Ukraine War Day #82: Sucks To Be Breadbasket (concluded)

Dear Readers:

Today concluding my review of this piece about the Ukrainian export grain wilting on the vine (sorry for mixed metaphor). Basically, there are some 20 million tons of wheat languishing at the port, and it’s Russia’s fault that it cannot swim out to feed the hungry world.

Russians retort that (a) some of the grain is getting out, via ports in Romania and Moldavia, and (b) it’s the Ukrainians own fault that the rest of it is stuck, since ’twas they who mined the Odessa port in the first place. For me, though, the most interesting was the discussion of overall economic models of growth and export of this valuable commodity. In the final section of his report, analyst Nikolai Storozhenko discusses the situation in Russia, which is also not so rosy:

On Joseph’s advice, Pharaoh ordered Egyptian workers to store 7 years worth of grain for the people.

In the current “marketing” (fiscal?) period from July 1, 2021 through March 10, 2022, grain export from the Russian Federation comprised 28.1 million tons, which is 30% lower than prior-year indicators. Also, starting in the middle of March, exports of grain and sugar from Russia will be restricted by governmental decree. Exports of these key commodities will be permitted only by licensing and in accordance with quotas. These restrictions are obviously connected with the “Special Military Operation” in the Ukraine. And by the same token, 20 countries throughout the world have imposed such restrictions. For example, India is currently discussing internally, whether to impose a ban on exporting wheat. Obviously the nations of the world are very worried about feeding their own people, and thus trying to conserve what they have. There is a kind of panic afoot, and it doesn’t help that certain importers are making the situation worse by refusing (for political reasons) to import Russian wheat. Basically, at the larger world level there is no real substitute for Russian and Ukrainian wheat.

As the price of grain rises, also feeding into the problem is the rise of costs, especially the cost of fuel. Grain doesn’t just spring out of the ground without lots of fuel to assist it: Tractors, combiners, trucking, tankers, etc. Also factor in the jump of prices for fertilizer, which uses natural gas as an ingredient. [Really? I didn’t know that…]

In conclusion: Don’t blame Putin for this crisis. Instead, blame the United States, with their stupid economic sanctions. Which began, one has to remind, long before the Russian incursion into the Ukraine. It is never too many times to keep reminding about North Stream 2 pipeline: If the Americans had not blocked it, for selfish economic reasons of their own, then the prices of gas in Europe would be way cheaper, and same thing with fertilizer. And prices would be lower still, if Russian ships were allowed to freely bring their fertilizer products into European ports. Not to mention, that the war itself would not have happened, had Joe Biden pursued a more intelligent policy, instead of arming Ukrainians to the teeth and pushing them into war.

Biden and his administration believe that the key to solving “produce inflation” consists of releasing those magical 20 million tons of Ukrainian grain. But that is not factual. The key to solving this problem consists in one simple fact: The global economy is ill-suited to sanctions wars and does not respond well when certain nations try to exclude other nations from this economy.

Combine Magical Thinking with Modern Art, and you get a million dollar bullshit!

yalensis: That is the end of Storozhenko’s analysis. I just conclude with a thought of my own. Joe Biden is obviously being deceitful, in trying to blame Russia for the world impending food crisis. He surely knows better [?] than to attribute so much magical power to 20 million tons of grain.
And obviously, he is counting on the ignorance of Americans and Europeans to believe this B.S. But there is a deeper issue here, which involves different types of “magical thinking” that have become prevalent in Western societies. This goes to the issue of “perspective” which we discussed earlier.

There is a type of “magical thinking”, and I don’t know if there is a specific word for it, which involves taking a very broad panorama, then zooming in to a single dot, and believing that one dot to be the essence of the entire picture. We have seen a lot of this fallacy on the Ukrainian side of this war, for example, obsessing about individual incidents (the sinking of the “Moskva”, the trapped fighters in Azovstal, the ponton river crossing, etc.), to the exclusion of all other events and not paying attention to the larger picture.

