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Posts Tagged ‘Russia

TWO DEFAULTS AND A SHIP

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Last week and in what Standard & Poors described as a ‘selective default’ Russia attempted to pay in rubles two dollar-denominated bonds worth USD650m. According to S&P, a selective default is declared when an entity has defaulted on a specific obligation but not its entire debt. In this case Russia defaulted on its foreign debt obligations because it offered bondholders payments in rubles, not dollars.

Moscow has a grace period of 30 days from April 4 to make the payments of capital and interest, but S&P said it does not expect it will convert them into dollars given Western sanctions that undermine its willingness and technical abilities to honor the terms and conditions of its obligations.

A full foreign currency default would be Russia’s first in more than a century, when Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin repudiated bonds issued by the Tsarist government.

And in Sri Lanka the Finance Ministry said in a statement the country was defaulting on all external obligations including loans to foreign governments. Sri Lanka’s foreign debt is put at USD51b with China its largest bilateral lender followed by Japan and India

Of the two countries Sri Lanka’s default is by far the most serious although the reputational damage resulting from the Russian default should not be underestimated. Its economy is projected to contract 8.4% in 2022 reflecting sanctions and the cost of Putin’s war and remembering always that Russia is no economic power-house. Its GDP is only slightly more than that of Australia while its GDP per capita at $10,115 is five times smaller than that across the ditch at $52,905 (2020 figures).

And finally the loss of the Moskva, flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, damaged in an explosion on Wednesday and now sunk with the Ukrainians claiming they took it out with a Neptune missile, a claim disputed by the Russians. Whatever the cause this will be a propaganda victory for the Ukrainians and more evidence of the lie by Putin that ‘his’ Special Military Operation is going to plan … some plan when you lose your flagship.

Written by The Veteran

April 15, 2022 at 3:19 pm

Back in the USSR

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Well that’s long been Putin’s dream, having said years ago that:

The breakup of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century.”

He happened to be a KGB officer working in East Germany as it all came tumbling down so it must have been especially painful for him.

However, with demographic problems and an economy smaller than that of Italy, Canada and South Korea, that’s trying to support a still huge military (one that’s aging and creaking), and with age catching up on him rapidly (he’s 69), I think his chances of re-creating his dream are slim. There’s a lot of huffing and puffing here.

But as I’ve said for several years now, Putin plays a weak hand well. It didn’t stop him invading Georgia or taking the Crimea away from Ukraine a few years ago and today pushing into two small Eastern portions of Ukraine which are Russian-speaking and have been agitating for years to break away from Ukraine and join The Motherland:

The Russian leader recognized the “sovereignty” of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Eastern Ukraine. It’s not hard to game out what happens next. With those areas now being “independent” states as far as Russia is concerned, the separatist leadership there can now invite Russian military forces to enter. In other words, Putin has just taken a chunk of Ukraine without firing a shot.

That’s about as clear an example as you can get of what US President Biden mumbled about a months ago (Don’t call us. We’ll call you):

 It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not to do. 

Wish granted, moron.

As Putin’s strategy is not a surprise neither are his tactics. Again from my post:

Thus there will be ongoing cyber attacks, economic pressure, diplomatic pressure, implied threats, support for Russia-friendly opposition groups, and possibly minor military clashes on the Russia-Ukraine border.

Or what I wrote in 2014 on Kiwiblog during that invasion scare:

I don’t like or trust Putin one bit, but I respect that he’s smart and calculating. My bet will be that he’ll let the new government hang itself and be left twisting slowly, slowly in the breeze by its purported Western allies over the next few months – and then he’ll move with a partition of Crimea and the rest of the Eastern Ukraine, using locals to do it but providing them with logistical, financial and political backing. It’s not like those locals aren’t keen on such a move anyway. 

Having said that, Putin’s speech was rather strange; he’s usually on point, calm and statesmanlike, but here he came across as angry, with the usual boilerplate Russian snivelling that we’ve heard since the USSR imploded some 30 years ago, as you can read here, courtesy of Reuters, with clips shown here. That pain I mentioned above, of a former KGB officer watching the USSR implode, never came through so clearly before as he rambles on about how “nationalists” destroyed that nation.

