Mar 31, 2022·edited Mar 31, 2022

Re: "...the collapse of Trump Social..."

Here's what I don't get about all the discussion of Trump Social. The con was done a long time ago! Donald Trump scored! He was out months ago. He got the money and he booked before the thing even launched! By this measure, he IS a stable genius!

Where did the whole Trump Social crew spend all their time and effort? Raising dough from really rich stupid people to whom he promised a big, fast payoff, but Trump doesn't care if they actually get their big payoff! He wanted their money. He got their money! See ya!

Oh, but the thing crashed on Day 1! Doesn't that mean anything? Well, no! When you're trying to maximize your take from a con, the last thing you want to do is increase costs. Trump gets a couple of Community College kids to put this thing together using freeware. Low cost, high speed, maximum cash to the guy at the top!

Oh, but won't he have egg on his face for not delivering? Well, who's actually in charge of Trump Social? Is it Trump? No! It's that dunce Devin Nunes! Can't sign on? Talk to Devin! System crashes? Call Devin! When Trump gets asked a question about how sucky the whole thing is, he can just say, "Well, I must tell you, I have been very disappointed in Devin, very disappointed. I was told the launch would be very strong and powerful -- and I said at the time that I was very concerned -- but, and everyone's saying this, as you know, really, the day-to-day operations are managed by Devin..." The only question in my mind is whether Devin saw the scam for what it was and got his money up front or signed some deal where he get's a piece of the action after launch. Heads he wins, tails he loses. We'll see. I'm betting on heads.

Trump is a lousy human being, a lousy businessman and was a lousy President, but he's a first class con man and Trump Social is just more proof. He sits down there in Mar-A-Lago, playing golf on his investors' money and all the commentary is about how stupid he is! He's won again and no one even detected it!

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I’m not a fan of analytics and how it has come to dominate our National Pastime. If I had a baseball wish I’d like to bring back a couple of players who were great hitters in their day Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Tony Gwynn, Pete Rose to name a few and get some of their take in to what is going with hitting in baseball these days. Hitting for average, not striking out, putting the ball in play what a novel idea.

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Sorry JVL, I would question your view on Ukraine that "America & Europe have come together and their response is truly impressive".

I doubt that Zelensky regard's the West's repose as " impressive".

As I understand it, he has not had a positive response to requests for future membership of either the EU or NATO, a no-fly zone, surplus aircraft or even surplus tanks.

On the diplomatic front, the West is only united as long as they can continue their virtue signalling from afar. If Putin restricts energy supply to Europe, then, that will hurt a lot.

In that situation LBJ's famous quote springs to mind. may be proved correct.

" when you have the by the b**** their hearts and minds will follow."

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Watching JVL and Charlie diverge over the past couple weeks has been remarkable. It's emblematic of why I've never once regretted mu subscription. Clever, well informed, well sourced, *differing* viewpoints, *both on the same site*!

This is what moderation looks like. Bravo.

Substantively, I tend to lean farther in the camp of "we don't know a fraction of what's actually going on and the Biden team is probably doing more than we can see" camp. I read and listen to Charlie and what I hear is a familiar brand of American Unilateralism. I'm pretty sure history will uncover much about this war developing where we cannot easily see in the moment: diplomacy, surveillance, intelligence, economics, and spec ops. The fact that the Ukraine Lend-Lease op has been so successful so far (I'm going to keep using that analogy until it sticks, dammit) is remarkable given the wreck of alliances and diplomacy the Trump years embarrassingly birthed.

Getting NATO marching in the same bloody direction was considered a hard lift *during the actual Cold War*. That the alliance hasn't yet fractured is a sign of strength, not weakness, and while I understand the old Neo-Con impulses to throw up one's hands at your allies not automatically aligning themselves with the most bellicose American position, projecting power requires friends, not subjects.

