What is the end game in Ukraine?

See update for May 18, 2022, at end of post.

Every once in a while, a question has to crop up: What’s the end game here?

Julia Ioffe has argued against the possibility of a coup against Vladimir Putin on two grounds: First, she sees an entire Kremlin apparatus, a significant part of larger Russian society that shares Putin’s world view, and an even larger part willing to be complicit with him; replacing him would merely bring other people in who share his perspective and thus fail to solve the problem of the Ukraine invasion. Second, she observes that Russia has produced rulers such as Putin before; there is a pattern here that replacing Putin does not resolve.[1] Mikhail Khodorkovsky offers a bit of insight into the second of these:[2] Read more

  1. [1]Julia Ioffe, “The Death of Putin,” Puck News, March 8, 2022, https://puck.news/the-death-of-putin/
  2. [2]Will Dunn, “‘He has embarked on a war he can’t stop’: Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Putin’s next move,” New Statesman, May 3, 2022, https://www.newstatesman.com/world/europe/ukraine/2022/05/he-has-embarked-on-a-war-he-cant-stop-mikhail-khodorkovsky-on-putins-next-move

The illusory solidarity of the Left

I am remembering today the instructor of my social inequality class, who warned us against only being concerned with the inequality that personally afflicts us. We need to be concerned with all of it, not only as a matter of justice,[1] I say, but because if we address only a single issue of injustice, we risk recreating the very system that now benefits wealthy white men but privileging a different group instead, much as the Russian Revolution simply reshuffled who was in power, who would oppress others.[2] Justice is justice for everyone; partial steps won’t do. Read more

  1. [1]I see from a copy of my unofficial transcript that I took the class in Summer of 2007 at California State University, East Bay, but I do not recall the professor’s name.
  2. [2]Emma Goldman, “There Is No Communism in Russia,” in Red Emma Speaks: An Emma Goldman Reader, ed. Alix Kates Shulman, 3rd ed. (Amherst, NY: Humanity, 1998), 405-420.

Elon Musk’s ‘free speech’

“[W]hen I have spoken of ‘freedom,’ I have warned people to ask, for whom, to do what, to whom?”[1] Which today brings us to the case of Elon Musk, who calls himself a “free speech absolutist,”[2] buying Twitter.[3] Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “On ‘freedom,’” Not Housebroken, August 7, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/09/13/on-freedom/
  2. [2]Russ Mitchell, “‘Free speech absolutist’ Elon Musk has a long history of opposing speech and transparency,” Los Angeles Times, April 20, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2022-04-20/news-analysis-what-does-elon-musk-know-about-free-speech-or-transparency-or-truth
  3. [3]Douglas MacMillan et al., “Elon Musk acquires Twitter for roughly $44 billion,” Washington Post, April 25, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/04/25/twitter-elon-musk-deal/

Tangled webs, already woven

India weaves a tangled web in response to Western pressure to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine.[1] But then, its boundary disputes with Pakistan and China are also complex, encompassing significant amounts of territory (figure 1).

Fig. 1. “Composite map showing the borders of India, Pakistan & China as per official sources overlaid on areas of actual administrative control. Areas where official borders intersect are disputed areas administered by one country and claimed by another country. Each disputed region is indicated by a circle representative of its area with the color of the administering country and outlined by the color of the claimant country.” By Planemad [pseud.], August 23, 2011, on Wikimedia Commons. CC-by-sa Arun Ganesh, National Institute of Design Bangalore. Read more

  1. [1]Reuters, “India wants to be friends with West but needs Russian help to defend borders, finance minister tells Bloomberg,” April 23, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/india/india-wants-be-friends-with-west-needs-russian-help-defend-borders-says-finmin-2022-04-23/

Progressive Democrats in Pennsylvania, if they actually exist, should support Malcolm Kenyatta for U.S. Senator

I will be voting Green regardless, because the Democratic Party is where progressives go to be co-opted and because it is ever more apparent that the Democrats are most comfortable in opposition where they can take pot shots at Republicans without actually having to do anything themselves. But were the Democratic primary for U.S. Senator for Pennsylvania to be decided on the merits, there is little question in my mind that Malcolm Kenyatta is the superior candidate. Read more

Real and imagined hazards, real and imagined causes

There is a curious discrepancy between the concern expressed on my behalf by a few folks about the mask requirement being dropped for public transportation, which affects me as an Uber driver,[1] and a complete absence of expressed concern about the recent spike in violence in neighborhoods I drive in to routinely[2] that I actually find more alarming. It’s the kind of omission that a critical theorist is supposed to notice; it signifies what folks are actually concerned about, not so much about the violence in these neighborhoods or, really, even about my safety, but about COVID-19. Read more

