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Category: Europe

A Russian Perspective on Ukraine- (Gregory Clark article below)

25 April 2022

While the brutal tactics of the Russians in Ukraine make horrendous continuing news, significant aspects of the origins of Russia’s Ukraine invasion have been ignored by Western media.  This does not justify the invasion, but one might wonder if the Donbas region in the East could ever have been retained within Ukraine.

It is well known that there is a gradation across the Ukraine from West to East, those in the West favouring Europe about 90%, but those in the East, the Donsek region, has almost 90% keen to merge with Russia.  There was a strong separatist movement in these provinces, with ongoing fighting. The Ukrainian army was not keen to fight other Ukrainians and it was said that neo-Nazi groups were involved in fighting the separatists using very Fascist tactics. 

Historically there had been some strong right wing groups in the Ukraine, and it might be noted that when Germany invaded, troops from Ukraine were recruited and fought with them against the Russians.  At the end of the war, naturally these groups were not seen, but it has been said that the CIA was in touch with them, and that they facilitated the successful storming of the Ukrainian Parliament in the coup in 2014, which led to the Donbas region in the east attempting to secede from Ukraine and Russia seizing Crimea.  It might be noted that Crimea was given to Ukraine by Russia in 1954 when they were both part of the USSR. The transfer was facilitated by Nikita Khrushchev who needed the Ukrainian votes to further his own career, and made little difference while Ukraine was in the USSR.

Fighting continued in the Donbas region which includes the provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk. The fighting led to the Minsk Agreement in September 2014, but the agreement failed leading to Minsk II in February 2015.  Luhansk and Donetsk were supposed to become autonomous regions, but it has never happened.  Fighting has continued, so Russia’s claim that they are fighting Nazis is not as absurd as it has been painted, at least in those regions.

When the USSR was collapsing the US Secretary of State James Baker promised Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev on 9 February 1990 that NATO would not recruit countries to the East.  However, those countries were fearful of a Russian resurgence and wanted to join NATO.  The USSR collapsed in 1991. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland joined in 1999 and Russia objected.  Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia joined in 2004.  Note the marked move of NATO to the East.  Albania and Croatia joined in 2009, Montenegro in 2017 and North Macedonia in 2020.  The Balkan countries presumably joined as protection against Serbia, which started the wars as Yugoslavia disintegrated in 1991-1999.  Serbia was a strong Russian ally. 

Prior to invading Ukraine, Russia wanted a guarantee that Ukraine would not join NATO, but Ukraine along with Georgia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have expressed membership aspirations.  No one was willing to give a guarantee the Ukraine would not join NATO even as the Russian troops massed for the invasion, though some hoped that Putin was bluffing.

Russia is now the 11th biggest economy in the world, ahead of Spain and Australia at 12th and 13th, so economically it is only a middle power, but having been a superpower with an empire recently, it has weapons far in excess of other middle powers and as it pursues a commodities-led recovery it hankers for its old Empire.

The German Social Democrats, the coalition partners of Angela Merkel, assumed that if Russia were integrated into the European economy by Germany buying their gas there would be no wars.  This has been a major miscalculation. Germany was dependent on Russia for 55% of their gas, this having gone up when then they closed their nuclear plants after the Fukushima disaster.  They still get 39% of their gas from Russia and are reluctant to turn it off as it would cause a major recession there.  This is very controversial in Germany at present.  Someone calculated that German purchase of Russian gas can pay for a tank every 20 seconds.

Here is an article by Gregory Clark, who spent 10 years with the Australian Dept. of External Affairs (which was the Foreign Relations Dept.) and resigned in 1965 in protest at Australia going into Vietnam. He went to Tokyo and was the lead correspondent for The Australian in Japan 1969-74 and a Japanese academic. He came back as an advisor to Prime Minister and Cabinet in 1974-76 (the Whitlam era), and returned to Japan after that. 

Western media have failed dismally in reporting the Ukraine war

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Ukraine- what is the future?

7 April 2022

The media is trumpeting how successful the doughty Ukrainians have been against the Russian aggressors, and the war crimes of the Russians assassinating civilians and destroying civilian facilities.  There has been a lot of discussion about Russia’s lack of success; Putin’s surrounding himself by Yes-men and getting wrong information or having political insecurity or mental health problems.  This is all somewhat hopeful. Russia is still immensely more powerful than the Ukraine and is likely to get control of the skies, which will give them an even greater advantage.

