Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Putin and the Russian Economy

Earlier I spoke of the unbelievable adoration-of-Vladimir Putin that has swept the right-wing American press. Officially "grudging respect for a foe," it is nothing less than a worshipful personality cult.

Of what? Perhaps it is exaggeration to accuse VP of destroying the underlying Russian economy so that it relies solely on obsolete fossil fuels. But dating back before his time, we have seen that any trace of entrepreneurialism is pounced upon and gobbled up by oligarchs, backed by organized crime. This is the model of "strong" governance that Fox would have us emulate?

Again, I am not finger-pointing, but Russian men are drinking themselves to death and Russian women have stopped having babies with them. Intellectuals (especially women) are fleeing the country as fast as they can. Russia has to buy its aircraft carriers from France.  It has lost every spaceprobe it sent to Mars and has not innovated in space in decades. And there are harsh reasons for all of this that aren't necessarily Putin's fault...

... But one can't help being irritated by the opposite reflex, as Rupert Murdoch and the mad right fall all over themselves kvelling, proclaiming Putin as a genius and a macho, master chess player.  

Oh, sure, Hannity etc call him a foe!  But their paeans of respect and admiration aren't only meant to belittle Barack Obama.  

They are genuine genuflections toward the kind of leader they truly wish for.

== the latest example of fawning idolatry ==

Ah, but now the Orwellian Ministry of Truth is at it again: Russian President Vladimir Putin was declared the world’s most powerful person for the third time in a row by Forbes magazine.”  ....   With this subliminal sub-text: “Raving-partisan Forbes declares itself loony and irrelevant!”

Setting aside the issue of Forbes being qualified to “declare” any such thing, except as a rant-opinion, here’s the justification:  “The items on Putin’s resume that catapulted him back to the number one position this year included his all-time high approval rating of his constituents of an astonishing 89 percent and his bid to rebuild Russian influence abroad by bombing Islamic State forces in Syria.”

Ooh, a dictator’s state machine declares him to be “popular!” And he’s dropped some bombs (ineffectually) in a desperate attempt to hold onto Russia’s Tartus base, its last vestige of empire west of Cam Ranh Bay? Well, yep that convinced me.  But do go on.

“The world’s most powerful man has seized Crimea and waged war-by-proxy in the Ukraine despite worldwide disapproval. However, he has proven all the more powerful in the process by showing that he can essentially do what he wants with almost reckless abandon due to his level of power.”

Ah, unmentioned is the death spiral of the Russian economy, the flight of almost every cent of movable capital from Moscow to London and New York real estate, “success” at re-invigorating and uniting the NATO alliance and… oh yes, loss of Ukraine from the Russian sphere of influence — the worst setback to Russian expansionist policy since Boris Godunov.

While shouting about small nibble-backs like Crimea and the Donbass, fools at Fox & Forbes attempt frantically to distract from the fact that now Ukraine will never-again be a puppet of Moscow. Ukrainians are swerving westward as fast as they can, clamoring to be part of Europe.  It's the big news, an event so vastly greater in significance than Crimea, that the inability of republicans to notice is prima facie proof of insanity.

Oh, but the Russians themselves have noticed! Russian viewers of Fox are appalled.

Nowadays, when you are bucking the commonly accepted narrative, you must repeat yourself till you are blue in the face.  So let me reiterate, as many times as it takes:

The Russians themselves are not as stupid as Fox commentators. They do not ignore the devastating setback in Ukraine. 

Russians -- including those who love Vladimir Putin -- deem the loss of Ukraine from their orbit to have been a hugely aggressive and successful assault on Russian interests by... get ready for it... Barack Obama. 

They see Obama as anything but the wimp he is portrayed in right wing American press.  They -- including Putin himself -- view Obama as the most aggressive, formidable and successful opponent they have faced, since Reagan.

== But in fact? ==

Look, I have found some real reasons to respect Vladimir Putin. Plus some others (sci fi what-if scenarios, mostly) to wonder if he's got a real plan. (Indeed, there is one plan of such bizarre cleverness -- I give it a 10% possibility -- that would make sense of all this and prove him to be a genius.)

 Moreover -- take note -- the “Russia-China alliance” is not to be sniffed at!

Only, once we have taken all of that into account, dig this. None of my reasons overlap at all with the nasty, treasonous paeans of Hannity and co.  Because Putin's "master chess player" surface moves have -- so far -- shown very little in the way of tangible results. 

Indeed, these pushy-aggressive nibble-backs, guarantee that Ukrainians will never ever again to allow a Russian-loving Yanukovich back into power, sealing their alliance with the West, forever. 

And it goes farther. Resumption of saber rattling bomber flights and submarine penetrations of fjords has driven both Sweden and Finland to seek closer ties to NATO. He has even managed to alienate Angela Merkel and the uber-pragmatist Germans and re-invigorated the NATO alliance, with all members pledging to up defense spending.

Yet he is portrayed as the master mover!  Well... he is so portrayed... by fools.

(This article shines a brief spotlight on VP's billionaire daughter.)

Again... there are ways that I am withholding judgement. I perceive a couple of what-if stories that would make him a player of historical substance, and they (sort-of) actually make sense! There may, indeed, be layers. Look into his fiercely intelligent eyes... there is definitely something going on.

But I reiterate.  None of it relates even glancingly to the Fox-Limbaugh-Beck cult of admiration for strongman saber-rattling.  They admired those traits in Bush-Cheney too, and we have been paying for that clade of macho dunces, whose outcomes have been 100% and without exception negative for the U.S.

No, it is not Vladimir Putin who comes across as maniacal, here. My arms are warily folded, watching him carefully, skeptically-fascinated. 

No, it is the worshippers of his cartoon image, here in the west, who are completely out of their cotton-pickin' minds..


Paul451 said...

Looks like the French government is already abusing its emergency anti-terrorism powers to suppress protesters: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/nov/27/paris-climate-activists-put-under-house-arrest-using-emergency-laws

LarryHart said...


Doesn't every government always do that?

Searching of airline passengers' baggage was supposed to keep terrorists from smuggling bombs onto a plane, but during the Bush Administration, the TSA used to harass people with leftist reading material in their bags. And of course, we're all much safer because Cat Stevens can't get on an airplane.

Treebeard said...

My admiration for Putin has to do with the fact that under him, Russia isn't pushing the sort of pathological globalism, minoritarianism, cutural liberalism, ethnic self-deprecation and demographic re-engineering that we see in America and allied nations of the “New World Order”. Putin is a nationalist who puts his own people first rather than acting like a shill for a global financial oligarchy pushing some delusional/diabolical globalist agenda.

Now we come to the touchy part... I suspect a big chunk of the hostility toward Putin among certain factions of Western elites goes back to ancient tribal grudges, and the resentment some folks feel at having “lost Russia” when Bolshevism failed and Russia once again became a Christian-friendly nation. Pay close attention to the ethnicity of the most rabid Russophobes, consider their tribal history, and don't tell me this is irrevelant (see Robert Zubrin, Garry Kasparov). I've heard Jews from Russia talk about Russian gentiles, and it isn't pretty. I guess American power is for them is a kind of revenge (see also neocon Cold Warriors).

In fact, the crowd trying to vilify Putin as the next Hitler may be much the same crowd saying similar things about Trump. But Middle Americans tend to identify with both Putin and Trump; culturally, he's one of us (just like, say, Obama is one of you). Both men are revealing a critical faultline in our civilization, and forcing occult agendas out into the open.

I can understand some of the fear that drives these agendas, but everyone's fears need to be brought out in the open and discussed in the spirit of transparency, don't you think?

(By the way, I lived in Russia for a while and I don't consider it any kind of utopia. It has its attractions compared to the PC West, and enjoys certain freedoms we don't have, but it's still a somewhat alien Eurasian culture with a lot of problems.)

Marino said...

Wonderful... Putin is hated by eeevil Jews, New World Order, demographic re-engineering. All the memes from the loony far Right lumped together. It lacks just a Sieg Heil at the end.

Laurent Weppe said...

Speaking of France, this long article in French offers an interesting hypothesis: from 2008 until 2013, French authorities tried to implement a Person of Interest approach, focusing heavily on technology and data-mining, to the point where the intelligence services ended up being dramatically short-staffed in term of analysts, and the 11/13 attacks main similarity with 9/11 is that in both case, the French and American intelligence services had gathered all the data and clues necessary to identify the threat, its authors and their current locations, but lacked the human brains to connect the dots.
Some attempts to correct this course were made, but given the fact that it takes at least half a decade to correctly train the newly hired analysts, the french intelligence services will remain short-staffed for at least three more years.

