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.

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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?

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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?”

We Have Become the Soviet Union Our Parents Used to Frighten Us When We Were Children.

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Uncle Volodya says, “Anger is an acid that destroys its own container.”

“Together, they would watch everything that was so carefully planned collapse, and they would smile at the beauty of destruction.”

Markus Zusak, from “The Book Thief

And you tell me over and over again, my friend;
You don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction…

Bob Dylan, from, “Eve of Destruction

Most of us are familiar, in that casual way of recognizing something heard before without really pondering its import, with this Nietzsche quote: “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster . . . when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” It is just as apparent that the west’s political leaders have never read it, or if they have, have decided to ignore it in favour of becoming the monsters they condemn. And so, slowly at first but with gathering speed and breathless momentum, we are ‘fighting those who hate us for our freedoms’ by giving them up, or at least remaining silent while they are taken away for our own good.

Journalism such as we once knew, at least the older among us, has given way to ‘shaping the narrative’, and authors take pride in steering people’s beliefs in various directions regardless what is actually happening; I’ll give you an example. Give this a quick read.

Finished already? Let’s start with the opening sentence: “As the war in Ukraine goes on way longer than Vladimir Putin appears to have anticipated, the Russian leader is getting increasingly aggressive.” This is typical of a fairly-recent phenomenon in what used to be journalism, in which you tell your readers what the target’s objectives and reasoning are, and then mock him for failing to achieve the objectives and for commencing on such half-baked reasoning. Nobody outside Russia has the slightest real idea how long the Russian government expected a war it entered into with the greatest imaginable reluctance, and only after being pushed and baited and prodded by the west, to endure. The imagined and much-touted hammerstroke which would have had the Russians in Kiev in just 72 hours is and was always a western invention, based entirely on unsupported assumptions – in this case by America’s top soldier, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley. But you can google the phrase “Russia could be in Kiev in 72 hours analysts” and come up with pages of predictions by ‘people familiar with the assessments’ and unnamed ‘security officials’ which line up behind the purported lunge at Kiev, with the entirely fictional goal of “remov[ing] the country’s democratically elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky.”

Russia has never said or published any timeline for the operation, has never said it intended to seize Kiev, has never in any way implied that removing Zelensky is an objective. In fact, as reported by Jacques Baud in The Postil Magazine’s “The Military Situation in the Ukraine—An Update“, there was never any reason to strike at Kiev, although a feint was made toward it simply (a) because that’s what the west expected based on the silliness broadcast by its quacking analysts and its soldier-politicians, and (b) to prevent reinforcement of the bulk of the Ukrainian Army, which was poised on the line of contact of the Donbas/Lugansk Republics to effect the violent capture and return to Ukrainian control of those republics, and for which military operation the artillery bombardment had already commenced.

Moreover, Ukrainian forces are never indicated on our maps, as this would show that they were not deployed on the Russian border in February 2022, but were regrouped in the south of the country, in preparation for their offensive, the initial phase of which began on February 16th. This confirms that Russia was only reacting to a situation initiated by the West, by way of the Ukraine, as we shall see. At present, it is these forces that are encircled in the Kramatorsk cauldron and are being methodically fragmented and neutralized, little by little, in an incremental way, by the Russian coalition.

The vagueness maintained in the West about the situation of the Ukrainian forces, has other effects. First, it maintains the illusion of a possible Ukrainian victory. Thus, instead of encouraging a negotiation process, the West seeks to prolong the war. This is why the European Union and some of its member countries have sent weapons and are encouraging the civilian population and volunteers of all kinds to go and fight, often without training and without any real command structure—with deadly consequences.

Another effect of this vagueness is that Ukrainian casualties are whatever Zelensky and his and the western PR machines say they are; consistently low-balling Ukrainian losses and wildly exaggerating  Russian casualties contribute to a tentative western belief that Ukraine is ‘winning’ and that pouring more weapons and money into Ukraine will propel it to success rather than condemn more Ukrainians to death by dragging out the war for as long as possible. Anyway, I could go on all day with that one sentence; let’s wrap up, because we have somewhere else to go. The opening sentence closed with “…the Russian leader is getting increasingly aggressive.” The ‘aggression’ referred to here is the shutting off of gas supply by Russia to Poland and Bulgaria, both transit countries for Europe, because they had refused to pay for gas in rubles as required by Russia and had let the compliance deadline pass. So, by refusing to sell gas to those countries on their terms, Russia is ‘being aggressive’. Why would it take such steps? I can explain in two words; “Michael McFaul”. Continue reading “We Have Become the Soviet Union Our Parents Used to Frighten Us When We Were Children.”

Offramps and Blind Alleys: NATO is Reduced to Directing Traffic.

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Uncle Volodya says, “Mockery and derision have their place. Usually, it’s on the far side of the airlock.”

“Nothing is easier than self-deceit.
For what every man wishes,
that he also believes to be true.”

Demosthenes

“Stupid is as stupid does”

Forrest Gump

Mick Jagger taught the world that it can’t always get what it wants. But if I could get what I wanted, just once, I would hope for a moment of clarity in which the western ‘democracies’ looked back upon the events of the past decade with absolute objectivity – if necessary, viewing their own actions and reactions as if they had been carried out by someone else – and appropriately judged them with candor and responsibility. Once I would have hoped these executions and maneuvers would be assessed with a generous dose of “What the fuck were we thinking?” But I’ve grown a touch cynical since then, and I’m pretty confident much if not all of it was deliberate, planned. What in the name of God are we turning into?

