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.


Quick Takes 3: Foreign Interference, Pandemic Deaths As New Normal, China-Brazil Trade and More


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 18, 2023


  1. Curt Kastens

    Putin Says that he can destroy any building in Central Kiev. I think that the with impunity part is implied. Still, that counts for nothing.
    When Putin, or the Russian Leadership can destroy any building in central London with impunity, that would count for something important.
    When Putin can destroy any building, or bridge, in Central Washington DC with impunity is when Russia and China have won the third or the fourth or what ever world war humans are on now.

  2. bruce wilder

    Putin Says that he can destroy any building in Central Kiev.

    My take is that the implication Putin intended was something more like, “Russia is acting with deliberate restraint even in the face of Ukrainian provocations like the attacks on the Kremlin itself and in Belgograd (sp?). Think about the implications for your thinking about Russian aims and methods in this war.”

    My view is that Western leaders and media are effectively campaigning for escalation of the war to whatever level is required to destabilize Putin’s regime and/or induce a Russian admission of defeat and failure. Zelensky has been supported since before February 2022 in demanding Russian withdrawal from Crimea and abandonment of Donbas and Russian communities in Ukraine. Poland and the Baltic countries were admitted into NATO and supported in sometimes fairly extreme anti-Russian policies.

    Putin, always a cautious and careful calculator, is trying to draw attention to his own deliberate and measured conduct. This war is negotiation continued in arms after failure in diplomacy and in the political contest within Ukrainian politics. Russia’s stated aims are ridiculed in the West.

    What is not clear to me is the means available to force an end, when the U.S. wants perpetual war for ulterior reasons like MIC profit.

  3. Curt Kastens

    Oh Shit!
    No shit, Sherlock

    This link does NOT leave me speechless. It leaves me speechvoll.

    Once upon a time I would have considered applying for German Citzenship. Now that is completely out of the question. The German Government, and the six parties that apparently try tp compete to control the institutions of that government are no more reasonable or realiable than than the Democrats and Republicans in the US. At best there are some reasonable rational people in the Links Party but as a whole that party can not be trusted either. And then there is Gerhard Schroeder, he has been disgraced. But he is still a German.
    For that matter I am German too. Even though I do not hold citizenship of Germany. I am a German in the sense that Rheinlanders, Bavarians, Saxons, Austrians, Swiss, and Tyroleans are Germans. I make up my own historical subset of Germanness.
    And not only that I am considering redifing who is a TRUE German. Having ancestors who lived for 20 or 30 or 40 Generations on land that is in a German speaking part of Europe is no longer sufficient to call oneself a German. There are 300 million plus people running around the 50 states of the US refering to themselves as Americans. But they are not really Americans. They are Confederates. And Confederate is a euphamism for Counterfit.
    The German Constitution has the capability to be a superb docuement. But even the best Constitution, like one that I would right, can be a piece of toilet paper if it is not applied properly. In the past two years the Germans have started doing as bad a job interpreting their Constitution as the US government has been doing since at least March of 2003. This end of the US Republic is a result of systemic leadership failures that have been happening since at least November of 1963, if not March of 1877, or perhaps as far back as April of 1775, Take your prick.
    Sadly it is those Americans who have been in charge in the USA for decades that most Germans now admire, not me. German leaders today have become so fucking degenerate that they would call me a Putin Troll if they were aware of what I was writing. They would say that I was righting to support the AFD and a “war criminal” that goes by the name of Putin.

  4. Soredemos

    The Ukrainian offensive is downright shocking. They haven’t been able to even clear the perimeter crumple zone that is meant, by the defender, to eventually fall, after almost two weeks of attempts. The ‘grand offensive’ is being bled white trading villages back and forth with mobile Russian forces before it even reaches the first stage of what was intended to be the actual fight. They have all these plans for how they were going to penetrate the defense lines and take cities X, Y, and then Z, but they’re losing their best units and equipment miles from even the first of those defense lines.