So, at least one What-If question -"Is it possible to implement IRL the kind of of benevolent synthetic Big Brother imagined in Person of Interest?"- has found its answer: We tried, and it failed.

MisterVec said...

It seems there will always be a subset of our population that waxes romantic about authoritarianism, lack of accountability and oversight, and all the other hallmarks of a feudal society. Perhaps they imagine that, as long as that kind of power structure exists, they will one day find themselves on top of it. Perhaps they delude themselves into thinking they have more in common with the king, than their fellow peasants.

Perhaps they simply resent a social contract that demands they put in as much as they take.

David Brin said...

Ah, The fact that Our Ent had seemed almost cogent for a while lured me into wondering if Poul Anderson's BRAIN WAVE was coming true. But no. Vile and stupid is as vile and stupid does.

Amazing. He recouches things into a campaign to paranoically vilify Putin, when few are doing that. Certainly I didn't. The topic is the slavishly lickspittle IDOLATRY of VP we see on the American right. Most of the rest of us barely mention the fellow, except in response to the Putin-swooning on the right.

Um... "putting his own people first?" Please, oh ent, name for us a realm of life - even one - in which things have gotten better for the average russian? Russian men are drinking themselves to death and Russian women want nothing to do with them. Putin is selling Siberia to the Chinese and every entrepreneurial startup has been coerced by Russian mobs to sell to oligarchs. lifespans have plummeted...

... and speaking purely imperially, Putin lost the Ukraine. Shall I repeat that? Putin lost the Ukraine. A gigantic setback that did not have to happen, had he not urged Yanukovich to push too far. The Russian press calls Obama the clever-aggressive thief of the Ukraine. They view Obama the way our loony right views Putin! What? We shouldn't take them at their word?

The response... some nibble-backs in Crimea etc plus sending planes dodging in and out of Finnish and Swedish and Estonian air space, has had two effects -- to draw all those countries closer to NATO... PLUS the loss, due to accidents and poor maintenance, of dozens of Russian aircraft, an attrition rate so severe they had to stop the intimidation flights. And NATO has revised way downward its estimates of the staying power of the Russian military in any confrontation.

Is all of this somehow... impressive? Sure, to losers.

locumranch said...

David offers a good analysis of Putin & shows how the masses prefer the Consensus Cult of Certainty over the nebulous nature of Critical Reasoning; Treebeard advocates a retreat from globalism; and I offer the following predictions with a callback to the last thread:

Now that (1) Hollande has partially repudiated NATO & aligned himself with Putin, (2) Putin & NATO-reliant Erdogan have exchanged threats, (3) Obama has formally endorsed Erdogan & NATO with the commitment of US ground forces to Syria & Iraq, it is likely that (4) "I'm as tough as any man" Hillary will contribute further aggressive military rhetoric, leading (5) US Republican Warhawks to repudiate Democrat-led foreign military involvement, (6) giving Rand Paul's Isolationism a huge boost in the polls, guaranteeing (7) a US retreat from foreign entanglements, (8) European chaos, (9) a collapsing global consensus and (10) a Republican US president come 2016 as best case scenario.


sociotard said...

I am curious. What freedoms do Russians have that Americans do not?

Another forum I frequent had this tidbit regarding that Naval Base:
I've SEEN the Russian naval base in question, not so many years ago. I know it features prominently in discussions between armchair strategists online, but I don't think that it has the slightest interest to Putin or the Russian military at all, except as a propaganda piece. It's a tiny harbour with a few rusting corrugated iron sheds, with two cranes, one of which has rusted out, and fallen over into the harbour. When I saw it, the floating piers were derelict and there was a rusted sunken ship at one wharf. It was, in a word, desolate. The Russians are entirely smart enough to know that a small, useless harbour in an area where they cannot reliably project airpower is not a military asset on the global stage, but a liability, which is exactly why they've left it to decay. Promises to rebuild it so that it could host aircraft carriers or cruisers have so far produced bupkiss, and the current Russian buildup isn't even in the area of the port. The Russians are actually using their access to the much better port at Limmasol in Cyprus rather more than their Syrian option anyway. I don't know what the status is now, but prior to the war, their "naval base" had a staff of 4.

The Ukraine is now a fractured state. The West didn't want that. Putin 'won' in that he made sure nobody won, and he did it with a minimum of effort. And that chessgame isn't over, either.

We don't get to make fun of Russia for failed Mars landers (and poor phobos grunt) when we still can't launch our own astronauts. Besides, their Venus explorations (until Magellan) were way better than ours. Their lander lasted 23 minutes!

So I don't discount the many great things the West has done in space this year, but it still can't count as our best year in space if we have to lean on our rivals for the basics. I would put our best at 89-90. We still had our own manned launch capability, and that was the year we got hubble. Or was it broken then?

sociotard said...

lifespans have plummeted...

Is it worse than the case for lower class white males in the US? Note that the diseases involved (cirrhosis of the liver, suicide, drug overdose, etc)

Seems similar.

LarryHart said...


I've heard Jews from Russia talk about Russian gentiles, and it isn't pretty. I guess American power is for them is a kind of revenge.

You're seriously going there?

You might also have heard Jews from Germany talk about Nazis, and I'll bet that isn't pretty either. Whose fault is it, though? Or as Dave Sim would put it, "Now that we know that, what do we know?"

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: If you worry too much about giving ammo to the nuttiest Rand followers, you'll limit scholarly models to achieve political ends. Not smart. Besides, there belief in the need for unregulated markets is easily attacked. In such a market, people will start trading at a meta level regarding the rules of the market to be enforced directly by the participants. Order emerges where it makes sense. Meta order emerges that way too. It's not hard to explain to people that their idealized anarchy is unstable and within a generation or two will produce meta-markets that enforce regulations. No matter who the strong/elite are, there are trades going on that enable them to enforce their wishes. They WILL create these meta-markets.

Before the 19th century, mathematicians who specialized in geometry tended to study flat spaces because they took the Euclid's parallel line postulate as so obvious as to be beyond doubt. Neat things happen, though, if you don't. That doesn't make the old knowledge wrong, but those who cling to much to that postulate are essentially wearing underwear 3 sizes too small. The constraint they impose upon themselves limits what they can perceive. Trying on a few different sizes frees us to see potential truths because what we can perceive depends critically upon the mental models we assume for the world around us. Is the geometry of the universe flat? Curved? It doesn't matter. Having a variety of mental models DOES matter. Some work better in certain situations than others.

LarryHart said...


guaranteeing (7) a US retreat from foreign entanglements, (8) European chaos, (9) a collapsing global consensus and (10) a Republican US president come 2016 as best case scenario.

Your (10) and (7) won't happen at the same time.

David Brin said...

Schadenfreude. A world of hope and forward accomplishment is terror to addicts of schadenfreude.

Alfred Differ said...

Historically speaking, Ukraine is always fractured. It is a borderland region between the Russians, Ottomans, and whoever happens to be strong to the west of them. They get carved up and owned. Ukrainian independence is an historical oddity.

Ukraine is technically a state composed of multiple nations. There is no harm in letting them split and return to the norm whether the parts are owned or free. There is no harm to the west anyway. Russia can't tolerate that, but the rest of us can.

I'm not convinced that anyone in Russia (at an official level) understands who is really to blame for their loss of Ukraine. It isn't Obama. From what I remember it was the people who went in and tried to teach them the basics of democracy. That effort spanned a while and wasn't officially sanctioned by the US federal government. US citizens WERE involved, but we have this pesky habit of meddling in ways our national government would prefer we did not. As I remember it, stability was desired by the US government and Ukraine was too deep into Eurasia for us to meddle. American citizens thought otherwise and went over there on their own dollar. Would a Russian truly believe that, though? Would Putin? Pfft!

Alfred Differ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alfred Differ said...

The folks at Stratfor forecast the breakup of the Russian Federation in the coming decade. It won't be a rebellion, though. It will be more of a dissolving brought about from the fact that they can't enforce order through the FSB without strong energy prices feeding the national treasury.

The forecast essentially calls for Ukraine to break with the western part moving into the EU as part of the German or Polish sphere. Which part depends on what Germany does to protect it's export economy in the coming decade.

Jumper said...

"pathological globalism, minoritarianism, cutural liberalism, ethnic self-deprecation and demographic re-engineering"
Sloganeering, shallow. It stinks of bigotry, of course, but since he avoids direct statements of it, we must pass on that. The first is whatever the reader wishes it to be: "Pathological globalism bad! Beneficial globalism good!" The second and third are fine, the fourth is a straw man or a recommendation to cast a gin eye on our history, and the last meaningless; inane.

