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Metaphorical

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Name: Kurt Cagle
Gender: Male
Hometown: Cascadia
Member since: Sat Dec 3, 2016, 02:02 AM
Number of posts: 1,311

About Me

Contributing Writer, Forbes Magazine

Journal Archives

Putin, TFG, and a possible look into the future

The Ukrainians have done a masterful job of marshaling social media in their favor, and I think that the sanctions are likely to ultimately force Putin from office. Biden's numbers have been going up pretty dramatically as this plays out. I also think that the Jan 6 committee is unearthing more and more evidence of the involvement of the Russians at all levels with the GOP, and the wedge that's emerging between Trump praising Putin and Trump trashing Putin is confusing even to his base, even as the more moderate members of the GOP recoil from Trump's pro-Putin messages, which has the potential to hurt the GOP in the Fall.

Having said that, the situation at this point is very fluid, and things could go wrong very, very quickly. The first obvious thing is that Putin could push the nuclear button. Putin is not necessarily acting fully rationally at this stage. The closest analogy (and it's a damned close analogy), is the scenario of a hostage situation where the perpetrator has a bomb primed to go off if anyone gets too close. Stopping the perpetrator by any means necessary is important, but he could very easily end up killing all of the hostages if care is not exercised. The perpetrator does not care - he'd prefer to get out of the situation alive, but it's not necessarily a requirement for him.

The second question comes in dealing with the other consequences. A no-fly zone has been proposed, and I suspect it will become a reality, but it's a very complex process to make happen quickly. Ukraine is the size of Texas, meaning that it will be very difficult to respond to incursions quickly, and by setting it up, we end up with the scenario where the two world powers with the largest arsenals of nuclear weapons are directly shooting one another's aircraft out of the sky. Personally, I don't see any way to avoid it - Ukraine will fall otherwise, and once Ukraine falls, Putin will be in a far better position to attack NATO. Ukraine has been seen by both sides as a buffer zone for a reason, and the fact that Putin no longer believes that reason to be valid should give a good indication of his true intentions.

One point that I've not seen discussed. Ukraine has long been described as the Midwest of Russia. They supply about 60% of the grain and suet (fat processing) to Russia and also supply a significant percentage of countries from India and Pakistan to the EU. They grow wheat, rice, maize (corn), soybeans, barley, sugar beets, and rye there. They planted their winter wheat crop in October with the expectation that it would be harvested in early June. At this stage, it is very likely that, as the Russians advance, the Ukrainians will be torching their fields, and they WON'T be starting planting for their summer wheat crop at all. That means that by summer, there will be no bread in russia, no cereal, no vodka (made from Ukrainian rye). The Russians grow cattle and potatoes and that's about it, but there will be feedstock for the cattle, no processing of fats for shortening.

The sanctions are going to hit Russia hard. They have about three weeks of supply in their supply chains, but I expect that by now most stores are likely getting emptied as people start panicking. They have comparatively little access to funds even if there were goods available. Their aircraft are going to start running out of supplies for repairs, and fuel is going to be a big issue - already the supply chains to the Ukraine are effectively broken, and the Russian military there is having to live off the land.

By the end of March, there will be massive demonstrations in Moscow, St. Petersburg and elsewhere, and the army, which is already 90% consolidated in Ukraine, will have to be called back (by someone) to handle the riots at home. This is going to stretch the army to thin, and, unpaid, underfed, and increasingly fighting friends and family, the Russian army is going to fall apart. Remember that the average Russian soldier is just out of the equivalent of high school in Russia, was used to talking to friends on Instagram, and is now facing incredibly harsh pressures from their peers. They are not hardened soldiers.

I think it very likely that by early April, Putin will realize that the end is nigh, and will either try to escape by helicopter to a personal plane or will be assassinated outright. What he will leave behind is a power vacuum. I think there is a reasonable probability (25-30%) that the Easternmost provinces of Siberia, the ones on and near the Pacific, will leave Russia altogether, and likely will form a breakaway country. China will be delighted to help them, as it puts them into a position to make a claim on Arctic oil reserves, something they have deserved for a while. China might also try to coerce the southern territories such as Tuva and Alkay and Zabalkalsk that share a border with Mongolia into their orbit. By this time next year we might be talking about Russian China.