But there’s also much huffing and puffing on the other side of the fence, making a mockery of crap like this:

Toe-to-toe? Biden was totally onboard with the Obama administration’s “reset” policy with Russia in 2009 (overseen by none other than Hillary Clinton, and they spelled the word wrong in Russian), back in the dark days when it was GW Bush who had “caused” Putin to behave as he was. Or how about 2012 and Obama’s little lecture to Mitt Romney during their debate:

“And, the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”

Fully backed by the moron, and this was when he had all his marbles.

Given the boogeyman treatment of Russia handed out by Democrats in their pursuit of the Great Orange Man from 2015-2020, they could hardly repeat the “reset” approach. But Biden at least claimed that he could deal with Putin (“Biden will get [the Western Alliances] working again”.). It’s been twelve months now of phone calls, “tough” speeches about sanctions and such, followed by recent babbling about “peace summits”.

In fact Biden and the Democrats actually refused to go after the only thing that might have dissuaded Putin, the Nord Stream II gas pipeline. They howled about Trump’s threats against it and when Senator Ted Cruz put forward an actual sanctions proposal:

“Joe Biden came to Capitol Hill and personally lobbied Democratic senators to vote against Russian sanctions. That’s why we’re facing this invasion. I gotta say Bill, Joe Biden becoming president is the best thing that ever happened, tragically, for Vladimir Putin,” said Cruz.

As an aside they also used the filibuster rule they’d been demonising. Still it’s not a surprise. As Walter Russell Mead wrote in 2017:

If Trump were the Manchurian candidate that people keep wanting to believe that he is, here are some of the things he’d be doing:

  • Limiting fracking as much as he possibly could
  • Blocking oil and gas pipelines
  • Opening negotiations for major nuclear arms reductions
  • Cutting U.S. military spending
  • Trying to tamp down tensions with Russia’s ally Iran.

You know who did do these things? Obama. You know who supports these things now? Democrats,, including Biden.

Still, given Germany’s demand for that pipeline in the first place, knowing it put them more under Putin’s thumb, their intricate ties to Russian finance, and the opposition of they and France to Ukraine joining NATO, it’s pretty obvious that they’re all paper tigers.

And Putin knows it.

Written by Tom Hunter

February 23, 2022 at 6:00 am

Putin On The Blitz

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Written by adolffinkensen

February 22, 2022 at 9:19 pm

Posted in Russia

Tagged with

We Live in Dangerous Times

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Godwin’s law is for fools!

(Originally set for publication on December 7th but I got lost.)

In2020, the evil Democrats and their media accomplices stole a presidential election and installed their moron as president. In turn, he appointed a woke idiot as Chief of General Staff.

Xi and Putin noticed.

China has little coal, iron ore, bauxite, copper, uranium, lithium and mineral sands, all of which Xi needs to support a prolonged war with the enfeebled United States.

Australia is enormously vulnerable.  It’s defense forces are weak and the current US administration cannot be relied upon to come to her aid.

If he going to have a crack at Taiwan, Xi will have to strike before the US mid term elections.  He needs at least two years of an enfeebled and incompetent United States.  I think he will hit Hawaii with an intercontinental nuclear missile strike on the same day he invades Taiwan.  Hawaii will be a ‘keep out of my back yard’ message to the US and a ‘do as you’re told’ message to Taiwan and Australia. This will happen while the is distracted, wringing its hands over Ukraine.

What will Xi promise his citizens to induce them to sacrifice themselves in Australia’s mines?  Enough fried rice and noodles for a millennia in the afterlife?

Who will be the Churchill of the United States?   Who will be the traitorous Lord Halifax?

1933-402012-2021
Communist Dictator and Elected Nationalist DictatorCommunist Dictator and Elected Nationalist Dictator
Huge military build upHuge military build up
Under Europe’s noseUnder the West’s nose
Jews/SlavsUighurs/Muslims
Sudetenland Hongkong
Bellicose Nuremberg rallies and speechesBellicose Tiananmen Square rally and speech
Molotov/RibbentropXi/Putin 
Non-aggression pactFriendly Co-operation treaty
Poland  Taiwan

Hitler, Stalin and Hirohito managed to slaughter 60,000,000 people over five years.   What will Xi’s tally be?  My guess is somewhere between one and two hundred million.