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18 Responses to Ukraine War Day #82: Sucks To Be Breadbasket (concluded)

  1. peter moritz says:

    there are some 20 tons

    I guess you meant 20 million tons? A truckload is not quite sufficient for the rest of the world 🙂

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    • Cortes says:

      These are “magical 20 tons” which with a few sprats will feed the multitudes.

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      • peter moritz says:

        Ahh, the modern version of the loaves of bread and the fish feeding the multitudes. Biden as Christ incarnated?

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        • yalensis says:

          P.S. I suspect we have had this conversation before on a different blog, perhaps not. But I have my definite theories about Jesus being a trained magician, and I have some theories about how he did the “loaves and fishes” trick. If you study your New Testament, you will see that many of Christ’s magic tricks involved containers (such as pottery and baskets) and pulleys. For example, the water into wine trick, which involved pots and possibly a trap door into the basement, along with ropes and pulleys.
          As he continued his mission, Christ’s tricks got ever more complicated and sophisticated, but they were still based upon the same basic principles as he had studied in Magi School.

          You can make your own deductions about the “fishes and loaves”, but I think Jesus had a stash of bread and fishes already set up on the mountain, with baskets possibly hidden in a cave or beneath a rock.

          Another famous trick was the “walking on water”. You can scratch your head but, as Penn & Teller will tell you, there is actually one and only one way to do this trick. I leave it to your imagination.

          The greatest trick of all, however, was the Lazarus trick, this one involving an underground cavern…

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          • peter moritz says:

            Think Occams razor: Jesus just is a story made up by some folks disgusted with the trajectory of Judaism under Roman Occupation.
            At he time there were several itinerant preachers around, and one who had the most vocal supporters won out, and got all those stories about him plastered to his name. All of it BS of course, but who cares, he was made a leading figure by someone called Paulus to hang his hat on and create, like Ronny Hubbard, a new movement. Voila, I give you THE JESUS….

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            • yalensis says:

              Good points, but that doesn’t exclude the theory that one or more of these itinerant preachers were members of the Magi Guild. The Magi were very powerful and influential craftsmen of the ancient world, who affected politics, even at the highest level, by sharing knowledge and Intel, plus using their magic tricks. I believe they had training camps, just like modern magicians, and taught each other cool tricks with which to influence a gullible population.

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              • peter moritz says:

                No, it doesn’t, and actually the idea originates with the critiques by Celsus of the Christian apologist Origen. There are modern authors who explore the idea, among them Morton Smith and Robert Connor.
                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_the_Magician

                What might interest you as a positive note about the NT is explored by Michael Hudson who claims that the message the itinerant preacher Jesus was spreading was an economic message relating to debt and debt forgiveness:
                https://michael-hudson.com/2018/04/jesus-the-economic-activist/

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              • yalensis says:

                VERY interesting! I thought I had invented the idea of Jesus being a magician, but I guess I was flattering myself. I should read this book, it looks fascinating.
                As for debt forgiveness, yes! I think that was one of Christ’s messages, and of course that would resonate with many of his followers, who were poor and in debt.

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    • yalensis says:

      Argg, did I forget to include the word “million”, sorry! I will dive back into my post and fix that right now… thanks for noticing. I do proofread, but I am far from perfect…

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  2. peter moritz says:

    I don’t know if there is a specific word for it,

    Tunnel vision comes to mind…

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  3. peter moritz says:

    Here is a nice analysis the way Europe will expire if it continuous with sanctions:

    http://thesaker.is/why-russias-oil-ban-is-impossible/
    Worth reading the whole article, as it explains wghy things are a certain way, and can only be solved in certain ways.

