The S-300 ‘Ground Attack’ Capability: Fabricated by Ukraine, Amplified by Western Media, Totally Fictitious.

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Uncle Volodya says; “If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the public understand that difference, and choose their news sources accordingly.”

Well I’m accustomed to a smooth ride
Or maybe I’m a dog who’s lost it’s bite;
I don’t expect to be treated like a fool no more
I don’t expect to sleep through the night
Some people say a lie’s a lie’s a lie
But I say why deny the obvious child?
Why deny the obvious child?

Paul Simon, from “The Obvious Child“.

“That propaganda is good which leads to success, and that is bad which fails to achieve the desired result. It is not propaganda’s task to be intelligent, its task is to lead to success.”

Joseph Goebbels

Tell it like it is, Joe. I daresay we all remember examples of propaganda which, in retrospect, it is hard to believe a wide audience fell for. “We know where the weapons of mass destruction are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat”, how about that one? I remember reading a critical response to it in which the writer congratulated Donald Rumsfeld on having, with the vagueness of his description, eliminated only international waters and deep space from consideration, and laughing in delighted appreciation; good times, my, yes.

But that and other completely fabricated martial fairy-tales successfully convinced huge western audiences of the smoldering malevolence of Saddam Hussein and, by extension, of Iraqis in general, and by even further extension, of more or less all Muslims. To the extent that tens of thousands of Muslim men were forced by the Bush administration to register with the US Government – a policy which “broke up families by triggering a wave of mass deportations and instilled fear throughout Muslim communities across the country, all while proving itself wholly ineffective at accomplishing its primary task: catching terrorists.” The same reference helpfully highlights that such propaganda ‘successes’, once internalized, contribute to longstanding bias even after they are outed as propaganda – there was no shortage of support for Trump, more than a decade later, calling for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States.

At its simplest, propaganda is little more than consistently and repeatedly expressing an allegation, while claiming it is supported by evidence, and then shouting down any source which attempts to correct the record, deflecting their arguments with insults and rhetoric. In fact, I covered the methodology in some detail on the old blog back in the Spring of 2015; re-reading it now, I find we are offered a priceless lead-in quote, from none other than Anne ‘Poland Makes Me Wet’ Applebaum.

“…[o]nce upon a time, it seemed as if the Internet would be a place of civilized and open debate; now, unedited forums often deteriorate to insult exchanges. Like it or not, this matters: Multiple experiments have shown that perceptions of an article, its writer or its subject can be profoundly shaped by anonymous online commentary, especially if it is harsh. One group of researchers found that rude comments “not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.” A digital analyst at Atlantic Media also discovered that people who read negative comments were more likely to judge that an article was of low quality and, regardless of the content, to doubt the truth of what it stated. “

It’s hard to argue with the forthrightness and accuracy of that opinion – but Annie was complaining about commentary which criticizes western intervention and regime-change operations, and the low-lifes in those instances were – you guessed it – Russian trolls and ‘spreaders of disinformation’. The west prides itself on open forums, respect for a wide range of opinion and a willingness to entertain alternate points of view. It would never stoop to trolling as a means of silencing dissent.https://thenewkremlinstooge.files.wordpress.com/2022/12/04206-abe_lincoln_top_hat.jpg

Ha, ha. Perhaps that was true once, but that kind of integrity went out of fashion in the west at approximately the same time as the top hat. Anyway, we’ll be coming back to this post later; I want to show you something. But for now, we’re going to look at a contemporary phenomenon – the tremendous investment by the west, and most especially the western media, in breathing life into propaganda from Ukraine.  In the example I’d like to discuss, the underlying theme is Ukraine’s brash public-relations technique of spinning every single negative thing that happens as having been the fault of The Russians, from the pitiful murders of  ‘collaborators’ in Bucha to the damage to civilian apartment buildings by falling or uncontrolled air-defense missiles fired by panicky Ukrainian crews…and the west’s role in polishing those stories’ credibility.

Long before what looks to have been an S-300 air-defense missile – designed and built in The Country That Doesn’t Make Anything, according to Obama – landed in neighbouring Poland and caused a couple of fatalities, missiles said to have been S-300’s struck a couple of apartment buildings in Kuh-yiv, and caused some fatalities among Ukrainian non-combatants. But when life hands you lemons, the smart move is to make lemonade, they say, and Ukraine quickly spun the situation so that the diabolical Russians had re-engineered some of their S-300 air-defense missiles so they could be used to attack ground targets such as apartment buildings full of helpless, shivering civilians. A bonus of this trope was that it could be used to argue Russia is running out of precision weapons, and has to repurpose existing stocks to do a job they were never designed for; the S-300 is old now. But journalists have given it new and malevolent life, and ‘S-300’ is apparently the only weapon system they can remember. So they make up for it by writing lurid fan-fiction about it. Continue reading “The S-300 ‘Ground Attack’ Capability: Fabricated by Ukraine, Amplified by Western Media, Totally Fictitious.”

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This Year’s Recipient of the Double-Headed Eagle Prize for Being the Antithesis of the Degenerate and Hypocritical West.

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Uncle Volodya says, “Totalitarianism in power invariably replaces all first-rate talents, regardless of their sympathies, with those crackpots and fools whose lack of intelligence and creativity is still the best guarantee of their loyalty.”

“For me, the most ironic token of it is the plaque signed by President Richard M. Nixon that Apollo 11 took to the moon. It reads: “We came in peace for all Mankind.” As the United States was dropping 7 ½ megatons of conventional explosives on small nations in Southeast Asia, we congratulated ourselves on our humanity. We would harm no one on a lifeless rock.”

