SocraticGadfly: 5/22/22 - 5/29/22

May 27, 2022

Kissinger calls for negotiated peace on Russia-Ukraine, as does NYT and others

This is NOT just a once in a blue moon, but a once in a blue lunar eclipse that I would agree with Darth Kissinger, Hank the Knife or whatever you will, but ...

He's right in specifically calling for a "status ante quo" settlement. (I'd add in holding an official referendum in the Donbas, but that's the only quibble. Update: Second quibble, but Hank may be assuming that, is he doesn't mention explicit security guarantees for Russia as well as Ukraine.)

Now, the high panjandrums of the US bipartisan foreign policy establishment, known here recently as nat-sec nutsacks, or maybe Nat-Sec Nutsacks™, will never listen to a Noam Chomsky saying this. Actually, on Reddit, I've gone even further with phraseology and am calling these people US/NATO tankies. It's earened.

It's almost as doubtful they'll so so with Hank the Knife. That said, he peed in the cornflakes not just in general, but in the middle of Davos.

His analysis seems otherwise right, mainly that we've got about two months to settle this before real trouble. Putin's troops may not be able to advance further, but they'll certainly entrench by that time. There's no way that Zelensky can drive them out after that time, butt-hurt as he may be about this.

The US forcing Russia into default, blogged about earlier this week, will only further strain the global economy. That's primarily on continued high oil prices, but also on high ag prices for wheat, corn, sunflower oil and other major staples. US farmers will love getting $8 a bushel for wheat. US consumers, in addition to facing gas prices staying where they are or climbing further, will NOT love paying $2 a loaf for bland generic white bread.

But, not only are the nat-sec nutsacks not likely to listen, their fellow travelers on #BlueAnon aren't either. After posting that link on Twitter, and discussing the link on Reddit, where I saw it posted, I got various versions of "Fuck Kissinger" etc. I pointed out the broken NATO promises, etc., and had the de rigueur caveat that I wasn't "justifying" the invasion. I suggested Chomsky to a Twitter friend. She next claimed both have dementia. I suggested neither does (I didn't suggest that maybe Biden does, which, TBH and also contra Team Blue, wouldn't surprise me), and pointed out a link within the peace. The NYT editorial board, doing so many from a "what's best for the American establishment" lens, ALSO calls for a negotiated peace. Here's a paywall-skirting version. The NYT talks about inflation, etc., but also notes Zelenskyy can't win without a massive upping of the American ante. The NYT gets disingenuous at times, though. It claims Biden hasn't made clear his endgame, when actually he has. It's smashing Putin, and mic-check public slip noted, he's made that clear.

I've already dealt with Chomsky touting Trump as the guy who would have settled that. That's a duopoly-voting leftist's way of trying to "own the libs" within the Democratic Party. Stupid? Absolutely. Demented? Absolutely not. 

Kissinger? Going beyond the NYT editorial board, his two-month time frame and other aspects of his piece make clear he's not demented. Too bad 10 gallons of this sense can't be beamed back to Henry Kissinger 1969.

As for #BlueAnon lamenting gas prices? Well, a negotiated peace solves that. Second, the Saudis under MBS have an animus for Biden, rightly or wrongly or a big of both, that's independent of this war. The war just gives them more leverage. 

As for gas prices in general? The OPEC+ deal between the Saudis and Russia just before the start of COVID was pushing prices up then. Without COVID, maybe we wouldn't have hit $110/bbl for WTI in 2020, but we would have hit $90, and I doubt Trump could have talked down MBS.

To this ecosocialist leftist, this is why many Democrats come off as warmongers, and to a lesser degree (or maybe greater) as not being THAT serious about the climate crisis. Joking aside, this IS a bit like a carbon tax, is it not?

But, like Goldilocks' three bears, if neither Hank nor Noam nor the NYT is "just right," you've got problems, as I see it.

(Update: Make that FOUR bears. Pope Francis his own self talks about NATO "barking" at Russia, more than #BlueAnon and the parent of Hunter Biden's laptop ever will admit. He didn't use the word "provoked," so shut up, warmongers, but DID say this "perhaps facilitated" the invasion. He's also called out the Western military industrial complex and the new ramp-up in arms spending. Both links via the warmongering NeverTrumpers and ConservaDems at the Bulwark, from a piece that basically lies about what Francis says in his "barking" and thus shall NOT be linked, at all.)

As for the Redditors, I think that their bottom line as US/NATO tankies is "Slava Amerika." And as for their bitching about Russia calling it a "special military operation" not a "war," how often has Amerika done just that?

