Tuesday assorted links


#2. Chilling.

Just regular old doomster stuff. No-one would link to an article that said basically the whole Ukraine thing was a bit of a mess on both sides, and there are no real geopolitical implications. So what you are seeing in availability bias.

Actually I get the sense that lots of people are kind of disappointed that the thing is fizzling out, certainly the defence contractors. Russia is about the last possible credible claim that the US armed forces should be given all these shiny new toys. If they don't want to play, then the defence industry is reduced to selling drones to blast pick ups and where's the margin on that?

In any case, full-scale invasions of any kind are impossible. There's no point in annexing a bunch of people who hate you.

I am not convinced Putin believes that there’s no point in annexing a bunch of people who hate him. I think he'd find your view quaint. After all, his project is to rebuild the Russian empire. Peter the Great didn't wait for the Chechens to invite him to become their overlord, so why would Putin be so fastidious?

"After all, his project is to rebuild the Russian empire."
-I call bullshit. Has Putin invaded Alaska? Finland? The Baltics? Kazakhstan? He's even been shy about annexing South Ossetia, which deserves to be annexed ASAP. Even Odessa, which contains a lot of Russians, hasn't been touched by anything more than popular protests. The idea Putin is trying to rebuild the Russian empire is as idiotic as it is commonly belched.

Chechna≈Gaza. Basically, they were a threat to themselves and a terrorist haven.

Fine. So let's hear your explanation for why Putin's neighbors, including the Baltic states and Sweden, are being subjected to repeated provocations. I still find it hilarious that anyone might believe that Putin would have any scruples about annexing people who hate him. But I accept that he may be willing to settle for his boot on their necks (i.e., coerce them into a Russian "sphere of influence") instead of outright annexation. I also concede that Putin's military adventurism is intended to offset his declining legitimacy at home rather than being part of an imperial project. But it would not be the first time that a policy of imperialism was adopted for domestic reasons.

For you: http://studyplace.ccnmtl.columbia.edu/files/courses/reserve/Hofstadter-1996-Paranoid-Style-American-Politics-1-to-40.pdf

"So let’s hear your explanation for why Putin’s neighbors, including the Baltic states and Sweden, are being subjected to repeated provocations."
-To show Russia still exists, and wasn't defeated by Hitler in 1941 (or by Yeltsin in 1991). To stir the shit. Basically, for the same reasons the U.S. has provoked Russia numerous times since 2013. The U.S. isn't planning to militarily reconquer Krim. All it does is create chaos.

Putin doesn't have declining legitimacy at home.

The Baltics have been part of the western sphere of influence for over a decade. Nobody's coercing anyone into any sphere of influence (even the rise of Novorossiya hasn't made Ukrainians like NATO or the E.U. more).

I think people like to be scared a little bit, too. Consider it the print equivalent of a suspense or horror movie.

But the world COULD end! COULD! And if you don't click on that article, it's definitely going to happen.

I don't think a lot of this is that different than the cold war -- didn't NATO have a policy of potentially using battlefields nukes as a way of stopping the far more numerous Warsaw Pact tanks in case of invasion?

The biggest problem with the article is that it portrays the West as passive and Russia as aggressive. Neither is true.

And the examples of Western aggressiveness are...?

Ukraine became a failed state due to a coup d’état engineered by Barack Obama’s state department. US policy wonks did not like the prospect of Ukraine joining Russia’s regional trade group called the Eurasian Customs Union instead of tilting toward NATO and the European Union. So, it paid for and enabled a coalition of crypto-fascists to rout the duly elected president. Remember Victoria Nuland and the '$5B spent on fomenting unrest' since 1992? One of the first acts of the US-backed new regime was to declare punishment of Russian language speakers, and so the predominately Russian-speaking people in eastern Ukraine revolted. Russia reacted to all this instability by seizing the Crimean peninsula, which had been part of Russia proper both before and through the Soviet chapter of history. The Crimea contained Russia’s only warm water seaports and naval bases. What morons in the US government ever thought Russia would surrender those assets to a newly-failed neighbor state?

Wake up & smell the coffee.

You are just a unsophisticated Kremlinbot, but one thing I would like to point out - you bots often cite that $5B number but forget to mention that this is cumulative foreign assistance during 90's and 00's and that US foreign assistance to Russia during the same period was just as significant. Beat it!


See Ukrainian Salo.

"US foreign assistance to Russia during the same period was just as significant. Beat it!"
-Russia was a larger country, and propping up Yeltsin and his cronies wasn't doing anyone any favors.

E. Harding:

You are welcome to your estimate of Yeltsin, but seriously is U.S. $5 billion of assistance the best example you can come up with of Western aggression against Russia?

