The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Open Thread

Use to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts.


Dog Bites Man: The US (With Foreign Allies) Did Blow Up The Nord Stream Pipelines


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – February 12, 2023


  1. mago

    I understand that it’s SuperDooperPooperBall tomorrow in the only country and culture that matters on this planet, so go man go and get your jollies where and how and when you can in confused spectacle.

    Also, you can drive in most any USA(!) city tomorrow traffic free.
    Something to appreciate.

  2. Trinity

    Lots of interesting new topics these days. Top of my list are the references to UFOs, leaving me wondering what this topic is supposed to distract us from.

    And at work, coworkers are gushing about the newest chatbot from OpenAI. I’m sure you all have seen the recent article on NC, but I’ll link to it and two other pieces about this latest “AI”.

    “ChatGPT lacks the ability to truly understand the complexity of human language and conversation. It is simply trained to generate words based on a given input, but it does not have the ability to truly comprehend the meaning behind those words. This means that any responses it generates are likely to be shallow and lacking in depth and insight.”

    “The panic and hype around the surprisingly dumb chatbot is stopping us from talking about real issues with AI” and I would add, that the very real fake economics behind SillyCon valley contributions to the insanity continue. Not to mention the major resources required to run such a system. Where will they come from?

    “OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, fed the tool some 300 billion words systematically scraped from the internet: books, articles, websites and posts – including personal information obtained without consent.

    If you’ve ever written a blog post or product review, or commented on an article online, there’s a good chance this information was consumed by ChatGPT.”

  3. Joe

    Regarding the pipeline explosion. It was odd how the incident was reported to have happened then soon after practically disappeared from the headlines. Gas prices then naturally went up blamed on the war. The silence was defining. It brought to mind the silence after the initial hubbub of the financial crash of 08. It does appear of late the so called news has stepped up to a new level of coordinated omission, lies, and leading persuasive propaganda. Maybe a new method has been adopted for the better dissemination through the current net based dissemination. Now we have “The object as place holder for Perfidious Chinese method to steal something undetermined presumably as a pretext for further sanctions. One does have to wonder we’re this is all going.

  4. Z

    I don’t buy into all that Curt Kastens has posted, especially his belief that the U.S. is the alpha in the U.S.-Israel relationship (How can it be when the U.S. State Department is given direction by think tanks and run by a Zionist trio who are Israel-firsters?), but I do believe that his theory that the U.S. (and I’ll add Israel) have hacked into the software used to launch Russia’s and China’s nuclear weapons and that this is a reason why the U.S. is being so belligerent to Russia and China.

    I believe it because it is something that I feared even before his posts about it and it explains so much such as: (1) the U.S.’s open talk of regime change in Russia and assassinating Putin if necessary, which would seem very risky otherwise, (2) Russia’s odd talk about being able to use nuclear weaponry on their submarines to cause radioactive tsunamis and other talk of their nuclear capabilities that would seem unnecessary to mention otherwise, (3) North Korea’s nuclear saber rattling, a country that Russia and China are close with and one the U.S. may have a harder time infiltrating their nuclear program, (4) the China surveillance balloon hovering over the U.S.’s nuclear site in Montana, which may have been used to try to hack into the U.S. nuclear software, (5) the U.S.’s lack of fear in escalating the Ukraine conflict, and (6) you damn sure know that this has at least been attempted by the U.S. and Israel.

    I also agree with Astrid’s point that the evidence provided by Curt Kastens was weak: a few U.S. military suicides amongst the higher ranks. However, if Kastens is correct that the U.S. hacked Russia’s and China’s nuclear software and have neutered their nuclear capabilities what evidence can you really expect other than circumstantial since it would probably be career, and freedom, ruining to anyone who credibly spoke out about it? So, it essentially really can’t be definitively proven at this point.

    Again though, I’d say there’s plenty that points to it being potentially true and you have to know that the U.S. (and Israel, which if you remember hacked into Iran’s nuclear program via Stuxnet) have their spies that are in high positions in Russia’s (especially) and China’s nuclear programs and probably have a decent degree of certainty in their capabilities to prevent a nuclear attack from Russia and China though it still comes down to a game of nuclear chicken because they can’t know for sure until it is put to the test and if they push it and are wrong, by the time they know it will be too late.

    Mr. Kastens also wrote this:

    It shows that the US has been hiding something. It can not negotiate in good faith because to do so would require that it then make some sort of admission that it does not wish to make. The leadership of the US does not want to come clean because to do so would be embarrassing.

