Tag Archives: ukraine

Some very good thoughts (especially at the end) and the usual ramblings on a new year (i.e. the January 2023 edition of my not-a-newsletter newsletter)

We finally closed the book on another pandemic year (2022), and have moved through the first month of 2023. Yay for us!  Is 2023 going to be a pandemic year as well? An endemic year perhaps? We don’t know. One thing for sure: compared to last January, this one has been much gentler.

I think in some ways 2023 may be a transition year. We continue to have transitions when it comes to COVID. We still have new variants like the Kraken (XBB.1.5) that has surged to 40.5% of all infections and rises in hospitalizations. But we take that as a matter of course now. Indeed, there is talk of having annual COVID and flu vaccines. COVID may be more serious than the flu in terms of illness and death, but we may end up approaching them in the same way. No one talks much of flu deaths, and perhaps other than places like Nova Scotia, no one will talk about COVID deaths either. For example, in my province of Ontario it is relatively easy to track hospitalizations related to COVID: it’s relatively hard to report on deaths.

I know because I still have been reporting on COVID hospitalizations every week on twitter for months. My last update was this one:

As I tweeted, the numbers have been dropping recently. Even the ICU numbers, which shot up due to the tripledemic, have declined as the tripledemic declined. Thank god: the pediatric ICUs in November were over 100% full for a time.

So we are transitioning in a positive direction. Good. And not just with COVID.  Everywhere you see spike graphs, like this one for unemployment:

To this one for inflation:

My expectation is that the annual inflation rate will continue to transition and decline in 2023, and interest rates will follow them. That is not to diminish the impact that inflation has had so far. Things have reached the point where people are stealing food and law firms are promising to defend them for free. That said, many, including the New York Times, expect inflation to cool this year. Perhaps it will drop back to where it used to be (i.e. below 3%). If you are skeptical, I recommend this piece in VOX.

Unlike COVID or inflation, not everything has the prospect of improving in 2023. Guns in the US  continue to be a major problem. There is no end in sight for the war in the Ukraine NATO is still supportive and continues to send weapons, although it seems like Zelenskyy had to clear the decks before that occurred. As for cryptocurrencies, it may not be a year of recovery for them as the trial of SBF and FTX unfolds. But who knows: maybe this rally will be a difference.

I suspect crypto will stay dormant for many reasons. One big reason is that tech is going to change its focus from Web3 to AI. Sorry Web3. (Sorry metaverse for that matter!) Microsoft alone is spending billions on it. AI will be all anyone will talk about this year. (No one knew what to do with crypto, save techies and rich people flogging NFTs. Everyone I know seems to be using ChatGPT and the like. That’s a key difference). I’ll be writing more about AI in standalone posts in 2023, there will be so much going on.

In 2023 I expect a continuation of the trend of people flooding back into cities after having left them, based on data like this: Annual demographic estimates census metropolitan areas and census. While residences have become scarce (and rents have become high) as a result, people have not been flooding back into offices. So much so that places like NYC are looking to convert office spaces to residential spaces. The problem with the pandemic is that the changes it has forced on society are more rapid than social systems can respond. But respond they will.

Then again, a new surge could reoccur in China. If that occurs, all bets are off. For now my bets are staying on the table.

Finally, thanks for reading this and anything else you read on this blog recently. I appreciate it. I am optimistic for 2023 in many ways. I hope you are too.

Keep wearing your masks when advisable. Get vaxxed to the max.  Try not to pay attention to Elon Musk or the fate of Twitter: that will all play out in due course. Don’t get too hung up about what AI is going to do: that will all play out as well. Continue to read newsletters. Watch streaming. Listen to podcasts. Most importantly: get out and about whenever you can.

There will always be bad people in the world, and bad acts occurring. Do what you can to prevent that from happening, but don’t rob yourself of your capacity for joy as a result. Be a happy warrior on the side of good. Joy is your armour.

Never forget: you have lived and possibly thrived through some of the most dramatically difficult times in history.  You deserve better times ahead.

Enjoy yourself. Live your life robustly. Whenever you feel lethargic, think back to those times of being locked down and unable to even go to a park and sit down.  Let’s go and get it. Here’s to a better year ahead. We are counting on you, 2023.

