Friday, June 30, 2023

SCOTUS is on a roll this week


I was very pleased to read the latest Supreme Court decisions, ruling that President Biden's administration does not have the right in law to arbitrarily override the obligation of student loan recipients to repay their loans, and that First Amendment rights override any attempt to force individuals to endorse or echo speech with which they have a disagreement in conscience.

I hasten to add, I'm not pleased because those decisions happen to coincide with my own views.  Rather, I'm pleased because they stand firmly in the line of previous jurisprudence, and uphold Constitutional norms that have long been recognized in this country.  "Woke" state and national government policies had sought to modify and/or override them, or get around them by claiming spurious and exigent circumstances that demand immediate action.  SCOTUS has consistently (and, this week, yet again) ruled that the Constitution is the bedrock of our laws, and cannot be ignored or overridden.

It's going to take ceaseless vigilance to guard against such attempts.  They've been common throughout the history of this country (remember President Lincoln's efforts to ignore and/or override habeas corpus during the Civil War?), and they'll doubtless be at least as common, if not more so, in the future.  If we are to be a nation of laws, we need to defend that heritage - even if we disagree with some of the court decisions thus produced.  It's not about what we want.  It's about upholding the law - and ensuring that the law(s) uphold and defend the Constitution.


An excellent analysis of how much "emergency money" you need


Divemedic, writing at Area Ocho, has produced a superb analysis of why you need to put money away in a "rainy day" or emergency fund.  It's so good, and so close to my own thinking, that I'm not going to excerpt much of it at all, except for this teaser.

One of the things that I have always blogged about is being ready for disasters. A disaster that involves the collapse of society is the one that preppers seem to find the most “sexy” and they spend their time planning on it- stockpiling guns, ammo, food, and the like. The thing with that is, it is also the disaster that we are least likely to experience.

The most likely disaster that we are likely to affect is a personal one. A disaster that affects just you, or your family. A personal disaster may be something as small as a flat tire, or as personally destructive as cancer, or simply being laid off from your job. We cannot know what that disaster will be, but there is a pretty good chance that the best way to fix it will be… money.

. . .

That’s why it amazes me that 57% of Americans can’t even deal with an emergency that would cost them $1,000. Sure, stockpiling food, ammo, or some other piece of cool gear is more fun, but money is going to be your friend in most disasters at some point. Having $1000 in emergency cash is going to help you out of more disasters than that new ACOG or that second 1911.

There's more at the link.  He's also written a follow-up post about the usefulness of precious metals (gold and silver, in his case with an emphasis on gold) as part of your emergency funds.

Without previously knowing his views, my wife and I have followed almost exactly the "recipe" he recommends for building up our reserve fund.  The only difference is that we can't afford much in the way of gold;  we're not that well off!  However, we try to maintain a couple of months' expenses in cash or our bank accounts, plus more in the form of silver coins that are securely stored out of harm's way.  There's also the value of our emergency preparedness supplies;  if we suddenly found ourselves destitute, we could eat for more than a week or two out of our stockpile.  The combination means that if everything went pear-shaped for us, and we both lost our incomes, we could survive for some time without hurting too badly.

(As I mentioned last Tuesday, that cash reserve came in handy when I found that our emergency water filtration supplies had been disabled by chemical interactions.  I was able to order replacements at once, and have them here within a couple of days.  Given how critically important potable water is to our health and safety, it was very comforting to be able to do that.)

Even if you can only afford a week's emergency financial reserve to start with, it's well worth putting it aside;  and, over the course of several years, it can grow until you have a couple of months' worth.  Go read what Divemedic has to say, and learn from him.  It's good stuff.


Your cost of living - how much is due to shipping and storage?


I've long been an observer of logistics - the movement, storage and deployment of goods and services from where they start to where they're needed.  General Omar Bradley noted that "Amateurs study strategy, but professionals study logistics".  Logistics underpin and make possible (or impossible) every other military activity.  The same applies to economies as a whole.

I was taken aback to read this week just how expensive commercial and industrial logistics have become over the past year or two.  The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals has just published its 2023 State of Logistics report, and it's a doozy.  The Loadstar reports:

Although freight rates retreated in most modes last year, supply chains remained eye-wateringly expensive ... US firms saw their logistics costs surge to almost 10% of national GDP.

The report, produced with findings from consultancy AT Kearney, notes that logistics costs soared 19.6% last year, to $2.3trn – 9.1% of US GDP.

Far and away the biggest factor was inventory and carrying cost, which almost doubled, going up 90.2%, fuelled by a succession of interest rate hikes. Warehousing rents stayed in the stratosphere as slower demand was more or less matched by a deceleration of new facility construction.

On the transport side, the maritime sector (including inland shipping) saw the strongest increase, costs rising 18.4%, followed by rail, up 17.6%. Trucking costs were up 6.2% in the truckload sector and 6.4% in the LTL arena. Parcel costs rose 4.7%.

. . .

They are more upbeat on e-commerce, although growth flattened as consumers returned to stores and allocated more money to services. Volumes declined 2%, but are expected to grow at a compound rate of 5% over the next five years – an outlook particularly bullish for same-day deliveries, where revenues are expected to rise to $7.9bn in 2027, compound annual growth rate of 18.8% over 2022.

There's more at the link.

Those numbers are mind-boggling when you think of the scale.  In so many words, nine cents out of every dollar spent or generated in the United States is being spent on moving and storing goods for sale.  Literally everything you buy adds that cost to the other elements that make up its price.  The slightest inefficiency, or delay, or disruption to a supply network makes the logistics share of your purchase(s) more expensive.

In that light, all those companies offering "free shipping"?  They're not.  They can't possibly afford to absorb a logistics cost that high, across their entire product range.  They've simply folded that cost into their overall pricing calculation.  If you're not paying it as a shipping charge, you're paying it as a higher price per item.  "Free" is worth precisely what you pay for it - nothing.

This may sound obvious, and unnecessary to emphasize, but we can and do lose sight of it in the day-to-day minutiae of existence.  At the time of writing, US GDP stands at $26.53 trillion.  In current dollars, at a 9.1% logistics cost, that means this nation is spending $2.41 trillion every year on moving and storing goods.  That's about the same, or slightly more than, our current annual federal deficit, depending on whose figures you believe.  (Hint:  if a politician provides them, don't believe them unless independently verified.)


Thursday, June 29, 2023

And high bloody time!!!


The Supreme Court appears to have made it all but impossible to use race as a criterion in selecting or approving students for tertiary education.  CNN reports:

CNN Chief Legal Analyst Laura Coates said the Supreme Court's decision to gut affirmative action in college admissions will have sweeping changes to education in the US.

"This opinion, make no mistake about it, it is going to change the landscape of education, and this is what the majority has asked for," she said.