    My question to Mr. Kastens is this: what are you referring in the above quote?


  5. Astrid


    Given the Blob’s hawkishness, I believe they would have directly attacked Russia and China if they actually disarmed MAD, as it is they’re still working through proxies and coming up very short.
    Also, if Russia and China suspected this, they could quietly disconnect their nuclear arsenal from the compromised system and reconnect to a clean system. Nuclear detonation isn’t complex. Such a hack only works once with an element of surprise, not if both sides knew or suspect it is happening.

    I thought Curt was referencing a way (EMT?) to physically stop detonations and that’s a pretty extraordinary claim to make, especially on the basis of two suicides of people not particularly closely related to the US nuclear program.

    I think the mentality of the Blob is perfectly explainable by looking at the history of elite criminality and contempt for everyone under them throughout there last 100 years. These guys thought they could “win” nuclear war in the 1950s and 1960s and would have had their chance but for Kennedy and Khrushchev. They carried out coup after coup against harmless socialist governments in the third world because those governments wanted to wrestle some sovereignty from US corporate interests. And this was all before the current brain rot settled in through 4 decades of exporting the US industrial base and 2 decades of losing against sandal wearing insurgents. These people don’t live in reality, they don’t care about anyone else’s life, they’re just highly specialized parasites who lack the capacity to understand that they’re killing their own host.

  6. Curt Kastens

    Refering to hiding something embarrasing in the above quote. I am not refering to anything specific. I am only making the point that when people are hiding something there is usually a reason for it. Usually it is something that would be at a minimum embarrassing if other people were to know what ever it was that was being hidden.
    And if two sides are negoitating and one side can easily, and with good reasons conclude that the other side is not negotiating in good faith why should the side that had been trying to negotiate in good faith not assume the worst possible motives for their adversary’s (and adversaries) behavior? In the case of Iran, Russia and China the worst case is to assume that the US is only interested in regime change.

    Now for a seperate question. Do the people of Iran, Russia, and China deserve better leadership? Well, doesn’t practically everyone on this planet deserve better leadership? And the idea that the US or Europe will help the people of Iran, Russia, China, or Ukraine, or Palestine, achieve better leadership is complete nonsense.
    But even if an enlightened, well trained, potentially well informed, generally honest person such as myself were to become the Regent of the USA it would not be my job to spend any time trying to support one side or another in achieving power in other countries. The world is filled with so much disinformation it is very difficult to know what is going on in one’s own back yard let alone what is going on half way around the world.
    Paleoconservatives, and most libertarians, and most genuine leftists agree that a nation should limit its foreign entaglements. That such diverse people should agree on something should be a pretty good clue that it is a good idea.
    Of course there are execeptions to every rule. But if you make an exception more than twice every century you are not talking about exceptions anymore. You are implicitly creating a new rule.
    Then to top that off we all where numerous hats during are time here on earth. A person wears one hat for their job, another hat for their family, another hat for their nation, another hat for their political party, perhaps a hat for their religion or philosopical outlook, if they have one. What I am getting to here just as an American or German or Canadian Citizen, let alone if I were a Government employee of one of these countries, it is not my job to meddle in the political manuverings in other countries. But as say a member of Socialist, or Libertarian, or Islamic, or Christian, or Buddhist movement IT IS MY JOB to sread the ideology to others no matter where they are on the planet. These movements and others are all in world wide compition.
    The ones that I listed seem not to be interested in where you were born or what language you speak. But what do believe about the rules that people should live by. So there is a bit of conflict there between are roles as national citizens and world citizens. But books have been written about how to mediate this conflict. Some general principles about how to mediate this conflict are well known.
    If American leaders have ever read these books they surely have not shown any interest in following some of the points that they have laid out.

  7. Z


    I think you are incorrectly assuming that the U.S. could beat Russia and China militarily in a conventional war. I think the assumption that the U.S. would win a war against Russia and/or China and that our rulers would ultimately benefit from it even if the U.S. prevailed is questionable. I believe that they are using this advantage to escalate knowing that they own the top rung on the escalation ladder, but the fact is even if the U.S. used it, it could, and I think would, bring about environmental and ecological devastation to the planet that our rulers are wisely not willing to risk.

