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Messages - ersi

2
DnD Central / Re: The Future of War
According to Joe Blogs, Russia is doomed for next eight years

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODhwGw_n5lQ

According to Peter Zeihan, Germany is doomed imminently for a generation or so

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twnrMu6NRhY

If Germany goes down, it would not go down alone. Its huge trade surplus would bring down others. I always said since day one that eating Snickers instead of home-grown potatoes was not a good idea.

Anyway, if Russia really goes down, which is something to look forward to, Germany's existence will be irrelevant.
4
DnD Central / Re: The comings and goings of the European Union
Ursula and Scholz are not just from different parties, but represent different political cultures.

Die EU-Kommissionspräsidentin erinnerte daran, dass die Ukrainer „diesen Kampf für uns alle“ kämpfen. Nötig sei der Sieg der Demokratie.

For a "geopolitical Europe" (a term from Scholz's grundsatzrede) to be a thing, it is important for the EU members to demonstrate coherence and consistency with regard to Ukraine war. Instead, Scholz is playing a solo Nein-policy.

At the same time, Scholz eulogises Germany as the future main defence pillar of Europe.
„Eine gut ausgerüstete Bundeswehr, die ihren Auftrag zum Schutz unseres Landes erfüllen kann, ist für mich eine Selbstverständlichkeit“, sagte Scholz. „Dafür stehe ich als Bundeskanzler – und darauf können Sie sich verlassen.“ Die Bundeswehr solle zum Grundpfeiler der konventionellen Verteidigung in Europa werden, „zur am besten ausgestatteten Streitkraft“. [...] „Der Kernauftrag der Bundeswehr ist die Verteidigung der Freiheit in Europa!“
No, Scholz. A soloing Germany always meant destruction and devastation to Europe. You are hell-bent on repeating Germany's biggest past mistakes.
6
Hobbies & Entertainment / Re: Bicycling
I guess you're implying they have the absurd impression that the work is done?
Of course they do not want their work (i.e. income stream) to end. But they see their work as consisting in doing what either promises most lucrative rewards or avoids most painful punishment. Bicycling infrastructure will never be done, because they are doing it only very reluctantly.

That's how we did it in the Netherlands. In the '70s it was as car infested as anywhere else. When you look at the Netherlands in the 2020s what you see is the result of four decades of mostly naturally improving things as they needed renovations anyway. It didn't happen overnight. As soon as you start, within a decade you'll see massive improvements. The Netherlands that I grew up in in the '90s was somewhat similar to Belgium (or at least Flanders) today in 2022.
I can hardly relate to a culture that when planners step in, things get better, even if bit by bit. Instead there have been multiple occasions with recent reworkings where things got significantly worse, such as the train station next to my workplace. The train station (a stop really) used to be severely underdeveloped, outright primitive, and it was possible to walk freely in any random direction after stepping off the train. Now some goddamn city planners rebuilt it so that *two trainfuls of people* (it has rails in each direction and in rush hours it happens that arrivals from both directions stop at the same time or close) are directed to a single three metres wide spot to leave the station and then to a sidewalk which is narrowed by a bus stop to a 40 cm wide (!) walkable space. For safety (??) the possible alternative routes that used to be there have been walled off with high fences.

Not just bad planning, but decidedly anti-human planning. There is no way it is unintentional. This is my experience with planners. Life used to be so much better without planners. There was so much more space for walking and bicycling. I'm not saying that this is a universal experience. Just that it is how it is where I live.

In the Netherlands, the traffic lights will let you go as soon as it makes sense. You rarely feel like you're waiting for nothing.
I also feel that in the West (Finland or Sweden) the traffic lights go faster or at least smoother. In Estonia, my instinct is first to look left and right and calculate if I can make it over the road without getting hit by a car. If I cannot, I'll wait for the lights. Traffic lights for pedestrians over here are still not halfway as bad as in USA though. You cannot speedstep over any American city-highway.

Also see this tweet: https://twitter.com/curious_founder/status/1569729070216220673
Well, not a picture that applied to Estonia most of the time last century. There may have been isolated exceptions like Olympics 1980 (the sailing events were held in Tallinn).
7
DnD Central / Re: What's going on in Italy?
Giorgia Meloni May Lead Italy, and Europe Is Worried

Shouldn't the politically correct feminists be happy that Italy is getting a long overdue first female prime minister?

Speaking for Europe, I can say that Europe does not need to worry. The rise of a new wave of extreme/far rightists probably started with the victory of Jörg Haider of Austria in 1999. By a concerted EU diplomatic effort, Haider was blocked from becoming a chancellor of Austria. In hindsight it can be said that the EU diplomatic effort of intimidating Haider out of power and shaming Austrian voters for this particular election result was the wrong take.

What will happen in Sweden with SD in government with M? About the same as happened in Estonia with EKRE in government with K. SD will see that exercising power in a coalition is no fun. Either they'll need to keep addressing completely unnecessary self-caused little scandals or they will be boring like every other party and be forgotten when the government falls.