    This is what the Russian army is like when it finally resolves to stand its ground and make a fight of it. And NATO training and equipment are being found ludicrously wanting.

  5. mago

    A world awash In sewage, vast beyond recognition, yet still the primitive foraged for truth and food beneath blood orange full moons spread across universes encompassing every passion and delusion known to gods and men and animals alike. Redemption sought in alleyways and historic war zones contemporary with smoke and cordite , timed explosions, flesh hanging from tree limbs, limbs shattered from bomb exploded trees.
    So we move through shattered landscapes, survival by wit and caution one foot followed by another, heads flicking back and forth like birds feeding. . .
    RIP Cormac McCarthy

  6. DMC

    Yeah, I don’t see how the Neo-Con powers that be ever thought this was going to work, not with semi-obsolete weapons being drooled into the fray over a period of years. They wanted another Afghanistan for Russia but Ukraine is largely rolling plains, making an old fashioned stand up fight possible. And Ukraine is simply running out of men to conscript. Millions of Ukrainians of both persuasions have emigrated to avoid the war and the draft. Almost makes you wonder if there wasn’t an even more ulterior motive for the whole thing, like they were just doing it for the rake-off. But hey, that’s conspiracy thinking, right?

  7. Curt Kastens

    Bruce, I agree with your comment. For Putins purposes though for his comment to be true an implied boast that the Russian Military is capable of much more, it is just holding back must also be true.
    I find it hard to believe that the Russians would tactically speaking deliberately hold back. War is a very unperdictable undertaking to start with. By acting with restraint, if that is what the Russians are actually doing, the Russians are prolonging the war, or at least the first phase of the war, as much as western military aid to the Ukraine is.
    It seems to me that Russia can not say that the first phase of the war is over until it has captured all of the territory east of the Dnieper River. (Or going in the other direction the Ukrainians gain all of the territory that they wish to gain.)
    Because the Russians have not yet captured all of the territory east of the Dnieper River a person has to wonder if the Russians are acting with restraint or if they are claiming to be acting with restraint to hide their own military weakness.

    I know someone with lots of imagination who might say, the Russians are only making this claim of acting with restraint so as to make it appear that that they are weak without directly saying that they are weak because appearing weak is part of a plan to not only denazify the Ukraine but almost all of Europe down to the last meter of Portgual. That would leave Iceland as the last Confederate foothold in Europe.

    If that person with imagination were here I would tell him or her. Great we can all live in a liberated Europe and then die from environmental collapse a short time later. That beats dieing from environmental collapse before Europe is liberated.

  8. StewartM


    Millions of Ukrainians of both persuasions have emigrated to avoid the war and the draft.

    That’s possibly because the support for an independent Ukraine rests more with the leadership class and the political right than in the general population. You must recall how the Soviet Union broke up—just before, a referendum was held in March 1991 and almost 80 % of Soviet peoples voted to keep the USSR together. But then Yelstin, met with the leaders of Belarus and Ukraine and decided to disband the USSR in spite of popular opinion, not because of it.

    Even decades, later, the majority of inhabitants of the former USSR when polled have agreed that “we were better off when we were all together”.

    Think: leadership class. Now the leaders of every republic, instead of being the leaders of a sub-unit of a larger political entity, now are the leaders of *their own country!*

  9. Soredemos

    Does Ukraine still have electricity? Are trains mostly still running? Then Russia is deliberately exercising restraint.

  10. bruce wilder

    @ Curt Kastens

    You make an excellent point: we simply do not know.

    The information environment in which the war is conducted has an abundance of narrative constructions, but a shortage of reliable, verified facts. It is not, strictly speaking, an information vacuum, because disinformation, groundless speculation and standard narrative tropes fill in for the absence of actual facts in the foundation of journalistic narratives and punditry. The flood of semi-official propaganda narratives complete with convenient factoids tax anyone’s cognitive capacity to discern meaning; often preferred meaning drives speculative narrative to backfill “facts”.