The fact that almost every liberal and/or progressive and/or left-wing voice out there is currently screaming in protest at the decision makes it all the sweeter.  Those people have made it very difficult, to the point of impossibility, for certain students (Asian in particular, but including whites) to get fair, even-handed consideration when applying for places at university.  Hopefully, that will go away Real. Soon. Now.  It's long gone time that happened.

I'm absolutely in favor of removing any shape, shade or form of discrimination on the grounds of race.  The fact that universities have been able to use it as a back-handed form of "reverse discrimination" is as disgraceful as its former use to "hold down" black and hispanic candidates.

No racial discrimination means no racial discrimination, period.


"We're coming for your children!" Oh, yeah?


The recent chants by gay demonstrators in New York that "We're here, we're queer, we're coming for your children", have (justifiably, IMHO) aroused outrage among many people with traditional values (despite NBC's attempts to defend it as "humor" . . . pretty sick humor, if you ask me).

I thought this response was more than appropriate:

However, this video response took my first prize.

I entirely approve.  In fact, if the gentleman concerned does something like that, I'll willingly contribute to his legal defense fund.  I might even contribute in advance, to assist with the purchase of any equipment he needs to do the mauling!

If that offends some people . . . why, I'm only joking, same as those assholes seen chanting in the video.  See?  It works both ways.


"Vancouver Is Dying"... or is it being deliberately killed?


Back in 2019, I mentioned a video report from a Seattle station titled "Seattle Is Dying".  It was pretty harrowing to watch it back then, and it looks as if other West Coast cities like Portland, OR and San Francisco, CA are following in Seattle's footsteps.

Now we learn of a video report from Canada titled "Vancouver Is Dying".  It shows precisely the same pattern of drug- and homelessness-fueled urban decay.  It makes grim viewing.

A Canadian writer claims that this collapse is a deliberate attempt by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to destabilize, and destroy from the inside, urban culture and society in the USA.  I'm in no position to verify that, but Elizabeth Nickson's claims are disturbing.

[Vancouver] is now a cesspit of crime, drugs, human trafficking, child sex and money laundering. We launder most of the drug money in North America. The city has been taken over by a consortium of cartels, Asian and Mexican, who own through their funding of a proliferation of social justice activist groups, members of the city council, the judiciary, as well as members of the provincial and federal government, particularly those in immigration who rubber stamp the papers of the worst criminals from across the Asian world. They are all here now. The pickings are just too good. You are next on their list.

In Canada, our sleepy political class just woke up to the fact that the CCP had infiltrated our government and they are making vain, lazy, attempts to show they are up to the task. They aren’t. First of all, they don’t understand it, they don’t take on board just how much the CCP wants to dominate Canada, and the lengths to which they have bribed everyone they needed to bribe and compromise a long long time ago.

The public is told China is “interfering” and “must be stopped”. But how are they “interfering”? They are interfering by exporting fentanyl and Asian crime gangs, which plan to infiltrate throughout America. How they are “interfering” is by destroying people, families, cities and economies, through wholesale criminal activity.

Because this is happening across Canada.

In the US, all CCP criticism is limited to the populist right. And called crazy. That’s just how profoundly foolish our politicians are. They stumble around luxuriating in a peace that someday will just be ….. gone and they will wake up a wholly owned subsidiary of the CCP.

The CCP funds the social activist organizations who have shifted the criminal justice system, effectively destroying it. The city’s streets are littered with the dying, half dressed, smeared with shit, needles still in their arms. This is allowed because our leadership wants to destroy the middle class. Do you know what losing a teenager to hard drugs does to a family? It destroys that family forever.

. . .

The police are helpless in the face of it. They can investigate and arrest and the criminal is back on the streets, the same day. The judiciary is corrupted, almost all socialist, almost all compromised. Recruitment is down. No one wants to be a policeman now. It is suicide. Stewart called the police force, “racist”, despite 60% being people of color. There is no pro-active policy. Just let them die, let them kill. Bonnie Henry, the province’s health officer stated that if you are an alcoholic, you can have treatment. If you are a drug addict, there is none. Just die. Die faster. Take some rich people with you.

Vancouver pioneered the first legal injection site, and recently we legalized all hard drugs. You can buy cocaine at a vending machine. A new business just received permission to manufacture legal cocaine. This would “erase stigma”, said the activists and the stupid-beyond-belief system agrees. We have the second biggest port on the west coast of North America and through it the Asian cartels, allowed by the CCP, import the compounds from China that make up fentanyl. The Americans have insisted over and over again that the CCP stop. It doesn’t, it only increases. The chemicals to manufacture Fentanyl come into our port, is made up, and sent south to the States. Fentanyl is so addictive that despite the fact that we supply addicts with up to 40 Dilaudid a day, they sell those pills and buy fentanyl.

Thousands die every month, swept up like garbage and burnt to ash.

. . .

In the 80’s and 90’s, greens effectively shut down the resource economy of the region. All the money from logging and mining paid for health care and education. That money vanished. The cartels saw opportunity, bought off the right government officials, including those in Immigration, and now, today, we are a massive hub of sex trafficking, child prostitution, organ harvesting, and of course, drug addiction.

This is the model they are going to follow in every city in the U.S. and Canada, all regions which allow their economies to be assaulted and ruined by green activists. Crime, addiction and misery replaces resource use everywhere. Our citizens, lazy, disengaged, drugged to the gills by prosperity, its foundation built by Christian families who believed in service to others, allowed it to happen.

There's more at the link.

As I said, I'm in no position to verify what Ms. Nickson claims;  but I daresay some of my readers are.  If you can shed additional light on what she says, please do so in Comments.

As for China's being behind the drug problem, there's abundant evidence that fentanyl and other hardline drugs are being exported from there to drug cartels in Mexico and other countries.  Whether or not that's actually being done by the CCP, it can't possibly be unaware of it.  Its failure to use its law enforcement agencies to crack down on such crime is, in itself, an indication of guilt.

On the other hand, the CCP probably doesn't care.  China still remembers, with extreme anger and resentment, the forced export of opium to that country by Britain and other nations in the 19th century, causing millions upon millions of addicts and massively disrupting its internal economy.  Two "Opium Wars" were fought, and lost, over that issue.  The "Unequal Treaties" further compounded the colonial-era exploitation of China.

Some years ago, talking about narcotics such as heroin and LSD that plagued American forces in Vietnam, a Chinese prison inmate told me quite baldly that China did to America in Vietnam what the West had done to China only a century before.  He regarded it as entirely justified, based on that Western precedent, and actually looked forward to seeing the same thing in Western Europe and North America in due course.  He felt it would be no more than poetic justice, and justified his own involvement in illegal narcotics on those grounds.

Are we now seeing the bitter fruits of that almost two-century-old crime?  "What goes around, comes around".  That may be Vancouver's fate now . . . and many US cities, too.


Wednesday, June 28, 2023

"Why Exactly Are We At War With Russia?"