  1. [1]Omar Abdel-Baqui, “Uber Drops Mask Requirement After Judge Voids Public Transportation Mandate,” Wall Street Journal, April 19, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-drops-mask-requirement-after-judge-voids-public-transportation-mandate-11650369863; Sarah Alessandrini, “Uber and Lyft drop mask requirements for drivers, passengers,” CNBC, April 19, 2022, https://www.cnbc.com/2022/04/19/uber-drops-mask-requirements-passengers.html; Lyft, “Update to Lyft’s Health Safety Guidelines,” April 19, 2022, https://www.lyft.com/blog/posts/update-to-lyfts-health-safety-guidelines; Tierney Sneed, “CDC mask mandate for travelers no longer in effect following judge’s ruling, official says,” CNN, April 18, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/04/18/politics/cdc-mask-mandate-ruling/index.html; Uber, “Our commitment to safety,” April 19, 2022, https://www.uber.com/us/en/safety/?stream=top
  2. [2]Megan Guza, “3 shot in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 12, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/3-shot-in-pittsburghs-hill-district/; Megan Guza and Ryan Deto, “Multiple shooters suspected in ‘war scene’ that killed 2, injured 8 on Pittsburgh’s North Side,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 17, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/police-11-shot-2-dead-on-pittsburghs-north-side/; Sarafina James, “Man assaulted, hospitalized following crash in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” WPXI, April 8, 2022, https://www.wpxi.com/news/local/man-assaulted-hospitalized-following-crash-pittsburghs-hill-district/CCH6JMSD6NAQXKODHLNFIETOZ4/; Nick Matoney, “Man shot multiple times in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” WTAE, March 25, 2022, https://www.wtae.com/article/man-shot-multiple-times-in-pittsburghs-hill-district/39534380; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “One man dead after Marshall-Shadeland shooting,” April 16, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/04/16/pittsburgh-fatal-shooting-marshall-shadeland-police-mcclure/stories/202204160041; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “At least 11 shot, 2 dead in North Side shooting, police say,” April 17, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/04/17/pittsburgh-shooting-north-side-east-allegheny-update-public-safety/stories/202204170168; Brian C. Rittmeyer, “Pittsburgh police investigating shootout at South Side Flats clothing store,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 17, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-police-investigating-shootout-at-south-side-flats-clothing-store/; Mick Stinelli, Julian Routh, and Ed Blazina, “North Side residents describe chaos at Airbnb before mass shooting as concerns mount over Pittsburgh gun violence,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 17, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2022/04/17/pittsburgh-mass-shooting-reactions-north-side-residents-east-allegheny-suismon-street-madison-avenue/stories/202204170174; WPXI, “19-year-old killed, 1 other injured in Hill District shooting,” April 11, 2022, https://www.wpxi.com/news/local/2-people-injured-hill-district-shooting/XL2XHK7AVFEVDD42QUYIGUDSOQ/

The epistemology of conspiracy theories

Peter McIndoe didn’t finish college, but he’s brilliant. With his “Birds Aren’t Real” “movement,” meant to be absurdist, he is demonstrating an impressive insight into conspiracy theorizing. I don’t know what we do with this insight; he doesn’t seem to know either.[1] But this has to be an important step. Here’s a piece I’ll be thinking about: Read more

  1. [1]Zoe Williams, “‘The lunacy is getting more intense’: how Birds Aren’t Real took on the conspiracy theorists,” Guardian, April 14, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/apr/14/the-lunacy-is-getting-more-intense-how-birds-arent-real-took-on-the-conspiracy-theorists

This is one race that’s surely getting too much attention

The bottom line in Tina Nguyen’s article is that Nguyen, who is considerably more insightful than I’m giving her credit for in this really rather unfair summation, doesn’t know why Donald Trump chose to endorse Mehmet Oz in the race for a U.S. Senate seat representing Pennsylvania.[1] Read more

  1. [1]Tina Nguyen, “The Trump-Oz-‘Dave’ Love Triangle Takes a Dark Turn,” Puck News, April 12, 2022, https://puck.news/the-trump-oz-dave-love-triangle-takes-a-dark-turn/

Customer disservice and the Google ecosystem

Customer service is not the kind of thing I like to think about, let alone write about. But I’m starting to see more and more absolutely appalling examples in my personal life.

There was that time when, having acquired a Google Pixel 5, a dual Subscriber Identity Module (SIM), dual standby (DSDS) phone, I wanted to move both my Verizon and AT&T accounts onto it. AT&T put me on hold for so long that they actually closed down for the day while I was waiting; when I went to a store to try to get service there, they were just completely confused, constantly on the phone to somebody else who clearly also didn’t know what to do, and I just gave up and moved the number to Google Fi, which is all about eSIMs, which are how, generally, you get a second SIM onto a phone with only one SIM slot. Read more