Meloni will have more power than this, but so did Berlusconi for a very long series of terms and Italy survived. Admittedly, it survived as Italy, not as an honourable Western European country, but it is not too bad to survive as Italy. Maintain the mechanisms of elections and transfer of power in good order and it will be okay. The damage that Berlusconi caused was quite bad; Meloni will be mellow in comparison. Importantly, the most dangerous element - pro-Putinism as in Le Pen (and, again, Berlusconi) - appears not to be there in Meloni. Her other alleged problematic issues are either topics that the EU does not have a consistent policy on, such as immigration (as exemplified by the difference of handling the Syrian refugee crisis versus the Ukrainian refugee crisis), or that have low priority, such as LGBT agenda.
8
Hobbies & Entertainment / Re: Bicycling
Le Monde is doing a little series about city traffic https://www.lemonde.fr/un-quart-d-heure-en-ville/

Not particularly insightful, but okay to practise the French of some of you. The bicycle episode mentions a mayor of a smaller city implementing four (4) carrefours à la hollandaise. There are usually big problems with a bits-and-pieces approach when trying to improve cyclability: Okay, you will build four bicycle-friendly crossroads, but what about the way for the bicyclists to get to the crossroads? Are you sure your understanding of carrefours à la hollandaise is not accidentally omitting some vital elements that make it work? And, a question to the nationwide planners: If it is allegedly workable, would it not be workable in a city of any size?

In Tallinn, the mayor says that the currently implemented bicycle infrastructure in the city centre (which consists of some painted gutters with insane sudden breaks every now and then) is perfect according to standards and best practices known to him. And they are getting most of their impressive mileage (quantity) for bicycle infrastructure outside the centre, building bicycle roads in and between suburban parks and towards forests outside the city (basically indicating: Bicyclists, get out!). The city planners have the idea that bicycling is mainly for exercise, not for living the everyday life like going to work, a restaurant, shopping or visiting a friend.

In Soviet times, the so-called car-centred planning was not a problem in Estonia. Despite being the most car-dense corner in the entire USSR, the density of cars was very very far from what it is now. Car-only roads (speedways or motorways) did not exist. They do not exist even now.[1] Despite no special attention given to walkability or cyclability in street/road infrastructure, the result was decent because the density of cars was so low that roads were honestly available for everyone (not at all wheelchair-friendly though).

After USSR collapsed, the density of cars changed by a few orders of magnitude for the worse. As the number of accidents became alarming, city planners began taking special measures to impede bicyclists and pedestrians starting with the most dangerous crossings first. This has resulted in random obstacles here and there along most densely walked routes in the city that are completely unexpected for tourists. Similarly, current modern redesign attempts are equally random and haphazard. There are only rare spotty improvements.

My conclusion is that non-planning is better when it comes to street and road infrastructure. Competent city planners do not exist in this part of the world and overall they are far and few between. Now, I have happened to see really splendid bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly street infrastructure in some West European cities, but the funny thing is that at its very best the result resembles the completely unplanned countryside where I grew up.
This is the closest we have to a motorway in Estonia, but see the ample room for a possible bicyclist or pedestrian on the side, and yes, it is legal to walk there. There are no "end of sidewalk" signs there.
9
DnD Central / Re: A blast from the past… :)
In not too distant past, end of January this year, a Russian retired general warned Putin against starting a war against Ukraine, because:
- Due to international condemnation of the annexation of Crimea, and Russia's own failure to recognise the Donbass republics, a further attack against Ukraine would begin to threaten the legitimacy of Russia itself on the international arena
- The people of Russia and the people of Ukraine would become mortal enemies
- Both sides would suffer thousands or tens of thousands casualties of the young healthy demographic, hitting hard against the aging population of both countries
- On the battlefield, Russia would encounter not just Ukrainians, but also many Russians of Ukraine, plus volunteers and military technology from Nato countries, and Nato countries may be compelled to declare war against Russia
- Turkey's likely role would be to "liberate" (in scare quotes in the original) Crimea and Sevastopol and probably even invade Caucasus
- Russia would become an international pariah and be hit with the hardest sanctions and isolation the world has ever seen

Except for the role of Turkey who became an arms trader with both sides and intermediator of negotiations, an amazingly accurate forecast. Also, the statement kindly demands Putin to retire from politics. Source http://www.ooc.su/news/obrashhenie_obshherossijskogo_oficerskogo_sobranija_k_prezidentu_i_grazhdanam_rossijskoj_federacii/2022-01-31-79
10
DnD Central / Re: The comings and goings of the European Union
We now have Ursula's state of the union address also. Different from Scholz, she manages, in addition to admitting a mistake, to acknowledge those who were right.

We should have listened to the voices inside our Union – in Poland, in the Baltics, and all across Central and Eastern Europe.

They have been telling us for years that Putin would not stop.

And they acted accordingly.

Our friends in the Baltics have worked hard to end their dependency on Russia.

Applause. It is probably very hard for Westerners to acknowledge that someone else, particularly Poland, was right. But if you want to keep the EU together, there is no other way. The Western mistakes had accumulated too far. It is extremely sad that these were mistakes of diplomacy, the field where Western Europe was supposed to be the best in the world. Correcting this will not be easy. I personally am still skeptical.

Hardly a state of the union goes by without a shoutout to candidate countries:

So I want the people of the Western Balkans, of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia to know:

You are part of our family, your future is in our Union, and our Union is not complete without you!

Let's be realists here. Most of these are countries in war and can only join after the wars have ended. Some of these are even at war against each other, such as Kosovo and Serbia, or even against itself, such as Bosnia. In the foreseeable future, they cannot realistically join. Whoever sincerely wants them to join ("accept them as they are") wants the implosion of the EU.[1]

The EU mission of Transnistria has been deeply flawed. This needs to be fixed, namely the mission's goal must be the abolishment of Transnistria, end of discussion. There is no ethnic issue there and there is no "partnership" role Russia can have. There is only the issue of eradicating a Russian military base. Then Moldova can join.

