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March 06, 2014

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Even Jon Stewart, from whom we generally expect (comic) rationality, referred to the shirtless Putin as "Titler."

On to read the rest of your post...

Side-note: Solaris was a science-fiction novel by Stanislaw Lem, about the ultimate inadequacy of communication between human and non-human species. To close the previous thread, I have posted a brief postscript on the "soleri-an" controversy that raged briefly through Rogue Columnist.

I would hate to waste the opportunity of a thread created in response to my comments, by remaining a quiet footnote; so at the risk of repeating myself, I'll copy over my remarks on Ukraine to the current thread.

Ukrainian nationalists on both the political left and right -- the core of the movement which recently overthrew their pro-Russian president -- would love to see an energy independent Ukraine instead of being a country dependent upon a cantankerous Russian government, which uses Gazprom like thumbscrews to keep the Ukrainians in line. Better still would be to actually compete with Russia as a regional supplier of natural gas. Finally, the Ukrainians are in a deep financial hole, so everyone, nationalist or not, can see why developing big new sources of revenue would be great.

So, why haven't they invited Western capitalists in to develop Ukrainian shale gas and oil on a major scale and on terms they can accept? Because the Ukrainian government has been firmly pro-Russian, and such development is not in the Russian national interest. Large cash infusions into the personal bank accounts of key pro-Russian Ukrainian leaders have played a part; so have Russian gas subsidies, which softened the attitude of the Ukrainian public.

Now, a Ukrainian nationalist-based uprising overthrows the pro-Russian president, and wants to tie the country's economy to the European Union, out of Russia's sphere of influence.

Russia, meanwhile, derives a large portion of its revenues and foreign-capital from sales of its gas and oil to Europe and others in the region. For a huge new competitor to pop up right next door -- one which also controls the pipelines through which 90 percent of Russian gas flows to Europe -- and take away a large chunk of Russia's market share, also driving down prices with a large increase in supply...this would spell economic disaster for the already tenuous Russian economy.

If Russia waits until the new government in Ukraine solidifies and signs new trade treaties and makes new investment and development arrangements, it would be too late: Russian military incursion at that point would be seen as nothing but a naked power grab. Acting now, under the excuse of restoring order and the legitimate leadership of Ukraine, by invitation of the legally elected (if deposed) president, is the best chance Russia has of securing a return to the status quo.

This isn't about the Crimea per se: this is about economics and the regime change necessary to insure Russian economic interests. The Ukranian president and his governing coalition was deposed by a popular uprising whose members were determined to push Ukraine away from Russia and toward the European Union. Many hundreds of billions of dollars in Russian energy revenues are at stake if the protesters' movement has its way and existing energy arrangements are restructured.

Europe currently gets a quarter of its natural gas from Russia (with Ukraine getting half it's supply from Russia). Europe has no shale gas production at present. Ukraine has the third largest shale gas reserves in Europe, but it could be far better: the Lublin basin could be home to shale reserves 10 to 15 times larger than the Barnett Shale, the largest shale deposits in the United States. There is plenty of water necessary for shale gas and oil production and the areas to be exploited require little or no population displacement. The problem has been lack of money and expertise for domestic investment by the government of Ukraine, and bureaucratic restrictions on development and exports which make investment by foreign capital unattractive on a large scale. If the new, protestor-driven government of the Ukraine changes this, the result could be to undercut Russia's oil and gas income by vast amounts, not only by means of Ukrainian development and pro-Western energy-trade agreements which would directly undercut Russian markets, but also because the increase in supply would tend to lower the value of the gas and oil which continued to be sold by Russia.

The Crimea is to be used as a forward staging area for the purpose of an invasion to replace the new government with the old, pro-Russian factions. Russia will have permission from the legal (if deposed) president of the Ukraine: he will cite his executive authority in asking for assistance from a friendly nation in putting down an illegal domestic uprising, and tamping down anarchy that (he will say) threatens ethnic Russians in Ukraine. Don't forget that days before the incursion into the Crimea, pro-Russian gunmen seized the Crimean parliament building, taking quasi-political control. This was planned in advance. Citing a 1997 agreement with the Ukraine which allows Russian to put up to 25,000 troops in the Crimea, and citing the executive authority of the legal (if deposed) president of the Ukraine, as well as the puppet government in Crimea, Russia has moved nearly that many troops in. Back on February 26th, well before the incursion into Crimea began, the Russian government began redeploying large numbers of military troops to the Eastern border of Ukraine under the camouflage of "training exercises". Again, this was planned ahead of time. There now stand more than 100,000 armored troops ready on the border.

