Russian Oil Weapon?

Two pieces from the Jamestown Foundation provide food for thought.

First, Russia is not keeping its contractual obligations in supplying oil to Germany.

Second, Russia is blatantly trying to use the Austrian government to take over the largest Hungarian oil company against its will (read the fine print on this one, it’s subtle).  Austria is happily complying, because their own state-owned enterprise is hopelessly moribund at the same time as MOV, a completely private firm, threatens to make Hungary an energy power in Central Europe — bad for OMV, really bad for Russian geopolitics.

The writing on the wall is that it is in Germany’s geopolitical interest to make certain that MOV survives, and that there are as many alternatives to Kremlin oil (you can’t really call it Russian oil, since the industry is an explicit arm of the siloviki in Moscow) as possible.

Leftists “warns” of violence

this time, in France, where Segolene Royal warns of Sarkozy’s brutality.

YAWN.

Aren’t the leftist candidates always making veiled threats right before the voting begins?  Didn’t we just see this in Mexico?  First they threaten, then the people vote, then they lose.

Then the leftists unleash a bunch of lowbrow thugs to burn things while the election results are contested in the courts.

And then they lose.

Political Quote of the Day

Camille Paglia is a touch self-possessed for my taste, but then again, she’s got the cred to back it up, and nicely explains what’s totally farked up about US politics right here:

Capitalism, which spawned modern individualism as well as the emancipated woman who can support herself, is essentially Darwinian. It expands any society’s sum total of wealth and radically raises the standard of living, but it leaves the poor and weak without a safety net. Capitalism needs the ethical counter-voice of leftism to keep it honest. But leftists must be honest in turn about what we owe to capitalism — without which Western women would have no professional jobs to go to but would be stuck doing laundry by hand and stooping over pots on the hearth fire all day long.

Moscow, Beijing hell-bent for irrelevance.

As noted in StrategyPage

China has shown a preference for tyrants and police states, and is eager to get access to key raw materials (rare metals and oil). China does not care about criticism, and has no guilt about helping to prop up dictatorships.

and Eurasia Daily Monitor,

Putin himself has acknowledged the distorting effect of energy exports on the national economy and urged businessmen and government officials to find ways to increase development in Russia’s high-technology sectors that will manufacture products that can compete in the global economy.

Beijing and Moscow are still setting themselves up for a Mercantilist future, and depending on exports for an economy, rather than a sustained increase of the domestic markets.  Russia is the biggest sinner in this, but China’s dependence on African raw materials, and how they’re going about getting them, is a clear sign.

Trick is… mercantilism has had its day… in the 18th century.  It was shunted aside in favor of capitalism, and “contemporary reformed capitalism with certain socialist/regulated characteristics” because the latter simply work better.

This does not bode well for either power, and not merely in relation to the U.S.  If Iran shrugs off the nutjobs, it’s positioned to become a prime player almost overnight, and Iranians are great for business.  India as well has both the cleverness, the growth, and, now, the “BBB-” investment-grade credit rating (hat tip:  Samizdata), to mark them as a serious player.

No amount of state-regulated export economics can compete against that over the long haul.

This just in: Baby Boomers Irresponsible

You’d think by now folks would be starting to catch a clue that if you have to retire within ten years, that you might start socking it away.

Nope.  So, the rest of us had better keep saving, because the chance of these guys allowing any meaningful reform of Social Security to pass while they’re still able to threaten the politcos is as rare as a North Korean fighter ace.

Bid for SCO Energy Cartel reveals staggering Russian weakness.

Here’s the link from Eurasia Times (run by Jamestown Foundation, good folks if you’re in the wonkosphere).

Russia’s bid here is playing a weak hand, and admitting it in the process. China and Russia have starkly different energy needs (Russia is an energy exporter, since they can’t be bothered to provide to their own subjects, and China is a noted importer), and if the ‘Stans were still under Russia’s thumb, their participation in SCO would be a non-issue. If Russia tries to dictate energy policy to the SCO, then the SCO will become as toothless as the CIS has become.

