abet in committing their students to the new program? The same way that they kept on screwing with adjuncts, grad student TAs and others not in the club. There was a special type of hypocrisy at play, to rationalize the high ideals mumbled over drinks at the Faculty Club with the low actions of their minions in the Financial Aid and Department offices.

      2. Anon

        Currently attending community college. This semester was $360 per 3 credits (1 class)… next semester is $516 per 3 credit hours.

    6. RobertC

      As I said a week ago

      China has won the trifecta. Along with Russia because those resources hadn’t benefited Russia and Russians to the extent they should have.

      Since 2006 China has reached out and successfully established access to [Russia’s] human resources [with academies, research centers, et al in Russia and China].

      Which include 250K STEM graduates yearly, same as the US with 2.5 times the population.

      Russia and China together needs every single one of them for their evolving joint space, environmental, transportation, etc programs.

      How America Can Lose the Fourth Industrial Revolution

      …Yet we live in a winner-takes-all world. America’s wealth, as well as its financial stability, depends extensively on technological leadership, which has created most of the new wealth in the United States during the past two decades. Chinese leadership in the Fourth Industrial Revolution would precipitate the unraveling of America’s global financial position and create a profound and systemic crisis.

      …Americans no doubt will find remunerative things to do in a new Chinese Empire. The Chinese do not conquer and destroy. They assimilate. They are incurious about how barbarians manage their internal affairs, contemptuous of democracies who do not elevate their cleverest exam-scorers to Mandarin positions. America will persist even if it doesn’t prevail. We will still write smartphone apps. We will be the geeks in a new Roman Empire.

      …The United States can still lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution. But we do not have a lot of time to lose. China is close to attaining a critical mass of talent, skills, technological capacity, and logistical depth with a population nearly five times that of the United States. At some point in the foreseeable future, the United States will not be able to catch up.

    7. LawnDart

      Wait a sec: My best friend in college was a Navy Seal who, like me, was a little older than the rest of the students on campus. He didn’t share the nightmare because of the GI Bill.

      The GI Bill had become the GI Joke in the 90s– it had not kept up with tuition and inflation. I went in because it was my way out, and I believed the recruiter (yeah, I know) and others (who did not know what the F they were talking about) who talked-up the GI Bill. So I serve my time, get out and collect on this wonderful benefit: $300 a month, against $3k a term tuition (plus books and fees). Talk about a kick in the nuts. And I do understand that it was significantly raised later, but that didn’t help us who fell into the hole of false-promises and bullshit.

      Now, exactly what GI Bill did your friend collect from and when? I hope he got the raise and not the shaft.

      1. newcatty

        If not enough young people volunteer to join the military to provide “enough” cannon fodder in those services would the solution for the US military and PTB to bring back the draft? Most people in my age cohort, the young people during Viet Nam one, are incredulous of such a disasterous government move. For good reasons. But, what would stop them?

        1. wilroncanada

          No, newcatty. They’ll hire mercenaries from many of the countries they have, are, and will be destroying, just as they have already been doing on the Q. T. To the Pentagon, money is no object.

    8. juno mas

      The massive student Vietnam War protests in the ’60s brought us an end to military conscription as well the end of a free education to punish those “dirty hippies.”

      The first part of the sentence is relatively accurate, the second part not so much. The campus protests were material to the end of the Draft (Jan. 1970), but the end of a free education was not to punish “dirty hippies”. The cost of an education became un-affordable (in California, at least) because of general war inflation and the “energy crisis” of 1973 that gutted the state budget. The governor at that time: Ronald Reagan (1967-74)

      A major portion of the cost of a higher education is housing, which has risen faster than the cost of “resort style” amenities at major universities. Higher education needs a re-thinking to make it affordable to those who want it. (Because a successful society needs smart kids.)

      1. Maritimer

        Unfortunately, we now have Injection Conscription, you are enlisted in the War For BP/WEF/WHO/GATES Profits and Power. As for “dirty hippies”, they have been replaced by the Uninjected as the hated group du jour, unwilling to be conscripted in the Big Pharma War.

    9. Dalepues

      I went to school on the G.I. Bill. When I etsed from
      the regular army in 1972 the benefit was around $200
      a month, not enough to pay for an apartment and
      tuition/books, but with a part time job you could take
      ten hours a quarter and still have time to go to classes
      and study.

  5. The Rev Kev

    “Thousands of Sri Lankans celebrate New Year at anti-government protest site”

    ‘Went to #GotaGoGama and it’s evolving rapidly. There’s a library, food, tents, stations where kids are drawing signs. It’s much more diverse than any political party event, lots of young people, families, quite fun really. And then at night it swells to take over the street.’ – Sounds like Occupy

    Maybe the Sri Lankan government can call in Barack Obama for some advice on how to deal with them.

  6. griffen

    I am shocked, shocked I say, that a breakout of STDs is ravaging the nation. As it goes in a funny episode of Seinfeld, If that van is rocking, don’t go knocking.

    1. Stick'em

      Half the country won’t wear masks except as chin hammocks. What did we expect them to do with the condoms?

  7. anon y'mouse

    on 12 best ways to get cars out of cities:

    note that they are talking about applying various incentives and disencentives to get people to use other means of transport in European cities, most of which were designed or bear features that were dictated by centuries of people needing to use their feet to get around. even when built after the car, because of the pre-existing layout foot traffic is still mostly accommodated.

    our “cities” are not designed like this, or only the pre-auto cores are. See Kunstler’s various books on this, or just stay with a friend in a semi-suburb and go out carless in search of milk or eggs for a Saturday brunch, from a store less than a quarter of a mile away.

    oh, and the Wall Street Journal openly admitting something most of us knew–that free college will lead to a scarcity of cannon fodder should be a dooming statement on our society–we would rather use our youth to kill and maim themselves and others than educate them for a future in this world.

    1. JohnnySacks

      Cambridge MA has figured it out – demolish every parking garage, drive up parking rates to $45 a day, strangle all access roads. Make it impractical to even think about carpooling into work from ‘affordable’ living areas. Meanwhile, rely on the same single subway line you’ve been relying on for probably close to a century while building out massive pharma and tech office and lab towers forcing all your workers to share the $4000 a month 2 bedroom apartments within walking, biking, and mass transit accessibility.

      There, problem solved.

      1. flora

        And… housing prices in the flyover states, even in the smaller towns, are going up and up. I understand NYC, Chicago, and SF are losing population – more people leaving than arriving. Even businesses are leaving. Who’d a thunk it. / ;)

      2. Carla

        The Cambridge solution eliminates something I’m sure they wanted to get rid of even more than automobiles: poor people.

        So it’s a twofer!

        Plus a bonus: it impoverishes the formerly middle class, cutting them down to size. Wowsers!

    2. Mikel

      The WSJ article also implies that the train of thought of that circle would include how debt makes people servile and compliant with all manner of non-sense and dangerous ideas across a broad range of industries.