David Brin said...

I believe Stratfor less and less as time goes on. I've met George Friedman and he is smart. But limited.

I got no problem with the mostly Russian Donbass going to Russia by Plebescite. What I condemn is calling nibble-backs like that "Putin Victories." Putin caused the Ukrainians to swerve westward by egging Yanukovich on to be an asshole. Who's a genius, again?

Yes, it was private NGOs... like that of George Soros... that carried a lot of water and chopped wood for the pro-western forces in Kiev... as SOros groups did prompting the fall of the Warsaw Pact. SO? Implicitly all the US right wingers credit Soros with this, when they say "here's a fellow so manipulative and scary that he personally toppled eight foreign governments!" Fox etc yell it, knowing that their confed viewers will never, ever put two and two together and realize they are crediting Soros (the democrat) with the fall of communism!

And yes, the Russians think such NGOs are simply organs of aggressive state power by the US.

Tony Fisk said...

I've been inclined to think that the current phase of the US civil war has flared up, in part, because of the abrupt collapse of the Soviet Empire in '89. Lacking a common foe for the first time in fifty years, it was time to look at some unfinished business.

With that in mind, it's interesting to contemplate this 'Putin envy'. Is it just feudal He-man admiration? Is it an attempt to stop the thought of a common enemy from re-asserting itself?

It was also face-palmingly amusing to watch another He-man wannabe, Tony Abbott, bellicosely threatening to 'shirt-front' Putin over the downing of flight MH17 when they attended the APEC conference last year. No servile adoration there! Where's a David Attenborough commentary when you need it? (At that stage, Abbott's standing was in the same state as the hapless MH17. Someone fortunately managed to find Tones's meds before a serious diplomatic incident took place)

LarryHart said...


"pathological globalism, minoritarianism, cutural liberalism, ethnic self-deprecation and demographic re-engineering"
The first is whatever the reader wishes it to be: "Pathological globalism bad! Beneficial globalism good!" The second and third are fine, the fourth is a straw man or a recommendation to cast a gin eye on our history, and the last meaningless; inane.

I'd say that "ethnic self-depreciation" refers to a particular minority group which fascists love to use as scapegoats. With that in mind, the other things are probably meant to be blamed on the same minority group as well, although in more of a dog-whistle kind of way. The first and fifth items together suggest Bolshevism, which we all know is the fault of the Jews.

David Brin said...

Funny how it was a Jew... George Soros... whom the American right credits with "toppling 8 foreign governments" which were of course the communist dictatorship of Hungary, the communist dictatorship of Poland, the communist dictatorship of Czechoslovakia, the communist dictatorship of East Germany, the communist dictatorship of Romania, the communist dictatorship of Bulgaria, the communist dictatorship of Latvia, the communist dictatorship of Estonia, the communist dictatorship of Lithuania, the communist dictatorship of Yugoslavia...

...oops that's ten. The monstrous demonstrable stupidity of a confederacy whose dittohead followers cannot even ask such a simple question and realize how they've been had.

Marino said...

Wonderful... Putin is hated by eeevil Jews, New World Order, demographic re-engineering. All the memes from the loony far Right lumped together. It lacks just a Sieg Heil at the end.

Acacia H. said...

Russia is less hurt by declining oil prices than you'd think.

What happened at the same time oil prices plummeted? The ruble sank, thanks in part to sanctions.

So they're selling oil and able to hold on more than you'd think. The big problem is high interest rates... and the fact they can't get foreign help to drill for oil in the arctic.

My concern is that my cousin is living there with her Russian husband and four children... including a 13-year-old boy who is already being eyed over by the Russian military recruiters.

Rob H.

Laurent Weppe said...

@ Rob H.
Here's a hint about Russia's situation: when military recruiters start eyeing pre-pubescent boys, it means the army is in shambles.

Alfred Differ said...

I've seen Friedman talk about the limit before. It's self-imposed to some extent. His group focuses at the geo-political level and treats nations as if they were entities capable of intent. A friend of mine summed up the other limit by pointing out that Stratfor avoids being wrong much of the time by avoiding opportunities to make predictions where they lack confidence. They usually won't consider long-shots or unlikely scenarios worthy of publishing, though they might track them internally as models against which to test information. I think they are useful even with these limits in the sense that any prediction that varies sharply from theirs requires some very good analysis.

The NGO participant I know (indirectly) as a source would probably rather be dead than work within an NGO funded by Soros. I doubt he goes for the 'toppled governments' nonsense, but he's a right-wing partisan in the US. As a result, I suspect the NGO picture over there was complicated enough to be the kind of operation our federal government couldn't control. US history has plenty of examples of this, so foreign governments really shouldn't be surprised or confused. These kinds of details take to long to explain on pundit shows, though. It's so much easier to emote. 8/

I think there is one part of the social model to test with multiple alternates, however, regarding Yanukovich and other leaders within Ukraine. Consider the possibility that they are quite corrupt and in the habit of milking the Russians by threatening to pay attention to the west. The current scenario is an example of them losing control of the threats and counter-threats. Such a loss is a plausible history, I think. It comes from the kind of politics that makes sense in a borderland.

Marino said...

the oddest Putin worshipper I met on an Italian blog was btw a self styled Randite "libertarian "
(btw. exporting that flavor of lunacy abroad should be deemed imho as hostile act of war...kinda firing at Ft. Sumter, bombing Pearl or invading Poland :-) )

He praised Russia, Moscow full of lights and shops like New York, the flat rate tax, everything having been privatized beginning with healthcare and schooling and the government doing just its proper role and (quote) "pity if they poison some dissenter with polonium, but political dictatorship aside Russians are more free to do business than Italians in Soviet-style socialist Italy"(unquote).

Now, Putin as Stalin reborn I may even subscribe, but Putin as real frickin' life John Galt estabilishing a Russia-wide Galt Gulch miniarchist utopia?

Alfred Differ said...

The Russian central government IS being harmed by low oil prices. It is important to realize the FSB is a player in that market, so their funding is impacted. David rightly points out elsewhere the role secret police play in getting to people and around technical limits, so impacts to their funding matter.

What we are also seeing is the Russians are having a hard time using oil and natural gas as political tools. If they had stronger financial reserves, they could afford to use more threats to shut off supplies. They don't, though. For example, to get back at Turkey, they are going to have to be a bit more creative or risk driving Turkey to establish alternative supplies.

reason said...

When I look at Putin, I see a thinner version of il Duce. There is considerable similarity in their body language. (Nothing at all like Stalin or Hitler - he doesn't have their misanthropy.)

Laurent Weppe said...

"the oddest Putin worshipper I met on an Italian blog was btw a self styled Randite "libertarian " "

There's nothing odd about a randologist having a crush on Putin: Randologists are dorks who fancy themselves as intellectual ├╝bermenschen and who deep down resent the fact that they never got to be the schoolyard bully: Putin is the Randian Mary Sue made flesh... Except that since this is reality, instead of being an actual intellectual demi-god, he's simply a poseur whose groupies proclaim to be an intellectual demi-god.

And likewise, Russia, where the handful of cities fueled by the voracious extraction of finite resources where the local aristocracy drunk on material comforts can feel omnipotent looks on a surface level like a Galtian "utopia"... Hell, given the fact that Rand's pseudo-philosophy itself stemmed from her resentment toward the fact that the bolshevik take-over had stripped her family of its material comforts, I suspect that deep down she envisioned Galt Gulch like the glittering parasitic gilded cages where the Russian oligarchy dwells.

Tacitus said...

Reading David's description of Conservative Putin envy I thought for a moment we were still on the previous thread, that entitled Political Sense and Nonsense.

No, I am aware of no Conservatives who regard Putin in substance as being anything other than a nasty piece of work.

But there is a bit of the abstract to consider as well. In his self appointed role as a "Restorer of Past Glory" there would be a faint resonance with memories of Ronald Reagan. I recall RR also liking to be photographed on horseback, and both spoke/speak of a new age dawning.

But this is not a real comparison. Leaders (often on horseback) frequently proclaim a need to return to old virtues and a restoration of old boundaries. Usually it ends far worse than with Reagan.

I have been feeling Roman Imperial this morning. Earlier examples of this archetype were Aurelianus, who I rather liked, and Julian the Apostate. The latter really pushed the return to the old ways thing, and his rejection of the New Faith of Christianity is a bit of parallel to Putin trying to extirpate, or more likely coopt, Capitalism.

