Thursday, April 20, 2023

After Liftoff

 Counting Down,

  Archdruid, John Michael Greer talks about the late decay of empire, specifically the American Empire, but other empires, too:
  Dancing On The Brink
  The core project of this blog, like its predecessor The Archdruid Report, is the quest for ways to lead a meaningful human life in harmony with nature during the decline and fall of a vast and profoundly unnatural civilization...
 ​..​Roughly five per cent of the human race currently live in the United States of America. That very small fraction of humanity, until quite recently, got to enjoy about a third of the world’s energy resources and manufactured products and about a quarter of its raw materials... It happened because as the world’s dominant nation, the United States imposed unbalanced patterns of exchange on the rest of the world, and these funneled a disproportionate share of the planet’s wealth to this one nation.​.. America’s empire came into being in the wake of the collapse of the British Empire during the fratricidal European wars of the early twentieth century...
..The ascendancy of one empire simply guarantees that other aspirants for the same status will begin sharpening their knives.  They’ll get to use them, too, because empires invariably wreck themselves: over time, the economic and social consequences of empire destroy the conditions that make empire possible. That can happen quickly or slowly, depending on the mechanism that each empire uses to extract wealth from its subject nations...
​  ​The mechanism the United States used for this latter purpose was ingenious but even more short-term than most. In simple terms, the US imposed a series of arrangements on most other nations that guaranteed that the lion’s share of international trade would use US dollars as the medium of exchange, and saw to it that an ever-expanding share of world economic activity required international trade. (That’s what all that gabble about “globalization” meant in practice.) This allowed the US government to manufacture dollars out of thin air by way of gargantuan budget deficits, so that US interests could use those dollars to buy up vast amounts of the world’s wealth.  Since the excess dollars got scooped up by overseas central banks and business firms, which needed them for their own foreign trade, inflation stayed under control while the wealthy classes in the US profited mightily from the scheme...
..The problem with this scheme is the same difficulty faced by all Ponzi schemes, which is that sooner or later you run out of suckers to draw in...
​..​Fast forward to last year. When Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the United States and its allies responded not with military force but with punitive economic sanctions, which were expected to cripple the Russian economy and force Russia to its knees. Apparently nobody in Washington DC considered the possibility that other nations with an interest in undercutting the US empire might have something to say about that. Of course that’s what happened. China, which has the largest economy on Earth in purchasing-power terms, extended a middle finger in the direction of Washington DC and upped its imports of Russian oil,  gas, grain, and other products. So did India, currently the third largest economy on Earth in the same terms; so did more than a hundred other countries.​..
..At this point the sanctions are hurting the United States and Europe, not Russia, but the US leadership has wedged itself into a position from which it can’t back down. This may go a long way toward explaining why the Russian campaign in Ukraine has been so leisurely. The Russians have no reason to hurry. They know that time is not on the side of the United States...
..For many decades now, the threat of being cut out of international trade by US sanctions was the big stick Washington DC used to threaten unruly nations that weren’t small enough for a US invasion or fragile enough for a CIA-backed regime change operation. Over the last year, that big stick turned out to be made of balsa wood, and snapped off in Joe Biden’s hand.  As a result, all over the world, nations that thought they had no choice but to use dollars in their foreign trade are switching over to their own currencies, or to the currencies of rising powers.  The US dollar’s day as the global medium of exchange is thus ending.​..
..When the British pound lost a similar role in the early years of the Great Depression, no other currency was ready to take on its role either.  It wasn’t until 1970 or so that the US dollar finished settling into place as the currency of global trade. In the interval, international trade lurched along awkwardly using whatever currencies or commodity swaps the trading partners could settle on: that is to say, the same situation that’s taking shape around us in the free-for-all of global trade that will define the post-dollar era...
..The United States of America is bankrupt. Our governments from the federal level on down, our big corporations, and a very large number of our well-off citizens have run up gargantuan debts, which can only be serviced given direct or indirect access to the flows of unearned wealth the United States extracted from the rest of the planet. Those debts cannot be paid off, and many of them can’t even be serviced for much longer. The only options are defaulting on them or inflating them out of existence, and in either case, arrangements based on familiar levels of expenditure will no longer be possible. Since the arrangements in question include most of what counts as an ordinary lifestyle in today’s United States, the impact of their dissolution will be one for the record books.
​  In effect, the five per cent of us in this country are going to have to go back to living on about five per cent of the planet’s wealth, the way we did before 1945. If we still had the factories, the trained work force, the abundant natural resources, and the thrifty habits we had back then, that would have been a wrenching transition but not a debacle. The difficulty, of course, is that we don’t have those things any more.​..
..The good news is that there’s a solution to all this. The bad news is that it’s going to take a couple of decades of serious turmoil to get there. The solution is that the US economy will retool itself to produce earned wealth in the form of real goods and nonfinancial services. That’ll happen inevitably as the flows of unearned wealth falter, foreign goods become unaffordable to most Americans, and it becomes profitable to produce things here in the United States again.  The difficulty, of course, is that most of a century of economic and political choices meant to support our former imperial project are going to have to be undone.
​..​The most obvious example?  The metastatic bloat of government, corporate, and nonprofit managerial jobs in American life...
​..​What will happen ... is that the middle and upper middle classes in the United States, and in many other countries, will face the same kind of slow demolition that swept over the working classes of those same countries in the late twentieth century...
..All the businesses that make money catering to these same classes will lose their incomes as well, a piece at a time. Communities will hollow out the way the factory towns of America’s Rust Belt and the English Midlands did half a century ago, but this time it will be the turn of upscale suburbs and fashionable urban neighborhoods to collapse as the income streams that supported them go away.
​  ​I want to stress that this is not going to be a fast process.  The US dollar is losing its place as the universal medium of foreign trade, but it will still be used by some countries for years to come. The unraveling of the arrangements that direct unearned wealth to the United States will go a little faster, but that will still take time.  The collapse of the cubicle class and the gutting of the suburbs will unfold over decades.  That’s the way changes of this kind play out.​..
..We are dancing, we Americans, on the brink of a long slippery slope into an unwelcome new reality.