Much more likely that this would happen in the Far East between China and the US or Japan. But then, who notices those little islands?

#4. All commodities were in a bubble in 2010. Trading on that made no sense. Anyone remember the food riots?

Rare earths are not actually rare, deposits occur all over the world. They're called "rare" because they are dilute, like the rare gases. The cost is in the processing.

But we're running out helium, totally different this time, unlike other times when a commodity experienced a supply shortage and money flowed into locating and extracting more of the commodity...

Are we really? The vast majority of helium is recovered as an impurity in natural gas, and natural gas production is way up thanks to fracking.

There was the recent privitization of the National Helium Reserve, which had long outlived its important strategic role in maintaining our dirigible fleet, and the price of helium went way up. No problem, it was subsidized and cheap. Some uses of helium may switch to argon. I remember being told in organic chem lab that although we used helium for gas chromatography because it was cheap in the U.S., everybody else in the world used argon.

I agree, its just been the latest resource that I've seen cries of "we're running out" It's also used in welding and in most cases Argon is an acceptable substitute (there are differences but the situations where helium is needed over Argon or a helium argon mix are limited).

Resource depletion scares are almost always rubbish. I'm not certain about the "almost".

As an inert blanketing gas, Argon is a near perfect substitute for Helium. However, for cryogenic purposes it is useless.


Indeed. Approx 30% of Helium goes into cryogenics today.

If depletion gets bad, I wonder if Hydrogen could substitute some of the cryogenic uses. Riskier yes, but engineering might compensate.

Hydrogen is a common carrier gas for GCs too.

Three things:

1) Fracking produces very little helium. Helium is trapped in traditional natural gas reserves, but very little is in the shale and other deposits used for fracking.
2) There are some applications which simply cannot use another gas. Helium has the lowest boiling point of any element as is the only one that is cold enough to make many conventional superconductors do their thing. Superconductors aren't just curiosities, they have important real-world applications, like MRI machines. Yes, there are superconductors that work at warmer temperatures, but there are good, technical reasons that they aren't being used in most real-world applications.
3) When helium is gone, it's _gone_. It floats up into space never to be used again. It's unique in that way. Copper, argon, etc. don't do that. That said, many helium users are now installing systems to capture the helium after use, but that only goes so far.

I'm not saying that we're running out of helium. I'm just saying that helium is very unusual and probably deserves a different analysis than reserves for many other elements.

If depletion gets bad could some cryogenics users shift to Hydrogen? At least for a substantial Stage of their total cooling duty?

Today it is too risky but if Helium indeed becomes very costly the engineering needed to use Hydrogen safely in these cryo applications would become cost competitive. We would then ration Helium only for the coldest applications.

doesn't that imply we could just capture it from low earth orbit? It's not gone, it's just more expensive to acquire.

No chance of running out of helium before running out of natural gas.

The helium crisis was created by conservative Republicans who wanted to cut the size of government by rapidly selling off assets n 1996. The rare earths crisis had the same roots.

Conservative Republican economists argued that the US should not produce anything other nations will sell to the US in peacetime for less than business cost in the US.

Thus, we no longer have the capacity to build ships other than the military ship builders who are propped up by Congress and that due to small scale have costs double the global price. We can not produce the steel we need. We don't produce the helium we need. We don't produce the rare earths we need.

Demand for helium is artificially high in the US because of the drown-government-in-the-bathtub folk required helium to be dumped on the market no matter the price, so investing in helium production capital was and still is extremely speculative.

Ditto investing in productive capital for steel, rare earths, etc - conservatives are always willing to give preference to pillage and plunderers so they can spend less even if it leads to famine, health disasters, disasters in general, and war.

And until China threatened to use the monopoly conservatives gave China on rare earths, conservatives were happy to kill jobs mining and refining rare earths in the US.

What's the alternative? We continue building freight ships at significantly higher cost than the competition? Who buys them?

This is a much better link to the 3D printing article:


On my computer, the other link crammed the article into a small window pane that required frequent scrolling. This better link has the original formatting which is much easier to browse.

#5 but I read at Vox.com that this was all Europe's fault and they should just write Greece a giant check?

They have different articles saying different things.

"Russia seems doomed to continue its decline — an outcome that should be no cause for celebration in the West,"
-What decline?

Russia's had below replacement fertility for about a generation now, so there is latent decline incorporated in that. Unlike Germany, Russia has had a partial recovery in fertility the last 15 years or so. If past is prologue, they may reacquire replacement-level total fertility, but it's chancy.

Russia has been suffering a real and significant brain drain since the end of the USSR. Improving economic conditions helped, but Putin's political crackdown is now more than counteracting that. That said, this is a long-term problem, not a short term one.