The Russian "pause" is so that the Russians can put their ducks all in a row. The Crimea is not secured as a forward staging area long as there are 10 Ukrainian military bases there, where armed soldiers acting in concern on orders from Kiev could severely disrupt Russian operations in the rest of the Ukraine. There is a referendum scheduled for this month in which largely ethnic Russian Crimea will decide whether to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. If this passes (as is likely) the threat from Ukrainian military in the Crimea will be nullified.

Russia will also be watching for provocations, and if none are forthcoming, some will be manufactured. Russia has many agents of influence in Ukraine: the commander of Ukrainian naval forces himself declared allegiance to Russia and was arrested for treason. Many officers in the Ukrainian military were trained in Russia and have strong connections there. Pro-Russian civilian protest organizations are available to riot; others exist in right-wing Ukrainian nationalist organizations, who can use their positions to offer sound-bites threatening Russians in Ukraine. It will not take much.

Russia will deny, temporize, and conceal its true intent. When everything is in readiness, the tanks will rumble in, preceded by special forces paratroopers to secure key sites behind the lines. Kiev will be taken quickly, the new (pro-Russian) government in readiness will take over, arrests of former leaders and key protest organizers will be made. Russia will stress the temporary, requested nature of its presence in "restoring order and legality" at the request of the legally elected (if deposed) Ukrainian president.

Russia's European trading and financial partners in Europe (e.g., Britain, Germany) will not support biting, systematic international sanctions : aside from shooting themselves in the foot, Russia supplies a quarter of their natural gas at present. Replacing that with LNG shipped overseas from the U.S. would be expensive and disruptive. Volatility in the stock markets is just that, ups and downs, not a crash; and note that the stock markets did not stop Russia when it invaded Georgia.

These events have exactly nothing to to with Obama's foreign policy stance. Bush was president when Georgia was invaded. One does not invade a country just because a new U.S. president was elected six years ago. If Eisenhower sat by while the Soviets crushed the Hungarian uprising, Obama will not (and should not) start a hot war over Ukraine.

I don't want to advance false equivalencies, but this sounds awfully familiar:

"By a vote of 108 in favour to 9 (Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, El Salvador, Israel, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and the United States) voting against, with 27 abstentions, the United Nations General Assembly adopted General Assembly Resolution 38/7 which "deeply deplores the armed intervention in Grenada, which constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of that State". The USSR government observed that Grenada had for a long time been the object of United States threats, that the invasion violated international law, and that no small nation not to the liking of the United States would find itself safe if the aggression against Grenada was not rebuffed. The governments of some countries stated that the United States intervention was a return to the era of barbarism. The governments of other countries said the United States by its invasion had violated several treaties and conventions to which it was a party."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasion_of_Grenada#cite_note-autogenerated1-7

As I recall, we also invited ourselves into El Salvador to conduct training, arming, and organization of guerrilla fighters in Nicaragua, claiming that El Salvador had invited us in (even though, at the time, that wasn't true).

A couple of years ago, the right-wing news aggregator, The Drudge Report invited its readers to vote about which leader looked better shirtless, Vladimir Putin or Barack Obama. Guess who won with something like 98% of the vote? Maybe it was the ample moobs of Vlad the Paler. Or maybe that authoritarian jaw set. Who knows? Nonetheless, the American right's love affair with Vlad is probably more reflexive anti-Obama sneering than fondness for foreign thugs. Like Sarah Palin's comment that Obama wears Mom jeans. Give her credit. She didn't call him "boy".