What will be the trigger which sets China off on World War Three? A recession? Some perceived insult resulting in ‘loss of face?’

What will bring the headlong rush to war to a halt?

The assassination of Xi.

Someone had better call Mossad

Addendum:-

For some time I have held the unfashionable view that Chamberlain was not a naïve fool but rather, a realist who knew how woefully unprepared Britain was and used the Munich agreement to buy time to build more Spitfires.

Written by adolffinkensen

February 20, 2022 at 8:11 pm

Posted in Australia, China

Tagged with ,

Don’t call us. We’ll call you.

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Biden will get [the Western Alliances] working again”.

“President” Biden’s two hour press conference last week, designed to show that he had a handle on things, was a train wreck that showed just the opposite, a man who doesn’t know what’s going on in any aspect.

Just one of his brain farts involved talking about Russia and Ukraine in this manner:

 It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not to do. 

As a result the following has happened:

A lot of this is just huffing and puffing, given that Germany has chosen to tie itself even more strongly to Russia via the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, that Biden chose to lift Trump’s sanctions on that and allow it to happen, that NATO is a paper tiger, and the EU even more so.

On the Nord Stream issue is this interesting tidbit:

“Matthias Warnig is, in various ways, an exceptional person. The 65-year-old is the oldest German friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the most active German in Russian business circles. He is a former Stasi agent who became a banker in the 1990s. Since then, he has sat on the supervisory boards of numerous German-Russian banks and companies. He is currently the CEO of Nord Stream 2.

From Stasi agent to corporate CEO. Sounds about right for today’s world.

However, there’s huffing and puffing on the Russian side as well, where Putin continues to do what he has done for years now; play a weak hand very well. Russia’s economy is smaller than that of Italy, South Korea and Canada, and the last thing Putin wants is spending on a war with Ukraine. Even a short, cheap war would still leave Russia on the hook for supporting Ukraine afterwards.

As such I don’t think Russia will invade Ukraine but instead wage a small Cold War against the Ukrainian government (as he has been) until he gets what he wants, which is a guarantee that they won’t join NATO and will be more amenable to Russian demands in general. I wouldn’t put it past Putin to try to have the current Ukraine government replaced. Thus there will be ongoing cyber attacks, economic pressure, diplomatic pressure, implied threats, support for Russia-friendly opposition groups, and possibly minor military clashes on the Russia-Ukraine border.

Biden is irrelevant, though his staff won’t be.

MINOR UPDATE

Regular commentator Andrei has pointed out the spelling of “Kyiv” vs “Kiev”, which I had wondered about but not researched before writing the article. Some explanation here:

Ukraine names its places using translations from Cyrillic into Latin and then into the Ukrainian language. “Kyiv” is a Latin version of the city’s name, translated into Ukrainian. The spelling, “Kiev,” on the other hand, is a romanization of the Russian name for the city. It became very common internationally in the 20th century.

That’s a sore spot for Ukrainians because it recalls the days when the Russian Empire, and, later, the Soviet State, banned the use of the Ukrainian language. It was an attempt to strengthen Russian influence in Ukraine, and Ukrainians have never really gotten over it.

So more of the argy-bargy between Russia and Ukraine. However, as the article points out:

There’s a solid argument for the conventional spelling. “Kiev” is what’s known as an exonym—an external name for a geographic place. For example, in English, we use “Germany” to refer to what the Germans call Deutschland, whereas, the French use the word “Allemagne.”

Loath as I am to help Mr Putin, in this case I’m sticking with Kiev rather than use a spelling that will have most readers wondering where we are talking about, so have updated the post.

Written by Tom Hunter

January 25, 2022 at 10:24 am

A perfect example of the USSR

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Let’s have a big round of applause for government incompetence.

Had I been aware of it I would have included the following essay in my post a few days ago, Karl Marx’s Christmas Present, on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Soviet Union.