Russia is strong in extraction,military technology and some software. That is fine,but in manufacturing, agriculture, and service Russia has increasingly less and less to offer the world. I have gone to visit Russian manufacturers and have been shocked at the lack of quality control and shoddy management. Any Turkish company runs circles around a Russian company these days, to say nothing of Asia. And when Iran gets its shit together Russia will really be in trouble in terms of competitiveness. The Russian decline in cultural influence has been steep and shocking. When even people in Ukraine are turning away from Russian culture then it is clear that Russia has a major "soft power" problem. Pretty much on all cultural fronts - language, film, literature, music - the Anglosphere hegemony is kicking Russia's ass all through the areas of former Soviet influence, and where the Anglosphere fails the Turks or Chinese are there to pick up the slack. Russia inspires almost no one outside of Russia these days other than marginal outsiders who hate their own cultures. The comparison between the magnificent culture of late imperial Russia, or the global influence of Soviet Communism couldn't be more stark. Russia has become the last refuge of the desperate.

Peter Akuleyev July 1, 2015 at 5:44 am

Russia is strong in extraction,military technology and some software. .... I have gone to visit Russian manufacturers and have been shocked at the lack of quality control and shoddy management.

Western sanctions have driven Russia into the arms of China. For the past few decades Russia has been trying to change the terms of its trade with China to involve exporting something more than raw materials. And some weapons. The Chinese have not been interested. It looks like they have had to accept being China's other Africa. Even worse, the new deal seems to involve direct Chinese investment in Siberian gas fields. So Russians will be providing the place where the Chinese drill and virtually nothing else.

Pretty much on all cultural fronts – language, film, literature, music – the Anglosphere hegemony is kicking Russia’s ass all through the areas of former Soviet influence, and where the Anglosphere fails the Turks or Chinese are there to pick up the slack.

The decline of Russian culture since the Tsar has been depressing. Now the Russians are friends with European crypto-Fascists and?

"I have gone to visit Russian manufacturers and have been shocked at the lack of quality control and shoddy management. "
-One major feature of Russian allocation of labor resources I've noticed while there is the variance in quality -it seems employees are chosen pretty much at random, making it impossible to generate any kind of meaningful generalizations about Russian quality control and management. This is not the case in America, where employees do not seem to be chosen anywhere near as randomly.
"The Russian decline in cultural influence has been steep and shocking."
-Which is why Russian is the second-most-used language for websites. Seriously, the broader Anglosphere kicks everyone's ass. The Sinosphere, while rising, has not yet presented any counter to it larger than Russia's. Japan seems to have declined steeply since the early 1990s as well. There's no doubt there's been decline since the Soviet era, but, when compared with countries such as Brazil and Indonesia, Russia holds up well in the strength of its cultural influence.

6. Tabula rasa would be a far better starting point than what passes for economic analysis: what we get are experts (left, right, and center) applying worn-out theories to explain the phenomenon of increasing inequality, when what is needed is observation of the phenomenon in order to find an explanation and only then develop a theory. The world has moved beyond the theories held dear by economists who are married to the past. What we get are clueless economists debating whether they saw catastrophe coming instead of intellectuals seeking ways to explain a different world economy that's gone off the rails. Ho hum. It reminds me of the Peter Sellers film Being There, with Sellers, playing the character Chauncey Gardner (Chance the gardener), emulating today's economists.

5. Kind of amazing that the most recent tiny bit of Greece information, posted at 2:15, already has 30+ comments of back and forth, but the same commenters have nothing to say about this (from my non-expert standpoint) remarkably useful summary.

It's not a bad summary but not really expert enough to be worth comment, in my opinion. For example, there is no legal mechanism to expel a country from the EU.

+1 to Tom Warner, I felt the Q&A was more like a high school student's work than that of a professional. It glossed over a bunch of stuff like Simitis' accounting games to get Greece into the Euro, as well as the role Goldman Sachs played in getting Greece credit from international markets when it should have been cut off. Hardly comprehensive.

Isn't a primer, by definition, non-comprehensive?

It is the best summary I've read.

Not much to argue with.

6. "I omit the responses of Tea Party right-wing nutters." [close window]


"The Russian side, however, sees a game where the rules can be rewritten on the fly, even the definition of war itself altered."

Mr. Fisher needs to brush up on his military history. Operation Danube, the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, began with a raid by plain-clothes Russian paratroopers on the Prague airport. The paratroopers seized the airport and enabled a (nearly) bloodless follow on invasion by conventional forces.

Very much like the annexation of Crimea by "the little green men."

Let me guess. Max Fisher wants a lot more defense spending. The US is spending now double what we spent at the height of the real Cold War, against a seriously armed Soviet Union.

