Tag: Russia

We Have A Bear

There’s a bear that frequently circulates our neighborhood. Several actually. As the berries in the higher elevations disappear and the cold winter months loom, the bears roam in search of picnic baskets and garbage cans. I don’t like keeping my garbage can in the garage for odorous reasons. So, the bears and I play a game. I catch the bears on the security camera dragging my can down the driveway and I resolve to keep the can in the garage. After a while I don’t see any sign of the bear and I start leaving the can outside again. Mr. bear reappears, and the cycle repeats.

It’s usually a harmless game, with no casualties other than the bear-proof garbage can, which is decidedly not bear-proof. But every once in a while, one of the bears gets habitually aggressive and Fish and Game ends up euthanizing it. It’s sad because it wasn’t the bears fault. It’s my fault. And my neighbors. It would be easy to be mad at the bear and blame him for scattering garbage down my driveway. To be scared for kids and pets with an apex predator roaming the property in the dark. To demand that the authorities do something for the safety of the neighborhood. But we pushed the bear to be… well, a bear. We created a scenario where the bear had no choice – foraging in the woods or a grocery store of easy access scraps. He’ll go for easy every time.

It’s a parable for where we are today. The United States, virtually single-handedly, drove Russia into action. We’ve done everything possible to provoke the current conflict. And now, we’re at war. Oh, they didn’t tell you? We are in a full-scale proxy war with Russia. One that escalates every day. Biden’s energy secretary said the quiet part out loud this week: “releasing 15 million more barrels from the strategic oil reserves is required for the current “wartime footing.” Hmm. The national security council spokesman declared unlimited support for Ukraine for as long as it takes.

Funny, I don’t remember voting for war with Russia. The defense industry certainly voted for it – and clearly their vote counts more. All well and good, except this thing is rapidly spiraling out of control. NATO expansion is one of the big drivers of Putin’s actions. So, what do we do? Vote to expand NATO further. We directly, or via proxy, blow up Russia’s gas pipeline. Every month we further ramp up the billions of dollars of weapons we supply Ukraine. We have direct military assets on the ground advising Ukraine (you’re naive if you don’t think so). Daily the administration blames Russia for everything from high gas prices to climate change. We flat out refuse to negotiate with Russia. Not only have we left the garbage can out, but we’ve also left the lid open and scattered food scraps all around it.

And now with fiscal disaster and a new (to be determined) prime minister, the UK may start getting squeamish about sending more aid to Ukraine. And the US is looking at a red wave in November that might not be so excited to keep the Ukrainian money faucet fully open. This administration is so eager to continue stoking the war fires… do you really think some sort of false flag operation is out of the question? Some event that will justify the continued war and the need to pump additional billions into the defense industry coffers? We’ve certainly done it before. I think the next month will be an extraordinarily dangerous time period.

I know, I know. Tinfoil hat conspiracy theory. But if it’s even remotely true… we’re provoking a dangerous bear. We’re creating a scenario where he’ll have to respond. And this bear has nuclear weapons. Lots and lots of ’em. And don’t forget, there’s a Chinese bear looming out there as well. Waiting. Watching. And we happily keep poking that bear as well.

The caviler nature of this administration, and the bulk of the national press, is frightening. I honestly think we are at the very precipice of the next world war. I don’t think it would take much to spark it off right now. And yet domestically, we spend our time arguing if drag queen stripper shows are appropriate for six year olds and if highway bridges are racist.

It’s long overdue we had some serious people in charge. It was all fun and games mocking the bad orange man for mean tweets, but now we need something more than an old dementia patient eating ice cream, and pretending to be in charge (and no, it’s not the orange man again). Weekend At Bernie’s at least had lighthearted hijinks as a plot. I’m not sure the current crop of puppeteers behind the scenes realizes (or care) what a cornered bear is capable of.

Hard times create strong men
Strong men create good times
Good times create weak men
Weak men create hard times

Selective Outrage

I apologize. I don’t check my email that often, so I must have missed the memo about Ukraine being one of our oldest and most trusted allies. I confess that a month or so ago I couldn’t have found Ukraine on the map. Suddenly it’s somehow now in our national interest to pour (more) billions of dollars into this country and potentially risk another world war in Europe. I’m sure they’re lovely people (aside from that pesky actual Nazi problem they have). And it’s absolutely heart wrenching to see the apparent indiscriminate bombing and killing of civilians. War is awful. Period. Full stop.