​  ​Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu Claims "The Whole World Hates America"
​  ​Soylu's characterization of Europe as an American pawn suggests that he believes the continent lacks independence and is heavily influenced by the United States. By stating, "There is no such thing as Europe. There is America. Europe is a trend in the Americas column," Soylu implies that Europe's actions and policies are primarily driven by American interests rather than its own. This perspective further underscores Soylu's negative view of the United States and its global influence.

M. K. BHADRAKUMAR​  ​China, Russia circle wagons in Asia-Pacific​  
  ​Last Wednesday, US Commerce Department announced the imposition of export controls on a dozen Chinese companies for “supporting Russia’s military and defence industries.” The Global Times hit back defiantly that “as China is an independent major power, so is Russia. It’s our right to decide with whom we will carry out normal economic and trade cooperation. We cannot accept the US’ finger-pointing or even economic coercion.” ...
​..​Putin had disclosed in October 2019 that Russia was helping China to create an early missile warning system that would drastically enhance the defensive capacity of China. Chinese observers noted that Russia was more experienced in developing and operating such a system, which is capable of identifying and sending warnings immediately after intercontinental ballistic missiles are launched.
​  ​Such cooperation demonstrates a high level of trust and requires a possible integration of Russian and Chinese systems. The system integration will be mutually beneficial; stations located in the North and West of Russia could provide China with warning data and, in turn, China could provide Russia with data collected at their Eastern and Southern stations. That is to say, the two countries could create their own global missile defence network.
​  These systems are among the most sophisticated and sensitive areas of defence technology. The US and Russia are the only countries which have been able to develop, build and maintain such systems. Certainly, close coordination and cooperation between Russia and China, two nuclear-armed powers, will profoundly contribute to world peace in the present circumstances by containing and deterring US hegemony.​..
​..​Again, exercises of US aviation and fleet forces have been increasingly noticed in the immediate vicinity of Russian borders or in regions where Russia has geopolitical interests. On April 5, B-52 Stratofortress circled over the Korean Peninsula allegedly “in response to nuclear and missile threats from North Korea.” At the same time, South Korea, the US and Japan conducted trilateral naval exercises in the waters of the Sea of Japan with the participation of aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.  
​  Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev recently drew attention to Japan’s growing capability to conduct offensive operations, which, he said, constituted “a gross violation of one of the most important outcomes of the Second World War.” Japan plans to purchase around 500 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the US, which can directly threaten most of the territory of the Russian Far East. The Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is working on developing Type 12 land-based anti-ship missiles “in order to protect the remote islands of Japan.”
​  ​Japan is also developing hypersonic weapons designed to conduct combat operations “on remote islands,” which Russians see as options for Japan’s possible seizure of the Southern Kuriles. In 2023, Japan will have a military budget exceeding $51 billion (on par with Russia’s), which is slated to increase to $73 billion.​..
​..Surveying the regional alignments, Yuri Lyamin, Russian military expert and Senior Fellow at the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a leading think tank of the military-industrial complex, told Izvestia newspaper:
​  “Considering that we have not settled the territorial issue, Japan lays claim to our South Kuriles. In this regard, checks are very necessary. It is necessary to increase the readiness of our forces in the Far East…
​  ​“In the context of the current situation, we need to further strengthen defence cooperation with China. In fact, an axis is being formed against Russia, North Korea and China: the USA, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and then it goes to Australia. Great Britain is also actively trying to participate… All this must be taken into account and cooperation should be established with China and North Korea, which are, one might say, our natural allies.”