    “The only card left is to modify all current European chemical plants and refineries etc by adapting them to whatever feeds of whatever quality and variations are effectively found, contracted and delivered by non-Russian vendors willing and able to sell to Europe under current circumstances. Oh, by the way, this would have to be done throughout Europe and all at the same time. A Chinese fire drill would be considered a well-organized event in comparison.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. John Jennings says:

    For seven years in the latter part of the last century – after I left the military, but before I stumbled into medicine, my true vocation – I worked as a journalist in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was there that I learned how willfully clueless American officials and their ‘expert’ advisers are.
    yalensis, even not knowing me, you’ll find this all very funny: I went over there in 1987 as a hard-core young Cold Warrior, determined to help publicize ‘the Afghan struggle against communism.’
    When you’re new to a scene like that, you spend a lot of time talking to sources reckoned to be ‘well-informed.’ These initially tended to be American and other Anglophone diplomats, or Afghans and Pakistanis whose views those diplomats found compelling.
    Once I struggled across a certain critical language threshold – marked, in part, by a sudden ability to grasp the meaning of words I’d never yet heard, purely via analogy, root recognition and context – I was able to travel around the resistance-held Afghan countryside and talk to anybody I wanted to. It swiftly became clear that US officials had been ‘captured’ by their ‘sources’ and that the way to US hearts was simply telling them what they wanted to hear. Afghans willing to share hard truths with the Americans got the cold shoulder.
    I assumed this was just because our ‘real’ intelligence professionals had bigger fish to fry elsewhere; that we weren’t sending our best to what was now a post-Cold War backwater. But I was wrong. For the rest of the 1990s, senior US officials ignored repeated credible warnings that the Afghans whom Pakistan wanted in charge (and their friends) might pose a direct threat to the US. Then, when Afghanistan suddenly became important again in 2001, the articulate, educated, suit-wearing, whiskey-sipping sort of Afghan exile whom US officials had always preferred – generally scions of the feudal regime the communists had overthrown in 1978 – came into their own.
    They had abandoned the country decades earlier, preferring to let commoners do the dirty work of fighting for the future.
    But in 2002, they managed to convince America’s best and brightest that a strong central government – with themselves, of course, in charge – was the way forward. (If you’re unaccountably, obsessively interested in reading more about that, here’s something I wrote at the time: https://www.meforum.org/meib/articles/0401_afg1.htm )
    We know – and many of us foresaw – how that turned out. Look how much more durable Moscow’s 1992 ‘puppet regime’ proved, compared to America’s later puppets whom Washington spent twice the time and at least ten times the budget upon. Moscow’s ‘puppets’ held out more than three years after the Red Army left. Last year, we couldn’t even get all our troops out before the Taliban occupied Kabul!
    The US military occupation took less than a decade to squander its last shred of legitimacy in Afghan eyes, transform itself into the ‘bad guys’ and the Taliban into legitimate, underdog freedom fighters backed only by Pakistan. To their credit, Russian officials seemed to have figured that out by 2016. Washington never did.
    Incompetence and stupidity are bad enough. But what should terrify us all today – against the background of the SMO and the now unmasked US regime change project – is the utter lack of accountability for those and other US foreign-policy and military failures. No generals or national security officials have paid for the Afghan fiasco (or those in Libya, Syria or elsewhere). Biden and Nuland, whose 2014 coup cost Kiev (that is, cost Washington) both Crimea and Donbass, now run the show at the White House and State Dept, It’s that level of institutional fecklessness that threatens to let America stumble or sleepwalk into WW3.

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    • yalensis says:

      Jesus, what a story of amazing incompetence and human “fecklessness” as you call it. Every time I read these true stories it seems the reality was much worse than anybody’s imagination that they could write into a work of fiction. Just curious, did you happen to become fluent in Pashtun? I am assuming that was the language you learned when you were in Afghanistan. I recall you saying you were studying Russian, so I wish you well, sounds like you are good at learning languages. Russian and Persian ultimately derive from the same language family, of course, the so-called “satem” branch of Indo-European.

