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.”

Washington Pretends it was Always the Manager of Nord Stream II

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Uncle Volodya says, “All over, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.”

“Narcissists are very retaliative if they believe another has achieved what they desire, exposed their insecurities, or refused to be under their control.”

-Lorraine Nilon

Well, it’s official: Washington has ‘decided’ to stop opposing the Nord Stream II pipeline from Russia to Germany, and has struck an agreement with the latter for the pipeline’s completion. Nord Stream II is a twin pipeline laid alongside the original, which has been operational since November 2011. Nord Stream already consists of two lines, the first opened in November 2011 and the second in October 2012. Nord Stream II will double that again, and increase pumping capacity to well over 100 BcM at maximum volume.

There’s a certain art – which Washington has perfected – of continuing to spin even when you failed to get your own way so that failure looks like a kind of success. A skill that allows you to pretend everything is unfolding exactly as you had planned it would, so that you even appear to believe it yourself. And few can surpass the arch-demoness of the US Department of State, Victoria Nuland, in that arena. Listen to her strut and swagger (translated by Moscow Exile).

“We imposed significant sanctions in May on an additional 19 organizations, and we also imposed sanctions on the [pipeline] operator and employees, but we suspended them in the interest of seeing if we could get Germany to work with us, the Ukraine and Poland on the issue of the consequences and vulnerabilities that this pipeline creates for the Ukraine,”, Nuland said.

“We have not taken any action to [force] the Ukraine to remain silent. The Ukraine is a sovereign country and speaks for itself”, the diplomat said, commenting on the Politico newspaper article about Washington’s alleged demand for Kiev to stop criticizing the pipeline.

“Today we will publish the agreement that we have reached with the German government. I can provide you with a number of details here”, she said.

According to Nuland, within the framework of agreements with the United States on the Nord Stream 2 project, Germany has undertaken to seek the development of pan-European sanctions against Moscow in the event of aggressive steps by Russia against the Ukraine.

“Among other things, Germany has pledged to take measures at the national level, as well as to seek the application of effective measures at the European level, including sanctions, to limit Russia’s export potential to Europe in the energy sector if Russia tries to use energy resources as a weapon or commits further aggressive acts against the Ukraine. This is one aspect of this agreement”, she said.

In addition, Nuland noted, Berlin, within the framework of the agreement with Washington on Nord Stream 2, had agreed to support the extension of the agreement on the transit of energy carriers between Russia and the Ukraine, which expires in 2024. The United States is seeking to extend this agreement for 10 years, said the deputy head of American diplomacy. “Another aspect of the agreement is support for the extension of the transit agreement between Russia and the Ukraine. As you know, it expires in 2024. We will seek with all the levers of influence for an additional 10 years for the Ukraine,”, Nuland said.

To shorten all that up for you, in case high-octane political bullshit makes your eyes glaze over, the United States ordered Russia not to complete the Nord Stream II pipeline, emboldened by its unqualified success in stopping its predecessor, South Stream. Russia kept plodding ahead. The United States gestured mystically, and international sanctions rained down upon Russia’s head. It turned up its collar, set its feet and resumed plodding ahead. When the pipeline was nearly completed, the United States ordered Russia’s Swiss pipelaying partner, Allseas, to abandon the project or face American sanctions, and the company immediately put its tail between its legs and scampered away. Russia brought its own pipelayers into service to finish the project. Increasingly frantic, the United States began probing and brainstorming how best to manage the catastrophe…and settled on the German marshmallow as the weak link.

A Workplace Guide to Managing Your Control Freak Colleague

Perhaps it’s unsubstantiated nostalgia on my part, but I remember the United States being a lot better at strategy. You’re never on your best game when you’re an habitual aggressor who is playing defense, but not even that accounts for the misplaced triumph of a fabricated win after a bunch of flailing around that has achieved more or less nothing. The USA’s aim, ostensibly, is to force Russia to continue transiting gas to Europe via Ukraine, and paying Ukraine a lucrative premium for the privilege. This, in turn, is so the United States can impose a measure of control both over Russia’s ability to transit gas, and over Europe’s ability to receive it, by stirring up trouble in Ukraine. It is fairly plain Washington intends to manipulate circumstances in Ukraine so as to create a situation in which Germany must keep its promise to petition for more sanctions if Russia is ‘acting aggressively’. However, as soon as Nord Stream II is complete, Ukraine will have lost nearly all its strategic value. Continue reading “Washington Pretends it was Always the Manager of Nord Stream II”

The Near-Global Collapse of Critical Thinking

Uncle Volodya says, “When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false.”