Ended badly for both wearers of the Purple of course.

Putin as Julian the Apostate. A better fit that as a slavic Gipper.


Paul SB said...

Alfred, I completely get what you are saying (or at least, I think I do ...) but my concern is not so much about scholars, and is not limited to those who self-identify with the Randian fringe. I know just how average people would respond where I came from, and while Ventura is a beautiful place, I suspect that where I came from is more typical of a pretty broad demographic within the US. Any time anyone says anything ever remotely positive about markets, the caustic conservatives see an "I told you so" button to push. It's obvious why they do that - it's in their personal interests as businessmen. And there are those of us who know well enough to distrust those blanket statements, but sometimes being reasonable loses the propaganda war with the less educated.

I gave to get to work. I'll try to get back later.

Acacia H. said...

Russian military recruiters eyeing 13-year-olds could also have something to do with the fact said 13-year-old already has to shave, is nearly as tall as his dad (who admittedly isn't tall, but given the issues Russia has suffered from, malnutrition retarding height isn't surprising and my cousin and her family just returned to Russia after spending a year in the States due to medical problems with her daughter), and looks closer to 16-17 than 13.

Seriously. Kids are looking older earlier these days. I think it's something in the water...

Rob H.

Jumper said...

So who would look sillier on horseback, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? Or Sanders, Rubio, Carson...? Or my faves, Al Franken, or Russ Feingold... At least Howard Dean has the voice to make that horse gallop off like hellfire was on top of it!

Berial said...

I could honestly see Hillary riding a horse as a young girl. Not so much now, of course.

Anonymous said...


I recommend you look at this through the eyes of an oligarch based oh his value system and his objectives. What are his objectives? Always, the key is to maintain power and control and increase his personal wealth. To do this he needs to accomplish a few things:

1) Maintain high popularity with the people.
2) Develop in the population a sense of fear of the outside world and nationalist support for Mother Russia.
3) Build strong ties with nationalist states in the middle east.
4) Make it clear to peripheral countries that any attempt to leave the Russian sphere will be crushed and that NATO will not help.
5) Prevent the free flow of oil to keep it trading at as high a price as possible given the new economic fundamentals that suggest it should be extremely cheap (due primarily to the American innovation of fracking).

He has now ensured that Iran and Syria will be in his sphere for the foreseeable future. He has driven fear into the hearts of those who love freedom within his country and near its boarders. He is very popular with his people. He has made the U.S. appear weak in the Middle East and in Eastern Europe. The one area he has not yet succeeded in is getting the price of oil up over 60 or so, and that may be too much for him to ask for given the fundamental shift in oil economics.

Based on his value system, not mine, not yours, he is winning. I understand how to your value system he looks like a buffoon, but you hardly represent any demographic that he cares about. Within the parameters of the game he is playing, he has out maneuvered Obama at every turn.


David Brin said...

Anonymous are you kidding? By the 5 standards that YOU yourself raise, he is failing in three of them. And sorry, WHen statecraft and the well-being of your people do not even place on the list, then something is wrong, by any standards.

Paul451 said...

"Putin is a nationalist who puts his own people first"

Did you miss the part where there has been a continuing decline in living standards for ordinary Russians? In spite of huge profits from oil/gas.

OTOH, you did say "his own people", so in theory you could have meant just the Russian oligarchs. In which case, he has indeed put his friends ahead of the Russian people. Is that what you admire? What you want for your own country? Strip-mining wealth for a few powerful assholes.

I would think that was America's problem, not its solution.

From the main article:
"Yet he is portrayed as the master mover!"

Many (non-Fox/Forbes) observers have noted that he's a master tactician, but a poor strategist.

"it is nothing less than a worshipful personality cult."
"Look into his fiercely intelligent eyes"

Uh oh.

ortmair said...

I think one of the reasons Russians think Obama (Obama of all People!!) consider to be so dangerous is because he simply does´nt give a hoot. Nothing is worse than an enemy who considers himself (let alone actually is) so superior that he does´nt even consider you a threat. that´s just humiliating.

Also, Stratfor: they lost me with that whole ,,Japanese-Turkish Alliance vs. USA and Allies World War III" thing.
I also think they are underestemating Climate Change and perhaps..India.

Deuxglass said...

If I were the head of the CIA and looking for a way to permanently weaken Russia I couldn’t find a better agent than Putin. He ruined any chance for amical relations with the people closest to Russia in language, culture and history. He increased Russia’s dependence on volatile commodity exports of which he has no pricing control. He installed an economic system in which innovation is stifled. He is selling his military and natural resources at bargain prices to a dubious ally who has territorial rededications on Russia’s Far East. His actions resulted in reinvigorating NATO and not breaking it apart as he expected. No one trusts his word now. His operations in the Ukraine are stalled. Crimea has neither electricity nor water and is a huge money hole. Tax receipts are declining and the budget deficit is exploding and military research and acquisition are dropping yet military expenditures are rising to support his Syrian operations that are becoming quite expensive.

Now on the plus side there is…………I can’t think of anything. I hope that he will continue in power till Russia becomes a real basket case and never again pose a threat. This is my “Head of the Cia” hat.

Anonymous said...

@David Brin I wouldn't call them neccessarily "stupid". Many of them have high organizational skills and many of the blind adherants to the Religious Right got excellent grades in school, for instance. What they do have is almost all the traits belonging to authoritarian followers as described in detail by professor Robert Altemeyer here (http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/). What are those traits?

-Submission: Many have a fatalistic view of their own existance and live only to be cogs in the machine their leaders have assembled. They will blindly follow their recognized leaders, to the point where they will commit obvious Doublethink to do so. They are also prone to extreme confirmation bias.
-Aggression: Higher levels of agression towards "outsider" groups who do not conform. Liberals, leftists, Northerners, blacks, atheists, promiscuous women, etc. This is a way of cementing their bonds with others in their group and reinforcing conformity. They will believe literally anything about these groups who are believed to be existential threats to their existance.
-Conventionalism: They will readily follow their established culture to a more fervent degree than most. This is why they will blindly follow an extreme social conservative on the fringes but never listen to President Obama as the latter is viewed as subverting their culture.

It's worth noting that many of the above traits tend to be amped up to infinity under the fear of some sort of threat, regardless of its legitimacy. Fear drives most of it (or at least causes it to bubble to the surface) and only getting them to stop panicking and think for themselves will stop it.

locumranch said...

Actually, Douglas is misinterpreting Putin's so-called 'reinvigoration of NATO', especially when Putin has (1) proven NATO's relative powerlessness in the absence of a nuclear option, (2) forced NATO to eat their empty threats & withdraw in terms of Ukraine, (3) convinced Hollande's France to ally with Russia in terms of ISIS and (4) exploited Turkey's questionable relationship with both the EU & NATO, all while holding the EU's natural gas supply as an implicit hostage against the coming winter, so much so that the lower PRICE of Russian fossil-fuels does NOT matter, because EU natural gas requirements are neither fungible nor easily provided for by other pipeline sources.

Assuming that Putin just bide his time, it becomes increasingly likely that both the EU and NATO will collapse under their own weight, making a Russian Federation membership that much more attractive to post-EU nations.


Deuxglass said...


Every one of your points are wrong. Every one! Usually you mix some truth in but this time you outdo yourself.

(1) proven NATO's relative powerlessness in the absence of a nuclear option,

Have any NATO member left the alliance? Finland and Sweden are seriously thinking of joining thanks to Putin.

(2) forced NATO to eat their empty threats & withdraw in terms of Ukraine

Ukraine is still there and fighting with better and better equipment. They are rebuilding their army and where is Putin now? He switched to Syria where he hopes to find the victory that eluded him in the Ukraine and he will fail there too.

(3) convinced Hollande's France to ally with Russia in terms of ISIS

Hollande already has NATO as an ally. Putin is just an add-on to him. Just a small feather in his cap. He knows where the real military support will come from.

(4) exploited Turkey's questionable relationship with both the EU & NATO, all while holding the EU's natural gas supply as an implicit hostage

Has NATO broken with Turkey? Has Turkey broken with NATO? The EU has diversified their energy supplies, again thanks to Putin, and now can survive nicely without Russia's gas. Do you take West Europeans for fools? The Ukraine announced recently that they will no longer buy gas from Russia because they get a better price from Europe. Shouldn't that tell you something? Putin miscalculates again and again.

