The (selective) evidence for Vladimir Putin’s sanity

Gig economy (neoliberal wet dream)

Bezzle

Remembering, as I do, all too well, the dot-com crash, that “‘seismic shift’ in investor sentiment” that Uber Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi refers to[14] reminds me of when, seemingly all at once, venture capitalists folded up their checkbooks. More fundamentally, Uber’s CEO is admitting that he continues to rely on investors for operating funds, which is to admit that his company continues to lose money.

When the dot-com boom bust, it took out a lot of companies, some with actual business plans, many without, some good companies, like the one where I had the only good job of my entire life, and a lot of not so good companies. Uber is known to be hemorrhaging vast quantities of money with no real plan for ever being profitable.[15] While it’s unclear whether what Khosrowshahi calls a “seismic shift” is temporary or longer-lasting,[16] what gets my attention is his outsized reaction to it,[17] which has to suggest a vulnerability.

Reuters, “Uber to cut costs, slow down hiring, CEO tells staff,” May 9, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/business/autos-transportation/uber-cut-costs-slow-down-hiring-ceo-tells-staff-cnbc-2022-05-09/


COVID-19 Pandemic

Katie Shepherd and Niha Masih, “Nearly 15 million deaths related to covid-19, WHO estimates,” Washington Post, May 5, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2022/05/05/covid-excess-global-deaths-nearly-15-million/

Yasmeen Abutaleb and Joel Achenbach, “Coronavirus wave this fall could infect 100 million, administration warns,” Washington Post, May 6, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2022/05/06/fall-winter-coronavirus-wave/

Marc Fisher et al., “After 1 million deaths, covid leaves millions more forever changed,” Washington Post, May 7, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/05/07/one-million-covid-deaths-families/


Abortion

Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward, “Supreme Court has voted to overturn abortion rights, draft opinion shows,” Politico, May 2, 2022, https://www.politico.com/news/2022/05/02/supreme-court-abortion-draft-opinion-00029473

Caroline Kitchener, “The next frontier for the antiabortion movement: A nationwide ban,” Washington Post, May 2, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/05/02/abortion-ban-roe-supreme-court-mississippi/

Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow, “Roberts directs investigation into leaked draft of abortion opinion,” Washington Post, May 3, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/05/03/supreme-court-leak-investigation-abortion-roe-wade/

Mike DeBonis and Seung Min Kim, “Collins and Murkowski on the defensive after leaked Roe draft opinion,” Washington Post, May 3, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/05/03/murkowski-collins-roe-abortion-opinion/

Josh Gerstein, “What falls after Roe? Liberals warn of a privacy rights nightmare,” Politico, May 3, 2022, https://www.politico.com/news/2022/05/03/supreme-court-abortion-privacy-rights-00029871

Oriana Gonzalez, “Collins says Kavanaugh and Gorsuch possibly broke promise on Roe v. Wade,” Axios, May 3, 2022, https://www.axios.com/susan-collins-kavanaugh-gorsuch-abortion-court-leak-d6d1dad3-15d4-4269-b2ee-b5b5b2a4ea94.html

Molly Jong-Fast, “My Mother Was Wrong,” Atlantic, May 3, 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/05/supreme-court-overturn-abortion-peaceful-protest/629746/

Irin Carmon, “Can Republicans Stop Patients From Leaving the State for an Abortion? Some Are Willing to Try,” New York, May 4, 2022, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2022/05/can-republicans-stop-out-of-state-abortion-patients.html

Erin McCarthy, “Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf vows to protect abortion rights, but can only do so for the next eight months,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 4, 2022, https://www.inquirer.com/news/pennsylvania/abortion-rights-pennsylvania-governor-wolf-20220504.html

Meredith Shiner, “Democrats Can Go Scorched Earth on Abortion Rights, or Go Home,” New Republic, May 4, 2022, https://newrepublic.com/article/166293/democrats-abortion-rights-roe-2022

Alexandra Martinez, “Birth control, gay and interracial marriage, and more may be at risk if Roe v. Wade falls,” Prism, May 5, 2022, https://prismreports.org/2022/05/05/civil-rights-roe-v-wade/