Longer term, Russia's going to be very unstable, even if Putin is gone, and that's going to play out globally. It pushes up the timetable for a US-Chinese War, it's going to destabilize NATO (ironically), and then there's the very real question of what to do with 6,500 nuclear weapons.

I'm not saying that this will happen, but I think that it's a fairly likely scenario given what's happened recently. I can't rule out that things will go nuclear, especially given Russia's willingness to hit a nuclear reactor.

Immediate implications for the US (beyond additional inflation): Trump's done. Between his devotion to Putin and what's being unearthed by the Jan 6 committee, Trump has no possibility of political redemption, particularly since i believe that his connection (blackmailing?) by Putin will ultimately come to light. The same may be true of Mitch McConnell, especially with the CEO of Rusal now on the lam and being sought by US and EU authorities. I expect that, as the sanctions continue, many GOP politicians who relied upon Russian money for campaign funds are going to find those funds drying up.

This will likely answer a question that I've been wondering for a while now. How is it that so many absurdly unqualified people have ended up getting elected on the GOP side? Where has the money come to run expensive campaigns for these people? How did people like MTG actually make it to Congress. I think we're going to discover, as those same supposedly deep pockets get away from the heat for awhile that they were laundering Russian money, and as that money fades away, so too will the destabilizing influences in Congress.

So what's your thoughts?
Posted by Metaphorical | Fri Mar 4, 2022, 11:35 PM (4 replies)

Gazprom financial security director found dead as an apparent suicide

https://m.47news.ru/articles/208119/

This hasn't been picked up by Western sources yet so no guarantee on reliability. Translated below:

Gazprom Treasury Top Manager Found Dead in Monopoly Nest in Leninsky
22:46 25.02.2022

Photo: RF IC
The circumstances of the death of the Deputy General Director of the Unified Settlement Center of Gazprom for Corporate Security, whose body was found in the prestigious village of Leninskoye in the Vyborg District of the Leningrad Region, are being established. A note was found nearby, law enforcement officials told 47news. A month earlier, in the same village, the body of a top manager of another division from Gazprom's orbit was found. Both of the now deceased previously worked at Gazprom Transgaz.

As it became known to 47news, in the early morning of February 25, the police received a message about the death of a man on Rubinovaya Street in an elite cottage village in Leninsky.

The officers who arrived at the scene found the deceased in a noose in the annex garage, a note lay nearby. The deceased was identified as 61-year-old Alexander Tyulakov, Deputy General Director of the Unified Settlement Center (UCC) of Gazprom for corporate security. This division performs the functions of the treasury of the entire monopoly.

Prior to his appointment to the ERC, Alexander Tyuliakov, since March 2014, worked as Deputy General Director for Corporate Security and Human Resources at Gazprom Transgaz Saint Petersburg, a 100% subsidiary of Gazprom, which was engaged in the export and transportation of fuel to nine regions of Russia.

The circumstances of the incident are established by the Investigative Committee of the Leningrad Region.

Gazprom ERC at the time of publication could not comment on the incident.

Recall that a month earlier, a 60-year-old head of the transport service of Gazprom Invest, Leonid Shulman, was found dead in a mansion on Zhemchuzhnaya Street in the same village of Leninskoye . A retractable construction knife was found on the side of the bath. A note was also found. Shulman also previously worked for Gazprom Transgaz.

47news said that many of the top managers of the gas monopoly live in the village of Leninskoye. Because of the accumulation of famous names, it is called "Gazprom's nest" .

Why the GOP will lose badly this fall

I don't think that the invasion is going to end quickly. I think it is likely to drag on for months, even as NATO troops begin to get involved (40,000 troops have just been activated for the first time in decades).

However, it will have three significant effects here domestically.

1. Biden is now officially a war-time president in a battle against a clear tyrant on a likeable country, with every aspect of it broadcast on the Internet in real-time. His ratings are already climbing and may likely end up being higher than Bush's did after 9/11. This means that many of the more critical press outlets are now in the awkward position of appearing unpatriotic if they unload too heavily on Biden, and as so much of the criticism was largely manufactured, this is going to make it much harder for others to define him.

2. Trump's name is now mud. It's ironic that it was Putin that did that, but the reality has been that Trump has defined himself vis-a-vis his relationship with Putin. This is likely to mean that his influence, already waning, has just evaporated altogether. It also means that his most fervent followers are going to find themselves as pariahs, ignored by even local media, and seen as apologists for a tyrannical regime. I expect that the primaries are going to be a bloodbath for the Magats.