Georgia is more complicated. Georgia has real conflicts with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In the foreseeable future, these can only be resolved with force, such as Georgia abusing the current moment of Russia's weakness. This would resolve the territorial conflict as understood by the majority of the international community, but it would not resolve the ethnic issues. Moreover, military force would not be in harmony with European values. So, realistically there is no way for Georgia to join in the foreseeable future, provided that the EU remains true to its values.

And then there's Ukraine. The EU needs to understand the difference between peace and a ceasefire. Give Putin a finger, such as Sevastopol, and it is only a ceasefire, not peace.

Oh, there's also Albania. This would be the first Muslim country ever to join the EU. Other than that, I am not familiar with Albania. The last time I heard about it was when there was a crackdown of an international investment scam headquartered in Kiev - I know that the perpetrators moved on to Albania https://www.dn.se/nyheter/sverige/fraudfactory/
The EU looks like a strong and solid institution, almost "too big to fail", only from the perspective of the biggies. From the perspective of eastern EU members, the quota of mistakes is full and we cannot afford a single misstep for quite a while now. But of course there will be more mistakes, because when the biggies insist on it, who can refuse it.
11
DnD Central / Re: What's Going on in Europe
The people of Sweden, a pioneering and world-leading country when it comes to wokeness, has voted its nationalist cryptonazi party as the second-biggest in parliament https://valresultat.svt.se/2022/

The two usually-biggest parties, S[1] and M[2], can pick between either blockpolitik (i.e. a coalition of left-only parties or right-only parties) or regnbågskoalition (setting aside the block differences in order to exclude the nationalist cryptonazis from the government). This time the general atmosphere seems to favour blockpolitik and the cryptonazis may break into the government, as is their goal.

Sverigedemokraterna (the nationalist cryptonazi party) have an unclear attitude towards Nato and an internal debate about it. SD-ledare has never emulated W or Trump (the notable anti-Nato presidents of USA), but such a significant portion of his party members does that he has issued negative statements in the past regarding joining Nato. Whether in the government or merely as the second-biggest party in the parliament, they will inevitably see Sweden join Nato soon, because this is a point where S and M and actually all other parties are determined.
social democrats, the mainstream left
"moderates", the mainstream right
12
Hobbies & Entertainment / Re: Travelling and such
If it makes no difference, then why go out of your way to block walkers so that there is no chance in hell? And when there is some residential neighbourhood, town or village just a stone-throw away, is there some good reason for the airport-builders to take meticulous care to prevent the people closest to the airport from using it?

Edit. It's like many famous hydroelectric projects where the power is taken to the capital or major city a hundred miles away or more, while the villages next to the station get power with a delay of half a century or simply never.
13
Hobbies & Entertainment / Re: Travelling and such
I've done a few more trips meanwhile but let's talk about just one place, Milano Malpensa airport. I tried to walk there from Gallarate. It is a walkable distance as far as the mileage goes. However, walkers were blocked, first by repeated signs of "sidewalk ending":



These I was able to bypass, even though sidewalks really did end https://goo.gl/maps/ccsmteggZ6XYpSYe7

Past this point there were occasionally some zombie crossings that take the pedestrian from nowhere to nowhere, from a non-sidewalk to a non-sidewalk
https://goo.gl/maps/WMxrxkpZFKousnLa6

Eventually there was no way at all to walk further, a cars-only road (speedway) started https://goo.gl/maps/ePpgxCEcYYmrfHf47
Below this sign I tested the famous hospitality of Italians by trying, for an hour or so, to get a driver to pick me up, but to no avail. (Since when do Italians obey traffic signs?)

Later I was able to get past the point on a bus. In my opinion, given the curvature of the road, the viable traffic speeds did not justify it being a speedway. The cars-only arrangement was there not to keep pedestrians safe, but to keep them away for good.

Finally, a literal stone-throw away from the airport there's a neighbourhood called Case Nuove, a residential area that includes some hotels. This is where the bus took me. From there I tried to reach the entrance of the airport again by walking almost halfway around the airport, but entrances were carefully fenced off from every direction. Pedestrians and hikers can only reach the airport by climbing some three-meter-high fences.

Thus far the only walkable major airport in the world I know is Tallinn Airport. And it is truly comfortably walkable, with a major shopping centre a five minutes away and the city centre an hour away if you walk very slowly. These days there's a comfy airport tram available, but you can walk easily if you prefer.

All those YT urbanists talk a lot about walkable cities, but I have not seen a single one of them address the walkability of airports.
15
DnD Central / Re: Nonsense from the West over Ukraine
Orban says: „Es ist leicht möglich, dass es dieser Krieg sein wird, der auf demonstrative Weise der westlichen Übermacht ein Ende bereitet.“

The stakes are as follows. The relations between the EU and Russia cannot stay the same, they must change, but Putin is so obstinate that the relations can only change if either Russia is defeated or the EU dissolves. It's an existential battle for both and the issue is whether the EU biggies recognise this or not.

Likely not. The biggies think that the EU is fairly safe, because see all this buffer zone between Germany and Russia. That is, the biggies do not consider the countries between Germany and Russia as EU members, as countries worth an existence even. Therefore, they also will never muster sufficient commitment to defeat Russia.