The West (nebulous though the term may be) is still winning. For now. There are wobbles, but this hits home - culturally - in a way that Chechnya never did, and maybe never could. It's harder for some folks to sympathize with people who are markedly different from themselves. I think that's just a human flaw.

And now I've typed entirely too long.

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"It’s up to the West to make sure that the economic pain is perpetual, with compounding interest." Spot on, JVL. We cannot back down, Putin must lose. Full stop.

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I think that Bret Stephens makes solid sense, as he generally does. I habitually ignore GG.

I cannot believe Ukraine will concede under any terms whatever given that Putin has been perpetrating war crimes against them since 2014.

I cannot help but think there is only one honorable way forward for Ukraine and for NATO and the EU. Time to make it clear to Putin and Russia that from this day forward, any day that Russia bombs a Ukrainian city, kills any unarmed civilians, etc; = another full month of full sanctions.

Russia, under Putin, has proven itself time and time again to be incapable of keeping any promise, no matter how small, if they can smell a dollar to be stolen in the process. Is there a single example known to anyone where they have honored a pledge or a promise of any sort if there was any hope of advantage to them in the breaking of it?

The Ukrainians only hope is that we see Putin and Russia as the war criminals and thieves that they are. Now is our best chance to stop these thugs ( yes Biden is right). If not now, when?

No doubt, he will do this all over again, once this dust has settled, if he has gained an inch from it.

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Mar 30, 2022·edited Mar 30, 2022

I think maybe the natural resources play is correct... but as many have noted Crimea and Donbas were already under Russian control. Is Putin clever or stupid. Hard to say. How long will it take to tap those resources and commodify on the world market? Who will buy?

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The stories we tell and believe often say far more about the writer and believer than it does about the actual events.

As I have noted elsewhere, humans are creatures of narrative. We observe events and we tella story to explain them on:

1) The basis of the available (and acceptable) evidence;

2) Our preconceptions and prior knowledge; and

3) Our preferences.

Obviously I am simplifying this a great deal, but the core idea holds.

We often ignore and twist evidence in order to fit it better into our preconceptions and preferences. We see things that aren't there and things that are there become invisible.

One of the good questions you can ask yourself when confronting a narrative or constructing a narrative is:

How probable is this?

Probability is often a good pointer towards the truth (so long as you have a realistic appreciation of probability).

That is where the problem lies--when you become untethered enough from reality that your probabilities no longer make sense.

A lot of people apparently find it VERY hard to acknowledge realities that don't fit their preferences/preconceptions. I have this difficulty myself--the difference is that I am conscious of this I and try and correct for it. I give alternative narratives a benefit of the doubt, initially.

When I look at the situation in Ukraine, what I see is a man who is not really in touch with reality (for a number of reasons, mostly centered around the isolation and warping of viewpoints that being that powerful and wealthy bring) trying to realize goals/objectives not in line with actual reality.

The goal was to reincorporate UKR back into the Russian Empire. The deployments and patterns of military activity indicate this.

The reality did not play out as the fantasy indicated it would--the fantasy being a combination of UKR weakness and Russian strength.

Now there is a lot of spin going on because no one below him will give him a straight story and regardless of the reason for failure, failure cannot be admitted on any level.

This seems most probably, given the players involved and general historical human experience.

Hyper-competency (or even just plain old competence) is rarer than most people think... and minimal competence is usual sufficient to triumph over the general level of human activity. None of these people are super geniuses.

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The West may be able to hold its winning hand now, but how about in two years' time?

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Mar 30, 2022Liked by Jonathan V. Last

Who is worse: Glenn Greenwald, Andrew Sullivan on Sorhabi? So difficult to pinpoint. All are incredibly overrated writers and public intellectuals. All are Putin apologists of the Mearsheimer model. This isn’t some Putin master plan. It’s a debacle of the highest order.

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Conversely, dependence on natural resources has been the mark of underdeveloped countries. It's easy to imagine a Russia depleted of its brainpower, dependent on China as a market for its fossil fuels.

