Friday, December 30, 2022

Winter War

Russia’s New Winter War Could Putin Go the Way of Napoleon and Hitler? ............. One of Russia’s greatest military victories came with the coldest European winter in 500 years. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Tsar Peter the Great struggled to repel the formidable forces of Charles XII of Sweden, advancing on Moscow. Then came the Great Frost of 1708–9. Birds were said to have frozen in midflight and dropped dead to the ground. ....... a succession of powerful militaries have succumbed to inadequate equipment, deficient supply lines, and poor preparation. But as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine enters the harshest months of the year, there are many indications that this time it may be Russia, rather than its adversary, that suffers the worst consequences. .......... Europe’s best-known winter defeat in Russia came in 1812—just over a century after the Battle of Poltava—when Napoleon’s Grande Armée retreated from Moscow. Russia’s scorched-earth tactics, which left the French with no food or shelter along the line of withdrawal, made the effect even more deadly. Yet the greatest casualties had occurred earlier. ......... The Grande Armée had been almost half a million strong when it crossed the River Neman, the frontier between Prussia and Russia, in June 1812. But it soon lost a third of its strength from summer heat, disease, hunger, and exhaustion as the emperor forced his men on toward Moscow. .......... Napoleon wasted five weeks in Moscow expecting the tsar to come to terms. ......... By early December, Napoleon feared a coup d’état during his absence, and, abandoning his army, headed for Paris before his frozen men could reach safety. By this point, his forces had suffered nearly 400,000 casualties, and he had lost his reputation for invincibility on the battlefield. ......... This lack of interest in soldiers’ well-being—and the casual attitude to massive losses through so-called meat-grinder tactics—are apparent in Putin’s army in Ukraine today. ........ One officer wrote that trains at some Siberian stations were unloading hundreds of bodies of people who had died from cold and disease. “These bodies were stacked up at the stations like so much cordwood,” another officer wrote. “Those who remained alive never talked, never thought of anything save how they might escape death and get farther and farther away from the Bolsheviks.” ......... drops in temperature of more than 30 degrees Celsius in less than an hour. In February 1920, General Dmitry Pavlov’s cavalry divisions were caught in the open by a sudden blizzard. Pavlov “lost half of his horses which froze in the steppe” ........ “We left behind in the steppe thousands of men frozen to death, and the blizzard buried them” .......... During the rapid military mechanization between the two world wars, the Soviet Union had created the largest tank force in the world. The Red Army at least learned that guns and engines needed special lubricants in extreme conditions. Such measures proved key in Stalin’s ability to block Hitler’s armies in front of Moscow in December 1941. Both the German army and the Luftwaffe were unprepared. They had to light fires under their vehicles and aircraft engines to defrost them. .......... Russian military historians have attributed the comparatively low rate of frostbite and trench foot among Soviet forces to their old military practice of using layered linen foot bandages instead of socks. German soldiers also suffered more rapidly because their jackboots had steel studs that drained any warmth. ......... Stalin’s commanders did not let him down. “Our tanks move faster than the trains to Berlin,” boasted the ebullient Colonel Iosif Gusakovsky. He had not bothered to wait for bridging equipment to reach the frontlines before attempting to cross the River Pilica. He simply ordered his leading tanks to smash the ice with gunfire, then to drive straight across the riverbed. The tanks, acting like icebreakers, pushed the ice aside “with a terrible thundering noise,” a terrifying experience for the poor drivers. The German eastern front in Poland collapsed under the armored onslaught, once again because the Soviet T-34’s broad tracks could cope with the ice and snow far better than any German panzer. ......... Then, during the economic collapse in the 1990s, Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s government often proved unable to pay officers and soldiers alike and corruption became institutionalized. Conscripts were frequently on the edge of starvation because their rations were sold off; theft, bullying, and ill discipline became rampant. Spare parts from vehicles, as well as anything from fuel to light bulbs, boots, and especially any cold weather kit, disappeared onto the black market. ............. Corruption became even worse following Russia’s chaotic invasion of Georgia in 2008. Putin began throwing money at the armed forces. The waste on prestige projects encouraged contractors and generals alike to pad their bank accounts. ........... The Russian idea of urban warfare had still not evolved from World War II, with their artillery, the “god of war,” smashing everything to rubble. This approach would continue during Russian intervention in the Syrian civil war from 2015. ............. In February 2022, eight years later, Putin launched his “special military operation” in Ukraine. At the time, the vanguard was told to bring their parade uniforms ready to celebrate victory—one of the greatest examples of military hubris in history. ............. While Russian troops curse their shortages and lack of hot food, Ukrainian troops are now benefiting from supplies of insulated camouflage suits, tents with stoves, and sleeping bags provided by Canada and the Nordic nations. Putin seems to be in denial about the state of his army and the way that General Winter will favor his opponents. .