Anna North, “Abortion has been treated as a fringe issue by Democrats for decades. This is the result,” Vox, May 5, 2022, https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2022/5/5/23057317/abortion-supreme-court-roe-v-wade

Martin Pengelly, “Louisiana Republicans advance bill to make abortion a crime of murder,” Guardian, May 5, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/may/05/louisiana-abortion-bill-murder-republicans

William Rivers Pitt, “Democrats Had 50 Years to Save and Protect ‘Roe.’ They Failed,” Truthout, May 6, 2022, https://truthout.org/articles/democrats-had-50-years-to-save-and-protect-roe-they-failed/

Margaret Atwood, “‘Enforced childbirth is slavery’: Margaret Atwood on the right to abortion,” Guardian, May 7, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/may/07/enforced-childbirth-is-slavery-margaret-atwood-on-the-right-to-abortion

Jennifer Haberkorn, “Abortion pills: A post-Roe game changer — and the next battleground,” Los Angeles Times, May 7, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-05-05/medication-abortion-safety-net-battleground

Amy Davidson Sorkin, “How Alito’s Draft Opinion on Abortion Rights Would Change America,” New Yorker, May 8, 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/05/16/how-alitos-draft-opinion-on-abortion-rights-would-change-america

David Charter, “Republican states plot to make birth control a crime,” Times, May 9, 2022, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/republican-states-plot-to-make-birth-control-a-crime-sljmb2s7f

Sarah Gantz, “Outside Philly and Pittsburgh, it can be as hard to get an abortion in Pa. as in Mississippi,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 9, 2022, https://www.inquirer.com/health/abortion-roe-v-wade-overturned-20220509.html

Eriq Gardner, “Was Politico’s Supreme Court Leaker an Inside Man?” Puck News, May 9, 2022, https://puck.news/was-politicos-supreme-court-leaker-an-inside-man/

Jill Elaine Hasday, “On Roe, Alito cites a judge who treated women as witches and property,” Washington Post, May 9, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/05/09/alito-roe-sir-matthew-hale-misogynist/


Ukraine

I had associated Max Boot with neoconservatism, so it’s more than a little surprising to me that he wrote this:

[Vladimir] Putin is now in a strategic quandary that should be familiar to Americans after our misbegotten wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq — only many times worse. Russia has launched a “war of choice” based on bad intelligence (such as the assumption that Ukrainians would welcome the Russians as liberators). The war is going badly, but once troops are committed, emotions run high and national prestige is on the line. Both escalation and withdrawal are too painful to contemplate. The easiest thing to do is to continue doing what you’ve been doing, even if there is scant hope that the results will get any better.[18]

Afghanistan and Iraq were, or are, flatly, wars of neoconservative ambition, imperialism, if you will; neoconservatism arose as a reaction to, among other things, the antiwar movement that sought to get the U.S. out of southeast Asia.[19] Boot’s argument is that it required a change of U.S. leadership to get the country out of each of those wars (it took Richard Nixon more than one term to extract us from Vietnam, so I think I’m unlikely to be alone in doubting this example) and that the same is required, even if unlikely, in Russia.[20]

Boot doubts that Vladimir Putin will use nuclear weapons because “that would be the action of a madman who fears that the end is near. Putin’s troops are carrying out unspeakable war crimes, but he is far from Hitler-in-the-bunker territory.” And Boot sees in a relatively subdued (read, less bellicose) Victory Day celebration, where Putin did not escalate the war on Ukraine, signs of recognition of reality rather than insanity, as Boot puts it, that “while Putin is isolated [but apparently not in Hitler-in-the-bunker territory] and prone to miscalculation, he is not insane.” Boot’s claim that Putin “far from Hitler-in-the-bunker territory” must stand against evidence, evidence that Boot recognizes,[21] that the Kremlin sees or at least portrays the war in Ukraine hysterically in existential terms.[22] We can certainly hope that Boot is right at the same time we recognize that this chain of reasoning seems tenuous.