Carl Sagan, from “Pale Blue Dot: a Vision of the Human Future in Space”

Before we congratulate the winner, a bit of background. This is an entirely new award, and its origins call for a bit of explanation. As most readers will be well aware, western nations – and most typified by the United States of America – have a wide range of honours and awards which recognize a significant and valuable contribution to the human condition. Recognition for advances in medicine, science, awards for inspiring moral courage, medals for bravery and skill and excellence in a plethora of professions.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Winners should be proud of the contribution their  skill and perseverance made to the betterment of mankind. There is also a number of awards made to advancement of more amorphous concepts – such as ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’, two words that politicians like to sprinkle over everything like kids in control of the sugar bowl. The politically-minded have displayed a tendency in recent decades to honour those the west perceives as ‘Russian dissidents’ for no apparent reason other than that they appear to believe it makes Russians crazy with frustration and rage. Real contributions to such concepts as freedom and democracy – of which those handing out the honours have only the most rudimentary and imperfect understanding themselves – are much harder to measure. Being rewarded with a trophy for scientific excellence because you are the inventor of carbon fibre, for example, is easy to quantify and understand. Making a contribution to ‘freedom’ where most countries are already quite free is therefore often subjected to political spin, and politicians enjoy being able to give a shout-out to their proteges and friends, and to pretend that yahoos who are greatly disliked in countries those politicians regard as enemies are actually some kind of virtuous saints.

Look at the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for example. The highest civilian award in the United States, it was established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963. It is traditionally awarded by the President and is awarded to a person of his or her choice, or as a result of recommendations. It recognizes “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” It can be and frequently is awarded to non -Americans. Although it is a civilian decoration, it can be awarded to military figures, and when it is it may be worn on the uniform.

Colin Powell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice. It would be difficult to deny his overall humanity and compassion in such cases as his obvious anguish in recall of how Saddam Hussein murdered the Kurds after they were persuaded to rise up against him by American instigators, who then whistled and looked out the window as if there were something interesting going on across the street while Saddam’s forces rolled over them like a sandstorm. The world turned its face away, blubbered Powell in memories of the event. It sure did – including Colin Powell, who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time it happened. The President he served then – George H.W. Bush – is on record saying “There is another way for the bloodshed to stop: and that is, for the Iraqi military and the Iraqi people to take matters into their own hands and force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside and then comply with the United Nations’ resolutions and rejoin the family of peace-loving nations.” That was on February 15th, 1991. On February 24th, one of the ubiquitous ‘Free Insert Name of Nation Here’ radio stations the CIA frequently sets up to influence the national population, in this case Voice of Free Iraq, broadcast an exhortation to the people of Iraq to rise up and overthrow their leader.

Here’s an excerpt from CNN, with Brent Sadler: “Iraq’s infrastructure: bridges, roads, water, and electrical power systems were severely damaged. Many Iraqis lost services, vital to daily life. By war’s end, one of the most prosperous and modern Arab countries in the Middle East lay in economic ruin; if Iraqis had expected life to improve, they were mistaken. Indeed, 10 years on, their economy is barely functioning. Iraq’s oil revenues are managed by the United Nations, and strict sanctions remain in place on what can and cannot be imported. These trade restrictions have contributed to a spiraling humanitarian crisis for the country at large. A recent UNICEF study drawing a world health organization support and Iraqi data, states that half a million Iraqi children under 5 have died unnecessarily. Under prewar living conditions, they would have survived.”

But that wasn’t enough: the United States for some reason did not kill Saddam Hussein that time around, so it went back for another whack at Iraq, in 2003. Some countries were pretty reluctant, and required coaxing and convincing at the UN. Who convinced them? You know, don’t you? Colin Powell. Using fabricated evidence, pretending to be absolutely sure of facts when many were just assumptions based on Iraqi ‘defectors’ telling the Americans what they wanted to hear, and including Powell’s personal embellishments of recorded intercepts so that they appeared to show the Iraqis attempting to hide prohibited materials from inspectors. Those embellishments were not on the original intercepts.

But he got the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Twice. Continue reading “This Year’s Recipient of the Double-Headed Eagle Prize for Being the Antithesis of the Degenerate and Hypocritical West.”

The Rise of GloboHate; Washington’s Doctrine of Bullying and Ethno-Hatred Inspires its Admirers.

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Uncle Volodya says, “Never do a wrong thing to make a friend, or to keep one.”

Well, we’ve come a long, long way..
Look at everything we know;
We’re getting smarter every day
Ah, but where’s it gonna go?
For all the words that go by,
I’ve got a feeling inside,
That after it’s all said and done:
Though we’ve come a long, long way.
This old world’s not much better than it was…

Ian Thomas, from “Long Long Way”

So we learned recently, via the intertubes, that celebrated American horror writer Stephen King has entered the political fray – unsurprisingly, on the side of Ukraine. In addition to sternly ordering Russia to get the fuck out of Ukraine, he has officially suspended the publication of all his new books in Russia, and also banned the renewal of expired previous rights.

Of course, that’s his privilege, and I wish I could say I never acted like an arsehole through ignorance, but that would be a lie. It’s not my purpose to hold him up to ridicule for his political beliefs or suggest his opinions are of no consequence; I’ve always enjoyed his fiction and have read nearly everything he’s ever written. In fact, in writing, I learned to use snatches of popular music or poetry to set the stage for things I wanted to say or to establish mood from reading King, and it remains a favourite technique. I think he’s wrong on this issue, but we can’t be right all the time, and in most cases we can say later, “You know, on that thing we talked about – I was wrong”, and the world will continue to turn with no serious harm done.

Nor can we guess much, from a short social-media statement, of what he actually knows about this subject, or if the belief he expresses holds true for all countries – if it’s not your country, you have no business there in a military capacity uninvited – although I am bound to say if the latter is true, he must not get out much. The country of his birth, residence and which he doubtless supports (considering he could probably live anywhere he likes) has never been shy about entering other countries with military forces, and when it cannot think of an excuse for doing so which will be broadly accepted, it simply makes one up.

No; the real reason I wanted to feature his declaration up front, together with all it implies about any belief he might harbor that he speaks for the nation, is because of a delicious serendipity. You see, in ‘The Stand’ – one of his best books, in my opinion – and through the character of Harold Lauder, King wrote a mini-manifesto that rings like he was speaking of America itself.

It’s said that the two great human sins are pride and hate. Are they? I choose to think of them as the two great virtues. To give away pride and hate is to say you will change for the good of the world. To embrace them, to vent them, is more noble. The world must change for the good of you.