When John McCain tells us "we're all Ukraineans now", the message is clear. Munich wasn't just "1938". It's every year, particularly when a Democrat is president. One telling sign of its zombie power is Hillary scuttling Godwin's Law, making an over-the-top comparison between Putin and Hitler. Does she really believe that? The better question, perhaps, is whether she really believes anything.

Munich analogies are first cousins to the wicked stepmother of American militarism, paranoia. The golden age was ushered in after WWII when Richard Nixon and Joe McCarthy tweaked the reptilian brains of Real Americans. Nixon, bless his heart, wasn't really that serious. But he did know something about us: we're suckers for dark insinuations of evil. And 40 years after Nixon left office, nothing has changed. Hillary is the sorry proof.

Rogue and Emil's background notes are good starting points to understand the torturous history of Eurasian plain. It's not anything tough talk and resolve and fortitude are going to change to a happy ending. I think even the zealots understand this. That's why the attacks on Obama are the real meaning of this crisis, at least here. We have our own war to fight and it's been going on for over 150 years.

Ian Welsh has been prolific of late (he found a way to get paid ;),) and he's quickly put up a rack of Ukraine posts over the last week. I'll confess that I've been forming my - currently tentative - views on what's going on there on his input - the "news from the front" varies wildly depending on outlet (the war-footed propaganda at work.)

Anyway, since Emil made inference that investment from the West (U.S., EU, IMF?) is stymied for reasons other than that it might actually be a bad thing, I'll lob a salvo from Ian's last post, and give a list of links in reverse chronological order for any who might be interested.

(And of course I'd like to here what y'all might have to say about any it, if you are so moved. Talk amongst yourselves, I'm eavesdropping as always.)

(Oh, and re your l'esprit de l'escalier in the last thread, Emil: And you would be... Stalin? Just kidding. I thought that was pretty fucking funny. I would never have heard of Lunacharsky if it weren't for you.)

Ian:

The IMF had offered 4 billion dollars, contingent on ending energy subsidies and opening the economy up. Ending energy subsidies would double price of energy, which would mean that the aging industries would go out of business and many Ukrainians would freeze next winter, because they can’t afford the higher prices. The EU trade deal was nothing special either: they don’t want Ukraine’s steel or lousy, Soviet era goods.

The Chinese Solution to the Ukrainian Problem

“Consequences” for Russia over the Ukraine

The 2012 IMF/Ukraine Negotiations

Does Sprint Nuclear Ability Matter? How much? Ukraine Edition

Some Perspective on Russian Intervention in the Ukraine

So Much for the Crimea

Corruption, Don’t Talk To Me About Corruption

This Ukraine Stuff Writes Itself

With that, I suppose it's only fair to add what I've glommed so far.

Looking at all of the players, it seems to me that "the West" (locus: Washington, DC) is the dunce in the schoolroom with its reactionary Imperialism. The vampire squid hovers, waiting to jam its blood-funnels into another restless country (h/t Taibbi.)

Given the crisis in the Ukraine and the state of the planet i am considering taking 3 mormon women with tons of warehoused food and water as wives. And what is a hovering vampire squid? And who is (h/t Taibbi)?.

To each of the conservatives that both mash on Putin and in the same breath curse Obama for not fighting him... I ask of them, "What SHOULD we do in the Crimea?"

Always interesting to hear the blather of people who understand nothing about supply chain logistics and have never heard a shot fired in anger.

If anyone is to intervene in the Crimea, it should be the EU.

I can’t speak for all conservatives everywhere, but this conservative wants nothing to do with the Ukraine situation other than maybe some words of encouragement or beratement. I wouldn’t even get into any economic help or sanction; it’s my understanding the Ukraine is an economic basket case. If we insist on anything it should be the Russia must take all of the Ukraine not just Crimea. Let them deal with anther money sucking ethnic group with a grudge.

When it comes to dumping on Obama, I’ll do it whenever his administration does something worth carping about. He is in charge of the entire executive branch of government and he has to take responsibility its actions. With this administration, there’s a lot to carp on. I don’t want to get into this here now (and maybe not ever, there just doesn’t seem to be a point). I have become a total cynic when it comes to our Federal Government. I don’t take any report, statement, statistic, etc. as being true. It might be true; or it might not. The only thing you can be sure of it that it will support and agenda and be self-serving. That includes the GOP.