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Trump, Musk, Mexico

How the House of Trump Was Built Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America” ......... “a narcissistic drama seeker who covered a fragile ego with a bullying impulse.” ........ Trump relished fights with Republicans more than with Democrats, Haberman explains, because he prefers battles over “interpersonal dynamics such as loyalty and respect” over ideology or policy, of which he cares little and knows less. ......... the political establishment dealt with Trump the only way it knew how — with lots and lots of paper. ....... From Trump’s perspective, the Mueller investigation constituted the “ultimate showdown” against his deep-state enemies, Baker and Glasser write, meaning “the Democrats, the F.B.I., the intelligence agencies, the news media, the State Department, the Pentagon, the career civil service, the establishment writ large, fellow Republicans who had never fully accepted him. In other words, Washington.” ......... Not even the Constitution fazes Trump, whose recent call for the document’s “termination” is the ultimate battle against paper. ......... “These folks don’t get it that when they come after me, people who love freedom rally around me,” he declared. “It strengthens me.” Trump always tries to turn paper fights into personality fights and then rallies people to defend him. For Trump, personality beats paper, and the support of his people beats everything. ......... “The psychological state of the world’s most powerful man was a source of never-ending speculation, commentary and concern in a way that simply had no parallel in American history” ........ the son of a Trump Organization executive who recalls the first time the future president fired off a tweet on his own, without staff help. “He later compared the moment to the scene in the movie ‘Jurassic Park,’ ” Haberman writes, “when dinosaurs realize they can open doors themselves.” Apparently the secret to writing a Trump best seller is to compare him to an angry, carnivorous beast that terrifies little kids. ......... Even an assault on the Capitol is acceptable if the opponents arrayed against them are not just wrong but wicked. .......... Marjorie Taylor Greene, the QAnon-friendly Republican House member from Georgia who has minimized the Capitol riot as “Witch Hunt 2.0,” is one of Draper’s main examples. First Greene blamed the violence of Jan. 6 on antifa infiltrators, and later she excused it because the Declaration of Independence encouraged the people to overthrow tyrants. She has taken her statements even further of late, telling a Republican gathering in New York that if she and Steve Bannon had organized the attack on the Capitol, it would have succeeded, and it would have been armed. She later dismissed the remark as a “sarcastic joke,” but Draper emphasizes how even “her most outlandish rhetoric has become G.O.P. talking points.” ......... the “emotional kinetics” that would compel so many people to gather in Washington on a single day and commit violence upon the seat of American democracy. ......... He changed America by revealing it.

What’s the Key to Understanding Donald J. Trump? Start With Queens. “Confidence Man,” Maggie Haberman’s biography of the former president, argues that it’s essential to grasp New York’s steamy, histrionic folkways. . Trump has called her “a crooked H[illary] flunky” and “an unprofessional hack” while giving her endless interviews, including three for this book. ....... Haberman’s thesis is that you can’t really understand Donald Trump unless you’re familiar with the steamy, histrionic folkways of New York’s political and construction tribes. She devotes nearly half her book to his life before the presidency. “The dynamics that defined New York City in the 1980s stayed with Trump for decades,” Haberman writes. “He often seemed frozen in time there.” ........ Trump’s use of phrases like “the Blacks” and “the gays” brings back memories of my grandmother denigrating “the Irish” who lived next door. ........ “I can invite anyone for dinner,” Trump said after his inauguration in 2017. But he remained an outer-borough brat, intimidated by elites. As president, he threw tantrums when he thought people were lecturing or talking down to him. In an infamous meeting with the Joint Chiefs at the Pentagon, “Trump knew that he was being told something he did not fully comprehend,” Haberman writes, “and instead of acknowledging that, he shouted down the teachers.” .......... Sharpton expressed admiration for Trump’s manner: “If Trump had been born Black, he would have been [the boxing promoter] Don King. … Because both of them — everything was transactional.” .......... He traversed the commercial arc of the past 40 years — moving from (failed) business mogul to celebrity to “brand,” just as American free enterprise moved from the production of steel, to casino games on Wall Street, to celebrity “influencers” on reality TV. .........

He wasn’t a very good businessman, but he played one on “The Apprentice,” which was how most Americans met him.