But guess what campers, this isn’t the only active war currently going on. Let’s pick one like, hmmm, the Congo. The current hostilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo have produced 4.5 million internally displaced persons, 800,000 refugees in other countries, and an estimated death toll of at least three million. Let me repeat that. THREE MILLION DEATHS. This is a country rich in natural resources, which we need. Our greatest real threat, China, is pulling out all stops to control those resources. And the United States does… [crickets chirping].

My point is that it’s odd what conflicts and crisis of the moment reach our attention span. Why is Ukraine any more or less important than the DRC? I don’t pretend to understand either conflict, and neither should you. I do not trust the narrative we’re being fed. Ukraine is a massively corrupt country full of coups, separatists factions, and a puppet regime installed by the United States. The US has been using Ukraine as a stick to keep poking Russia for years. Well… now you’ve woken up the bear. Maybe that’s what we wanted all along? I have no idea and I doubt you do either.

You should ask yourself some questions. Number one, why is paying for and solving this crisis a problem the US needs to manage? This is primarily a European issue. They’re the ones who are dependent on Russian energy supplies. The EU countries have massive GDP’s, economies, and have huge numbers of weapons, planes, and all types of fancy missiles and missile defense stuff. Our European allies need to be front and center in managing and paying for this crisis. If and when they need our help, we can be there. But the US does not need to be the worlds pocketbook and policeman. If you disagree, please explain why we need to take the lead in solving this?

Similar to the first question, why should the US taxpayers fund this war? You do realize we’re now thirty trillion dollars in debt, right? Our economy is poised to crater. There are literally no more checks in the checkbook. Every dollar we give to Ukraine and every weapon system we hand them, was first money we borrowed from China. WE DO NOT HAVE the 14 billion we just authorized to give to Ukraine. We have to borrow that money. Record setting inflation, gas prices, crumbling infrastructure, supply chain issues, and a 150,000 people a month streaming across our border. We have some issues. Please explain why spending billions to give to Ukraine is more important than any of those things? The best that I can tell, the EU has promised a whopping $450 million. Individually, EU countries are giving a smattering of weapons and other goods. If this was such a momentous issue on European soil, wouldn’t you think they’d have a bit more skin in the game? But why should they when they know we’ll pay for it.

As a side note, we give billions to the UN every year. Where are they? What actual purpose do they serve other than to write sternly worded letters? Perhaps we should divert our UN payments to Ukraine.

There are no good answers to any of this. This morning, Ukraine’s president Zelensky gave an impassioned speech to our congress. He invoked the memories of Pearl Harbor and 9/11. He received a standing ovation. I suspect out of fear of appearing to do nothing, our brave representatives will pour more money and aid to Ukraine, further provoking the conflict and increasing the potential of escalation. Do you really think Putin is going to say, “whoops, my bad. I’ll pull out.”? By further arming Ukraine, we’re forcing Putin to take more extreme measures. I fear we’re one mistake or misunderstanding away from another world conflict. Is that really what you want?

Look, I realize I’m sounding all Neville Chamberlain-ish this morning. But the US is not the superpower we once were. We’re broke, and that’s hard to admit. It’s time for US to step aside and let others shoulder the burden for a while. We shouldn’t let social media shame us into something that could rapidly get far worse than we can possibly imagine.

It’s hard to see human suffering. But I doubt any of you have been outraged at the war in the DRC. Why? Admit it, you couldn’t have found Ukraine on a map a month ago. Me either. And you certainly weren’t outraged at (or even know about) the 14,000 killed and 1.5 million people displaced in the Donbass region of Ukraine in 2014. There’s a lot of human suffering going on in the world at any given time and it’s awful to see. But just because CNN is breathlessly promoting this conflict 24×7 doesn’t mean we have to spring into action. It’s time for cooler heads to prevail and for us to sit this one out.

We have a massive economic war looming on the horizon with China. A war that will alter your standard of living. We may very well be wishing we had some of those billions we pissed away, trying to be the good guy, back.

Why Is Everything So Complicated?

We are the generation of the soundbite. The Tweet. The meme. We consume our information in tiny little pieces. And most of the time, that’s probably just fine. I don’t need to have a deep understanding of the cattle futures market to decide if I can afford the rib-eye this week or only cube steak. The price is the price and I either have the quan or I don’t.