Russian leaders still don’t get it, and are playing a late-19th-century game in the 21st century. There is no way that Russia, in combination with any number of other players, are ever going to “balance” the US and the West without developing a functional economy.

Even military pressure won’t count long-term:  right now ballistic missile defense is hard.  In another fifteen years, even if Topol-M were everything it was advertised to be, it’ll be merely taxing.  In thirty, it’ll be easy.  The old weapons simply won’t count for squat in a world where the powers with functional economies can R&D their way into Buck-Rogers stuff.  And even if Russia were to develop some form of coherent cooperation here in the SCO, the NATO countries’ economic growth will allow them to handily pay for said energy long after Russia has become utterly dependent on making the sale.  That’s what functional economies do.  They grow.  No number of “Zaires with permafrost” are going to seriously challenge the Chinese economy, which is only a quarter as productive as ours, let alone the US-EU-”Westernized Asians” bloc.

China will tag along as long as it’s convenient, just for another chance to get its thumbs further into the Central Asian pie. But Russia has no leverage on this stick, let alone the ability to dictate where it’s swung.

Stop Discriminating by Race?

Douglas Kmiec posts a reasonable, if myopic, little article, positing that, as in the blurb, ” Rigid ratios of white, non-white only indulge ugly stereotypes.”

I’d like to go one step further.

Stop discussing race at all.

Why?  Because race is irrelevant.  And it’s irrelevant because race doesn’t exist.  There’s no such thing.  It’s a bad theory that, like phlogiston, has been replaced by DNA and genetics.  And not only has genetics killed that off, but the newly-emerging field of epi-genetics is starting to tell us, quite distinctly, that genes are mutable, activatable, and de-activatable, by no means a hardcoded map to our future.  The only reason we worry about race is because of the horrific stew of poisons and historical damage floating all around our culture, left over by (generally) well-meaning people working from a horribly ignorant understanding.  And using the term in any active way forces you to buy into all of the damage, rather than simply begin to cut a clean slate and fix it for good.

The best way to heal said wounds is to give a leg up to the needy, whoever they are, and to actively discourage any use, any use at all, no matter how high-minded, of this world-is-flat, outdated theory.

How the losers cry for vengeance

You know something?  I just figured out how to pick the historical loser:

He goes on the offensive, decrying how he’s under attack.

Civil War:  The South whines about “northern aggression” the whole time it’s racking up huge pro-slavery wins throughout the 1840s and 1850s. (Fugitive Slave Law, Dred Scott, “Squatter’s Sovereignty.”)

WWII:   Nazis use France and the Jews as a vindication for their game, get stomped.

Korea:  North Koreans use S. Korean dictator as vindication, get stomped, have asses saved at last minute by Chinese.

Vietnam:  Same game, only this time after the Tet Offensive, it’s the Democratic Party who makes North Vietnam safe for Communism by refusing to keep arming the South.

Bolivia:  Pick one.

Al Quaeda:  Butchers everybody in sight in order to “defend Islam” from the west.  The West only decides it gives a rat’s ass when the bombs and planes go off, and whip them everywhere they find them.

Arabs against Israel:   Pick one.

Mexico:  A government so corrupt that its best and bravest would rather risk death in the desert in order to be minor criminals in a northern country where it’s cold, nobody gives a rat’s ass whether you live or die, and they speak a weird language, than continue to stay in a place where you have to pay serious bribes just to get and hold a minimum-wage job.  Status: amazingly enough, kinda-sorta growing a middle class as it outgrows the victim rhetoric, pending Chavista revolts in Oaxaca.
Russia:  full of grievances, currently selling its women and collapsing demographically…

Iran:  full of mullahs, currently selling its women while collapsing demographically…

Part 2: contingencies and options.

Japan will rearm, and South Korea will reexamine the departure of US troops and what effective levels of armament they can domestically sustain (a lot less).

Possibly the U.S. will start playing hardball with China through Taiwan. They screwed us in Korea, we’ll screw right back.
Attempts to support a coup/revolution/regime change in North Korea. The idea is to get this done before NK sells stuff to people we don’t like.

Heightened naval presence and security in NE Asia.