The essay is a review of a recently published book, Collapse: The Fall Of The Soviet Union by Vladislav M. Zubok. That book tries to explain why the USSR collapsed so fast and argues that although the nation was in a lot of trouble and its leaders had known that for at least a decade, the collapse was not foreordained and the final result depended on a lot of turning points and personalities.

However the essay (Russian Bear Market), while praising the book’s details and accepting the main argument that collapse was not inevitable, argues that even had the 1991 coup against Gorbachev succeeded the new leaders would have faced all the same problems that could no longer be solved by Stalinist bloodshed alone, even had that been possible in the late USSR.

There’s some juicy stuff here in the details but this opening paragraph cracked me up and reminded me very much of the final confrontation between the Chief of the KGB and Professor Legasov in the TV mini-series Chernobyl:

When the KGB chief Yuri Andropov became the Soviet leader in 1982, candidates for office besieged him. Whenever someone began, “Let me tell you about myself,” Andropov replied: “What makes you think you know more about yourself than I know about you?”

Brilliant. The whole shitty system in a nutshell. If we know everything about everybody (and everything) we can run this system.

Other interesting bits include this on Ukraine.

Yeltsin soon discovered that republics demanding the right to separate would not consider giving the same right to their own provinces. Reading Zubok’s account, I was struck by the fact that Crimea, which President Putin invaded in 2014, already posed an issue as the USSR was falling apart. With a population overwhelmingly Russian, it had been ceded to Ukraine by the Communist Party leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1954. The Donbass, the predominantly Russian area of Eastern Ukraine that is now the scene of armed conflict, also posed an issue as the country was breaking up. Would Ukraine have been better off had it not insisted on retaining these undigestible parts?

I’ve got a fair amount of time for Gorbachev so the following nugget is disappointing, even if it had been typical of such leaders for decades:

Even those familiar with the opulence in which the leaders of the world’s first socialist state lived will be shocked by Zubok’s description of the vacation villa Gorbachev had built in 1988. It cost one billion rubles at a time when the Soviet defense budget, which Zubok believes was fifteen per cent of gdp, was seventy-seven billion rubles. Today, the U.S. defense budget is about $750 billion, which would make the cost of an equivalent villa $9.75 billion. That doesn’t include the upkeep and endless staff, such as the scuba divers making sure no one could infiltrate by water. Given the country’s fiscal crisis, one can’t help but recall the extravagance of Louis XVI.

I recall that the coup seemed very incompetent, a result of a degrading system producing degraded and mediocre leaders, but I had no idea how incompetent they were:

It was a Keystone coup. Right after the organizing meeting of the plotters’ Emergency Committee, Zubok explains, “some members went home and succumbed to various illnesses. Boldin was already suffering from high blood pressure; he went to a hospital. Pavlov . . . tried to control his emotions and stress with a disastrous mixture of sedatives and alcohol. At daybreak, his bodyguard summoned medical help, as Pavlov was incapable of functioning.” Pavlov later took some more medicine to control his nerves and “had a second breakdown that incapacitated him for days.”

So incompetent were they that they did not bother to turn off Yeltsin’s phone or prevent him from organizing opposition. One of Yeltsin’s supporters was able to fly to Paris, denounce the coup, and prepare, if necessary, to set up a government in exile. Opposition news sources, who knew what was happening better than the coup leaders themselves, continued their broadcasts to the West. “The situation was unbelievable,” one KGB general recalled. KGB analysts were learning about a crisis “in the capital of our Motherland from American sources.” When Margaret Thatcher accepted advice to telephone Yeltsin, she recalled, “to my astonishment I was put through.”

Let’s have a big round of applause for government incompetence.

Written by Tom Hunter

January 4, 2022 at 11:36 am

Karl Marx’s Christmas Present

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Thirty years have passed since this wonderful moment, fittingly occurring on Christmas Day. I recall sitting in Chicago watching this on TV in amazement.

The Cold War was over.

The following two articles that seem appropriate to the fall of the USSR.