3. It takes money to create movements. My suspicion is that if you look at many of the deep pockets that have been supplying the MAGAt movement, you'll find laundered Russian money: highly lucrative contracts for very little actual work, significant overpayment on goods, purchases of properties at 3-4 times notional value, overnight bitcoin billionaires through hacked blockchains, and so forth. That money is all about to disappear, and with it the ability to create blind PACs, to donate in-kind expenses such as Stadium rentals, and even fund stations like OAN, Clear Channel, and Breitbart. It also means that even those people that haven't been getting Russian money are going to be far more circumspect about how they spend their own money, for fear of drawing attention to themselves. I also wouldn't be surprised if it hits organizations such as ALEC, which always seemed to have such an outsized influence given what it is.

I may be wrong on this, but I don't think so. By the time November rolls around, I think the GOP is going to be in complete disarray.

The Russian Civil War

People who expect the Ukraine-Russia conflict to end quickly are likely not thinking about this from the perspective of the Russians. To Putin, Ukraine was a break-away republic, albeit one that broke away thirty-four years ago. More recently, they threw out the previous government, led by pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014, considered a puppet of Putin's, with Volodymyr Zelenskyy taking over and forming a new pre-European government.

Putin sees this as civil war, with Ukraine the "Russian South". I wondered back in 2015 why Putin was so intent on destabilizing the United Kingdom (which he successfully did via Brexit) and the United States (which he nearly did and arguably is still doing via Trump) but in hindsight, reclamation of Ukraine no doubt was a big part of the picture. I suspect in his analysis, he realized that Biden was being more successful at stopping Russian-backed operations than he'd hoped, and realized that his window to reunify the former Soviet Union was closing quickly.

Ultimately, I think there may be a number of factors for why he moved now. One may be his own physical and mental health, which has been rumored to be inconsistent. He is also facing political pressures at home to relinquish power: he is popular among the conservative base, but he no longer has universal support and is finding it difficult to maintain control over the Far East, including the Kamchatka peninsula. He also may have recognized that his US and UK assets are being uncovered in recent Congressional investigations.

For all that, this is now shaping up to be a civil war, where Russian soldiers are expected to shoot at Ukraine soldiers who may be former friends or family members, and for most Russians and Ukranians alike, Ukraine was seen as independent. Ultimately, the danger here for Russia is that this could spread outside of the Ukraine and affect both Moskva and St. Petersberg, tearing the country even more apart than its been with the fall of the Soviets.

Unconventional Wisdom - Why Democrats may increase their control over the House And Senate

The conventional wisdom has long been that an incoming president will always lose Congress in the first mid-terms, though historically it's not as clear cut.

I'm going to make a prediction. In November, the Democrats will gain ground in both the House and the Senate. It won't be a blow-out- maybe 2 to 3 seats in the Senate, and another 8-10 in the House - but it will give Biden some maneuvering room that he doesn't have today. The reasons I believe this includes the following:

1. The Pandemic is reaching a stage of being manageable. This doesn't mean that it's over. I think Covid-19 and its many, many variants are here to stay. However, we are reaching a stage where the disease is manageable, and where the understanding of how to treat it is sufficient that future variants will be fought largely by booster shots and oral pharmaceuticals, which wasn't true under Trump. This means that areas are now going off mandates, but it also means that Biden is effectively telling the states that it is now up to them to manage their health initiatives, with the Federal government acting as a coordinator and backstop. It means that we're now stuck with a permanent pockets of virus incubation, but frankly I think that the states most guilty there are simply going to fade away in importance as their economies get hit with an Antivaxxer tax.

2. The Pandemic, the supply-chain issues, inflation, the Great Resignation are all interrelated. As the pandemic's political import fades, so too will the supply-chain issues, the great resignation is a realignment of workers with opportunities that is showing signs of weakening, while inflation is now cresting, meaning that it's not going to get any worse and should start getting better. This is happening globally. The Fed will almost certainly start applying the brakes with interest rate rises, the economy should cool somewhat (though not dramatically) and a few high profile committees looking into price gouging should start curbing the opportunistic companies that are raising prices under cover of inflation.

