Sure, ‘tankies’ can point to U.S. hypocrisy, but on Ukraine, historically colonized countries have some hypocrisy to reckon with themselves

Imperialism


Fig. 1. “Map of the Roman Empire during 69AD, the Year of the Four Emperors. Coloured areas indicate provinces loyal to one of four warring generals.” Original: User:Steerpike and en:User:Andrei nacu, August 11, 2009, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0.

If you’re going to say that other folks should comply with international law, it helps if you have complied with it yourself. The U.S. hasn’t. For a lot of the world, that means when the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization criticize Russia for invading Ukraine, it’s the pot calling the kettle black.[1]

The trouble here, all too obviously, is that a lot of these same countries who are ambivalent about Ukraine have been colonized themselves, with their boundaries drawn by departing colonizers. Indeed, it’s possible to argue that with neoliberal institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, both dominated by historically colonial powers, and that with the debt these countries owe to rich countries that became rich through colonization, they still are. One would think that might lead to a certain empathy for Ukraine.

And it’s awfully suspicious that it doesn’t. Suspicious as in, what if the shoe were on the other foot?

Adam Taylor, “The United States and ICC have an awkward history,” Washington Post, March 16, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2023/03/16/icc-us-cooperation-international-criminal-court-history/

Ishaan Tharoor, “20 years later, U.S. invasion of Iraq hangs over war in Ukraine,” Washington Post, March 17, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2023/03/17/iraq-invasion-ukraine-history-shadow/

Russia

Ukraine


Fig. 1. “Destroyed Russian military vehicles located on the main street Khreshchatyk are seen as part of the celebration of the Independence Day of Ukraine in Kyiv, August 24.” Photograph by Gleb Garanich for Reuters, August 24, 2022,[2] fair use.

Julia Ioffe understands that Evgeny Prigozhin (“[Vladimir] Putin’s Chef”) has enemies,[3] but I’m not gonna pretend I know what’s going on with him and the Kremlin. I’m just pretty sure it isn’t this:

The mercenary boss dubbed “Putin’s Chef” said authorities are choosing to deprive Wagner of ammunition which has slowed progress in the blood-soaked battle to take Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. “The objective is simple,” [Evgeny] Prigozhin said: “PMC Wagner should not take Bakhmut.”

His comments, which were made during an interview with several Russian media outlets on Wednesday, are the latest development in an escalating war of words between Prigozhin and the official armed forces of Russia.

“Our actions today of course cause envy,” Prigozhin said, referring to jealousy among Russia’s military establishment. “So because we have successes, while in other places successes are not what they’d like to be, then instead of—remember what grandpa Lenin said: we all thought we were all meant to live well, but instead, they made it so that everyone lived the same but poorly.”[4]

Prigozhin goes on to complain that he’s been

deprived access to military phones. “Leave me the phone! Set wiretapping on it,” [Evgeny] Prigozhin said. “Know what I’m talking about, and call me sometimes and say: ‘Prigozhin, you’re a cunt, go fuck yourself,’ and hang up. At least like this. What’s the point of cutting it?”[5]

Were I Prigozhin, instead of the pointless bellyaching, and if we are to take him at his word, I’d be asking what the Kremlin really wants in exchange.

I don’t take Prigozhin at his word. Because even in an utterly corrupt country, he wouldn’t have gotten where he has[6] by being so stupid. He’s smarter than this.

Whether he is luring Ukrainian forces by projecting weakness or he is up to something entirely else, I deeply doubt his sincerity.

It’s hard to imagine he can really take Bakhmut without ammunition though he boasts that he will.[7] His claim of “shell hunger” is either bullshit, meaning he has ammunition enough to win the fight, or he loses.

I also wonder who his real audience is. Obviously, if he’s trying to lure Ukrainian forces, then that’s who his complaints are aimed at. If he’s really aiming his remarks at Russian audiences, then I suspect he’s laying groundwork for the coup a few folks suspect him of plotting,[8] with a subsequent purge of his enemies in the Kremlin. It could well be both.

Dan Ladden-Hall, “Prigozhin Says Jealous Kremlin Deliberately Stopped Wagner Taking Bakhmut,” March 16, 2023, https://www.thedailybeast.com/prigozhin-says-jealous-kremlin-deliberately-stopped-wagner-taking-bakhmut


COVID-19 Pandemic


Fig. 2. Photograph by author, November 8, 2022.

So. I had just reconciled myself to the idea that we might never know which nonhuman animal passed COVID-19 onto humans,[9] when here comes evidence suggesting it was raccoon dogs.[10]

[The zoonotic] hypothesis has been missing a key piece of proof: genetic evidence from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China, showing that the virus had infected creatures for sale there.