Insofar as the above is plausible, the eastern EU members consider the EU already de facto dissolved. So does Orban, and he is already thinking ahead from this. He is betting that Russia will win (or not lose, which is the same thing). Despite being a Nato member, Orban is begging for special treatment and mercy from Russia in the world after this war. Other eastern Nato members still hope that Nato can muster the commitment that the EU lacks. Orban has apparently discounted even Nato, factoring in Germany's and France's repeated vision to conjure up some sort of EU defence mechanism, inevitably doomed to fail. Other eastern EU members see no other defence for the EU than Nato and therefore do their best to ignore Germany's and France's scholzing, macroning and schrödering.

If the war ends in stalemate with the EU still lingering on, there will be no way whatsoever to restore the trust between the eastern and western EU members - because it is a pause in the war, not the end of the war. In a stalemate the EU may still be there, but it will be without substance from then on. With friends like this, who needs enemies.

Edit. From RIA, facts as per Orban:
1. The West cannot win the war militarily
2. The sanctions have not destabilised Russia
3. The sanctions are hurting Europe enormously
4. The world has not aligned with USA on the issue of Ukraine

Also from RIA, Orban went to Russia for Gorbachev's funeral but Putin evaded a direct meeting by embarking on a tour in Russia's Far East.
16
DnD Central / Re: The comings and goings of the European Union
The greatest problem isn't the threshold to join, but what happens after, as Poland and Hungary have shown.
What have Poland and Hungary shown? Why are they the problem? How was the problem not foreseen? And why is it not being dealt with? Doesn't it all indicate some structural rigidity in the EU that has not been repaired and likely cannot? And if this is the case, the real problem lies with the founders and drivers of the EU, not with the later members.

I have re-read some of the older posts here from some five years ago. My position used to be that the EU is inherently irreformable - and that it is good this way. I think I was spot-on on the first point. However, due to rigid irreformability the EU is now in imminent danger to fall apart and this is not really good in a crisis situation.

Why is the EU irreformable? Because any change requires consensus. And also because in this consensus the drivers of any change would be the most powerful members, the biggies as I call them.

But there are even more problems. The biggies, due to being the biggies, and also due to being the founders of the EU, have not allowed any input from the newer members. Even right now when it is lucidly clear that the newer members have been correct about Russia as the threat to the EU - and therefore pushing for a geopolitical focus in the EU - and the biggies have been wrong about this, there is zero acknowledgement and zero respect given to the newer members on this. Instead, the biggies want to make it seem that the upcoming proposals of change are entirely the initiative of the biggies. This will not wash. This will only deepen the mistrust that has already accrued and the EU will certainly fall apart.

The EU biggies will not give up their leading position which they have mishandled. They will try to hold on to their leading position, thus only mishandling it further, because they do not know how to handle it properly. They will not become good masters of their position in half a year. They have mismanaged every single crisis thus far, except perhaps the covid crisis. The crisis we have right now, the Ukraine invasion, they have not managed at all, but *followed* the drive of USA/Nato and eastern EU. EU reform, if any, should be derived from who have the initiative right now, because the eastern members have shown they can see a crisis coming and they know what to do in a crisis. The biggies will not be given their position back anymore. The biggies have demonstrated themselves utterly incompetent and cannot be trusted for a moment. The biggies, even though they can apparently admit a mistake, they still cannot allow that anyone else is in the right. Therefore the fate of the EU is to dissolve. The sad thing is that it is happening in a crisis instead of in calm times.

Your position those years ago was that the EU is a club of dogs, that there are big dogs and smaller dogs and that the smaller dogs should behave as per the barking of the bigger dogs. Well, this leads to the same conclusion: The smaller dogs will get fed up with the misbehaviour and bullying by the bigger dogs and leave.[1]

There are many potential Hungaries, particularly among the candidate countries, but also the existing members.
The funny thing is that Hungary's Russia-policy was identical (actually milder) to Germany's and France's until the invasion. It was less dangerous because Hungary mattered less. So, yeah, there is a Hungary in the EU. There is also a Poland. There is also a Cyprus, perhaps the point with most explosive potential even though it hasn't exploded. But they are not as dangerous as Germany and France who want to introduce yet more Hungaries, Polands and Cypruses, after having demonstrated that they have no clue how to deal with any of those except by making relations with them worse after admitting them into the union.
Edit: Anyone is hardly joining the EU with the understanding that it is a pack of dogs. They all hope they are joining something better than this, something more human and humane or at least a colourful zoo. By now the newer members, having suffered repeated humiliations (and some near-existential threats!) from the biggies even though the biggies were in the wrong, and seeing that even in the current situation the biggies have no humility, are being forcefully led to the conclusion that this is indeed a pack of dogs, a different kind of EU than what was advertised. Therefore the newer members are seriously considering returning the merchandise. This would be a horrendous tragedy for the EU-faithful, but not a drastic disruption of Europe's security structure as long as there's still Nato.
17
DnD Central / Re: What's Going on in Eurafrica?
Algeria’s move to English signals erosion of France’s sway
...when the sign on Emmanuel Macron’s lectern at the Algerian presidential palace last week read “Presidency of the Republic” instead of “Présidence de la République” in French (after all, Algeria was part of the French colonial empire for well over a century), diplomats and casual observers in Paris took note.