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Some " conservatives" are delusional and need to drop the Putin fascination. An Emperor without clothes. Interesting that one of the points is that Ukraine give security ' guarantees? Lol, So Russia that spans 11 time zones and its military is 3xs bigger than Ukraine need a promise not to be threatened ? There isn't a spin that's going to fix this for him. The speculation that targeting civilians is some other " genius" is just what the Russians do when all else fails see Grozny.

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It's doubtful the Russians would have tried to encircle Kyiv if they'd coveted only Ukraine's natural resources. Seems like a lot of troops for a diversion too.

Of course, they could still end up with those resources, leaving Ukraine comparatively destitute in the short run. But it's not unknown for a country to grow economically based on its human capital. Integrating Ukraine into the EU might also facilitate that.

Such integration would also lessen the chance of a regression to irredentist nationalism. It won't serve Ukraine particularly well to carry a grudge against Russia. As someone once said, living well is the best revenge.

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Putin plays poker. He has never played chess

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It may be time to refocus, and ask what Russia is doing, rather than what Putin is doing. We have a belief that a state is whatever its leaders and people say it is, rather like the extreme self-defining individualism prevalent in our society. But actually, the Ukraine invasion is an expression of what Russia has been and has sought for over a thousand years. Russia will always seek Euro-centric territory, like Poland and/or the Ukraine, in order to influence Western European nations. It will always seek a guaranteed entry-point into the Mediterranean, where other nations cannot deny its ships' passage. It will always seek a warm-water port in the Indian Ocean. It will always be xenophobic. It will always have a corrupt ruling class acting in its own interests, rather than the country's interest. It will always have an uneasy relationship with China, with occasional bursts of cooperation, when it finds itself the weaker partner. It will always have a small and fragile strata of its society looking West for technological and political inspiration. And it will always be the most western manifestation of the East, with all which that implies, rather than the most eastern European nation. Russia, no matter what the leader, will always be suspicious and jealous of the West, seeking to gain its technologies while filtering out its ideologies. All of these tendencies have manifested over and over again. As long as Russia exists, Russia will be Russia.

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I don't think there's anything to be gained from trying characterize Putin as a genius or a loser, or from trying to divine his initial intentions. It is the result that will determine winners and losers. JVL, I think you accurately set out the four conditions under which Putin will come out a winner in his attack on Ukraine: •No membership for Ukraine in either NATO or the E.U. •No nuclear weapons for Ukraine • Ukraine formally cedes all claims to Crimea and the Donbas •The West drops all or most of the sanctions regime. Where I differ somewhat from your analysis is that I think that all four conditions are the most likely outcome. From what I see, the first three are virtually sure things. Whether Zelensky gives up both NATO and the EU, or only NATO, is not very significant in the larger scheme of things, and he's made his intentions on NATO clear. He'll readily agree not to have nuclear weapons. Russia will continue to batter Ukrainian cities in the east and elsewhere until Zelensky agrees to something that looks very much like ceding all claims to Crimea and the Donbas, even if it isn't an absolute, formal declaration. It will be a fact on the ground, at the least. And if agreement is reached between Zelensky and Putin on those three things, the US and NATO will have no choice but to drop or severely cut back on sanctions. With Zelensky pleading for the dropping of sanctions in order to stop the slaughter of his people, Europe will quickly back off and the US will have no choice. Do we really think the US will block a deal reached between Zelensky and Putin over sanctions? I don't. To my thinking, that means that Russia will have won the war on the narrow issue of Ukraine, but certainly will have harmed itself on a more global level for having started the war in the first place. Russia will be isolated, at least to some degree. It's economy will have taken a great blow. NATO will be strengthened.

Europe and the US will take at least some steps toward energy independence. Putin's hold on his people may even be lessened, although that's a bit of a longshot. Call Ukraine the battle. Call the larger struggle between Russia and the West the war. Putin will win the battle but lose the war.

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