This week, an international team of virologists, genomicists, and evolutionary biologists may have finally found crucial data to help fill that knowledge gap. A new analysis of genetic sequences collected from the market shows that raccoon dogs being illegally sold at the venue could have been carrying and possibly shedding the virus at the end of 2019. It’s some of the strongest support yet, experts told me, that the pandemic began when SARS-CoV-2 hopped from animals into humans, rather than in an accident among scientists experimenting with viruses.

“This really strengthens the case for a natural origin,” says Seema Lakdawala, a virologist at Emory University who wasn’t involved in the research. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist involved in the research, told me, “This is a really strong indication that animals at the market were infected. There’s really no other explanation that makes any sense.” . . .

Finding the genetic material of virus and mammal so closely co-mingled—enough to be extracted out of a single swab—isn’t perfect proof, [Seema] Lakdawala told me. “It’s an important step; I’m not going to diminish that,” she said. Still, the evidence falls short of, say, isolating SARS-CoV-2 from a free-ranging raccoon dog or, even better, uncovering a viral sample swabbed from a mammal for sale at Huanan from the time of the outbreak’s onset. That would be the virological equivalent of catching a culprit red-handed. But “you can never go back in time and capture those animals,” says Gigi Gronvall, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. And to researchers’ knowledge, “raccoon dogs were not tested at the market and had likely been removed prior to the authorities coming in,” [Kristian] Andersen wrote to me in an email. He underscored that the findings, although an important addition, are not “direct evidence of infected raccoon dogs at the market.”[11]

But there’s also that other work,[12] which seems pretty convincing, and a lot of other work that precedes it.[13]

So, okay, I may yet be wrong. But the lab leak hypothesis is looking pretty fucking weak.[14] And the zoonotic hypothesis is looking pretty fucking strong.[15] This might be the best answer we can get.

And what I wrote before still stands:

The trouble here is that, like with guns, a lot of politically-oriented toxic masculinity is bound up in that relationship. Even without that toxic masculinity, a particular notion of allegedly divinely-ordained “natural order”[16] is bound up in that relationship.

To challenge that relationship is to draw upon oneself a fury that too many vegan activists have already experienced.[17]

So count on the argument continuing.

If this new level of scientific evidence does conclusively tip the origins debate toward the animal route, it will be, in one way, a major letdown. It will mean that SARS-CoV-2 breached our borders because we once again mismanaged our relationship with wildlife—that we failed to prevent this epidemic for the same reason we failed, and could fail again, to prevent so many of the rest.[18]

Katherine J. Wu, “The Strongest Evidence Yet That an Animal Started the Pandemic,” Atlantic, March 16, 2023, https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2023/03/covid-origins-research-raccoon-dogs-wuhan-market-lab-leak/673390/


Banking


Fig. 3. “East River Savings Bank,” apparently now a CVS drug store. Photograph by Jim Henderson, July 3, 2021, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0.

[Nouriel Roubini, professor emeritus at the Stern School of Business of New York University — a.k.a. Dr Doom] zeroed in on the heart of the problem. [Silicon Valley Bank] had built up a big bond portfolio while interest rates were near zero, but the value of those bonds plunged when rates rose and newly issued debt became far more attractive to investors. The old bonds started to represent “unrealized losses.”

When troubles in the tech sector pushed SVB’s depositors to start making large withdrawals, the bank was forced to sell its bond portfolio in an unfavorable market. Those “unrealized losses” were realized, and SVB suffered a $1.8 billion loss, leading to the bank’s eventual collapse.

Any other shock could have a similar domino effect, Roubini warned. “Official data of the FDIC [U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation] said there are $620 billion of unrealized losses on securities and the capital of banks in the U.S. is $2.2 trillion, so the average U.S. bank has about a third of its tier one capital at risk,” he told POLITICO, referring to a metric that indicates how easily a bank can absorb losses on its financials.[19]

Brian Chappatta, “SVB’s 44-Hour Collapse Was Rooted in Treasury Bets During Pandemic,” Bloomberg, March 10, 2023, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-03-10/svb-spectacularly-fails-after-unthinkable-heresy-becomes-reality

Allison Morrow and Matt Egan, “Silicon Valley Bank collapses after failing to raise capital,” Cable News Network, March 10, 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/03/10/investing/svb-bank/index.html

Saleha Mohsin, Lydia Beyoud and Sridhar Natarajan, “FDIC Races to Return Some Uninsured SVB Deposits Monday,” Bloomberg, March 11, 2023, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-03-11/fdic-races-to-start-returning-some-uninsured-svb-deposits-monday

Associated Press, “US government: Silicon Valley Bank clients will get funds,” March 12, 2023, https://apnews.com/article/silicon-valley-bank-bailout-yellen-deposits-failure-94f2185742981daf337c4691bbb9ec1e

William D. Cohan, “SVB’s Valley of Death,” Puck, March 12, 2023, https://puck.news/svbs-valley-of-death/