      I remember a documentary about an advertising executive who apparently told a new hire to go out buy expensive things and get into a load of debt. It was key to his owm drive for success.
      Nobody understands more than the marketing/advertising world how image maintenance and obsession with it can blunt the mind from thinking about it as debt servitude.

  8. Wukchumni

    Experienced wildland firefighter explains why he resigned Wildfire Today.
    The firefighter was a Hotshot…

    A couple of years ago our cabin community got a state grant to take out a considerable amount of dead trees that had succumbed to the drought and bark beetles 5 years earlier, and the job was bid on by a few concerns and the winning bid went to a team of ex-Hotshots in their 30’s and 40’s, and i’ve never seen such skill as displayed (and more often heard) by them. You’d hear the front cuts on a 200 foot tall 5 foot wide Lodgepole pine and then the backcut interspersed by the hammering of a wedge into the cut followed by more chainsawing and another wedge perhaps and a final cut and down a formerly upright standing member in the suburbs goes, with the team of 2 on each tree then swamping (cutting off the branches) the fallen massif so as to render it into some sort of massive Lincoln Log left on the carpet along with a bunch of others they’ve cut. Total time to take down a titan such as the one described, maybe 20 minutes. In a fortnight they cut down in excess of 1300 dead trees on the periphery. I bow to their ability, an amazing asset where speed is job number won against an approaching inferno.

    It was eye-opening watching the helicopters dropping bundles of Benjamins on bulldozers during the KNP Fire last fall, there was no D9’ing anybody with a dozer $5k to $10k a day for cutting line in case conflagration came calling to the lower climes around these parts in being the terror of tiny town, something like 40 miles of firebreak was carved in total.

    A friend related that he knew of a mutual friend working for NPS, who was making $500 a day schlepping food and drink to the firefighters from Visalia, is that normal pay for Grubhub?

    There’s a lot of money in wildfires, but only in a support capacity.

    In total it cost over $100 million to fight the fire, and I feel it was worth it to me, but not really the firefighters themselves-the ones on the line who are paid a pittance to do a quite horrifying job. I’ve schlepped a fully laden backpack up and down many a mountain with the only anticipation of fire perhaps being later on after the magic hour puts on a show & dusk descends, a warming fire is nice. Fighting a wildfire while carrying 30-50 pounds, yikes! Walking through thick smoke as a job perk, er no thanks.

    A month or so after the fire was put out, Biden gives a speech in Utah telling the press how he was going to make it so every firefighter made $15 an hour…

    McDonalds in Visalia on Saturday was offering $15 an hour for new hires, and all the way up to $17 an hour for managers.

    Pay was just one thing the experienced Hotshot firefighter was upset about, and I can see why.

  9. Safety First

    Quibble with Saker’s analysis of the Moskva sinking. [Should that be “RNS Moskva” or “RFV Moskva” or something? Or do only Anglo-American ships get the USS/HMS prefixes?]

    “The Moskva displaces 12,490 tons, so I will assume that every person reading this will understand that 2x150kgb subsonic warheads are not enough to sink such a ship. Thus the “sunk by Neptunes” is highly unlikely.”

    Equally subsonic Exocets carry about 165kg payload. During the Falklands War, one was enough to cause a fire that eventually sank the Sheffield (granted, a quarter of Moskva’s size), and two were enough to outright sink the Atlantic Conveyor (15k tons, slightly larger than the Moskva but a cargo vessel, not military). Sandy Mitchell, commander of the battlegroup, spent a notable chunk of his memoirs explaining how deathly afraid he was of even a single Exocet hit on the Hermes, the expedition’s flagship (double the size of Moskva), clearly for good reasons.

    Critically, the Russian Defence Ministry outright stated that a fire caused a detonation of ammunition in one of the secondary weapon systems (probably AA), which a Neptune, or an Exocet, or a Harpoon, could certainly have caused even without exploding (the Exocet that hit the Sheffield “likely” did not detonate, per the inquest, the fire being caused by the missile’s propellant). Ships have been really, really, really fragile things relative to the weapons they face for pretty much the past 120+ years, at least compared to some of their Age of Sail precursors.

    So the very first bullet is something of a Dunning-Krueger poster child. He recovers nicely in some of his subsequent bullets, especially when he identifies that the Moskva is an old design that needed modernisation and had inadequate fire control. Though he might have added that modernisation of the Moskva and Kirov classes had been a sticky issue in public defence budget debates in Russia for at least a decade, because the expense is so bloody high you could have double the number of brand new missile destroyers instead. [E.g. try replacing a couple of hundred miles of cabling inside a compact steel hull without taking it apart.]

    Also, you’d think if the US had seen a missile hit, they would have blared about it in every newscast, especially as I expect they have eyes on every square inch of the Black Sea at this point. Instead we get this from CNN: “The US believes with “medium confidence” that Ukraine’s version of events is accurate, a source familiar with the latest intelligence told CNN.” What the hell kind of a confirmation is this?!! “Medium confidence”, IIRC, was what they used in the Russia-pays-Taliban-to-kill-Americans story back when, and that had turned into a gigantic pile of male cow manure pretty quickly…

    By the way, there is some speculation on Telegram that the Moskva had hit one of the “dumb” mines Ukraine had set floating in the Black Sea (some of which are now being defused/destroyed by Turkey, to give you an idea of how far they can drift). I am skeptical, since the vessel was reported to have been 90km away from the coastline at the time of the explosion, but on the other hand there was clearly enough hull damage to cause the thing to sink, so SOMETHING was happening down near the waterline. Maybe the ammo compartment under the gun turret went down far enough, who knows.

    PS Just checked the newly-created Russian-language Wiki page on the incident – 16 footnotes, all but one reference either BBC, CNN, Ukrainian news sites or Russian “liberal opposition” press. It’s even worse if you try search engines (in Russian). Does the Russian government even understand the phrase “information warfare”?..

    1. PlutoniumKun

      You got to me first before posting something similar. As he regularly does, Saker frequently posts verifiable nonsense when out of his narrow area of expertise.

      He also got the technical issues of launching the missile wrong. Its perfectly possible to launch a Neptune or similar missile without leaving an electromagnetic signature. They are fed co-ordinates of the likely location of the vessel first and they navigate passively using inertial guidance. Some modern missiles use the vessels own radar signature to allow it to track passively. They only use the active radar for the final few minutes or seconds of attack. It would be perfectly possible for a missile like that to hit an out of date Russian vessel without the crew even knowing it was under attack – thats what those missiles are designed for. This is precisely why the US LCV’s failed – even with the most advanced defensive systems they were deemed far too vulnerable to land launched missiles like the Neptune and the even cheaper Chinese and Iranian equivalents (which the Houthi’s have used with some success)

      And all Russian vessels of this ilk are floating bombs. Compare a photo of one to an equivalent western vessel. The western vessels have most missiles tucked away in highly protected internal launch tubes. They are designed for long term missions in the open oceans, and to be able to survive hits. Russian vessels are essentially near-shore shoot n scoot specialists. They are designed to get within range of a target (and Russian missiles have very long ranges), launch everything they have at it, then get back quickly. They are predominantly designed for small shallow oceans and the littoral, not blue sea operations. This has the disadvantage that they have a lot of very flammable rocket fuel up on deck – it would not take much to cause a catastrophic fire, especially on such an old model vessel.

