Truckers driving in circles

She worked for hours. I think I’ve told you the story before about the young lady I picked up at Heinz Lofts (the old Heinz factory in Pittsburgh, now converted to apartments) who was sobbing uncontrollably as I drove her to her destination. I thought she’d been through a break-up with her boyfriend or something like that but it turned out it’d been her first day on the job as a housecleaner and she’d worked for eight hours trying to clean an apartment.

The last time I tried to do any housecleaning, I was in tears after five minutes of scrubbing on my own shower stall. I didn’t get to tell her that because she explained at the very end of the ride, so I understood her predicament more than she knows.

A housecleaner came today to my apartment. She did a great job. But my god, it must have been six hours she was here, doing an initial “deep clean” for what will be a monthly, hopefully less time-consuming, cleaning in the future.

This is the same outfit I used to do the final cleaning of my old apartment. They took a lot longer than I expected then too. But it’s hard to find housecleaning in Pittsburgh. Mostly, they don’t even return your calls.

And I keep thinking of that woman I drove from Heinz Lofts.

COVID-19 Pandemic

Doctors and charlatans

Jon LaPook, “America’s virus trackers show cautious optimism over state of coronavirus pandemic,” CBS News, March 6, 2022,

Tina Nguyen, “The G.O.P.’s New Trump-Putin Headache,” Puck News, March 7, 2022,

Donald Trump

Coup attempt

Tina Nguyen, “The G.O.P.’s New Trump-Putin Headache,” Puck News, March 7, 2022,

Sadie Gurman and Aruna Viswanatha, “Proud Boys Leader Enrique Tarrio Arrested in Connection With Jan. 6 Attack,” Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2022,

Aruna Viswanatha and Alexa Corse, “First Jan. 6 Criminal Trial Leads to Conviction on All Counts,” Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2022,

U.S. Postal Service

Jacob Bogage, “Senate passes $107 billion overhaul of USPS, lauding mail agency’s role in pandemic response,” Washington Post, March 8, 2022,



I am a little perturbed by how long it’s taken for Ed Gainey to announce reinspections of bridges rated in poor condition.[1] The Fern Hollow Bridge collapsed, after all, clear back in January. Late January, but January nonetheless.

It sounds, however, like Gainey actually has a program. This is in coordination with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT).[2] So this could be a stylistic thing: Gainey is doing before he is talking, something a bunch of other Democrats might take note of.

That said, this style, assuming that’s what it is, is going to take some getting used to. And I’m thinking at the very least, I should be perturbed that it took so long to set up a program with PennDOT. That might be PennDOT’s fault, but I don’t know. It seems weird.

Julia Felton, “Mayor Gainey says Pittsburgh will reinspect all city-owned bridges in poor condition,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 8, 2022,


Julia Ioffe, it turns out, has her own rather different take on why deposing Vladimir Putin wouldn’t work.[3] Paul Nuki and Mark Galeotti, you might recall, each argued, in effect, that Putin is a puppet master and the oligarchs and security elites are his puppets. A coup, in their light, has the same likelihood of success as that of a marionette turning against the hand that pulls its strings.[4] Ioffe, on the other hand, observes all the people who are willingly carrying out Putin’s orders. The same, she argues, happened under Josef Stalin and she attributes a joke to Michael Idov who, she paraphrases, said something to the effect “that, in 100 years, Russia had reproduced essentially the same system three times: an authoritarian bureaucracy with a cult of personality at its center. Whatever its ideological trappings—monarchist, communist, neo-fascist—the core was the same.”[5]

It turns out to be unlikely that Mark Twain actually said, “History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.”[6] But more than this, Ioffe’s view draws on an archetype I have seen before that characterizes the Russian psyche as somehow craving a cruel authoritarian. This said, regardless of how he views himself, Putin is not Stalin, nor is he Nicholas II; Putin does not live in Stalin’s time, nor Nicholas II’s.

That doesn’t make Ioffe wrong. Indeed, I very much fear she is right. There might, in fact, be something of Philip Zimbardo’s “power of the situation”[7] in the Kremlin that somehow survives all the upheavals of Russian history. But this is the very sort of view that must be treated with caution.

One of the things I tell the students who find themselves on an Uber ride with me driving is that social science theories should be treated like tools in a toolbox. When they seem to suit the task at hand, great, by all means, use them and cite them. When they don’t, put them back in the toolbox. Leave them aside for another day.

Along with this, what I’m really saying is that no social science theory is all that wonderful for prediction. It might help you to explain a point, in which case, you should absolutely use it. But don’t trust it to predict an outcome. It might be right. But I’d much rather apply it post hoc.