​  ​In highly significant remarks at a Kremlin meeting with Shoigu on April 17 — while Li was in Moscow — Putin noted that the current priorities of Russia’s armed forces are “primarily focusing on the Ukrainian track… (but) the Pacific theatre of operations remains relevant” and it must be borne in mind that “the forces of the (Pacific) fleet in its individual components can certainly be used in conflicts in any direction.”
​  ​The next day, Shoigu told Gen. Li, “In the spirit of unbreakable friendship between the nations, peoples, and the armed forces of China and Russia, I look forward to the closest and most successful cooperation with you…”...
​..Russia, is turning attention to the Asia-Pacific theatre. Suffice to say, Li’s visit shows that the reality of Russia–China defence cooperation is complicated. Russia–China military-technical cooperation has always been rather secretive, and the level of secrecy has increased as both countries engage in more direct confrontation with the US.
​  ​The political meaning of Putin’s 2019 statement on jointly developing a ballistic missile early warning system extended far beyond its technical and military significance. It demonstrated to the world that Russia and China were on the brink of a formal military alliance, which could be triggered if US pressure went too far.

Russia Threatens To Give North Korea Advanced Weapons If Seoul Arms Ukraine

​  It turns out that the whole US rocket & missile-munitions industry has choke points at rocket-motor production that prevent increased production before 2026.​

​  ​Japan Signals an Attitude Shift to the Growing Power of the Global South
​  In mid-April, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs released its Diplomatic Bluebook 2023, its most important guidebook on international affairs. Japan’s foreign minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, wrote the foreword, which begins: “The world is now at a turning point in history.”...
​..​Despite all the talk of sanctions, Japan continues to import energy from Russia. In 2022, 9.5 percent of Japan’s imported liquefied natural gas came from Russia (up from 8.8 percent in 2021). Most of this energy came from Russia’s Sakhalin Island, where Japanese companies and the government have made substantial investments. In July 2022, Hayashi was asked about Japan’s continued imports from Sakhalin-2. His answer was clear: “Sakhalin-2 is an important project for energy security, including the stable supply of electricity and gas in Japan.” Since July, Japan’s officials have continued to emphasize Japan’s national interests—including through the Sakhalin-2 natural gas project—over its obligations to the G7 and to its own statements about the war.​..​
​..​The Diplomatic Bluebook 2023 makes three important points: that the post-Cold War era has ended, that China is Japan’s “greatest strategic challenge” (p. 43), and that Global South countries must be taken seriously. The Bluebook highlights Japan’s confusion, caught between its reliance upon Russian energy and the growing confidence of the Global South.​..
​..​Anxiety about the growing role of China in Asia is not new for Japan, which has long contested the Diaoyu (China)/Senkaku (Japan) islands. But now, there is a much more pronounced—and dangerous—assessment of the situation. The Bluebook 2023 notes the close alignment between China and Russia, although it does not focus on that strategic partnership. Rather, the Japanese government focuses on China, which it now sees as Japan’s “greatest strategic challenge.” Even here, the Japanese government acknowledges that the two countries “have held a series of dialogues to discuss common issues.” The “efforts of both Japan and China” are important, says the Bluebook, to build a “constructive and stable” relationship (p. 43).