    I do not automatically credit the claims of rare dissenters like Col. Douglas MacGregor who tends to portray the Russian military as remarkably professional and capable anymore than those who echo what I can only suppose is a line of disinformation that claims that the “best” units of an elite Russian army were decimated in the early months of the invasion and during the withdrawal from the vicinity of Kiev, the rapid loss of Kharkiv territory and the withdrawal from Kherson City.

    The inconvenient truth is that Russia, strapped for resources, had largely demilitarized in the more than two decades Putin has been in power. It was a highly rationalized demilitarization, aiming to maintain and modernize key capability, but the budget was very limited and the success within its parameters were mixed. The force used for the SMO was an obvious hodgepodge of militias and some professional (“contract”) units from the regular army. The fact of Russia’s million-man Army was misused in early narratives to imply that the Russians had outnumbered the Ukrainians in theatre, ignoring the legal constraints and practical problems that kept Russia from using any of the one-year conscripts and their trainers that make up the bulk of the Russian Army at any one time.

    The incoherence of the “thinking” behind the neoliberal/neocon insistence on Russia as an existential threat to the West ought to be undermined by the reality of Russia demilitarizing as much as they did, but “weakness” is just another reason to despise Russia in this demented line of thinking, so the question never occurs.

    That Russia did not relieve Donetsk City from shelling by the AFU created a lot of tension I imagine with the Donbas militias who were expected to supply the infantry “cannon fodder” for many ground operations in the early days. I have never seen a satisfactory explanation beyond casual reference to 8 years of Ukrainian fortification, anymore than anyone seems to be able “explain” the prolonged siege of Bakhmut.

    The Kinzhal v Patriot contest in Kiev goes directly to Putin’s claim to be able to destroy any selected building in the capital. Blurry video of a two-minute light and sound show punctuated by some kind of explosion near ground has been explained as a supersonic Kinzhal taking out much of a Patriot system and/or a Patriot burning off $150 million in munitions knocking off x? Kinzhals and being damaged a bit in the process. No confirmation of any part of any story.

    Russian targeting of “decision centers” has been followed by rumors swirling around the sudden invisibility of General Zaluzhny and chief spook Budanov. Again no confirmation that either are definitely disabled or alive and well. (Zaluzhny is suddenly the author of the Nordstream destruction – take that for what it is worth.)

    What I have been waiting for are undeniable results on the ground that might sweep away one line of narrative or another. Who can even count how many weeks of Bakhmut did not do it. Two-weeks of Ukrainian impotence along the Russian defensive front has not done it either. No one can figure who busted the dam and probably no one will be able to figure who busted the ZNPP either, if we get that far.

    Putin unleashed a propaganda bomb on those African delegates with a draft treaty signed by an assassinated negotiator. He’s got moves. In the war of narratives, the Russians came late but are catching up fast and Putin’s remarks on the vulnerability of Kiev fit into a propaganda grand strategy perhaps. The Russian Orthodox Church, under an eviction notice in Ukraine, delivered a batch of Hungarian-speaking POWs to Hungary.

    The deep problem for reality-based thinking in the former democracies of the West remains the combination of a debased legacy media and controlled social media interacting with populations feeling electoral impotence given the uniparty takeover in various forms in various countries.

  11. different clue

    If the RussiaGov wishes to destroy Ukrainian society’s ability to continue mounting a war effort, the RussiaGov would want to keep the war going on a sharply defined ever-shifting battlefront for as many years as necessary to deplete Ukrainian society and population beneath the point where it can sustain a war effort or even a guerilla campaign or even a terrorist/ assassinationist campaign.

    I think that is one of the things the RussiaGov wishes to achieve. When they say “demilitarize” Ukraine, they mean “expel ( or preferrably exterminate in place) Ukraine’s population base and economic and infrastructure functionality below the level at which what survives of Ukraine can mount any sort of violence-effort at all. I think the RussiaGov wishes to leave Ukraine in exactly the same condition which Paraguay found itself in at the end of the Chaco War.