      Liked by 1 person

      • John Jennings says:

        Yes! Pashto (sul), Persian (sad) and Russian (сто) are all satem languages.
        Actually I started with Persian. The first issue was, there weren’t any Pashto courses that I could find stateside, but my university did offer an intensive Persian course that I took before I went over. Moreover Persian (the Afghan dialect is sometimes called Dari) was more or less the lingua franca around the country at that time, except in the most isolated, remote non-Persian areas – ethnolinguistic rivalries were much less intense back then. Furthermore, by the time I arrived, most of the decisive military activity seemed to be taking place in the far west, north and northeast of the country – all heavily Persian-speaking.
        In 1990, an American aid worker I knew published a good Pashto textbook that I used to ramp up my (at that time) very rudimentary Pashto. I eventually got reasonably fluent, but never as comfortable as with Persian.
        Persian grammar is markedly less complex than Pashto’s, too, and I’m just as lazy as the next hack. Pashto, like Spanish or Russian but unlike Persian, has grammatical gender, so male and female noun and adjective endings are different and must agree. (Thankfully there is no neuter!)
        Also, Pashto verbs are conjugated not just with respect to person and number, but also gender (like Russian past tenses). Moreover there’s an ‘ergative’ phenomenon affecting the past tenses of Pashto transitive verbs, so that their endings agree with the OBJECT, not the subject! In such sentences, subject pronouns take the objective form but retain subjective meaning. (I’m told something similar prevails in Kurdish.)
        It isn’t as bad as it sounds, but – like Russian verbs of motion – it’s counterintuitive for English-speaking learners, and thus requires lots of extra drills before you start to say it correctly without having to pause and think.

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        • yalensis says:

          Awesome. Every language you study has some hidden “land mines”. Like, I learned a bit of Spanish, and it all seemed too easy until you get into various past tenses of verbs! Perfect, pluperfect, etc. Fortunately, I had already been through a lot of that conceptually when learning French. I studied French while I was still a child (starting at around age 10), so I was able to pick it up quickly. French and French literature was sort of my first love. It’s a bit rusty now, but I’m trying to refresh it by returning to my love of Victor Hugo novels. Currently re-reading 1793, one of my faves!

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  5. Jen says:

    “… There is a type of “magical thinking”, and I don’t know if there is a specific word for it, which involves taking a very broad panorama, then zooming in to a single dot, and believing that one dot to be the essence of the entire picture. We have seen a lot of this fallacy on the Ukrainian side of this war, for example, obsessing about individual incidents (the sinking of the “Moskva”, the trapped fighters in Azovstal, the ponton river crossing, etc.), to the exclusion of all other events and not paying attention to the larger picture.”

    This might be an example of incorrect argument known as the fallacy of composition. This is the assumption that what is true for a battle or skirmish will be true for the whole campaign or war.

    Many of us would have learned the fallacy of composition in high school economics: you know the classic case (the paradox of thrift), in which one individual who decides to save money instead of spending every penny is doing good (because savings in the bank can be lent out by the bank to others) but if everyone decided to save and no-one spent any money, then people lose jobs and businesses close. Politicians often make this argument: the “I ran a business and turned a profit by cutting this, that and the other, so I can run this country’s economy by cutting this, that and the other” kind of argument. Of course we know that if government spending were cut, then the economy shrinks because government spending (done wisely, in infrastructure investment) creates work and jobs, and encourages investment (private and public).

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      Thanks, Jen! I had not heard that term for that particular fallacy, but it sounds right.
      Maybe you could also call it “fractal thinking”. You see a particular incident or small pattern and believe it to be hold on a macro scale.
      The odd thing is, sometimes this kind of thinking actually provides correct results. For example, in my line of work, when clinical people are evaluating data, sometimes they only need to spotcheck a few patient charts to validate a larger pattern or trending. Same thing with questionnaires, the way people can predict the outcome of an election in which millions vote, by quizzing just a couple of thousand people. I never quite understood how that was possible, because I don’t understand statistics.

      Either way, you need more than just one data point, you need at least a few data points to draw an accurate picture. But you also have to know which data points are important and which are just background noise. Which Ukrainians don’t seem to be able to do, it seems to me they ALWAYS focus on the wrong things, because of their magical and hysterical way of thinking.

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