    I had the same thought as you did that Russia and China would “disconnect their nuclear arsenal from the compromised system and reconnect to a clean system”, but I don’t understand the complexity involved in that and it could be difficult, or maybe even dangerous, if some of the top folks in your nuclear program are compromised and working for the other side, which I’d imagine under Kastens’ scenario Russia and China would most certainly suspect. I’ll note that Russia recently announced that they changed their nuclear doctrine. Maybe that has something to do with what you are referring to in regards to changing their detonation protocol.

    I also thought at first that Kastens was talking about some physical way to prevent nuclear bombs from going off. A software hack though is something I’ve been suspecting for a while due to the West’s newfound unconcern about Russia’s nuclear capabilities. Prior to this, they always ultimately ceded to it, now they’re playing a game of nuclear chicken and some of our rulers’ politicians and statestream media are calling on the U.S. to call Russia’s bluff that they’ll ever use them.

    I agree that our rulers don’t care about anyone else, but I also strongly believe that they are smart enough to realize that no one, including themselves, would benefit from a nuclear war. They’re greedy for sure, indifferent and even hateful towards the human herd, but they’re also finely tuned into their self-interests and are not stupid enough to believe that they would not pay a heavy personal price for a nuclear war and maybe the ultimate one.


  8. Z

    Carl Kastens,

    I’d say that the reason that the U.S. can’t negotiate in good faith is that they have to gain an advantage in negotiations in order to validate the power of the U.S. dollar which essentially is an inflated paper claim on more wealth than our rulers actually possess. Their paper wealth is most often tied to inflated assets such as stocks in which the foundational value is priced in dollars and thereby dependent upon the strength of the U.S. dollar. The U.S. real estate market is also dependent upon it because so much of the market is tied to debt and interest rates. Our rulers need “real” things in order to secure economic power so they have to finagle deals in which their paper wealth gains them resources, such as energy, and this is one of the reasons why they want regime change in Russia: to get Russia’s assets on the cheap like they managed to do during the Yeltsin era.

    If our rulers can’t establish that the dollar is worth so much in real assets then ultimately the debt overhanging the U.S. economy will eventually cause societal collapse, which we are already experiencing, though at a controllable rate as far as our rulers are concerned because so far they can still enjoy their privileges of wealth without too much personal aggravation.


  9. Astrid


    I’m not assuming that the US can beat Russia and China in conventional warfare

    I’m assuming that if they actually disarmed MAD, these maniacs in DC would have gone for decapitation strikes and a nuclear “demonstration of force” years ago. Let’s remember that’s why they dropped the bombs against Japan and they have a lengthy track record on this front against the not-right-wing enough leadership of many non-nuclear countries. And how close we came to nuclear annihilation during the Cuban missile crisis, by governing elites who indeed thought it was survivable.

    I can’t imagine that cleaning up code for nuclear launch would be particularly challenging. These are systems that don’t require much constant activity and it’s pretty much go no-go. Just separate and check a third of the stock at a time and check the software line by line, there’s probably not that many lines or high level of complexity to consider. I honestly don’t think US intelligence can get close to Russian or Chinese “crown jewels”. It’s one thing to penetrate civilian Iranian infrastructure via malware probably introduced by Western vendors of components, but there wouldn’t many such opportunities against Russian or Chinese defense programs.

  10. Curt Kastens

    I do have another reason for believing that the US/NATO has neutralized Russia’s and probably China’s nuclear strike capability, other than the suicides (murders?) of two US Generals. I just do not care to say what it is. As I, clearly do not have any direct knowledge of the case I would only be guessing as to how some method of sabotageing the nuclear deterents of two countries could work.
    I said nothing about this to anyone for months. The reason why is because I was not sure of what the motive was behind message. This claim can cut two ways. If Russian soldiers believe the story it could cause to become demoralized because of the technoligical backwardness of their own military industrial complex. On the other hand if it is true is shows that the war in the Ukraine did not happen because Russia thinks that it needs to possess more Ukrainian pigs or wheat fields. It shows that there was a long term US plan to involve Russia in a Ukrainian war. I decided that I could now talk about this on a public website because the risk that Russian soldiers will be demorilzed if the idea spreads is now beyond that stage as I imagine that they are already pretty down about their inability to win against a smaller nation. (Though we know that the Ukraine was fully prepared by NATO to fight a war of attrition against Russia)
    I am not going to write here what the other previous reason is that I believe this claim is true. No one on this site is in a position to pass judgement on the reliablity of the source because they lack conextual information. I did eventually give one other person information about the source. I do not know if he deemed the source credible or not. I do not know if he shared it further.
    Now the thing is I could be lying. I clearly have a motive to look the Pentagon look bad. Though in the eyes of many this story makes them look really good.
    The bottom line is that if you think that Russia has not used nuclear weapons yet because they have scruples against using nuclear weapons against nations that are trying to destroy them. Or that have not used nuclear weapons yet because they fear nuclear retaliation and an end to the world then there is no need to believe what I am telling you. It is an unneccessary detail.
    If you do not believe the claim then I guess you would want to ask yourself. Am I lying or have I been fooled. And if I am lying, why? The obvious answer I guess would be to make myself seem important.