Tucker Carlson asks that question in his latest video podcast.  You can watch it here on Twitter, or read the transcript below (courtesy of Zero Hedge, to whom my grateful thanks for making it available).  The transcript doesn't read smoothly - I suspect it's a computer-generated voice-to-text product that needs an editor's review - but it'll do to get the gist of what Mr. Carlson is saying.

Hey it's Tucker Carlson, you may have found yourself wondering recently as the world slides closer to nuclear Annihilation than any time in human history why exactly are we at war with Russia.

It seems like there's a pretty significant downside to this particular foreign policy decision, starting with economic collapse and ending potentially with Extinction so is there a good reason we're doing it so many innocent young people have been killed so many hundreds of billions of dollars have been wasted some of them from the U.S treasury so what's the point are we really doing this so the Biden family can repay its debts to the oligarchs who finance their beach house in Rehoboth.

We're doing it so our government can continue to lie about its illicit bio labs in Eastern Europe so that flabby losers like Toria Newland and Tony Blinken can feel like they're doing something important with their sad empty lives.

Really honestly there's got to be a better reason for waging this the most pointless war of all.

What is it.

Well thankfully we have an answer: the war against Russia ladies and gentlemen the war against Putin and for Ukraine is in fact a war for democracy.

Watch and recall the motive the president has said many times "we're focused on what we can do to support Ukraine's effort to fight for their democracy".

"Democracy must prevail. The Ukrainian people are fighting the fight for their democracy and in doing so for ours as well."

"Assisting and helping Ukraine win this fight for democracy and freedom and of course Ukrainian president zielinski understand that what's at stake in Ukraine is bigger than just his Nation it is literally a battle for freedom and democracy themselves."

"They are showing the world what an existential fight for democracy looks like."

"President Zelenky and the Ukrainians have changed the course of history for the better and we unequivocally are with the Ukrainian people in their fight to remain a sovereign democracy."

Unequivocally with the Ukrainian people to remain in democracy it's a bipartisan view democracy must Prevail.

You just heard noted democracy expert Nancy Pelosi say the daughter of the mobbed up mayor of Baltimore as Pelosi puts it the Ukrainian people are fighting the fight for their democracy and for ours as well that's right for ours as well without Ukrainian democracy in other words we can have no democracy here if the ukrainians aren't free.

Neither are we we must make sure they can vote in Kiev so we can continue to vote in Kansas City.

It's really that simple and yet tonight we regret to tell you that we have a problem it looks like they're not going to be able to vote in Kiev anymore and no for once it's not Putin's fault.

Democracy in Ukraine seems to be suspended by the world's foremost democracy Advocate himself Field Marshal zielinski.


"If we win" he says "we'll let people vote otherwise no you vote" and we feel like it because ultimately we're completely in charge and make all the rules.

Your job is to obey or be punished.

That's our version of self-government.

Self means me - I'm the government now.

That's not just any autocrat that's our chief Ally in the war for democracy.

This is the guy who just announced he's like did you cancel next year's elections.

So you've got to wonder what the Biden Administration thinks of this - we can't possibly continue to support zielinski, that guy, after he said that can we because in a clip less than 30 seconds long he just blew up our entire rationale for supporting his side in the war.

So we can't support him.

Oh of course we can and we will.

Here's Joe Biden from yesterday reaffirming America's unequivocal support for Ukraine no matter what happened in Russia "we the United States should continue to support Ukraine's defense and its sovereignty and its territorial integrity".

So to recap we are currently fighting a war for democracy on behalf of a leader who just casually announced he's happy to end democracy and our democracy and supporting leaders have no problem with that in fact they're strongly for it.


You shouldn't be.

Of course they're for it. You should have seen this coming.

Wars for democracy always cancel democracy in the process - that's why our leaders love them and they all do it - even The Virtuous leaders Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, the British government under Winston Churchill through an entire opposition party into prison and let them rot for the duration - in some cases with their families.

So in a war for democracy you can do anything.

Imagine what a man might do who has fewer principles.

If that man say ran Ukraine he might seize churches arrest priests ban all criticism of himself disappear his political opponents and that's happening.

Just last month zelinski threw a man called Gonzalo Lira into prison indefinitely for the crime of daring to write about the Ukrainian government in unflattering ways.

Now what's interesting what separates this from other such cases is that lira is an American citizen, so Joe Biden who was quite a bit of SWAT as they say in Ukraine could have freed Gonzalo Lira within hours, but he didn't. He didn't want to - he didn't say a word about it - he remains in prison tonight.

So that makes you wonder what's the real motive here when normal people see War they see death and destruction, sadness and suffering; but that's not what demagogues see - they understand it differently they know that War means power mostly for them.

During wartime everything they do can be justified - war is the gravest of all emergencies - imagine the coveted lockdowns times a thousand plus drones.

Once War breaks out politicians become Gods with the power of life and death. So in a peaceful democracy you have to debate your political opponents in public and that's tiresome but in a war for democracy you can just throw them in jail or have them executed. You can see that many in Washington are looking forward to that moment and that may be why they so fervently support Joe Biden - even many Republicans - against a potential opponent - the only opponent who opposes the war in Ukraine.

If you were to end the war their power would evaporate.

Last week a whistleblower produced WhatsApp messages from Hunter Biden proving that at the very least his father knew about his influence peddling businesses abroad and probably participated in them "I'm sitting here with my father" Hunter Biden wrote to his Chinese Partners demanding money as much as anything reported about the bidens over the last several years this was The Smoking Gun.

There it is right there in the message that would have been enough to a normal president it would have been more than enough to keep a normal president from running for office again but had virtually no effect on Joe Biden.

Most media Outlets ignored it completely or tried to spin Biden's relationship with his son as some kind of moral Victory "the real meaning of the hunter Biden Saga as I see it" wrote Nick Kristoff of the New York Times "isn't about presidential corruption but is about how widespread addiction is and about how a determined parent with unconditional love can sometimes reel a child back."

He actually wrote that and if you doubt it you should know that view was common.Here's the take from ABC "the hunter Biden story, the Scandal, the this, that, it's also the story of a Father's Love and Joe Biden has never and will never give up on his son Hunter and will never treat him lesser than and so he is a father first take it or leave it."

So whistleblower produces a text message showing that Joe Biden was in the room with his son when his son was selling influence to an enemy power the Chinese government and ABC's take on it Joe Biden is a father first take it or leave it.

What accounts for a response like that?

Well that's the way you talk when you've got nothing to fear from an upcoming presidential election - you don't even bother to think of an excuse for your candidate because you don't need to. Your country has electronic voting machines - Joe Biden got 81 million votes in 2020 and you're pretty sure he can do it again.

In fact you know he can you're not worried but actually they should be a little worried

The people who control Joe Biden - Susan Rice and the rest - know they can continue to run our government, writing the press releases, formulating the policies, and they can do it effectively forever, as long as Joe Biden gets dressed in the morning, and of course that's their strong preference.

