Coup chemistry

I have barely begun to see the first botanical hints of spring here in Pittsburgh: A hue of green on a tree here, red there. The ubiquitous shrubs with yellow flowers are blooming all over the place. There are carnations in my landlord’s front yard, presumably the work of his eternally optimistic wife. Which of course means we’re in for a few more freezes. It looks like the first of those will be this weekend. Nothing serious, but some snow flurries and subfreezing temperatures nonetheless.[1] Most trees, smarter than me, aren’t buying any of it. They’re still in winter mode. Like I said, they’re smarter than me.


Police White supremacist gangs

Alene Tchekmedyian, “Inspector general identifies 41 sheriff’s deputies who allegedly belong to gang-like groups,” Los Angeles Times, March 22, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-03-22/sheriff-deputies-executioners-banditos

Megan Guza, Paula Reed Ward, and Julia Felton, “Officials: 5 Pittsburgh police officers terminated after months-long investigation into death of Jim Rogers,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 23, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-officials-to-announce-results-of-internal-investigation-into-death-of-jim-rogers/

Alene Tchekmedyian, “L.A. County panel launches investigation into Sheriff’s Department ‘deputy gangs,’” Los Angeles Times, March 24, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-03-24/civilian-oversight-commisson-deputy-gangs-investigation


Pacific Gas and Electric

Dale Kasler, “Auditor blasts California regulators who oversee wildfire safety at PG&E, other utilities,” Sacramento Bee, March 24, 2022, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article259727215.html


COVID-19 Pandemic

Doctors and charlatans

The Omicron BA.2 subvariant might yet have a surprise for us,[2] but I’m not, yet anyway, seeing anything that looks like it will dissuade us from throwing the immunocompromised under the bus.[3]

The sense I have around Allegheny County is that people don’t care anymore. We’re wearing masks on Uber and Lyft because of a tattletale culture in which, apparently, both riders and drivers will rat on each other even if they themselves aren’t wearing masks. Drivers, I would guess, are doing it to get back at passengers they don’t like. Riders, I’m guessing, are doing it in the hope of a free ride. So it’s damn the torpedoes (or the immunocompromised), full speed ahead.

Complacency is often the harbinger of trouble yet to come. Whether that’s the case with COVID-19 remains to be seen.

Jon Kamp, “Omicron BA.2 Variant Represents Rising Share of U.S. Covid-19 Cases,” Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/omicron-ba-2-variant-represents-rising-share-of-u-s-covid-19-cases-11647979879


Donald Trump

Coup attempt

Steve Bannon is raising an interesting question about executive privilege. But if the judge rules against him, he can appeal,[4] which means this is also a stalling tactic, hoping to stall until 2025, when it seems likely Donald Trump will be back in the White House[5] and a pardon from the fealty-demanding president becomes possible.

Hugo Lowell, “Bannon’s escape plan: how the Trump strategist is trying to dodge prison,” Guardian, March 25, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/mar/25/steve-bannon-house-capitol-attack-committee-contempt

Jane Mayer, “Legal Scholars Are Shocked By Ginni Thomas’s ‘Stop the Steal’ Texts,” New Yorker, March 25, 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/legal-scholars-are-shocked-by-ginni-thomass-stop-the-steal-texts


Work

On this day in 1911, there was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.[6] In today’s news, we see that capitalism remains[7] a death cult.[8]

Brian Callaci, “Amazon Warehouses Are Relentless, Dangerous Workplaces—but It’s Hard to Punish Them for It, Thanks to Bill Clinton,” New Republic, March 25, 2022, https://newrepublic.com/article/165842/amazon-warehouse-washington-ergonomics-regulation-osha-clinton


Ukraine

Amid fears that Russia may deploy chemical weapons against Ukraine,

Mr. [Joe] Biden and others have been careful not to telegraph exactly what the U.S. and allies would do if Mr. Putin used chemical weapons. “The nature of the response would depend on the nature of the use,” he said Thursday.