The West seemed surprised initially by the Russian invasion as they had assumed that if everyone was involved in trade and had increasing national incomes that there would be no war.  Since 2000 Russia’s per capita income had risen much more rapidly than the European average since they had increased their fossil fuel exports.

The Social Democrats in Germany had been happy to buy Russian gas on the assumption of trade guaranteeing peace.  Germany was also building the Nordstream gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea to make it easier to get Russian gas.  Currently Europe overall gets 40% of its gas, 27% of its oil and 46% of its coal from Russia. 

After the invasion, the West initially started sanctions in a very unified effort.  The rouble fell dramatically from about 13 US cents to 7, but as European countries continued to buy the gas the Russian economy was seen to be less damaged. So the rouble has recovered to about 11, either because the Russian economy is holding up due to the continued income, or that peace is likely to be negotiated soon.  Sadly, the former explanation is more likely. 

Europe will take some time to make the infrastructure changes to replace Russian gas with liquefied US gas, as the methane gas has to be frozen to minus 160 degrees at atmospheric pressure before it liquefies (or minus 83 at 45 atmospheres of pressure) and then transported by ship at high pressure to ports that can distribute it.  Europe currently takes 120 Billion cubic metres (Bcm) of Russian gas.  Also production cannot be ramped up quickly.  The US has said that it can produce and extra 15 Bcm by the end of the year and 50 by 2030.   Australia and Qatar, the other big exporters do not have much uncontracted gas.  Environmental limits on fracking have stopped Australia increasing production. Germany has cut its dependence on Russian gas from 55% to 40%, but major cuts would do a lot of harm to their economy. (SMH 28/3/22)

Russia will also try either to get control of Ukraine or to get some part of it, or demonstrate its power in other ways so that it can claim victory. There is a small eastern area of Moldova with a Russian separatist movement and there is a temptation for Russia to link them to Crimea by capturing Odessa and the Baltic coast of Ukraine.  The idea that they are defeated may be very premature.   

Here is a graph of the Rouble v. US dollar, which shows the Russian currency has largely recovered.

It is interesting that a recent (UK) Telegraph column by Ben Marlow quoted in the SMH 5/4/22 urges stronger sanctions are needed if they are to be successful.

Opinion

The West must wage total economic war against Putin

By Ben Marlow

April 4, 2022 — 11.02am

Russia’s pledge to reduce military activity around Kyiv, as part of what it calls “de-escalation”, has rightly been met with scepticism in the West, though sadly not nearly enough.

The move has prompted talk at the highest levels about whether sanctions should be lifted if Russia retreats and commits to peace. The possibility of sanctions removal was first raised by Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, a fortnight ago, on the basis that Vladimir Putin agreed to an “irreversible” withdrawal from Ukraine.

Then in an interview last weekend, Britain’s foreign secretary Liz Truss said the West could relent if Moscow withdraws and commits to “no further aggression”. This is naive in the extreme and suggests America, Europe and Britain have learnt nothing about Russia’s psychotic regime. Have they forgotten what two decades of appeasement achieved?

Putin played the West for fools right up until the invasion. Even now, Emmanuel Macron continues to pander to Russia’s warmongering leader with zero to show for nearly 20 phone conversations and a little tête-à-tête in Moscow.

Indeed there is a strong argument for doing the opposite – instead of lifting sanctions, the international community should be preparing to hit the Kremlin with a new round of even more punishing measures, not least because the current ones are clearly losing their effectiveness.

The sanctions that were imposed on Russia at the end of February were unlike anything seen before in terms of speed, scale and Western collaboration. But they certainly couldn’t be called exhaustive and the impact has clearly waned.

The Russian economy has not been crushed despite all the excitable predictions from analysts and commentators. It suffered something akin to a financial heart attack and though a full recovery will take some time, it hasn’t proved fatal and there are signs it is already on the mend thanks to the decisive action of highly regarded central bank governor, Elvira Nabiullina.

The Russian stock market has reopened after a month-long deep freeze.

A temporary stop on equity sales by non-residents, along with a short-selling ban and a short trading window, was introduced. Although there are obviously questions about how sustainable such interventionary measures are, a crash was averted.

Russia’s banking system has stabilised. Measures such as capital controls and freezes on foreign exchange deposits have helped to prevent a run on the country’s banks.