These are fervent opponents of change but the one thing these people cannot control is aging.

Joe Biden is old he's 80 now he will be 85 at the end of the next term.

People imagine that old age is a long predictable progression from Acuity to permanent unconsciousness but often that's not at all how it actually works.

When old people start to slide they tend to Slide fast.

Joe Biden has begun that descent.

Here he was yesterday and here's what she wrote to me and I quote you can imagine my joy she called them right away and the next day they sent someone out to survey her yard as Beth wrote this is the best thing that's happened in Rural America since the rural electrification act for electricity to farms in the 30s and 40s end of quote."

End of quote you weren't supposed to hear that - Joe Biden read the stage directions out loud -  that's like eating the garnish that comes with your entree you're supposed to know not to do that.

Joe Biden no longer does in a year or two he will be gone completely and there will be no hiding it at that point the Democratic party will face a secession problem.

If Joe Biden is re-elected next year and then forced to leave office during his term due to disability or death that means Kamala Harris will become president of the United States and nobody wants that not even her husband.

In real life nobody likes Kamala Harris.

That's not an attack on her in fact it's possible to feel pity for someone who's so universally reviled. It is instead an observation of unchanging physical reality like gravity or photosynthesis nobody wants Kamala Harris to be president no one will benefit if she becomes president so logic suggests there's going to be a change.

It's going to have to be somebody else and whoever that person is is going to have to enter the race soon before the election after Biden drops out.

Who could that person be? We don't know obviously this is all just guessing but we do know whoever that is we'll have to have two essential criteria he'll have to be as shallow ruthless and transactional as Joe Biden is and he'll need to have flattery skills that are so polished and advanced they'd be considered Superior even in the Saudi Royal Court and there's only one man in modern America who fits that description Gavin Newsom the governor of California and perhaps not coincidentally Joe Biden's new closest friend.

"I am here Mr President" Newsom told Biden at an event that they did together last week. "I am here as a proud American as a proud Californian mesmerized by not just your faith and your Devotion to this country and the world we're trying to build but by your results by your action by your passion by Your Capacity to deliver."

I get mesmerized by you Joe Biden - imagine saying that as a compliment you couldn't do it.

Few human beings could do it but Gavin Newsom had no problem at all those words rolled right off his Fork tongue. He never stopped smiling so if you're looking for the leader of the coup there he is right there she's in Kennedy's motorcade.

'Nuff said . . .


Russia's Wagner Group: tentacles everywhere...


Following the (as yet not completely understood) conflict between the Russian government and Wagner Group, a private military company nominally subject to that state, there's real uncertainty about what will happen to Wagner's worldwide operations.  It helps to understand just how widespread and subversive they are.

In a very detailed 44-page report titled "WAGNER GROUP: The Evolution of a Private Army", the Soufan Center summarizes the situation in these key findings.

  • Following the mutiny of the Wagner Group and its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin against the Russian state, which developed at lightning speed and ended just as quickly through negotiations mediated by Belarus, the situation remains questionable as to the future of the Wagner Group, both in Ukraine and abroad.
  • Wagner functions like a Swiss army knife: Wagner has demonstrated effective expeditionary skills and logistical capabilities that many PMCs could not marshal, continuously diversifying its portfolio. Beyond the military training that Wagner provides, which includes conducting offensive combat operations and, in some cases, serving as regime security, the group also advises government leadership on political issues and conducts information campaigns.
  • Wagner poses a catch-22 in many ways: while its forces are invited to stabilize fragile states, its actions actively invite further instability, creating more opportunities and a greater demand signal for its services.
  • Russia’s use of Wagner proved at one point to be highly effective for the Kremlin. Wagner generates profits, operating through a series of shell companies. It has invested in extractive industries across Africa, reportedly receiving access and rights to commodities in exchange for its security services. Wagner’s opaque structure allows it to carry out Russian foreign policy objectives while insulating Moscow from significant blowback.
  • Wagner is involved in a range of illicit activities beyond security services, from commercial and extractive industries that reportedly support sanctions evasions to facilitating the trafficking and destruction of cultural property.
  • Wagner is more than just a PMC. Throughout Africa, it has appeared as an extension of Moscow’s foreign policy and influence, enhancing the Kremlin’s objectives on the continent and displacing Western influence. Wagner has been associated with disinformation campaigns discrediting Western and multilateral counterterrorism partners, as well as the United Nations and its peacekeeping missions, posing challenges to conflict prevention and mitigation efforts.
  • Wagner’s brutality against civilians and its support for predatory governments could further exacerbate the very conditions and grievances that can be exploited by violent extremist groups to drum up recruits and support. By perpetuating violence and uncertainty, they prolong and even expand the instability and insecurity that led governments to seek their assistance.
  • The final chapter of Wagner’s saga is yet to be written, but the legacy of PMC use by Russia is deeply entrenched and has proved successful in many ways. Russia has already expanded the use of PMCs, and will likely continue to do so in the future, given Wagner's ability to raise funds, deploy effectively as cannon fodder combat forces, displace Western influence and presence, and otherwise evade sanctions through dozens of front companies.

There's more at the link.

To make matters more interesting, President Putin of Russia has just admitted openly that Wagner Group is an arm of the Russian government, despite denying that for years.  That's going to open a whole new can of worms, as Peter Zeihan reports.

As if to confirm that admission, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Wagner will continue its operations in Africa.

The Wagner mercenary group will continue operations in Mali and the Central African Republic despite its leader's aborted insurrection over the weekend, Russia's foreign minister said on Monday.

Wagner members "are working there as instructors. This work, of course, will continue", Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with the RT outlet.

Lavrov said Europe and France in particular had "abandoned" the two African countries, which had in turn asked Russia and Wagner to provide military instructors and "to ensure the security of their leaders".

Western powers believe the Wagner group is used to promote Russia's influence abroad and have accused the group of torture and exploiting natural resources.

Again, more at the link.

Finally, please note that Wagner Group and its boss are far from the only Russian warlords.  There are plenty more.  For details, see the article "Russia's Descent into Warlordism".  It's interesting stuff - and makes one wonder who the next Prigozhin will be, and what he might do.

This is likely to turn into a very interesting - and potentially explosive - can of worms.  Pass the popcorn.


Your questions answered on emergency water purification


Following my "Oops, my bad!" article yesterday, I had a number of exchanges with readers and friends.  They asked, in so many words, the following questions:

  1. Why duplicate the filtration function, by having both a Lifestraw Family 1.0 and a Survivor Filter Pro?  Both can filter similar volumes of water;  the only important difference is that the first does it by gravity, and the second by pumping.
  2. Why not have a big countertop water filter as well?  It can process much larger volumes of water, and is more convenient than the smaller systems I mentioned.
  3. Why bother with a potable water hose in your emergency kit, when in an emergency taps are unlikely to provide potable water?
  4. Why use pool shock as well as filtration?  Won't the latter take care of diseases, pollution, bugs and beasties anyway, without needing chemical assistance?
  5. How much fresh water should you store for immediate use in emergency?
In this article, I'll try to answer those questions.  If you haven't read yesterday's article, you might want to do so now before continuing.

