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June 13, 2021

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-045

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

> A mystery bidder paid $28 million at auction Saturday for a seat alongside Jeff Bezos on board the first crewed spaceflight of the billionaire's company Blue Origin next month. <

Elon Musk?

Jack Parrock @jackeparrock - 9:29 utc · Jun 11, 2021
The lateral flow COVID tests we have to do every day at the #G7 summit are “Made in China”. 🇨🇳
Western powers still need a bit of help from the East.

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Other issues:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-045

Posted by b at 12:44 UTC | Comments (22)

June 12, 2021

Why Is There A Biden-Putin Summit And What Is It Supposed To Achieve?

On June 16 the Presidents of Russia and the United States will hold talks:

Biden ends the trip Wednesday with summit in Geneva with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. The White House announced Saturday that the leaders will not hold a joint news conference after meeting, removing the opportunity for comparisons to the availability that followed Trump and Putin’s 2018 Helsinki summit in which Trump sided with Moscow over his own intelligence agencies.

Aides have suggested that the U.S. did not want to elevate Putin further by having the two men appear together in such a format. Others have expressed concern that Putin could try to score points on Biden, 78, who will be in the final hours of a grueling eight-day European trip.

The real reason for not holding a joint press conference is of course that a senile Biden is likely to brabble some nonsense and ruin the summit spin his minders want to put out there.

The U.S. initiated the summit which comes early in Biden's presidency. The not yet answered question is why, and what the U.S. wants to achieve with it?

The short answer, discussed in length below, is that:

  1. The U.S. wants to take on China. The U.S. recognized that it can not take on China and Russia simultaneously. Russia must thus be split from its China alliance and brought back into Europe.
  2. Russia's new strategic weapon systems may enable a first strike on the U.S. A new strategic arms agreement is the only way to avert that existential threat. (It would also save a lot of money.)

Both of these strategic aims are unlikely to get achieved because the U.S. foreign policy community is still misjudging the global situation as well as Russia's strength and position. It wants the summit to fail.

Now the long version.

In an essay published on his email list Prof. Michael Brenner, a regular reader of Moon of Alabama, gives his answer to our questions:

Cont. reading: Why Is There A Biden-Putin Summit And What Is It Supposed To Achieve?

Posted by b at 17:03 UTC | Comments (127)

June 11, 2021

Another 'Nuclear Iran' Claim By David Albright Gets Debunked

Two days ago FOX News ran another sensational story about Iran's nuclear program.

Satellite images of Iran nuclear site raise alarms as IAEA meets in Vienna

However the claims in that story are based on a report by David Albright's Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS). Albright is known for his false or misleading conclusions about mostly random 'evidence'.

The story:

Fox News has obtained new satellite images that show unusual activity at Iran’s Sanjarian site, which has been exposed in the past as a suspected manufacturing site for "shock wave generators" – devices which would allow Iran to miniaturize a nuclear weapon.

The new images obtained from Maxar show 18 vehicles at the site on October 15, 2020, more vehicles and excavation in January along with a new access road that was later covered up in March of this year. All that is visible by satellite now are excavation swirls and new trenches, according to analysis from Itay Bar Lev of The Intel Lab who worked in conjunction with the Institute for Science and International Security.

The site, which is 25 miles outside Tehran and has a population of 361, was first revealed when Israel's Mossad obtained Iran's secret nuclear archive in 2018: 50,000 computer files and 50,000 documents outlining Iran's Amad project, the scientific program to build a nuclear weapon which the IAEA says was halted in 2003.

The pictures FOX News presents are supposed to show the site on October 15 2020 and on January 18 2021. There are only slight differences.

Cont. reading: Another 'Nuclear Iran' Claim By David Albright Gets Debunked

Posted by b at 17:50 UTC | Comments (48)

June 10, 2021

Biden Seeks Allies For War On China

U.S. President Joe Biden is currently in Europe.

President Biden @POTUS - 14:26 UTC · Jun 10, 2021

I believe we are at an inflection point in history. A moment where it falls to us to prove that democracies will not just endure — they will excel as we rise to seize the enormous opportunities of this new age.

Democracies excel against whom?

According to the Democracy Perception Index 2020 73% of the people in China say that their country is democratic. Only 48% in the United States see their country as such.

China is indeed rising to the "enormous opportunities of this new age". The U.S., well, not so much. And that is the crux of the whole situation.