      The problem with Saker posting things like this is that it makes me question just how accurate his assertions are in matters where its very difficult to double-check.

      1. flora

        As he regularly does, Saker frequently posts verifiable nonsense when out of his narrow area of expertise.

        That’s the Achilles Heel of many blogs – great in their area of expertise, questionable outside their area of expertise. / ;)

    2. The Rev Kev

      When I heard about the explosions on this ship, I thought of two possibilities. One was crew error like with the USS Bonhomme Richard which may have been brought on by that crew being at war and at sea on active operations for the past six weeks. The other was that the Ukrainians being able to get off a few decent shots that got past the ship’s defenses. But the Russians are not really talking and the Ukrainians are not really boasting that much about it like you would be expecting them to.

      So I got out my favourite tinfoil hat and remembered that it was only two or three weeks ago that the British were saying that they were going to be sending the Ukrainians some highly advanced shore to ship missiles. And for all we know, if they had done this, they may have sent a experienced crew to fire it as well. After taking off my tinfoil hat, I concluded that there is not enough evidence either way to make a definitive conclusion.

      1. lance ringquist

        but it still will not affect the outcome of the war. navies are sitting ducks these days, except subs.

        if the ukies got lucky, they can talk about it for years to come, as they get scattered all over the world because they lost big time.

      2. Robert Gray

        > … crew error like with the USS Bonhomme Richard …

        Crew error? Well, there certainly was enough of that in the course of events — but let’s not forget that there is a young seaman now sitting in the brig awaiting court-martial for arson and other charges.

      3. Dave in Austin

        Even during WWII the cost of a US 2,000 ton Fletcher class destroyer was 50% automatic fire control, radar and gun layiing equiptment- not the hull, engines and crew accomodations. By 1945 when the kamakazis arrived, damaged destroyers were not worth fixing- they were towed to the Kemyo Rito (sic) ship graveyard. Damaged 10,000 ton cruisers would go back the west coast and get a 90-180 day refit with all new radar and fire control systems. There were 18 35,000 ton Essex class carriers by 1945. Many were hit but damage control was fabulous (no burnable racks and plastic seats allowed). The two that were worst hit had uncontrolled fires from av-gas and ammunition and were never taken out of the reserve fleet when the 16 others were made into anti-sub carriers. To far gone structurally.

        Old ships like the Moscova are kept in service but the look (no flat, angled surfaces to deflect radar, few AA missiles, no forest of hemispherical radar domes) tells me the ship was obsolete.

        It is still an achievement for the Ukrainians. But will not effect the war’s outcome.

    3. Eureka Springs

      Wiki page on the incident – 16 footnotes, all but one reference either BBC, CNN, Ukrainian news sites or Russian “liberal opposition” press. It’s even worse if you try search engines (in Russian).
      Does the Russian government even understand the phrase “information warfare”?

      Perhaps this is a question asked and answered… When the “opposition” is waging such effective and complete info warfare on itself, its own people… why get in the way?

      Also wondering if underwater drones are doing this kind of work nowadays or is that under the same category as mines?

    4. voislav

      There is also a question of maintenance, Moskva is the oldest combat ship in Russian Navy at more than 40 years old. A friend of mine served in the Canadian Navy during the first Gulf War on a destroyer that was the advanced screen for the US carrier groups. His comment was that they were lucky that Iraqis didn’t shoot anything at them, because the air defense systems were very unreliable and were suffering all kinds of software and hardware issues.

      Training/maintenance is insufficient in the best of times, so a lot of times sailors go into combat situations with no idea if the system is fully functional until they try to use it. I’m sure that the Russian Navy is suffering from similar issues, especially on these old ships.

      1. Felix_47

        Good point. Don’t forget the Russians spend 66 billion per year on their military putting them in the class of France and behind Germany. The US spends well over 1 trillion per year. As a taxpayer my sense is that we have spent more on Ukraine than the Russians have. First of all Nuland said we spent 5 billion before 2014 to buy that election. We have spent somewhere around 3.8 billion since on military hardware and training and about 2 billion in the last month.. The Russians are fighting on a very low budget. The Ukrainians have superior supply lines and equipment and training and we see the results. From what I can tell the US wants this war, at least our political leaders. Blinken made it clear from the start that we are not negotiating NATO membership for Ukraine so I guess we will fight until the last Ukrainian and Russian gives up or dies. Biden and Blinken……statesmen for the ages.

    5. Charlie Sheldon

      My take on this sinking is that it was a floating mine that had drifted well away from the Odessa region to the north. I say this because something damaged the ship at or below the waterline sufficient for the ship to sink while being towed. It might also have been an internal fire that caused the ammunition to explode, blowing out the steel and opening the ship to the sea at the waterline, and yes, it could also have been a missile….but….you need to imagine that such a ship, when in operation, especially in a war zone – and the B;ack Sea is a war zone now – is set up such that all the watertight bulkheads in the hull are closed; ie the doors between sections dogged shut. Now, as an old ex-sailor I will tell you that way too often one or two or several of such doors are left open, for convenience, or laziness, or simple f***k up, but generally you can assume most of the bulkheads are secure. So, in the case of an attack or explosion or mine, only one small section of the ship is flooded. Usually in that section any people in that section will be killed, btw. If we can believe what we are told (and we cannot, really) the ship had something happen, a fire, maybe a missile or mine, and then there was time to get the sailors off, 500 of them. This is a lot of people, dropping into the sea, or maybe lowering boats, and getting off the ship and then being picked up by other ships would have taken hours, and all this time the ship was burning but floating, and after these hours they got a tow on the ship and started towing it to a port. That also takes time, needs some kind of skeleton crew aboard the ship to attach the cable(s), and then the ship is towed. Now it might have been towed bow-first, but maybe it was towed stern first, depending on where the breached hull section is. But what we are told is that while the ship was being towed it took on water and sank, suggesting that as it was being moved the striking waves and passing water flooded into the ship (and this suggests a couple of things – that the breach was not so large as to founder the ship right away, was at or beneath or just above the water line to catch water, and that, in order for the ship to sink, the damage must have damaged more than one compartment, ie opened a breach into two or three such compartments)…..I am guessing too they must have suppressed the fire, because otherwise the rest of the ammo would have blown up, so this suggests there was some form of fire control system operable…

      But what the heck do I know? This is just a guess, but I originally and immediately thought, this was a naval mine, and now a couple days later I see mines mentioned by others. This just seems, to me, like the most likely cause.