First up is Peter Hitchens amusing anecdote, The last Noël in the USSR. It captures the bleakness of the time:

But when she came to rip open her gifts, the parcels did not contain the things she had hoped for. Instead, they were full of pale, oddly coloured and sometimes faintly dangerous Soviet products, breathing the last enchantments of the 1930s. Mrs Hitchens had queued fiercely to buy these delights in the colossal ‘Children’s World’ department store which stood just across the road from KGB headquarters.

But also the little joys, as well as the knowledge that having tried so hard, the atheistic determination to wipe out Christianity had failed:

Young Pioneers no longer patrolled the wintry streets searching for subversive Christmas trees, as they had done in the early years of the Leninist state. The air no longer trembled with the sound of cathedrals being dynamited, or of great bells being torn from their towers and spitefully smashed, as it had done in Stalin’s day… The League of the Militant Godless, once a huge semi-official organisation dedicated to mockery and hatred of God, of priests and believers, had quietly vanished during the war against Hitler. God had, during that odd period, proved a useful Comrade, at least as long as the war went on.

Looking for a Christmas turkey his wife finds an old woman selling a goose in a side-street. A nervous peasant dressed all in black, fearful of the Russian Mafia that even then was appearing as the KGB faded. The old woman gets more roubles than she can imagine.

I have never in my life eaten a more delicious goose, like a giant wild duck, not greasy as western geese are, tasting as if it had been reared in a snowy forest — because it had been.

The dark afternoon and evening still glitter in my memory. Outside, the brown slush and dirt of Soviet modernity, and the yelling, fist-pounding politics of an evil state (and it truly was) flailing in its death agony. Inside, a distillation of all that was good in our culture and theirs, and crowned with a small and defiant remembrance of the greatest enemy tyranny ever had, Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

December 25, 1991: USSR down at 7:32pm – Russia up at 7:45pm!

The second is an article that shows that, Things could have ended a lot, lot worse:

On December 8, 1991, two communist apparatchiks, Russia’s Boris Yeltsin and Ukraine’s Leonid Kravchuk, and relative political neophyte Byelorussian Stanislav Shushkevich, met at a hunting lodge near the Polish border on December 8. They signed the Belavezha Accords, named after the enveloping forest, dissolving the Soviet Union…Eight more signatures were added to the agreement in the following two weeks. On December 26, 1991, the Soviet flag was lowered for the last time. 

Although the U.S.S.R.’s collapse looks inevitable today, the dissident leaders feared arrest as traitors. Indeed, years later, local KGB head Eduard Shirkovsky said he wished he had done so. Shushkevich dismissed the idea: “I don’t think there was such a threat, given Gorbachev’s cowardice; at least I didn’t feel it.”

I think that’s a very harsh and unfair judgement on Gorbachev, though I understand how detested he is nowadays by his own people for having allowed an empire to be destroyed. He knew that he could have unleashed a still potent KGB and Red Army, invoking vast amounts of bloodshed as his predecessors had, not just in the USSR but in the Warsaw Pact nations. Certainly some of their scumbag leaders had been demanding such for three years, even as they went into the ash heap of history (in the case of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu into the cold soil, courtesy of Christmas Day bullets). But in the end he decided that, Marxist to the core though he was, it just was not worth it.

Nominal communist regimes still exist, but they are knock-offs, systems determined to survive by being different. There is little Marx in China. Cuba also has gone to market to try to save itself. North Korea has enshrined Asian monarchy rather than European philosophy. But no one has attempted to remake Soviet communism. For this, we should thank Mikhail Gorbachev, inadvertently or not one of freedom’s best friends

Zombie Marxism still exists in other places too, most notably in the heart of American academics and Left-wing activism, but that’s a story for the New Year.

Written by Tom Hunter

December 31, 2021 at 2:00 pm

Dodging bullets

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You might think it difficult to dodge a bullet that’s traveling at 18,000 mph!

But it’s a lot easier when you’re also traveling at that speed.

The International Space Station (ISS) has had to change its orbit quite a few times over the last twenty years to avoid a collision with some piece of space junk, and it did so again a few days ago:

Earlier this week, the International Space Station (ISS) was forced to maneuver out of the way of a potential collision with space junk. With a crew of astronauts and cosmonauts on board, this required an urgent change of orbit on November 11.