But every once in a while, big events happen that raise questions. Politicians and pundits jump on these events and start spewing one-liners and soundbites that reinforce their echo chambers. Pretty soon we’re in a full-scale soundbite and meme war that leaves everyone confused and angry. What’s the truth?

I was thinking about this as I read snarky Twitter comments about energy independence, buying Russian oil, and gas prices. Everyone has an answer. Because I’m a dork, I decided to do some light reading on the energy sector and politics. Whew – there is no such thing as “light reading” about this subject! It is a deep, deep rabbit hole. It is hard to describe how many moving parts and global players there are in the energy world.

There are a whole variety of types of crude oil, all coming from different places in the world, all used for different things. Much of the recent increases in our purchase of Russian crude are due to fallout from previous sanctions on other countries like Venezuela, hurricanes in the gulf, and African countries not being able to ramp up production after Covid. We import foreign crude to the East and West coast because we lack the domestic infrastructure to transport our own oil. It’s actually cheaper to purchase non-US crude, than it is to send US crude to the East and West coast from the Midwest or gulf. We often purchase Russian (and other) crude because it has a higher sulfur content than US crude, which is needed for some specific refining processes. The worldwide crude oil market is a very interdependent and complex system. Even when we declared we were “energy independent”, that is a fuzzy interpretation with many moving parts that changed from month to month. We’d offset US products produced from crude and sold, against crude imports and for some quarters and depending upon what the meaning of “is”, is, we’d declare we had greater net exports vs. imports.

This led me to the issue of the current administration shutting down oil and gas leases. Come on, man – drill baby, drill! Well, they did attempt to put a moratorium on new leases in some areas. The courts shut that down. And currently… the Biden administration has outpaced the Trump administration in issuing drilling permits on public lands. Wait, wut? For example, just last fall the Biden admin completed the largest oil and gas lease in US history – 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico. Sigh, I’m so confused.

What’s my point? I don’t care what the Fox, CNN, or Twitter pundit says… virtually every issue you’d like to discuss is infinitely more complex than you think it is. Nothing is black and white, yes or no. It takes years for industry and policy experts to develop a real understanding of their domain. I did a tiny bit of reading this morning beyond Twitter, and quickly realized I know absolutely zero about the energy sector. It has tentacles in transportation, logistics, commodity markets, politics, money supply, production, jobs, and on and on. I think it would take at least a semester equivalent class to have at least a beginners grasp on the entirety of the market. And I think that holds true for most things in life. Geopolitics, military strategy, history, everything…

All of which is to reinforce my standard saying… Question everything. Be a Contrarian. It’s ok to endorse the Left or Right’s approach to the world. Just don’t do it blindly. They’re both equal manipulators of the narrative. And under the surface, things are often more complex than you realize.

The truth is rarely pure and never simple

Oscar Wilde

Shuffle The Deck

Enjoying the clown show? It might almost be funny to sit back and watch this administration flail about if the consequences weren’t so dire. I do not underestimate the ability of these clowns to blunder us into an actual, serious armed conflict involving U.S. forces. Now don’t think I’m just blaming the democrats for where we’re at. It’s taken decades of incompetence, grift, and arrogance from both parties to get to this point. And along the way, we’ve managed to create a fourth branch of government that is unelected, unsupervised, and unchecked – the Federal Bureaucracy. a.k.a. the deep state.

As the old saying goes, while Putin and Xi are playing 3D chess, we’re playing checkers. Well, to be fair this administration is playing tic-tac-toe. Russia and China plan the long game. We plan for the latest news cycle. The EU worshiped at the Church of Climate Change. They now need Russia’s oil and gas. Germany is fully in bed with Russia. You’ll notice that Europe is doing virtually nothing about all this. Putin correctly judged that our economy is in trouble and we’re too busy arguing over pronouns and which bridges are the most racist. In all likelihood the sanctions will end up hurting us more than Russia. We’ll do nothing (hopefully), and he knew it. Game, set, match. Russia will now have a heavily defended buffer zone against NATO. Meanwhile, the US spent billions trying to set up yet another puppet state in the name of “democracy” that failed. Sound familiar? It’s like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. How come we never learn? Since WWII, we have failed at every single foreign policy intervention we’ve attempted. All at the cost of trillions and thousands upon thousands of lives. And yet we continue to listen to the same foreign policy “experts”.