"Assuming that Putin just bide his time, it becomes increasingly likely that both the EU and NATO will collapse under their own weight, making a Russian Federation membership that much more attractive to post-EU nations"

Don't hold your breath locum. Putin is the best agent the CIA ever had. He will take Russia from a regional power to an insignificant one and there is nothing the Russians can do about it because he has all the power. Congratulations on your choice of leader.

Jumper said...

I did notice, when I was wondering how many Syrian refugees Russia would take, that actually no Syrian refugee wants to go live in Russia. Ones there are attempting to go to Finland.

David Brin said...

Thanks DF. I was gonna point out the everything-is-opposite, but you did it fine.

In fact, I am a moderate. I respect Putin in some ways and give a 10% chance he may be up to something... unusual. Above all I do not want Russia to collapse into hysteria with nukes, while simply giving up Siberia to China.

A possible reset? Arrest every oligarch and mafioso. Re-establish state companies then privatize them China style, instead of the horrific way the that evil-evil man George H. W. Bush and his vile gang "advised" Yeltsin to do, in 1990.

locumranch said...

Douglas confuses proof of absence with absence of proof:

1. Has NATO confronted Russia over Ukraine in any direct or material way? Has it massed it's forces on Russia's border? Has it invoked the nuclear option? No, no, a thousand times no.

2. Hasn't France divided it's loyalties between NATO & the Russian Anti-NATO? And hasn't the EU bent over backwards to appease increased Russian belligerence? Yes, yes, very much so.

3. In the case of the longstanding enmity between Turkey & Greece (which are both NATO allies, btw), has NATO ever sided with one side against the other? No, no, no.

The sad truth is that NATO is an antiquated Cold War Relic, previously empowered by the Nuclear Option, now rendered powerless by the absence of the USSR's Unifying Threat and delegated to Second Fiddle by a preeminent (yet increasingly delicate) EU charter, so much so that (1) most of the US Right's "Admiration of Putin" is (arguably) a regressive impulse to confer Super Villain Status onto Putin in order to reclaim the waning relevance of both NATO & US headship and (2) the death of the EU will also be the death of NATO.

Though NATO was once "Emperor", it becomes increasingly obvious to all that the 'Emperor has NO clothes'. Analogously, the same explanation can be used to explain the sudden worldwide increase in random violence against soft targets as it becomes increasingly clear that law enforcement cannot prevent crime but only meter out punishment after the fact, meaning that both the Law & Police have become IRRELEVANT to those who lack either conscience or fear of punishment.

O Rose that is NATO, thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.


Jumper said...

Multiple personality disorder?

Jumper said...

"If you think the invisible worm is a phallic symbol, I think you should get another boyfriend."

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: I understand your concerns, but they make you sound some folks who can't admit when progress is being made and congratulate those who take a step in their direction because they failed to take two steps. If you dig into the belief system of many US conservatives, you'll find they have elements that align with classical liberalism. They won't dare admit it because we've gone and changed the meaning of the term so much, but they CAN be coaxed to take a step in the direction of a modern US liberal if one treats them fairly. The trick to it is to avoid slamming them for one thing they believe while patting them on the back for another... at the same time. There are other options to slamming them including simple time delays.

Besides, it would be a huge benefit to slam some on the left for their piss poor understanding of the role markets play in our civilization. We aren't all one big happy family and can't organize our economic activity as if we were. Markets are a necessary part of what it means to be a modern human. Failure to comprehend their role should be treated as a form of illiteracy.

Alfred Differ said...

@ortmair: The return of Japan and Turkey in his book certainly requires some mental stretching, but he said as much in the book. The point of that forecast wasn't so much that they would, but that they could. In the affairs of nations, 'could' means a lot. India goes into the 'could not' bucket, though, because south Asia is effectively an island composed of many nations. India as a nation is a bit of a fiction. A unified South Asia is a colossal fiction. It has been through much of history or it would not have been colonized. Same for 'island' we call China with a twist. China CAN coalesce into a single state, but tends to impoverish itself in doing so.

Whether Japan and Turkey DO as forecast in his book depends a lot on how the US treats them in the coming century. Because they CAN, we have every motivation to make sure they don't want to do it. Germany built and rebuilt with lighting speed after unification and a world war. We'd be stupid to think history can't rhyme.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: I think you are missing the point wrt NATO. It IS a Cold War relic we will move past, but it was never that unified. France under De Gaulle never truly believed the US would start a nuclear war to defend them from a Russian invasion across the northern plains of Europe. They played the role of an ally while also playing the role of a primary threat by developing their own nuclear arsenal. With the Russians just one border away in those days, it made some sense. They didn't plan to wait for us and when we poked them in the eye over the Suez canal, they had evidence of their need to remain partially potent.

NATO served a purpose as a broad containment border in Europe against the USSR. That border has moved far to the east since then. The modern equivalent should focus on the Baltic states, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania. Pulling Turkey and Azerbaijan in would be useful, but tricky. Another alternative would be to bag western Ukraine as an independent state and skip Hungary and Slovakia, but that would create a difficult to defend flash point with the Russian military just down stream. With the new border, both France and Germany are potentially unnecessary. THAT is what will end NATO as an effective force.

What Putin has done, instead, is give NATO a reason to persist. Strategically stupid of him. He should be doing everything possible to undermine NATO unity by wiping out the need for it. The remaining border alliance won't be anywhere near as strong because we might not even bother to put our backs into it. By annoying the Swedes and Finns, he practically invites NATO to encroach and cut off Baltic access. If he continues on this path, he will impoverish his nation and strengthen the one neighbor that could effectively challenge them for control of the region. Poland COULD do it and history shows how.

David Brin said...

Alfred why bother. He knows everything he says is opposite-to-true. Back in the Cold War, NATO knew it did not have the numbers to win a conventional war so they were prepared with tactical nukes... also to press Warsaw Pact allies of the USSR to defect (which we later found to be very plausible.)

Today it is the opposite. Russia knows NATO could walk right through the front door conventionally and half the Russian troops would throw down their arms. It cannot possibly happen. Not one NATO member wants even remotely to do that, but on paper it's easy, so now it is Russians investing heavily in tactical nukes. But recent saber rattling flights through finnish and Swedish and Turkish airspace has been calamitously counter-productive, with huge losses in aircraft to incompetence and poor maintenance. With Russian jets tumbling out of the sky, "intimidation" is not the right word.

Sorry, my point stands. Putin is what he is (unless he isn't.) But he is actually peripheral. What matters is US politics. And the wing of our system that has elevated Putin to godlike grandeur and worship is also the same wing waging war on American science and every knowledge profession and on our economy, budget and common sense and sense of calm adulthood.

They are insane.

Alfred Differ said...

I don't think the Russians would roll over quite that easily, but it doesn't matter in the long run. It doesn't serve our interests to cause that for reasons you've already stated. I DO suspect their federation will dissolve, but the old Muskovy core will survive the century and drift farther into irrelevance. If the Poles have any sense, they will step into that vacuum.

What Putin is doing reminds me a bit of behaviors exhibited by North Korea and Iran. When a state isn't very strong, threatened by existential threats, but hard to completely eliminated, the 'madman' strategy can be used. If I'm crazy enough to cause you a lot of pain, you'll consider carefully the pros and cons of eliminating me. If the benefits aren't high enough, an occasional frothing at the mouth would be enough to preserve me. Russia isn't quite that weak yet, but that's where they are heading. The problem is that Putin is frothing at neighbor dogs who aren't as secure as we are. Their calculations are different from ours.

I'm not sure I agree with you regarding our right wing and their Putin worship. I think it is more about Obama hatred. If they had their own guy in there, they'd be threatening Russia with lots of chest puffery. They have more than their fair share of fools who think we are invincible.

Paul SB said...

Alfred, I'm afraid I can't differ with you on anything here. I'm not a scorched earth kind of person, and I have long distrusted the extremes on either side. Markets, in the strict economic sense, are clearly a critical part of the functioning of any state-level society. The loonies on the right are basically evil people who want to exploit everyone and get away with it - which is why they argue so strenuously for laissez faire capitalism. The loonies on the other side, who treat markets as something unclean, are the kind of idealists who are dangerous because they want to impose unrealistic ideals on the world. If it comes to a choice between evil and foolish, I'll take the foolish and hope they are capable of learning from their mistakes before the body count gets too high. The evil ones are generally beyond reform.

Of course, if we were talking about this face-to-face, these kinds of things would come out in a matter of minutes. Communication by blog is a little like sending robots to distant planets: a trained human could accomplish in two weeks what Spirit & Opportunity did in 5 years.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin, while I think you're right on the ball here, it seems to me that Alfred has a point about context. You didn't hear the right-wingers singing the praises of Putin much when the Shrub was in office. I suspect much of that will change again if they get one of their boys back in the White House. Context, as they say, is everything.