Boot’s assessment of Putin rests on Putin’s apparent recognition that a general “mobilization [with a declaration of war rather than a ‘special military operation’] would bring more problems than it would solve” and that “the war is not going his way.”[23] That’s two data points against a boatload (the Moskva, perhaps?) of delusional crap[24] that Putin continues to justify his war with,[25] even if we set aside Putin’s simultaneously ludicrous and terrifying hubris of a “historic mission.”[26] Again, we can certainly hope Boot is right, even if we think his evidence is selective.

Cnaan Liphshiz, “Speaking about Zelensky, Russian foreign minister says Hitler also had Jewish ancestry,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 2, 2022, https://www.jta.org/2022/05/02/global/speaking-about-zelensky-russian-foreign-minister-says-hitler-also-had-jewish-ancestry

Missy Ryan et al., “Russia planning to annex new areas of Ukraine, U.S. intelligence finds,” Washington Post, May 2, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/05/02/russian-annex-territory-invasion/

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

Mary Ilyushina, Miriam Berger, and Timothy Bella, “Russian TV shows simulation of Britain and Ireland wiped out by a nuke,” Washington Post, May 3, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/05/03/russia-ireland-nuclear-weapons-video-ukraine/

Richard Kemp, “Vladimir Putin’s military cupboard is bare,” Telegraph, May 3, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/05/03/vladimir-putins-military-cupboard-bare/

Julia Ioffe, “Putin vs. His Oligarchs,” Puck News, May 3, 2022, https://puck.news/putin-vs-his-oligarchs/

Delia Gallagher, “Pope Francis warns pro-war Russian patriarch not to be ‘Putin’s altar boy,’” CNN, May 4, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/05/04/europe/pope-francis-patriarch-kirill-ukraine-invasion-intl/index.html

Times of Israel, “Putin apologizes for Russian FM’s ‘Jewish Hitler’ remarks, Bennett’s office says,” May 5, 2022, https://www.timesofisrael.com/putin-apologizes-for-russian-envoys-hitler-comments-bennetts-office-says/

Christian Esch, Susanne Koelbl, and Fritz Schaap, “Putin’s Disaster and What Could Happen Next,” Spiegel, May 6, 2022, https://www.spiegel.de/international/world/putin-s-disaster-and-what-could-happen-next-a-e8c89bfa-b7a3-4e32-908a-7642a301eda6

Anthony Faiola, “How millions of Russians are tearing holes in the Digital Iron Curtain,” Washington Post, May 6, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/05/06/russia-vpn-putin-censorship-disinformation/

Thomas Latschan, “Mysterious series of deaths among Russian oligarchs,” Deutschewelle, May 7, 2022, https://www.dw.com/en/mysterious-series-of-deaths-among-russian-oligarchs/a-61719107

Jamie Seidel, “Russia-Ukraine War: Putin’s Plan B is failing as Russian troops ‘pushed out’ of Donbas,” New Zealand Herald, May 7, 2022, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/russia-ukraine-war-putins-plan-b-is-failing-as-russian-troops-pushed-out-of-donbas/H73PJNRK3TJDUIN7YUCMI4DNM4/

Associated Press, “Russia marks WWII victory overshadowed by Ukraine,” May 9, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-europe-world-war-ii-2d4f0f3a1e59cdad92b26c521ed08669

Max Boot, “Putin is trapped in a quagmire and doesn’t know how to get out,” Washington Post, May 9, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/05/09/putin-victory-day-russia-ukraine-quagmire/


