Crime and Punishment
Understanding Vlad, Depp Wins
How did Putin turn an entire country into a mafia state with him as the longtime boss? Is there any chance that the oligarchs would turn on Putin? Does Putin really care who joins or doesn't join NATO? Is any of this really about Putin's legacy or the expansion of Russia into a new USSR? Can Russia gain nothing from the invasion and Putin still come out a winner? Why is Russia's military a shell of what the world thought it was? All of the answers to these questions are related to the fact that what we're dealing with is less of an international politician and more of an international criminal who has stolen as much as a trillion dollars while in power. Bill Browder understands this better than everyone and, at great personal risk, he's continued to follow the rubles to uncover the truth. "Browder, an investor and a political activist, is the architect of the Magnitsky Act, which allows the US government to sanction foreign nationals who have perpetrated human rights abuses." The fastest way to really understand the motivations behind the invasion and how it fits into the broader goals of the Moscow Mobster is to listen to this interview of Browder by Preet Bharara.
+ Browder's latest book is Freezing Order: A True Story of Money Laundering, Murder, and Surviving Vladimir Putin's Wrath.
+ Meanwhile, "the United States' much-anticipated decision to send Kyiv long-range missile systems that will allow its forces to fire farther and faster has likely come too late to save two key cities in the Donbas region that has become the focal point of the fighting. But delivery of the weapons after months of urging from Ukrainian officials will help the country’s military face the next, potentially decisive stage of the conflict."
"As of the close of trading on May 31, 2022, the stock price of weapons-maker Sturm Ruger was up more than 6.6% since May 23, the day before the shooting. For Smith & Wesson, the jump was even more marked, with shares up over 12% from the stock price prior to the mass killing in Uvalde." Brad Greenwood in The Conversation: Firearm stocks spike after mass shootings as investors dismiss the chance of tightening gun laws.
+ "Texas officials had said a teacher propped a door open at Robb Elementary in Uvalde just before the gunman entered and carried out a mass shooting — but they now acknowledge that the woman closed the door." This is not a story about doors. It's not a story about cellphones in schools. It's not a story about the evasive Uvalde police chief. This is a story about America placing a greater value on being able to buy machines designed to kill really fast than we do on the lives of our children. Don't lose the plot.
3. Mushroom Cloud Removal
"After three talk therapy sessions at the Hopkins clinic, she was given a single pill containing 30 milligrams of psilocybin, a relatively high dose. After swallowing the pill, she put on an eye-mask, lay on a couch and went on a psychedelic trip with two therapists nearby for the next five hours. When her trip ended, she sat up and looked at the therapists. 'Now, I understand why I smoked,' she said, 'and I don’t need to do that anymore.' ... She hasn’t touched a cigarette in the years since." NYT (Gift Article): The Next Big Addiction Treatment. "Several psychedelic drugs are touted as effective treatments for drug and alcohol abuse. But psilocybin combined with therapy is emerging as the most effective." (As long as you're not trying to kick your shroom habit...)
4. Band Together
"While many people think of broadband access as a rural issue, cities also have gaps because people can’t afford it or face other barriers to connecting ... In some underserved urban areas, broadband isn’t available at all because internet service providers don’t invest there." Chicago Offers a Blueprint for Expanding Urban Internet Access. (Pro-democracy American leaders need to find and promote solutions to problems that are rigging the system against people in rural and inner city settings. Dividing these folks with faux cultural war nonsense is the key to minority rule. Uniting them is a key to uniting the country. Broadband is a good place to start.)
5. Extra, Extra
Oil Greasing the Wheels: "The dictionary defines 'realpolitik' as 'policy based on power rather than ideals or principles.' We are about to see a version of this in action when President Biden visits Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia." In WaPo, David Ignatius explains why MBS stands on the verge of getting what he wants.
+ I'm OK, You Suck: "In early 2022, Gallup found that Americans’ satisfaction with 'the way things are going in personal life' neared a 40-year high, even as their satisfaction with 'the way things are going in the U.S.' neared a 40-year low. On top of the old and global tendency to assume most people are doing worse than they say they are is a growing American tendency to be catastrophically gloomy about the direction of this country, even as we’re resiliently sunny about our own household’s future." Derek Thompson in The Atlantic: Everything Is Terrible, but I’m Fine.
+ Home Schooling: "If you live in this community, you see a bigger picture than what people see when they just look in, from the outside. I help people out when I can. I want to give back. I took psychology courses in college, and it’s pretty clear a lot of people around here need help. I’ve taken seven women to the rape crisis center, and I’m looking forward to cleaning this place up and making it look nicer than it did before — in appreciation for letting me stay here." LA Times: Profiles of people living in homeless encampments. It’s rarely what you’d expect.
+ Whacky Weed: NYT: The World’s Largest Plant Is a Self-Cloning Sea Grass in Australia. "The species is called Poseidon’s ribbon weed, and researchers say it has spread to cover an area the size of Cincinnati over the past 4,500 years." (This is a job for my water bong.)
+ Can You Dig It? "According to Mostafa Waziri, head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, the find includes 250 painted sarcophagi with well-preserved mummies inside, as well as 150 bronze statues of ancient deities and bronze vessels used in rituals of Isis, the goddess of fertility in ancient Egyptian mythology, all from the Late Period, about 500 B.C." Egypt displays trove of newly discovered ancient artifacts.
+ Heard it Through the Grapevine: For those who care, the verdict is in. Johnny Depp has won his libel lawsuit against Amber Heard. We'll see what this verdict means for media and op-eds more broadly (probably nothing good). At one point, the judge clarified for the jury that the case comes down the headline in Heard's op-ed (even though editors usually write those). "I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture's wrath. That has to change." (Apparently, it hasn't.) The verdict on America's obsession with this case was already in. We're idiots.
6. Bottom of the News
A new study has found that those who drink coffee with sugar or unsweetened are less likely to die in the following seven years than those who don't drink coffee at all. This newsletter runs on coffee. And now you can celebrate that with what some are calling the greatest NextDraft shirt of all time. Whole Latte Love. (Get it while it's hot.)
+ The stupidest baseball feud is about fantasy football. And man, did we need this nonsense right now! Tommy Pham says SF Giants' Joc Pederson lied, but 'pimp slap' ultimately Mike Trout's fault.
+ "Authentic Brands Group, which licenses Elvis Presley-related merchandise, has issued a cease-and-desist letter dated May 19 to several Las Vegas chapels." Vegas chapels all shook up by Elvis likeness crackdown. (Sometimes commerce can save one from oneself.)