Biden's tweet is gibberish. A good translation of what he really meant is probably this:

chinahand @chinahand - 14:55 UTC · Jun 10, 2021

It's how the more homely and honest "we have to f*ck up china before it eats America's lunch" gets translated into faux Churchill hero speak. Suspect Jake Sullivan lobbied for the existential crisis for democracy angle coz why wud Europe line up to just to save America's ass?

Biden is in Europe to ask its leaders to support the U.S. in its efforts against China (and Russia). But that is not in Europe's interest:

The President and his advisors would do well to remember that while former Belgian foreign minister Mark Eyskens famously said that Europe is a political dwarf, he also called it an economic giant. As several U.S. presidents have discovered, the subservience of European countries to the United States stops as soon as European wallets are involved. This was demonstrated most recently in Germany’s adamant refusal to bow to U.S.pressure to abandon the North Stream gas pipeline from Russia.

A degree of common Western economic pushback against China is legitimate and necessary in two areas: Chinese behavior that clearly breaks universally accepted rules, as in the area of intellectual property theft; and control of vital national infrastructure. After all, the Chinese defend their own technological expertise, and they will never allow foreign control of essential sectors of the Chinese economy.

The Biden administration however seems to want to go much further than this, to effectively shut China out from any important say in shaping the rules of the international economy, and greatly restrict Chinese investment and infrastructural development outside China. This strategy is doomed to failure, and will cause deep divisions between the United States, Europe and Japan.

Europe won't line up behind the U.S. for its great war on China. And a war it is gonna be:

Cont. reading: Biden Seeks Allies For War On China

Posted by b at 17:52 UTC | Comments (142)

Open Thread 2021-044

News & views ...

Posted by b at 14:18 UTC | Comments (108)

June 09, 2021

The End Of Crypto Currencies

The hype about crypto currencies is coming to an end.

I have always been distrustful of crypto currencies like Bitcoin and Ether. They made no sense to me. The person who invented the scheme stayed anonymous. The concept foresaw a limited number of total coins with new ones becoming exponentially harder to generate or 'mine'. This would continuously require exponentially more energy. At the core of crypto currencies is the blockchain, a public ledger which holds a record of every transaction. The 'mining' is needed to verify the blockchain ledger. This concept thus had always limits in its design which at some point would make a further expansion impossible.

While people who use Bitcoins can hide behind anonymous wallets which hold their coins any transfer from and to real money would need de-anonymization at some point of exchange. These entry and exits points from and to normal currencies were another major weakness of the whole scheme. Another one was the obvious usefulness of Bitcoins for spies, criminals and tax evaders. Sooner or later authorities would clamp down on them. That is why Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism had christened crypto currencies "prosecution futures".

Crypto currencies are not money. One can not pay ones taxes with them.

In the first years most Bitcoins were acquired to buy drugs or child porn on the darknet. There was then little police activity against those markets. But over time the officials got smarter. When they caught a child porn dealer they could use his wallet address and the public ledger to find everyone who had ever paid for the 'service'. Some of the exchanges, which also have bank-like functions, turned out to be run by criminals. They went bust and the people who had parked their bitcoins at that 'bank' lost their money.

Other exchanges, like Coinbase, went 'official' and even became listed at stock exchanges. But they soon had to agree to turn customer records over to the Justice Department for possible tax evasion and other investigations.

Some claim that crypto currencies are a good investment or inflation hedge. But their value can be manipulated which makes them extremely volatile.


via Heisenberg Report - bigger>

There have been offers to donate to Moon or Alabama in crypto currencies. I never accepted any. It was not worth the potential risk of getting caught up in this or that criminal investigation.

2021 will probably be the year in which Bitcoin finally dies.

Cont. reading: The End Of Crypto Currencies

Posted by b at 18:00 UTC | Comments (185)

June 07, 2021

Space Oddities

Jeff Bezos is going to space, says a CNN report:

Jeff Bezos will be flying to space on the first crewed flight of the New Shepard, the rocket ship made by his space company, Blue Origin. The flight is scheduled for July 20th, just 15 days after he is set to resign as CEO of Amazon.

