A lot has happened in the past day or so:
- The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 down partisan lines that everyone can carry a gun anywhere they want to, because they had guns in 1791 and so we have to live by 230-year-old rules. (Fun fact: a well-trained militiaman in 1791 could fire four aimed musket shots in a minute! Another fun fact: in 1791, bullets didn't yet exist!)
- That will surely comfort the parents of Uvalde, Texas, about as much as the news that the school police chief finally got suspended in light of the abject incompetence of everyone he supervised.
- Josh Marshall thinks the Justice Department may, actually, prosecute some of the January 6th insurrection leaders—including, perhaps, the XPOTUS.
- Microsoft's president and vice chair Brad Smith explains how Microsoft has fought the cyberwar in Ukraine.
- Robert Wright (sub.req.) argues in favor of a negotiated peace in Ukraine, and that American foreign policy over the past 25 years has made the benefit of standing on principle less than it could have been.
- Philosopher Slavoj Žižek responds that pacifism is the wrong response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
- Walter Shapiro shakes his head at how badly we (the West) squandered the "lost weekend" of 1989 to 2001.
- After investing $50m in the Republican primary election Illinois has next Tuesday, Ken Griffin has decided to up sticks to Florida. He will not be missed.
- Just four weeks before I visit my ancestral homeland, three transit-related industrial actions (strikes) have either started or will start soon, affecting the national railways, the London Underground, and Heathrow's ground staff. It's a good thing that the only modes of transit I typically use in the UK are planes, trains, and the Tube!
- The US Food and Drug Administration has halted sales of Juul e-cigarette products.
Finally, let's all congratulate Trumpet, the bloodhound who won the Westminster Kennel Club's dog show last night. Who's a good boy!
Even though I feel like I have a moderate cold (stuffy, sneezy, and an occasional cough), I recognize that Covid-19 poses a real danger to people who haven't gotten vaccinations or who have other comorbidities. So I'm staying home today except to walk Cassie. It's 18°C and perfectly sunny, so Cassie might get a lot of walks.
Meanwhile, I have a couple of things to occupy my time:
Finally, today is the 210th anniversary of the War of 1812 and the 207th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.
After four nights, five puddles, four solid gifts, and so much barking that the neighbors down the block left a note on my door, Sophie finally went home this afternoon. I also worked until 11:30 last night, but that had nothing to do with her. It did cause a backup in my reading, though:
Finally, army dude-bros in several countries have gotten into arguments over online tank games and, to win those arguments, have posted classified information about real tanks. The defense authorities in the US, UK, France, and China are investigating.
Even though it seems the entire world has paused to honor HRH The Queen on the 70th anniversary of her accession, the world in fact kept spinning:
Blogger Moxie Marlinspike wrote about their first impressions of web3 back in January. I just got around to reading it, and you should too.
- On the same topic, a group of 25 security professionals, including Grady Booch, Bruce Schneier, and Molly White, wrote an open letter to Congress advocating for serious regulation of cryptocurrencies.
- What's Russian dictator Vladimir Putin's strategy in Ukraine? Wait us out. (It helps that he gives no thought to anyone's life but his own.)
- Closer to home, Jelani Cobb writes about "the atrocity of American gun culture."
- The US Navy's last conventionally-powered aircraft carrier, the USS Kitty Hawk, has arrived in Brownsville, Texas, for dismantling. Apparently Chicago didn't want an aircraft carrier museum for some reason.
- Chicago has bungalows, L.A. has dingbats, Amsterdam has canal houses, and Dublin has over-basement row houses.
- Bloomberg suggests the Elizabeth Line could prompt a whole re-map of the London Underground.
Oh, and plastic recycling doesn't work, and probably can't.
And here, a propos of nothing, is a photo of St Boniface Cemetery I took this morning:
I had to put out a new version of the Inner Drive Azure tools for my day job today, and I had more meetings than I wanted (i.e., a non-zero number), so these kind of piled up:
There were other things I'll read later, but it's past 6pm and someone is staring at me because she needs a walk.