“I wasn’t surprised but I was shocked [Algeria] would do such a thing during the visit of a French president,” said France’s former ambassador to Algeria, Xavier Driencourt.
Evidently there had been much macroning in Algeria long before Ukraine.

French President Emmanuel Macron's statements in Le Monde caused a diplomatic crisis between the two states. Macron accused Algeria's "political-military system" of still using colonialism to excuse its own failures. "Since 1962, the Algerian nation has been feeding off a memory that says France is the problem," Macron was quoted as saying in the French newspaper. Moreover – and this caused an outcry in Algiers – he questioned whether Algeria had ever been a nation before the colonial era.

[...]

Consequently, the government in Algiers recalled its ambassador last autumn and stopped overflight rights for French military jets over the Sahel. Macron let it be known shortly afterwards – through an advisor – that he regretted the "polemic" and the "misunderstandings". At the beginning of December last year, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian travelled to Algeria. After three months, the diplomatic crisis was over. But not a single official representative of the Algerian government took part in the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the ceasefire in the Algerian war held at the end of March. Macron called for further reconciliation between France and the former French colony.
Those EU biggies mess things up badly even in areas where they really should know better. They cannot be trusted with any geopolitics whatsoever.
18
DnD Central / What is going on in Argentina?
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner: arrest after attempted shooting of Argentina vice-president
Fernández de Kirchner was greeting supporters outside her home when a Brazilian man approached her and raised a handgun to her face

A man has been detained after he aimed a handgun at point-blank range at Argentina’s vice-president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, in what the
president said was an attempt on her life.

Fernández de Kirchner survived only because the gun – which was loaded with five bullets – did not fire, president Alberto Fernández said.
To continue my last post in this thread, Zeihan sees positive outlooks for Argentina. Because geography/geology: Nice pastures, huge navigable river, okay local resource base, okay demographic trends etc. Zeihan is a strong geographic determinist: If the geography looks good, all is good. It can be ignored how atrocious the country's economic policies have turned out.

Disunited Nations is essentially analysing some select countries, dedicating a chapter to each country. Here's the spoiler:
- Japan: Poor resource-wise and in a bad demographic predicament, but with a navy and capital base that may be able to pull it off.
- Russia: Russia's rivers run the wrong way, poor roads and its coastlines do not provide a good access to the oceans. Aging, insecure former world power that only knows how to sell oil and gas without adding any value to anything.
- Germany: One of the fastest-aging populations in the world, best manufacturing and production systems in the world, but out of the game once the current global supply and export opportunities fall away.
- France: The sole country in Europe with meaningful geographic boundaries, excellent agriculture, generally healthy demographics - "almost always in the top five" under any world order or disorder.
- Iran: Iran's geography is good to keep the country as it is, but not good to expand its borders, even though Iran has the military might and capital potential to win regional leadership.
- Saudi Arabia: "In the rare position of having the money, military equipment, and the will to position itself as a legitimate counterweight to Iran in a region long defined by American (mis)management."
- Turkey: Militarily and economically "plenty of pep to deal with any immediate neighbors."
- Brazil: "Without the foreign capital to fuel its infrastructure and agricultural sector, without safe transport to send its beef and soy to customers around the world, Brazil will struggle to maintain its economy on its own."
- Argentina: I gave this one away above.
- The United States: Sovereign and supreme.

China does not have its own chapter in the book, but there are enough comments about it. All negative comments, some outright derogatory.
20
DnD Central / Re: The comings and goings of the European Union
Scholz held a grundsatzrede in Prague. I'm taking just one programmatic point from there: Enlargement.

Yes, Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and, down the line, also Georgia and, of course, the six countries of the Western Balkans belong to the free and democratic part of Europe. Their EU accession is in our interest. [...] Realpolitik must mean involving friends and partners with shared values and supporting them in order to be strong in global competition through cooperation. [...] Together, we stand the very best chance of helping to form and shape the 21st century in our own, European, vein – as a European Union of 27, 30 or 36 countries, which will then have over 500 million free citizens enjoying equal rights, with the biggest internal market in the world, with leading research institutes, innovations and innovative companies, with stable democracies, with social welfare and a public infrastructure that is without parallel around the world. That is the ambition that I associate with a geopolitical Europe. [...] Where unanimity is required today, the risk of an individual country using its veto and preventing all the others from forging ahead increases with each additional member state. Anyone who believes anything else is in denial about the reality of Europe.

So, the enlargement will continue on apparently discounted terms. There's no way the two poorest countries in Europe (Ukraine has surpassed Moldova in poverty since Crimea was annexed to Russia) qualify according to the present requirements. Accepting new members on discounted terms has never gone well.

"Six countries of the Western Balkans", hmm, let's count:
1. Bosnia
2. Montenegro
3. Albania
4. Kosovo
5. Serbia
6. North Macedonia

So, Bosnia, which is a non-country - it is three constitutionally separated bantustans with conflicting interests - should become a member. Kosovo and Serbia, who do not recognise each other, should somehow miraculously start getting along, share values and support each other. They should somehow all jibe well with the common interests of a "geopolitical Europe". Sorry, but this is bringing more Cyprus-like warzones and at least one outspoken Trojan horse into the union. What kind of Realpolitik is this? Scholz is offering no solution to the conflicts, but going on with the old EU policy - hope the old conflicts fade away, probably by Brussels diktat, after bringing the new members in. This is the usual geopolitical suicide that the EU has been practising thus far.