“Strategic ambiguity and discretion are more effective” than red lines, said French President Emmanuel Macron, explaining why he wouldn’t specify what Russian action might trigger a NATO response.[9]

I tend to interpret vague threats as empty threats; however, I can certainly see an argument that Vladimir Putin might well, like any petulant, recalcitrant, unrepentant child, try to push the limits delineated in any clearly defined red lines.

Meanwhile, in a field ripe for rumor-mongering,[10] there’s more talk of a possible coup against Putin as Russian security services are unhappy at the loss of privileges under Western sanctions and as they also take the blame[11] for Putin’s failure in Ukraine.[12] The difficulty really remains that Putin has had well over two decades to purge anyone who might pose such a threat and to install the loyalist incompetent sycophants who now tell him what he wants to hear.[13] Indeed, apart from the reported resentment,[14] there’s simply not a lot of evidence of dissent—Julia Ioffe indeed has argued the contrary—that would produce a change of policy even if Putin were to die or be killed or overthrown.[15]

I can’t rule out a coup. No one can. But while I’m pretty confident I’m not the only one hoping to be wrong about this, what I’m seeing here in these analyses just isn’t promising.

I might also note that there is a single source for this report of dissent. So far, their information has been good.[16] But any good journalist knows to seek confirmation: To my knowledge, we simply ain’t got it.

Meanwhile, those who suspect Joe Biden suffers dementia will surely see a boost here:

“Let’s get something straight … I did not say that in fact the sanctions would deter him [Vladimir Putin],” [Joe] Biden said at a press conference from Brussels, where he is meeting with NATO leaders.

“Sanctions never deter — you keep talking about that — sanctions never deter. The maintenance of sanctions, the maintenance of sanctions, the increasing the pain and the demonstration, why I asked for this NATO meeting today, is to be sure that after a month, we will sustain what we’re doing not just next month, the following month, but for the remainder of this entire year, that’s what will stop him,” the president said, raising his voice.

Asked if he believes NATO’s latest actions on Thursday will lead Russia to change course, Biden said, “That’s not what I said. You’re playing a game with me.”

“The answer’s no,” he added.[17]

So what, one might more than reasonably ask, is the point of the sanctions? Biden seems to think they’re meant to show solidarity among North Atlantic Treaty Organization and European Union countries.[18] As if that will dissuade Putin.

Show me a universe where this makes sense and I’ll show you a universe where cows fly.

Daniel Boffey and Dan Sabbagh, “Vladimir Putin accused of war crimes as school and theatre are hit in Ukraine,” Guardian, March 17, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/17/kyiv-ukraine-says-moscow-russia-must-accept-ceasefire-as-west-doubts-putin-sincerity

Larisa Brown, Charlie Parker, and Richard Spencer, “Ukraine forces ‘counter-attack’ as Russia loses estimated 7,000 troops and 230 tanks,” Times, March 17, 2022, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ukraine-crisis-world-war-three-may-have-already-started-warns-zelensky-f5fs72vq5

Isabel Coles, Alan Cullison, and Yaroslav Trofimov, “Ukraine Awaits Word of Deaths, Survivors After Russia Hits Theater Turned Bomb Shelter,” Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/russian-forces-attack-theater-in-southern-ukraine-where-civilians-were-hiding-11647511730

Yuka Hayashi and Eliza Collins, “House Passes Legislation to End Normal Trade Relations With Russia,” Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/house-passes-legislation-to-end-normal-trade-relations-with-russia-11647545860

James Mackenzie, Natalia Zinets, and Oleksandr Kozhukhar, “Russia getting bogged down in Ukraine, Western nations say,” Reuters, March 17, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/shells-hit-theatre-sheltering-ukraine-civilians-biden-calls-putin-war-criminal-2022-03-17/

Loveday Morris, “In Ukraine’s second city, a furious rain of bombs and rockets takes a toll: ‘There are no coffins left,’” Washington Post, March 17, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/03/17/kharkiv-bodies-human-toll/

Rachel Roubein with McKenzie Beard, “Health care is becoming a target in Ukraine,” Washington Post, March 17, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/03/17/health-care-is-becoming-target-ukraine/

Dan Sabbagh, “Is an outright Russian military victory in Ukraine possible?” Guardian, March 17, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/17/is-an-outright-russian-military-victory-in-ukraine-possible