      Another side element here is there may be a collective tribal urge among naval personnel everywhere to pretend and believe that modern warships are entirely vulnerable to modern anti-ship missiles, such that in a full-scale modern naval battle we’d see destroyers, cruisers, and carriers sunk within the first five minutes. This is a fact, perhaps, nobody wants to expose and know. And this truth – that warships cannot defend against swarms of modern missiles – might become the basis of everyone pretending the Russian ship was not taken by a couple small missiles, as this would expose this huge weakness the whole world navy faces….

      I know, I rose from bed grumpy this morning, but….

    6. RobertC

      While Bush was draining American’s future in the sand of the Middle East, China began modernizing its Navy. One of the first built is the Type 22 missile boat equipped with eight YJ-83 subsonic anti-ship cruise missiles starting in 2004 with 60 in service at present.

      The Type 22 has a crew of 12, twin diesel engines, surface search radar, etc which is perfect for training officers and NCOs for larger, better equipped ships.

      In a conventional conflict, small missile boats are a swarm threat but are susceptible to pre-emptive counter-fire. Unless they are hidden in the shadows of a fishing fleet much like Israel fighters hiding behind commercial aircraft.

      A fishing fleet manned with soldiers released when China modernized its army.

      China’s grayzone threat has been discussed in the literature but I’m not aware (nor do I want to be aware) of any war game scenarios for it.

    7. GC54

      I thought that the main reason the Sheffield sank was that its aluminum superstructure burned very easily. Isn’t (wasn’t) this Russian ship too old for that “innovation”? Mine sounds very plausible to me.

  10. Antifaxer

    An Unintended Consequence of Student-Debt Relief WSJ

    I cannot believe we have reached the “what about the military” stage of Student-Debt Relief.

    First – “We cannot afford that and if you took out loans you owe it back”
    Second – “If I paid for it, you should too”
    Now – “But the military!”

    We are two degrees away from the argument being – “If we don’t saddle the youth with student loan debt, they will not be motivated to work”

  11. Watt4Bob

    How Japan Built Cities Where You Could Send Your Toddler on an Errand

    When I was very young, I lived on the South Side of Chicago, it was the sort of place where you could send your toddler on an errand.

    I went to the local corner store, and trick-or-treating by myself when I was 5 years old.

    I’d walk down the alley to my Grandma’s any time I felt like it.

    My Grandpa sent me to the bar on the corner with an empty, to fetch a quart of beer.

    I was walking down an alley, 5 blocks away from my house when a policeman saw me showing a friend my new pocket knife. The policeman stopped us and questioned me about where I got it, and where I lived.

    The policeman didn’t shoot me, he took my knife, (I was six years old) and took it to my house and gave it to my mother.

    Of course, things have changed.

    That headline should read;

    How Japan Built Cities Where You Can Still Send Your Toddler on an Errand

    1. djrichard

      I remember the same in a couple of the old polish neighborhoods in Chicago. Mom would send me to the corner store down the block to get milk, small goods from the grocery stores. For a 1st / 2nd grader, a gallon of milk is pretty heavy. Sometimes I was given permission to use left over money to buy my friends soda, candy from the local five and dime.

      One time I biked my way pretty far away into a more business district by accident, trying to get to a birthday party and not being able to comprehend my Mom’s instructions. Mom eventually found me and drove me to where I should have been.

  12. PlutoniumKun

    How Japan Built Cities Where You Could Send Your Toddler on an Errand Slate

    This is one of the most striking things most westerners notice immediately in Japan. You see very young children, out by themselves, running errands or just doing what kids do. No adults overseeing, no wearing stupid hi viz jackets (the obsession here of Irish rural schools). And its not just within neighbourhoods or in the daytime – I’ve seen kids in school uniform casually wander entertainment districts at night on food or on bike, going to some event or other. I’ve seen little kids on bikes cross 6 lane highways and cars and trucks slow and stop to allow them to do so safely (I even once saw a truck driver bow in apology to a little girl after the air break released with a loud noise, scaring her). Nobody considers it in any way odd or dangerous. And for that matter, what Japanese people consider really weird is the notion of driving a kid to school or sports, even in rural areas. Thats what bikes are for.

    Some of it is cultural, some of it is deliberate, although I suspect quite a lot is accidental. Unlike most countries, Japanese towns and cities are essentially made up of little neighbourhoods, rather than ‘streets’. Even addresses are based on the area rather than the street number, which is why finding an address can be so very difficult in Japan. Most traditional streets are very narrow and they don’t permit street parking (there is no default right to park on the street in Japan) making them much safer for kids. Speeds on even free flow highways are very strictly controlled (a speed trap in Japan is a real street trap – police will crouch and hide behind road barriers for hours, waiting for an unsuspecting criminal). You quickly find in Japan that the Japanese don’t follow rules for cultural reasons. They follow rules because they are enforced very strictly.

    1. Janie

      Young grade school children in their uniforms ride the subways in small groups in Tokyo, no adult present.

      1. Richard

        In 2018 while visiting we saw a uniformed schoolgirl, by herself, asleep on the circle line on the Tokyo metro. She would wake up every few stops and then fall back to sleep. We wondered if she’s been through more than one circle already.

  13. pjay

    – ‘Welcome to the “RuZZkiy Mir”’ – Evgenia Kovda

    This is posted on Yasha Levine’s Substack, so I assume this cartoon version of the “hybrid Soviet-bourgeoisie monster” Putin is endorsed by him. Here is Kovda on Putin and his “circle”:

    “I’m not saying that these people have to adore the USSR for all the opportunities it gave them. But it’s ironic that these people — grandsons of simple Russians peasants — want to revive Imperial Tsarist Russia. I mean, Tsarist Russia was a rural backward peasant country with a largely illiterate population and a tiny group of French-speaking rentier landowners who treated their peasants like cattle, extracting their labor value, raping their young serf women, and then hopping from one sanatorium in Europe to another to improve their health. And now Putin’s people — just a few generations away from these same peasants — praise and glorify that system.”

    “Putin’s people are truly reactionary and much more conservative than even the liberal bourgeoisie of the Provisional Government of the February Revolution. So they would find enemies in both Lenin and Nabokov — that’s how backwards they are. Both Lenin and Nabokov would have been horrified by today’s turn of events. It feels more like Putin is cosplaying Ivan the Terrible — land grabbing, absolutism, “traditional values,” rampant paranoia…. I imagine that after an ideologically incoherent hybrid 30 years, there will be some version of a restoration of an “Imperial Russia” — resting on a base of extreme nationalism with some fascist flair…”

    Like Levine these days, Kovda is schizophrenic; providing a devastating depiction and critique of the neoliberal 1990s and its minority of bourgeoisie beneficiaries, but then throwing up this ridiculous caricature of Putin with no historical linkage between then and now, no historical context whatsoever — and no mention of the decades of Western aggression and sabotage to which Russia is reacting. The only alternative she seems to suggest is some vague reference to the positive utopian promise of the communist USSR. I am curious about what specific alternative Kovda favors, and how that would have realistically been achieved. But that really doesn’t matter, because this Russian “leftist” has provided yet another image of Putin as Feudal Neo-fascist Imperialist Monster for our mass culture propagandists. That is its main contribution,

    Once again, well done.

