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We are witnessing a new chapter in the often tragic history of Russia. We have no modern-day Tolstoy or Dostoevsky to write the full story, because we don’t know the ending yet. A newly drafted law would land them in prison anyhow. I’ll get to that in a moment.
This week’s D&D starts with Russia and ends with various dollops of dumbness closer to home.
Shell Oil jumped on the “Everybody Hates Vlad” bandwagon and declared an end to its joint ventures in Russia.
Then crude went on sale!
The Wall Street Journal reveals that the oil giant bought 100,000 metric tons (about 700,000 barrels) of Russian crude last week. The oil came from a desperate seller who priced it $28.50/barrel below market rates, “the widest discount on record.”
Who could pass that up? Well, everybody else did.
According to the Journal: “A person familiar with the company’s trading strategy said Shell was still buying Russian oil to plug into refiners and petrochemical plants while it looked for alternative sources.”
After being outed by Ukraine’s foreign minister for putting profits ahead people (an oil company would do that?), the CEO apologized and said it won’t happen again.
You can plaster your social media streams with “#boycott” to your heart's content, but it takes the head of a $280 billion pension fund to make corporate America pay attention.
New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli suggested that, nearly two weeks into the war, maybe McDonald’s, Starbucks, Pepsi and Coca Cola should stop doing business in Russia. Other companies had already pulled out, including Nike, Netflix, Microsoft, and Exxon (yes, Exxon was ahead of Starbucks).
According to Reuters, DiNapoli said the companies faced “significant and growing legal, compliance, operational, human rights and personnel, and reputational risks.”
In other words, “I have $280 billion I might put in Exxon instead.”
Suddenly, those companies began shutting down operations in Russia! McDonald’s even closed the iconic store in Pushkin Square that opened in 1990. (Watch the last 10 minutes from this early ‘90s program narrated by Christopher Plummer.)
Of course I feel bad for Russians who’ve been thrown out of work (though many companies plan to continue paying them, which kinda defeats the purpose — “Here’s your paid vacation, enjoy!”). It’s not their fault that Putin invaded Ukraine. But unless the U.S. wants to get into a shooting war with Russia — and we don’t — economic sanctions may be the only way to make the proletariat miserable enough to pressure Comrade Putin to stand down. As if.
Can we puh-leeze stop blaming this war on anyone other than Vladimir Putin? It’s not Joe Biden’s fault. It’s not Kamala Harris’ fault. It’s not the Democrats’ fault, and they did not impeach Donald Trump because he refused to back a proxy war in Ukraine.
We may not have the most brilliant minds in the current administration (nor in the last), but Vladimir Putin is 100% responsible for what’s happening in Ukraine, no matter how much Tucker Carlson tries to deflect culpability and make his previous comments about Putin and Ukraine look less stupid. See below for a tweet that hasn’t aged well.
Nobody does fake news better than Russia. Just ask Facebook. Now the Kremlin is taking truth-twisting to a new level with fake fake news. Several Western news organizations have pulled reporters out of Russia for fear they’ll be imprisoned. A new law threatens harsh penalties for journalists who report “false” claims — like calling the current situation a “war.”
Russia also banned Facebook. #Ironic. Instagram is next. The Kremlin has labeled Meta an “extremist organization,” and Forbes says if both social media platforms are blocked, it could cost Meta almost $2 billion in revenue. (Disclosure: Meta pays me for writing Wells $treet. I know. Crazy. Please don’t tell them they’ve made a terrible mistake.)
I want you to watch this video before I say anything more. It’ll only take two minutes. Totally worth it. I can wait.
Okay… did you watch it all the way to the end? If you didn’t, go back. I’m still here.
All right. THIS IS THE MOST HILARIOUS THING EVER. Indian news anchor Rahul Shivshankar thinks he’s shouting at American Daniel McAdams of the Ron Paul Institute, when he’s actually arguing with Ukrainian Bohdan Nahaylo of the Kyiv Post. But the names are mixed up on screen.
(The real) Nahaylo is arguing (I think) that India is wrong to blame the Russia-Ukraine conflict on the west, but Shivshankar thinks it’s McAdams talking. The news anchor goes full cable-news-nutso on Nahaylo and starts expressing his true feelings about America. “You people and your colonial agenda, sir, [have] wrecked the south, have wrecked the east, and don’t sit here and lecture us.”
I’ve watched it about ten times. Hold on. I wanna watch it one more time.
Sure, some low-paid news producer royally screwed up by putting the wrong names onscreen over his guests, but real journalists research their guests ahead of time, partly to find out what they look like. And maybe if Shivshankar had let Nahaylo talk for 10 seconds, he would’ve realized the guy had a Ukrainian accent.
— A Fat Cat Freeway Crossing
Park rangers estimate there might be only 15 mountain lions left in the Santa Monica Mountains of Southern California. The species of large cats is on the ropes. And because they risk further harm if they cross the nearby 101 freeway, both the public and private sectors have raised money to build a freeway overpass just for wildlife.