So go ahead, call me chicken shit. Call out my lack of courage. Scholarship isn’t about toxic masculinity. In the social sciences especially, we seek to understand. That macho approach that says I’ve got a theory and I’m gonna predict the future with it is simply silly.

Roane Carey, “Don’t Be a Tankie: How the Left Should Respond to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine,” Intecept, March 1, 2022,

Richard Fontaine, “The Long Weekend That Changed History,” Atlantic, March 1, 2022,

Camille Gijs, “US sees ‘no indication’ to back Ukrainian claim Belarus has joined Russia’s invasion,” Politico, March 1, 2022,

Quinn Glabicki, “The Russian invasion of Ukraine ignites anger, distress among Pittsburghers from warring nations,” Public Source, March 1, 2022,

Yuras Karmanau et al., “Russia pummels Ukraine’s No. 2 city and convoy nears Kyiv,” Associated Press, March 1, 2022,

Iuliia Mendel, “Love, war and two cats — What fleeing Kyiv looked like for us,” Washington Post, March 1, 2022,

Adam Taylor, “War in Ukraine enters a new phase, even more unpredictable and dangerous than the last,” Washington Post, March 1, 2022,

Nataliya Vasilyeva, Robert Mendick, and Mason Boycott-Owen, “Russian troops in disarray and ‘crying’ in combat, radio messages reveal,” Telegraph, March 1, 2022,

Robin Wright, “What Does Putin’s Nuclear Sabre Rattling Mean?” New Yorker, March 1, 2022,

Christine Emba, “The war in Ukraine doesn’t need your ‘likes,’” Washington Post, March 2, 2022,

Alexander Graef, “Four ways the Russia-Ukraine war could end – from palace coup to Pyrrhic victory,” Telegraph, March 2, 2022,

Luke Harding, Jon Henley, and Martin Farrer, “Russia aims to erase Ukraine, says Zelenskiy, as bombardment intensifies,” Guardian, March 2, 2022,

Jim Sleeper, “Too much reality: Putin’s Ukraine invasion summons Europe’s dark past,” Tikkun, March 2, 2022,

Con Coughlin, “The oligarchs are turning on Russia’s new tsar,” Telegraph, March 3, 2022,

James Crisp, “Russian convoy’s advance on Kyiv deflated by flat tyres and Ukrainian mud,” Telegraph, March 3, 2022,

Julia Ioffe, “Europe’s 9/11,” Puck News, March 3, 2022,

Dave Lawler, “Russia agreed to open “humanitarian corridors” for fleeing civilians: Ukraine official,” Axios, March 3, 2022,

Roland Oliphant, Gordon Rayner, and Lucy Fisher, “Vladimir Putin set to ‘cut Ukraine in two’ as key city of Kherson falls to Russians,” Telegraph, March 3, 2022,

Sacha Pfeiffer, Lauren Hodges, and Christopher Intagliata, “Former NATO commander says a no-fly zone over Ukraine must be on the table,” National Public Radio, March 3, 2022,

Pjotr Sauer, “‘My future is taken away from me’: Russians flee to escape consequences of Moscow’s war,” Guardian, March 3, 2022,

Michael Schwirtz and Richard Pérez-Peña, “Kremlin Vows Victory in Ukraine as Refugees Swell to One Million,” New York Times, March 3, 2022,

David L. Stern, “Russia claims control of vital port city in Ukraine, as convoy outside Kyiv remains stalled,” Washington Post, March 3, 2022,

Jim Heintz, Yuras Karmanau, and Mstyslav Chernov, “Fire out at key Ukraine nuclear plant, no radiation released,” Associated Press, March 4, 2022,

Eric Levitz, “Putin’s War Looks Increasingly Insane,” New York, March 4, 2022,

Simon Lewis and Sabine Siebold, “NATO rejects Ukraine no-fly zone, says ‘not part of this’ war,” Reuters, March 4, 2022,

Reuters, “Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now,” March 4, 2022,

Mark Galeotti, “How does Putin extract himself from this nightmare of his own making?” Times, March 5, 2022,

Toby Helm et al., “Defiant Putin warns the west: your sanctions are akin to an act of war,” Guardian, March 5, 2022,

Dan Lamothe, Alex Horton, and Karoun Demirjian, “Ukraine’s military adapts tactics after enduring Russia’s initial invasion,” Washington Post, March 5, 2022,

Tess McClure et al., “Mariupol to evacuate citizens after Russia declares temporary ceasefire,” Guardian, March 5, 2022,