As for Zelenskyy himself? Is he trying to have his cake and eat it too? He personally shot down Kissinger, while a government representative poo-poohed the NYT. But elsewhere, he's on record as favoring a negotiated peace. Maybe he wants a negotiated peace with terms set in advance? Or maybe he's afraid that, just as he was probably afraid on trying to actually implement the Minsk Agreements in advance, that anything less than the toughest of lines would have Azov Battalion fanbois trying to run him out of Kyiv on a rail?

Per that link above, here's where we'll soon be at without a true negotiated peace that not only addresses Putin's invasion but everything post-Maidan:

Now, despite tens of thousands of lives lost, all Putin has achieved is moving that front line a little further to the West, and the region seems set for the same kind of standoff it has seen for the past eight years, only on a larger scale.

That's the bottom line. And, with a Ukraine about as corrupt as Russia and even poorer, something it can afford even less than Russia.

May 26, 2022

Coronavirus week 110: Just a blip, and a less deadly one?

So, BA.2.12.1 variant is on the rise, but all the medical experts the Trib talks to say it's less deadly than earlier ones. Seems to me we were told the same about omicron vs delta, and it actually wasn't so true. So, color me at least somewhat skeptical. Not alarmist, though, either, like the interesting, but often alarmist, Jessica Wildfire.


NOT "just a blip" in North Korea. State media has officially admitted COVID has arrived, and with Kim Jong Un having blocked vaccines not just from the West, but even the less effective Chinese and Russian ones, Chinese-style lockdowns could further exacerbate an already imploding economy. The person interviewed for the piece doesn't expect Kim to open the borders in any way, nor does he expect this to topple his regime, although he allows the possibility of him, in desperation, allowing Chinese vaccines.

It's also interesting that Lil Kim has decided now is the time to test-fire new missiles. An internal shot across the bow? One to China as well?

May 25, 2022

Russia-Ukraine week 10: Realpolitik, Chinese aid and more

Nathan Robinson interviewed Anatol Lieven, who offered a Realpolitik in the good sense view of the Russia-Ukraine war, starting with Team Biden doubling down on poking the Russian bear with the NATO sharp stick. He goes on to talk about the biggie for Russia, Ukraine and the world: what peace could look like, if Biden would just stop his warmongering. Lieven next notes that by saying that not just did the US break promises by expanding NATO, but the Baltic state members broke promises by not protecting ethnic Russian rights. Why WOULD Putin trust either NATO or the US? It's a long read, as is much of Nathan's stuff, but a good one, as is much of his stuff.

It gets better. He notes that France and Germany won't propose a non-NATO membership collective security treaty because they're afraid of the US. Lieven does allow that they might back such a treaty IF Zelensky proposes it, though. (Or, they might not. I'm more dubious.)

Finally, I recommend reading all the sidebar pieces that are at the bottom of the main one. Let me help by linking to two. First, Nathan wonders if Biden really cares about helping Ukraine. Per the Lieven interview, it's a very serious question. Second, he raises the issue of whether Russian atrocities are unique.


Meanwhile, the Biden Administration, via Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, has made clear it's going to force Russia into default on what remains of its international debt that banksters haven't dumped since the start of the war. Could Russia win a force majeure argument? Color me less skeptical than the AP piece. We have wars going on right now and no nation's been forced into default, so the idea that Russia bought itself this pig in a poke might not fly. Meanwhile, fellators of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment, in my response on Reddit, where I first saw this, or one of them, claims that Putin's a terrorist. I don't see him as such, even if Ukraine hadn't also demonstrably committed war crimes itself. Second, she lied that "we" don't negotiate with terrorists, and I told her that, immediately referencing that both Trump and Biden negotiated with the Taliban.


Related? Short of NATO intervening to start real negotiations, Grid looks at how a semi-stalemate like we have now might play out over months ahead. The story does have one weakness; it talks about Russian atrocities but not Ukrainian ones. And yes, they exist, folks. See my previous blogging.


Bloomberg reported last week that China was looking to buy plenty of cheap(ish) Russian oil for its strategic reserve. With the West still refusing to ban Russian oil exports and oil being fungible (as is wheat, etc., as it gets more pricey), the idea of totally crushing Russia economically looks like more and more of a pipe dream.


Cory Doctorow gives a shitload of reasons why Americans who think about the issue very much should NOT applaud John Deere kill-switching tractors in Ukraine stolen by Russians. And, they should all be paid attention to.


Brittney Griner is indeed a pawn in Russia-US relations. But, the law is the law, and she's not being "wrongfully detained," contra Status Quo Joe, who once again has his administration not actually want to negotiate anything. Indeed, given US federal marijuana law, if Griner were a Russian (or other non-US) athlete and showed up at JFK Airport with the same alleged baggage, she could be arrested, too. And, Dave Zirin should know better, especially since he's also The Nation's sports editor.