Joshua Goodman, “American gunmakers help Ukrainians fight back against Putin,” Associated Press, March 18, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-american-gunmakers-3c5fa03742ebc5806293a84a0e2b73cd

Justin Ling, “How ‘Ukrainian bioweapons labs’ myth went from QAnon fringe to Fox News,” Guardian, March 18, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2022/mar/18/ukrainian-bioweapons-labs-qanon-fox-news

Rebecca Ratcliffe and Abené Clayton, “Russia-Ukraine war: what we know on day 24 of the invasion,” Guardian, March 18, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/19/russia-ukraine-war-what-we-know-on-day-24-of-the-invasion

Michael Levenson, Marc Santora, and Valerie Hopkins, “Deadly Strike on Ukraine Barracks Punctuates Russian Military Gains,” New York Times, March 19, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/19/world/europe/mariupol-russia-ukraine-war.html

Warren P. Strobel and Michael R. Gordon, “Reported Detention of Russian Spy Boss Shows Tension Over Stalled Ukraine Invasion, U.S. Officials Say,” Wall Street Journal, March 19, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/reported-detention-of-russian-spy-boss-shows-tension-over-stalled-ukraine-invasion-u-s-officials-say-11647687601

Devan Cole, “Zelensky: “I’m ready for negotiations’ with Putin, but if they fail, it could mean ‘a third World War,’” CNN, March 20, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/20/politics/zelensky-putin-ukraine-negotiations-war-cnntv/index.html

Michael R. Gordon and Alex Leary, “Russia, Failing to Achieve Early Victory in Ukraine, Is Seen Shifting to ‘Plan B,’” Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/russia-failing-to-achieve-early-victory-in-ukraine-is-seen-shifting-to-plan-b-11647824374

Loveday Morris, Annabelle Timsit, and Jennifer Hassan, “Russia bombs Mariupol art school where 400 people in besieged city were sheltering, Ukrainian officials say,” Washington Post, March 20, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/03/20/mariupol-art-school-civilians-russia/

Liz Sly and Dan Lamothe, “Russia’s war for Ukraine could be headed toward stalemate,” Washington Post, March 20, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/03/20/russia-ukraine-military-offensive/

Nataliya Vasilyeva, “Russians borrow from Nazi playbook with forced deportation of Ukrainian civilians,” Telegraph, March 20, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/terror-and-security/russians-borrow-nazi-playbook-forced-deportation-ukrainian-civilians/

Larisa Brown and Richard Spencer, “Struggling Russians ‘plant mines’ and dig in for a long war,” Times, March 21, 2022, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/retroville-mall-a-symbol-of-new-kyiv-is-destroyed-by-cruise-missile-0znsr9zc9

Samantha Lock, Jennifer Rankin, and Julian Borger, “‘Clear sign’ Putin is weighing up use of chemical weapons in Ukraine, says Biden,” Guardian, March 21, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/22/clear-sign-putin-is-weighing-up-use-of-chemical-weapons-in-ukraine-says-biden

Isaac Chotiner, “The Purges in Putin’s Shrinking Inner Circle,” New Yorker, March 22, 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/the-purges-in-putins-shrinking-inner-circle

Julia Ioffe, “Hacking Through Putin’s Media Cult,” Puck News, March 22, 2022, https://puck.news/hacking-through-putins-media-cult/

Richard Kemp, “The Russian army has run out of time,” Telegraph, March 22, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2022/03/22/russian-army-has-run-time/

Luke McGee and Claire Calzonetti, “Putin spokesman refuses to rule out use of nuclear weapons if Russia faced an ‘existential threat,’” CNN, March 22, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/22/europe/amanpour-peskov-interview-ukraine-intl/index.html

Adela Suliman, David L. Stern, and Steven Mufson, “Forest fires near Russian-held Chernobyl nuclear plant raise radiation fears, Ukraine says,” Washington Post, March 22, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/03/22/chernobyl-forest-fire-radiation-ukraine-russia/

Tom Ball, “Ukraine war: Putin ‘at risk of coup’ by Russian security services,” Times, March 23, 2022, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ukraine-war-putin-at-risk-of-coup-by-russian-security-services-vm6qgxtnp