The West needs to leap into action, pressing home its advantage with a new round of sanctions that completely devastate the Russian economy, starting with a full energy embargo. Without that sanctions will ultimately fail.

Helped by a doubling of interest rates and a ban on residents transferring money out of Russia, the rouble has staged a strong rally. After slumping as much as 33 per cent against the US dollar the day after Russia’s invasion, it is now close to pre-war levels of 85 to the dollar. It might have been a nice soundbite but the rouble has not been “turned to rubble” as Joe Biden declared last week in Poland.

Much of the recovery is artificial but as long as oil and gas receipts continue to flood into the country, Russia can keep rebuilding its hard currency reserves and weather the storm.

“Self-sanctioning” in the shipping industry has been a resounding failure. Oil tankers continue to arrive in Russian ports. Traffic in March has been only slightly lower than it was a year ago, and is higher than it was during the same month in 2016 and 2015, according to research from the Institute for International Finance. Even when the discount on Russian crude is factored in, oil revenues are near record levels, the IIF says.

That’s not to say that sanctions have been toothless. Goldman Sachs is forecasting a 10 per cent downturn in Russia this year, while Barclays predicts a 12.4 per cent slump. But while Barclays expects another 3.5 per cent decline in 2023, Goldman thinks growth will have returned already with GDP expanding by 2.4 per cent and has pencilled in a record current account surplus of $US200 billion by the end of the year.

The West needs to leap into action, pressing home its advantage with a new round of sanctions that completely devastate the Russian economy, starting with a full energy embargo. Without that sanctions will ultimately fail.

Germany could withstand the shock. Robert Habeck, its own economic minister, has admitted that it would at least be able to make it through the summer. It is just too afraid to inflict further hardship on the German people, but if Lithuania and Poland are prepared to then why shouldn’t Europe’s biggest economy? They are even more dependent on the Kremlin’s oil and gas.

It may not come to that, of course, if Putin follows through with a threat to turn off the taps because the West refuses to meet Russian demands to pay for gas in roubles.

There also needs to be a widening of the ban on Russian banks using the Swift payments system. Just seven have been cut off from using it, and of the five biggest, Sberbank is the only one that has been shut out.

What else can be done? Wally Adeyemo, the US deputy Treasury secretary, has talked about additional export controls – some experts advocate for a full commodities ban or at least a broader raw materials embargo – and Volodymyr Zelensky has called for a trade and shipping blockade, something Adeyemo has refused to rule out. There should also be punishment for Western companies that continue to do business in Russia.

But as things stand, if the price Putin was meant to pay for his invasion was the crippling of Russia’s economy, then sanctions have undoubtedly failed.

Telegraph, London

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Ukraine- a Perspective

6 March 2022

Putin had said that he would not invade, so clearly he was lying.

It may be true that Russia wants buffer states between it and Western Europe and this is why it demanded from the US that Ukraine never be allowed into NATO. 

It is also true that the US promised Russia as its empire collapsed in 1990 that the newly independent countries would not be allowed to join NATO and that NATO would not move eastward.

Of course the countries that had just escaped from the Soviet Union wanted a security guarantee by to joining NATO.   NATO did not have to approach them, and may have appeared cowardly not to offer them the protection that they sought.  Whether NATO could defend Estonia against a Russian land-based approach is another question.  It is likely that NATO would not have let Ukraine join, as being surrounded by Russia on three sides, it might have been considered indefensible.

From a Russian point of view, the presence of close US bases is very disturbing and they are now in Bulgaria and Kyrgyzstan.  One of Russia’s major demands was that there be a buffer zone between it and the West.  The history is relevant.  Russia has had the armies of Napoleon and Hitler sweep across their land where there are no natural barriers. By the same token, they swept the Germans back in WW2 and retained part of Germany and all of Poland Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Czechoslavakia and the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. They kept them, dropping the ‘Iron Curtain’ and engaging in the ‘Cold War’ until the inefficiency of their communist economy made it crumble, leading to the collapse of the USSR, Russia’s empire.

The Russian economy is now the 11th in the world with GDP of $1.6 trillion, only two places ahead of Australia on $1.4, (with Spain in between).   They have however, the legacy of the immense military power and high military and space technology, and the memories of Empire that must be very important to Putin, the Cold War warrior who used to head the KGB.  Whether Putin is motivated by fear of the West, dreams of recreating the Russian Empire, difficulties in domestic politics or deluded foreign intelligence reports seems hard to say.  It is unlikely that just promising that the Ukraine would not be in NATO would probably not have stopped the invasion, but Russia was treated with a contempt that must have rankled.  The Eastern European Countries joined NATO, which must have seemed in danger of irrelevance if peace had reigned.   Russia’s worries about encirclement were ignored, presumably because it was assumed that there was nothing that they could do about it and they were economically weak.

