What’s Behind Putin’s Threats of Escalation?

In response to the success of Ukraine’s counteroffensives, Russian President Vladimir Putin is threatening to mobilize more troops and to use nuclear weapons.

Vladimir Putin’s latest escalation in Ukraine is no show of strength… this won’t deter Ukraine from continuing its military offensive, and it shouldn’t deter the West from accelerating its military aid to Kyiv’s forces.

Putin, unwilling to acknowledge defeat, is now announcing the mobilization of at least 300,000 reserve forces… The very hint of Putin’s mobilization address caused the Russian stock market to crash. Getting 300,000 reservists to report to duty may be a big challenge.

This latest gambit is true to form. It likely dashes any slim hope that this war will be over any time soon, but it also demonstrates that Putin’s options are narrowing in the face of military shortcomings that defy any quick solution.

Twitter Talk: How Big a Deal Is Yair Lapid’s Two-State Support?

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid is expected to voice support for a two-state solution during a speech at the UN later today. Here’s what Twitter has to say:

WON’T much improve Lapid’s international standing – most of Israel’s critics already prefer him to Netanyahu – but WILL likely hurt his re-election prospects, which require him to win over center-right voters among whom the two state solution is decidedly unpopular.

It will be the first time Lapid as prime minister has publicly backed a two-state solution. The Israeli officials stressed Lapid will make clear that the establishment of a Palestinian state must have security arrangements for Israel… It will also be the first time since 2017 that an Israeli prime minister has publicly expressed support for a two-state solution…

Lapid will declare his support for a two-state solution at the UN, but his gov is daily deepening the occupation. The time for empty talk is over. The PM must commit that any gov he may form will work to end the occupation. Lapid: it’s time for you to say PALESTINE at the Knesset…

Is Letitia James’ Prosecution of Trump Politically Motivated?

NY Attorney General Letitia James is suing Trump for fraud in his personal business dealings. Trump claims this is a politically-motivated witch hunt. Will anyone believe him?

Polling suggests that Trump is failing to gain traction with his argument that he’s the victim of a “witch hunt.” He has lashed out at law enforcement bodies that are investigating him, but most Americans don’t seem persuaded that he’s been unfairly targeted.

Trump will claim that James is a partisan Democrat who is out to get him, and he is not entirely wrong… But the complaint is damning because what James alleges is not especially complex and does not require much imagination or financial numeracy.

So, Attorney General James is going after The Trump Org as New York City is at an all-time high in violent crime and homicides while New Yorkers do not feel safe walking the streets. Priorities, right?

Is the Fed Right to Hike Interest Rates Again?

To combat inflation, the Federal Reserve has decided to raise interest rates 0.75% points for the third time.

It has taken far too long, but the central bankers are getting closer to the degree of monetary tightening required to get inflation down.

The pain investors are about to suffer is a price that must be paid to preserve the greenback. If the only value backing our fiat currency is indeed the “full faith and credit of the United States government,” then it’s a good thing Powell is taking his job seriously, even if the Biden administration isn’t.

Given the changed economic landscape, we need to augment the tools we deploy to handle inflation. We will do better if economic policy addresses the supply issues brought into high relief during this recovery.

Will the Death of Mahsa Amini Spur Change for Women in Iran?

Twenty-two year old Mahsa Amini was beaten to death in Iran by so-called morality police for refusing to wear her head-covering. Iranians have responded with wide scale protests and some women have been burning their hijabs.

That Iranians are willing to brave the Islamic Republic’s repressive apparatus yet again is remarkable considering the massacre of over 1,500 protesters in 2019, the torture of many thousands more, and the execution of others including the champion wrestler from Shiraz, Navid Afkari, who was and is beloved for his honesty and passion for his people.

The protests come at a delicate time for Iran’s theocracy. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is reportedly gravely ill; the country’s nuclear agreement with the West hangs by a thread; Iran is fighting several cyber-skirmishes with adversaries, including Israel… Iran’s rulers are out of touch with a society that yearns for more — and deserves better.

The revolution, they explain, promised Iranians a better life, which can be accomplished by reaching an agreement that lifts the sanctions imposed on Iran. But only Islamic law, and Iran’s constitution which is based on it, can ensure the people’s rights. Thus, if the campaign to ensure Iran’s identity and character requires a few sacrifices, like Mahsa Amini and other women, that’s a fair price to pay. The West’s criticism is, thus, the best proof of the righteousness of the regime’s path.

What’s New & Fascinating in Jewish Literature?

An exciting new Jewish novel, a Jewish compendium of knowledge, and a modern-day Jewish folklorist.

Let me begin by saying that I really wanted to love this book. Too little has been written about, as history book writer Rebecca Frankel recently called them in The New York Times, “the forgotten Jews of the forest.” Harmel’s “vanishing stars” indeed represent a history that has nearly vanished, lacking the meticulous records that Nazis kept of the concentration and death camps. 

What is Judaism? What does it mean to be a Jew? What is Judaism’s message to the world?

The Book of Jewish Knowledge offers 1200 answers in 1200 voices, presenting the story of Judaism via the variety of media that capture the Jewish experience: a Biblical account, a traditional Jewish practice, a painting by a Jewish artist, a Midrashic parable, a Talmudic discourse, a historical document, a poignant photograph, a gefilte fish recipe, a prayer from Psalms, a Scriptural aphorism, a Halachic (Jewish law) responsum, a Kabbalistic diagram, a philosophical essay, a 12th-century travelogue.

Stern has a prodigious knowledge of Jewish folklore, and he’s said that his characters escape their pasts on “vehicles assembled out of bootlegged myths and dreams.” Small wonder that he’s placed Soutine at the center of his sixth novel, tugging a makeshift boat that might as well be jury-rigged with myths and dreams… Stern has blended biography and fabulism into a frothy picaresque that curdles into a haunted, dyspeptic study of Jewish identity.

Today’s Hot Issues

What’s Behind Putin’s Threats of Escalation? Twitter Talk: How Big a Deal Is Yair Lapid’s Two-State Support? Is Letitia James’ Prosecution of Trump Politically Motivated? Is the Fed Right to Hike Interest Rates Again? Will the Death of Mahsa Amini Spur Change for Women in Iran? What’s New & Fascinating in Jewish Literature?