“Every ounce of my cynicism is supported by historical precedent.”

– Glen Cook, Shadow Games

“The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who haven’t got it.”

– George Bernard Shaw

I’m lazy. But vanity constrains me from admitting that, so I call it ‘busy’. However I choose to label it, I haven’t written anything new in a long time. It’s not writer’s block, because I had a couple of topics in mind; if I had to blame it on anything, I’d blame it on the comments section. We don’t really have any rules here, or not many (there are a couple of people who can’t comment, but that’s because they cannot be trusted to not instantly return to old habits as soon as they are allowed), and things routinely drift off-topic to whatever is going on at the time. Current events; yes, that’s the term I was looking for. So when new things are happening, we tend to discuss them in the comments section, instead of my writing a new post dedicated specifically to that issue. It’s the primary cause, I’m afraid, of important comments you would like to be able to locate because they contain hard-to-find sources or just the information you need to settle an argument, because they are not linked by subject. Obviously I prefer the unregulated format, or I wouldn’t use it, but it does have its disadvantages.

Anyway, the silver lining that comes with being late to discuss a particular current event is that you get to talk about the filtered version, after the ferment has settled down and often new facts have presented. So it is with the teapot tempest of Alexei Navalny, vaulted to international fame virtually overnight by becoming the latest victim poisoned by nefarious Soviet-era deadly nerve agents that, in their known application, have a success rate of 16.67%. A funny statistic has emerged from the absurd times we are living in – a viral infection, the ‘novel coronavirus’, more commonly called COVID-19, has the world shivering with terror like frogs in a glass cage with a big snake, even though its Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) compares with the annual influenza bouts we have lived with all our years. Yet an engineered nerve agent reputed to be ten times as deadly as the most toxic poison the west could come up with – one which, I might add, has a known survivor list among the exposed of zero point zero – has never killed the individual it was intended to kill, and managed to incidentally slay one innocent bystander who was also an alcoholic and drug abuser. As John Lennon remarked in “Nobody Told Me”; strange days indeed. Most peculiar, Mama.

I meant to do a post on Navalny – more correctly, my patience with the ridiculous statements made about his latest adventure finally evaporated – after reading this amazingly cheeky tapestry of fabrication; “The Kremlin, predictably, says it didn’t poison Alexey Navalny. So what can the West do?”

I looked it up so as to have an electronic link, so readers could get the full effect. But I initially saw it in the newspaper, the Canadian Globe & Mail (British Columbia edition), in which it was headlined a little differently – “Why nobody has power to make Kremlin come clean on poisoning”. So far as I can make out on initial examination, the body of the article is unchanged. Both pieces – well, the same piece with two different headlines – are by Mark MacKinnon, who is The Globe & Mail‘s senior international correspondent, based in London, UK. He’s quite highly-regarded by his employers, is a seven-time winner of the National Newspaper Awards (for creativity, perhaps, although they don’t say), and the author of…”The New Cold War: Revolutions, Rigged Elections and Pipeline Politics“. Gee, that sounds like it might be about a particular country; let’s have a dekko at the writeup.

“When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapsed two years later, liberal democracy was supposed to fill the void left by Soviet Communism. Poland and Czechoslovakia made the best of reforms, but the citizens of the “Evil Empire” itself saw little of the promised freedom, and more of the same old despots and corruption. Recently, a second wave of reforms — Serbia in 2000, Georgia in 2003, and Ukraine in 2004, as well as Kyrgyzstan’s regime change in 2005 — have proven almost as monumental as those in Berlin and Moscow. The people of the Eastern bloc, aided in no small part by Western money and advice, are again rising up and demanding an end to autocracy. And once more, the Kremlin is battling the White House every step of the way. Mark MacKinnon spent these years working in Moscow, and his view of the story and access to those involved remains unparalleled. With The New Cold War, he reveals the links between these democratic revolutions — and George Soros, the idealistic American billionaire behind them — in a major investigation into the forces that are quietly reshaping the post-Soviet world.”