Paul SB said...


I know I'm going back to the previous thread, but I was too busy with work to get back to the blog for awhile.

"Same tired old lemming-like responses:

(1) Photosynthetic CO2 fixation ONLY happens in 'twees and fowests', they say, even though every reputable biology text identifies phytoplankton (algae) as the main producer of 70 to 90% of the globe's oxygen, and never a mention about CO2 sequestration by bivalves (Purisma formation) or mineral deposition (limestone & chalk);"

This is pretty typical of what this guy dishes out here. It almost seems unnecessary to point out that most of my freshmen are more grown up than this. When someone behaves that consistently childish it's only natural to question their motivations. Given how very selective he is with information, it seems that ego has a lot more to do with his evaluations than facts.

It's not very worthwhile to respond on an emotional level when he can be easily trashed on a factual level. It's pretty easy to find information on how ocean acidification and increased temperatures are affecting phytoplankton from reputable sources like Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institute, NOAA, the Smithsonian Institute, etc. Some of that focuses on depletion of critical nutrients like iron as well as the effects of the acid itself. But even supposing this were not happening and it were just the twees and fowests we are losing, that's still a significant drop in oxygen levels. And the range, 10-30%, is pretty broad (I've never seen a credible estimate of 90% - they tend to hang around the 70% level). Now the human body can adapt to a drop in O2 levels - we do it all the time when we move to high-altitude towns and cities. But human life depends on more than just our own adaptability. Insects are particularly sensitive to O2 levels. A 20% increase in the Paleozoic saw dragonflies as long as your arm and millipedes as long as a car. What would a drop of 10% do to them? I wouldn't miss mosquitoes, but without pollinators for our crops, we would see that massive die-off.

Every time the subject comes up, he comes back with more BS, completely ignoring anything that invalidates his arguments. There isn't much point responding to him at all. Larry seems to enjoy toying with him, and that's fine if he enjoys it. But I would prefer the cold shoulder treatment.

Midboss57 said...

I think there are a couple of other reasons (in addition to Vlad the Impaler being everything the crazy right wants a leader to be) why everyone seems to think he's a genius:
- Incompetence from a distance looks like competence.
It's a little law I came up with which is a combination of the Grass is greener on the other side idea and the No hero to his valet one. Long story short, we in the West, are very familiar in the ways in which our society/government/military is incompetent/wasteful/defective... Virtually everyone by now has gotten the memo on how the american military industrial complex is most wasteful in the world. The F-35 being the most triumphant illustration of this little fact (late, over budget, still not working). Europe's is not too far behind in those regards. (France's Leclerc MBT is overpriced, the UK sold off all it's Harriers and has nothing to put on its aircraft carrier until said F-35 is finally working, Germany's main assault rifle melts in the desert...) Thanks to our free press all too happy to report those and our proximity, we know about all our defects.
In contrast with China and Russia. The average westerner does not live near their activities and therefore doesn't get to see all the defects they are experiencing. All they have is the news that tends to just report their numbers and positions. We don't tend to get many articles on how their latest gear doesn't work or how much money those bombs they are dropping or the maintenance and supply of their troops costs.

The other aspect is that Russia's activities in Ukraine and Syria are still relatively young. Remember how good things looked at first for the West in Iraq and Afghanistan ? I believe the exact words were "Mission Accomplished". Give it time and the cracks will begin showing.

Jumper said...

Sometimes I just model geopolitics by the heroin theory - who controls it and what's their "army" up to. I particularly viewed the Afghanistan maneuverings this way. I suspected when our side spoke of allied warlords, we weren't supposed to think "Oh. Drug lords." Nice teammates. As I recall Russia had a big heroin epidemic towards the end of their time as occupiers. Chechnya followed. Who knows whose fingers are in there now? How many Russians, as opposed to former Soviets from southern states?
Poppies are war's lubricant.

LarryHart said...

@Dr Brin,

Is San Bernadino close to home?

Anonymous said...

Paul SB,

When you get locum to speak clearly you can then destroy his arguments with precision which is what I was looking for. When he makes a stand he shows his lack of logic, of knowledge and intelligence. Sorry locum, you fell for it hook, line and sinker.

locumranch said...

Everyone is entitled to express their opinions, at least in the hypothetically free society, so we can only agree to disagree if we so wish, until I, you & we exercise our right to say we told you so.

1. NATO will dissolve, and the US will isolate itself, as the only sensible option when the EU fractures, otherwise the West will be treaty-bound by its notorious 'foreign entanglements' to bear arms against itself;

2. The Russian Federation will persist & grow, despite its obvious weaknesses, because it is more homogeneous & stronger yet than the diverse paper giant that is the EU;

3. And, the strength of most projective arguments, including climate change, is inversely proportional to the amount of hyperbole expended on its behalf.

Did PSB just claim, btw, that climate change & rising CO2 has already caused 'a significant drop in (atmospheric) oxygen levels'?

Cough, cough. To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, perhaps even the dream of catastrophic human-mediated climate change, silent springs and divine absolution.


Deuxglass said...


Yes everyone is entitled to express their opinion but if one tries to pass his opinion as fact then he had better be able to support it with arguments, facts and references which is something Dr. Brin does very well every time he writes a new subject for discussion. You would do well to take him as an example. Every one of your points is just a wish list and devoid of content.

Andy said...

Dr. Brin, what is your response to the comment by sociotard pointing out the sorry state of the Tartus naval base?

I checked out the wiki article on it... and it indeed says it is manned only by 4 civilian contractors, and seems to hardly be used by any ships.

Could it be that the base really is militarily unimportant, and that there are other explanations for Russia's involvement in Syria?

Paul451 said...

Re: Oxygen levels.
There's a small decrease over time. PPM range.


Much of the loss comes directly from fossil fuel burning, obviously. But by comparing the amount of hydrocarbon burnt with the amount of oxygen lost, you find you've only explained about 2/3rds of the drop. The rest is assumed to come from deforestation.

The drop in atmospheric oxygen levels beyond the amount expected from carbon burning, also neatly puts paid to the rightwing trope that rising CO2 is "greening" the Earth. If we were really seeing an increase in the amount of photosynthesis, then the rate of drop of oxygen would be less than the amount of carbon burned.

(Phytoplankton-produced O2 is dissolved in the ocean. The cycle between ocean and atmosphere will be long, so the effects of the 40% decrease in phytoplankton biomass since 1950 is for our descendants to enjoy. (Oddly, the prior reduction in phytoplankton biomass is probably more to do with whaling than climate change.))

locumranch said...

Since Paul451 was so kind to cite this source @ www.carboscope.eu (above) in order to support the "significant drop in (atmospheric) oxygen levels", it is only fitting to address this source directly, including the measured 60 ppm INCREASE in Atmospheric CO2 from 1960 to 2010 (showing a relative increase in CO2 concentration of 18.7%) and the insignificant DECREASE of atmospheric O2 concentration of 0.028% (or 60 ppm) from 1960 to 2010, begging a completely different question:

How accurate are these NDIR-based atmospheric gas concentration measurements?

Putting the obvious observation that the PPM-based gas concentrations are ZERO SUM at a standardized 1 ATM pressure (meaning that a CO2 increase of 60 ppm requires the complementary 60 ppm decrease in another gas), we know that NOAA's ESRL uses NDIR technology to accurately measure both CO2 and O2 concentrations at selected sites around the world and documents data to show high reproducibility of CO2 data (+/- 0,5 pmm) when compared to a laboratory standard but a +/- 50 ppm variance (margin of error) at its Wisconsin Tower site (1).

(1) http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/about/co2_measurements.html

Therein lies the rub. This rather small MOE of +/- 50 ppm -- which translates as 15% variance when compared to the CO2 level in 1960 -- is a relatively NEW development, circa 2010. Prior to this date, the NDIR-related MOE in CO2 measurement exceeded +/- 100 ppm or 25% of the total CO2 concentration (2).

(2) http://www.iaria.org/conferences2013/filesSENSORDEVICES13/Jacob_SensorDevices2013_Keynote.pdf

Other basic weaknesses of the current post-2010 NDIR gas measurement technology include (source 2 above):

"• The absorption strength of the infrared signatures or absorption bands for
gases detectable using this technique varies a great deal from one another.
• The spectral locations of these infrared signatures also vary widely from 2 -
• The line shape of these infrared signatures also are distinctly different from
one another and some are very difficult to handle.
• The detection range and sensitivity required for detecting most gases using this
technique also vary a great deal, detection range from tens of thousands of
ppm to just a few ppm; detection sensitivity from +/- 50ppm to sub-ppm or
• Measurement of gas concentration using this technique actually is measuring
the gas density inside the sample chamber. Thus the measurement always
depends upon ambient temperature and atmospheric pressure. They must be
appropriately accounted for in the measurement in order to obtain accurate


Tacitus said...