Such a moment of clarity, too, might reveal the grotesque misjudgments which prevailed in the quickening events that resulted in Russia entering Ukraine upon a military operation. For months a substantial force of Russian military equipment and personnel remained near the Ukrainian border with Russia, within Russia but in plain sight of observers. The purpose of this seemed clear to everyone, not least the Ukrainians – we see you, and we know what you’re thinking. Don’t do it. Because unremarked by many and almost exactly a year ago, President Zelensky had issued a decree that Crimea was to be recaptured by Ukraine, and began to deploy his forces along the borders of the rebel eastern provinces. Most thought – I among them – that the Russian forces arrayed within easy striking distance would deter the Ukrainians from anything foolish. In this, NATO was in exactly the kind of no-lose position it relishes after months and years of careful plotting and instigation – if the Russians reacted, it would be an unwarranted invasion of Ukraine, exactly as NATO had been warning of with increasing stridency, because it was provoking just such a development. If it did not, the Ukrainian forces would inexorably roll over the eastern provinces, all the way to Crimea, and bring it back under Ukrainian control while Russia raged from the sidelines, impotent.

Anyway, I have no intention of simply lifting all the references from Jacques Baud’s seminal post, “The Military Situation in the Ukraine”; it is a dramatic departure from The Narrative, and I’m sure the Wikipedia Patrol is already hard at work painting him as some sort of compulsive loon, who occasionally escapes from the asylum long enough to expound a crazy conspiracy theory before the white coats seize him and hustle him back to medicated slumber. No matter – his work speaks for itself, and is impeccably referenced using official UN and national reports and documentation. Although it provides powerful substantiation for what we have been arguing here for years now, and could not have appeared in a more timely fashion unless it could have averted the crisis altogether; although I enthusiastically urge that it be shared widely – it’s not the piece I came here today to talk about. This is.

Putin needs an off-ramp.

Yes, that’s The Thinking Westerner’s position as laid down in The Atlantic: NATO has been handed the puzzler of how to make Putin think he won, while displaying to the entire rest of the world that he lost, convincingly. And it’s what makes Baud’s exposé so serendipitous, because he recounts how the west has completely lost its mind, to the extent it believes – or affects to believe – its own Hollywood nonsense.

And in precisely the moment of clarity and reflection I described in the beginning of this effort, the dedicated observer might note that western think-tanks were occupied with how they might rescue Putin from his crazy bad self, only three weeks into an invasion the Ukrainians were supposed to be winning on sheer guts.

How could that be? I guess we should take a closer look. Continue reading “Offramps and Blind Alleys: NATO is Reduced to Directing Traffic.”

Experience is a Hard Teacher. Get Ready for the Lesson.

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Uncle Volodya says, ““Those who are capable of tyranny are capable of perjury to sustain it.”

We didn’t start the fire;
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning:
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it,
But we tried to fight it…

Billy Joel, from “We Didn’t Start the Fire”

Experience. Life-lesson quotes frequently feature it, like the one in the title; experience is a hard teacher, because she gives the test first, the lesson after. Also in one of my favourites, which I have occasion to use often; experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn at no other.  The two are enough alike in meaning that they could be variations of one another. At any rate, the meaning is clear; if opportunity affords, learn from the experience of others – and only fools need to repeat the mistake themselves before they learn anything.

What can be said, then, of those who fail to learn from the experiences of others, repeat their mistakes and still learn nothing?

Humanity is complicated. Over a period of years, prevailing social mores and, more recently, ‘cancel culture’ have made even humour a minefield that you navigate at your peril. To say nothing of hate. Hate is simply an emotion that we must never express. All the precious ones are off-limits, and it is getting so that even tolerance is no longer enough – endorsement is increasingly the standard, and celebration would not be too much to ask. In an ambient state of such frustrated fury, little wonder that many of us are getting like Michael Douglas in “Falling Down”. We need someone to hate, to blame for our troubles and to loathe for the sorrows of others. It has always been a little bit fashionable in the west to dislike Russia, although until 2014 it was mostly limited to sneering at imagined Russian backwardness, based on trace memories of its Soviet past that were themselves more stereotypical than typical; unsmiling people trudging to endless labor in their ill-fitting clothing, through grey streets devoid of cheer or hope.

But the full-on hatred now, fired in the forges of a western media which simply takes dictation from the Ukrainian government and does not bother to fact-check anything, is something to see. Nothing, apparently, is too small-minded or petty to turn into a political statement.

The French, unwilling to just stand by helplessly, have turned their wrath on…Russian cat owners. And Russian cats. The Fédération Internationale Féline issued a chilly directive during the first week of March banning Russian cat breeds from international competition.

“According to a statement released last week by the Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe), as it’s known in French, all cats bred in Russia, as well as all cats with owners living in Russia, would not be permitted to register for international competitions outside of Russia nor even be added to pedigree books starting this week.”

A concert in Vancouver featuring rising young Russian superstar Alexander Malofeev was postponed, because the director of the Vancouver Recital Society feared that protests by activists and their supporters would spoil the show. This was the third attempt to have the artist perform in Canada; the previous attempts were aborted due to the COVID ‘pandemic’. Canada has the second-largest Ukrainian diaspora in the world, many of them the descendants of west Ukrainians who fled Soviet Ukraine ahead of the Red Army near the close of the Second World War. International soprano Anna Netrebko and Director of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra Valery Gergiev were fired because they did not respond to a deadline directive to denounce Vladimir Putin and the war. Gergiev still had 3 years remaining on his contract. Netrebko issued a statement saying “…forcing artists, or any public figure to voice their political opinions in public and to denounce their homeland is not right.” Germany didn’t want to hear it. Nothing is outside politics anymore – not art, not sport, not cat shows. Continue reading “Experience is a Hard Teacher. Get Ready for the Lesson.”