Antony Beevor on Russia’s New Winter War

Antony Beevor has a fine historical review of Russia’s winter wars in Foreign Affairs magazine. He revisits the wars waged by and against Russia since the beginning of the 18th century with Sweden. Many of them were great victories for Russia: this war against Ukraine may be different.

For instance, in WWII, Beevor writes:

German soldiers referred bitterly to winter conditions as “weather for Russians.” They envied the Red Army’s winter uniforms, with white camouflage suits and padded cotton jackets, which were far more effective than German greatcoats.

Now in the Ukrainian war zone:

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.

It’s easy to assume that Russia comes out ahead in wintry weather wars. Read Beevor’s piece and you’ll get the sense that this may be just the opposite: Russia’s New Winter War: Could Putin Go the Way of Napoleon and Hitler?

P.S. As an aside, it’s great to see a writer like Beevor depend on more than what happened in WWII to help us understand what is happening in our world now. So many writers have a limited historical range. Beevor is not one of those.

I highly recommend Beevor’s books. My favorite is Stalingrad, but all of them are worthwhile.

On July 4th, here’s some links on politics to consider

Like many people, I am riveted to what is happening in the USA lately. It seems to be coming undone as right wingers try and pull the country to a place that will be bad for Americans and in some cases bad for the world. To support that opinion, here’s some links I’ve recently collected. (As well as other links related to politics in general.)

Jan 6th: First up, there is the January 6th committee investigating the insurrection that happened on that day. Mike Pence featured prominently in the beginning, leading to pieces like this, Why Democrats Should Honor Mike Pence, and this and this. Then there were others, like  Rusty Bowers in Arizona.  More on the role of the GOP in the hearings. I respect all those who did their job/duty and pushed back on Trump and those who tried to subvert democracy. I don’t think we need to make them all into heroes, but we should respect their courage and determination. And who knows, but here’s how Merrick Garland might play into this.

Trump: On the other side, here’s a piece on Trump’s legal defence. A key player, Rudy Giuliani used to be looked up to. Hard to believe now. This piece explores his decline. Here’s a piece on the Congresswoman Nancy Mace and limits of Trump’s influence.  Here’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein comparing Nixon and Trump in terms of corruption.

Media: As an aside, this was good:  Bob Woodward explains key scenes in All the President’s Men. This was not so good: The Washington Post’s social media meltdown. Finally, people who are political junkies might like this:  The Rise and Fall of the Star White House Reporter.

The right, SCOTUS, and Roe: To understand what is happening in the US, you need to understand the Religious Right. This helps with that: The Real Origins of the Religious Right. But it helps to know what other players are up to as well, such as Peter Thiel. Or this $%&*, Tucker Carlson.

Which leads to the overturning of Roe vs Wade by the Supreme Court of the US (SCOTUS). Two pieces on that: the Roe opinion and the case against the Supreme Court of the United States and SCOTUS’s argument for overturning Roe v Wade and Casey. Relatedly, this piece was wrong: The leaked draft Roe opinion is a disaster for the Supreme Court. They lived.

Other things worth reading: More on SCOTUS and how they are dishonest in their judgments; this oped, A Requiem for the Supreme Court After Roe’s Demise; and this, Decades Ago Alito Laid Out Methodical Strategy to Eventually Overrule Roe.

To get more of a handle on this, I read these  pieces trying to understand what happens next in the US by these studies of  Oklahoma and Ireland. Here’s a piece on how legislatures play into this. Here’s how right wing extremists will be collecting data potentially to go after women seeking abortion. Finally, this on the doctrine of potential life and what’s wrong with it.

Politics and Tech: here’s four pieces on how tech intersects with politics:  1) On period trackers, 2) Microsoft reportedly censors searches for politically sensitive Chinese data, and 3) Canada and how Russian hackers come after it and 4) The Surreal Case of a C.I.A. Hacker’s Revenge.

Generally: the war is still ongoing in Ukraine. Here’s two pieces on it: here and  here. Elsewhere in Europe: Hungary: where replacement theory reigns supreme. And to wrap up: How Asian Civilizations Will Change The World Order….nope;  The Meaning of Machiavelli.…Yep;  For Tens of Millions of Americans the Good Times Are Right Now….maybe?