Nataliya Vasilyeva, “‘Unwell’ Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu disappears from public view,” Telegraph, March 23, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2022/03/23/unwell-russian-defence-minister-potential-vladimir-putin-successor/

Alex Gangitano, “Biden has sharp response to reporter: ‘You’re playing a game with me,’ Hill, March 24, 2022, https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/599641-biden-has-sharp-response-to-reporter-youre-playing-a-game-with-me

Ashley Parker, Tyler Pager, and Emily Rauhala, “Leaders add sanctions on Russia, warn against chemical weapons,” Washington Post, March 24, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/03/24/biden-nato-europe-russia-ukraine-war/

Tarini Parti, Robert Wall, and Catherine Lucey, “Biden Calls for Russia to Be Expelled From G-20,” Wall Street Journal, March 24, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/biden-meets-allies-in-brussels-seeking-to-end-war-in-ukraine-and-punish-putin-11648112332

Lisa McIntosh Sundstrom, “Will Russians Toss Their Leader?” Tyee, March 25, 2022, https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2022/03/25/Will-Russians-Toss-Their-Leader/


  1. [1]Paul Guggenheimer, “Cold, snowy weekend in store for Western Pa.,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 24, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/regional/cold-snowy-weekend-in-store-for-western-pa/
  2. [2]Jon Kamp, “Omicron BA.2 Variant Represents Rising Share of U.S. Covid-19 Cases,” Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/omicron-ba-2-variant-represents-rising-share-of-u-s-covid-19-cases-11647979879
  3. [3]Ed Yong, “The Millions of People Stuck in Pandemic Limbo,” Atlantic, February 16, 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2022/02/covid-pandemic-immunocompromised-risk-vaccines/622094/
  4. [4]Hugo Lowell, “Bannon’s escape plan: how the Trump strategist is trying to dodge prison,” Guardian, March 25, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/mar/25/steve-bannon-house-capitol-attack-committee-contempt
  5. [5]David Benfell, “My 2024 forecast,” Not Housebroken, March 10, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/03/10/my-2024-forecast/
  6. [6]William G. Shepherd, “Witness watches helplessly as fire victims leap to their death,” March 25, 1911, https://www.upi.com/Archives/1911/03/25/Witness-watches-helplessly-as-fire-victims-leap-to-their-death/1995804111743/
  7. [7]Brian Callaci, “Amazon Warehouses Are Relentless, Dangerous Workplaces—but It’s Hard to Punish Them for It, Thanks to Bill Clinton,” New Republic, March 25, 2022, https://newrepublic.com/article/165842/amazon-warehouse-washington-ergonomics-regulation-osha-clinton
  8. [8]David Benfell, “The capitalist death cult,” Not Housebroken, January 11, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/27/the-capitalist-death-cult/
  9. [9]Tarini Parti, Robert Wall, and Catherine Lucey, “Biden Calls for Russia to Be Expelled From G-20,” Wall Street Journal, March 24, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/biden-meets-allies-in-brussels-seeking-to-end-war-in-ukraine-and-punish-putin-11648112332
  10. [10]Nataliya Vasilyeva, “‘Unwell’ Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu disappears from public view,” Telegraph, March 23, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2022/03/23/unwell-russian-defence-minister-potential-vladimir-putin-successor/
  11. [11]Tom Ball, “Ukraine war: Putin ‘at risk of coup’ by Russian security services,” Times, March 23, 2022, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ukraine-war-putin-at-risk-of-coup-by-russian-security-services-vm6qgxtnp; Lisa McIntosh Sundstrom, “Will Russians Toss Their Leader?” Tyee, March 25, 2022, https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2022/03/25/Will-Russians-Toss-Their-Leader/
