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☕️ Coffee & Covid ☙ Thursday, June 2, 2022 ☙ HAGGLING 🦠
Spanish elites buy their way out of jabs; a GIANT world events roundup as LOTS of stuff happened yesterday; Joe's two editorials reveal pivots and maybe a new Ukraine narrative. And more.
Happy Thursday, C&C! So like, there’s a lot of news. A LOT. I can’t possibly report on everything. Today we’re doing geopolitics in a giant Minority Report edition.
🗞*COVID NEWS AND COMMENTARY* 🗞
💉 EuroWeekly ran an article this week headlined, “Many Questions Remain Over The False Covid-19 Vaccination Certificates Bought By Stars, Sports Personalities And Business Leaders.” Uh oh. The article reports on a Spanish sting operation that uncovered a ring of healthcare workers selling fake vaccine passports and entering unjabbed people into the digital vaccine database, for a price.
Lots of people, apparently. Thousands. In just the one operation.
According to EuroWeekly, more than 2,200 prominent Spaniards, including the CEO of one of Spain’s largest pharmaceutical companies, which was involved in covid research, plus “leading singers, musicians, football stars, business people, politicians and top medical personnel.”
In other words, the well-heeled.
Economics says you can tell how popular a product is (demand) by how much people are willing to pay for it (price). The jabs have a massively negative price. For some reason, all these smart, successful Spaniards wanted to avoid the jab so badly they were willing to pay a lot of money and risk legal problems to buy an expensive substitute for the shots, their fake vaccine passport. This story, however entertaining it may be because of the irony, is hard economic evidence that the jabs are NOT popular. Sort of the opposite of popular.
Who wants to bet that Spain isn’t the only country where this happened?
🚀 *COFFEE & COVID’S MINORITY REPORT* 🚀
🚀 My early-warning systems are detecting an imminent shift in the Ukraine narrative. For the first time since the war started, instead of bellicose celebrations of Russian tanks stuck in the mud along slavic roadsides, corporate media is beginning to hint that that Ukraine is losing the war, badly. An article in CNN that I quote below for another story actually said this: “The new security assistance comes as Russia has pummeled Ukraine in the east, where the country is outmanned and outgunned, Ukrainian officials have said.”
“Pummeled” Ukraine. Pummeled. Outmanned. Outgunned. I guess the Russians got those tanks started up again. Ten seconds ago, during Ukraine 1.0, RUSSIA was getting pummeled, not DOING the pummeling.
Yesterday, the Economist — another reliable lefty psyop mouthpiece — ran a story headlined, “America Sends Advanced Missiles To Help Ukraine Fend Off Russia.” The article is about Joe’s war editorial, which I discuss below, but made this uncharacteristic comment: “aerial footage of the war in Donbas … did not show Ukraine’s successes against Russia, but rather its vulnerabilities [and] the weapons may arrive too late to save the city of Severodonetsk.”
Media reports said Russian forces have occupied another city, Svyatogorsk in Donetsk Oblast, as of late yesterday afternoon.
Newsmax reported that techno-dancing Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky conceded Tuesday that his country is currently suffering significant daily casualties. In a televised interview, Zelensky said: “The situation is very difficult; we’re losing 60-100 soldiers per day as killed in action and something around 500 people as wounded in action.”
Zelenskiy, or Zelensky, or Zelenskyy, or however you spell it, told Newsmax that “the most difficult situation” is in the east of Ukraine: the Donbas region, the focus of the current Russian offensive.
The impression I get reading all these stories is that, absent game-changing levels of support, Ukraine’s defenses could collapse soon, possibly within weeks, or even sooner. Maybe that’s the impression we’re supposed to get. But if so, it’s a sea-change from Narrative 1.0, which is that Putin was incompetent, Russian soldiers were unprepared and demoralized, and Ukraine had the war well in hand.
🚀 Two days ago on Tuesday, Joe Biden published an op-ed in The New York Times on Ukraine, that is if you believe that he can still write ANYTHING. The op-ed was intended to explain or justify sending bigger, more destructive, higher-tech weapons to Ukraine, in spite of their obvious likelihood to escalate the conflict and inflame the direct conflict between the US and Russia.