Rogue, I got a chance to “take a walk” around the Central/McDowell area. With my crappy data plan, I do Google Maps at Starbucks. Just too easy to blow through a Gig of data. I liked the residential streets a lot. I took a close look at Lynnwood (or something very close to that). I like the size and style of the houses. I’m no expert on such things, but they to appear to be of 1930’s vintage with what I think of as the “craftsman style” construction; a style I’m quite taken with. I liked that the yards were grassy and the street had trees, even if they were palms (I grew up in Florida and got to hate the things).

Here’s my problem. I didn’t like the commercial streets at all. I didn’t get the feeling that if I lived there I ever say to myself: “I think I’ll take a walk five or six blocks to Rogue Tavern and have a couple brewskies and see what’s going on.” I can’t tell you exactly what I don’t like about them, other than I don’t.

Here are some streets I do like:
28.599811,-81.351067 Winter Park/Orlando Florida
33.48018,-86.79177 Homewood,Alabama (Suburb of Bham)
33.500586,-86.79627 Birmingham/Five Points
33.517697,-86.801533 2nd Ave Downtown Birmingham (Rouge Tavern)
If you look closely at the 2nd Ave location, you’ll see a very poplar bar, the Rouge Tavern

The problem with considering the United States' "proper" response to any international emergency is that our country is so tainted with ill-conceived "national interest" adventures (going way back in our history - "War is a racket!" - Smedley Butler,) that its credibility in these matters is pretty damned shameful.

It would behoove the U.S. to sit a few of these things out, but its (justly) paranoid "ruling" class could never have that.

Before anyone remarks on what a scandal it would be for the (purported or actual) Leader Of The Free World to look away, how about instead ponder what a liberating feeling for the rest of the world if it just would take a break like that.

They're really not all that into us anymore. It'd be smart to take the time to rebuild our "social capital."

But of course we have other priorities... the oligarchs have told us so.

So to summarize. There is no "Ukraine and us".

There is them and we wish them the best.

Petro, thanks for the great term, "l'esprit de l'escalier"! That's the sort of useful, one-of-a-kind term I love discovering. Definitely a keeper! (Re the communist references: soleri had been evoking Marx and I.F. Stone in his fishing-expeditions/provocations, so I thought I would return the favor. I do happen to see superficial similarities (including perhaps physical?) between you and L. so that the comparison isn't altogether inapt, I hope).

Ending subsidies abruptly in Ukraine would indeed cause problems. They have plenty of revenue sources in shale gas but this must first be developed. Russia might cut-off subsidies in retaliation. My view is that the big oil companies would be more than happy to broker the bridge loans while investing in the development -- of course for a fat return...

Emil, I didn't "invoke" Marx as a provocation. Indeed, I meant it as a compliment to you, that is, someone who is self-taught to an astonishing degree. I can understand a right-winger taking umbrage because - ooga booga!!! - Marx is evil. I assumed most readers on this blog would not collapse all distinctions in order to march in lock step to an paranoid idée fixe. But you? IF Stone, btw, was a hero of mine and many other Americans. He wrote in an incendiary style at time that crashed the echo chamber of establishment media. Seymour Hersh became his greatest succesor but Izzy was one of a kind.

While I have been compared to some of the great malefactors in history - Pee-wee Hermann comes to mind - Trotsky was a first. Now, I "get" your point. But I'm a Democrat because of the cold civil war that has paralyzed the American government to an unprecedented degree. That's my concern. Yes, I'm a partisan because we can't afford not to be in this situation. It's not that I think in a childlike terms of good guys vs bad guys. I actually prefer sane vs insane. And in this vein, sitting on your hands in order to cast Olympian judgments on all protagonists equally is simply vanity. I feel this thing as deeply and emotionally as I do not because I want to discard all nuance but because I want to keep this war front and center in our minds. If you don't see this, you're either blindered or an obstinate centrist.