Moreover, note the unanimity and veto bit - the EU must move to majority/plurality decision-making some time very soon. Thus the new members will be joining a different EU where their voice is simply disregarded, if it proves too bothersome. Why would the new and smaller members accept this unbegrudgingly? In the EU, where grudges have been mounting, Scholz plans to introduce more grudges.

Speaking about grudges, Scholz conspicuously failed to mention Poland in a few places where it would have been absolutely imperative to mention Poland:

We [Germany] are compensating the Czech Republic and other countries with tanks of German build for their provision of Soviet tanks to Ukraine.
On this very topic, i.e. compensating for tanks sent to Ukraine, Germany has no quarrel with Czech, but does have a quarrel with Poland. Why not say something to mitigate this? Too complicated? Too recent grudges?

Circumventing the debates that were typical of the past, we have taken in millions of women, men and children from Ukraine seeking refuge here with us. The Czech Republic and other countries of Central Europe in particular have demonstrated their big heart and great solidarity. You have my very greatest respect for this.
Again, Poland has taken in most refugees by far. This is a very conspicuously missed opportunity to express respect to Poland for dealing with the refugees.

Of course, Poland was watching carefully, took note, and decided that now's a good time to ask some trillion in WWII reparations from Germany.

Scholz's grundsatzrede ended up highlighting how screwed up relations in the EU are. Sure, things must be done to make the EU truly geopolitical, and the protocol of the most important meetings should change, but they should have been changed long ago when smaller members called for it. Also, Macron did a similar programmatic speech some years ago (with its own problems) that Merkel simply ignored. Right now is a bit too late, and Germany has accrued too much ballast and cannot be trusted to drive the changes.

Edit. Different from Merkel ignoring Macron's grundsatzrede of 2017, Macron immediately responded favourably to Scholz's.

In a nearly two-hour speech meant to outline the goals of the French diplomacy in the upcoming year, Macron praised the views expressed by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz earlier this week in Prague as “fully in line” with his own plea for a stronger, more independent and sovereign Europe.

So, what is the line?

“We cannot let Russia militarily win the war,” Macron said in a speech to French ambassadors at the Elysee presidential palace.

He set the goal of enabling Ukraine to either win militarily or be put in a strong position to achieve “a negotiated peace.”

“We must get prepared for a long war,” Macron said, adding that this would involve tensions escalating over Ukraine’s nuclear plants.
These are the strongest pro-Ukraine and anti-Russian statements yet from Macron. But it would be moving the goalposts from his position earlier this year and the commitment to Russia actually losing remains to be seen. What may have brought about the moving of the goalposts?

Macron vowed to “keep talking” to Russia despite criticism from some countries, especially in eastern Europe, which defend a hardline stance against Moscow. “We must do everything to make a negotiated peace possible” when Russia and Ukraine will be ready to sit for talks, he said.

“We must not let Europe get divided” over the war in Ukraine and its consequences, Macron said, adding that the EU mustn't align itself with “warmongers” or allow countries from eastern Europe to act alone in support of Kyiv.
I see. The motive is to catch up with the sentiment and level of commitment that eastern EU members are displaying. So it's a rhetorical move. Macron does not like when somebody else is ahead in initiative.

« Il faut assumer de pouvoir toujours continuer à parler à tout le monde, surtout ceux avec qui nous ne sommes pas d’accord. Qui a envie que la Turquie soit la seule puissance du monde qui continue à parler à la Russie ? », a lancé le président devant les ambassadeurs français réunis à l’Elysée.
Oh yes. It is not good to see Turkey ahead in initiative either. Must outtalk Erdogan.

By the way, both Ukrainians and Russians call Macron's behaviour "macroning".
22
Hobbies & Entertainment / Re: Commentations on the blog of Frans
In Koreader, there's a menu setting for Links: "Ignore external links on tap". This is a sane option for those who don't want to accidentally end up all over internet.

Then again, I recently managed to get Koreader's Newsdownloader working and I noticed that it epubifies webpages. Very nice :up: So, wouldn't it be awesome to have another menu option for Links: Epubify ???

Perhaps it is possible to include in Newsdownloader a way to epubify a user-typed direct webpage url. In fact, I have been looking into its source code and I think all the elements are there. If this has not been done already in some hidden way, maybe I can give it a go as a little Lua exercise.