  11. Astrid


    Frankly I don’t think any of your ideas make much sense and I do not agree at all with your views about how the SMO is going for Russia.

    You’re arguing an extraordinary claim without explaining the basis for the claim (is it hardware, software, human intel, or…) or offering any additional support. It’s really not better than me going around forums claiming Space Lizards are using the US Fed to crash the dollar or Biden is a reanimated corpse operated by a secret Zionist cabal.

    Please do tell why I should take anything you say seriously, other than that you think I should? Do you have any special knowledge about nuclear warheads or command and control systems? About Russian military doctrine? About US military doctrine? Where did you gather this insight that apparently only you have and are/were too scared to say anything more about, but not too scared to tell internet randos about?

  12. Astrid


    There’s pretty good evidence that Russia is far kinder and more measured against Ukraine than the collective West against their victims. Russia didn’t even target civilian infrastructure including roads and trains until the truck bombing of the Crimean bridge. They haven’t glassed Kiev offices even though they showed what their Kinzhals could do in the very early days of the SMO. Even now, there’s a lot of credible footage of Ukrainian war crimes (petal mines, intentional targeting of Donbass civilians, shooting and mutilation of Russian POWs, use of chemical weapons) and very little credible Russian war crimes.

    Russia appears to me to be a rationally led country. It wants peace and trade with its neighbors. It wants to be seen as the preferable alternative to the US, a country that upholds its side of the bargain (including bond payments and long term contracts, including paying Ukraine for transit fees even after SMO), a country that does not act rashly or irresponsibly, a country that will support it’s allies within the original UN framework. It’s even willing to tolerate decades of provocation and lying from the West. Even when it was finally pushed into war, likely because it concluded that war was coming no matter what and waiting will simply put itself into a worse position, it tried to push for a quick and relatively equitable settlement (neutral Ukraine, enforcement of Minsk 2, basically what the Ukrainian population voted Zelensky in to get) in March 2022. Russia/USSR didn’t drop nukes for the last 70 years, why do you assume that the only thing preventing it from dropping nukes now is fear of US nuke-neutralizing technology?

  13. Z


    I believe there would be a substantial cost to taking out China’s leadership in particular with the U.S. so heavily dependent upon China’s manufacturing and that there would also be considerable fallout in regards to world opinion. You’d need a pretty good reason to do it without experiencing some serious blowback on that, not that the scriptwriters at the CIA aren’t very good at creating justifications to attack countries but I’d say that their tales are losing credibility with the world.

    I also believe that you are oversimplifying the complexities of the systems involved with nuclear weapons. We’re talking about a network here that has to communicate with satellites and whatnot to accurately aim the warheads and I’d imagine there are other functions in the network as well regarding keeping data on the nuclear arsenals. The software to launch a bomb might not be complicated, though I don’t buy into that, but the networks involved in it complicate it substantially.

    That being said, I don’t know that for 100% certain and am not particularly qualified to offer an expert opinion as I’m not a software engineer nor have I had any access to nuclear weapon software or networks.


  14. Curt Kastens

    Thank you for being Frank.

  15. Astrid


    I’m just speculating based on the very little I know about unclassified old government systems. The nuclear one should have some very basic components for prelaunch, launch, and triggering. Toss in GPS, which was described in the 50s and in practice by 1978 and some way to manage the movement of the rocket, I don’t think there’s a lot of places to bury bad code and you’d think they can manage to keep that bit secured. This isn’t merchant banking or Windows, where bloated and poorly tested new features get bolted onto layers of older code. I could be completely wrong of course. I find every few years that no matter how pessimistic I am, reality has a way of beating out my worst fears by a lot.

    Whatever China may or may not be to the US, I think we’d agree that in January 2022, 99% of the Blob truly believed Russia was a nuclear armed gas station headed by *evil* Putler. So if MAD was no longer in effect, why didn’t they do to Putin what they’ve done to all the other uppity leaders of gas stations, copper mines, lithium mines, banana plantations…of the world?