Curiously, Joe’s op-ed seems at times almost conciliatory, especially based on what was missing. Absent was Joe’s normal caustic braggadocio and belligerence. Absent were accusations that Russia has caused U.S. inflation. Absent were aspersions that Russia has caused food shortages. Absent were the previous threats to remove Putin — in fact, Biden expressly disclaimed that option. Absent were any threats to prosecute Putin for war crimes.
In fact, Joe said “As much as I disagree with Mr. Putin, and find his actions an outrage, the United States will not try to bring about his ouster in Moscow.” That must be a great relief to president Putin, whose 80% approval rating might accidentally fall over onto Biden’s teeny-tiny 36% approval and squash it.
Joe, or whoever wrote the op-ed, titled it, “President Biden: What America Will and Will Not Do in Ukraine.” He says he has always been guided by one single principle since the start of the war: “Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.”
I have NO idea what that means. Don’t even ask. I get a headache trying to puzzle it out.
Here’s the interesting part. After saying Ukraine shouldn’t have to cede its territory, Biden wrote “the United States will continue to work to strengthen Ukraine and support its efforts to achieve a negotiated end to the conflict.”
A NEGOTIATED end to the conflict. Not a military end.
Explaining this further, and supporting his pivoting decision to send advanced missile systems to Ukraine, Joe said “We have moved quickly to send Ukraine a significant amount of weaponry and ammunition so it can fight on the battlefield and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table.”
So the missile systems, if Joe can be believed, are not so much intended to help Ukraine win the war as to put the country in a stronger position when it negotiates the war’s end. But … if that’s true, why print it in the New York Times? Isn’t your negotiating strategy something you want to keep quiet till its time? Or is Joe telling the Russians that he isn’t REALLY escalating the war THAT MUCH, just enough to help the war-torn country negotiate its way out? Or something else?
Joe’s op-ed seems like a carefully scripted government contrivance. The question, one I can’t answer, is who wrote it? Who is it aimed at? Did the State Department draft it for the Russians? Or did the CIA draft it for the American people?
Nobody believes that Joe wrote it, don’t be ridiculous. Especially since Joe Biden’s op-ed directly contradicted a senior Administration official: Joe Biden. On Monday, one day before his op-ed, the New York Post ran an article headlined, “Biden Rejects Ukraine Long-Range Rocket Request as Russia Advances.”
Pivoting! It only took one 24-hour news cycle for everyone to forget all about what Joe said on Monday. Including Joe! He didn’t mention the previous day’s remarks, at all, in his Tuesday op-ed. So.
🚀 Yesterday — just one day after Biden promised in his NYT op-ed that “we are not enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders” — Reuters reported that “three sources familiar with the situation” said the Biden administration now intends to sell Ukraine four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones that can be armed with Hellfire missiles for battlefield use against Russia. The drones can fly for over 30 hours and can gather huge amounts of data for intelligence purposes. Gray Eagles are the Army’s version of the more widely known Predator drone; they can carry up to eight powerful Hellfire missiles.
Needless to say, a drone that flies for 30 hours can travel a long distance into Russian territory, which would seem to contradict Joe’e op-ed promise that we wouldn’t sell Ukraine weapons enabling it to strike beyond its borders. A lie or a pivot?
🚀 Yesterday — also one single day after Biden promised that “we will not be directly engaged in this conflict” — Sky News ran a story headlined, “US Military Hackers Conducting Offensive Operations in Support of Ukraine, Says Head of Cyber Command.”
Um. But you said we weren’t directly … oh, never mind.
The subheadline explained, “In an exclusive interview with Sky News, General Paul Nakasone confirmed for the first time that the US has ‘conducted a series of operations’ in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.” Cyber operations. MILITARY cyber ops.
Nakasone, a four-star general who identifies as he/him, and is also the current Director of the NSA, told Sky News: “We’ve conducted a series of operations across the full spectrum; offensive, defensive, [and] information operations.”
OFFENSIVE military operations. Offensive against WHOM? Russia, of course. I think they are trying to slice this pretty thin, maybe arguing that offensive military CYBER and intelligence operations don’t count as “direct engagement” with Russia, even if the cyber ops were aimed squarely at Russia.