And now we’re at the brink of a serious inflection point. I’m honestly surprised that China hasn’t moved on Taiwan yet. That’s the big test. What would we do? Are we going to get into a shooting war with China? I’m pretty sure that won’t go well. I’m sorry if I sound skeptical, but the same people who planned the Afghan withdraw, fired SOF folks for refusing the jab, and seem more worried about white rage and DEI in the military, are still in charge. It’s ok though, just like with every conflict, the UN will write a strongly worded letter.

So, what are we to do? Create a new, third party like Andrew Yang thinks? Term limits? I think term limits absolutely needs to be a part of any change. The corruption and self-interest in Washington (and state politics) is endemic. These people are dug in like ticks on a hound. If we have any hope of staving off our total demise, we need to start getting rid of the political establishment. But how do you get someone to vote for something that’s not in their self-interest?

It’s time to shuffle the deck. How? VOTE THEM OUT. Who? ALL OF THEM. Every single one of them. Both parties. Regardless of party, choose someone new. Do not re-elect the same clown. Everyone gets primaried. Even if the same clown gets re-elected, make them fight for it. Demand accountability. And next election cycle – do it again. We need to keep shuffling the deck until we get the hand we want.

Is that realistic? Nope. Is it going to happen? Nope. As negative as that sounds, I do see a tiny sliver of hope. There is a sense of frustration in the country. People are getting tired of the authoritarians. They’re pushing back against CRT and mask mandates, and censorship. At the moment, it looks like the next election cycle will be a bloodbath for the left. Will the right do something with it, or revert to politics as usual? If the new congress starts behaving like representatives of the people, AND, if we elect an actual leader (no, not Trump) with the next presidential cycle… there’s a small chance we can start to right the ship.

I give it a 10% chance. I fear that it’s probably already too late. History shows that once you start that downslide, it’s pretty hard to fight momentum. Realistically it’s not an issue for my generation – this will be for the next generation to live with. Unfortunately, this new generation aren’t much for learning from history. Because, like, you know, history is all racist or something.

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

 Upton Sinclair

The Perfect Weight Loss Hack

Cool things, shower thoughts, advice, and independent thinking from someone who’s been around the sun a few times.

  • Clickbait titles amuse me and I couldn’t resist. Anyway, I’ll reveal the hack over the next few posts. Here’s the first part. Go find a BMR calculator that includes activity level. This one seems to work well. Enter in the data and see what your number is. Now here’s the crazy part – go eat less than that number. I guarantee you’ll loose weight. Boom! Mind blown. More to come.
  • I was fascinated by this article. I had no idea that there was such a thing as the Open Skies Treaty and we actually let other countries conduct surveillance flights over our military installations. I can’t decide if it’s no big deal, or our openness will come back to bite us some day.
  • I haven’t been very good lately at keeping up with friendships. The older you get the harder it is. It’s certainly a perishable skill that I need to work on. Been thinking about it, so I contacted a couple of buddies I hadn’t seen in a while and made arrangements to meet for lunch and a couple of beers. It felt good. Go do the same.
  • Watched “The Dawn Wall” last night. Well worth a watch but not as well done as “Free Solo”. The “rules” for big wall free climbing are unclear and the movie never explains it, so there are parts that may leave you wondering why they’re doing some of the things they do. At any rate, I may have to go dig out the climbing shoes. What could go wrong?
  • I’ve never been a huge fan of Lindsey Vonn. Her persona always seemed very cold. I was more of a Julia Mancuso fan. Lindsey recently launched a YouTube channel. She’s much warmer than I thought and has a dry sense of humor you don’t normally see.
  • I made a huge step in my street photographs. I actually went up to someone as asked if I could take their picture. If you’re not an extrovert this is a very weird and intimidating thing to do with a stranger. Wasn’t a great picture, but I crossed that hurdle.
  • Data tampering? But, they’re scientists how could this be? In related news, U.S. Oct-March temps were the third coldest recorded. But whatever.
  • Both political parties are full campaign mode trying to inflame their bases. Independent of the realties of each sides message, the left has gone full negative by devoting all its time to attacking the president. Traditionally people want to vote for something, not against something. It will be interesting to see what happens this go-round.
  • The Insta360 looks extremely cool. Inspiring enough I may have to dig out the GoPro and film something.

Song of the day: Florence + The Machine “Kiss with a fist”