Over the station’s 23-year orbital lifetime, there have been about 30 close encounters with orbital debris requiring evasive action. Three of these near-misses occurred in 2020.

That last is a key point. As the article points out, things are getting more crowded in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), and it’s not helped by what the Chinese did a few years ago:

This week’s incident involved a piece of debris from the defunct Fengyun-1C weather satellite, destroyed in 2007 by a Chinese anti-satellite missile test. The satellite exploded into more than 3,500 pieces of debris, most of which are still orbiting. Many have now fallen into the ISS’s orbital region.

At these speeds even tiny particles can be lethal (Energy = Mass x Velocity2). In May this year the ISS was hit: a tiny piece of space junk punched a 5mm hole in the ISS’s Canadian-built robot arm, the junk was probably less than 1mm in size.

ISS over New Zealand

You would think people would learn. Even Hollywood has. In the 2013 SF thriller movie Gravity, the Space Shuttle, while servicing the Hubble Space Telescope, gets hit by debris created by the Russians testing an anti-satellite weapon against one of their own satellites, leaving Sandra Bullock’s astronaut character as the sole survivor who has to try and get back to Earth. It’s a 90 minute thrill ride of a movie, so long as you ignore things like orbital mechanics which would make it impossible to get from the Hubble orbit to the ISS with just a jetpack device!

Which brings us to the latest news, Russian anti-satellite missile test endangers space station crew:

An anti-satellite missile test Russia conducted on Monday generated a debris field in low-Earth orbit that endangered the International Space Station and will pose a hazard to space activities for years, U.S. officials said.

The seven-member space station crew – four U.S. astronauts, a German astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts – were directed to take shelter in their docked spaceship capsules for two hours after the test as a precaution to allow for a quick getaway had it been necessary, NASA said.

I would think the two Russian cosmonauts may have a few choice words for their military compatriots when they return to Earth at the end of their mission.

It seems like a crazy thing for Russia to do, which has lead people to wonder if it’s connected with dodging bullets on Earth:

Satellite images released Nov. 8 showed an estimated 90,000 Russian troops gathered at the Ukrainian border, prompting House Republicans to petition President Biden to deploy troops to the region.

Belarus has been bringing illegal immigrants to Minsk and then sending them to the borders of Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. Turkey has shut down their airports for travelers from three Middle Eastern countries who want to travel to Belarus. NATO has condemned the situation.

Written by Tom Hunter

November 18, 2021 at 4:00 pm

Barfight or Twitter Fight

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Two recent posts on war and the possibility of a future war, reminded me of something that’s been floating around online for almost as long as the internet itself.

In the distant geological age of the 1990’s Interwebby thing, jokes would explode across email inboxes around the planet. This often resulted in embarrassment as people, not knowing email etiquette (looking at you Don Brash, you idiot), would simply forward these things to some group email they had or worse, hit “Reply All”.

I had a personal experience of the latter one day in Chicago when a couple of very intense young men appeared in my cubicle to ask if I had forwarded some piece-of-shit email. I had not, since I actually understood not just etiquette but what could happen to email apps with an ever-expanding shit storm of Reply All, especially with an attached app. They were from Computer Operations and thus people to be ignored usually, but on this occasion they had every reason to be pissed. My client’s system crashed 20 minutes later.

In between cut n’paste jokes, one piece of email humour that did the rounds was funny only to people who studied history, especially military history, but it was so clever that it’s actually been stored in online history forums, including ‘nzhistory.govt.nz’.

But it’s nice to see that the same theme has now appeared, twenty years later, in a different guise, wherein WWI starts in the nasty, toxic sewers of Social Media, complete with all the lingo of the youngins.

I also liked this addition.

Meantime for you oldies, the original bar fight version is here. But I may as well just paste it, just in case that government server ever gets killed, along with its backup.

Germany, Austria and Italy are standing together in the middle of a pub when Serbia bumps into Austria and spills Austria’s pint.

Austria demands Serbia buy it a complete new suit because there are splashes on its trouser leg.

Germany expresses its support for Austria’s point of view.