    If I am correct about that, then the RussiaGov will not accept any peace negotiations at all. The RussiaGov will keep fighting the Ukraine forces until the remains of Galiciakraine collapse so comprehensively that the effect is an unconditional surrender even if the rump Galiciakraine government is too ashamed to say so and the RussiaGov can’t even be bothered to boast.

    If the Russian goal is anti-NATO security, then the RussiaGov will keep the war up from its end until a couple-hundred mile deep center belt of Ukraine has been turned into a de facto equivalent of the Greater Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. That No Man’s Exclusion Zone will then be treated as a Free Fire Zone to kill any signs of human life potentially viewable as setting up missiles or other things to fire into Russia. Perhaps the RussiaGov will plant several hundred million mines throughout the Ukraine CenterBelt No Man’s Exclusion Zone to make it physically self-enforcing for a while.

    The RussiaGov will try to make the Center Zone and NovoRussiakraine so entry-proof that the Galiciakrainian Nazis will have nowhere to express their violence and hatred except throughout EUrope which they will blame for not having supported them hard enough. That should keep NATO EUrope busy for a while.

    The longer Russia keeps fighting back just hard enough to keep Ukraine fighting on, the more correct I will think this hypothetical prediction has been.

  12. Chuck Mire

    Macho Pissing Conrests:

    In 2020, Russia released footage of the detonation of the “Tsar Bomba” in 1961, history’s most powerful explosion. The hydrogen bomb was 3,300 times as forceful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, sending a plume 40 miles high.

  13. mago

    Lotsa punditry, lots of speculation.
    (Panditas, from which the word pundit derives, were accomplished spiritual scholars back in the day.)
    Now we have a vast political commentariat all across the
    A lot of “ifs” and “I thinks” wrapped in a spinach green tortilla with some hummus and falafel.
    It’s about as real as that.
    What’s really real is rule by psychopaths and violence, blood and gore as a result of their toxic ideologies
    waging war on everyone and everything, humans and non humans alike. The environment and every sentiment being.
    My 2 centavos.

  14. Soredemos

    @bruce wilder

    You seem to miss the really obvious possibility that Bakhmut was deliberately used as a way to drawn in and murder as many Ukrainian soldiers as possible.

  15. Curt Kastens

    Should it be any surprise to anyone that world press is now ignoring the Covid story?
    The world’s MSM has been green washing the climate change story for decades. This process of green washing climate change is going to continue to until climate change cause the extinction of humanity or drives it to the brink of extinction. It is crucial to downplay the story of environmental collapse to keep the business as usual model running as long as possible.
    If Covid is a real thing the same reasoning would be true for Covid. The Covid narrative has not kind of shifted to long Covid. But do not forget the masses of people in the underdeveloped world have never been immunized against any covid virus let alone some of the many supposed more deadly or more transmissalbe subvariants. If the Covid story was largely true the over 60 years of age population in the under developed world would have been wiped out by now. Long Covid would have made a huge easily visable impact in the underdevelopoed world be now. This makes me wonder that if there is such a thing as long covid if it not caused by immunizations rather than the desease. Of course I have seen the testimoney of some doctors addressing this issue and dismissing it. But can you or I trust them?
    Some clever person could come up with some excuses as to why the old age population of the underdeveloped world has not been decimated. I suspect that they would be lying to support the largely false narrative.

  16. Curt Kastens

    I just heard a story of what the supposed natural gas reserves of Iran are. It was also said that Iran’s reserves are supposed to be 16% of the world’s total, which allowed me to extrapolate the world total natural gas reserves according to this source. I then looked up world consumption of natural gas and one number in to the other and found out that at current rates of consumption there is enough natural gas to last for almost a century, IF I repeat IF the reserves are 100% recoverable.
    Also if the supply of oil can not meet the demand for oil I imagine that there can and will be some substitution of natural gas for oil.
    The bottom line is that the answer to my question, will the collapse of industrial civilization be caused by lack of collapse of world hydrocarbon production or the collapse of the world’s environment seems to have been answered. It will be mostly the collapse of the world’s environment. Though the other will oslo be a direct factor.

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