Win or Lose

Is there somehow Putin can back off from this? I mean, in poker terms, he has gone all in. So he either wins or he loses. And I think, for us, Putin has to lose this war.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas of Estonia

This week’s featured post is “How did Christianity become so toxic?” It’s the most Christian Weekly Sift post ever, but I doubt everybody will see it that way.

This week everybody was talking about Ukraine

If the Ukraine War were a mini-series, we’d all be complaining that the plot moves too slowly. Just like last week and even the week before, Russia has an overwhelming advantage in nearly every factor of war: more airplanes, more tanks, more trained and experienced soldiers. And yet, like last week and the week before, the Ukrainians are doing much better than anyone expected. They’re slowing the Russian forces down and making them pay a huge price, but they can’t push them back. Little by little, Russia is advancing towards Ukraine’s major cities, including Kyiv. As hope for a quick victory fades, the invaders get more indiscriminately destructive. So we see more refugees, and more scenes of urban devastation.

“OK, I get it,” I keep saying to the TV. “Can we move this along a little?”

Meanwhile, there’s an economic battle of wills going on. So far, Russia’s been getting the worst of it. Both their stock market and ours have been sinking, but we’re getting a correction at the end of a boom, while they’re seeing a crash so bad they can’t even open the exchanges. It takes more dollars to keep your car running, but a rouble is now worth less than a penny. Americans may wonder how we’re going to pay our credit card bills, but at least the cards still work. You don’t see thousands of Americans stuck in foreign countries with no way to pay their bills.

Putin, though, has one major advantage over Biden: It’s a lot easier for him to ignore his people’s suffering, and there’s a lot less they can do to challenge him. So the Russian people can be forced to endure economic devastation, but we still don’t know whether the American people have the stomach for a recession. It’s one thing to put a flag decal on your truck and talk about how willing you are to die for freedom. But how long will such patriots be willing to spend over $100 to fill their trucks’ gas tanks?

Stay tuned. It may be several episodes before that question gets answered.

President Zelensky will address Congress (virtually) on Wednesday.

Would the owner of this $700 million yacht please step forward? Otherwise we’re going to think it belongs to Putin.

A professor of strategic studies at Scotland’s St. Andrews University has a fascinating interpretation of the Russian advance: They have enough fuel trucks to supply their army as long as it’s within 90 miles of supply depots. And that’s about how far they’ve advanced into Ukraine. “Logistics Rule,” he says.

Russia and Tucker Carlson have been claiming that the US is funding mysterious bio-weapons labs in Ukraine. The NYT fact-checked and characterized the claims as “baseless”.

And as he so often does, Carlson snuck in another piece of Russian disinformation in an off-hand remark:

In 2014, [Undersecretary of State] Toria Nuland engineered a coup in Ukraine

You remember, that was the Revolution of Dignity that sent Putin’s corrupt puppet (and Paul Manafort’s former client) Viktor Yanukovych running back to Russia, where he still lives in his $52 million house. A central piece of Russian propaganda is that this was an American plot rather than a popular uprising. Carlson buys this, because of course he does.

Trump still won’t criticize Putin. But at least he’s not stooping to the level of Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who called President Zelensky a “thug” and the Ukrainian government “incredibly evil”.

and legalized bigotry

Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill passed the legislature on Tuesday. Governor DeSantis is expected to sign it.

Friday, a Texas state court ruled that the Governor Abbott had violated the state constitution with his new policy of investigating families for “child abuse” if their children got medical treatment for gender dysphoria. Nine investigations had been underway.

and you also might be interested in …

The Purdue Pharma bankruptcy settlement finally got approved. Unlike a previous version, the Sackler family isn’t immunized against future criminal charges.

For months I was on the Trump mailing list to keep track what he was up to. Often there were fund-raising gimmicks, where contributing would enter you to win something-or-other. It turns out that sometimes he just takes the money and nobody wins the prize. Who could have imagined that the founder of Trump University would con his fans like that?

WNBA star Brittney Griner has been held in Russia for weeks on drug-smuggling charges. NY Magazine wonders why this isn’t a bigger story.

Last week, the NYT devoted way too much space to University of Virginia student Emily Camp’s complaints about being made to feel uncomfortable when she expresses her beliefs, as if this is a new thing that never happened to anybody but White conservatives.

Jessica Valenti responds:

And that’s what is at the heart of so many of these ‘cancel culture’ complaints; conservatives don’t just want to be bigots, they want to be bigots with friends. They want to say terrible things and still get swiped right on; they want to support legislation that puts people’s lives in danger and somehow still get invited to parties. 

But here’s the thing: Expressing unlikeable views often makes you unlikeable. That’s not censorship, it’s life. 

What people call cancel culture is really just run-of-the-mill social and moral consequences—which have been around forever. A society decides what kind of values they find important, and which they find intolerable. You are more than welcome to be on the wrong side of history, but it certainly doesn’t entitle you to friends. 

and let’s close with something artistic

Check out John Atkinson’s webtoons, many of which are somewhat drastic abridgements of classic books.

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