Britain recommends that everyone calm down a bit.

Serbia points out that it can’t afford a whole suit, but offers to pay for the cleaning of Austria’s trousers.

Russia and Serbia look at Austria.

Austria asks Serbia who it’s looking at.

Russia suggests that Austria should leave its little brother alone.

Austria inquires as to whose army will assist Russia in compelling it to do so.

Germany appeals to Britain that France has been looking at it, and that this is sufficiently out of order that Britain should not intervene.

Britain replies that France can look at who it wants to, that Britain is looking at Germany too, and what’s Germany going to do about it?

Germany tells Russia to stop looking at Austria, or Germany will render Russia incapable of such action.

Britain and France ask Germany whether it’s looking at Belgium.

Turkey and Germany go off into a corner and whisper. When they come back, Turkey makes a show of not looking at anyone.

Germany rolls up its sleeves, looks at France, and punches Belgium.

France and Britain punch Germany. Austria punches Russia. Germany punches Britain and France with one hand and Russia with the other.

Russia throws a punch at Germany, but misses and nearly falls over. Japan calls over from the other side of the room that it’s on Britain’s side, but stays there.

Turkey punches Russia in the back of the head when Russia isn’t looking. Britain and France tell Turkey that’s not on and once they’ve sorted Germany out Turkey’s next.

Italy surprises everyone by punching Austria.

Australia, New Zealand, and Britain punch Turkey, and get punched back. There are no hard feelings though because Britain made Australia and New Zealand do it.

France gets thrown through a plate glass window, but gets back up and carries on fighting. Russia gets thrown through another one, gets knocked out, suffers brain damage, and wakes up with a complete personality change.

Italy throws a punch at Austria and misses, but Austria falls over anyway. Italy raises both fists in the air and runs round the room chanting.

America waits till Germany is about to fall over from sustained punching from Britain and France, then walks over and smashes it with a barstool, then pretends it won the fight all by itself.

By now all the chairs are broken and the big mirror over the bar is shattered. Britain, France and America agree that Germany threw the first punch, so the whole thing is Germany’s fault. While Germany is still unconscious, they go through its pockets, steal its wallet, and buy drinks for all their friends.

The last Russian reference always cracks me up.

Written by Tom Hunter

July 16, 2021 at 6:30 am

The 21st Century Space Race

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The news on April 16 that NASA has selected the SpaceX Starship design for two missions to the Moon was stunning enough on its own, but the last few months have seen some other important events that show that space exploration, including human exploration, is starting to rapidly increase its tempo.

April was an especially busy month.

There have been two spectacular robotic missions to Mars. The third SpaceX crew mission to the ISS was launched. Another four astronauts returned in their original SpaceX Dragon craft. The Chinese have launched the first module of their new space station into orbit, sent Taikonauts to it and landed their first Mars probe.

MARS

Yes, that is a drone helicopter on Mars.

What you are looking at in these pictures is the first flying machine on another planet. This is the spacecraft, Ingenuity, a little helicopter weighing only a couple of kilograms, and these pictures are from its 4th test flight, conducted on April 29. The first was April 19.

It was only expected to fly a few missions as a pure test vehicle, starting with a simple up-and-down flight, followed by moving around the landscape, returning to where it started and so forth.

However, like many other American robots of recent years, it has proved far more durable than expected, and since it provides the ability to scout ahead of the rover Perseverance (its “mother ship” that landed on February 18) the JPL team has decided to use it for that until it eventually fails.

Planning the route that such rovers have to drive is a slow and careful process; some years ago one of the solar-powered rovers, Opportunity, got stuck in an unseen sand trap. Ingenuity is a huge help in preventing that.

That map plan was from the 9th planned flight, which was completed a couple of days ago, with the machine flying a distance of 2,051 feet (625 meters) at 5 meters (16 feet) per second and remaining airborne for approximately 2 minutes, 47 seconds. They’re really pushing the little beast beyond its limits:

The onboard algorithm which lets Ingenuity determine where it is along the flight path, was designed for a comparatively simple technology demonstration over flat terrain and does not have the design features to accommodate high slopes and undulations that are to be found in Séítah. 

