Midterms and Mayhem

Abstract: A “red wave” midterm election seems about to occur. Notwithstanding the apparent (relatively) recent precedent of the 1994 midterms, the eight weeks from Tuesday 8 November 2022 to Tuesday 3 January 2023 may become the most challenging period to date in the entire history of the American constitutional order, not excepting the “Secession Winter” following Tuesday 6 November 1860. A broadly similar situation would almost certainly exist if the relative positions of the major political parties in the US were reversed. Even with alarming possibilities in view, this post is intended to promote constructive apprehension, not mere fearfulness.

Like all good students at our eponymous institution, you get the theoretical elements first, then more practical aspects, and falsifiable predictions at the end.

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Known Knowns, Known Unknowns, Et Cetera

“There are known knowns, things we know that we know;
and there are known unknowns, things that we know we don’t know.
But there are also unknown unknowns, things we do not know we don’t know.”
– Donald Rumsfeld

So last week’s post regarding the paucity of lefty anti-war protesters regarding the Ukrainian war is still going strong with comments, reminding me once again of the great sage, Donald Rumsfeld, regarding what we know, and what we know that we don’t know … and what we really don’t know that we don’t know.
What do I know for sure about the war? I know that both sides are … parsimonious with the truth about everything that is happening in the zone of conflict, to the point where a truckload of salt is necessary when reading the headlines, no matter if it’s the established print media, or blogs. What to believe? Practically nothing, save that yes, indeed, there is a war and a pretty hot one, too.
I am pretty certain that Ukraine served basically as the Biden family’s ATM. Corrupt government – yeah, that I do believe. But as corrupt than Russia itself, Nigeria, Pakistan, Belarus, South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi, Venezuela, and other frequent fliers on ‘most corrupt evah!’ list?
I do believe that Putin’s Russia apparently went into the Ukraine believing that it would be a one-two punch and settled to the advantage of Russia within a fortnight. That the war has been going on without a resolution since February of this year argues that Putin and his generals did indeed bite off more than they could chew, seriously overestimating their own capabilities and the Ukrainian will to resist.
The modern Ukrainians are descended from the Cossacks, in culture if not in blood, who had for centuries a tradition of making war … enthusiastically. They also, if I read my history right, still hold a grudge for being subjected to the Holodomor, the mass starvation under Stalin’s harsh rule in the 1930s. And that has to cast a very long shadow, among survivors of that state-instituted horror and their descendants.

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Where Have All the Flowers Gone?*

It’s an ongoing mystery to me, in this year of 2022, with a hot war going on in the Ukraine and the Biden Administration (or the Kalorama Kominturn which apparently holds the puppet strings) apparently doing everything it can to provoke Russia into turning the war even hotter … that the usual peace activists, who have been out to protest US involvement in every conflict going since I was in the 6th grade are nowhere to be found. Seriously, where are they – the usual peace activists, with their signs and protests at the gates of military bases, at recruiting offices and at the Pentagon … where are they? Where are the activist priests and nuns, the 60’s retreads, the determined if slightly addled, who used to routinely break into the back reaches of certain air bases in the southwest, searching for munitions and aircraft that they could splash blood-red paint and slogans all over, much to the bafflement of the security police patrols who often found them wandering in the desert, armed with buckets of paint and towering self-righteousness … yes, I had acquaintances in the security police back then, who often regaled me with tales like this.
Every time that matters of a military nature with regard to the US were about to turn from a warm simmer to red hot – there they were, on the ground, fulminating in the groves of academy, or on the pages of such reliably progressive publications like Harper’s, of the NY Times, and in the streets of Washington D.C. – there were the peace activists protesting. It was like the birds flying south for the winter; regular and predictable, until now. So, where are the deeply and ostentatiously committed peaceniks now? Are they out protesting the very real possibility of a nuclear war with Russia over independence of the Ukraine? Where are the Ramsay Clarkes, Noam Chomskys, even the Cindy Sheehans of 2022, the impassioned student peace marchers?
There was always a suspicion – and depending on the year and the conflict – a well-founded suspicion that many organized peace and anti-nuclear protest groups were Soviet-funded – and if so, I do wonder if they still are. Are the Soviet checks bouncing, or are they not being sent at all, since … open war with the United States is what Putin and his allies in what remains of the Soviet Union really want? Could it be that the Biden Administration also wants an open war with Russia, as a distraction and a ready excuse to crack down on critics and political opposition? Place your bets, ladies, gentlemen and uncommitted beings. Your insights are appreciated.