    1. Basil Pesto

      Maybe it’s just accurate that, regardless of where he sits in relation to the west, Vladimir Putin is, quite simply, a reactionary bellend. As far as analysis of that sort, I’m inclined to give Levine, Kovda, Ames & Taibbi the benefit of the doubt. More than your run of the mill extremely online Anyone But The West-erners, they do have a bit of irl experience of (and know actual real people who can attest to) VVP’s irl turdistry.

      I’ve sort of tuned out of the conflict itself. Honestly I don’t really care at this point, just like I didn’t really care about the Georgia conflict as it was happening. The ‘externalities’ (food, monetary policy, other resource issues) are way more important so I try to keep an eye on them. But otherwise there’s too much bullshit going around and everyone is simply bringing their own biases to bear, making it pretty much impossible to get a handle on epistemologically. Nevertheless, I maintain that the fact that Putin essentially got trolled into a moronic (as most wars are) war by the combined galaxy brains of the Biden Administration/US ~Deep State~ is an hilarious indictment of his acumen, such as it is. But maybe I’m wrong and he has 11-dimensional chess skills that I just cannot fathom at this remove.

      1. pjay

        “Maybe it’s just accurate that, regardless of where he sits in relation to the west, Vladimir Putin is, quite simply, a reactionary bellend…. I maintain that the fact that Putin essentially got trolled into a moronic (as most wars are) war by the combined galaxy brains of the Biden Administration/US ~Deep State~ is an hilarious indictment of his acumen…”

        What you’ve done here is what is most problematic about Levine et al. In their Putin-bashing mode, this war is all about Putin – Putin’s ego, Putin getting bullied/duped/trolled into invasion, Putin as reactionary, etc. etc. This completely ignores the crucial historical context, both long term and more recent, that is necessary to understand both the current Ukrainian conflict and (I would argue) the domestic policies of Putin over the years. Not only has Putin, and many other Russian officials, outlined this context many times and in detail, but *so have the Exile folks* – many times. Yet once Russia acted, all of that is out the window, and it’s “Putin” that is responsible for all calamities. The many causal factors that were seen as real threats to Russian security prior to Feb.24 are now apparently illegitimate subjects for discussion, as is what might have happened had the Russians simply waited around whining in vain to the UN.

        How much of a reactionary asshole Putin is based on the Exile experience is a different and more complex question. I’ve read their arguments over the years. But the post-invasion response on Ukraine, at least by Levine (Ames does not seem as extreme in this regard to me), is so striking that I think there must be a psychological explanation – but not Putin’s psychology. Rather, I think a number of knowledgeable leftists who felt they were winning the argument among the left-leaning intelligentsia all of the sudden saw all their hard work obliterated in the face of the inevitable propaganda onslaught, and felt somehow “betrayed” by this. Craig Murray says this more or less explicitly. Well, that’s tough. But what do they think the outcome would have been if Russia would have simply waited? Was there really *no* legitimate rationale for acting? Tragedy and suffering is certainly the result; no argument there from me. But do we now suspend analysis of the cause because we will sound like “Putin apologists”?

        It’s certainly your right not to care about this conflict. I’m not there yet.

        1. deplorado

          I totally agree with you, and Levine and Kovda’s positions of late reveal that they willingly refuse to go beyond “dumb war”, “dumb Putin”.

          Their act is starting to get tiring – as in, they both have contributed nothing new or insightful of late about the war or the current mood in Russia.

          Also, there was no “poverty” in USSR. Not the poverty that breeds ignorance, ill health, hopelessness and crime. I know first hand. Kovda may be too young to remember, but that is not an excuse as there are millions of people who lived there and can tell her (and no doubt have told her). So this alone is a clarion dog whistle that Kovda and Levine “belong” – to the club of the progressives, albeit to the edgy cohort in it.

      2. Dftbs

        I don’t think the label “reactionary” is applicable, and it’s use is indicative of some lack of understanding. Reaction against what? Modernity and progress of Liberalism which is probably responsible for more deaths than any Stalinist purges if the demographic data on 90s Russia is to be believed.

        There is a notion on the Western left, to which Levine and Kovda belong to despite the immigrant and ethnic shawl they hide under, that Russia stands for nothing. This article certainly contrasts this perceived lack of principle with the lofty goals of the USSR. It seems that Russia, certainly in the incarnation that has had Putin at the helm for this century, stands for the improved health, life and security of Russians. This dumbfounds Western “leftists” who long ago gave up any notion of affecting the material world and hide in specious remonstrance like the article under discussion.

        Levine has always struck me as having terrific historical insight and narrative capacity, but is petrified of putting forth anything with a whiff of prescription. Kovda is similar but lacks the graceful coherence of Yasha’s presentation.

        I suppose it doesn’t matter what Kovda, her readers (myself included) or even the resident of the White House thinks the Russians stand for. The Russians seem to know what they stand for. We can read that simply as war, or we may read beyond the aftermath of the conflict. Because the one thing that matters is how we handle the new reality they are placing us in.

      3. Lex

        I’m not going to say it’s inaccurate, because Putin is at very least a staunch conservative in the Russian tradition with shades of reactionary politics. I’ll say a few things as someone who read the eXile in Russia and has had some personal contact with that group.

        There’s a touch of reactionary politics from them that’s always been there. I mean they were boosting Limonov way, way back and he’s a straight up fascist. It was of course, for the lulz as they say. The paper was treated badly by Putin when it ended, no doubt. On the other hand, while they wrote a lot about the decadence of Westerners in Moscow during the 90’s they were also quite content to participate in that same decadence for their enjoyment.

        Mark’s after the fact explanation for what was essentially rape doesn’t hold a lot of water, and I’m not so sure that interviewing prostitutes absolves them of regular hiring of prostitutes. (I’m not judging hiring sex workers, but treating them like zoo animals for publication is pretty damned weird.) I still respect their opinions on matters of Russia to a fairly large degree because they know it better than almost any US journalists. Zaitchek’s post eXile work is probably the best. Taibbi’s done some very good work after those years, as has Ames (his coverage of the Georgia war was the most accurate in-the-moment). But you always have to consider that they do have a grudge and it’s less politics than getting their hedonistic lifestyle of moscow in the 90’s taken away.

        1. dftbs

          What does “reactionary” mean? Are we defining it exclusively as a concept that stands athwart Western liberal social concepts?