If you ordered The United States from Jeff Bezos, when the Amazon box with the big smile showed up on your doorstep, the packing slip would read “The United States of America. The world must change for the good of you.” Because America considers itself the original model, upon which all others are based; you don’t have to pattern yourself after us. But if you want our endorsement, you will, and you can’t be a real country without it. And don’t try that “Hi; I’m your new neighbour. Any chance I could borrow a cup of democracy?” because we own the trademark on democracy, and if it don’t read “Made in the USA”, it ain’t the real thing.

Did the United States invent democracy? Hardly. The modern concept is generally acknowledged to have its origins in 5th-century BC Athens, although social groups which arrive at decisions through consensus predate that by a significant period, a social construct referred to as ‘tribalism’. That term, in fact, much more accurately describes the political environment in Washington today. Anyway, when democracy was a’borning, there wasn’t anything in what today is the United States, not even beavers and Indians, although it’s not polite to call them that anymore.

Oh: but look at this, though.

“Modern representative democracies attempt to bridge the gulf between the Hobbesian ‘state of nature’ and the grip of authoritarianism through ‘social contracts’ that enshrine the rights of the citizens, curtail the power of the state, and grant agency through the right to vote. While they engage populations with some level of decision-making, they are defined by the premise of distrust in the ability of human populations to make a direct judgement about candidates or decisions on issues.”

Is the present-day United States even a democracy? Is there a social contract between the US government and the people which enshrines the rights of citizens? Sure is; it’s called the Constitution; more accurately, the Bill of Rights, which is the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Saying a document has the force of law, though, is not the same as saying it protects citizens from violations of it by government. Let’s just look at a ‘for instance’; the First Amendment provides that the government “shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech.” But further back than The Creepiest White House Press Secretary Ever, Ari Fleischer, who told Americans they ‘have to watch what they say, watch what they do’, the United States government has taken steps to limit the freedom of speech, and along about 2020 they discovered the magic formula – if you say Things We Don’t Like To Hear, you are ‘spreading disinformation’, and we have to shut that down hard, to protect right-thinking citizens. Since then, Watching What You Say has gone into high gear.

An Ipsos survey in 2020 found that more than half of Americans said they had become more concerned about their online safety and were spending more time trying to determine if their Internet searches were safe. That’s good news but also an unfortunate sign of the times that so many of us have become paranoid about what we read online.

Determining if their internet searches were safe…from whom? The Russians? The Chinese? Or their own government? How many people said ‘their own government’?

Continue reading “The Rise of GloboHate; Washington’s Doctrine of Bullying and Ethno-Hatred Inspires its Admirers.”

The Changing Face of Foreign Affairs: the West is in Serious Trouble.

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Uncle Volodya says, “”We are forced to fall back on fatalism as an explanation of irrational events. The more we try to explain such events in history reasonably, the more unreasonable and incomprehensible do they become to us.

Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run;
There’s still time to change the road you’re on…

Led Zeppelin, from “Stairway to Heaven”

“They were careless people…they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made….”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, from “The Great Gatsby”

    I led off with that snippet from ‘Stairway’ for two reasons – one, a lifelong love of Led Zeppelin. Two, an opportunity for ironic amusement. Because the time to change the road we’re on slid into the rearview mirror along about the time the USA summarily refused all Russia’s demands for security guarantees, in exchange for resumption of the uneasy peace which had prevailed. Although the forces and pressures which set the current military operation in Ukraine in motion had been steadily increasing for some time, years – that was the moment the wheels of inevitability began to pick up speed, until the windows hum with their turning.

The time to change the road we’re on has come and gone, and the world is now committed to whatever will ensue. We’re in the back seat, while our lunatic ‘leaders’ jerk the wheel this way and that. Each day brings new astonishment to stoke our incredulity, from Germany’s Annalena Baerbock’s ringing declaration that Germany will not waver from supporting Ukraine no matter what its voters think, to Liz Truss’s promise that Britain’s support this coming year will at least equal, if not surpass that of the year currently bleeding out. The UK has committed £2.3bn so far this year, so figure on at least another £2bn in 2023. That’s in an environment where inflation has topped 10%, and the Truss government is planning to borrow about $120 Billion for spending on subsidies to cap British energy prices. The inmates have taken over the asylum – who does Truss imagine will be on the hook to repay a borrowed $120 Billion? The taxpayer, of course. For Germany’s part, in July of this year it recorded its first trade deficit since Helmut Kohl was in his penultimate term as Chancellor. An export-based economy, Germany had been posting the highest trade surpluses in the world; 8%, 9% of GDP, or €20 billion a month. German industry is being ruined before its electorate’s horrified eyes – it is the nature of business that when conditions are imposed upon it such that it can be neither productive or profitable, it relocates to where that potential is again within reach. The German Greens, like Baerbock and Robert Habeck, don’t give a fuck – they hate industry anyway; it uses too much energy and generates so much smoke and pollution that it’s hard to see the dear little windmills turning. Don’t forget, in the next day or two, Germany is expected to announce the nationalization of gas-import giant Uniper; this was supposed to cost the German taxpayer €19 Billion, but according to Oilprice.com the cost has ballooned to €30 Billion, added to the €100 Million Uniper is losing each and every day in its flailing efforts to replace Russian gas. Along with that bizarre action, Berlin also seized the local unit of ROSNEFT PJSC. In case you were unaware, ‘seized’ means ‘stole’. This invites retaliation and escalation from a country which has no worries at all where its gas is coming from, and has customers eager to buy the volumes Europe resolutely turns its stupid face from. Russia continues to realize record profits from energy sales even as the volumes it sells decline.

“Despite efforts to massively damage Russia’s economy in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine, Moscow’s energy industry appears that it is continuing to boom, with Vladimir Putin’s state-owned gas company Gazprom posting record half-year profits on Tuesday thanks to soaring natural gas prices worldwide.

The company has since announced that it has totally halted gas deliveries to Europe via its major Nord Stream pipeline for what are ostensibly reasons to do with repairs, leaving bigwigs in Europe to sweat over whether the supply will ever be turned back on again.

According to a report by Der Spiegel, Gazprom posted a six-month profit of around 2.5 trillion rubles, roughly equivalent to $41 billion.