  12. [12]Larisa Brown, Charlie Parker, and Richard Spencer, “Ukraine forces ‘counter-attack’ as Russia loses estimated 7,000 troops and 230 tanks,” Times, March 18, 2022, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ukraine-crisis-world-war-three-may-have-already-started-warns-zelensky-f5fs72vq5; Larisa Brown and Richard Spencer, “Struggling Russians ‘plant mines’ and dig in for a long war,” Times, March 21, 2022, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/retroville-mall-a-symbol-of-new-kyiv-is-destroyed-by-cruise-missile-0znsr9zc9; Helene Cooper, Julian E. Barnes, and Eric Schmitt, “As Russian Troop Deaths Climb, Morale Becomes an Issue, Officials Say,” New York Times, March 16, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/16/us/politics/russia-troop-deaths.html; Mark Galeotti, “How does Putin extract himself from this nightmare of his own making?” Times, March 5, 2022, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/how-does-putin-extract-himself-from-this-nightmare-of-his-own-making-v2ktvw08g; Michael R. Gordon and Alex Leary, “Russia, Failing to Achieve Early Victory in Ukraine, Is Seen Shifting to ‘Plan B,’” Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/russia-failing-to-achieve-early-victory-in-ukraine-is-seen-shifting-to-plan-b-11647824374; Richard Kemp, “The Russian army has run out of time,” Telegraph, March 22, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2022/03/22/russian-army-has-run-time/; Dan Lamothe, Alex Horton, and Karoun Demirjian, “Ukraine’s military adapts tactics after enduring Russia’s initial invasion,” Washington Post, March 5, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/03/05/ukraine-military-strategy/; Eric Levitz, “Putin’s War Looks Increasingly Insane,” New York, March 4, 2022, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2022/03/putins-war-looks-increasingly-insane.html; James Mackenzie, Natalia Zinets, and Oleksandr Kozhukhar, “Russia getting bogged down in Ukraine, Western nations say,” Reuters, March 17, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/shells-hit-theatre-sheltering-ukraine-civilians-biden-calls-putin-war-criminal-2022-03-17/; 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, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/06/biden-and-zelenskiy-discuss-more-aid-for-ukraine-as-russian-attacks-intensify; Ashley Parker et al., “‘No off-ramps’: U.S. and European officials don’t see a clear endgame in Ukraine,” Washington Post, March 11, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/03/10/ukraine-end-game/; David Remnick, “The Weakness of the Despot,” New Yorker, March 11, 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/stephen-kotkin-putin-russia-ukraine-stalin; Dan Sabbagh, “Is an outright Russian military victory in Ukraine possible?” Guardian, March 17, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/17/is-an-outright-russian-military-victory-in-ukraine-possible; Liz Sly and Dan Lamothe, “Russia’s war for Ukraine could be headed toward stalemate,” Washington Post, March 20, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/03/20/russia-ukraine-military-offensive/
  13. [13]Isaac Chotiner, “The Purges in Putin’s Shrinking Inner Circle,” New Yorker, March 22, 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/the-purges-in-putins-shrinking-inner-circle; Mark Galeotti, “How does Putin extract himself from this nightmare of his own making?” Times, March 5, 2022, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/how-does-putin-extract-himself-from-this-nightmare-of-his-own-making-v2ktvw08g; David Remnick, “The Weakness of the Despot,” New Yorker, March 11, 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/stephen-kotkin-putin-russia-ukraine-stalin
  14. [14]Tom Ball, “Ukraine war: Putin ‘at risk of coup’ by Russian security services,” Times, March 23, 2022, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ukraine-war-putin-at-risk-of-coup-by-russian-security-services-vm6qgxtnp
  15. [15]Julia Ioffe, “The Death of Putin,” Puck News, March 8, 2022, https://puck.news/the-death-of-putin/
  16. [16]Tom Ball, “Ukraine war: Putin ‘at risk of coup’ by Russian security services,” Times, March 23, 2022, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ukraine-war-putin-at-risk-of-coup-by-russian-security-services-vm6qgxtnp
  17. [17]Alex Gangitano, “Biden has sharp response to reporter: ‘You’re playing a game with me,’ Hill, March 24, 2022, https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/599641-biden-has-sharp-response-to-reporter-youre-playing-a-game-with-me
  18. [18]Alex Gangitano, “Biden has sharp response to reporter: ‘You’re playing a game with me,’ Hill, March 24, 2022, https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/599641-biden-has-sharp-response-to-reporter-youre-playing-a-game-with-me

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