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The Degrees Matter

After victory, we must at once put forward a new task. In this way, cadres and the masses will forever be filled with revolutionary fervour, instead of conceit.

Mao, 1958, early in the Great Chinese famine, perhaps the worst man-made disaster ever measured in terms of lives lost.


Both geopolitics and investing are rarely black and white. Today, I want to share frameworks to navigate through the gray areas.

Media Medievals

We are in the midst of two hot wars, Ukraine and Gaza. While there are significant differences between the two conflicts, there is one key similarity: both the Kremlin and Hamas do not optimize policy to minimize their own casualties. For people whose reference point is the US or Europe, this is almost incomprehensible. It’s worth trying to comprehend.

Tabulating the number of Russians killed or injured in Ukraine and reading this week’s WSJ article on Hamas Chief Yahya Sinwar reminded me of a quote attributed to Georgy Zhukov, chief of the Red Army as it stormed Berlin. Asked if he was worried about how many Russians were dying, he is reported to have said, “chicks will just give birth to new ones.”

The WSJ article claims, based on messages between Sinwar and negotiators, that the Hamas leader believes more Palestinian civilian deaths work in his favor. Said differently, his strategy is to kill his own, which then floods social media with images of children in white shrouds and undermines Israel’s reputation. It’s sociopathic.

This reminded me of an incident early in Putin’s career. Ahead of his selection as President in 2000, there were a series of unexplained apartment building bombings attributed to Chechen terrorists. Hundreds of civilians died. Later investigations suggested it was likely the FSB blowing up the buildings, to stir up fear and help tilt the vote toward Putin. Now in Ukraine, Putin’s utter disregard for Russian soldiers’ lives is obvious. His attitude is Zhukov’s.

Sinwar is of the same mindset. Negotiating with someone who views their own as dispensable means you are not dealing with a modern mindset, even if they are savvy social media users. In the US, post-9/11 Iraq and Afghanistan engagements, about 7,000 US service members died over almost 20 years of battle, and this was considered a public relations disaster. That’s not how Sinwar and Putin roll.


To understand what is going on now, you need to be rather precise about rates of change, which is hard to do well. Here is what you need to calibrate to make money:

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