A Short Week In Kyiv Prime Badge
A Conversation With Michael Kofman About the Ukraine War Prime Badge

Last week we sat down with Michael Kofman, the head of the Russia Studies Program at the Center for Naval Analyses, to discuss the Ukraine War. The CNA is an independent but government-funded think tank which is tasked with generating scholarship and analysis to serve the Department of the Navy (the Navy and the Marine Corps) and the larger U.S. national security community. You may not have heard his name before but Kofman is one of the country’s most knowledgable people on the ins and outs of the Russian military, its strengths, doctrines, culture and challenges. Among the many subjects we discussed was why a direct military assault may not be the best or most feasible way for Ukraine to reclaim Crimea, if that’s in the cards at all; and the downsides of having so many different countries donating so many different weapons systems for the Ukrainian war effort. If you’re a member, join me for our TPM Inside Briefing with Michael Kofman after the jump.

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Dems and the Folly of Micromanaging the Trump Spectacle

I’ve only gotten a couple negative replies to the post below about Alvin Bragg’s expected indictments of ex-President Trump. But those replies have had a wild intensity that started me thinking about what the possible disconnect was between me and these readers. What I said was that it’s not great. But it’s happening entirely outside any framework that any of us can do anything about. And, mostly, I don’t think it will matter much one way or another if, as I expect, it is followed by indictments for graver crimes. In fact, even if this is the only Trump indictment ever, I still don’t think it matters much.

People just see things differently of course. And intense disagreement is nothing new to me. But I think there’s something more going on here — or two things rather. And, because I think these few TPM Readers represent a lot more people who think the same way, here’s what I think those things are.

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A Bit of Earlier Context on Lab Leak Discourse

At present, my main contribution to Lab Leak Discourse is making fun of it. I say this operating on the distinction provided to us by TPM Reader JS a couple weeks ago, noting that Lab Leak Discourse is now entirely autonomous from the actual ongoing research into the origins of COVID-19. Indeed, I noticed yesterday that it has now taken a new turn focusing on public opinion surveys showing that a majority of Americans believe COVID began with a laboratory accident at the virology lab in Wuhan, China. The “wisdom of crowds,” one Lab Leak advocate told me, should be given its own weight along with the judgments of those with domain expertise in virology, genomics and other fields.

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Goes to the Heart of the Matter

As a publisher, I love highly kinetic pieces like Hunter Walker’s new article on the Axios journalist, Ben Montgomery, who Axios canned after he got crosswise with Ron DeSantis’s carnivorous Florida media machine. I’ll assume you’ve read the story. So I won’t rehash the details. (If you haven’t, just read it.) But I want to expand a bit on why it’s such an important story. It captures in a single incident key dynamics of our present treacherous political moment and the role of the political press within in it.

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A Quick Look at the Lying Trumpist Liars Behind that Database on Corporate Giving to “BLM”

According to stories bursting across the right-wing mediasphere today, a key reason for the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) was its focus on spreading “woke culture” rather than efficiently managing risk and profits. Ground zero for this is the allegation that SVB had donated over $73 million to the “BLM Movement & Related Causes.” That struck me as quite a lot of money for a single company, even a large and profitable one, to give to any cause or even all causes. So I tried to find out where this factoid came from and rapidly found my way to a Trumpist think tank. Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s a complete lie. I want to show you the receipts, but first some key details.

The claims come from a database posted earlier this week by the Center for the American Way of Life, a project of the Claremont Institute. As Claremont put it in a Newsweek article introducing the database, “Americans deserve to know who funded the BLM riots.”

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Cold Open Prime Badge
Why have the GOP House hearings been so lame?

A bubbling conventional wisdom has been taking shape in the recent weeks that might best be stated as a question: what happened to all the Republican investigations? From one perspective it’s early: the new Congress has only been seated for a bit over two months. There have been hearings. There was one just last week into the so-called “Twitter Files.” But they’ve been low energy and mostly a bust. Outside of the right-wing media bubble they’ve been met more with derision than headlines and follow ups. A March 6 Axios headline read: “Jim Jordan scrambles amid claims ‘weaponization’ probe is a dud.” But the reaction inside the bubble hasn’t been any different. As far back as a month ago, Fox News’ host Jesse Watters angrily denounced the underwhelming show.

Some point to Jim Jordan not having the organizational abilities or chops to run impactful hearings. Others point to Jordan getting crosswise with the other top GOP investigator, Jim Comer. The most obvious explanation is that they’re just lame and underwhelming because they don’t have the goods. But even that doesn’t work as an explanation because the same could be said about the previous times we did this under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Something’s different.

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Unanswered Questions Prime Badge

TPM Reader EG notes a post from our friend Barry Ritholtz in which he notes ten questions or current unknowns about the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. You can find them here. As Barry points out, if past financial crises are any guide, we currently — that is to say, in real time — have only a very limited understanding of just what happened here and why. Presumably decision-makers at the Fed and FDIC had substantially more information that was the basis of the decisions they made on Sunday. But their understanding is almost certainly limited too. Check his post out. Often a knowledgable set of questions is far more illuminating than opinion and assertion in advance of any real understanding and context.

A few general observations.

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