Ben Foldy, Rachel Louise Ensign, and Justin Baer, “How Silicon Valley Turned on Silicon Valley Bank,” Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-silicon-valley-turned-on-silicon-valley-bank-ee293ac9

Victoria Guida and Sam Sutton, “‘There’s going to be more’: How Washington is bracing for bank fallout,” Politico, March 12, 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/03/12/silicon-valley-bank-fallout-washington-00086662

Jeff Stein et al., “U.S. says ‘all’ deposits at failed bank will be available Monday,” Washington Post, March 12, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2023/03/12/silicon-valley-bank-deposits/

Nick Timiraos, “SVB, Signature Bank Depositors to Get All Their Money as Fed Moves to Stem Crisis,” Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/articles/federal-reserve-rolls-out-emergency-measures-to-prevent-banking-crisis-ba4d7f98

Zachary Warmbrodt, “Banks fought to fend off tougher regulation. Then the meltdown came,” Politico, March 12, 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/03/12/banks-regulations-feds-svb-meltdown-00086694

Adam Cancryn, Ben White, and Victoria Guida, “How Biden saved Silicon Valley startups: Inside the 72 hours that transformed U.S. banking,” Politico, March 13, 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/03/13/the-emergency-bank-rescue-that-almost-didnt-happen-72-hours-00086868

John Cassidy, “The Old Policy Issues Behind the New Banking Turmoil,” New Yorker, March 13, 2023, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-old-policy-issues-behind-the-new-banking-turmoil

Telis Demos, “Were SVB and Signature Bank Just Bailed Out by the U.S. Government?” Wall Street Journal, March 13, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/articles/were-banks-just-bailed-out-by-the-government-6b0a582f

Eric Lutz, “The Silicon Valley Bank Crisis Is Complicated. But Donald Trump’s Role In It Isn’t,” Vanity Fair, March 13, 2023, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2023/03/silicon-valley-bank-collapse

David J. Lynch and Tony Romm, “Washington’s bank rescue fails to erase all doubts,” Washington Post, March 13, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2023/03/13/silicon-valley-bank-doubts/

Jeff Stein, “Is this a bailout and 6 other questions about the SVB collapse,” Washington Post, March 13, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2023/03/13/svb-bank-bailout-fed/

Zachary D. Carter, “This Bank Panic Should Not Exist,” Vanity Fair, March 14, 2023, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2023/03/silicon-valley-bank-run-panic-should-not-exist

Myriam Balezou, “Credit Suisse Is In Crisis. What Went Wrong?” Bloomberg, March 15, 2023, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-03-15/credit-suisse-what-s-going-on-and-why-is-cs-stock-falling

William D. Cohan, “Two Days in the Valley,” Puck, March 15, 2023, https://puck.news/two-days-in-the-valley/

Simon Foy, “Is Credit Suisse, the bad apple of European banking, really ‘too big to fail, too big to be saved’?” Telegraph, March 16, 2023, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2023/03/15/credit-suisse-share-price-bailout/

Nicholas Jasinski, “How SVB Triggered Credit Suisse’s Latest Mess—and Sparked Fears of a Financial Crisis,” Barron’s, March 15, 2023, https://www.barrons.com/articles/credit-suisse-svb-banking-crisis-3faac588

Telis Demos, “Banks’ Big Plan Might Solve the Immediate Problem, but Not the Bigger Ones,” Wall Street Journal, March 16, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/articles/banks-big-plan-might-solve-the-immediate-problem-but-not-the-bigger-ones-f348488c

Izabella Kaminska, “Bad bonds risk bringing down banks, warns ‘Dr Doom,’” Politico, March 16, 2023, https://www.politico.eu/article/bad-bonds-risk-bringing-down-banks-warns-dr-doom-nouriel-roubini-svb/

Brian Swint, “Credit Suisse Stock Surges as Central Bank Loan and Debt Buybacks Tame Panic,” Barron’s, March 16, 2023, https://www.barrons.com/articles/credit-suisse-buy-back-debt-svb-banks-crisis-bf792d0d

Stephen Wilmot, “Panic Abates at Credit Suisse. Now Comes the Hard Part,” Wall Street Journal, March 16, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/articles/panic-abates-at-credit-suisse-now-comes-the-hard-part-2b93c578

Jacky Wong, “The SVB Tremors Will Shake SoftBank,” Wall Street Journal, March 16, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-svb-tremors-will-shake-softbank-dc7fab4