Now, an enfeebled Russia tarries a bit.

So what?

1. That was a little baffling, 3D printing has been a part of product design processes in all sorts of industries since the 90's, there isn't a Designer who doesn't use it. The fad of consumer-oriented machines has been a mostly irrelevant sideshow, to generalize anything about 3D printing from the rise and fall of MakerBot is a mistake.

The main purpose of 3D printing right now is to help make the products of traditional manufacturing better, cheaper...which in turn moves the goalposts for 3D printing to actually begin to replace those products, and it will take some massive advances to bust out of that.

"The main purpose of 3D printing right now is to help make the products of traditional manufacturing better, cheaper"

Seems to me the purpose right now, or the area its having the most success, is in making things that traditional manufacturing can't do.

Creating more complex shapes, or internal structures, which is prohibitive with traditional manufacturing.

But it can't compete on price or volume yet.

For what it's worth, I was one of those who urged caution for 3d printing dreams. Most people didn't get that the medium for home printing was just crude plastic and there is a huge gulf between those and expensive commercial machines.

But guess what? I just bought a 3d printer. They are cheap now, the kids will have fun, and I'll make some bits for home projects.

They are much more mind expanding than say an Apple watch for the same money.

Unfortunately the Max Fisher scenarios must be taken seriously. Given the reported move by the Russian prosecutors office to revisit the legality of the independence of the Baltic states from the Soviet Union (why should the Russian Federation have any say over something done by a non-existent nation?), the Baltic scenarios look the most likely, and the Russians have indeed been harassing them really hard. They are an especially sore point, former Soviet republics that belong to NATO and the EU and the eurozone (not Lithuania yet in the eurozone, but it is the NATO membership that seems to have Putin really steamed).

You are another victim of ubiquitous anti-Russian propaganda. There was no "move by the Russian prosecutors office to revisit the legality of the independence of the Baltic states". Instead, there were 2 (two) dimwitted members of requesting the move:

Putin's spokesman: "Frankly speaking, I have trouble grasping the sense of it"

... members of Duma requesting the move

#2: sounds like a bunch of krill suspended in the foetid waters of foreign policy think tanks trying to justify their salaries.

Was it Russia that invaded or destabilized (overtly or covertly) Vietnam, Iraq, Cambodia, Libya, Iran, Syria (1949), Guatemala, Tibet, Indonesia, Cuba, Congo, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Chile, Panama, Afghanistan (twice), Turkey and Nicaragua, or was that, perhaps, some other paranoid-aggressive nation? Max Fisher is a bloodthirsty, war mongering neocon. Anything Fisher writes on foreign policy is a derivative of the Project for a New American Century.

Was it Russia that invaded or destabilized (overtly or covertly) Vietnam, Iraq, Cambodia, Libya, Iran, Syria (1949), Guatemala, Tibet, Indonesia, Cuba, Congo, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Chile, Panama, Afghanistan (twice), Turkey and Nicaragua,

The United States never had troops in Tibet, Indonesia, Brazil, Chile, or Turkey. Neither can any intramural political disputes in these areas be attributed to the United States. The United States has not had troops in Cuba since 1912 (and American troops present at intervals between 1902 and 1912 had circumscribed missions), has had no troops in the Dominican Republic since 1924, has had no troops in Nicaragua since 1934 (and had a modest counter-insurgency force there, not an occupation force), had a troop force in Panama for all of 3 weeks (whose function, among other things, was to install the lawfully elected government the mafia-military had blocked from taking office), We did not invade Afghanistan 'twice'. We helped an extant insurgency after the Soviets invaded in 1979 and had a casus belli in 2001. The only troops in the Congo were under UN auspices after the country fell to pieces in 1960; it's still in pieces. We did eject the governments of Guatemala in 1954 (for taking arms from the East Bloc) and Syria in 1949 (for some project of the U.S. embassy), but neither event was of much long-term significance. We never 'destabilized' Iran; Mohammed Mossadeq did. Mossadeq was running an extra-constitutional ministry which sought to overthrow the monarchy. The Shah had every right to remove him from office. As for Iraq, we had been in a state of belligerncy with them for 12 years; their doing, not ours; the administration faced a trilemma, which was to take the sanctions off, leave them on, or remove the government. Neither red haze liars nor alt-right liars have any serious decision making responsibility, so they do not appreciate that.

Guess you missed the phrase, "or destabilized (overtly or covertly)". Art, I'm also guessing you are a fan of those who wrote the Project for a New American Century, and those neocons who have done everything in their power to keep the US in perpetual wars that keep military contractors in perpetual profits. Are you also, by chance, a fan of the Likud Party?

That said, I give you great credit for your reinvention of Iranian history. It was was positively Orwellian.

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