Edit. Okay, the fruit of the day: rgrep --color -nH --null -F "createEpub" .
Code: [Select]
./base/build/x86_64-linux-gnu-debug/plugins/newsdownloader.koplugin/epubdownloadbackend.lua199:function EpubDownloadBackend:createEpub(epub_path, html, url, include_images, message, filter_enable, filter_element)
./base/build/x86_64-linux-gnu-debug/plugins/newsdownloader.koplugin/epubdownloadbackend.lua200:    logger.dbg("EpubDownloadBackend:createEpub(", epub_path, ")")
./base/build/x86_64-linux-gnu-debug/plugins/newsdownloader.koplugin/main.lua551:        DownloadBackend:createEpub(news_file_path, html, link, include_images, article_message, enable_filter, filter_element)
./base/build/x86_64-linux-gnu-debug/plugins/newsdownloader.koplugin/main.lua576:        DownloadBackend:createEpub(news_file_path, html, link, include_images, article_message)
./frontend/ui/wikipedia.lua649:function Wikipedia:createEpub(epub_path, page, lang, with_images)
./frontend/ui/wikipedia.lua1372:-- Wrap Wikipedia:createEpub() with UI progress info, provided
./frontend/ui/wikipedia.lua1374:function Wikipedia:createEpubWithUI(epub_path, page, lang, result_callback)
./frontend/ui/wikipedia.lua1382:        -- If errors in Wikipedia:createEpub(), the coroutine (used by
./frontend/ui/wikipedia.lua1386:        local ok, success = pcall(self.createEpub, self, epub_path, page, lang, true)
./frontend/ui/wikipedia.lua1391:            logger.warn("Wikipedia.createEpub pcall:", ok, success)
./frontend/ui/widget/dictquicklookup.lua346:                                    Wikipedia:createEpubWithUI(epub_path, self.lookupword, lang, function(success)
./plugins/newsdownloader.koplugin/epubdownloadbackend.lua199:function EpubDownloadBackend:createEpub(epub_path, html, url, include_images, message, filter_enable, filter_element)
./plugins/newsdownloader.koplugin/epubdownloadbackend.lua200:    logger.dbg("EpubDownloadBackend:createEpub(", epub_path, ")")
./plugins/newsdownloader.koplugin/main.lua551:        DownloadBackend:createEpub(news_file_path, html, link, include_images, article_message, enable_filter, filter_element)
./plugins/newsdownloader.koplugin/main.lua576:        DownloadBackend:createEpub(news_file_path, html, link, include_images, article_message)

So it looks like those EpubDownloadBackend:createEpub and DownloadBackend:createEpub bits in Newsdownloader files are the generic epubification function~command that I am looking for. And I discovered that when Links / Ignore external links is not set, then we get a popup prompt, which could sensibly include the "Epubify" button. How about it?
23
DnD Central / Who is Peter Zeihan?
According to himself, Peter Zeihan does geopolitics. However, after reading two of his books, Disunited Nations and The End of the World is Just the Beginning (in this order, which is also the order of publishing), I'd say that the politics part is rather weak in his geopolitics. Not that it's wrong, but the politics part is essentially missing in his geopolitical discussions.

Still, his foundation, the geo part (i.e. geography) is very strong. You see, in real-life matters, the material considerations precede abstract considerations. Materialism beats idealism in this world. Accordingly, ecology is prior to economy, and geography (and geology, i.e. the resource base for industrial and agricultural technology, which is the area where Zeihan's knowledge is particularly strong) is prior to policies or political ideology when it comes to geopolitics. Appropriately, Zeihan's website is all about maps supported with statistics.

To start with the good, the books are 100% informative content, intended to convey information. The main case that Zeihan is making is that USA is (about to) give up its dominating role that had secured the world order since the end of World War II, therefore the world would descend to a disorder. Most of the discussion involves elaborating on what the approaching disorder may look like for different parts of the world and some specific important countries, based on their geography, geology, development status, economic and demographic trends, and intercontinental supply chain logistics. In other words, full-blown prophetic alternative history for near future.

The topic is extremely intetesting in its own terms, particularly given the solid basis of arguments grounded in Zeihan's expertise in geology, geography, and economic and demographic statistics, so I am mostly thankful for having the opportunity to read the two books. But let's talk about what was not rosy in Zeihan's treatment of the topic.

First, the future is not rosy, according to him. The disorder would bring economic and political instability. Regional bullies would activate and extort their neighbours, the general level of civilisation and civility would decline, while USA would no longer be there to save the day. I do not have any counterarguments to Zeihan's points based on fundamental aspects like geography, technology and statistics, but there are things to say about his spin or attitude. For example, it is not a given that the general level of civilisation and civility is such that some shakeup would necessarily worsen it instead of improve it. I happen to have personal experience with a period of anarchy, namely the transition of regime from end of USSR to independence of Estonia and on to Estonia's accession to the EU and Nato. The anarchy entailed loss of jobs in the countryside and quite bloody mafia wars in the cities, but also the rise of self-entrepreneurship which was rather liberating after USSR. Self-entrepreneurship meant finding one's own outlet based on the inputs available, and the available inputs were necessarily local or regional given the circumstances. In my case, agriculture was available for me, which is the ultimate basic or fundamental resource for human survival according to the last chapter of The End of the World is Just the Beginning which I happen to agree with. The thing is, this resource or value was removed from the equation when the period of anarchy ended and Estonia established its independence properly (in a few years after 1994).[1] By means of taxation and economic conjuncture, growing one's own food was made impossible for people. Based on this experience, it does not seem to me that that the Order (this is exactly how Zeihan names it: "the Order" as instituted after the Allied victory in World War II) is something that secures and guarantees the basic fundamental and most important civilisational and civil values.

It also does not seem to me that USA's activity has been saving the day a lot - after the Allied victory in World War II, which was admittedly a very important and necessary moment that indeed saved the day for more than half of Europe. According to Zeihan, USA's conscious decision and aim with the Order was sincerely altruistic and self-sacrificial:

Quote from: The End of the World is Just the Beginning
Most people think of the Bretton Woods system as a sort of Pax Americana. The American Century, if you will. But that's simply not the case. The entire concept of the Order is that the United States disadvantages itself economically in order to purchase the loyalty of a global alliance. This is what globalization is. The past several decades haven't been an American Century. They've been an American sacrifice.