This being California...
Someone suggested it would be cheaper to hire Uber drivers to help each wandering mountain lion cross the road to get to the other side.
— No Love for Tinder Swindler
Simon Leviev has served time for fraud. Perhaps it was dumb of him to think he could (allegedly) con women he met on Tinder out of thousands of dollars by convincing them he was the very wealthy son of Lev Leviev, Israel’s “King of Diamonds.” If you haven’t watched “The Tinder Swindler” on Netflix yet, start as soon as you finish reading this bulletin. Simon, whose real name is Shimon Hayut, maintains his innocence.
But the dumbest assumption Simon/Shimon made was thinking that Lev Leviev wouldn’t find out.
Now that “The Tinder Swindler” is a hit, NBC News reports the real Leviev is suing the fake Leviev for dragging his family into a scandal. Lev Leviev isn’t some young Scandinavian woman who believes she’s in a real relationship. No, Lev is a self-made player in the global diamond industry, a rough business (diamond pun!). And now the fake Leviev — the most infamous man on Tinder — may soon feel the heavy hand of justice “swipe right” across his face.
— On “Don’t Say Gay,” Disney Doesn’t Say Anything at All
Disney CEO Bob Chapek has been on the job for about a year. This month he faced his first leadership crisis and failed. Chapek was silent about Florida’s proposed “Don’t Say Gay“ bill. The bill, which is headed to the governor's desk, bans all or most discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity with young schoolchildren, even though Kyler has two mommies and Kaylee’s older brother wears makeup.
Chapek’s silence outraged many Disney employees. His explanations only made them angrier, so he ended up apologizing, donating a bunch of money to something or other, promising to talk to Florida's governor, and pausing all political donations in the Sunshine State. Now even Gov. Ron DeSantis is angry, accusing the company of being “woke,” the ultimate insult.
The Disney CEO seems Frozen in a previous era and would probably like to Let It Go, but it’s A Whole New World. Leaders are expected to lead. And take the heat.
— My Regular Rant About Wells Fargo
I could just do a weekly D&D on Wells Fargo. The latest black eye is an investigation by Bloomberg claiming the bank only approved 47% of refi’s from Black applicants, versus 72% from those who were white. This happened even though we’re in the biggest housing boom in history. Meantime, Black applicants were approved 71% of the time at other lenders.
Bloomberg says Wells didn’t dispute the statistics, but the mortgage giant said it treats “all potential borrowers the same, is more selective than other lenders, and an internal review of the bank’s 2020 refinancing decisions confirmed that ‘additional, legitimate, credit-related factors’ were responsible for the differences.”
Interesting. Rejected applicants included a professional couple trying to refinance a property in a Black neighborhood of Atlanta. Their credit score was above 800.
— Alec Baldwin: Not My Fault I Killed Someone
Alec Baldwin claims his contract shields him from liability in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins last fall on a New Mexico movie set. The Hollywood Reporter says Baldwin claims in arbitration that it wasn’t his responsibility to check the prop gun for live rounds, and he wants the movie‘s producers to bear the financial cost of liability — including his legal fees.
Something tells me the next time Alec Baldwin is handed a gun — which will be never — he will check it, because, you know, he’ll feel responsible.
— The Credit Union CEO Who Stole Money for Pigs
I had to throw this in. Stacey Shaw’s grandparents started a credit union in Beaver, PA in 1964, and she eventually became its CEO. The FBI says the credit union had to shut down because Shaw bilked it out of $2.1 million and used the money on travel, food, clothes, trips, “and [to] start a pig farm.” Shaw pleaded guilty to embezzlement and was sentenced to 51 months in prison.
But good news! “Luckily for the credit union members,” the FBI says, “insurance reimbursed them, so they didn't lose their own money.”
Good thing insurance companies can create money out of thin air to pay those claims!
I always end with something upbeat to pull us out of a tailspin of stupidity. However, I want to update the “Something Wonderful” I reported in the last D&D about this photo snapped during the Olympics. After the freestyle skiing men’s aerials competition, Russian bronze medalist Ilia Burov hugged the Ukrainian silver medalist, Oleksandr Abramenko. War was on the horizon between their two countries, but not in this moment.
Last week, Abramenko was found hiding out in a parking garage in Kyiv with his wife and child, hoping to escape. I can’t find any information about his current location. Praying they are safe.
But let me end with something uplifting. Two things, actually.
First, I can’t stop looking at this photo taken at a Polish train station of strollers left as gifts for Ukrainian refugees. It’s such a small thing, but it shows solidarity in a big way. Here is the story behind the photo.
Finally, a woman sat down at a piano outside a Ukraine train station and played “What a Wonderful World.” We can only hope.
Cover image: Europe Press News/Getty Images