  1. [14]Reuters, “Uber to cut costs, slow down hiring, CEO tells staff,” May 9, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/business/autos-transportation/uber-cut-costs-slow-down-hiring-ceo-tells-staff-cnbc-2022-05-09/
  2. [15]Matthew Beedham, “Uber: Is this the beginning of the end for the ride-hailing Goliath?” Next Web, March 2, 2021, https://thenextweb.com/shift/2021/03/02/uber-is-this-the-beginning-of-the-end-for-the-ride-hailing-goliath/; Cory Doctorow, “End of the line for Uber,” Pluralistic, August 10, 2021, https://pluralistic.net/2021/08/10/unter/#bezzle-no-more; Cory Doctorow, “The Big Lie that keeps the Uber bezzle alive,” Pluralistic, February 11, 2022, https://pluralistic.net/2022/02/11/bezzlers-gonna-bezzle/; Richard Durant, “Uber’s Profitability Problem Is Structural,” Seeking Alpha, August 21, 2019, https://seekingalpha.com/article/4287055-ubers-profitability-problem-structural; Ryan Felton, “Uber Is Doomed,” Jalopnik, February 24, 2017, https://jalopnik.com/uber-is-doomed-1792634203; Hubert Horan, “Can Uber Ever Deliver? Part Twenty-Two: Profits and Cash Flow Keep Deteriorating as Uber’s GAAP Losses Hit $8.5 Billion,” Naked Capitalism, February 7, 2020, https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2020/02/hubert-horan-can-uber-ever-deliver-part-twenty-two-profits-and-cash-flow-keep-deteriorating-as-ubers-gaap-losses-hit-8-5-billion.html; Hubert Horan, “Can Uber Ever Deliver? Part Twenty-Nine: Despite Massive Price Increases Uber Losses Top $31 Billion,” Naked Capitalism, February 11, 2022, https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2022/02/hubert-horan-can-uber-ever-deliver-part-twenty-nine-despite-massive-price-increases-uber-losses-top-31-billion.html; George Maier, “Will Uber still exist by the end of the decade?” London School of Economics, October 29, 2021, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/businessreview/2021/10/29/will-uber-still-exist-by-the-end-of-the-decade/; Tom McKay, “Uber Says It’s on Track to Maybe Make a Fake Profit,” Gizmodo, September 21, 2021, https://gizmodo.com/uber-says-its-on-track-to-maybe-make-a-fake-profit-1847716786; Yves Smith, “Uber Is Headed for a Crash,” New York, December 4, 2018, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/12/will-uber-survive-the-next-decade.html; Trading Places Research, “Uber And Lyft: The Limits Of The Amazon Model,” Seeking Alpha, August 15, 2021, https://seekingalpha.com/article/4449578-uber-and-lyft-the-limits-of-the-amazon-model
  3. [16]Sebastian Herrera and Akane Otani, “The Tech Industry’s Epic Two-Year Run Sputters,” Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-tech-industrys-epic-two-year-run-sputters-11652002382
  4. [17]Reuters, “Uber to cut costs, slow down hiring, CEO tells staff,” May 9, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/business/autos-transportation/uber-cut-costs-slow-down-hiring-ceo-tells-staff-cnbc-2022-05-09/
  5. [18]Max Boot, “Putin is trapped in a quagmire and doesn’t know how to get out,” Washington Post, May 9, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/05/09/putin-victory-day-russia-ukraine-quagmire/
  6. [19]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  7. [20]Max Boot, “Putin is trapped in a quagmire and doesn’t know how to get out,” Washington Post, May 9, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/05/09/putin-victory-day-russia-ukraine-quagmire/
  8. [21]Max Boot, “Putin is trapped in a quagmire and doesn’t know how to get out,” Washington Post, May 9, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/05/09/putin-victory-day-russia-ukraine-quagmire/
  9. [22]David Benfell, “Where does Vladimir Putin stop?” Not Housebroken, April 26, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/03/04/where-does-vladimir-putin-stop/
  10. [23]Max Boot, “Putin is trapped in a quagmire and doesn’t know how to get out,” Washington Post, May 9, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/05/09/putin-victory-day-russia-ukraine-quagmire/
  11. [24]David Benfell, “Vladimir Putin is a fool,” Not Housebroken, March 29, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/01/24/vladimir-putin-is-a-fool/
  12. [25]Associated Press, “Russia marks WWII victory overshadowed by Ukraine,” May 9, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-europe-world-war-ii-2d4f0f3a1e59cdad92b26c521ed08669; Max Boot, “Putin is trapped in a quagmire and doesn’t know how to get out,” Washington Post, May 9, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/05/09/putin-victory-day-russia-ukraine-quagmire/
  13. [26]David Benfell, “Where does Vladimir Putin stop?” Not Housebroken, April 26, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/03/04/where-does-vladimir-putin-stop/

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