Zeihan rejects the idea that USA has been in any way colonial or imperial in its aims and behaviour. Rather, the USA-driven globalisation post-WWII led to the liberation of former colonies from the colonial powers, namely the well-known European now-ex colonial powers. However, I'd say that to the extent that the decision in establishing this kind of order was conscious, there was certainly a calculation involved in the decision-making process whether this kind of order was affordable, e.g. whether the Marshall plan was affordable for the USA. If affordable and the clients of the order would not rise to threaten USA's hegemony in the end of the plan, then the order was not self-sacrificial. Moreover, insofar as the purpose of the global alliance was to contain and counteract the power of USSR (which Zeihan explicitly admits), i.e. there was an enemy, and the alliance was secured and the rules of the order enforced by the global network of American military bases, the order was colonial. Military presence - this is colonialism 101. Moreover still, if the underlying background purpose was mostly peaceful and self-sacrificial, then many wars and military conflicts initiated by the USA should have been unnecessary, particularly after USSR fell apart, i.e. the enemy vanished. Yet, after USSR fell apart, USA/Nato military activity seemed to intensify rather.

Some of the more egregious problems indicating the weakness of the politics part of Zeihan's analysis of geopolitics is the political terminology. For example, he calls (post-Mao) China a neofascist country and Western European countries socialist, while examples of capitalism are USA, Australia, Switzerland and Baltic countries. Zeihan plays fast and loose with plenty of terminology, often forgivable because in e.g. economics and technology he explains carefully enough where he is coming from, but in politics and ideology he does not explain where he is coming from neither where he is going to, plus politics and ideology are touchy topics in and of themselves, so it is not forgivable.

Anyway, these are some of my quibbles mostly about what Zeihan would perhaps consider the less relevant issues about the slant or spin of the discussion, instead of the more relevant substance of the discussion. The substance is geography, how technology, geological and agricultural resources and supply lines work, and statistics on economic and demographic trends. There are nice illustrative maps and graphs in the books, so the substance is worthy of appreciation.

However, I ultimately cannot recommend the books due to their lack of academic rigour, such as playing fast and loose with the terminology, and due to frankly immature style. Zeihan's writing style may be appropriate on internet forums with its haste to drive a point home at the cost of some exaggeration and simplification, but it is not appropriate for a book.

Regarding overall composition, Disunited Nations is the better of the two: A clear layout of chapters, logical progression of topics, hardly any repetition. The End of the World is Just the Beginning, while covering more aspects of the main topic, is also the much more scattered, without a logical progression, and resorting to evidently inadvertent repetition. The repetition involves even subheadings. The latter book feels more like a collection of notes (jotted down from reading and other observations) with an attempt at arriving some organisation which ultimately does not amount to a book as a focused treatise on a given topic. The quality of proofreading is subpar in both books, perhaps slightly better in the former. I refuse to believe there was an editor for these texts. There was only a publisher. All this said, in purely informative terms everything is solidly grounded, just the presentation is rather unpolished, and I disagree with the overall case that USA seems to willingly receding from the world arena, abandoning other countries to a disorder of their own.
1994 = exit of USSR/Russian army from Estonia. There was no meaningful de facto independence prior to this.
24
Browsers & Technology / Re: The Hardware Thread
Samsung Galaxy Active Tab 3 is probably the last device with a removable battery Samsung ever releases. Strong plus points for the removable battery :up:

I bought it to try out the DeX thing. The software is a severe disappointment. I thought I could mirror the screen to my smart-tv and control the screen from my device, but no go. I can do mirroring fine with my other tablet (Lenovo Android) and with the old-ish Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (with the thing called Miracast or through the HDMI connection; there's no DeX), but the evolution of software has been moving towards taking features away and giving users no settings.

Samsung Galaxy Active Tab 3 has two main apps to connect to other devices: DeX and SmartView. The latter is absolute crap, no living up to its promise and no settings. This page says how it is supposed to work, but all I could get was sound on TV and the background image. No mirroring is happening in any way. Edit: Correction here. I discovered that when I open up e.g. Gallery and press SmartView there, then it mirrors fine. So, some select apps can do mirroring. In the evolution of the software of portable devices we have lost the wholesale mirroring though. Like, just let the external screen show the same thing that is on the tablet/smartphone, how hard can it be? Evidently impossible these days.

DeX is marginally better, even though there's no mirroring there either. DeX conjures up a desktop-like view on the TV, where you can open apps and resize them to your heart's pleasure. Videos and Termux look good in DeX. The painful downside though is that DeX cannot be controlled from the tablet. You absolutely must have a keyboard (and a mouse) connected to the TV.

Maybe some day I will try out how straightforward the HDMI connection is.
25
DnD Central / Re: Infrastructure
Electricity is now 20 times more expensive in Norway than in Sweden.[1] You can see for yourself in Nordpool's market data https://www.nordpoolgroup.com/en/Market-data1/Dayahead/Area-Prices/ALL1/Hourly/?view=table

But in Lithuania it is a 100 times more expensive than in Sweden.

“In Sweden, electricity prices are almost 100 times lower on the electricity exchange than in the Lithuanian zone. And in our zone, electricity prices
are actually breaking records, reaching more than 400 euros per megawatt-hour, or about 40 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is a more usual
measure for households,” says Tomas Janeliūnas, political analyst and head of the Energy Research Institute.

The discrepancy, he says, is down to differences in infrastructure. Unlike Sweden, Lithuania imports most of its electricity, but the capacity of
electricity connections is limited and not enough to meet the demand.