Films: Charade (1963)

This is one of my all time favorite films. It hits my soft spot — the stylish thriller category. And it has an incredible cast, with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in the lead roles. It was Cary’s last fling as the romantic lead. Walter Mathau is just brilliant as well. Finally, it is a hell of a lot of fun. How can you pass this up? Oh … and it has a great trailer, narrated by Cary himself! Enjoy!

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George Soros on Putin and Ukraine

George has written a rather long analysis of what is happening in Ukraine and what to expect from it. It is entitled “Wake Up, Europe”.  An apt title.  He does not focus (as I tend to do) on what might deter Mr. Putin from further disruption in Eastern Europe. Instead, he assumes that Mr. Putin will not be deterred. What then?

There are a few strategic realities in this scenario that are worth pondering. George identifies the likely next step in the game. After the Ukrainian elections, Putin will demand that the Ukrainian prime minister be from his camp.  Will the Ukrainians accept this? And even if they do, could this lead to stability? I think the answers are no and no. In other words — if Europe and the US sit on their hands — there is a good chance for long term destabilization in Ukraine. What then?

Indeed, what then. Ongoing violence, at least sporadic violence is likely. Can we live with this? Some might argue that this is not so bad if it is contained within Ukraine. Will it be?

Here is the problem. That is up to Mr. Putin and it is not difficult to come up with reasons why he will want to extend the area of potential conflict. First, if he assumes that no matter what, he will not achieve rapprochement with the west, he needs more leverage in dealing with the west. Becoming a greater pest rather than a relatively small pest achieves this. This may explain why Russia has already become more aggressive — sending spy planes and bombers and subs around, and snatching an Estonian agent at the border. Stuff like that. Second, Putin needs to keep the domestic focus away from the costs of keeping the Ukrainian stew cooking. Coming up with other insults to Russian pride is a useful tactic. So he may create them. Indeed, that may be needed to play to his ultra-nationalist power base. Finally, he may find weakness in other areas that he can exploit.  Being scary is a negotiating tactic.

So, the bad news here is that allowing Ukraine to fester has long term potential consequences for the west. We may want to think hard about that as we decide what to do there.

Vilnius: Uzupis for Beginners

I have had great trips to Vilnius and not so great trips. It is a beautiful city (though perhaps Kaunis is more so). And it is an easy city to get around. Here are some tips for what to look for. this quote caught my eye

Visually, (Uzupis is) interesting, whether you happen to be intoxicated or not. (Keep in mind marijuana is illegal in Lithuania.) Although they don’t look inviting, many of the alleyways are colored with extraordinary talent next to pawn shops that accept Uzupis’ own currency. Yes, Uzupis is a lot like Copenhagen’s autonomous neighborhood Christiania, aesthetically and ideologically.

Pretty hip!

Estonia’s E Residence

You might have heard about this. Estonia will allow you (for a small fee) to become a citizen — not a citizen in the usual sense, but in the digital sense. Here is a quick overview of what this is all about. You get what?

The digital ID will allow new Estonians to open an Estonian bank account, sign documents, launch and manage companies and encrypt files but it will not entail full legal residency, citizenship or right of entry to Estonia.

But the truth is, people are not really sure how this will develop. I will be tracking this. Stay tuned!

Motley Fool: Company of the Future

One of the great clichés of our time is that finance is boring. And people who work in finance are conservative. This may be true of Wall Street types, but it is not true overall. There are some very cool folks who get very excited about investing. And there is a very cool company — as it turns out, one of the most interesting in the US. The name is “Motley Fool”. Want to know why they are so cool?  they try to provide their staff with stuff that they value. Forbes did a profile. Check it out!