This is compared to the company’s previous record annual profit of 2.09 trillion rubles which it posted last year, a much smaller sum especially when the value of the now surging ruble is factored into the equation.”

Two years in a row of record profits, coincidentally two years of concerted NATO efforts to bring thehttps://qph.fs.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-e1b014177b887dcaa39a65ffe7ee70d5-c country to ruin, during which it has steadily descended to pretty much every dirty trick in the book. Russians are the same as people everywhere; they see it when people blindly follow prejudice and disinformation to foment hatred against them. Despite this, Putin remains steadily and constantly popular with those he leads. The Conversation has an explanation for that – Putin owns the news media, and it pumps out Putin-love propaganda day and night. As well, people are too scared Putin will come into their room at night and kill them – he does that a lot – to criticize the war.

“Alexander Hill, a professor of military history at the University of Calgary writes that the Russian leader has the support of pretty much all of the country’s news media (unsurprising, as he controls pretty much all of it). So ordinary citizens have been fed a non-stop diet of propaganda since before the invasion was launched. Meanwhile, thanks to oil and gas revenues, the economy is in reasonable shape still. And, Hill asserts, people may just be too scared to admit their opposition to the war.”

I am encouraged to think Americans actually believe Putin is an unstable tyrant who rules with an iron fist, at the very same time that his hold on the public is so sclerotic that criticism from addled dotard Alla Pugacheva is the final straw which will bring his rotten empire crashing down around his pointy ears. The author cheerfully asserts that Pugacheva remains as popular and influential as she ever was, even though she is 73 and her last album was released ten years ago, relying on go-to western-shoe-kisser Stas Belkovsky, and a Russian blogger who writes…Christ, I don’t know if I can get this out….COOKBOOKS! You all remember Stas Belkovsky; you’ll be happy to know he’s still at the National Strategy Institute. They were damned lucky to get him, if you ask me. Strategists like Belkovsky – who predicted in 2007 that Putin would leave politics that year because Russia was too dependent on agricultural imports, the economic outlook for average Russians was deteriorating and Putin wanted to go someplace to enjoy his stolen wealth – don’t grow on trees. Incredibly, he didn’t stop there; Putin, he said, would need a prestigious international apolitical position to insulate him from the fury of Russians when they realized the extent to which they had been duped, and forecast Putin might become head of the International Olympic Committee. Well, he is only 70; still plenty of time for a second career. And in 2021, Russia became a net exporter of agricultural products – way to light a fire under that incompetent bastard, Stas. Continue reading “The Changing Face of Foreign Affairs: the West is in Serious Trouble.”

Lead Us Not Into Destitution

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Uncle Volodya says, “The hardest thing of all is to find a black cat in a dark room.” Especially if there is no cat.”

“It was possible, no doubt, to imagine a society in which wealth, in the sense of personal possessions and luxuries, should be evenly distributed, while power remained in the hands of a small privileged caste. But in practice such a society could not long remain stable. For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realise that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance.”

George Orwell, from “1984”

I went down to the bank this mornin’, ’bout half past nine
Well, I was lookin’ for a little somethin’ in the credit line
But the man said, “Look, what we got here, Sonny
There’s too much month at the end of the money”

Marty Stuart, from, “There’s Too Much Month (at the end of the money)”

What I wanted to do with this post was to highlight the unprecedented simple-mindedness with which Germany is sleepwalking into a profound economic catastrophe, which – if left to run the course its idiot government has charted – will see the ruin or relocation of core industries, the collapse of its status as the powerhouse economy of Europe and the cratering of living standards for many of its population. I thought a good way to start might be to cite an example of comparable stupidity, but that proved much harder than I thought it would be. I searched for “examples of stupidity by national governments”, but what mostly came up were jackhole lists of ‘the worst-governed countries’ as compiled by self-congratulatory think tanks like the Legatum Institute. Ha, ha; sorry, something just struck me funny – look; back in 2015, Ukraine made the list of the 25 worst-governed countries as rated by that collection of ersatz intellectuals. Of course, that was before the Churchill of Chernivtsi, the Napoleon of Novovolynsk, the Rommel of Rozdilna, the almost-too-much-humble-genius-to-fit-into-a-green-T-shirt super-fucking-size-me statesman, Volodymyr Zelensky, emerged to take the helm of the country Europe now recognizes it cannot do without. But let’s not get sidetracked. We are not here to talk about Ukraine, except peripheral recognition of its role as prime mover to a catastrophe.

Any discussion of the shit avalanche Germany is standing under, shouting up, would be incomplete without a short sidebar about how useless its present leader, Olaf Scholz, is. And again, that was much harder than I thought: the question that immediately springs to mind is – how the hell did this chocolate teapot become the leader of Europe’s most powerful and energetic economy? And I’m not quite sure myself. I know it’s not an elected position; at least, not a general election with a public vote. No, the Chancellor is elected by the members of the German Parliament. That suggests ample latitude for politics rather than what is good for the public or who might make a good leader for this reason or that. And Scholz struck a coalition agreement with the paint-chip-eating Greens, awarding the powerful positions of Foreign Minister and Economics Minister, as well as Vice Chancellor, to loopy Green ideologues Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck. And it is those two who are really running Germany, and the direction they are running it right now is on a collision course with the earth’s core. Right into the ground.

The former cannot seem to get her stories straight, claiming at various occasions to be a member of the German Marshall Fund and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and an international lawyer – she was none of those – plagiarizing passages of her book, “Now. How We Renew Our Country” and declining to disclose all of her income. The latter, Habeck, sounded positively ebullient when he announced that Germany was ready for a shutoff of Russian gas: “Habeck, a member of the governing coalition partner Greens, acknowledged that if Germany were to cut off supplies of Russian gas, there would be a gap initially that would certainly “drive prices higher.” Habeck added, “As far as the short-term price increases and the burden on consumers and businesses are concerned, we will provide relief elsewhere.” Continue reading “Lead Us Not Into Destitution”

Complete Gas Shutoff – Terrible! Resumption of Deliveries – Even Terribler.