The first and most important point is that clean, drinkable water is absolutely critical to our survival.  The time-honored "Rule of Threes" applies:

  • You can survive three minutes without breathable air (unconsciousness), or in icy water.
  • You can survive three hours in a harsh environment (extreme heat or cold).
  • You can survive three days without drinkable water.
  • You can survive three weeks without food.

Given that potable water is so essential (for drinking, cooking, and washing ourselves, our clothes and our cooking and eating utensils), we have to ensure we can get it when we need it.  If the electrical grid goes down, every water purification plant and sewage processing plant is going to go down within a day or two.  That means no more potable water out of our taps, so everyone is going to have to go get water from any available source.  Within days, those sources (rivers and streams, lakes and dams, etc.) are likely to be polluted by dirty bodies, sewage (human and animal), and any other pollution that comes along.  The only way we'll have guaranteed potable water is if we purify it ourselves . . . so we'd better have the means to do so, right up front.  Without it, we're at risk (very serious risk!) of catching diseases and/or disrupting our digestive systems, with consequences that we really don't want to deal with in the midst of everything else that will be going on.

(That's also a very good reason to have several containers that will be used only for "raw" unprocessed water.  You'll transfer it from them during the purifying and/or filtering process, so it ends up in clean containers that you know are free from diseases or pollution.  The "raw" water containers will be reserved solely for collecting unprocessed water, not for storing clean water.)

OK.  First question:  "Why duplicate the filtration function, by having both a Lifestraw Family 1.0 and a Survivor Filter Pro?  Both can filter similar volumes of water;  the only important difference is that the first does it by gravity, and the second by pumping."

The answer is simple, and an old saying in the prepping and self-reliance community:  "Two is one and one is none".  You can read more about it at the link.  If I have only one larger water filter, and something goes wrong, I suddenly have no large water filter.  I want to be able to get clean water no matter what - so I have a backup unit.  As for one being gravity-fed and the other being pump-operated, there's a reason for that.  I may not have anywhere to hang a gravity-fed unit, so in that case I can use the pump unit.  In another place, I may not have a stable level surface, out of the way of any local pollution or other problem, to pump water;  so I can hang a gravity-fed unit out of the way and use it there.  Having both gives me redundancy and options I wouldn't otherwise have.

Second question:  "Why not have a big countertop water filter as well?  It can process much larger volumes of water, and is more convenient than the smaller systems I mentioned."

You're quite right.  I do have a countertop water filter, and value the higher capacity it provides.  However, there are two issues with such a filter.  First, they are very expensive compared to smaller filters.  The well-known Royal Berkey line, while outstanding pieces of kit, will cost more per unit (often $300-$400 or even higher) than everything put together that I listed in my previous post.  If you can afford that, great - but not all of us can.  The Lifestraw or Survival Pro cost no more than a fifth of that, and offer adequate function for a family of 2-4 people, with careful management.  There are alternatives to the Royal Berkey, of course, but they also tend to be expensive.  I looked at what was available, and identified Lehman's Bucket Water Filter as a useful option, but it was still too high-priced for my liking:  so I made my own (instructions may be found here) by cutting holes in the bottom of a food-grade five-gallon bucket, inserting Berkey-style filters in the holes (in the process, finding that non-Royal-Berkey-brand filters offer equivalent performance at a much lower price, I might add), and positioning it on top of a second food-grade bucket of the same size.  Hey presto!  I now have Royal Berkey-equivalent performance at a total cost to me of under $100.

(The only reason I didn't mention it yesterday is that it doesn't live in the tote along with my smaller water filters - it's far too large for that - so it wasn't contaminated by whatever polluted them, and didn't need to be replaced.)

The second problem with large countertop water filters is their size.  They're great if you're staying put:  but if you have to "bug out" for any reason, they're too large to fit easily into a motor vehicle or tightly-packed trailer, and they're too unwieldy to be carried on foot for more than a short distance.  The smaller filters I named yesterday are much more packable and portable, while offering adequate performance.

Third question:  "Why bother with a potable water hose in your emergency kit, when in an emergency taps are unlikely to provide potable water?"

You may not always be out of reach of potable tap water.  If you're "bugging out" and trying to get to a safer place, you may find yourself in a community where safe drinking water is available.  Taps aren't always conveniently placed to stand a container under them and fill it.  If you have a potable water hose, you can lead it from the tap to an open space where you can fill your containers.  It can also be led from a tap to the water inlet on a travel trailer or RV if necessary.  It's just another tool in the toolbox.

Fourth question:  "Why use pool shock as well as filtration?  Won't the latter take care of diseases, pollution, bugs and beasties anyway, without needing chemical assistance?"

If the water you collect is badly polluted, or infected with organisms and diseases such as e. coligiardia, cholera, dysentery, etc. (all of which can be water-borne), it's really not a good idea to introduce those into your filter.  Sure, the filters may stop it getting through to the end product, but you've still contaminated the filter housing and perhaps the filters themselves with it.  Why not deal with such poisons and diseases before they get to your filter?

That's a lesson I learned the hard way in the Third World.  You want to keep your filter units and potable water containers free from contamination by any and all means available.  Once they're contaminated, you can no longer trust them and should replace them - but replacements may not be easily available.  Much better to protect them from the very beginning, to prevent that need.  To that end, we reserved specially marked or colored containers to collect water from potentially contaminated sources, and hit them with chlorine bleach, iodine or other purifying agents for anywhere from an hour to a day before decanting the water they contained into our filtering systems.  That killed off the germs, and also gave pollutants suspended in the water (e.g. mud, decaying vegetation, snails, etc.) a chance to sink to the bottom, so that cleaner water could be scooped out with jugs and transferred to filters without taking them along.  As soon as the chemically treated water had been transferred, we would wash out the containers and refill them from the next water source, then do it all over again.  (Five-gallon buckets are very useful for that application.  They nest inside each other when not in use, and offer enough space to scoop treated water out of them.  We used to color-code them:  red for untreated water, white for filter units - see above - and blue or green for purified and filtered water.)

I suppose it's a practical application of the "belt and braces" approach.  In my case, having learned the hard way on far too many occasions in the Third World, I prefer "belt and braces and a piece of string".  It may be overkill, but it works!