Because western-imposed liberal democracy has been such a star-speckled success in so many places – Libya. Iraq, Venezuela…anyway, the above author information is offered to sort of set the tone for the type of worldview you might expect. And to introduce a premonition, before you even read his material, that Mark MacKinnon just might be exactly the sort of guy who would smirk with revulsion at the mention of Putin’s name, and have a big ol’ man-crush on Alexei Navalny. I’m not implying anything untoward, here; Mr. MacKinnon is a realist. An ideologue, yes, but a realist. Continue reading “The Near-Global Collapse of Critical Thinking”

The USA is Not Ever Going to be a Major Gas Supplier to Europe. That’s Never.

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Uncle Volodya says, “When I find that stubbornness continually overrides common sense regardless of the logic of my argument, it seems that the only effective solution is to tell them to go ahead and stick their finger in the socket. And what I find is that what my argument failed to solve, electricity does quite nicely..”

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”

– Lao Tzu

“Here’s to the few who forgive what you do, and the fewer who don’t even care”

Leonard Cohen, from “The Night Comes On”

There must be a term for words which become so inexorably and automatically associated with one another that one of them is immediately assumed without being spoken. Like “dairy ice-cream”. I realize there are non-dairy kinds of ice cream, but generally speaking, ‘dairy’ is assumed when you say ‘ice cream’. And so it is becoming with “the United States of America” and “hyperbole”. Always known to some degree for self-aggrandizement, America’s official conversation with the world now routinely includes not only oft-repeated falsehoods that are intended to be repeated until they become truth, but wildly improbable schemes which seem to have as their purpose a general inoculation of feelgood in the American population, a return to those grand old ‘anything is possible’ days.

Certainly nobody else believes them.

An instructive, and repetitious example is the premise that the United States is going to become the major supplier of economical energy to Europe, supplanting Russia’s pipeline-delivered gas with tanker-loads of ‘freedom gas’ – I wish I was kidding, but I’m not; American leaders seem to think Europeans would eat a brick if you painted ‘freedom’ on it – brought to Europe’s LNG terminals by ship.

I’m sorry to keep bringing it up, and I know we’ve been over this and over this…but. The USA simply will not stop with this silly fable that good old American can-do will overcome all obstacles, regardless the difficulties they present. In fact, it calls to mind a line I read in Phillip Lewis’s wonderful “The Barrowfields” – “A beguiling optimism is often the first step toward folly”. America convinces itself that it can do it, and then afterward you’re not allowed to point out that it did not do it, because that would be rude and a repudiation of its cheeky and inspiring optimism.

How many times now – and you don’t even have to cast your memory that far back – has the United States promised that if the ‘free world’ (whatever that means) will only band together with it in a coalition (which it will lead, naturellement) they will turn this or that nation, presently afflicted with dictatoritis and not enough freedom, into a prosperous western-leaning market democracy? How many times has that actually come about? Has it ever? Iraq and Libya were ruined, spun in the negative-development chamber and spat out decades behind what they were before the Glorious Liberation. The Coalition Road Show gave it an honest try in Syria, where the megalomaniacal plan was to ease up on ISIS until it had managed to wipe out Assad, then pour on the coal in the home stretch, evict the flea-bitten rebels and implant a liberalizing Syrian leader who would occupy himself with gay marriage and other important western issues, while ‘international investors’ took over state energy production. Unfortunately – depending on your viewpoint – Russia spoiled that rosy outlook, and the western media went from confidently and mockingly forecasting Assad’s imminent demise to squawking about damage from Russian airstrikes that had not even taken off yet to grudgingly – and bitterly – allowing that Assad could remain in charge in the country that voted him into that capacity. America, largely on its own, tried it in Venezuela, and while it was predictably successful at causing ruin, it achieved nothing much else, although it’s early days yet and it has obviously not given up. Occasionally, it is distracted by the possibility of causing ruin in Iran, and wavers back and forth on which place it plans to ruin next.

Anyway, never mind that – I only wanted to point out that a sunny assessment of American intention to re-order this or that reality, plus $3.95 will get you a Caffe Mocha Grande at Starbucks.

I would therefore like to redirect your attention to the latest piece of caterwauling about Nord Stream II. Continue reading “The USA is Not Ever Going to be a Major Gas Supplier to Europe. That’s Never.”