          In economic terms Putin doesn’t share the methods and stated intentions of his Bolshevik predecessors and their acolytes. But his policies and results are certainly more egalitarian and supportive of the commonwealth than the rapacious men he replaced. Was it “reactionary” when he begun to repatriate Russia’s natural wealth and redirect it to the benefit of its people. It would only seem that way if you were on the payroll of some Western interest that had its Siberian free lunch expropriated.

          The label “reactionary” seems wide off the mark. Perhaps a more accurate description of Putin would be a “Russian Traditionalist”, I don’t think he would dispute that. And while those values don’t wholly jive with my own, as a new father I have some sympathy for men of Putin’s generation. They went to bed in a country where their children were young “pioneers” and woke up to another where many of these kids had to prostitute themselves to eke out a living. I will not blame them for rejecting the economic and social norms of Liberalism after what it did to them.

        2. Roland

          I found the “Whore R” stories to be interesting social reportage, that really got across the disarray and despair of the post-Soviet breakdown.

          The eXile often took a flippant tone, self-consciously expat, tawdry, and fin-de-siecle. But it was good journalism, good reading, and proof of the value of a free press.

          It was understandable that the conservative government shut them down for immorality, but also unfortunate, because the eXile was, in its way, an avenue of understanding between Russia and the English-speaking world. The eXile was an example of what is possible in an era of global travel and communication–possibilities we now seem bent on blighting.

        1. britzklieg

          Florence Gaub :
          – Deputy Director of the EU Institute of Security Studies
          – Worked at NATO defence college
          – Degrees from Sorbonne (Paris) and German universities. Taught at Science Po.
          – A reservist in the French army, rank of Major.

    2. Dandelion

      It is remarkable how everyone has memory-holed the fact that Zelensky said, in Munich, that Ukraine would now build or acquire nuclear missiles, something that I understand Ukraine could accomplish within a year.

      I don’t see any grand historical urge at play here, or some psychodrama of Putin’s own. I see Russia reacting to an explicitly-stated threat by a long-hostile neighbor to acquire WMDS that would, because of proximity and speed, render moot all of Russia’s anti-ballistic missile defenses systems. No nation would or should tolerate that level of threat.

      The US would never permit nuclear missiles aimed at the US from Mexican or Canada. The US wouldn’t even tolerate a phantasm of WMDs in far-off Iraq.

      It was not some grand operatic vision of past Russian glory that sealed Ukraine’s fate. It was Zelensky’s own brash and foolish bellicosity.

      What I do not know is whether that foolishness arose due to the US holding too loose a grip on the puppet strings attached to Zelensky’s mouth, or if it arose from the State Department’s intentionally choreographed workings of those puppet strings.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Wasn’t Zelensky being visited by Kamala Harris at the time? If so, could she have delivered a message from Washington to him that they knew would provoke the Russians?

        1. Dandelion

          Yes, indeed she was present. Is it also perhaps possible that Zelensky’s offshore accounts, as documented in the Pandora Papers, were topped off a bit after Munich? You might think so. I couldn’t possibly say.

    3. hemeantwell

      Kovda’s point that Putin and his cohort represented upward mobility success, made possible by the Soviet Union, that would be close to impossible under the Tsarist system Putin’s regime is rehabilitating is largely on target. In 2015 survey of Russian politics Perry Anderson described a desperate effort by Putin to draw on any and all reservoirs of nationalist enthusiasm to fill in the motivational void created by neoliberalism a’ oligarch. The universalism and egalitarian ethos of the Soviet Union, which was objectively manifested at least in a pretty decent Gini coefficient, could not be drawn on without calling the new order into question. What struck me in Anderson’s account was the tendency to draw on irrational and authoritarian sources, most notably religion, and also appeals to a cultural uniqueness supposedly at odds with democratically-grounded discussion. A vile mix.

      My sense is that Kovda, Levine and other writers like Volodmyr Ischenko at New Left Review face a particularly intense version of the contradiction most of us are aware of but have resolved in favor of an emphasis on how the lawlessness of NATO expansion has created a situation in which normal appeals to law and morality become muddled by a logic of preemptive force. Simply, they have personal links to people in the Ukrainian center and left. They are horrified by the possibility that they may be killed by forces organized by a Russian neoliberal faction led by an ex-KGB officer whose domestic political project is thoroughly regressive. I can’t blame them for their stance.

    4. Raymond Sim

      I’ve learned to give Yasha Levine the benefit of the doubt when I think maybe he’s sprung a loose screw or something. Actually I’ve learned to examine my own ideas closely whenever I find myself thinking that.

      Currently though I find myself unable to imagine what sort of better Russia could have avoided war under the present circumstances. I don’t think there’s ever been a Russian regime that wouldn’t have gone to war to prevent a hostile foreign power from establishing an even more hostile client state in Ukraine, and I don’t see how any responsible government of Russia could refrain from using force if they concluded it was doable. Especially if said client state appeared to be established as a platform for further, escalating provocations, with war as the ultimate goal in any case.

      1. juno mas

        Yes. From my perspective, Russia has been developing its military bone fides over the past twenty years. (And watching the West do the same.) She simply decided that negotiating had become futile and implemented “diplomacy by other means”, an SMO of their choosing.

        Who would have thought that a complete re-write of the world economic and political theatre would result. (Russia and China?)

    5. Kouros

      Excerpt from the Constitution of Russian Federation:

      Article 7

      1. The Russian Federation is a social State whose policy is aimed at creating conditions for a worthy life and a free development of man.

      2. In the Russian Federation the labour and health of people shall be protected, a guaranteed minimum wages and salaries shall be established, state support ensured to the family, maternity, paternity and childhood, to disabled persons and the elderly, the system of social services developed, state pensions, allowances and other social security guarantees shall be established.

      1. Kevin Walsh

        Was that version of article 7 part of the original version of the constitution that came into force on 25 Dec 1993? Because Russia in the 1990s was not, in actuality, a social state.

  14. Wukchumni

    There’s between 200 to 300 million almond trees in the state (depending on spacing-i’ve seen some almond orchards where the trees are planted 5 feet apart) and it was the go to nut when making your nut as it only takes 4 years for the first crop and seemingly insatiable demand overseas for them, yippee-yi-KO raisins!

    That was then, this is now. Instead of hoping for a bumper crop, almond growers are thinking it’d be better if less nuts were produced to offset the glut on the market driving down prices, and yet more almond trees are coming on line every year.

    1/3rd of last years crop remains unsold…

    The outlook for local almond growers failed to brighten with the recent release of two early crop estimates offering alternate views — one more pessimistic than the other — on how much this year’s yield will or won’t be impacted by frost during the late-winter bloom and drought.

    An estimate Wednesday by Oakland-based nut broker Terra Nova Trading Inc. predicted this year’s crop will measure 2.9 billion pounds. That would be about the same or a little larger than last year’s total and therefore add to a glut of almonds weighing down prices.