It is interesting to look at Western assumptions since WW2. Because both world wars were over access to markets, the pressure at the Bretton Wood conference in 1944 was to have free markets so that if countries traded well they would rise, and if poorly they would fall, but either way, there was no world war. Germany and Japan rose in this system.  The US, which was responsible for 40% of world GDP in 1960 has been quietly sinking and is now only 24%. Much of their manufacturing has gone offshore so the arms industry has greater significance.  The US have had ownership of major companies, but as these have become global they are not under control or fully taxed by any country.  The US has been the only superpower since the collapse of the Soviet Union and has had an assumed superiority, which is helped by the fact that as the US Dollar is the world’s currency and since the Gold standard was abolished in 1980, they can simply print more money.

The key Western assumption after Bretton Woods was that major powers would trade and hence territorial wars would be unnecessary.  Just as the medieval folk assumed that God would fix everything, the West largely assumed that having the world a market would fix things.  Unsurprisingly this has proved too simplistic.  Unfair trade, national and corporate predatory behaviour and the ability of some to set prices better than others has led to some countries becoming poorer as their assets are stripped, like the losers in a Monopoly game that never ends.  The assumption that no countries wanted empires stood in ironic contrast to the behaviour of the US, which has had many little wars to further its interests, not to mention Russia and China.

Germany is worthy of mention here.  It was punished by the Treaty of Versailles at the end of WW1 and the resentment and economic hardship led to the rise of Hitler and WW2. After WW2 the Allies had learned their lesson and the US aid of the Marshall Plan poured in to stop communism.  Germany was rebuilt and joined its traditional enemy France to form the EU, which it then dominated.  Internal EU trade made war extremely unlikely, though there is a still significant friction in the Balkans. Germany went one step further, getting gas from Russia, which creates a mutual inter-dependency, which was assumed to make war less likely.

But when Russia collapsed in 1990 due to uncompetitive nature of its industries and it consequent foreign trade problems, it received no sympathy, and no aid. Predatory capitalism bought assets at rock bottom prices from those within the power structure who had power to sell them, and organised crime was significant.  Putin, an ex-KGB chief took the trouble to become personally rich, but moved in to control the oligarchs, lessen corruption, get foreign capital and industries and develop oil and gas.  His deal with the oligarchs was basically to control them somewhat, but let them keep their money as long as they did not get into politics.  Per capita GDP in Russia has risen 385% since 2000 as against the EU’s 162%, helped by high oil and gas prices in the early years. But Russian per capital income is still $US28,219 a year as opposed to the EU average of $US41, 539.  Russia has also had an inflation rate almost double the EU, which has somewhat taken the gloss off the wage rise.

Putin himself is still a Cold War warrior, who resents Russia’s loss of power.  He has eliminated dissident voices in his immediate circle, and so the advice he gets may be quite distorted.  There were stories from the Communist period that Russian intelligence was skewed to favour a Kremlin faction who might reward the source of the intelligence.  The pro-Russian nature of the Donbas region provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk and of Crimea may have led Putin to believe that Ukrainians either wanted to join Russia, or would accept it relatively easily if it happened.   He had marched into Georgia, taken the countryside easily and the people had given little resistance.  The referenda in Donetsk and Luhansk in May 2021, which were highly controversial in their legitimacy and execution because of both separatist and Ukrainian army violence, may have also given him reason for his belief.

Russia has 146 million people Ukraine 44 million, so taking over the country and occupying it will be extremely difficult even if military victory is achieved.  Bombarding residential areas was done by the Russian in Syria and achieved victory there, but the Russians left the local Dictator, Assad, to deal with the consequences.  Assad’s humanitarian record is appalling, and there has been little publicity about the outcome.  But the Ukrainians are the same ethnic stock as Russia and such a traumatic victory is very unlikely to achieve a stable transition of government if Russia chooses to stay. 