Blue Origin said Bezos' younger brother, Mark Bezos, will also join the flight.
...
If all goes according to plan, Bezos — the world's richest person with a net worth of $187 billion — will be the first of the billionaire space tycoons to experience a ride aboard the rocket technology that he's poured millions into developing. Not even Elon Musk, whose SpaceX builds rockets powerful enough to enter orbit around Earth, has announced plans to travel to space aboard one of his companies human-worthy crew capsules.

The world richest person will of course not pay for the trip.

Blue Origin as well as its competitor SpaceX are part of NASA's commercial crew and human landing system (HLS) programs which subsidize and support the development of various space flight and moon landing systems.

This was supposed to lead to the development of several commercial space services from which NASA can then select one for each of its missions. But when Blue Origin lost out in a recent bid to actually build the human landing system the company immediately launched a protest:

Blue Origin says in the GAO protest that its “National Team,” which included Draper, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, bid $5.99 billion for the HLS award, slightly more than double SpaceX’s bid. However, it argues that it was not given the opportunity to revise that bid when NASA concluded that the funding available would not allow it to select two bidders, as originally anticipated. NASA requested $3.3 billion for HLS in its fiscal year 2021 budget proposal but received only $850 million in an omnibus appropriations bill passed in December 2020.

Having failed to bilk the government out of several more billions Bezos called on his lobbyists:

In recent years, Blue Origin also has given its operation in the nation’s capital more muscle. It spent nearly $2 million in lobbying last year, up from a little more than $400,000 in 2015, according to OpenSecrets.org, which tracks spending. The company’s political action committee has amped up its donations as well, spending $320,000 in 2020, up from $22,000 in 2016.

A few envelopes changed hands and achieved the desired result:

Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell—from Amazon’s home state of Washington—tacked on $10 billion for NASA into the Endless Frontier Act, a bill that allocates funding to conduct research in technological innovation and space exploration. Presumably, Blue Origin will get a chunk of this, since Cantwell’s amendment specifically states that NASA will subsidize “design, development, testing, and evaluation for not fewer than 2 entities” for the Human Landing System Program. (Both Blue Origin and Dynetics had competed for the contract.)

That led to to a pissing contest with Elon Musk's SpaceX:

In a flier, SpaceX said the Cantwell amendment “undermines the federal government procurement process, rewards Jeff Bezos with a $10 billion sole-source hand-out, and will throw NASA’s Artemis program into years of litigation.” It adds that Blue Origin “has not produced a single rocket or spacecraft capable of reaching orbit.”
...
Blue Origin came back with its own flier subtitled “What is Elon Musk afraid of...a little competition?” with itemized “lies” in SpaceX’s flier. Its bottom line: “Elon Musk repeatedly talks about the value of competition, but when it comes to NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) program, he wants it all to himself.”

That Bezos is suddenly lauding the merit of competition, after having lost a bid with a way too high price, is more than a bit hypocritical:

Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine announced Tuesday he's suing Amazon on antitrust grounds, alleging the company's practices have unfairly raised prices for consumers and suppressed innovation.

Racine is seeking to end what he alleges is Amazon's illegal use of price agreements to edge out competition; the lawsuit also asks for damages and penalties to deter similar conduct.

Amazon, Bezos' main company, also gets billions in subsidies and does not pay taxes.

Bezos, Musk and other billionaires are errors in our economic-political systems. They should be eliminated.

I am fine with subsidizing Bezos' or Musk's flights to space.

But don't make it round-trip tickets.

Posted by b at 17:15 UTC | Comments (149)

June 06, 2021

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-043

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

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Other issues:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-043

Posted by b at 12:40 UTC | Comments (243)

June 05, 2021

UFO Reports Are Fertilizer For Military Budgets

Since December 2019 the United States has a Space Force as one of eight branches of U.S. Armed Forces. Each of those branches has lots of higher ranking officer positions. All people who are put into those want a lucrative board seat at some weapon manufacturer when they retire. They will only get one if they manage to create enough revenue for those manufacturers while they are still in uniform.

The new command therefore needs new weapons. Otherwise there will be no revenue for the weapon manufacturers and no lucrative board seats for retired officers. But spending tax dollars on weapons requires at least some nominal justification. There needs to be a threat that requires new weapons to counter it.

Thus we are presented with an onslaught of UFO rumors and silly grainy videos:

The idea of UFOs has gone mainstream. The dam broke with a New York Times story about a year ago on three declassified Navy videos. Last weekend, 60 Minutes did its own report, and The New Yorker has a nice long writeup of the history of the debate within the American government.