3. When the Soviet Union fell in 1989, Republicans proclaimed the victory of capitalism over communism and seemingly overnight, Western businessmen were flying in droves to figure out how best to fleece the newly "enfranchised" workers. Democrats were more wary, because the Federal Russian Republic was still fundamentally Russian - a cold, geographically large, resource-rich country with a history of authoritarian leaders going back to the Tsardom of Russia in 1541. Russian interests, in general, have been butting heads with American ones going back to not much long after the American Revolution. Putin's latest on-again, off-again invasion has suddenly reminded a lot of older Americans especially that Russia still has more nuclear weapons (6,400) than the US does (5,500).

4. This means that the Republican party is about to be cloven down the middle between those who see Russia as an ally (mostly those who want to see the US crash and burn so they can institute their own theocracy, libertarian paradise, confederate stronghold or survivalist playground in its place) and those who remember nuclear preparedness drills in grade school, when we were all supposed to duck under our tiny, flimsy school desks when the flash lit up the windows indicated that the end of the world was nigh. This could not have come at a worse time, for the GOP. It means that Biden, a *bleeping* Democrat, is now standing up to Putin surprisingly well as a potential wartime president, with what is clearly a manufactured pretext by an historical antagonist. His ratings are climbing pretty quickly even despite the deluge of bad press. If Putin backs down, then it is this moment of Bidens that people will remember in November. If he doesn't, I fully expect that the US will be funneling drones, equipment, intelligence, and perhaps eventually, troops into the Ukraine within the next few weeks, though I expect troops on the ground are going to be the last piece of the puzzle, only if everything else fails.

5. Meanwhile, in Trumpland, there are a lot of very conflicted MAGAts. Trump was clearly buddies with Putin, even if Putin is no longer taking his calls. The GOP wants to woo these same MAGAts back to the fold, but the most ardent MAGAts increasingly see the GOP as the enemy, much preferring their Lord and Messiah, Trump. This is likely going to translate into a fairly brutal set of primaries, and if "establishment" candidates win positions, I expect that the MAGATs are likely to sit on their hands in the general election and vice versa. If anything, the "disarray" that I'm seeing on the Democratic side has less to do with the Hillary vs Bernie battles of 2016 and more the typical bickering about which things to fund first. Manchin and Sinema are both still somewhat problematic, but I don't necessarily see the continued grandstanding playing out past April. In comparison, the GOP is tearing itself apart.

6. The electoral maps, which a lot of Democratic pundits in particular have expressed concern about before they were completed, are turning into something of a wash - courts are calling out egregious gerrymandering in places where it could make a difference, state initiatives are forcing independent re-draws of gerrymandered maps, and Democratic lawyers are winning lawsuits where Republicans have tried to disenfranchise voters. There might be even a slight tilt to the Democrats at this point, though it would be very small. This is good - an electoral map should be balanced, not clearly partisan either way.

7. Investigations. Trump is facing severe legal jeopardy on multiple fronts at this point. The investigations are moving slowly, but it's worth acknowledging that, unlike when Trump was in office, the Justice Department is not going to quash the investigations. I expect indictments to start flying in the May-June timeframe: the Jan 6 investigation, SDNY, multiple civil lawsuits, electoral fraud, RICO, and more, and several Republicans will likely be facing jail time. Will Trump? I doubt it, though I wouldn't be at all surprised if one or more Trump children aren't wearing orange jumpsuits by the election (Kuschner would be my guess). The point is that while I do not see the investigations changing many Republican minds, it will influence a lot of independents, and it will leave a lot of chaos in its wake politically.

8. Right now, replacing DeJoy is stalled in the Senate, but I'm not sure they'll be able to stonewall much longer. Ironically, if the Ukraine conflict kicks off, Biden may be able to call on the War Powers act to ensure improved communications, which includes making sure that mail can arrive in a timely fashion. Biden is not going to call on these powers unless there is a clear and present danger, but it gives him leeway. I expect that state lawsuits against DeJoy may also finally start making their way through the courts. One way or another, I think it will be hard to stop vote-by-mail in 2022, which is clearly an objective of the Republicans.

9. Overreach. The more extremist elements of the GOP are hitting a point of diminishing returns. Red states are enacting increasingly draconian laws in any number of areas, from abortion to voting restrictions to worker constraints and rolling back civil rights laws, you're seeing plans for whole fleets of Freedom Convoys clogging up the cities and highways. What's worth noting is that the Freedom Convoy in Canada was condemned by most of the country, including by truckers who might otherwise have been sympathetic. This to me is a sign of overreach - the reactionary forces are now beginning to engender a reaction of their own as people get fed up with the bad behavior, the lack of civility, the petty meanness, and the attempts at gaslighting.