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Uncle Volodya says, “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”

Energy can be directed;
I’m turning it up, I’m turning it down…

From “Switchin’ to Glide” by The Kings

“The most dangerous irony is, people are angry with others because of their own incompetence.”

Amit Kalantri, from  Wealth of Words

I came by the reference I want to talk about in this post through a roundabout and somewhat bizarre path. More than a decade ago, a friend implored me to join LinkedIn so that I could add an endorsement to his professional qualifications. I did both, but my LinkedIn account has lain more or less dormant since then. If you’re not familiar with LinkedIn, it has some things in common with Facebook, and they are mostly the reasons I have avoided Facebook. Both send you a non-stop stream of clickbait: “Mark Chapman, you appeared in 4 searches this week!” so that you will be overcome with curiosity as to who could be looking for you, and down the rabbit-hole you go for hours and hours. Both use algorithms and things you have written or read to match you with people who might be acquaintances, and try to get you to build a network of friends and contacts that the program uses to link you to other networks, and so on and so on.

Which is how I keep getting notifications that Edward Lucas has posted something. Yes, that Edward Lucas, the talking spittoon, Estonia’s first digital citizen, fighting cock of the Baltic Republics and noted Russophobe, onetime compiler of birdcage carpeting at The Economist.

The foregoing considered, it will not surprise you, then, that I would be as likely to eat soup made from boiling turnips and Boris Johnson’s bicycle seat as I would be to pay attention to further gobbling from Lucasville. Normally I just alternate between my LinkedIn messages and the ‘delete’ button. This time the message said “Edward Lucas has shared a link”, and although I could not care less if he shared a bathtub with Satan, something in the tagline made me pause: “Edward Lucas, prospective political candidate for….”

You have got to be shitting me. But no! It’s true. Edward Lucas, as addled as a pithed frog, is dipping a toe in the turbulent waters of national politics – as a Liberal Democrat, no less.

Let’s take a look.

“Hello, I’ve finally reached the point of no return. Democracy is in danger. We need to save it.

I’ve tried journalism, writing books, thinktanks, punditry and advising governments. None of it has worked. We are being cheated and lied to at home. Our enemies are menacing abroad.”

Well, he started out far more honestly than most politicians do, although I would suggest he went past the point of no return several stops back. But it can only be a gift for political dissembling that resulted in the phrase “None of it has worked” when the truth would have looked more like “I sucked at all of them”. Perhaps he is destined for politics.

We could probably go on like this for quite some time; it’s been a while since I got going on the subject of Edward Lucas, and I’d forgotten how much I like it. But to tell the truth, I also checked out the post he linked, and it is the subject of today’s discussion.

As you’re all aware, Russia ordered its western gas customers to pay for the commodity in rubles, to Gazprombank in Russia so that the funds would be safe in Russia from western ‘confiscation’ The reason for this was the theft of approximately $300 billion from Russian accounts in western banks, which had served to receive payments by western gas customers. By seizing these funds, western countries announced that they were helping themselves to Russian gas for free, while the blatant theft served as warning that if Russia continued to supply contracted volumes of gas, its western customers would consider it a gift, since payments could be confiscated at any time. The order to pay in rubles, or to make other arrangements for gas deliveries, was effective at the beginning of April this year.

There was a great show of unified resistance, and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša announced huffily that ‘nobody in Europe’ would pay for gas in rubles. That proved tohttps://clipartspub.com/images/plumbing-clipart-cartoon-3.png be one of those predictions like “telephones will never be taken seriously as a means of communication” by the President of Western Union in 1876, or the official rejection of The Beatles by Decca Records in 1962: “The Beatles have no future in show business. We don’t like your boys’ sound. Groups are out. Four-piece groups with guitars, particularly, are finished.” Within a month of the directive, nine EU member states had opened ruble accounts with Gazprombank and four of them had already commenced payment in rubles. Poland and Bulgaria vehemently and loudly refused – in Poland’s case, likely because it believes itself a natural leader and that if it hung tough, everybody would follow: I’m afraid it is forever getting that wrong. Poland and Bulgaria had their gas supply cut off, and became dependents of the Union. Just a few days ago, Latvia’s supply was also shut off, making the naughty-corner occupants Poland, Bulgaria, Latvia, Finland, the Netherlands and Denmark, all of whom refused to comply with the ruble-account requirement. Additionally, delivery to Germany’s Shell Energy Europe was terminated. Latvia replied, “So what? Who cares?” and told anyone who would listen that it had already planned to cease all imports of Russian gas as of January 1st, 2023. How they plan to do that must still be a closely-guarded Latvian state secret, since Latvia’s dependency on Russian gas in 2021 was 92%; probably they meant “the EU will give us free gas”. Eastern European countries frequently attribute magical powers to the EU major states which are second only to those of Gandalf.

In mid-July, Russia declared force majeure on its contracted gas supplies, due to the refusal to return a critical gas turbine which had been sent to Canada for scheduled maintenance, whereupon Canada refused to return it, citing sanctions. Gas supply was reduced to 40% of contracted volumes, and after the scheduled maintenance on Nord Stream I was completed, reduced to 20%. Force Majeure is a mechanism employed in “those uncontrollable events (such as war, labor stoppages, or extreme weather) that are not the fault of any party and that make it difficult or impossible to carry out normal business. A company may insert a force majeure clause into a contract to absolve itself from liability in the event it cannot fulfill the terms of a contract (or if attempting to do so will result in loss or damage of goods) for reasons beyond its control.” Russia’s reason for the declaration apparently is that the turbine has still not been returned, although Canada reversed its decision and claimed the turbine had been returned to Germany for shipping onward. Natural-gas prices in Europe have risen 450% year-on-year. Continue reading “Complete Gas Shutoff – Terrible! Resumption of Deliveries – Even Terribler.”

Don’t it Always Seem to go, That You Don’t Know What You Got ’til it’s Gone? It’s Already too Late, so Take Your Time Wising Up.

Wink
Uncle Volodya says, “I ask you to judge me by the enemies that I have made.”

..Don’t it always seem to go
that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?
They paved paradise,
put up a parking lot…

Joni Mitchell, from ‘Big Yellow Taxi‘.