The sightings involve objects that seem to defy the laws of physics.
...
It’s the “physics-defying” aspects of UFOs that imply an advanced alien civilization. Although some suggest that Chinese or Russian drones could be behind what people are seeing, the idea of those nations being that far ahead of the United States can probably be dismissed.

From believing in alien UFOs to making laughable stupid claims is just a short step:

Josh Rogin @joshrogin - 2:23 PM · Jun 4, 2021

There are two theories about the UFO’s. One is they are from another planet, one is that they are from another dimension. In other words, it could be humans from the future, not an alien species.

This reply is fitting:

Cont. reading: UFO Reports Are Fertilizer For Military Budgets

Posted by b at 18:06 UTC | Comments (180)

June 04, 2021

Roman Protasevich, Casualty Of The Ryanair Incident In Belarus, Is Spilling The Beans

A TV documentary of the bomb threat against a Ryanair plan (vid) has confirmed our analysis of a false narrative which had been constructed by Belorussian regime change activists.

They had alleged that on May 23 a Ryanair plane had been forced by the Belorussian government to land in Minsk after which one activist on board, Roman Protasevich, had been arrested. But in reality a real bomb threat, delivered by email, had been received at Minsk airport as well as by Lithuanian air authorities. The plane was made aware of the threat by the Belorussian air traffic control and the pilot, after communicating with Ryanair management, had decided to land in Minsk.

Belarus handled the case by the book and the plane was released after it had been unsuccessfully searched for the alleged bomb. There were outstanding arrest warrants against two passengers on board, Roman Protasevich and his Russian girl friend Sofia Sapega. Both were detained after passing through the custom and passport controls.

Roman Protasevich had been betrayed. Other regime change activists, with whom he had disagreed, had sent the bomb threat email to get him trapped.

This is evident from his testimony in the later part of the TV documentary linked above, where he appears as a lively and engaged chain smoker.

A second Belorussian TV piece (vid), with a ninety minutes excerpt from a four hour long interview of Protasevich, was broadcast yesterday:

Former editor-in-chief of NEXTA Roman Protasevich interviewed the Belarusian state channel ONT. In it, he pleaded guilty in a criminal case to organizing and preparing actions that violate public order, and also criticized the Belarusian opposition and said he respected Alexander Lukashenko.

In the interview Protasevich is spilling the beans about the whole foreign financed opposition organization which was behind the 2020 color revolution attempt in Belarus.


bigger

'Western' media, as well as other regime change activist claim that Protasevich must have been tortured to say what he says. However, aside from light handcuff marks at his wrists there is no evidence of that. Protasevich had previously been wounded when he fought in the fascist Ukrainian Azov battalion against the Donbas secessionists. He is a tough guy who will not be impressed by handcuffs which, by the way, police everywhere use for good reasons.

During the Korea war U.S. pilots, captured by China, admitted to dropping biological weapons on China. The U.S. long denied the use of biological weapons and claimed that the pilots had been tortured and made false confessions. Decades later secret files were released which proved that the claims the pilots had made had been correct.

At the beginning of the interview with Marat Markov, the head of the Belorussian state TV channel ONT, Protasevich is still somewhat tense. But after 3 or 4 minutes the talk develops into a lively exchange during which Protasevich at times interrupts and corrects the journalist. Protasevich's voice sounds rough and at times pressed. He is a chain smoker and claims to have a cold. Towards the end, when they talk about the personal damage the color revolution attempt has caused to many, both get somewhat emotional but in no way hostile to each other.

Protasevich's demeanor, engagement, body language and general attitude throughout the interview has me convinced that he doing it voluntarily and that he is telling the truth. He is not reading off a script someone else has written. He is doing a tell all about the foreign financed regime change effort he had been part of. And why not? He has been betrayed by his former comrades. He is now expecting up to fifteen years of jail. Telling it all might well help him to lessen the sentence for his crimes.

There are yet no English subtitles on the interview and there is no English language transcript of the interview. The following are excerpts from an eight part summary published in Russian language on Office Life. The text is machine translated:

Cont. reading: Roman Protasevich, Casualty Of The Ryanair Incident In Belarus, Is Spilling The Beans

Posted by b at 11:20 UTC | Comments (147)