About Those Empty Grocery Shelves
Plus, Why It Might Not Be Too Late to Deter Putin.
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New from me: About Those Empty Grocery Shelves.
Grocery stores have adopted Just-in-Time (JIT) inventory management, a system that was widely adopted across several industries after Toyota used it to great success. In many respects, JIT is well suited for grocery stores, especially with perishable goods like strawberries or raspberries that need to move quickly, as opposed to, say, rice or beans, which have a much longer shelf life. But JIT doesn’t work well when the supply chain is dysfunctional, as during the pandemic. JIT can leave “a lot of big holes,” according to the grocery exec I spoke with. And the holes vary: One week you might see an aisle nearly empty, and part of the reason might be supply issues, or the problem could be exacerbated by panic buying; the next week, the aisle will be completely full.
Sometimes, empty shelves during a store’s busy stretch doesn’t mean there is a shortage, just that some goods haven’t yet been restocked. Stocking takes time. Often, if a customer disappointed by an empty shelf were to come back later that same day—or even later during that same shopping trip—the shelf might no longer be empty. And with some products, such as alcohol, bread, chips, and soft drinks, some of the stocking is done by third parties who come to the store to drop off their wares, another level of interdependence that can be affected by the networked nature of supply chain problems.
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IAN KELLY writes: It Might Not Be Too Late to Deter Putin.
The Biden administration deserves high marks for refusing to negotiate away the right of Ukraine to choose its own security arrangements, and for putting 8,500 U.S. troops on high alert and uniting the transatlantic community behind a set of punitive sanctions in case Russia renews its invasion of Ukraine.
But the approach has two flaws: It tries to substitute economic power for military power, and it is too reactive. The moves the United States and its allies are contemplating are mostly economic, but the threat of sanctions will not deter Russia, which already has the means to counter them. Because of rising oil prices, Russia’s war chest, its sovereign wealth fund, has tripled in value to nearly $200 billion—money that could be used to blunt the cost of sanctions to the Russian economy. The possibility of a clash with all of NATO—whose combined economic and military strength is far greater than Russia’s—has a better chance of successfully deterring Putin from giving the order to invade.
The time to establish deterrence is before the new offensive, not after. The American and allied response should not be conditioned on a Russian offensive, but should respond to the massing of troops. Failure to meet the threat is an invitation to future aggression. Ideally, any moves into Poland and the Baltics should be done by NATO rapid response forces. But it is highly unlikely that Germany and others would agree to that before an invasion. So it would be up to the United States to move defensive forces into the alliance’s front-line states now, and make it clear they will be withdrawn if and only if Russia’s troops and materiel return to their bases of origin. Such a move would not only emphasize that NATO is as committed to the defense of its east as it is to its west, but would also give the alliance something concrete to negotiate with—we withdraw if you withdraw.
NATALIA ANATOVA writes about The Ghosts of Kyiv and the Shadow of War.
Today, my father and my uncle are both dead, my father gone last spring and my uncle this terrible winter, and Russian president Vladimir Putin is massing more and more troops on the Ukrainian border. Long an American, I am shielded from this naked aggression—my friends and family not so much. Family group chats have become conversations on bomb shelters, evacuation routes, how far Putin might go, who will go and who will stay if the worst happens, and what kind of non-perishable goods are best to stock.
It makes me feel almost glad that my father picked the right time to die. Yet when I think about him, and all that he stood for, this sense of relief withers inside me. “He would want me to do something,” I think.
What I do best is telling stories. Kyiv has many of them. It’s an ancient city, long coveted by Moscow due to its historic status and significance. But for millions of us, it’s just a place we love. I was born in Kyiv, and although I grew up in North Carolina, I’ve come back frequently as an adult, particularly whenever I’ve needed to lick my wounds, when a job ended or a relationship soured. The echoes in the courtyards, the crows perching on the poplars, the moody folk songs sung at dinnertime, even the persistent bickering of family members have worked like a healing spell for me. The air is thick with ghosts in Kyiv, and one’s personal pain tends to get lost among them.
Happy Friday! If you’re on the east coast, I hope you don’t get snowed in! I was hoping to make a pot roast, but will have to settle for steak on my Lodge Kickoff Grill.
The long hello. I highly recommend signing up for Scott English’s newsletter. He’s a few years older than I am, and his perspective is one I value because I 100% feel this:
Leaving politics typically involves handcuffs or a pine box. When you enter, you’re idealistic and plan to change the world. As time progresses, you compromise that bright-eyed optimism until you slowly reach cynicism. You wake up one day and realize you’re phoning in your outrage and lost perspective. It’s the old adage of the frog in the pot.
One thing I’ve found? You don’t always get to choose when, but you do get to choose why. And that makes all the difference.
Let’s a take a look at the Gender Pay Gap? Remember when that was a big thing we talked about? Dr. Lawrence Eppard has this to say. Suffice to say, it is not something that is easy to quantify, even though perhaps some of us wish it were so. So let’s talk about it more.
This sounds like a Tom Clancy novel… A secret stealth plane is stuck at the bottom of the South China Sea. Who will get there first?
Build Back Better? Not great timing for Team Biden! On the day he was to appear in Pittsburgh, a bridge collapsed. Thankfully, nobody died. It got me thinking: There is a bridge, maintained by the Commonwealth of Virginia, that crosses Quantico Creek to serve… a $1.2 million house, a smaller house with a lot of land that has construction materials on it, and a low-power AM radio station. Seems to me that perhaps we should be more thoughtful about what we pay for in terms of bridges? Call me crazy.
Anton, Deneen, and Hazony… Gabriel Schoenfeld on how “three voices stand out for providing the energy behind the national conservative movement—along with cover for its disreputable strands.”
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