  1. [1]Adam Taylor, “The United States and ICC have an awkward history,” Washington Post, March 16, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2023/03/16/icc-us-cooperation-international-criminal-court-history/; Ishaan Tharoor, “20 years later, U.S. invasion of Iraq hangs over war in Ukraine,” Washington Post, March 17, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2023/03/17/iraq-invasion-ukraine-history-shadow/
  2. [2]Reuters, “Ukraine puts destroyed Russian tanks on display in Kyiv,” August 25, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/news/picture/ukraine-puts-destroyed-russian-tanks-on-idUSRTSALV9Q
  3. [3]Julia Ioffe, “‘Putin’s Chef’: The Man Behind Russia’s Shadow Army,” Puck, December 13, 2022, https://puck.news/putins-chef-the-man-behind-russias-shadow-army/
  4. [4]Dan Ladden-Hall, “Prigozhin Says Jealous Kremlin Deliberately Stopped Wagner Taking Bakhmut,” March 16, 2023, https://www.thedailybeast.com/prigozhin-says-jealous-kremlin-deliberately-stopped-wagner-taking-bakhmut
  5. [5]Dan Ladden-Hall, “Prigozhin Says Jealous Kremlin Deliberately Stopped Wagner Taking Bakhmut,” March 16, 2023, https://www.thedailybeast.com/prigozhin-says-jealous-kremlin-deliberately-stopped-wagner-taking-bakhmut
  6. [6]Julia Ioffe, “‘Putin’s Chef’: The Man Behind Russia’s Shadow Army,” Puck, December 13, 2022, https://puck.news/putins-chef-the-man-behind-russias-shadow-army/
  7. [7]Dan Ladden-Hall, “Prigozhin Says Jealous Kremlin Deliberately Stopped Wagner Taking Bakhmut,” March 16, 2023, https://www.thedailybeast.com/prigozhin-says-jealous-kremlin-deliberately-stopped-wagner-taking-bakhmut
  8. [8]Fiona Hill and Angela Stent, “The Kremlin’s Grand Delusions,” Foreign Affairs, February 15, 2023, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/ukraine/kremlins-grand-delusions; Julia Ioffe, “‘Putin’s Chef’: The Man Behind Russia’s Shadow Army,” Puck, December 13, 2022, https://puck.news/putins-chef-the-man-behind-russias-shadow-army/; Maria Katamadze, “Can Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin challenge Putin?” Deutsche Welle, February 19, 2023, https://www.dw.com/en/can-wagner-head-yevgeny-prigozhin-challenge-putin/a-64744266
  9. [9]Karen Kaplan, “The problem with the lab leak theory,” Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2023, https://www.latimes.com/science/newsletter/2023-03-14/coronavirus-today-the-problem-with-the-lab-leak-theory-covid-wuhan-market-coronavirus-today
  10. [10]Katherine J. Wu, “The Strongest Evidence Yet That an Animal Started the Pandemic,” Atlantic, March 16, 2023, https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2023/03/covid-origins-research-raccoon-dogs-wuhan-market-lab-leak/673390/
  11. [11]Katherine J. Wu, “The Strongest Evidence Yet That an Animal Started the Pandemic,” Atlantic, March 16, 2023, https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2023/03/covid-origins-research-raccoon-dogs-wuhan-market-lab-leak/673390/
  12. [12]Karen Kaplan, “The problem with the lab leak theory,” Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2023, https://www.latimes.com/science/newsletter/2023-03-14/coronavirus-today-the-problem-with-the-lab-leak-theory-covid-wuhan-market-coronavirus-today
  13. [13]Katherine J. Wu, “The Strongest Evidence Yet That an Animal Started the Pandemic,” Atlantic, March 16, 2023, https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2023/03/covid-origins-research-raccoon-dogs-wuhan-market-lab-leak/673390/
  14. [14]Karen Kaplan, “The problem with the lab leak theory,” Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2023, https://www.latimes.com/science/newsletter/2023-03-14/coronavirus-today-the-problem-with-the-lab-leak-theory-covid-wuhan-market-coronavirus-today
  15. [15]Katherine J. Wu, “The Strongest Evidence Yet That an Animal Started the Pandemic,” Atlantic, March 16, 2023, https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2023/03/covid-origins-research-raccoon-dogs-wuhan-market-lab-leak/673390/
  16. [16]George Lakoff, Moral Politics, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2002).
  17. [17]David Benfell, “Zoonotic hypothesis for the origin of COVID-19 affirmed,” Irregular Bullshit, March 15, 2023, https://disunitedstates.com/2023/03/15/zoonotic-hypothesis-for-the-origin-of-covid-19-affirmed/
  18. [18]Katherine J. Wu, “The Strongest Evidence Yet That an Animal Started the Pandemic,” Atlantic, March 16, 2023, https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2023/03/covid-origins-research-raccoon-dogs-wuhan-market-lab-leak/673390/
  19. [19]Izabella Kaminska, “Bad bonds risk bringing down banks, warns ‘Dr Doom,’” Politico, March 16, 2023, https://www.politico.eu/article/bad-bonds-risk-bringing-down-banks-warns-dr-doom-nouriel-roubini-svb/

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