The role of the US has been criticised. They have been keen for NATO to take a hard line, broke their word in NATO’s eastward extension, put bases in Bulgaria and Kyrgyzstan and dismissed Putin’s request for a promise not to offer Ukraine membership, saying it was a Ukrainian decision.  A harder line from NATO will help US arms sales, a disruption of oil and gas will favour their own industries, and after all they are separated from any problems by the Atlantic Ocean.

The Germans are having a major re-think on their priorities, as they rely on Russian gas for 15% of their generation. They were phasing out nuclear power since Fukushima in 2011, and like many other countries are a little delayed in the difficult switch to renewable power.  A power shortage is likely to affect their industrial competitiveness and they are now signing up to the US demand for 2% of national income to be spent on arms.

China is likely to help Russia as it can turn it into a vassal state.  The Chinese economy is $17 trillion, which is roughly ten times the Russian one, so the cost of bailing them out by buying their energy and wheat is really only small change. They will take a bit of criticism from the rest of the world, but it will be worth it.  They will continue to work with the Russians to lessen the power of the US dollar as the world’s currency.  They will see how much Russia has suffered financially and in reputation from the invasion, and may then ease up on Taiwan- after all they only have to wait until a pro-Beijing government gets power there, and if that takes 30 years, so be it- they can afford to wait.  They harbour historical resentments against the West as Russia does, so with an economy ten times the size of Russia and growing have a capacity that Russia lacks.  This remains a problem.  They have consolidated Tibet and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and are expanding the area they control in the South China Sea.  What they will conclude from Putin’s Ukraine adventure remains in the realm of speculation.

The rise in gas prices should help Australian producers, but it will take a long time to scale up to meet the demand, and shipping is a problem. The other problem that the Australian gas industry has is that they sold gas on the assumption that could frack large parts of Australia, and resistance from groups concerned about the effect of this on the water table and farming has made this gas less available, so they have already have trouble meeting their contracted obligations. 

So what are the effects of the Ukraine invasion likely to be?

Putin will be very reluctant to stop and is likely to kill a lot of civilians in his efforts to save face and win.  This is tragic for the people of Ukraine and will result in a lot of refugees.  If he tries to hold Ukraine against a widely supported insurgency there will be a large number of Russian casualties continuing.  The Afghan war led to the fall of the then Russian government and many believe that even with the worst repression Putin will not survive this folly, particularly as he has created a Europe much more united against him and sanctions that will be significant for the Russian people.  An assumption is that he cannot reactivate the Gulag system of Stalin in this day and age, but a number of our other assumptions seem to have been wrong.

As stated above Russian and China will become closer and China will redouble its efforts to undermine the US dollar as the world’s currency.  This will succeed eventually, but will be gradual and not necessarily a problem for us.

In the short-term we need to help the Ukrainians as much as reasonably possible.

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Will Russia Invade Ukraine?

6 February 2022

Probably not, but it is possible and they are likely to take some action.


The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 was largely due to their economy being unable to compete with more efficient market-based ones. But US Secretary of State James Baker in 1990 promised Mikhail Gorbachev of Russia that NATO would not expand eastwards.


The Eastern European countries were effectively given independence. Their attitudes varied. The Baltic countries, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were very keen to have protection. Poland, which was abolished as a nation in WW2, simply being divided in half and incorporated into Russia and Germany by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 was also looking for protection.

NATO, led by the US has been joining up countries so that only the two closest to Russia, Belarus and Ukraine have not joined. Now the US is now loudly proclaiming Ukraine’s ‘right’ to join NATO if it chooses. The US has a lot of hubris, a tin ear, an arms lobby that needs sales and a recent history of doing what it likes. It has also installed military facilities in some of the countries closet to Russia. Those with long memories may recall the Cuban missile crisis of 1961 when Russia tried to station missiles there and there was a major confrontation. The US has bases all over the world encircling its rivals. The Russians do not, and when they tried to these was a major confrontation. One can also note that there are no natural barriers to military advances in Europe. Napoleon and Hitler swept across Russia and Russia swept them back.


Ukraine, the former ‘breadbasket’ of the Soviet Union is the closest big country to Russia and also could control Russian access to the Black Sea so has special significance. Internally it has quite a varied attitude to Russia. Those in the Eastern part of the country are very pro-Russia, while those in the West would like more integration with Western Europe. There is a succession movement in Donbass, an eastern province, and Russia is accused of helping the separatists. The capital, Kiev, is on the Dnieper river, which bisects the country from north to south, just downstream of Chernobyl. In 2014 there was a coup which was shown to be CIA-supported. The Parliament was invaded, much like the US on 6 Jan 2021, but in Ukraine’s case the President fled and new government was installed, highly favourable to the US. Russia responded by annexing the Crimean peninsula, which has their key naval base in the Black Sea. It might be noted that in a plebiscite a huge majority of Crimeans supported Russia against Ukraine.