So, first set of contigencies, we attempt to topple North Korea: can they react? Their army can’t really power project. The story told to the infantry is that North Korea can get to Busan in a week. I don’t think that’s likely. Also, China would intervene, presently.

My thinking is that China would react for them. But what can they really do? Give North Korea nukes? I think the US has a lot of leeway here. There are now open demonstartions of dissent in the North, albeit small. However, consider what that means. Neighborhoods are organized along Korean traditional lines into communal associations called gye. Each gye consists of five families who help each other, with one or two who are politically connected. That means for every one act of sedition, there are at least one and possibly four other families who are in on it. And one of them is possibly party. When party membership is no longer inducement to loyalty, you’re in trouble.

North Korea the country is actually quite small, if you follow the lines of what a nation state does. A nation is meant to deliver certain services to it’s internal constituency. In such a case as North Korea, the services delivered are only to the Party and the Army. The rest of the populace are counted as a resource. Insert joke about Communist and Socialist governments here, and then realize that North Korea doesn’t have 23 million citizens with a 1 million man army, it has one or two million citizens exerting continuous force over 20 million non belligerent tenant farmers. The farmers know they’re being screwed.

So, we try to topple them, and we either succeed or fail. Success, in the American terms of it, would be to have the area come under the control of a new regime with whom we can deal, who isn’t a belligerant, and who either leaves the balance of power untipped, or tipped in our favor in such a fashion so as not to aggravate China. The Kim family will not see another generation in power, China will not tolerate it. Lacking our scruples, they would more than happily simply hold a coup and grill a brisket, and Tibet the place: no more Korean language, no korean in political power, and heavy settlement by Chinese. Any Korean successor will quietly kill any Kim family relative they can lay their hands on. That’s Stalinism after all. So, peaceful domestic transition is unlikely, and any answer that maintains the status quo is unlikely.

But if we let China have it, we can at least talk with China. What China does to one of it’s proxies is truly none of our concern, and nothing brings an ally to your side like the barbarians at his gate. South Korea with China directly on its border would be interesting to watch.

Failure. War? The Kim dynasty ends with Jong Il. China will eventually go to war with us. Chinese troops will do the most of the heavy punching, even on the Korean penninsula no matter what. The North Koreans would be too inneffective. Failure would have to be the insertion of a competent, pro-Chinese dictator who was better than Kim Jong-Il, who can actually make Korea more effective for the eventual fight with China. That may be unrealistic too. North Korea is good and proper screwed. There is not the human infrastructure to build a real nation. China would basically have to replace every korean person with a Chinese person, which they can do with one tenth of their excess, marriagable male population.

Any different reads on this? Is North Korea the next Tibet?

North Korean Nuclear Testing: Thinking Aloud.

The North Koreans have tested their nuclear warheads underground, on ChuSeok weekend (Korean Harvest Festival/Thanksgiving). The South Korean students I have talked with have been absolutely unperturbed. They feel that war is far away, and perhaps they are right. It’s hard to reduce the information to any inevitabilities just yet. Let’s think aloud, shall we?

First, why the tests. Easy: marketing. North Korea, politically speaking is a swamp. Everything is foetid and still. The balance is very precarious, and a better man than myself has asked the question we’ve been waiting years and years, with all our ears for. When comes the Ceaucesu moment?

NoKo is so precarious, they can’t even allow Chinese non military personnel into the place for fear of destabilization. If fat, happy, mercantile Chinese come in to give you free food, then maybe their ideas will carry more currency. This isn’t too much of a problem at present because the Chinese, as a people, regard North Korea in much the same way that the Fascist Germany regarded Italy: politically reliable boobs. This has changed with the refusal to stand down on the nuclear testing, and with the discovery that the NoKos have been counterfitting Yuan notes, but they haven’t been demoted much: from reliable to useful.