    Separately, a report Los Angeles-based The Wonderful Co. put out in mid-March pegged this year’s output at 2.54 billion pounds, which, if accurate, would be much more encouraging. A formal “subjective forecast” isn’t due from the federal government until mid-May.

    Either way, growers are expected to have a tough year because of the record 900 million pounds of almonds that have carried over unsold from last year’s crop. That, combined with higher costs for fertilizers, continuing shipping problems and worsening water supplies, may mean few if anyone growing the nut will make money this year.

    But the bigger issue for operators across California’s almond industry has been the shipping bottlenecks that have sunk countless export deals. Growers say that problem persists, and that even if a sale has been agreed to, it remains tentative until the buyer receives the cargo.

    Meanwhile, bearing almond acres — that is, the total size of orchards producing nuts — has continued to grow. By that measure, the size of California’s almond industry jumped 5 percent in 2020 to reach 1.2 million acres before growing another 5 percent in 2021.

    Bearing acreage is expected to grow almost 3.8 percent this year, followed by about 3.7 percent more producing acres in 2023, according to Wonderful’s report.

      1. Larry Carlson

        I hate grabbing the container of mixed nuts only to find my kids have systematically extracted the cashews, pecans, pistachios, and other desirable nuts, leaving only the almonds for me to snack on.

        1. Wukchumni

          There was a mixed nuts canister for sale @ Grocery Outlet the other day that had on the label:

          ‘Less than 75% peanuts’

          1. JohnA

            Well in these paranoid times about someone with an allergy buying stuff that could kill them, I bought a jar of peanut butter this morning that stated on the label ‘warning may contain nuts’. Who knew?

  15. Robert Gray

    Just a heads-up for those who might not have heard: Consortium News is having a live online event today at 10 a.m. (Eastern) with Chris Hedges, Scott Ritter, George Galloway and Jill Stein.

    1. Tom Stone

      And no calls for the 25th amendment to be invoked.
      Ya think maybe world leaders are paying attention to the fact that Biden is whackadoodle?
      Perhaps Joe and DiFi could elope to Hawaii and solve the dilemma facing our beloved reptilian overlords?

    2. ACPAL

      “strong leader at the head of the western world”

      Biden can go as wacky as Donald Duck and it won’t matter. He doesn’t run the US nor is he the leader of the western world or anything else. US world policy has changed little in generations which means some group other than Presidents control US world policy. In fact, no one seen or quoted in the news is at the helm. Those decisions are made out of sight and conveyed to the front men/women who “seem” to be in charge.

      IMHO Scott Ritter is a serious and careful analyst these days but he’s chained to the idea that US foreign policies are made by politicians with the input of the military and intelligence communities. This leads him to believe that the US will not start a shooting war with Russia, most likely leading to WWIII. The real leaders of the US care nothing about Europeans, Asians, or even the US and it’s citizens. They’re not tied down by politicians or generals. Whatever their goals are they are not above getting millions or even billions of people killed for them. If the world really worked like Scott’s mental model I think he’d make very good predictions. But until he incorporates the real world into his analytics he’s not one who’s predictions can be counted on.

      1. hunkerdown

        The rabbit at the greyhound track doesn’t run anything either, but they certainly do lead.

        1. deplorado

          Thank you for this, I didnt know politicians that could speak like this still existed – in Australia or anywhere. Enjoyed it very much!

          1. ArvidMartensen

            Keating – A legend in his own mind. Occasionally has some good ideas.
            Has always seemed susceptible to flattery. The common touch Treasurer and PM who loved Zegna suits, opera, and other culturally signifying upper class pursuits.
            Saw himself as the best Treasurer Australia ever had. Very good political performer though, and very entertaining. Liked to “flip the switch to vaudeville”.
            Neoliberalised Australia from 1983 to 1996.
            Then a hard right conservative PM took over in 1996 (Australia’s Thatcher) and increased the neoliberalising momentum.

    3. Dr. John Carpenter

      Watching stuff like that, it almost makes me agree with the people saying they’re setting Brandon up to be removed just as soon as they have all the parts lined up.

    1. Oh

      Looks like Simon knows what he’s talking about. Is there a good reason for his being in Dubai?

  16. Mikel

    “12 best ways to get cars out of cities – ranked by new research” The Conversation

    The psychotic rejection of concern for public health in the commons makes a future depending on mass or shared transit as deadly as climate change.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        I will venture the guess that Mikel means that the public anti-health authorities in the future will view mass transit as a way and a place to spread any future disease outbreak as fast and furious as possible.

        And that a combination of mask-freedom-rebels and I-am-so-done-with-this libertines will do their individual retail-level best to further the spread of disease in whatever bus or train car they happen to be in.

        If I misunderstand Mikel’s meaning, he may perhaps correct me.

  17. TimH

    Long COVID affects 1 in 5 people following infection

    Hmm. Danish CDC announced that 30% ppl who caught covid have long covid 6-12 months after… so let’s split the difference and call it 1 in 4.

  18. Wukchumni

    Oh my, a transtasmanite trapped in an Ocker’s body…

    WA senator Ben Small has resigned from parliament after discovering he was a dual citizen of Australia and New Zealand.

    Small made the bombshell announcement in a statement released on Friday, confirming he had fallen foul of section 44 of the Australian Constitution.

    Small said the dual citizenship first came to light on April 6, which was four days before Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the election.

  19. Wukchumni

    $4.01k update:

    Bitcoin creeped back up over $40k, still considerably under the $56k marker when I invested @ the Coinstar machine with a mixture of mostly lower denominations coins @ the supermarket kiosk.

    Sure, I could sell and take the Dollar writeoff on my taxes, but I think i’ll HODL instead.

  20. Tom Stone

    I’m signing off for a while because I will not have internet service except at the library/Coffee shops for an indeterminate period.
    Once the Pandemic ended so did FEMA funding for non congregate housing for the rural poor who are at extreme risk from Covid.
    I have a safe but not comfortable place to stay for a month or so and have applied for State housing assistance.
    Since they have lost my paperwork twice we’ll see how that goes.
    Thanks to Yves, the Crew and the Commentariat for the respite from insanity you provide.

    1. ambrit

      Keep body and soul together Tom. Best of luck to you in ‘The Golden West.’
      As always, stay safe, and first things first.
      As the “negligible retail inflation” rages, a lot of us on Social Security will begin to experience similar effects as you are.
      “They” really are trying to kill us.

    2. JBird4049

      Once the Pandemic ended so did FEMA funding for non congregate housing for the rural poor who are at extreme risk from Covid.

      Really? Let’s make stuff up so that we can keep killing people? Fine.

      Tom, be safe. I think more of us will be dealing with such situations. I can’t do anything from my own lifeboat, which is still floating well, except think good thoughts for you and to suggest to just keep bugging the aid workers. That seems to work, eventually.

  21. NoOneInParticular

    Re: “CF Industries: Union Pacific Curtails Fertilizer Shipments…” Has anyone seen an explanation for why the railroad is limiting fertilizer shipments?