    Perhaps Putin and Xi are scifi fans and see themselves as Hober Mallow to the West’s Korell.

  16. agent ranger smith

    Here is an interesting subthread running at Naked Capitalism.

    ” agent ranger smith
    February 16, 2023 at 12:03 am
    Any countryGov joining the UN system is understood to have accepted that all national borders are regarded as frozen at the time of their joining of the UN . . . . certainly any border revisions dreamed of on the basis of ethnic irredentism.

    So they are exactly the same, since both took place since the CountryGovs involved joined the UN system.

    I used the “quotes” around “annex” to indicate that the “annexation” was no annexation in either case, being equally illegal in both cases. But many people support Russia as against NATOkraine enough that they will overlook the exactly equal and equivalent illegality of border-change territorial annexation in the Russia over Donbas case.

    The UN Security Council will never vote to call it that because Russia will veto any such Resolution. That won’t retro-legalize the illegal annexation of Donbas.

    I believe the KenyaGov representative to the UN said something about how the newly decolonized African countries and etc. all thought peace would be better maintained through the studied non-revision of borders. But of course the KenyaGov would have the moral standing where the USGov would not. Even though the moral standing of the pointer-outer has nothing to do with the issue itself.

    Reply ↓
    Yves Smith
    February 16, 2023 at 2:13 am
    Please stop misinforming readers. It’s called Making Shit Up and a violation of house rules.

    The procedure that Russia used with Crimea and the “liberated” oblasts was identical to the one the US used in Kosovo.

    Reply ↓
    Daniil Adamov
    February 16, 2023 at 3:43 am
    And was that legitimate?

    Though I suppose we have to have some procedure for revising borders. Insisting on unchangeable borders is ahistoric nonsense.

    Reply ↓
    Polar Socialist
    February 16, 2023 at 4:35 am
    In the international law it’s called the right of people to self-determination, and it’s one of the cardinal principles of international law.

    And that’s about the extent that people can agree. Since it allows both for Catalans to drive for independence and for the rest of Spain to prevent said independence, there’s a school of thought that only people who can defend their right to self-determination (with arms) can self-determine their political status.

    And even that school can’t agree if the people are allowed to receive outside help while self-determining or not.

    The status of Åland islands is probably the only known example where an international organization has been able to settle the political status of a region. That and redrawing the borders in Europe after WW1 and the collapse of two empires.
    With the distinction that the first one still stands, while the latter was not as stable as it could have been.

    Reply ↓
    Daniil Adamov
    February 16, 2023 at 4:48 am
    That’s very much the problem with self-determination. It’s philosophically sound but politically unworkable – in nearly any conceivable situation it is impossible to satisfy the right to self-determination of some people in a territory without violating the same right of others in that territory. Deciding things by a referendum, even if it were the most unobjectionably conducted referendum in the world, would simply legitimise the violation of the rights of the minority. Any attempts to divide territories merely add gerrymandering into the mix without solving the core problem. So I am not sure that one can produce any kind of fair and workable law on the basis of that principle.

    (And of course “defending their right to self-determination with arms” just restores the right of conquest. Perhaps one might as well, but that is not how “international law” is advertised.)

    Reply ↓
    agent ranger smith
    February 16, 2023 at 3:19 pm
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Does that make the US procedure in Kosovo retro-legal? Or does the procedure and outcome in Donbas remain just as illegal as it was for Kosovo?

    And America did not formally conquer (“liberate”) Kosovo and declare it to be American territory, the way Russia has for Donbas. If it is legal for Russia to conquer Donbas under cover of a “referrendum”, then it is just as legal for
    Finland to reconquer Karelia under cover of a “referrendum” among the Finns and Lapps of Karelia if Finland can find a way to work that racket. See where this all could end up?

    So just exactly what “shit” did I “make up” here? Excessive emotional partisanship for Russia blinds one to dispassionate analysis of all issues at stake and in play.

    Russia defending itself against a long running US-NATO conspiracy to threaten Russia versus conquering and illegally annexing territory under cover of a “referrendum” are two different things. And practicing the “whataboutism” of saying that the US ran that racket in Kosovo, therefor Russia gets to run that racket in Donbas, is practicing emotional partisanship for a particular side, not advancing analysis of the overall situation.

    If you want to ban me for that, you will of course do so. But the question may well linger in the minds of any readers who see it before it gets erased . . . just exactly what “shit” did I “make up”?

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