Anyway, moving along those lines, if the Chinese are a risk, and generally unwilling to help the North, what are the other options? Well fed and civil Japanese? Americans? Indians? All well fed, well educated, and showing up to just give you food? The worst would be South Koreans, all of them 4 cm taller on average, well fed, with cell phones, and millions of tons of rice to hand out. My guess is that the confiscation of the international food aid is being spun inside North Korea as a global famine that the North is weathering, but that the neighboring countries are being made to pay tribute to the DPRK military. They would put it in papers, but really they’re too polite. That would also explain the relatively bombast free way in which they sent food progam folks home. “We don’t need your food, keep some for yourself, it’s a brave front you’re putting up, but the DPRK will be kind.”

Anyway, how then do they trade? By channelling foreign currency by way of drug sales, human traficking (Chinese farmers buy wives from Korea for about $3,000. Chinese immigration is alleged to be cracking down and deporting the Korean wives and the half Korean children. This doesn’t include international sales straight into prostitution/sex slavery).

http://www.parapundit.com/archives/002121.html – 38k

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A41966-2003Oct3?language=printer

What happens to the returmnees and their kids is not pleasant, according to rumor.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/korea/article/0,2763,1136483,00.html

So they market humans, meth, and counterfeit bills.

http://www.state.gov/p/inl/rls/rm/21044.htm

They also try to market rocket technology and rocket bodies.

http://www.wisconsinproject.org/countries/nkorea/bm2003.htm

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,72812,00.html

So what happens to you market for missiles when your biggest product blows up 43 second after launch? You move to item two. Nuclear warheads. It did work. They didn’t release news of their test until after the South Korean government announced a hot on their seismic sensors.

America and the surrounding countries that don’t like drugs, conterfeit bills and rocket technology flowing freely have been cracking down. Even China has gotten in on this. That shuts down the tap on hard currency going into the country. They therefore can’t pay for anything that makes life comfortable. They can’t buy parts for their military vehicles, can’t purchase oil or natural gas (and China has punitavely reduced the shipments of late), can’t purchase luxury items or prestige items. No foreign currency means no guns and no butter.

So what have they got left to sell? Nukes. Nukes to whoever wants them. That’s why Chris Hill said that the DPRK can either have nukes or a future. The conversation between the DPRK and the US is about the flow of foreign hard capital. North Korea has said that if they will not be allowed to sell drugs, people and countefeit bills, then they will sell their world famous, fully functional nuclear technology and intact nuclear weapons. Hill said, if you do that you’ll go away.

Now, this doesn’t mean war, neccessarily. Not immediately.

I think that the U.S. government has just become very interested in toppling the North Korean government.

Now here are the options that I see. We topple them before they can sell weapons to someone who we really don’t want to have them. What now? Here are some options:

  1. Annexation by China
  2. Reclaimation by ROK
  3. North Korea being monitored by UN
  4. North Korea being monitored by SEATO

So let’s think aloud. I’ll post some more later. Still playing with the spell check.

Turkey orders to Black Sea S2006

Moscow’s afraid of a resurgent Turkey.

And well they should be.  Unlike the assholes running the Kremlin, Turkey actually has a functional economy and government supporting its goals…

The moment we finalize all these projects, the total look of the area will be radically changed. — Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan

You’re darned tooting it will.  And it could hardly be worse than having the area dominated by “Zaire with permafrost.”

Batshit-Crazy in Budapest

UPDATE2:  Ultra-rightwing protestors clearly implicated by television coverage on Hiradu.hu (00:53-1:11).  More questions than answers at the moment, I’ll have a more coherent update up either here or on PubliusPundit asap.

————————–

It’s late and I don’t have all the news yet, but today’s news…

I thought my musings on Hungary would wind up being largely irrelevant to big happenings in Europe.

What did I know…

First, Gyurcsány makes what is probably the most politically courageous speech of his life — or the most brazenly foolhard address in the last two years… “We lied, morning, noon, and night for 18 years,” he thundered, in an obscenity-laced tirade by and for the Socialist party meeting, and not meant for public consumption — condemning the Socialists and everybody else in Hungarian politics since the original “revolution.”

Portfolio.hu has three pages of translated excerpts.  This would be front-page stuff in the US.  In Hungary, this is politically unthinkable stuff… speeches like this simply Do Not Happen.