But there’s a bigger question. WHY would General Nakasone tell reporters about this? The cyber ops have been secret till now. What is going on? Without a doubt this was a calculated disclosure. But, calculated to do WHAT?
🚀 Yesterday, Interfax reported that Russia’s nuclear forces are holding large-scale drills in the Ivanovo province, northeast of Moscow. The drills include over 1,000 soldiers in “intense maneuvers” involving over 100 vehicles and most significantly — including Yars intercontinental nuclear ballistic missile launchers.
Yars vehicles can launch the MIRV-capable (Multiple Independently-targetable Reentry Vehicles) thermonuclear RS-24 Yars inter-continental ballistic missile. It has a range of 7,500 miles, can carry up to 10 nuclear warheads, and can cruise at speeds of up to 15,200 miles per hour. That’s pretty fast. Because they move around, the Yars are hard to track and take out.
(It’s a stock photo, not from the drill.)
Well, what did we expect would happen? How did our generals THINK the Russians would feel about the upgraded weapons shipments to Ukraine?
🚀 Yesterday, Newsmax ran a story headlined, “Russia: US ‘Adding Fuel to the Fire’ With Rocket Supply to Ukraine.” The gist is, the Russians are feeling sub-optimal about the new missile systems headed to Ukraine. THAT’S how they’re feeling.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov “sharply criticized the decision” and told reporters: “We believe that the United States is purposefully and diligently adding fuel to the fire.” Weird! That’s exactly how it seems to me, too!
Responding to concerns over Biden’s op-ed, “senior U.S. officials” said that Ukraine had PROMISED not to use the new missile launchers to target Russia. They’re just for battlefield use inside Ukraine. But they COULD hit Russia, if the Ukrainians broke their promise. Or if Joe didn’t hear it right.
A reporter asked the Kremlin spokesman the obvious question: how will Russia respond if Ukraine DOES use the new U.S.-supplied rockets to strike inside Russian territory?
Spokesman Peskov answered: “Let’s not talk about worst-case scenarios.”
That’s kind of chilly, no? He’s saying that if Ukraine uses those missile launchers against a Russian city or something, that will trigger a “worst case scenario.”
Newsmax also said that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was asked about the prospect of a DIRECT confrontation between the United States and Russia. He said, “Any arms shipments that continue, that are on the rise, increase the risks of such a development.” Just what I was thinking, and I’m not a military expert or anything.
I’m SO glad Joe is in charge of this war train, aren’t you?
🚀 Yesterday I wrote about the IAEA’s alarming new report that Iran’s mad mullahs are rapidly building a bomb, an awkward scenario which Israel has previously sworn it would never let happen. Then, the Jerusalem Post ran a story yesterday afternoon headlined, “Israel Simulates Massive Strike Against Iran With Hundreds of IDF Aircraft.”
It’s just a drill, nothing to see here. They’re not PRACTICING or anything.
As part of the Israeli Defense Force’s month-long “Chariots of Fire” drill, hundreds of IAF fighter jets and refueling planes took off overnight Wednesday from various bases to simulate striking targets far from Israel’s borders, including in Iran.
The drill “constitutes an important component in maintaining the readiness of the IDF for a variety of operational scenarios,” the military said. See? It’s just for readiness, that’s all.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz explained, “the IDF is constantly preparing for operations and various campaigns in various theaters, and it will inflict a severe blow on anyone who seeks to threaten the citizens of the State of Israel.” Anyone? Like, say, Iran?
Maybe. The Jerusalem Post explained that, with tensions increasing over Iran’s nuclear program and regional hostility, both Israel and Iran have been threatening each other, with senior officers saying their militaries are capable of striking the other. Tick, tock.
Is Joe keeping up with all this? I worry the pace of world events might be slipping away from him a little.
🚀 Well, you have to admit that Joe Biden has been a busy little writing beaver. The day before Tuesday’s awesome New York Times’ op-ed about Ukraine, he’d ALSO written ANOTHER op-ed on Monday, this one published in the Wall Street Journal, this time about his genius plan to stop inflation.