.......... An Iowa man explained his reason for supporting Trump: “I watched him run his business.” ......... Trump found his true calling when he started selling his name to foreigners who wanted to put it on buildings. He peddled products like Trump wine and Trump Steaks, and scams like Trump University, to a gullible public seeking gilt by association. .......... numerous occasions when Trump lacked the stomach to sack staffers face to face ............ Trump resorted to an old New York modus, backstabbing and rumor-mongering and humiliation, to get Kelly to resign. ......... Trump “enjoyed the chaos of [his staff] fighting with one another” ......... He learned how to stay one step ahead of the sheriff. This was, and remains, his greatest skill. ........ Trump accepted a $20 million Super PAC contribution from the billionaire Sheldon Adelson to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. ......... Trump understood that the best defense was, at times, to be offensive. ........... He knew he could stiff his lawyers and the small businesspeople who were his subcontractors. “Do you know how much publicity these people get for having me as a client?” ......... he deployed words with a litigator’s precision ....... He has created a brutish new standard for American politics, and put a terrible dent in our democracy. .......... We will be very lucky, indeed, if he doesn’t prove our downfall.

Americans Are Realizing Tesla Isn’t the Only Electric Car many of the best electric wheels on the market today are not made by Musk........ The new competition makes Musk’s recent role as the town crier for the red-pilled online right especially puzzling and, for his car company, perilous. ........ perceptions of Tesla have been falling steadily since May, shortly after Musk began his bid for Twitter; between October and November, the period when Musk took ownership of Twitter, sentiment among Democrats toward Tesla plummeted, while favorability among Republicans rose slightly. ....... Tesla’s sales and profits remain strong, its production capacity keeps ramping up, and it’s likely to benefit greatly from clean-vehicle tax credits passed in the Inflation Reduction Act that President Biden signed in August. But its success could get sidelined by Musk’s tweets. ........ “I don’t care if you’re selling pizza or popcorn or whatever you sell — getting into politics with customers never wins” ........... With such great alternatives that carry none of Musk’s political baggage, why does he keep acting as if customers had no choice — as if he were the only game in town? ......... At its towering peak, last fall, Musk’s car company hit a stock market valuation of more than a trillion dollars, greater than the combined value of the five largest automakers in the world. Tesla looked unstoppable. .......... Then, inexplicably, Musk turned to Twitter and pushed Tesla off a cliff. This year, as he sold tens of billions of dollars of Tesla shares to finance the Twitter deal and seemed to stake his reputation on taming the squabbles roiling one of the most divisive places online, Tesla’s shares plummeted by more than 60 percent. Its slump is deeper than that of most of its rivals and far more than that of the S&P 500, which is down about 19 percent for the year. ....... Unlike just about every other carmaker, Tesla spends almost nothing on advertising. Musk is and has long been the company’s sole marketer and chief evangelist, the main force driving the world’s desire to buy Teslas. And so any alteration in his cultural standing will affect the company’s standing, too. His time running Twitter has been “a massive brand destruction for Musk and for Tesla” .........

As Remote Workers Flock to Mexico City, Airbnb and Housing Prices Soar American and Europeans are using Airbnb to find long-term rentals in Mexico’s capital, pushing housing costs higher and, critics say, forcing out local residents. .......... The flow of foreigners has yet to slow down, causing housing costs to rise, displacing residents and upending the fabric of neighborhoods. ........ Some units soon appeared on Airbnb — at rates more than four times the monthly rent — and new neighbors, mostly speaking English, now fill the hallways. ......... the kind of comfort a salary paid in dollars or euros can afford. ......... landlords taking advantage of record demand for long-term stays on platforms like Airbnb ....... threatening to make large swaths of the city, where the average monthly salary is $220, unaffordable to many locals. ........ remote workers are leading to the “forced displacement of families.” ......... English speakers pour out of cafes and, on Sundays, cantinas are packed with young people in sports jerseys, the televisions switched from soccer to American football. ........ The tour includes preparing tamales from handpicked ingredients and floating along the neighborhood’s famous network of ancient canals. .

Twitter Users Report Widespread Service Interruptions The issues surfaced several days after Elon Musk said he had shut down one of the company’s major data centers. .