If you’ve read this far, thanks. All comments are moderated and any I deem thoughtful I’ll approve. The rest go in the trash.

The pandemic is not done and neither is my newsletter. Here’s my highlights and ramblings for March 2022 (a newsletter, in blog form)

Spring is here. And with Spring, thoughts turn to getting outdoors. I understand the feeling. People want to enjoy themselves after a tough winter. But hey, if you have a few minutes, I hope you can take the time to read this, my latest newsletter.

Pandemic: Well Omicron rushed out as fast as it rushed in, at least in my part of the world. Just in time to mark the 2nd anniversary of the pandemic. It’s been so dramatic that people are willing to declare the pandemic is over. There’s been constant talk of returning to normal. But what does Normal even mean? I’m not sure, and I don’t think anyone else is either. As this post states, How Did This Many Deaths Become Normal? . There’s nothing normal to return to. Ask Hong Kong.  They are dealing with a  ‘preventable disaster’. They wish they could return to normal.

Nonetheless, in some parts of Canada, premiers are trying to get there somehow, even as they are cautioning that the pandemic isn’t over. And newspapers like the Toronto Star are reminding us that just because we are feeling done with covid, it doesn’t mean it is done with us.  This hasn’t stopped places like Ontario from removing restrictions like the mandatory use of masks, although you will need them in some places like subways.

Speaking of the Ontario Government, I was disappointed that the Minister of Health decided to stop posting COVID stats on twitter. Fortunately they can be found on a web page. So I wrote a python program called covid.py to scrape the data and output it. I then post it on twitter myself. (You can find the code here.)

As for what is in store for us as we trying to be Normal again, there is some good insight published here, here and here. Whether people are ready for potential new waves of the pandemic remains to be seen. Case in point:  Once again America is in denial about signs of a fresh Covid wave.

Finally, I recommend that you take matters into your own hands and keep an eye on things. For example, here’s data on Hospitalizations for COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Ontario. Also good data in general, here. CBC.ca is tracking information here.

Work: As for work life, people have been going into the office. If this will be you and you forget how to dress, then this (on dress jackets) or this (on no suit business attire) may help. It would be nice if the office you went back to looked as green and lush as this. Or they were as open to personalizing your space as Corbusier wanted.

Ukraine: things seem to be reaching  new phase in the Russian-Ukrainian war. Apparently peace talks are progressing. We shall see. I am sad to see such needless suffering has been brought on by the Russian government.  It is bittersweet that the Ukrainians have held out this far, thanks to their own fighting and the aid of NATO nations. Let’s hope for an end to it soon.

Unlike the pandemic, I haven’t kept too many pieces on it. However, I thought these two were worth reading: one from a socialist perspective and one from a military perspective. As was this: Xi’s China during the war.

Climate: Is it possible to write anything positive about Climate Change? Well this piece comes close: Global update: Projected warming from Paris pledges drops to 2.4 degrees after US Summit: analysis.

In other news:  I was in London last week and I saw the British Museum is getting into NFTs. Sigh. According to this, it’s not just them. (London was great btw. We had a week of sunshine and warm temperatures. It was a perfect vacation.)

Streaming is becoming a bigger and bigger deal. So what are these streaming platforms considering doing more of? Ads. Streaming also had its moment at the Oscars recently, as this piece shows. (What about Oscars and the Slap, Bernie? We don’t talk about the slap no no.)

Inflation is still a concern these days. One way companies are dealing with it is by shrinking the products you buy. Many products are too big, so this could be something of a good thing. Inflation is still a bad thing.

Twitter: someone made a twitter bot specifically to respond to brands posting their Ws during International Women’s Day. Here the story behind the Twitter Bot posting the gender pay gap of brands celebrating IWD . A nice bit of guerilla activism.

Electric vehicles continue to make progress. A new (to me) competitor for the Tesla is the Polestar . I like how their ads are mainly saying they are not Elon Musk’s company. Tesla’s shareholders should take note.

Thanks again for reading this newsletter. I hope someday it will be filled with things having nothing to do with sickness or conflict.  It’s good to be hopeful. See you next month.