As a side note, the US Environmental Protection Agency - for all that we dislike its bureaucratic excesses - endorses using the chemical in pool shock as a water purification method.  From its PDF article on the subject:

Granular calcium hypochlorite. The first step is to make a chlorine solution that you will use to disinfect your water. For your safety, do it in a ventilated area and wear eye protection. Add one heaping teaspoon (approximately ¼ ounce) of high-test granular calcium hypochlorite (HTH) to two gallons of water and stir until the particles have dissolved. The mixture will produce a chlorine solution of approximately 500 milligrams per liter. To disinfect water, add one part of the chlorine solution to each 100 parts of water you are treating. This is about the same as adding 1 pint (16 ounces) of the chlorine solution to 12.5 gallons of water. If the chlorine taste is too strong, pour the water from one clean container to another and let it stand for a few hours before use. CAUTION: HTH is a very powerful oxidant. Follow the instructions on the label for safe handling and storage of this chemical.

The document also lists other methods of water purification.  It's only two pages long.  I recommend printing it and storing a copy with your emergency gear, along with the article I recommended yesterday.

Fifth question:  "How much fresh water should you store for immediate use in emergency?"

The generally accepted minimum is one gallon per person per day, but that's an absolute minimum - for cooking, cleaning, washing and drinking, it's not really enough.  I prefer to double that figure, and store two gallons per person per day, and even that's not a lot in a hot climate like Texas, where I live.  You'll have to make your own call on that.

The first few days after an emergency happens may be tumultuous.  We really don't know what to expect - only that our normal routine will be disrupted.  There may be active competition to get what water is available, and that might turn violent.  I'd rather avoid that, if possible.  I therefore suggest storing at least one weeks' water for your family, and if possible two weeks or more.  For a four-person family, at two gallons per person per day, that means storing a minimum of 56 gallons, or for two weeks, 112 gallons.  That's not a small amount, and takes up a fair amount of space.

Some of it should be in the form of one-pint drinking bottles.  They're easy to hand out in a hurry, and can be refilled if necessary.  Most of it, though, will need to be in larger containers - and water containers can be very expensive (and many are not well reviewed by customers, due to leaks and other problems, so shop carefully).  The cheapest will be food-grade five-gallon buckets with lids, usually available from hardware and home improvement stores for under $5 apiece if bought in 10-packs.  (Be very careful about used buckets obtained from food vendors.  Many have held pickles, olives, or other substances that leave a nasty odor and flavor behind.  It'll make fresh water taste and smell very unpleasant.  Better to buy clean, unused buckets, IMHO.)

By far the most convenient solution I've found are the four-gallon jugs offered by Sams Club, to fit most water dispensers.  At present they cost $5.98, which gives you both the water and its container.  That's a bargain in anyone's language.  Add a water jug stand, a dispenser valve and a resealable cap for re-use, and you're good to go.

Well, there you have it:  your questions answered.  If you have more, leave them as a comment to this article, and I'll try to cover them in future.  Thanks!


Tuesday, June 27, 2023

An expensive lesson...


I'm busy with my annual review of our emergency preparations, making sure I know what we've got and where it is, and checking that everything's still in good order.

This morning I opened the tote that contains our water filters and associated supplies.  I found bad news inside.  Bags of calcium hypochlorite powder (so-called "pool shock") had perished, spilling their contents all over everything.  To make matters worse, the hose connections on our family-size water filter had also perished, and what looks like a foam lining beneath the plastic connection covers had spread brown funky-smelling gunk all over everything.  (I suspect possible interaction between them and the pool shock.)  Whatever caused it, I wasn't prepared to trust the contents any longer, due to contamination.


It's an expensive lesson, but that's what our "rainy day fund" is for, among other things.  I got onto Amazon this morning and ordered replacements for all our water filters:

I'll order some more "pool shock" as well.  A very little goes an awful long way when sterilizing large volumes of potentially contaminated water (here's how to use it).  This time, I'm going to store it in Mason jars rather than trust the plastic bags to remain intact!  I'll also order more Brita filters for our water filtration jug;  they remove the taste of chlorine quite well, if necessary.  We use the jug every day to improve the taste of our drinking water, so in an emergency, we'll already have it handy.

Don't think that "out of sight, out of mind" won't take you by surprise and catch you out when you really, really need something.  It took me by surprise today.  I'm going to have to do a more detailed check of our emergency supplies every year, and not trust to luck, and a passing visual inspection only, that a sealed package has remained sealed, or that what's in it has not perished.  Oh, well . . . lesson learned (again).  Murphy's Law is alive and well, and this morning (through my own fault, let it be said) it bit me.


EDITED TO ADD:  A number of readers contacted me with questions about this article.  I've answered them in a follow-up article;  you'll find it here.  I hope it helps clarify the situation.

The implications of this technology are staggering


I was astonished to read of the wide-ranging implications of a new laser weeding technology now available to farmers.

Carbon Robotics is now shipping its LaserWeeder to farms around the United States; the machine uses the power of lasers and robotics to rid fields of weeds ... The LaserWeeder can eliminate over 200,000 weeds per hour and offer up to 80% cost savings in weed control. 

. . .

The LaserWeeder is a 20-foot-wide unit comprised of three rows of 10 lasers that are pulled behind a tractor.

Thirty lasers are at work as the unit travels across a field destroying weeds "with millimeter accuracy, skipping the plant and killing the weed," said Mikesell. 

The LaserWeeder "does the equivalent work of about 70 people," he continued.

. . .

The technology "makes for a much more consistent growing process and adds a bunch of health to your yield. You get big yield improvements because you're not damaging the crops with herbicides."

There's more at the link.

Here's a publicity video from Carbon Robotics showing the LaserWeeder in action.

The economic implications for farmers and farm workers are mind-boggling.

  • The workers normally hired to manage weeds in crops won't be needed any more - or, at any rate, far fewer of them.  That's a huge money-saver for farmers, but how many workers will end up unemployed, with no jobs available to replace those they've lost?  What will that do to the unemployment rate overall?
  • I've no idea how much per acre farmers normally spend on herbicides, but it's got to add up.  It probably varies from region to region.  If those expenses are no longer needed, the robotic/laser technology of the LaserWeeder becomes that much more affordable.
  • What will this mean for fertilizers and other input costs?  If crops are no longer threatened by weed incursion, will farmers still need as much fertilizer to obtain high yields, or will the absence of weeds - and the saving of time and money through not having to fight them - mean that less fertilizer can be used, because overall crop productivity will be higher even without it?
  • Can this technology be scaled according to the size of farm and type of crop?  The video above shows a big machine in a big field.  Can a smaller machine be made at a lower cost?  Can smaller farms use it cost-effectively?  Can the technology be adapted to (say) market gardening in greenhouses, rather than fields?  These things may not be possible now, but if they become feasible, they may make even the small-scale, backyard growing of fruit and vegetables much easier and cheaper.  Might we be able to grow a certain proportion of our own food, more practically and affordably than before, thereby reducing our dependence on "Big Ag"?
  • Do these input cost savings mean that farmers (and Big Ag in particular) can/will accept lower prices for their produce, because they'll have lower input costs to grow them?
  • Can this technology be adapted to (say) gardening in greenhouses and back yards, rather than larger fields?  It may not be possible now, but if it becomes feasible, it may make the small-scale, private cultivation of fruit and vegetables much easier and cheaper.  You might see groups of neighbors hiring or buying such technology to share among themselves, at home or in allotments.
  • Over time, this technology may revolutionize the production of food, thereby addressing some of the "woke" or "green" concerns about modern farming practices.  There's a lot of concern about the over-use of farm chemicals and resultant pollution problems (see, for example, the so-called "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico, caused by such chemicals draining down the Mississippi River and out to sea).  Could such technology help reduce that problem, by needing less fertilizer and/or herbicides?