“You won’t know whether you paid too much for it until it’s too late”

Warren Buffett

Most of you North Americans who were more than 5 years old in 1970 will recognize Canadian singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ bringing us in today. I was 14 in 1970, and I remember it well from radio airplay. It was a pretty good song, but I was never a Joni Mitchell fan – she was too folkie for me, which is probably why I waited until Nazareth covered her ‘This Flight Tonight’ in 1973 to appreciate her songwriting. In one of those funny quirks that make life the crapshoot it is, Nazareth and Mitchell happened to be in A&M studios together when the Nazareth version nudged the Top Ten in the UK – a little later, when Mitchell was playing a show in London, she said to the audience, “I’d like to open with a Nazareth song” before she played the signature lead-in to “This Flight Tonight”.

Anyway, it has been a preoccupation for some for decades to interpret songs and poetry – and the former are really just poetry set to music – to decipher what the artist was saying; sometimes the analysis is astonishing. For instance, I read just the other day in a completely unrelated story that Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was actually ‘an indictment of the anti-intellectualism that Irving correctly assessed is central to the American character’. At first you want to say, “Wut???” But once it’s pointed out to you, it’s hard to unsee it; Brom Bones, big and strong, good-looking, slightly malicious and cunning but otherwise completely innocent of brains, triumphs over the gawky pedagogue Ichabod Crane, and wins the prettiest girl in town. Football players love it. Oh: politicians, too.

It wasn’t hard to figure out what Mitchell was saying in ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ – overdevelopment and pollution were crowding out nature, even then. But there’s always been a magic resonance to that couplet, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone?”

Because it’s true, isn’t it?  We don’t learn to miss something, whether it be a treasured item or a sustaining relationship that underpins our life, until we lose it; and only then do we realize that we often treated it with an affectionate, casual semi-contempt while we had it, assuming that would always be the case.

Like Stunned Pricks Incorporated of Europe, an entity which includes its entire population, especially its political class but even those who had an apprehension of what going along with American sanctions against their biggest energy provider might eventually mean. The sole exceptions are those who spoke out about it, saying that it was lunacy, and that noddy-head cooperation with American foreign-policy aspirations at Europe’s own expense is the kind of behavior exhibited by people for whom the warning on lawn-mower decks which reads “BLADE TURNS WHEN ENGINE IS RUNNING” is both intended and necessary. The rest – stunned pricks.

Now, only now, Europe is worried. Fear of a natural-gas emergency stalks Europe like some great stalking thing, to use a simile from Rowan Atkinson’s ‘Blackadder’ that always made me helpless with laughter. But this is no laughing matter, you better believe. I think two things will strike you right away in that article; one, all this misery and turmoil is down to Putin, because he invaded Ukraine. Two, Europe does not deserve such treatment. Continue reading “Don’t it Always Seem to go, That You Don’t Know What You Got ’til it’s Gone? It’s Already too Late, so Take Your Time Wising Up.”

Antony Blinken, Double Agent.

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Uncle Volodya says, “…And the future is dark, and the present is spread, Like a pillow of thorns for thy slumberless head..”

“That’s like leaping off a precipice and trying to knit yourself a parachute on the way down.”

Kelli Jae Baeli

“Ah! how little knowledge does a man acquire in his life. He gathers it up like water, but like water it runs between his fingers, and yet, if his hands be but wet as though with dew, behold a generation of fools call out, ‘See, he is a wise man!’ Is it not so?”

H. Rider Haggard, She: A History of Adventure

“When every little bit of hope is gone
Sad songs say so much (ooh, la, la-la, ooh, la, la-la)”

Elton John, from Sad Songs (Say So Much)

The time has come to consider the unthinkable – that Antony Blinken, career politician and diplomat, foreign-policy advisor to the political stars and current United States Secretary of State, is a double agent secretly working for the Russian state. In this pursuit, judging from his performance, he seeks to help Russia sabotage American efforts to bring the goodly goodness of freedom and democracy to benighted masses around the world who know them not.

Okay, I’m being sarcastic, but come on – he must be. He gives such a convincing performance of trying to wrestle Russia to the ground so freedom-lovers everywhere can kick it to death …but somehow, his cunning plans keep resulting in a net benefit to Russia. He certainly doesn’t look that clever. But he wouldn’t be as effective as a Russian agent if his bumbling appeared to be anything other than a totally-unforeseen accident.

Take his earlier work on arm-twisting Europe into banning sales of Russian oil to European countries. Back then, Blinken took credit for persuading ‘European allies’ to kick sanctions up a couple notches by banning sales of Russian oil to the United States and those selfsame European allies, while ‘ensuring an appropriate supply of oil on world markets’. How’d that work out? Like an ashtray on a motorbike. The average price of gasoline in the USA is $4.90 per gallon, even with Preznit Biden releasing a million barrels of oil a day from the strategic national reserve for a forecast six months – the largest release in U.S. history – and calling on Congress to declare a three-month ‘gas-tax holiday’ for Americans. That’s a 55%-plus jump year-over-year from 2021. And the USA doesn’t even buy very much oil from Russia.

It’s…ummm…quite a bit worse in Europe. June gasoline average price in France, for example, is $2.19 USD per liter. To get the U.S. gallon price, multiply by 3.7 – $8.10. In the UK, $8.43. In the Netherlands, $9.21. Most western news sources blame it on ‘Russia’s war in Ukraine’, which had little to do with world gas prices directly, and everything to do with Washington-inspired sanctions which restricted the global supply of oil. Well played, Blinken.

Well played? Well, yes, if you consider who benefited from that self-inflicted debacle – Russia. It fell to the U.S. Senior Adviser for Energy Security, Amos Hochstein, to announce that Russia had made more money than ever; according to the International Energy Agency (IEA);

The International Energy Agency said in May that Russia’s oil revenue was up 50% since the beginning of the year to $20 billion a month, with the EU taking the biggest share of its exports. The EU’s ban on Russian oil, expected to take full effect at the end of the year, could cut that revenue.