It got leaked, perhaps intentionally.  And the Hungarians went bat-shit.

“I believe it can be done. I think there will be conflicts, yes. There will be rallies, yes. They can go ahead and rally in front of the Parliament. Sooner or later they’ll get bored with it and go home.”

Well, kinda.  Apparently he didn’t really gamble on Fidesz, whose rally in front of the Hungarian Television Building (the site of many bitter political struggles for media control)… although asked to “act constitutionally,” they went a-rioting, beating riot cops, burning cars, the whole nine yards.  Crowd control definitely appears to have been an issue, with cops tear-gassing protestors before the whole thing went sideways (and without actually getting my feet on the ground in Budapest, there’s little way to tell whether or not it was excessive, as the primary actors on both sides are sure to portray themselves as harmless lambs at teh mercy of.. well, you get the idea — as noted locally, the cops aren’t about to let live media feeds of this stuff out if they can help it).  Index.hu has a gallery here, and one more showing the violence directly, as well as a foreign-press-reaction page.

Police have been called into the capital from all over the countryside, as it is obvious that the police on hand are completely unable to contain this.  I don’t think anybody expected it, either:  this is not, let me repeat that in boldface, NOT typical Hungarian behavior, by any stretch.  Since 1956, Hungarians are much more prone to drinking tea or wine and complaining bitterly… not burning things in the street.

As of 6:30 a.m. Budapest time (call it 12:30 US East Coast), Index’s correspondents noted about seventy people still on the Kossuth Square, and circulating rumors of somebody having died a “heroic death.”

Madness. 

One can understand the Hungarians being pissed.  It’s well-known that FIDESZ is out to screw folks one way, the MSZP another… the smaller parties have had their shot and blown it too… and meanwhile, nobody is doing more than paying trivial lip-service to relieve the taxes that every Hungarian knows is crushing their livelihoods, as the government attempts to squeeze more blood from a stone to pay for social programs.  Having direct confirmation of what everybody knows… a.k.a., the politicians are liars, appears to have played a bit of Pandora’s Box.

More in the morning as I try to keep up with it. Oh.  And, as always, for English-language snarking, Pestiside has by far the best commentary. Oh, and just for good measure, they skewer the BBCGo Pestiside.  Of course, I like pretty much anybody who skewers the BBC as a matter of principle, but Go Pestiside anyway!

UPDATE:  Soccer Hooligans did all this?  And are bussing in more fans by the hour?  You know, looking at images last night, I *did* think to myself “they look like a bunch of typical drunken soccer thugs.”  But I didn’t dare say that one even to my wife… now?  The two soccer clubs of worst repute take on the government?  You’ve got to be kidding.  What is this, the freaking Byzantine Empire, only instead of Reds, Blues, and Greens, we have the Ferencváros Green-Whites and the Újpest Purple-Whites?

Unbelievable.

Political Survival

Kick-ASS podcast discussed (and linked) over at Samizdata that should be basic political theory.  If you’re a curious noob, I strongly recommend you put this on in the background and listen.

Blogs and the Erosion of Propaganda

It’s already a problem in the marketing world:  customers are essentially immune to the hard sell.

It’s becoming a problem for the ’68er Baby Boomer crowd, as well:  the moronically simple propaganda that used to sound oh so intellectual… you know, like the “bake sale to build bombers” stuff…. now doesn’t really stand a chance.

So, here’s this young man named Ramzi.  He runs Ramzi’s Blah-Blah.  (Fair warning, pop-up ads to casinos and such)  And he engages in this sort of instant-substitute -for-actual-thought sort of propaganda about Israelis bombing ambulances — which has already been torn to pieces in the comments section, mostly because of the well-known propensity for Middle-East terrorists to toss bombs and rockets and all sorts of other stuff into ambulances.  Getting worked up about that is oh-so 2003… 

It’s told as a basic story:  images and captions.

The government of the UAE, having seen the images of Lebanese ambulances being targeted and destroyed, thought a gift of 12 new ones was a good idea. 

So off they shipped them in a cargo plane all the way to Damascus – the mighty bastion of Arab resistance allegedly.