Now, we're still nine months from the election and the situation could change quickly, but I think the Conventional Wisdom that the Dems are going to lose ground in the Fall is mainly propaganda.

Thoughts?

Silver Lining of Youngkin's Victory

I don't normally post articles from the The Hill, but this one got me thinking:

https://thehill.com/homenews/the-memo/579981-the-memo-trump-dinged-by-youngkin-win?rl=1

Politicians, especially seasoned ones, have to be attuned to their constituencies. One of the biggest problems that the Republican party has had is that TFG held the bludgeon of withholding his followers' support from those who might oppose him, even indirectly. For the last five years, that has meant that the GOP has been held hostage by its extremist fringe, in a decidedly anti-democratic fashion.

I don't necessarily think that Virginia is representative of a sudden rightward lurch. I've not been a big fan of McAullife's for a couple of decades now, and overall I think Virginians came to feel the same way. However, Youngkin managed to thread the needle with Trump - not alienating his followers, but not attaching himself to TFG's coattails either, and in a way this may prove to be a good thing long term. It means that TFG's influence is waning significantly, and it may be a sign that the GOP may actually be (slowly) moving away from the toxic extremism that has plagued it since the Tea Party emerged in 2010.

We, as Democrats, need the Republicans to become more moderate, more pragmatic. Polarization on both sides is killing this country, but Democrats, while not as heavily polarized as Republicans have become, are becoming more divisive as well. There is little room for compromise and as such it makes getting meaningful legislation passed nearly impossible. I think that as Trump's power wanes, so too will the extremism - TFG's attention gave the extremists far more power than they should have ever achieved.

I'm not saying I think Youngkin's win by itself is a good thing - it definitely hurt - but if it's a sign that the GOP is erasing the blight of TFG on the party, it's at least a silver lining.

Posted by Metaphorical | Thu Nov 4, 2021, 12:21 PM (9 replies)

This has to be making the Trump-Loving GOP sweat a bit

[link:https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/563331-pro-impeachment-republicans-outpace-gop-rivals-in-second-quarter?userid=20106|Pro-impeachment Republicans outpace GOP rivals in second-quarter fundraising
]

Republicans who voted earlier this year to impeach former President Trump are outpacing their primary challengers in the money race.

Now the 10 House Republicans who broke party lines in the chamberís January impeachment vote are heading into the second half of 2021 flush with cash, financial reports filed on Thursday with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) show.

Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), who was ousted from her post as the No. 3 House Republican in May, raked in the most cash of the group in the second quarter of the year, raising nearly $1.9 million and closing out June with more than $2.8 million in the bank.


I think more than a few Republican politicians were embracing Trump and the Maga out of fear of being primaried, but if this is any indication, January 6 may have been the last straw for a lot of more traditional Republican voters.

If the Wingnuts in your state managed to vote to secede, what would you do?

I've been thinking about this for a while.

Given the latest clearly blatant attempts at voter suppression in many red states, I expect that these will be challenged successfully in the courts - by all indications they would not stand up to any reasonable judicial scrutiny.

If that turns out to be the case, I present what I see as a hypothetical with all too much chance of happening - the state legislatures vote to secede, and the governor signs that into law.

What then? I'd prefer to not see any state actually secede - most states are basically purple to some degree or another - but I think that the GQP basically believes that they and only they have any actual political authority in this country.

Given that, what happens next?

Is this the end of the imperial presidency?

One of the things I've watched over the last few decades has been the increasing power that the executive branch wields compared to Congress or the Courts. We've seen the logical conclusion of this: had Trump succeeded yesterday, he would have been, in effect a King with unlimited powers. Republicans have pushed for this shift in power because that hierarchy would have ensconced them in permanent power as well.

Moving forward I think the Democrats are going to have to do some serious thinking about how to limit the power of the President, now and in the future. Trump basically exploited every potential loophole in his attempt to regain control, and in the process has laid out a roadmap showing precisely where the weak points are. This is going to be an interesting balancing act, because Biden is likely going to need to step outside of the system periodically to help repair it, and this is going to have to be managed carefully.

When new Senate formally sits

Begin removal hearings.

Get this fucker out of office NOW!
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