I admire you very much but I can't read many of your comments for the reasons I explained. That's my complaint. You write in such a way that sucks the blood out of what ought to be my attention. If I wanted a conversation with an almanac, I'd read one instead. It's faster with minimal cross-talk. Human beings, on the other hand, are messy. They conflate good arguments and emotional ones. Their little bit of reason is contaminated by great drafts of passion. And this, to my way of thinking, is good. Conversation that moves us also clarifies values and the ambit of our love.

If you want to be a public intellectual who's also a rigorous thinker, Paul Krugman is probably as good as you can be. He's a serious economist who writes a popular column in the Times. His blog actually mixes the categories quite deftly, from wonkish discourses on abstruse data to popular music. I never have any doubt who Krugman is as a human being, someone who is fully engaged not only as a thinker but as human being who bleeds and feels deeply.

The point of these comments ought to be to increase one another's understanding, knowledge, and wisdom. But our attention spans are limited, so we make the appeals we can can come back another day. The conversation is never over. Make no mistake: I have learned many things from you. I value your brilliant mind and - occasionally - whip-smart wit. But I would like more. I want to see your dryer discourses breathe in such a way that I'm engaged to read them. My complaint has less to do with your ideas so much as not knowing what your ideas really are. But I might be completely off base. Maybe I am simply too shallow to appreciate your genius fully. If so, carry on, and I'll do my best not to disturb the distribution of your gifts in this space we share.

soleri wrote: "You write in such a way that sucks the blood out of what ought to be my attention."

Alas, I feel the same about you: your writing is a loosely held-together stream of non-sequiturs, unsupported assertions and pop-sociology, delivered with the fatuous self-regard of a television celebrity du jour. It's like reading a sermon, only without the numinosity.

soleri: "If I wanted a conversation with an almanac, I'd read one instead. It's faster with minimal cross-talk."

Unfortunately, it wouldn't do you any good to read an almanac: unlike my comments, in which relevant and related facts serve the purpose of analysis or refutation, an almanac is a largely unconnected series of statistical tables. How would you know what to make of such data, without the ability to synthesize data or the attention span and powers of concentration necessary to do so?

So far as I can judge, your approval of Krugman is, like your approval of nearly everything and everyone, correlated with the degree to which he shares your partisanship. This is not a comment about Krugman, just as my previous remarks were not a comment about Marx or I.F. Stone. I don't expect you to be able to understand this, because the armor of your ego is so dense that it reflects everything directed toward it to a less sensitive target.

soleri: "My complaint has less to do with your ideas so much as not knowing what your ideas really are." Really? After everything I've written, you don't know what my ideas are? When every serious comment is an expression of my ideas? What you really mean is that you don't judge ideas at all: you evaluate the writing of others according to vague, general categories, and you don't know enough about my personal or political background to pigeon-hole me in one of these categories.

Even now, you continue to offer provocations designed to elicit this information. (Note that "provocation" is not always synonymous with "insult"; if you don't understand this usage, consult a good unabridged dictionary.) I have no general pronouncements to make about Marx or political centrism, favorable or unfavorable. If the ambiguity makes you uncomfortable, too bad. Judge each of my ideas on its own merits, individually: I refuse to offer you the convenience of a category you can stuff me into in order to dismiss or accept me en toto.

I trust that I will not be penalized by the moderator for responding to frank, personal criticism in kind.

You won't be punished, Emil, although I am surprised you take such umbrage at what to me is both high praise and an understandable curiosity on the part of Soleri. I wish I could merit such admiration from a reader.

I would be curious about your assessment of Arizona issues more often. If it's not your thing, fine. If you would rather joust with Soleri, a la Vidal & Buckley, fine, too.

In my day job, being likened to an almanac is hardly a "personal" attack. About the most printable one over the past couple of days has been "loser."

When persons interact anonymously on a blog via the internet, their behavior is different than if they were conversing face to face.

It's a new form of human interaction.

It is what it is.

Good or bad. It's up to each of you to decide for yourselves.

Well, Reb (and I hope I am not throwing gasoline at the protagonists here,) as far as trying to put some "face" to the face-to-face, one of them is trying, and the other is denying.

Not that there's anything wrong with that (outside of the escalating persnickety-nous.)