Yaroslav Trofimov, “Ukraine, Russia Agreement on Evacuating Mariupol Civilians Collapses,” Wall Street Journal, March 5, 2022,

Kalyeena Makortoff, “Mastercard and Visa block in Russia does not stop domestic purchases,” Guardian, March 6, 2022,

Justin McCurry, Samantha Lock, and Luke Harding, “Russia targeting cities as strength of Ukraine’s resistance ‘continues to surprise’, UK says,” Guardian, March 6, 2022,

Catherine Philp, Caroline Wheeler, and Matthew Campbell, “Merciless Vladimir Putin shells Ukrainian evacuees,” Times, March 6, 2022,

Yaroslav Trofimov, “Russian Artillery Kills Ukrainian Civilians Fleeing Kyiv Suburb,” Wall Street Journal, March 6, 2022,

Yaroslav Trofimov and Alan Cullison, “Ukraine Faces Fresh Wave of Attacks Focused on Population Centers,” Wall Street Journal, March 6, 2022,

Benjamin R. Young, “Putin Has a Grimly Absolute Vision of the ‘Russian World,’” Foreign Policy, March 6, 2022,

Tom Ball, “This war will be a total failure, FSB whistleblower says,” Times, March 7, 2022,

Martin Farrer, “Russia Ukraine war: what we know on day 13 of the Russian invasion,” Guardian, March 7, 2022,

Jesus Jiménez, “What Is NATO and Which Countries Are Members?” New York Times, March 7, 2022,

Jacob Judah, “Moldova braces for ‘spectrum of threats’ as Russia bids to seize south of Ukraine,” Telegraph, March 7, 2022,

Robert Mendick and Dominic Nicholls, “Russian aircraft losses in Ukraine ‘unsustainable for more than a fortnight,’” Telegraph, March 7, 2022,

David Moye, “Ukraine Expert Alexander Vindman Humiliates Marjorie Taylor Greene With Brutal Fact Check,” HuffPost, March 7, 2022,

Tina Nguyen, “The G.O.P.’s New Trump-Putin Headache,” Puck News, March 7, 2022,

Daphne Rousseau, “Ukraine parades Russian troops captured during invasion before cameras,” Times of Israel, March 7, 2022,

Jordan Michael Smith, “Would Putin Really Go Nuclear? Well …,” New Republic, March 7, 2022,

Aaron Blake, “Tucker Carlson goes full blame-America on Russia’s Ukraine invasion,” Washington Post, March 8, 2022,

Kaitlan Collins et al., “Biden announces ban on Russian energy imports,” Cable News Network, March 8, 2022,

Anthony Faiola, “Through Putin’s looking glass: How the Russians are seeing — or not seeing — the war in Ukraine,” Washington Post, March 8, 2022,

Julia Ioffe, “The Death of Putin,” Puck News, March 8, 2022,

Yuras Karmanau, “People flee embattled Ukraine city, supplies head to another,” Associated Press, March 8, 2022,

Matthew Luxmoore, Drew Hinshaw, and Nancy A. Youssef, “NATO Members Mount Huge Operation to Resupply Ukrainian Fighters,” Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2022,

Paul Nuki, “Why Vladimir Putin may stay in power longer than we think,” Telegraph, March 8, 2022,

Matt Oliver, “West scrambles for alternatives to Russian oil and gas,7rdquo; Telegraph, March 8, 2022,

Emily Rauhala, “E.U. presents plan to cut Russian gas imports by two-thirds this year, stops short of boycott,” Washington Post, March 8, 2022,

Daniel Thomas & Michael Race, “War in Ukraine: Russia says it may cut gas supplies if oil ban goes ahead,” British Broadcasting Corporation, March 8, 2022,

  1. [1]Julia Felton, “Mayor Gainey says Pittsburgh will reinspect all city-owned bridges in poor condition,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 8, 2022,
  2. [2]Julia Felton, “Mayor Gainey says Pittsburgh will reinspect all city-owned bridges in poor condition,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 8, 2022,
  3. [3]Julia Ioffe, “The Death of Putin,” Puck News, March 8, 2022,
  4. [4]Mark Galeotti, “How does Putin extract himself from this nightmare of his own making?” Times, March 5, 2022,; Paul Nuki, “Why Vladimir Putin may stay in power longer than we think,” Telegraph, March 8, 2022,
  5. [5]Julia Ioffe, “The Death of Putin,” Puck News, March 8, 2022,
  6. [6]Quote Investigator, “History Does Not Repeat Itself, But It Rhymes,” January 12, 2014,
  7. [7]Philip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil (New York: Random House, 2008).

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