    1. juno mas

      …especially since productive farming is essential to maintaining a happy proletariat. I can see curtailing shipments of big screen TV’s, but fertilizer?!

    1. Wukchumni

      Very interesting…

      But this is far from an isolated event: In fact, there are enough documented incidents that Vice coined the term “copyright hacking” to describe it. Last year in nearby Beverly Hills, officers played music by the Beatles and Sublime in apparent attempts to trigger social media copyright filters. In July, in Oakland, an officer played a Taylor Swift song and advised the person filming, “You can record all you want. I just know it can’t be posted to YouTube.” And in September, an Illinois officer indicated in an incident report that he “was recently advised” to play music while citizens filmed.

      You include some hallowed copyrighted Disney music, and no way the video ever gets uplifted to YouTube.

      1. Vandemonian

        Isn’t there a requirement to pay a royalty fee for each public use of recorded music?

  22. Brunches with Cats

    Re: Aiden Aslin, a.k.a. Cossack Gundi

    Po wittle Aiden got owie on head and look sooo tiwed, make mommy cwy.

    Aslin’s brother whines to the Daily Mail that it looks like he was rifle-butted. The sheer brutality of those evil Russkies, the unimaginable horror!

    Yesterday I started watching Patrick Lancaster’s latest, in which he interviews a Mariupol resident whose daughter was hit in the bridge of the nose by shrapnel while out searching for food for her three children. The man wants to show Lancaster where she’s buried. On the way, he tells of how her body lay in the street for 10 days, because Ukrainian forces wouldn’t allow anyone outside. The burial site turns out to be a pile of debris in front of a destroyed building — all he’s been able to do until it’s safe enough to give her a proper burial. He offers to uncover her so Lancaster can see her blown up face, warning that it’s “scary.”

    “What do you tell three kids?” he asks Lancaster. “Azov did this!”

    Lancaster was able to sidestep the graphic moment, and they continued walking down the street to the man’s home, or to the bomb shelter where he and his wife were staying with the grandkids, it wasn’t clear. I couldn’t watch any more, will try to finish today.

    IMO what should have happened to “Cossack Gundi” is what he and his cohort would have done with that rifle butt if they had been the captors.

    1. Raymond Sim

      I was puzzled by the picture I saw at the top of the Daily Mail article.

      Honestly, I’ve known American elementary school boys to look worse after a particularly vigorous day of friendly play. Have things changed that much in 50 years? Is the Daily Mail’s demographic that different from the American rednecks I grew up among?

  23. fresno dan

    Musk’s Twitter buyout is “peak billionaire,” writes columnist for Washington Amazon-Post
    Today’s exercise in irony comes from Christine Emba, a columnist at the Washington Post who claims that Musk’s desire to buy Twitter outright is “peak billionaire,” and that it’s an attempt for the ultra-wealthy to control the flow of information
    Golly, someone has to donate some irony detecting capability to that woman
    Pot (non smokable, but as an adjective) billionaire calls Kettle billionaire black….
    Unfortunately, Bezos only has two legs so I can’t write 4 legs billionaire good, 2 leg billionaire bad…

  24. McWatt

    On the WGN morning news this morning they said that in Chicago they are no longer counting home reported Covid cases.

    1. Maritimer

      Russia sends formal letter warning US to stop arming Ukraine: report
      I’ve seen that many times before “sends formal letter”. So were some of the informal letters lost somehow? Is the formal letter sent registered mail, receipt requested? A lot could go wrong here.

      “Hey, sorry about the World War, but, somehow I never got your formal letter.”

  25. Irrational

    Regarding the 12 ways of getting cars out of cities:
    Most of these rely on a stick rather than a carrot.
    My personal feeling is that the way to get cars out of cities is to make public transport affordable AND convenient.
    Luxembourg, Europe, which is where I live had done pretty well on making public transport more convenient, but then they decided to build a tram-line in town.
    To boost tram use, they made all “long-distance” buses (i.e. not Luxembourg city buses) end on the edge of town to force everyone on to the tram. At the same time they made public transport free. There were lots of negative responses to the “public consultation” conducted ahead of this change including from the municipalities surrounding the capital. The transport authorities changed nothing.
    For me: a journey that took 35 minutes before, takes close to an hour now with delays and interchanges and frequency of connections is down, not up! What I used to appreciate about public transport was that I could sit down and read uninterrupted for 35 minutes – now I have at most 20 minutes and the last leg of the journey is so short and crowded, that it does not make sense to break out the book. And we are talking a journey of less than 10 miles, just to put things into perspective.
    It all coincided with COVID though, so I am sure the government blames that for the dismal stats if they even measure them now it is free.
    Long rant about something which is a luxury problem for Americans, but just to make the point that there has to be some carrot to accompany the stick.

  26. RobertC

    A few day ago when the topic of Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was discussion, I said a Diplomatic Clearance was required when US government aircraft were used. Here’s today’s example with the aircraft in the background Graham leads US delegation to Taiwan No honor guard or red carpet apparent.

  27. RobertC

    New Not-So-Cold War

    Cold-eyed analysis of Why China Isn’t Backing Away From Alignment With Russia The question is not whether China will continue to hang on to its strategic partnership with Russia, but how it will manage it.

    …The most important shared objective underpinning the China-Russia partnership is the desire to roll back U.S. influence in the world and revise what both see as a Western-dominated international order. In their animosity toward Washington and their determination to recast the present international order in line with their own preferences, Moscow and Beijing see eye to eye. This provides ample opportunities for cooperation, in which Russia has important assets to offer: its permanent seat and veto power in the U.N. Security Council, its military power and armaments technologies, its skill in exploiting cyberspace for subversive purposes, and its diplomatic reach and experience.

    Similarly from the headnote link above China’s Ukraine Response Is All About the US (Not Russia) In the long term, China is intent on using the Ukraine conflict to erode U.S. leadership and sow division in transatlantic relations.

    …From the CCP’s perspective, Beijing’s identification with Moscow amplifies the credibility of authoritarian rule under Xi’s leadership on the global stage. China’s calculus pivots on legitimizing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a justified response to the United States, which Chinese officials call “the initiator of the crisis and contracting party.” In placing the onus on the United States for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Beijing has upped the ante in China-U.S. geostrategic rivalry.

    1. Darthbobber

      The real question is how so much of the American establishment thought there was any chance at all of China going along with them on this.

  28. playon

    “The Final Obliteration of China as a Covid-19 Role Model”

    Has the author of this piece lost his mind? Does he think the US should be the role model of the pandemic?

  29. Dave in Austin

    Slightly off topic, but I’ll bet any Russian offensive in the Ukraine will not start until after April 24th. The 24th is the Russian Orthodox Easter.

  30. Matthew G. Saroff

    The antidote proves that Cats are a state of matter somewhere between liquid and solid.

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