​  ​The new chief of the BRICS bloc’s New Development Bank, Brazil’s leftist ex-President Dilma Rousseff, revealed they are gradually moving away from the US dollar, promising at least 30% of loans in local currencies of members.

​  ​Russia-Brazil Relations: Lavrov’s Visit to Brasilia​ , Andrew Korybko
 Lavrov’s trip showcased the significant role that Russia attaches to Brazil when it comes to the Latin American dimension of Moscow’s grand strategy. Both parties’ rhetoric was positive, but it remains to be seen if anything of tangible substance ultimately comes from it, which will be greatly determined by whether or not Lula attends this year’s St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in less than two months’ time like he was just invited to do.

​  ​The White House has accused Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of repeating Russian and Chinese propaganda. While visiting China, Lula said that the US should stop “encouraging” the war in Ukraine and seek peace instead.
​  ​Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, the White House’s National Security Council’s Spokesperson, John Kirby, lashed out at Lula. “Brazil has substantively and rhetorically approached this issue by suggesting that the United States and Europe are somehow not interested in peace or that we share responsibility for the war,” Kirby said. “In this case, Brazil is parroting Russian and Chinese propaganda without at all looking at the facts.”
​  ​The spokesman went on to call Lula’s statement “simply misguided” and “deeply problematic.”​   
[Psst ... Go to St. Petersburg in June, Lula.]

​  ​U.S. Invests $1.5 Billion to Spur 5G Rollout Despite New Evidence of ‘Devastating’ Health Issues
​  A new study from Sweden showed that a previously healthy woman developed symptoms of “microwave syndrome” shortly after a 5G cell tower was installed 60 meters — nearly 200 feet — from her apartment.
  According to the study, published April 10 in the Annals of Clinical and Medical Case Reports, the 52-year-old woman developed “severe health problems” — including “unbearable” pain, headache, dizziness, loss of immediate memory, confusion, fatigue, anxiety, nose bleeds and issues with her lungs, stomach and urinary system.
​  ​The woman temporarily relocated to another home with low radiation levels and no 5G exposure, at which point almost all of her symptoms disappeared. When she moved back to her apartment, the symptoms returned.
​  ​The study’s findings mirror the results of two prior case reports, conducted by the same researchers, which showed that non-ionizing radiation from 5G — well below levels allowed by authorities — can cause health problems in individuals with no prior history of electromagnetic sensitivity, the authors said...
..“These measurements are very alarming,” said Nilsson, managing director of the Swedish Radiation Protection Foundation. “They confirm the concerns raised by hundreds of scientists that 5G would lead to an increase in exposure to microwave radiation — which has already been proven harmful at levels lower than governmental limits.”
  It’s not just 5G’s high radiation levels that are problematic — it’s the highly repetitive nature of the pulsating 5G signal that harms people’s health, the authors said.
  “In medicine, you have a recovery period,” Hardell said. “It takes [the] cellular system time to recover from something that’s bad for it.”
  For instance, he said, research on radiation treatment for fighting cancer has shown that the radiation has a stronger biological effect when one treatment is given in the morning and one in the afternoon — rather than just once a day — because cells do not have time to recover.

​  Space X Starship took off from Boca Chica Texas this morning, successfully lifting the largest and heaviest rocket ever into the sky. 
There was a failure of separation of the Super Heavy Lifter first stage, from the Starship , so the entire assembly was blown up in the sky in a "rapid disassembly". If you cue-up to 44 minutes, you will cut to final-countdown (the chase).

​  ​Combined Vitamin D, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and a Simple Home Exercise Program May Reduce Cancer Risk Among Active Adults Aged 70 and Older: A Randomized Clinical Trial​  Thanks Charles, 100-200 mcg of vitamin K-2 helps vitamin-D to benefit immunity, and the cardiovascular system​, also.

Healthy Earthling (took this picture of Jenny after we picked green beans)

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