‘Could’ cut that revenue. Take that forecast with the grain of salt appropriate to knowing the deliberate plan to crash Russia’s hydrocarbon revenues resulted in it making even more money than before the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine, even as it sells less oil because the world price is higher, leaving it with more oil to sell at the higher price, and the oil ban will not even take effect until the end of this year.

If it ever happens. Germany is already gearing up for full-crisis mode, as natural-gas flows through the Nord Stream pipeline have been cut by 60%. Talking dildo and sometime German Economy and Energy Minister Robert Habeck announced the incipient panic, along with exhortations to stay strong and prepare for rationing.

Uh huh; that’s the same guy who strutted and pranced for the admiring western press back in March, and reported that Germany planned to halve Russian oil intake by summer – which is now, in most countries – and terminate Russian coal imports by autumn. This year. Yes, the same Germany that is now scrambling to find enough of its own coal to replace lost gas flows, while the same talking dildo – well, more of a weeping dildo, now – blubbers that this amounts to Vladimir Putin declaring war on Germany. I swear. I mean, you heard him say that what is happening now was Germany’s plan, and Germany was an enthusiastic (officially, anyway) participant in the sanctions which aimed to deliberately reduce dependence on Russian energy. And if it isn’t too much like kicking him when he’s down, I would like to point out that Germany’s plan to replace Russian energy relies on shipborne LNG imports transported by tanker, probably the single biggest contributor to global air pollution, and would drastically increase the amount of heavy marine transports at sea and maneuvering in restricted waterways where collision could be disastrous. Habeck himself – supposedly some kind of progressive – claims to have ‘secured deals’ to receive LNG imports from Qatar, which is a constitutional monarchy ruled by a male member of the al-Thani family since 1918. But it punishes Russia, see? Except, obviously, it doesn’t really, and the countries securing low(er) oil prices are India and China, one of whom is arguably the USA’s biggest geopolitical foe, and the other what the U.S. State Department considers a loose cannon that will not obey American directives. The latter has bought five times as much oil from Russia so far this year – only half over, remember – than it did all of last year, and both countries can use the savings to promote and support development the west cannot afford with energy prices so high. Well played, Agent Blinkenov. Continue reading “Antony Blinken, Double Agent.”

Whatever Russia is, it isn’t Desperate: Hardball and Soft Heads.

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Uncle Volodya says, “The greater the gap between self perception and reality, the more aggression is unleashed on those who point out the discrepancy.”

“…But not me, baby; I’ve got you to save me
Oh yer so bad, best thing I ever had
In a world gone mad, yer so bad…”

From, “Yer So Bad”, by Tom Petty

“Do not act as if you were going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good.”

Marcus Aurelius

If you can’t be good, be careful. If you can’t be careful – be lucky. And many over the years have noticed that fortune favours the bold.

Are you familiar with the blog, “Moon of Alabama“? Most readers here are, but if you are not, you should be. It’s kind of like newspapers used to be, back before they were owned as business investments, staffed by corporate whores, written by political hacks and read by simpletons. A place you can go to read what happened, and draw your own conclusions based on what you read. As some professional writers counsel in workshops, write the book you want to read. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is not partisan, because everyone who writes for the public is a little bit biased one way or another, and it’s hard to keep that from creeping into your writing – moreover, a lot of stories on Moon of Alabama and other blogs I like to read appear after a shameless attempt in the popular press to shape and steer the narrative; a casserole made of layers of bullshit seasoned with a soupçon of lies. And it’s hard to write uninflected straight talk when you’re angry, or at least it is for me; writing a rebuttal presupposes you disagree.

Anyway, a big draw at Moon of Alabama, as well as the quality analysis by the author, is the quality of the comments and the valuable leads featured therein. Nobody is more aware than I that your writing effort is a fraction as effective as it might be without astute commenters who can put it together and run with it, making the whole greater than the simple sum of its parts. And I often discover quality sources and links from the comments as much as the story itself – that’s what keeps a story alive. Sure, those stories were already out there; the commenter is guiding you to it by offering you the link. But too often to be coincidence, the first place I find sources that substantiate the way things are really happening is at Moon of Alabama.

Like this one: Gazprom sent some of its turbine compressor units back to the manufacturer for what appears to be routine maintenance. The comment – from karlof1, which links back to one Karl Sanchez – was not supported by a link but featured a quote from a news story. So I checked it out in a search, and it appears to be accurate. Sending bespoke technology back to the manufacturer for scheduled maintenance is common practice, or sometimes a field service representative shows up onsite where the equipment is installed if it’s too hard to remove and ship. The point is that if you continue to operate the system past the date it is scheduled for routine maintenance and examination, and something breaks or burns out, you have voided the warranty. Some sources claim the gas-compressor turbines, which were built by German company Siemens, originated in Canada, while others claim they were supplied by the UK.

Either way, the Siemens representative host country accepted the turbines – and then claimed to be unable to return them because doing so was prohibited by sanctions.

So – and again I am interpreting what I read, because it is not spelled out and sometimes is masked by diplo-speak – it appears that Gazprom responded by taking other compressors which were coming up to their scheduled maintenance date offline. On the face of it, Gazprom looks to have little choice; sending the compressors for maintenance will result in them being impounded, while using them beyond their scheduled maintenance deadline will void their warranty. Pretty much the textbook definition of ‘impasse’.

But the important thing here is the immediate effect – a 40% reduction in the pipeline gas supply sent to Europe via Nord Stream 1. And that news comes on the heels of an explosion and subsequent fire at the LNG terminal in Freeport, Texas, which has knocked an important supplier of US LNG out of service for what was originally projected to be about 3 weeks, and now looks more like 3 months. European natural gas prices that were already at or near record highs jumped another 20%.

Some might be moved to suggest this is great news for Ukraine, which likely will once again volunteer its pipeline network for additional volumes to help its generous European benefactors. But let’s not forget where the gas comes from. Russia has thus far declined to send additional volumes across Ukraine, and is about as likely to do so now as it is to hit itself in the face with a cast-iron skillet. Ukraine has been shrieking since 2014 that Russia is the enemy and an unapologetic aggressor, and the two are fighting a compartmentalized but hot war right now. So it looks like Europe is going to have to tighten its gas-burning belt again, just when Uncle Sam cannot ride to the rescue with molecules of freedom. I’m sure Rick Perry is abjectly sorry he ever came up with that term, but I just enjoy saying it.

