A Blog by Jonathan Low


May 24, 2022

How E-Bikes Are Sparking Significantly Greater Bikesharing In New York

Bike sharing has been growing in New York, but the introduction of e-bikes has accelerated usage. 

The pandemic created concerns about public transportation and increased bicycle ridership but sturdier new models with greater range has stimulated use above predictions. Analysts believe this may be a precursor to even higher usage rates in cities across the US. JL 

John Surico reports in Bloomberg CityLab, image Shaye Weaver, TimeOut New York:

New York City's Citi Bike is the largest bikeshare system outside of China. It’s 5,000-strong electric fleet made up 32% of the 28 million rides taken in 2021, even though they only make up 20% of the fleet. They’re used three times more often per day compared to classics. The Covid-19 crisis helped transform the public’s perception of the average e-bike courier, turning riders into frontline workers. Capped at 20 miles per hour, a new e-bike can go 60 miles before needing a charge, twice the previous model.

The Reason NATO Artillery Offers Ukraine A Strategic Advantage

Russia is running short of troops, tanks and other military vehicles, but it has always been an artillery-heavy army - and that is what they are using in Donbas in an attempt to wear down the Ukrainians. 

But the artillery donated by NATO countries offsets Russia's numerical advantages because it has longer range and is more accurate, enabling the targeting of weapons systems aimed both at Ukraine's troops and civilian population. Experts believe that shift could be decisive in deciding the war's outcome. JL 

Andrew Kramer and Maria Varenikova report in the New York Times:

The new, longer-ranged Western artillery are the most powerful and destructive being provided by NATO countries. They fire three miles farther than the most common artillery used by the Russian army - and 10 miles farther if shooting a precision, GPS-guided projectile. The American M777 (will) have the greatest effect for the quantity of guns provided, providing accurate, long-range fire. The purpose of the guns is to grind down Russian military infrastructure, ammunition depots and command posts. (They) also save civilian lives by striking Russian artillery firing on towns. Their arrival has buoyed Ukraine’s hopes of achieving artillery superiority, a key toward military victory.

After 3 Months of War, Life In Russia Has Changed Profoundly For the Worse

Signs of economic deterioration are growing. Though the ruble has stabilized due to government intervention, the impact of loss of incomes, unavailability of spare parts and global isolation are expected to rise significantly in the next few months.  

The Associated Press reports:

Three months after the Feb. 24 invasion,  Russians are reeling from  blows to their livelihoods. Moscow’s shopping malls have turned into expanses of shuttered storefronts. The psychological cost of the repressions, restrictions and shrinking opportunities could be high. Although some public opinion polls suggest support for the Ukraine war is strong, the results are skewed by respondents wary of expressing their genuine views. “We see deterioration in the economy across sectors. Companies are running out of inventories. A lot of companies put their workers on part time and are warning they have to shut down entirely. There’s a real fear that unemployment will rise during the summer, that there will be a big drop in consumption, retail sales and investment.”

Why Decisively Defeating Putin Is the Only Way To Achieve Peace In Ukraine

Those talking about an 'off-ramp' - as if a war which has been characterized by countless war crimes, including the torture, rape and random murder of civilians as well as deportations of children torn from their parents and sent to unknown fates in Russia, can be compared to pulling off the highway for a Coke and a hamburger - are delusional. 

Putin shows no signs of wanting to end the war and has made it manifestly clear that he has nothing but contempt for the niceties of diplomatic agreements. His word is most emphatically not his bond. Only his defeat and removal will end Russia's century of global aggression. And the sooner the better. JL

Anne Applebaum reports in The Atlantic:

Yet another frozen conflict, yet another temporary holding pattern, yet another face-saving compromise will not end the pattern of Russian aggression or bring permanent peace. Only failure can persuade the Russians themselves to question the sense and purpose of a colonial ideology that has repeatedly impoverished and ruined their own economy and society, as well as those of their neighbors, for decades. Defeat, sidelining, or removal of Putin is the only outcome that offers any long-term stability in Ukraine and the rest of Europe.

May 23, 2022

One of Russia's Most Advanced New Tanks Destroyed in Ukraine

Battleships, fighter jets and now Russia's most advanced operational tank have all been destroyed by the Ukrainian military wielding smaller, nimbler weapons. 

Not what experts predicted, but arguably a portent of things to come. JL 

Joseph Trevithick and colleagues report in The Drive:

A Russian T-90M Proryv-3 (Breakthrough-3) - a modern and rare main battle tank - has been destroyed on the battlefield by Ukrainian forces. The image, dated May 4, shows what appears to be the remnants of a T-90M tank, still smoldering after a direct hit within Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv Oblast. Evidence that Russia may have committed some of its limited supply of T-90M tanks to the conflict began to surface in April. Upgrades don't seem to have helped the T-90M in question, which stands as the first confirmed loss of the tank.

Amid Massive Ukraine Losses, Russia Opens Army Recruiting To Men Over 40

War is generally for the young, but Russia is now recruiting men over the age of 40 (and foreigners over 30) because the country's demographic trends have limited the number of young men available while its army's poor performance and disastrous casualties have kept others from volunteering. 

Why Russia thinks it will be more successful enticing middle aged men than teens and 20s has not been explained. JL 

SofRep reports:

Amid rising casualties in Ukraine, Russia is now considering allowing Russians over the age of 40 and foreigners over the age of 30 to join the Russian military service. Russia utilizes conscription (but) the Russian conscription system is known to be one of the most corrupt in the world and is easy to surpass with the right amount of money and (connections). Even if they were successful in recruiting more conscripts, one of the reasons the Russians have been unsuccessful is that Russian conscripts had little useful combat training when they got sent to Ukraine.

Turns Out Cryptocurrencies Are Less Like Gold, More Like Risky Tech Stocks

The good news for fanatical crypto investors was that traditional money managers got interested. But that was also the bad news. 

The market is less skewed to fanboys and more to professionals with a broader market perspective whose commitment is less emotional and more risk management-oriented, meaning that crypto has lost much of its value as a 'special' asset. JL 

David Yaffe-Bellany reports in the New York Times:

Traders are increasingly treating the cryptocurrency like just another speculative tech investment. Since the start of this year, Bitcoin’s price has closely mirrored that of the Nasdaq, heavily weighted toward technology stocks. As Bitcoin’s price dropped more than 25% over the last month, to less than half its November peak, the plunge came in near lock step with a broader collapse of tech stocks. Professional traders are treating the cryptocurrency as part of a portfolio of high-risk tech investments (so) are less ideologically committed to Bitcoin’s potential. When they lose faith in the tech industry, that affects their Bitcoin trades.