In an interview on 7.30 on 1/2/22 Russian journalist Vladimir Pozner pointed out the US hypocrisy on NATO membership. He also pointed out that Russia does not want to invade. There would be Western sanctions, but Russia would also be stuck with a guerrilla war situation having to suppress part of what they occupied perhaps indefinitely. They cannot count on being welcomed even into eastern Ukraine. Invading armies usually are not. They would lose a lot of face internationally and there would be trouble on side or another in selling their gas to Western Europe.


It might be overlooked with all the US statements on Ukraine that Germany, France and Italy, surely the heavyweights of Europe, have been very silent. Germany has decommissioned its nuclear plants, cut down on coal and now gets a third of its energy from Russian gas. It cannot replace that amount of energy in the short-term. They are very aware of what a war in Europe means. Europe is more economically integrated and in general, this is good thing.


Russia will be supported by China if the sanctions start to bite, and the US dollar is gradually becoming less important as a world currency, a trend that the Chinese are working hard to accelerate.Even the Ukrainian President is now on record saying that the US must take much of the blame for the current situation.


It seems that the US arms industry, which has spent decades having little wars to keep itself at the centre of that fading economy is lost in its own hubris. It sees this merely as an opportunity to sell arms to the Ukrainians. It is a market, and an economic game. The Russians have existential concerns, not to mention the loss of face. They are likely to take some action. Diplomacy needs to work and the US has to be restrained. Finland has lived on the Russian border for many years as a democracy that minded its Ps and Qs. The Ukraine should probably do the same.

Press stunned as Ukraine leader points finger at West

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Dutch Cabinet Resigns over Welfare Debt Scandal. Australian Cabinet Does Not! 16/1/21

The entire Dutch Cabinet resigned over a scandal where welfare recipients were unjustly accused of welfare fraud.

At about the same time, the Australian Federal government had the Robodebt scandal where welfare recipients were assessed by a computer algorithm, accused of fraud and made to pay back monies that they should not have had to and could not afford. Money was deducted from their already inadequate welfare payments and quite a lot committed suicide. The Australian government ‘toughed it out’, i.e arrogantly refused to be held accountable. They settled a class action, which did not even cover what they had taken.

They have pork-barreled to win elections at both a State and Federal level, but have no intention of resigning.

The key lesson here is that there is no mechanism for dealing with the malfeasance of those in power. Trump may be impeached, but that would be an exceptional ‘one off’. In general there is no power that makes governments obey the laws the rest of us have to obey, or to follow the dictates of moral behaviour.


The only solution that I can see is to have the power returned to the people and the country run by regular referenda, once every 3 months at local, State and Federal level where anyone can put up a proposition and if it gets enough signatures it is balloted. If it wins, it becomes law. Federal government laws can be overturned and policies, such as not going into wars, are binding. This is the Swiss system, and their politician are part-time, only allowed two terms and their superannuation system is that their job has to remain open for them. This ensures that the politicians interests cannot differ from the people’s interests.

We have probably never had real power over politicians apart from the ballot box, and now they no longer resign, there is no sanction. They are not willing to take on the powerful, so we have 2 standards of justice, one for the rich and one for the poor. Things are worsening. Barry O’Farrell resigned as Premier of NSW because he forgot he had been given a bottle of wine. That simply does not happen now.

People are talking about changing the constitution for many reasons. It is 120 years old. It was not the absolute wisdom for all time; it was a minimalist document to get the 6 colonies to become States and form a nation under the Queen. We need to go boldly and get a new document. Incidentally the Swiss change their constitution also, just needing a bigger majority in the referendum.

It is about trusting the people, who in general are more principled than the politicians, and after all, have the right to decide.


www.smh.com.au/world/europe/the-buck-stops-here-dutch-pm-cabinet-resign-over-welfare-debt-scandal-20210116-p56ula.html

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The International Criminal Court has Declined to Prosecute Britain for War Crimes in Iraq. 1/1/21

Some have said that the ICC is where the big countries prosecute small dictators. The ICC has, in a 184 page document declined to prosecute British soldiers for war crimes in Iraq. They have also declined to say that the 2nd Iraq war was illegal. To do this they have quoted British rationale about the need to find Weapons of Mass Destruction, WMDs and ignored that fact that the weapons inspectors said that they have not found any, the Iraqis were cooperating better and that they wanted more time.