Just the thought of no longer having to spend hours weeding in the back yard is enormously tempting.  This will bear watching.


What might a SHTF event look like?


Following a few articles in these pages over the past month on aspects of emergency preparedness, I've been exchanging e-mails and messages with a few readers who wanted to know what might precipitate a life-changing, society-changing emergency for which all our preparations would be needed.  I hastened to inform them that it was unlikely that any single event would do that.  What we're seeing all around us is a gradual, slow-motion decay that's leaching the life out of our businesses, our infrastructure, and our economy as a whole.  (See, for example, our recent discussions about competence and its absence.). This decay has been happening for several decades, and the pace appears to be accelerating.  Could it "go critical" overnight?  Yes, given a few very dangerous circumstances, but the odds are greater that it'll continue to deteriorate until enough things break down that the overall "system" simply stops working.  It collapses under the weight of its own inertia.  (Of course, if our politicians and other leaders came to their senses, things could be reversed and our problems fixed before that becomes inevitable.  If.  Insert hollow laughter here.)

There are individual, sudden, catastrophic events that might cause havoc.  In his novel "One Second After" and its sequels, author William R. Forstchen tried to describe the impact of an electromagnetic pulse strike against the USA.  He did it rather well, I think.

If such an attack were to happen (or an equivalent natural disaster such as another Carrington Event), it would almost certainly destroy this country as we know it, removing at a single stroke all electricity, all electronic communication, almost all electronic equipment, shutting down air travel and most road travel, crippling food production, and so on.  In such a scenario, survival is doubtful for most of us, no matter how well we've prepared for emergencies, because almost everyone is going to be desperate enough to attack everyone else to get what they need.  Preppers will stand out because they're clearly, visibly well equipped and not starving.  That alone will make the "haves" into targets for the "have-nots" within a very short time.  Only those living in sufficiently remote places are likely to survive that, and those in communities that come together to protect and support each other - and casualties in such communities are likely to be devastating in the medium term, even if they succeed.  (If you haven't read "One Second After", I highly recommend it.  It's very thought-provoking.)

However, most threats to our societal continuity are likely to be an accumulation of failures.  Take, for example, the recent fire that destroyed a bridge supporting I-95 in Philadelphia.  That Interstate highway is the main north-south road transportation artery along the entire east coast of the USA.  Its closure threatened delays and disruptions to the supply chain for every business and every community it served within a couple of hundred miles from the fire.  Fortunately, thanks to heroic efforts by contractors, a partial repair has reopened the highway to some traffic (about 50% of capacity, I understand), which has eased the strain:  but it'll still take much longer (months, possibly a year or more) to rebuild the road to cater for its former full capacity.  That was a major disaster that was narrowly averted . . . but what if it had not been averted?  What if traffic had remained snarled up and down the east coast for the rest of the summer and fall?  The cost in terms of delayed and missed deliveries alone would have been measured in billions of dollars.  Add to that things like train derailments, air traffic snarl-ups, delays at maritime ports, and so on (all of which have happened recently, and will undoubtedly continue to happen), and it's not hard to envision a cascading failure affecting the entire US transportation system.

Add to that:

  • Labor shortages (particularly skilled labor) that prevent companies from producing the goods and/or doing the work their customers want;
  • Supply chain shortages and logjams that prevent needed parts, medications, etc. from being available when and where they're required;
  • Weather such as storms, droughts, floods, etc. that can affect cities and towns where companies produce and/or distribute goods;
  • Soaring crime rates that force businesses to close their stores in more dangerous areas, thereby restricting the supply of essential goods and services to the general population in the area;
  • Government policy that's intended to focus on "green" energy, but in the process restricts the supply and availability, and increases the cost, of conventional fuels that are currently indispensable;
  • Dependence on government aid to survive (i.e. welfare, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, etc.) - if that aid is cut back, those dependent on it will not be able to survive.
Put those and other concerns together, and you have a whole host of issues that can cause major problems, particularly if they happen at the same time and/or in the same area.  It's not hard to envision a situation in which such factors combine to bring society to a standstill for an extended period.  We've seen such situations in specific areas before after extreme weather events such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005, or the Great Flood of 1993.  The effects of those natural disasters took months (in some places, years) to ameliorate.  What if such collapses became regional, rather than just local?  What if they affected several states, particularly during periods when getting aid and supplies to them became very difficult (as in, say, the northern Midwest during midwinter, when snowstorms and blizzards are often severe?)  A major earthquake, or prolonged winter storm, or coronal mass ejection (such as the Carrington Event) affecting our power supply, could induce such prolonged effects.

Finally, there are economic issues that might blow up into a major destabilizing event.  Examples:

  • Poverty in our inner cities is rampant, and there's very little anyone can do about it, because the scale of the problem has grown so large that there simply isn't enough money available to fix it.
  • Millions of illegal aliens flooding across our southern border are only escalating the problem, because they're competing for what little work is available with those already here.
  • Rising crime and deprivation are guaranteed to result, and if they grow widespread enough, they're going to provoke a backlash from those who are simply not prepared to see their safety and security threatened like that.
  • Most supermarkets and food stores have enough supplies on hand for only one or two days, relying on constant shipments to replace them as they're sold.  If those shipments are delayed or cancelled for any reason, a lot of people are going to get very hungry, very quickly - and very desperate, too.  (See "Nine Meals from Anarchy".)

Any of those factors could provoke and/or exacerbate others, so that a combination of them could easily spiral out of control.

As I said earlier, I don't think it's very likely (although it's certainly not impossible) that everything will collapse in one swell foop, and precipitate a long-term disaster.  I think it's more likely that we'll see a continuation of the slow, steady deterioration of our economy and society, as we've seen for the past couple of decades.  However, that deterioration is becoming more rapid, and more widespread.  By now it's international in scope, not just national;  Western Europe is no better off than North America.  If that trend continues, it may not be long before a combination of problems causes a rapid local or regional collapse, affecting one city or part of a city.  If that's not addressed at once, it can and will spread like a cancer.  I've seen that happen in the Third World more than once, and it'll be no different here.

Preparing for emergencies means having one's eyes open to the reality of life around us in these United States, assessing the risks that may affect us, and trying to plan ahead to deal with them.  Some things are feasible for individuals and families;  others less so, needing a team, or tribe, or clan, or other community to survive them.  The time to prepare is now, while resources are still available to do so.  By the time they aren't - or if they become too expensive to be affordable - it'll be too late to do much about it.