* Classical reference, link here.

Supply Chain in Ukraine

I’m wondering if any of our readership can answer a question that has been lingering in my mind for a while.

There are a lot of weapons pouring into Ukraine from a lot of places and I’m glad to see and hear about it and look forward to seeing these weapons used against Russia.

What I always wonder is that when I see something like this…

…are they also sending:
Sufficient Ammo
Spare parts of all shapes and sizes
Trained operators
Cranes, lifts, and other equipment needed to work on this monster (essentially, a “shop”)
Winterization components

and all of the rest of the stuff needed to support this type of equipment? I always hear that country “x” is sending “y” number of (insert equipment here) to Ukraine, but if all of the rest of the back end isn’t sent, it is going to be a “one and done” for these things.

Let me know in the comments if you perhaps have some insight.

Of Agriculture and Ideology

In Arthur Koestler’s 1940 novel Darkness at Noon, the protagonist is an Old Bolshevik who has himself been arrested by the Stalinist regime for political deviations and is facing likely execution.  During his imprisonment, he muses about many things, including…

A short time ago, our leading agriculturist, B., was shot with thirty of his collaborators because he maintained the opinion that nitrate artificial manure was superior to potash. No. 1 is all for potash; therefore B. and the thirty had to be liquidated as saboteurs. In a nationally centralized agriculture, the alternative of nitrate or potash is of enormous importance: it can decide the issue of the next war. If No. I was in the right, history will absolve him, and the execution of the thirty-one men will be a mere bagatelle. If he was wrong…

(emphasis added)

And in real life, Soviet agriculture was greatly harmed by the officially-adopted crackpot theories of Trofim Lysenko, as well as by collectivization.  Nikita Khrushchev was very enthusiastic about what he learned of America methods in farming, especially with corn, and insisted that these methods be applied in the Soviet Union–the effort was not successful because it too often ignored local factors like climate as well as general factors such as working-level knowledge and incentives.

In Sri Lanka in 2019, newly-elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa embarked on a program to the transition his country’s farmers to organic agriculture. Importation and use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers were banned, and the country’s 2 million farmers were ordered to go organic.  The project has been a disaster.  Rice and tea production are both down, and half a million people have fallen back into poverty.

And in 2022, the world is facing serious fertilizer shortage, driven in part by the loss of exports from Russia and Ukraine, with prices also driven upward by natural gas prices…this in addition to the considerable reduction in wheat exports from both countries. A complete shutoff of Russian gas to Europe could make things worse, given that gas is a key feedstock for fertilizer manufacturing, that Europe has not built adequate LNG import facilities to replace the Russian gas, and that sufficient LNG from the US may not be available anyhow–a constraint not helped by the Biden administration’s anti-fossil-fuel ideology and policies.  There may be actual famine in some countries, with predictable results in political instability, and plenty of family budgets being squeezed in the USA.

The response from the Biden administration?…Perhaps a new ‘warp-speed’ type of project to accelerate fertilizer output and improve fertilizer logistics?


USAID administrator Samantha Power:

Fertilizer shortages are real now because Russia is a big exporter of fertilizer. And even though fertilizer is not sanctioned, less fertilizer is coming out of Russia..As a result, we’re working with countries to think about natural solutions like manure and compost. And this may hasten transitions that would have been in the interest of farmers to make eventually anyway.

Because farmers don’t know what is in their best interest, but of course you do, Samantha.  See this post at Watts Up With That? on the realities of agriculture and the nutrients that plants need.  (Do you think Samantha Power knows what the Haber-Bosch process is and why it has been historically important?  I’m betting the answer is No.)

Note especially the part of the excerpt from Koestler’s novel that I bolded: “In a nationally centralized agriculture”.  When major activities are centralized, every key decision becomes of dramatic, critical, life-and-death importance. Those making the decisions will be convinced that their decisions are right, and are very likely to use all tools at their disposal to enforce compliance and prevent criticism.

See my related post The Logic of Insatiable Centralization.