Well. It’s not so much a plan as an extended excuse. Biden spent most of his editorial word budget deflecting blame, explaining away America’s economic woes, and insanely claiming that things are looking up.
But mainly he lied through his nasty, yellowed, chipped and crooked little teeth. For instance, Biden claimed that most Americans are BETTER OFF since he infested the White House, because we’ve “increased … savings and have less debt.” But the Department of Commerce says the personal savings rate has plunged to 4.4% — the lowest level since the Great Recession — a 15% drop since Biden occupied the Oval Office.
Who to believe?
A story yesterday in the Washington Examiner about Joe’s inflation op-ed was headlined, “Biden Cannot Admit The Truth About His Inflation Problem.” The Examiner put it this way: “In short, Biden’s plan to ease the inflation … is that he has no plan.” It called the suggestions Biden did offer “comically sophomoric” and “embarrassing.”
Two op-eds in two days from one president on two subjects, one domestic, one foreign. Whew. Biden is surely burning up the keyboard this week.
All these op-eds make me feel like the White House is in full-on panic mode.
🚀 To further illustrate the point, CNBC ran a story yesterday headlined “Jamie Dimon Says ‘Brace Yourself’ for an Economic Hurricane Caused by the Fed and Ukraine War.” Jamie Dimon is JPMorgan Chase’s CEO. He told analysts and investors during an hour-long session at a financial conference yesterday in New York that he is getting the U.S.’s biggest bank ready for an “economic hurricane” and advised investors to do the same. According to CNBC, Dimon went on a tear at the meeting, barreling through topics like a “greatest hits” of his observations and gripes, often spiced with profanity.
“You know, I said there’s storm clouds but I’m going to change it … it’s a hurricane,” Dimon said. “You’d better brace yourself,” Dimon warned the roomful of analysts and investors. “JPMorgan is bracing ourselves and we’re going to be very conservative with our balance sheet.”
Dimon seems to be sensing the same thing we are: that the U.S. is racing headlong toward a raft of unforeseen outcomes in Ukraine. “Wars go bad, [they] go south in unintended consequences,” Dimon said. “[There’s been] a huge change in the flow of funds around the world. I don’t know what the effect of that is, but I’m prepared for, at a minimum, huge volatility.”
A hurricane of volatility is exactly what you DON’T want, if you’re an investor. Thanks, experts.
🚀 Unsurprisingly, Turkey is taking advantage. Yesterday, Newsweek ran an article headlined, “Turkey Is Playing off NATO Against Russia with Eyes on Northern Syria.” Newsweek (and other online sources late in the day yesterday) reported that Turkey — holding all the cards in its negotiations over Sweden and Finland’s NATO memberships — ordered live military strikes against its political enemies in Syria. The groups, which Turkey calls “terrorists,” are generally seen as supported by Washington.
“The calculus perhaps on the side of Ankara is that the West needs Turkey on board with NATO enlargement,” former Turkish diplomat Sinan Ülgen told Newsweek, “and, therefore, at a critical time like this, there will be less criticism of Turkey’s cross-border operation.”
In other words, Turkey can do whatever it wants so long as the U.S. is trying to get it to agree to the two new memberships.
To underscore the point, yesterday Turkey officially changed its name to the “Republic of Turkiye,” through a late-filed registration in the United Nations.
International protocol now requires all UN member countries to refer to Turkey as Turkiye. Get ready to start seeing that odd spelling everywhere in the news.
Then, yesterday Pakistan’s new U.S.-approved prime minister announced he is headed for a nice visit to Turkey, I mean Turkiye, for a relationship hookup. Just to say “hi” and stuff.
And then the Financial Times ran a story yesterday headlined, “Finland Woos Ankara with Hint it Could Buy Turkish Drones.” The first line of the story says, “Finland has begun a charm offensive to win over Turkey to its Nato application.”
All this haggling is starting to look more and more like a deal at a carpet stall in Istanbul. Or something even more unseemly. I predict Turkiye is going to have a good month.
Have a terrific Thursday! I’ll see you back here tomorrow for more. Things are moving fast!
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