Of course, if you don't want to prepare, there's always this approach . . .


Monday, June 26, 2023

A fascinating look at medieval stone bridge construction


The Charles Bridge across the Vltava River in Prague, Czech Republic, was built between 1357 and 1402 AD.  It's been in use ever since, apart from brief periods when weather or war damage had to be repaired, and is currently undergoing a major 20-year restoration.

Courtesy of Matt Bracken on Gab, here's a fascinating video showing how our medieval forefathers constructed the bridge.  It took them 45 years, using only human and animal muscles and the most primitive of equipment.  The fact that it's stood so long, and served so well since then, is pretty amazing.


The "revolt" in Russia: don't believe the experts, because there aren't any


As I write these words, as far as I know, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner Group, a Russian "private military company", is in what appears to be exile in Belarus, following his leadership of a "rebellion" by Wagner against Russia.  Whether it was a "rebellion", or a "demonstration", or a "popular uprising", is impossible to clarify at this point.  There's a huge amount of smoke, and very little clear view of the fire(s) causing it.

The important point to remember is an old saying in the intelligence community:

Those who know, aren't talking.
Those who are talking, don't know.

That's the bottom line right now.  There are innumerable "talking heads" on TV news broadcasts who are doing nothing more than offering a quasi-edumacated guesstimate as to what happened, what's going on now, and what may happen in future.  Nobody knows for sure.

That's been the case throughout the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  Neither side is honest or trustworthy;  both sides are as corrupt as hell;  and no "news" from either side is believable.  Blatantly partisan propaganda is universal;  honesty much less so.  I agree, Russia was/is the aggressor, violating several treaties in the process, and therefore deserves to lose, but that doesn't mean Ukraine is as white as the driven snow, either.  It was ranked as the second most corrupt state in Europe a few years ago.  Only after the Russian invasion were serious attempts made to "whitewash" Ukraine's endemic corruption.  Its government is no more honest and upright than Russia's.  Those who bleat about "Slava Ukraini!" might ask themselves what they're glorifying, and whether it's worth it.

(At the outbreak of this war, I asked what was the United States' compelling national security interest in UkraineNobody has yet answered that question comprehensively, except from their own biased, blinkered perspectives.  Perhaps we need to do so on a national level, one that can be supported by all Americans, before we get dragged even deeper into the mire over there.)

As for Wagner, it's become a byword for thuggishness and brutality in many countries.  To name just one example, its mercenaries are currently all but running the country of Mali in West Africa, where an ongoing struggle against Islamic fundamentalist terrorists has led to a military coup and the departure of Western forces in protest against institutionalized corruption there.  That hasn't stopped Wagner:  in fact, it's probably made it easier for it to operate there, and in other African countries, where its record is no less brutal.  Russian "military forces" in other nations (including Syria) are largely comprised of Wagner units, which have made it easier for Russia to withdraw more orthodox military forces to deploy them against Ukraine.  What will happen in those countries after Wagner's "revolt" is unknown, but I doubt the situation can continue as before.  I don't think Russia can spare enough competent troops and units to replace Wagner, given the scale of the conflict in Ukraine, so it may be we'll see Russian influence wane in several parts of the world as its forces are withdrawn.  Will Wagner cooperate, or will its local forces behave even more thuggishly and install themselves semi-permanently as local warlords?  I'd say that's more than a faint possibility - but I don't know.  Nobody does.

If I had to prognosticate about likely developments in the near future, I'd say Prigozhin has effectively committed suicide.  His "exile" in Belarus doesn't stop him controlling his forces elsewhere.  Sure, Russia has said that Wagner units will be sworn into the national army as regular forces, but how many of them will be willing to accept that?  What about those beyond Russia's borders - will they prefer to stay there as freebooters and mercenaries?  From their perspective, that might be an attractive option, and they might offer Prigozhin an opportunity to rebuild his organization internationally, to Russia's detriment.  Given all those factors, I suspect Prigozhin will encounter a 9mm. headache within a few weeks to a few months, or suffer a convenient "heart attack", or be the victim of an unfortunate auto or aircraft accident, or try to learn to fly (unsuccessfully) from the upper windows or roof of a suitably tall building.  If he doesn't experience something like that, I'll be very surprised.

There's a brief window of opportunity for Ukraine to capitalize on the confusion in Russia, but it's very brief.  Wagner's occupation of Rostov-on-Don (the military and logistics headquarters of Russia's campaign against Ukraine) must inevitably have disrupted command and control structures, logistics arrangements, etc (the latter further complicated by Ukrainian attacks on a major resupply route).  If Ukraine can burst through the front lines at points where Wagner units were withdrawn (or withdrew themselves), it has a brief window to exploit those breakdowns and make serious territorial gains before Russia can reorganize its forces.  Whether or not Ukraine's armed forces are in any condition to do so is unknown, and probably unknowable to outside observers right now.  They don't appear to have been making much headway with their offensive against the Russians.  Can that change under the present circumstances?  Maybe . . . but I wouldn't hold your breath while waiting.

Finally, if this "revolt" was as serious as some are saying it was, it may have weakened Putin's position as Russia's warlord.  He's apparently (or so it seems) let Prigozhin get away scot-free with his rebellion (at least in the short term).  That might be taken by his internal rivals as a sign of weakness, indecisiveness, a lack of ability to respond forcefully and crush the rebellion rather than negotiate it away.  They'll be watching carefully.  Some of them may begin to think that it's time for a change of leadership.  Putin, of course, being an old KGB hand, will be well aware of that, and I daresay he'll have hit men and "direct action teams" standing by to remove any overly aggressive challenger . . . but those same hit men and teams might get a better offer from some of his rivals.  There's going to be a lot of tension in Moscow over the next few days and weeks.  Pass the popcorn.

However, in the end, nobody knows anything for sure.  The smoke is so thick one mostly can't see through it, and when one can, there are enough Potemkin villages in the area to confuse and mislead the most acute observer.  All we can be sure of is that somewhere under all that smoke, there's a fire.  What's burning?  We'll find out when the smoke clears - if there's anything left to see after the flames have done their work.


EDITED TO ADD:  Peter Zeihan offers his thoughts on what may happen next.  His first three videos on the subject, over the weekend, were speculation, as is this one:  but the last (below) may be better informed and therefore closer to reality.

Memes that made me laugh 165


Gathered from around the Internet over the past week.  Click any image for a larger view.

There are fewer memes than usual this week, because so many that I encountered were to do with the loss of the submersible Titan and the deaths of the five people on board.  I won't ghoulishly slobber over the dead, and I won't share memes on that subject, so it limited me to what else was available.  Hopefully, we'll have more "normal" meme subjects this coming week.

Anyway - here we go.