Lemme know when Biden's DEA, FDA etc., deschedule marijuana from Schedule 1 down to Schedule 3 (or lower) as justified by science. Until the, starting with Biden himself, STFU about Greiner's arrest. You're hypocrites.


The New Statesman talks about Jürgen Habermas' thoughts on German rearmament and other issues related to Ukraine there. I hadn't realized the Germans were suckers enough that much of this rearmament is buying "can't fly half the time" F-35s from the US. Hope they're getting a deep discount. The piece also, as a sidebar, illustrates the "deterioration" of the German Green Party. (I've written elsewhere that they've become more and more not that different from Democratic Party-focused environmentalists here in the US, neoliberal on many issues.)

May 24, 2022

Texas Progressives talk ConservaDems, small towns, more

"Nice" that Houston area ConservaDem Lizzle Fletcher, fresh off mouth-breathing "drill baby drill" now thinks that price gouging isn't a real issue, even though gasoline prices are higher today than in 2008 when oil got over $140 a barrle. Of course, she's doing Houston Big Oil's bidding. Shock me.

Kenny Boy Paxton "versus" John Cornyn. First, it's "interesting" that Cornyn only now considers Paxton's lingering state indictments an "embarrassment." Is he afraid that, if Kenny Boy wins the AG runoff, they'll be that much of a boat anchor? Is he afraid a shoe is about to drop on the FBI investigation? Second, it's also "interesting" that Kenny Boy claims Big John represents "the Bush wing," when there's been no such thing in Texas for years.  Pee Bush himself is a Trump lapdog, and Big John's been Havana Ted Cruz's lapdog for years.

Samsung pollutes Austin water, gets TCEQ award. That about says it all about TCEQ.

SocraticGadfly offers a variety of thoughts on small town graduations, partly applicable to graduations in general, and a couple of aspects of small town manners

Off the Kuff sees some positive signs in the latest poll of the Governor's race. (Your blog editor sees this more as grasping at straws; Strangeabbott is underwater on approval ratings due to a mix of new anti-incumbent feelings and still not reconciling the GOP's wingnuts squared. I'll eat Kuff's hat if Beto finishes within 5 percentage points.)

DosCentavos friend, Cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz was awarded the Herblock Prize for editorial cartooning and even showed up in The New Yorker.

Tina Petway warns of the damage that helium balloons do to marine life.

The Kinder Institute presents a retrospective on the career of Rice University sociologist Stephen Klineberg, founder of the Houston Area Survey.

Melissa Kean remembers Houston icon Sandy Havens.  

CultureMap reports on the new digs of Houston's longtime public radio station KPFT.

The Current notes a bump in the bromance between Greg Abbott and Elon Musk.

May 22, 2022

If youth is wasted on the young, then graduations ...

Then graduations and graduation speeches are wasted BY the young.

This is connected to my post last night about small town values.

Hearing small-town, small-county high school grads with their speeches, whether at a private school or one of the public ones? Blech. Maybe my suburban St. Louis val and sal, eons ago, had similar blather. I hated high school and don't remember. I'm sure my last-graduating-class Lutheran college val and sal kind of did, but not totally.

Anyway, the speeches Thursday and Friday, even though largely out of the mouths of Catholics, were full of "everything has a purpose" providentialism. That's Calvinism, ultimately, if you will. Surprised that teachers at the private school at least — which is Catholic — don't catch that. That said, modern American Catholicism in both its more conservative and its more liberal installations strikes me ever more as a mishmash of individually held doctrines, fairly influenced by Protestantism, with the possible exception of Eastern and Southern European "ethnic" enclaves in the Northeast and Rust Belt. I'm not even sure about Irish Catholics in those areas.

Of course, this becomes wedded to success gospel Christianity. I heard this year, and in years past, variations on "all you have to do is have the right attitude and work hard and you'll succeed." This all ignores luck (in a non-metaphysical sense) — both good luck and bad luck.

That said, this wasn't the worst.

Far from it.

And, it was only exacerbated tonight at one of the two small high schools I was at when the valedictorian offered prayers for selected class members who were essentially "hostages," including two Indian-Americans who might well not be Christian. With last name "Patel" and first names that are definitely Indian and not Christian-like, I think that's pretty likely. More disgusting yet? The opening theme of his speech, since he is not native to that small town, was gratitude for being accepted.  

To be honest, emotionally honest, I hope this guy and some other of these speakers learn personally, the hard way, just how wrong, or Not.Even.Wrong., they are. I think it will have to be the hard way, because I don't think that unless they face real personal tribulation from which they don't immediately bounce back, they will learn. (That said, this part is probably true of big city high school val and sal speakers, too, at least to some extent. I don't know about Hispanics, and Christianity is lower among Asian Americans, but I know that the success gospel runs hot among Black America.)