Thursday, December 22, 2022


Putin readies world's 'most powerful' Satan II nuclear missile for 'combat duty’ Russian President Vladimir Putin looks to overhaul war effort in Ukraine as forces flag on front lines .
Mastodon Is Hurtling Toward a Tipping Point

Six Failed Messiahs From Jewish History Blessed and crowned by the rabbinic sage Rabbi Akiva, Bar Kokhba (“Son of the Star,” in Aramaic) was a legendary figure, a man who could crush a rock with his foot and who led the Jews out from under the heels of the Roman army. For two and a half years, following a successful guerilla insurgency, Bar Kokhba ruled over an independent Jewish nation in the land of Palestine. His statelet even issued its own bronze and silver coins. ......... they returned to Palestine with one third of the entire Roman army—an estimated 120,000 men. For awhile, Bar Kokhba and his followers were able to hold out under siege in a network of caves at Beitar, near Jerusalem. But the rebellion was ultimately crushed. The Talmud writes that the Romans killed so many Jews in the Battle of Beitar that the blood seeped into the nostrils of their horses and flowed forty miles to the sea......... Moses told them to follow him into the water, which he would split, just as his namesake had done for the Jews leaving Egypt. The water failed to split, and many Jews drowned. Moses, however, disappeared, and so was spared the vengeance of Crete’s remaining Jews. ............ Serene was ultimately captured by the troops of Caliph Yazid II, who forced him to renounce his heresy. Serene duly rejected his self-proclaimed status as the messiah, and was handed back to the Jews for punishment. ......... The Yudghanites, as they became known, blended the three Abrahamic faiths, recognizing both Jesus and Mohammed as prophets. ......... Alroi was brought before the Sultan, and, claiming to be the king of the Jews, was arrested. He miraculously escaped his cell, fleeing back to Amadia in one day when it should have taken ten. The Sultan was furious, and threatened to kill all the Jews under his rule. But the governor of Amadia bribed Alroi’s father-in-law, who killed Alroi as he was sleeping. The revolt was over, but a small number of Jews continued to follow Alroi’s teachings for several decades........... Alroi was brought before the Sultan, and, claiming to be the king of the Jews, was arrested. He miraculously escaped his cell, fleeing back to Amadia in one day when it should have taken ten. The Sultan was furious, and threatened to kill all the Jews under his rule. But the governor of Amadia bribed Alroi’s father-in-law, who killed Alroi as he was sleeping. The revolt was over, but a small number of Jews continued to follow Alroi’s teachings for several decades...... Religious Jews who do not believe that Schneerson is the messiah often refer to those who do as apikorsim, a Hebrew word meaning ‘heretics’ or ‘nonbelievers.’ .

Christian Leaders Are Powerhouses on Twitter a set of messages that were ricocheting around Twitter, being forwarded and responded to at a rate that was off the charts. ........ they were evangelical Christian leaders whose inspirational messages of God’s love perform about 30 times as well as Twitter messages from pop culture powerhouses like Lady Gaga. ....... Fifteen percent of adult Internet users in the United States are on Twitter, and about half of those use the network every day ....... With religious leaders, she said, “it’s so much about being at the table and breaking bread with folks.” ....... “I don’t Twitter,” one pastor confessed. “Tweet,” she sighed, with her eyes closed, for what seemed the hundredth time. ........ “Pastors tell me, Twitter is just made for the Bible” ....... proverbs are powerful draws on Twitter. ........ While many ministers say that Facebook is better for staying in touch with church members, Twitter can connect Christian leaders to new audiences. ....... have found Twitter surprisingly effective for building influence outside traditional church hierarchies, in a way that they say would not have been possible 10 years ago. ........ “There’s no precedent,” he added. “We can’t go, ‘Here’s how C. S. Lewis handled Twitter.’ ” ......... Mary, upon learning from an angel that she was going to have a baby, “pondered these things in her heart.” ....... “How do you know the difference when you should ponder something in your heart versus when you should tweet it?” ........ “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” she said, pausing to add, “on Twitter.” .

The Deadly Lack of Imagination in the Democratic Party .

Putin warns war in Ukraine becoming ‘extremely complicated’ Russia’s leader’s comments mark second admission this month that military operations could be protracted ...... Russia has repeatedly said it is open to peace talks with Kyiv, but only on the condition that all of its demands are accepted. ...... The US and its European allies are continuing to back Ukraine, which has made the recovery of its lost territory a compulsory precondition for any talks. ......... Russia has made “discrediting the armed forces” — essentially any unauthorised criticism of the war — illegal, while Putin declared martial law in the four annexed regions and raised alert levels in eight other provinces on the Ukrainian border. .

Happy Holidays. Now Get Back to Work. Christmas is one of only five paid holidays available to a majority of U.S. workers. And it’s not as if Americans have many other opportunities to spend time with their families. Compared with many other wealthy countries, we stand out as the no-vacation nation. ........ most European countries require that jobs come with at least a month of paid vacation ......... .

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Congratulations Argentina, Congratulations Messi