Quite a substantial number of people have already speculated that Europe is in for the winter of its life. And it might be, but it is going to feel the closing jaws of crisis well before the snowflakes fly – much of Europe is currently broiling to a tasty golden brown under a merciless heat wave (the trendy term is a ‘heat dome’) that is warned to worsen in the coming days and weeks. That has sent European electricity prices wiggling frantically upward. And Italy, the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands all generate more than 30% of their electricity needs from industrial plants powered by natural gas; in Italy’s case it is nearly half. Continue reading “Whatever Russia is, it isn’t Desperate: Hardball and Soft Heads.”

How Many Frequent-Flyer Miles Would it Cost to Send Ursula von der Leyen Non-Stop to Hell?

Wink
Uncle Volodya says, “Desperate and dammed persons share an affinity for flirting with danger; an infectious case of erotic morbidity fetters them to self-destruction.”

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan;

You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We’re all doing what we can

But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is, brother, you’ll have to wait…

The Beatles, from ‘Revolution

English is the language of a people who have probably earned their reputation for perfidy and hypocrisy, because their language itself is so flexible, so often light-headed with statements which appear to mean one thing one year and quite a different thing the next.

Paul Scott

Everyone is familiar with the quote, “The first casualty, when war comes, is the truth”. But there must be something special about this war – something unique and rare, which inspires public figures to heights of bullshit scarcely attainable without going on oxygen. And none has pushed the upper envelope of the craposphere the way Cowsmonaut Ursula von der Leyen has. Consider, for example, her parallel-universe speech to the World Economic Forum (WEF) on May 24th. We’ll get back to that in more detail, and I am confident that, like me, you will be shaking your head in wonder at its apparently-deliberate falsehoods. But first, a bit of background on Ms. von der Leyen; many of her colleagues in the European Clown Circus refer to her as ‘VDL’ because they are lazy, and so are we, so I’m going to refer to her the same way in this piece if that’s okay.

VDL is said to have been a ‘late bloomer’ in politics, completing medical studies and living for several years in the United States with her family before deciding to enter German politics. But she certainly started as she meant to go on, a series of disastrous failures of leadership and imagination as she quickly worked her way up to a black belt in incompetence.

“Fixing the German army, which had been starved of resources for years after the end of the Cold War, was a herculean task. Von der Leyen blamed many of the problems facing the armed forces on her predecessors. Now in her fifth year atop the ministry, she can no longer point fingers.

Her biggest failure at the ministry may have been in not winning over the officer corps and troops. As a woman in a male-dominated universe, von der Leyen was never going to have an easy task. But current and former aides describe her management style as distant and defensive. She surrounded herself at the ministry with a small group of aides who kept tight control on the flow of information. Many interactions with rank-and-file troops were in the form of photo-ops, which often showed the minister in dramatic poses alongside military equipment.

She offended many service members by saying publicly in 2017, after the discovery of a right-wing extremist in the ranks, that the Bundeswehr suffered from “weak leadership at various levels.”

Well, she was right about that; leadership at the very highest level sucked like a black hole. But I think we are well past the novelty phase of feminine leadership where you are being made to look like a failure because you’re a woman. It didn’t stop the political system from letting her hand-pick another woman – Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer – to succeed her, and she promptly proposed Germany acquire a first-strike nuclear capability as a deterrent to ‘Russian aggression or provocation’. Both these individuals were useless as a chocolate teapot at their jobs and it had not a thing to do with their gender, and everything to do with their overall uselessness at leadership. However, being a useless leader has not prevented VDL from pole-vaulting to leadership of the entire bloc.

And she might have offended some service members as Defense Minister of Germany, but by God it did not stop the Defense Ministry from trying to protect her from accountability by wiping her official phone records even after the Bundestag had ordered her phone held as evidence in an investigation.

Lindner also gave an exasperated interview to public broadcaster ARD on Friday, in which he described the Defense Ministry’s continued failure to produce the phone data, even though the Bundestag had declared the phone should be classified as evidence several months ago.

“First they said von der Leyen’s phone could not be found, they didn’t know where it was,” he said. “A week ago they said it was in the ministry, but only von der Leyen knew the PIN code, and yesterday they confessed that the relevant phone data had been deleted in August.”

Sound familiar? She might have only lived in the United States for a couple of years, but she certainly picked up a few tricks – remember the interrogation tapes from Abu Ghraib that were destroyed by the CIA even after a direct order to preserve them as evidence? And the woman who ordered them destroyed went on to be CIA Director from 2018 to 2021; poor thing, they probably promoted her because they felt guilty for picking on her because she is a woman.

The truth – according to a report by influential German publication Der Speigel – is that VDL has cocked up everything she touched since entering politics, blamed it on her predecessors, and shaken the dust of her last shattered ministry post off her heels too quickly for her to be punished for it . By the time investigators get their shit together, she has already moved on.

“VdL was in lots of ways a perfect appointment as President of the European Commission. She is good at grand promises, pledges of unity, and commitments to diversity. The problem comes when it’s actually time to deliver. At three major ministries in Berlin, she stumbled from one disaster to another. The vaccine debacle unfolding across the continent won’t have come as any surprise to those who have followed her career. When it came to buying vaccines, the Commission was too late, too chaotic, and too stingy. But when the problems emerged, VdL disappeared, and then tried to pin the blame on someone else: in this case first AstraZeneca, for failing to deliver supplies on time, and then on the British, for investing more, and earlier. ‘It is, to put it bluntly, a pattern that has occurred frequently throughout her career,’ concluded Spiegel.”

Stumbling from one disaster to another. Just the resume you want in the dreamweaver who is inspiring the eggheads at Davos. Well, I think that’s enough stage-setting – lets move on to her recent load of rubbish, introduced at the beginning of the post. Continue reading “How Many Frequent-Flyer Miles Would it Cost to Send Ursula von der Leyen Non-Stop to Hell?”