You can keep track of the flights at Robert Zimmerman’s Behind The Black blog.

However, the USA has finally been matched in the Mars Rover department when, on May 14, China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft landed and on May 22 sent its Zhurong rover trundling onto the surface. With its solar panels it looks awfully similar to the Opportunity and Spirit rovers (see An Everlasting Itch For Things Remote) sent to Mars by NASA in the 2000’s. It will be interesting to see if it lasts as long as they did.

SpaceX and the ISS

On April 23rd SpaceX launched a crew of four to the ISS in the company’s second such mission, called Crew-2. The key mission first was that both the Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon spacecraft were reused machines. The Crew Dragon, named Endeavour, had flown the historic Demo-2 mission (their first crewed flight) and the Falcon 9 rocket had pushed the Crew-1 astronauts to the ISS last year, in the first operational flight.

They crossed paths with the Crew-1 team which also consisted of four astronauts, making things rather crowded on the ISS for a few days before they returned to Earth on May 2nd. As you can see from the link, these splashdowns are rather more casual than the days of Apollo when countless US Navy ships were deployed far out in the Pacific. Here, they’re only just offshore from the Florida coast, and SpaceX kept the exact landing spot quiet this time so that they would not be surrounded by rubber-necking boaties as happened for the return of Demo-2.

Space X is contracted for four more crewed missions but will likely get more than that as the ISS is expected to be up there for a few more years: 2024 has been discussed as a shutdown date, with the Russians perhaps quitting then. However, new modules continue to be launched, the station is working well and since there’s no replacement it seems silly to abandon it even if its equipment is starting to get aged and obsolete.

As a side note, one continuing disappointment has been Boeing’s CST 100 Starliner spacecraft – pictured on the right – which was supposed to have been on the same schedule as SpaceX’s Dragon so that NASA could have a backup. Instead it’s fallen badly behind schedule but will attempt another uncrewed test flight at the end of July.

China’s space station and Russia

Another reason the USA and ESA may hang on to the ISS for longer than planned, is that on April 29, just days after its Mars probe landing, China launched the first module of its new Taingong space station, followed by three “Taikonauts” on June 20.

Since then they’ve been busy conducting spacewalks, readying everything for the next modules to be sent up. The plan is to have it finished by the end of 2022. It will be about 1/5 the size of the ISS, comparable to the old Russian Mir space station.

By the time Mir crashed into the Pacific Ocean in 2001, Russia had already been hard at work for a decade with NASA on the ISS, just one part of the whole post Cold War effort by the USA to shovel money into Russian technology centres to keep their scientists and engineers in-country and not working with the likes of North Korea.

But the world has changed. Between losing the lucrative ISS passenger business to SpaceX and with their announced plan to stop using the ISS by 2024, Russia was clearly removing itself somewhat. Still, the US is proceeding into its post-ISS future with the Artemis programme to land astronauts on the Moon and establish a base there by the end of this decade and Russia could well have been expected to join that. So it came as a bit of shock in March when Russia announced an agreement with China to build a lunar base together, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS). No schedule has been announced but Russia clearly feels more comfortable in China’s orbit than in the US’s.

The US Military and SpaceX

A few weeks ago the US Air Force released a 462-page report detailing how it intends to spend its $200 billion budget. Such is routine bureaucracy, but on page 305, under the heading of “Rocket Cargo” was a very interesting section:

“The Department of the Air Force seeks to leverage the current multi-billion dollar commercial investment to develop the largest rockets ever, and with full reusability to develop and test the capability to leverage a commercial rocket to deliver AF cargo anywhere on the Earth in less than one hour, with a 100-ton capacity,

Although no company or vehicle was mentioned by name, there is only one vehicle even on the drawing boards that has that capability.

It will likely be a decade before this comes to fruition, as the USAF will want to see a lot of successful Starship cargo flights, including sub-orbital hops around the Earth, before it will start laying contracts to buy flights and possibly even order Starship variants to its specifications. In this it would be following in the wake of the Boeing 747, which was built with military as well as commercial use in mind.

Written by Tom Hunter

July 12, 2021 at 6:00 am