Can we maybe have one discussion thread that does not circle back to Climate Change and CO2? Yes, yes, important. But it is crowding out other matters.


Jeff B. said...

Several things that western observers of Russia (and the Russians) often fail to consider when viewing their current political dynamic.

1.) Historically and culturally, the Russian people have been (and arguably remain) concerned with their perceived vulnerability, and from thence their security. Militarily, first the Eastern and then the Western steppe proved to be invitations to invasion; the Mongol invasion absolutely devastated the burgeoning the Kievan and northern Russian principalities- some estimates give 50% mortality rates. Those that remained nominally independent in the far northwest (Novgorod) almost immediately had to face down Swedish and Teutonic would-be invaders.

After the coalescence of the strong Muscovy state, some of the first sustained acts were securing their frontiers, both in the Ukrainian steppes and then the vast expanses of Siberia, clear to the Pacific, and the steppes of Central Asia. (Yes, profit was also a strong motive in the latter two, both in furs and in securing access to Eastern and Persian markets.)

The impression the sheer terror of these invasions had on the collective psyche was immense, and dramatically reinforced in more recent times- especially Napoleon and Hitler. Yes, Russia triumphed against both, but at bloody cost. Russia's borders are not readily defensible, and so it is always aware of its vulnerability.

The Russian people have also long striven to "catch up" with the West, ever since Peter the Great first started dragging his hinterland-nation into world prominence. The sense of cultural inferiority, while perhaps today not as pronounced, also influences their view of the world.


LarryHart said...

No Climate change or CO2 here.

I thought that the San Bernadio shooting might get more mention here, seeing as it took place (I think) in spitting distance of where Dr Brin lives. Doesn't seem to be the case, though. Is that because it's too much of a downer, or because it is off-topic? Or have we actually reached that saturation point where "another mass shooting in America" is literally just another day?

Really, I heard on the news last night that there was another shooting episode somewhere in Georgia the same day, and it wasn't getting any coverage because everyone's eye was on California. How'd you like to be the one who shoots up a crowd of people for your fifteen minutes of (posthumous) fame, only to be bumped from the headlines by someone who killed more people at the same time?

I don't know how we get back to sanity from here. Like many fellow-liberals, I want to do something to prevent mass-shootings, but in truth, I don't see how "stronger gun laws" would have any real-world effect. Since many of these people shoot themselves or are killed by police, I don't even see how harsher penalties would have any effect? What should be done? What can be done? Can anything be done? Can evolution produce bullet-resistant skin in time to save the species?

In a perverse way, this is why the recent Paris terrorist attack didn't "change everything" for me the way everyone says 9/11 did--for example, didn't make me suddenly fearful that a terrorist may manage to sneak in with Syrian refugees. Of course, we're scared at the thought of terrorists flying airplanes into skyscrapers, or the implicit threat that one might explode a nuclear device (dirty or otherwise) in a metropolitan area. But what happened in Paris happens almost-literally every day here in the states. Is the thought of a building being shot up by Muslims really an order of magnitude scarier than if it's only shot up by a (usually) white, (usually) Christian lone wolf with an unspecified grudge? If so, then the terrorists have won. If not, then the terrorists are irrelevant. "We have met the enemy, and it is us."

Jeff B. said...

2.) Putin himself is very much a product of the Soviet system, and of the Russian worldview. The Soviet Union was very determined after WWII to ensure that a physical threat like Nazi Germany would never again press on their borders. From their perspective, establishing a "sphere of influence" along their borders was nothing more than common sense. It's not certain how much Stalin believed the literal party line about promulgating world revolution, but extending Communist reach to secure the Homeland's frontiers was paramount. Their mis-estimate of the West's intentions, and ours of theirs, led to the Cold War.

They perceived the U.S. of deliberately attempting to ring Mother Russia with foes- Japan, Korea, Turkey, Iran, Western Europe, completed the encirclement. And at least elements all the way up to the Politboro and the Central Committee viewed our actions through this lens.

And Putin is very much a creature of this worldview. His actions at home are those typical of a party apparatchik- reward your friends and those loyal to you, control the press (even now with a few limits, to cut down on some of the harshness of the CCCP- why give your enemies too much ammo?), and work to eliminate enemies of the state (again, more limited than in the CCCP. Perhaps he is more pragmatic than former Soviet leaders, and/or learned from a few of their mistakes.)

It is his relations with the outside world where the historic xenophobia seems most apparent. Putin's big blunders in Georgia, Crimea, and Donbass were motivated by security fears- if your "enemy" moves while you are weak, and "takes" territories formerly under your control (think Eastern Europe, now for the most part firmly in the Western sphere), then appears to support states like Georgia and the Ukraine formerly PART of the CCCP, against the Homeland, well, this must be countered. It saved face at home, since it was so simple to stoke the cultural fear of the outsider. The same with other moves- airspace violations in Finland and Sweden and Turkey were meant to intimidate.

That all of these moves were strategic failures is besides the point- from the perspective of a former KGB official, Western acts were hostile and needed to be countered. Syria may be an anomaly in this view- perhaps only an attempt to bolster a former client; on this we might have been able to set aside differences, if we really believed ISIS was the primary threat.

Oh, and Siberia? You can absolutely forget any consideration of the Russians voluntarily giving it up to China. The memory of the Mongol Horde lives on, and territory is security. China is the bogeyman Russia fears, and Siberia would be grounds for war if China ever moved in that direction. (And there have been border clashes too numerous to note, some significant enough that they could have been considered outright wars...)

Tacitus said...

Jeff B
Nice synopsis of the sad epic that is Russian history.

I think we are still in the 24-48 hr window that it takes to absorb just what happened with the latest horrific shooting event.

Most of what is said in the first six hours is always either empty vapors or flat out wrong. A bit of the vibe yesterday with people mocking Prayer was uniquely offensive but I guess you have to cut folks some slack when they are responding to tragedy.

Like you, and like most Americans, if I saw a way that gun control laws would make these things happen less often I would be, and actually am, receptive.

All such laws would do would be reduce the death toll, maybe, not the incidence. A switch over to more bombs or even lower tech weapons like the current "knife intifada" in Israel or the horrid events in the UK in recent years.

There is a dark, corrupt spot in our collective soul that I sometimes despair of.


Laurent Weppe said...

"Or have we actually reached that saturation point where "another mass shooting in America" is literally just another day? "

A conversation I had this evening with a neighbor:
Him: "Have you seen that mass shooting that happened in the US?"
Me "Which one?"

Jeff B. said...


Thanks. Russia is one of the great tragedies of world history. I was given the golden opportunity to visit, away back in the too-brief era of glastnost and perestroika, and found the country beautiful and the people warmhearted.

In answer to your despair, there are people out there proposing some practical solutions. I find Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station to be one of the most eloquent- a retired Chief Warrant Officer and trained gun instructor whose views get him labeled as an "America-hater." Read this summary for what I think is one of the most common-sense approaches, taking basic gun safety principles (as outlined by the NRA, of all places) and codifying it into law:


Some of the salient points:
"Misdemeanor for failure to point your weapon in a safe direction, for unintentional discharge, for failure to properly maintain and use safety systems if only property damage is involved. Felony negligence if somebody is injured including yourself. Felony manslaughter if somebody dies.

You’re intoxicated with a gun? You go to jail. And we impound your weapons. Somebody is injured? Aggravated assault. Somebody is killed? Negligent homicide. You’re operating a killing machine, I don’t think sobriety is too much to ask.

Misdemeanor for failure to properly store your weapon. Felony negligence if somebody is injured including yourself. Negligent homicide if somebody dies. Children are able to access your weapon because you failed to properly secure it? Felony child endangerment. No excuses. No exceptions.

Conviction on misdemeanor gun safety charges? You lose the privilege for a specified period. You engage in remedial action? You prove you’ve learned your lesson? You prove you’ll be a responsible gun owner in the future? You get your guns back. Happens again, you lose the privilege forever. We don’t give drunk drivers more than two strikes either.

Conviction on felony gun handling charges? You lose the privilege. Period. Your name goes in the federal database and you never own or operate a gun again, this includes cops and military.