Julia Ioffe, a Soviet refugee who knows more about Russia than just about any other American journalist, fills in the gaps on Russian dictator Vladimir Putin's childhood. In sum, he's an angry, insecure street kid from the 'hood:
The West’s obsession with Putin’s K.G.B. past often misses the biographical detail that for most Russians, especially those of his generation, is especially glaring: Putin is the street urchin, all grown up. The way he sits, slouching contemptuously; the way he only trusts childhood friends (and doesn’t fire them despite their incompetence); the way he punishes betrayal because he values loyalty above everything else. The way he enforces social hierarchy, like waiting until oligarch Oleg Deripaska was seated at the other end of a long table to ask for his pen back. The way he talks, using the slang of the dvor that, because of where so many of these street boys ended up, is also the argot of the vast Russian penal system.
[My Russian family] all see, for example, how much [Putin] is still bothered—despite his age, wealth, and absolute power—by the fact that he is short. Being so short and slight would have been a massive handicap in the dvor, and it bred bitterness, resentment, and insecurity in the boys unfortunate enough to be petite late bloomers. You can see it to this day: Putin has a designated photographer who knows which angle will transform the Russian president, making him look no smaller than his interlocutor.
The dvor taught Putin many things, lessons that shape his thinking and actions to this day: that might makes right, that existing hierarchies can only be changed through violence, that force is the only language that matters, that power is always a zero-sum game. There are no win-win outcomes in the dvor.
Putin is a little punk who now controls 3,000 nuclear weapons. So don't worry about whether he's rational; he is. But he rationally evaluates the world as a little kid on the streets of Leningrad in post-WWII rubble, where he learned people get farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with just with a kind word. Just like Al Capone.
And finally, when I left for San Francisco on Saturday morning, it was 10°C and sunny. Here we are about 76 hours later and it's 30°C. We really don't have spring or fall here some years.
A little-known United Nations agency would like its $22 million back, please:
At the United Nations, two officials had a problem. The little-known agency they ran found itself with an extra $61 million, and they didn’t know what to do with it.
Then they met a man at a party.
Now, they have $25 million less.
In between was a baffling series of financial decisions, in which experienced diplomats entrusted tens of millions of dollars, the agency’s entire investment portfolio at the time, to a British businessman after meeting him at the party. They also gave his daughter $3 million to produce a pop song, a video game and a website promoting awareness of environmental threats to the world’s oceans.
Things did not go well.
Transparency and accountability: it's not just a good idea, it's the law.
(The headline comes from this traditional Anglo-American song. Grift goes back to the beginning of speech, it turns out.)
Just a few:
Finally, James Fallows rolls his eyes at the annual White House Correspondent's Dinner, but praises Trevor Noah's closing statement.
Some odd stories, some scary stories:
- Microsoft has released a report on Russia's ongoing cyber attacks against Ukraine.
- Contra David Ignatius, military policy experts Dr Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds call Russia's invasion of Ukraine "the death throes of imperial delusion" and warn that Putin will likely escalate the conflict rather than face humiliation.
- Russia historian Tom Nichols puts all of this together and worries about World War III—"not the rhetorical World War III loosely talked about now, but the real thing, including the deaths of hundreds of millions."
- The Saudi Royal Family finally returned a Boeing 747-8 to the manufacturer after it had sat on the apron in Basel, Switzerland, for 10 years. The plane has 42 hours on it but may have to be scrapped.
- In other B747 news, Boeing admitted to $1.1 billion in cost overruns for the four planes the Air Force ordered to carry the President. Boeing will eat the costs after making a deal with the XPOTUS for a fixed-price contract. The Air Force should receive the planes in 2026.
- George Will thinks we should amend the Constitution to prohibit people who have served as US Senators from becoming President. He argues that too many senators use their office to run for president. But since World War II, all but one former senator who became president came from the Democratic Party (Biden, Obama, Nixon, LBJ, JFK, Truman), so I'm not sure it would pass the States even if it didn't also have to pass the Senate.
Finally, DuPage County officials have demolished a partially-completed mansion that sat vacant for 10 years, to the eternal sadness of its owner.