The CIA is A okay.

LA cowboys are way different from the actors in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Mexico is a case of its own and no place to draw broader conclusions about worldwide activities.

The land of Arizona v Miranda and the Arizona's criminal "justice" system have needlessly shattered more innocent lives than all of the agency's infractions combined.

So the Senate gets a taste of the invasion of privacy that it has allowed and funded on US citizens for more than a decade.

Waiting for the world to change.

The bottom line, soleri, is that you attacked another contributor without a shred of justification: even taken at face value, it isn't your place to pick fights or browbeat others on grounds of style rather than substance. If something fails to ring your chimes, just skip it.

Incidentally, I don't think you should pose as a judge of what it means to be human. Styles and approaches vary. To suggest that someone is less than fully human because they choose to emphasize analysis and fact-finding in a particular context of non-fiction writing, is the height of arrogance. I am attempting to improve my reasoning and research skills, not running for political office. I will not be bullied by you into tailoring my style to suit your preferences.

That said, your excuses don't withstand a moment's scrutiny. This is the third thread in which you've engaged in this kind of antisocial behavior, but let's simplify by confining discussion to the current incident. Why did you respond to my comments about the Ukraine and Russia with abuse, both here and in the preceding thread?

Neither the subject (a military conflict in Europe which has riveted the world press) nor the thesis (regime change as a motive for Russian military aggression in Ukraine) could be described as "dry". There is very little that could be described as statistical or encyclopedic, just some basic points essential to developing the thesis that Russia's primary motivation is economic; so the comments are not "like an almanac".

I've already pointed out that your earlier excuses -- you supposedly don't like comments that are longer than a tweet or critical or express strong opinions -- are nonsensical and hypocritical, since your own comments commonly go on at length, criticize something or someone, and strongly assert a viewpoint; and you read Rogue Columnist, which shares these characteristics.

So what's really eating you? Your irrational hostility began after we had a factual disagreement to which, ultimately, you had no rebuttal. Suddenly, you're attacking me for being too concerned with truth and not emotional enough. If this is your reaction to being challenged on the facts, you have a serious problem.

I also note that you've contributed nothing to the discussion of Ukraine and Russia and have disputed nothing that I wrote. All you've done is snipe, nipping at my ankles like an angry chihuahua whose self-defined territory has been encroached upon by a stranger. The issues don't really concern you, and you're reluctant to discuss them with a competent debater who might correct you; but the easy fruit of ad hominem has backfired badly on you.

I fully expect you to shift to a new and different set of justifications without coming clean. Perhaps this sort of petty bickering is what drama queens live for, but personally I resent being forced to choose between time-wasting personal gamesmanship or else allowing personal attacks and misrepresentations to stand unchallenged, possibly encouraging more from someone who mistakes disinterested silence for a license to harass. I get online only infrequently of late, and having to waste precious session minutes dealing with this crap is galling. Nominally I get sixty minutes a day, but most days I don't login.

P.S. It's a short step from "Republicans are insane" to "those who criticize Democrats or Obama abet Republicans, and therefore are objectively insane". You're on a slippery slope, soleri.

Mr. Talton, I'd much rather spend time commenting on your blogs, as I explained above. I've been largely silent lately because I haven't been using the Internet more than once every 10 days or more, on average. Aside from the pile-up of things to do online, your blogs have usually scrolled on by the time I get to them. It is not like the old days when I checked daily.

The Ukraine topic was of particular interest to me and I waited expecting to see a new blog from you addressing it; when this did not materialize I chose to create my own opportunity: mea culpa.

Soleri's catty remarks are not "praise". Statements such as "Maybe I am simply too shallow to appreciate your genius fully" drip with irony. In the course of his remarks he's called me vain, insecure, and mind-numbingly (or "blood-suckingly") boring. Those are personal remarks, not substantive remarks addressing my comments.

It isn't the content of the attacks themselves, which are easily dismissed: it's the fact that every time I post something I am being attacked in order to discourage my participation. Anyway, hopefully this will pass into a dead issue without further delay.

So, to summarize, there is no Ukraine AND us.

P.S. Where is that dang airliner?

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