You’re caught with a gun after losing the privilege? You automatically go to prison, no plea deals, no excuses.

Don’t want to lose the privilege? Then all you have to do is follow the NRA’s own rules for responsible gun ownership.

Over time, just like with the drunk driving laws, enforcing the NRA’s own rules, the same basic common sense rules that are used in the military, in law enforcement, on civilian gun ranges, and were taught to most of us by our fathers, will change our culture from one of gun fetishists to one of responsible gun owners. And that will reduce gun violence, just as the same approach has significantly reduced drinking and driving."

I can't find any logical holes in his arguments aside from the silly "slippery slope" argument feted by gun-worshippers, or the "not fast enough" cries of gun-haters (in this country, we'll never to be able to follow Australia's lead.

LarryHart said...

@Jeff B
I actually read that "Stonekettle Station" post, and his idea (base gun laws around the NRA's own guidelines) makes a certain amount of sense.

However, I fail to see how they'd affect the recent mass-shooting events. In most if not all cases, there was no reason to suspect (and therefore disarm or incarcerate) the perpetrators. As I heard someone say on the radio, "They were responsible gun owners, until one day, they weren't." So I'm not sure any laws would have been able to prevent the attacks. And if the shooters expect to die in a gunfight afterwards, or even take their own lives, then harsher penalties after the fact are meaningless.

The only remediation I can think of would require a cultural change and more lead time than I think most Americans would have the patience for. Stop treating these shooters as celebrities and make clear (for future reference) that their names will either be ignored, or that people will metaphorically spit on their graves, literally praying for them to rot in hell.

I like the fact that the South Carolina shooter, one who is still alive, has to see that his attempt at fomenting a race riot backfired and brought people together against him and the Confederate flag. I guess that kind of message has to be made more evident to would-be shooters--"It won't produce the outcome you want it to." Again, a long-term cultural change, rather than a quick fix, but it's the only type of thing that makes sense to me. Just as illegal immigration is mitigated to some extent by drying up the jobs available to illegal immigrants, so might gun violence be somewhat mitigated by drying up the fame/celebrity options available to the terrorists.

But man, that will take time.

David Brin said...

Actually, I am more patient with these locumrants than many of you guys. Yes, many of the assertions are opposite to true, but at least he is no longer strawmanning the "our host" believes things opposite to what I believe. I will accept progress as a gift.

This most recent set of quibbles aren't even untrue! They simply allow concentration on micro quibbling while the seas rapidly acidify and glaciers metl and the Gulf Stream trembles and traitors stymie the actual research that could bridge us over to efficient energy, which would help us all even if no glaciers melted at all.

Quibbling at scientists is one thing. Waging war ON science is another.

David Brin said...

The STonekettle gun suggestions are only common sense and would treat guns almost exactly like the other lethally dangerous machine in millions of hands... cars. And the "slippery slope" mythology stands in the way of all of that. Even enforcing existing laws on background checks, which if thorough would have made at least half of the recent mass shootings more difficult, if not prevented.

Of course I long ago provided a potential solution to the Slippery Slope. The 2nd Amendment is so weak and frail and absurdly easy for some future court to re-interpret - under "well-regulated militia" - that the NRA folks should be eager for one that's clear and stronger. I show how they could get that! While we also get the DMVG (Dept of Motor Vehicles and Guns.)

Many of you have read this before, but please pass it around: http://www.tinyurl.com/jrifle

San Bernardino is 200 miles away from us, but still, emotionally close. If the perps were on any no-fly lists, the NRA might finally budge. But we'll see.

David Brin said...


new posting


Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: Scorched Earth people are the type who think the French Revolution was a good example of how to change the world. Too much blood in the streets for me, but I’d want to keep the option on the table.

I’m not convinced the extremists on the right are basically evil. I’ve no doubt some of them are sociopaths, but many of us are and are simply good at hiding it. I doubt the Right has a monopoly or even a super-majority. Doesn’t matter, though. Strict laissez faire interpretations are unrealistic. That battle was fought a century ago and the Progressives won. Our children here no longer die working stupidly designed factory jobs, so I have no complaints. Softer interpretations might be worth considering, though, because some proposed regulation is worse than the problem to be fixed. Market participation is NOT unclean. Immoral behavior in a market IS. It isn’t just foolish to confuse this, though. It is a lack of recognition of what it means to be human. It is dangerously idealistic. True Believers are a threat to us all while most evil doers tend to be a threat only to the people immediately around them.

I don’t mind communicating by blog. This way I leave a trail of my ideas that can be used against me in jury selections and political office elections. No one will have a leg to stand on if they claim to be surprised by what I believe. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

oops. Moving onward.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

The STonekettle gun suggestions are only common sense and would treat guns almost exactly like the other lethally dangerous machine in millions of hands... cars.

Yes, but if you think about it, auto regulations are designed to prevent damage through negligence or incompetence. If someone was determined to intentionally use a car as a deadly weapon, there'd be no way for laws to prevent that ahead of time. You could punish the perpetrators afterwards, but if the perp expects to die anyway, or plans to kill himself before he's taken alive, then again, the law is almost irrelevant.

Also, if someone is driving on a suspended license or without a license, there's a reasonable chance that he'll be pulled over for some minor infraction, and when the suspension comes to light, the cops can take action. There's almost no equivalent situation for discovering a concealed, illegal weapon until it is actually being publicly used.

David Brin said...

good points.

now onward


Paul451 said...

Avoiding polluting the new thread with old topics:

"if I saw a way that gun control laws would make these things happen less often I would be, and actually am, receptive.
All such laws would do would be reduce the death toll, maybe, not the incidence."

Australia did that experiment and we've pretty much eliminated mass shootings. There has been no corresponding increase in bombings, poisonings, "mass knifings", or other such.

But the lesson is that you have to do it properly, bite the bullet (so to speak) and do it in a single surge, nation-wide. Faffing around with half-measures will be pointless. For example, in the US, individual cities and states sometimes conduct "gun buy backs"; these are worthless unless it's combined with banning a specific class of firearm. Likewise, state-level firearm restrictions or registrations are meaningless when a bordering state has virtually no checks on private firearm transfers.

Jeff B,
Re: Jim Wright's proposal,
"in this country, we'll never to be able to follow Australia's lead."

After a generation growing up with Jim's system, I suspect much of the "gun grabber" hysterics will have gone from the debate. Leaving people to sit down a negotiate sensible controls; the way it worked for the takeover of the NRA in the '70s.

(It would still require a system of national registration of gun owners and a minimum uniform set of laws in every state even before you consider Jim's proposals. Otherwise you are just wasting everyone's time with unenforceable rules in one state next door to another state with no (enforced) rules at all.)

Paul451 said...

" 'They were responsible gun owners, until one day, they weren't.' "

Chances are they weren't. They were legal, because the laws are so weakly enforced.

There are two elements in the Australian system that I think hits mass-shooters more than anyone else. It increased the annoying bureaucracy, and it required maintaining a social element (involvement in a gun club). I suspect that those two elements conspire to exclude the sort of men who go on killing sprees; the very mentality that is prone to mass killing is unable to reliable cope with either element. Requiring both, and requiring it repeatedly, ensures they can't get (or keep) firearms.

Re: Second Amendment, "well-organised militia".

No need for a reinterpretation, or new amendment. Able bodied men are already in the national "militia". So in theory, the Federal government could simply invoke Article 1, Section 8, and call up all able-bodied men who meet a new draft criteria, which simply now would include "owns their own pistol and/or long-arm". They would need to turn up and train with their fellow militia-men. Don't want to go? Sell or turn in your firearm and you no longer qualify.

Similar to my theory above to LarryHart, I suspect those prone to mass-shootings will not be able to tolerate such a system.

BTW, I'm not suggesting this as a punishment: "Haha, we'll show them!" The commitment would be similar to inactive Reservists (two weekends a month, two weeks a year is the local requirement, I don't know the US equivalent), and like the Reserves would provide comradery, advice and training (and free ammunition while training.) Some of the training would be generically useful community service, things like emergency response, first aid, disaster management, etc.

Paul451 said...

"including the measured 60 ppm INCREASE in Atmospheric CO2 from 1960 to 2010 [...] and the insignificant DECREASE of atmospheric O2 concentration of 0.028% (or 60 ppm) from 1960 to 2010,"

You're pathetic. The oxygen figures are from 1990 and you know it.

As for the rest of your drivel, each of the measurements comes from multiple sites around the world, all reinforcing each other. Exaggerating a minor issue to create fake doubt is classic denier BS.