They use British names for Iraqi places, refer to the Iraqis as ‘insurgents’ in their own country and took refuge in the fact that the ICC does not have to investigate war crimes if the country that committed them is itself investigating. They then look at how the British investigations have gone, which is actually nowhere.

The author of this piece says he was a great fan of the ICC, but now concludes that it has no credibility. It is not a short piece, but this can be excused as it summarises the 184 pages of the ICC’s decision not to prosecute.

It is sad, but unsurprising that there is no credible enforcement of international law at an individual level, or in statements as to the actions of countries.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/56113.htm

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Energy Storage is a large problem- the German Experience 13/12/20

Energy storage is a worse problem in Germany because they have longer cold periods with less sun than Australia. It seems that pumped hydro storage is our best option, but this article is correct that it requires a lot of energy alternatives for when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine.


Demand management is also important, which means shifting things like off peak hot water to when the sun shines, but also paying people to switch off. If there is only a peak demand for a few hours a year, it is cheaper to pay people to turn off than to have a power source that is only used a few hours a year.

But articles about the problems in the German grid have been around for a long time and lessons need to be learned.

Those of us who want to move to renewable energy need to be aware of the problems and to address them, or we just look like naive ideologues.

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COVID19 Second Wave is Happening in Europe 9/10/20

Europe is trying to get out of lockdown, but did not have the COVID19 epidemic under control, so the numbers are rising quite steeply, and look likely to be more than the first wave.  I tried to put some graphs together, but it has proved beyond my computer management competence, so I can only refer readers to the Worldometers COVID home page and ask you to click on the individual countries and scroll down to the ‘New Infections’ graph if you want to check what I am saying.

The UK, Ireland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, Poland, Czechia, Austria, Denmark are all rising.  Spain was following the same pattern, but has just started a new lockdown.  Germany is ticking up, somewhat more modified, as is Norway.  Sweden continues to have cases, but there is some doubt now about how they collect their figures.

The lesson for Australia is clear.  We have to be conservative and go for elimination.  Suppression will not work.  There is danger that NSW has people no longer getting tested, presumably because admitting that an infection is possible means you have to self-quarantine for 2 weeks and have a nasty thing stuck up your nose, when you might just have a cold. 

Daniel Andrews has taken the flak, but implemented a policy that has probably saved Australia.  No thanks to Morrison, whose advice has been frankly mischievous.

Stephen Duckett, one of the architects of Medicare, tells it like it is.

www.smh.com.au/national/go-for-zero-what-victoria-can-teach-nsw-about-covid-19-20200908-p55tp2.html

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Happenings in Turkey, no sillier than NSW mining policy 11/7/20

A friend has sent me this to illustrate how life is in Turkey these days under President Erdogan, who fancies himself the new Kemal Attaturk.  Ataturk however was the victorious general at Gallipoli and the founder of the modern Turkish state on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire after WW1.  He wanted a modern, democratic, secular state an instituted a new western-style alphabet. 

Erdogan has undermined democracy and concentrated power in his own hands.  He claims to be Muslim and been a very divisive figure, playing to the less educated eastern side of the country against the more educated secular western side.  He had fantasies of leading the Muslim world while building the country with borrowed money, principally in real estate investment.  The quality of these high-rise buildings in earthquake -prone Istanbul will no doubt be tested in time.  The economy is not doing well, particularly in the COVID19 crisis.  This little story about digging up a glacial lake is a micro illustration of his capricious rule, which has involved things like emptying the prisons and locking up journalists and academics who oppose him.

Such stupidity does not only occur in Turkey.  If it is foolish to undermine a little lake and dig a hole that cannot be filled underneath it, how much sillier is it to allow long wall mining under the catchment of a large, growing capital city that is prone to drought.  Cracks will go from the surface to the mine depth and then the water will run out to sea.  We should ask ourselves why we tolerate the NSW government, and Peabody, a US owned mine.

www.quora.com/What-happens-only-in-Turkey/answer/Simge-Topaloğlu?ch=1&share=02eab1a8&srid=zByA

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