Okay, first and foremost, the post is being ripped limb from limb even on the assumption that every word in it is true.  Hrm… is it?  We don’t know.  There’s no links, no news article… nothing.  This could be straight from the forehead of Zeus for all we know.  We have certainly seen plenty of intentionally-misused images lately (such as the now-disproven “Israelis shelled an innocent family’s beach picnic” piece, that looked so compelling until you found out that Israel had no ships deployed even vaguely nearby within a week of the incident).  So… when were the photos taken?  Do they actually have anything to do with the story at hand?  Well, because they’re not cited, we don’t know.

And from there across the border to the Bekaa valley – home to some of the best wine you’d ever enjoy.

And up the mountain side on the last patent artery into the stricken capital, a gorgeous view of the cultivated valley by the way. 

Oh, the Bekaa valley… how I’d love to vacation there.  But, um, oops, I can’t, because it’s A War Zone, with wall-to-wall Hizballah, the Syrian-Iranian tools whose only claim to legitimacy is the argument that they’re better than Hamas at killing Israelis, and who started this whole war with a cross-border raid that even Ghandi would admit constitutes casus belli.  But remember, this is ’68er-style propaganda, and we’re supposed to “get a message,” not stop and think critically about what’s being written.  What we’re supposed to think is, “ahh, the lovely wineyards of Bekaa Valley, full of birds and kittens and butterflies, what a lovely peaceful place…”

And then… KABOOM. Air strike hit the convoy.

It did?  When?  Ramzi shows a cool action shot of F-16s.  Except it’s not actually an action shot, and it predates this war by a long, long time.  In fact, it’s a cropped version of a fairly unremarkable milplex industry paper, meant, along with a spiffy briefing, to convey a visual confirmation of ideas like “approve the funding for this fighter, which will give us air superiority and thus battlespace dominance.”  It’s the kind of thing that’s used for filler wherever milplex topics are discussed:  Spacewar.com, for example, uses lots of these stock images.

And… the finale, complete with a heart-rending picture of some bandaged-up little boy:

 You see, ambulances are dangerous things.
They get in the way of murder.

Wait, wait… ::sniff-sniff::  What’s that smell?  Oh, yeah, it’s the smell of ’68-er-style Baby-Boomer thought.  Like the Bake-Sale-to-Build-Bombs thing, it sounds great… for that quarter-second required for your forebrain to kick back into gear, realign itself with the reality-based community, and come back with wtf?  Ambulances get in the way of murder?  How’s that work?  How come I never see hard-bitten riot cops riding in ambulances to stop crime?

Oh, yeah, because they don’t…

Fair enough.  His country’s being bombed; he’s entitled to be pissed and fly off the handle.  What I’m interested in is why the post doesn’t work, and what that has to do with bloggers.  This isn’t the 1990s.  In the era of half-a-dozen guys in their pajamas taking down Dan Rather, half the stuff that Bill Clinton used to get away with would be DOA within six hours  (Not a partisan thing: Republicans aren’t good enough at it to even bother) — this little gem, however heartfelt and ’68-ey, doesn’t stand a chance.

In other words, the game’s changed.  The bar has been reset, and it’s a much, much higher bar.

China rewrites history, to sound of scholarly laugh-track

Get this.  Apparently Genghis Khan enabled “cross-cultural exchanges” and set the footing for the Renaissance!

“He brought cultural progress that helped liberate the Europeans from the bondage of theology — in this sense, his expeditions served as a catalyst for the Renaissance,” he said.

Holy Cow! 

Because we all know that the Renaissance was an era liberated from the bondage of theology… (wink wink, nudge nudge).  Pardon me, while I walk around the corner and laugh my guts out.

(Walks around corner)

(Cackles uncontrollably)

(Wiping eyes dry)

Whoo, that was good.  What else ya got?

——-

Seriously, if this is what they’re teaching over there, and it’s not simply a random slap at Falun Gong, I could go get rich giving lecture seminars right now.  So I gotta figure this is either an entry for Best of Chinese Communism, vol. 4, or a shaded political job. 

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