Monday, March 24, 2014

The Return of the Polar Votex is Actually a Good Thing !

Just when you thought it was safe to go outside again, the Polar Vortex is back! It's blasting the Midwest and Eastern half of the United States with very cold weather. While this will undoubtedly be unpleasant, there is an upside. 

NASA image of Polar Vortex reaching down in mid-U.S.
You might remember the Polar Vortex from January and later in January, when it brought extremely low temperatures to a good deal of North America.  Well...this week this atmospheric phenomenon, usually confined to the Arctic regions of our planet, will be dipping down once again into many states.

Models are ''very confident that it'll be significantly colder than average'' in much of the eastern two-thirds of the nation, said Mike Halpert, acting director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center. During the worst parts, temperatures could be as much as 20 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit below average. The most affected areas will likely be places that have already felt the freeze this year, such as Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Dakotas. Those states are currently feeling a little relief as the weather has momentarily cleared up in the Midwest, leading to warmer temperatures in the 50s and 60s and heavy rain instead of snow. Though it might be a nice break from the freezing temperatures, unfortunately, this is actually a bad thing.

According to Weather Underground, there is so much snowpack on the frozen ground in the central and northeastern U.S. that warm weather and rain could lead to flash floods. Ice floes breaking up in rivers could get carried downstream and jam up the flow, leading to spillover flooding. It seems that the expected arrival of the Polar Vortex may be a blessing: The return of freezing temperatures could save the region from the worst of this this. ''This week's thaw will be short-lived, preventing the kind of major flooding that could result if all the snowpack were to melt in a week,'' wrote  meteorologist Jeff Masters at Weather Underground.

The Polar Vortex originates in the far north, when sunlight has disappeared during the winter season, creating the Northern Hemisphere's coldest air. Moving southward, this air gradually warms, until it reaches a place where the warming occurs very quickly. A swift-moving river of air moves west to east here, marking the typical southern edge of the Polar Vortex. Another climatic phenomenon in play is known as the Arctic Oscillation, where atmospheric mass moves back and forth over many years between the Arctic and the middle latitudes. During a positive Arctic Oscillation, pressure is lower than normal over the Arctic but higher than normal over the mid-latitudes. Because air moves from high to low pressure, the Polar Vortex is pushed upward, near to the pole, creating warm weather in the Artic Circle and melting the ice cap.

During a negative phase, conditions are reversed, with high pressure in the Arctic and low pressure in the mid-latitudes. This is the time when the Polar Vortex can develop waves or kinks that bring freezing air southward. Interestingly, this year's Arctic Oscillation was not largely negative. This could help explain why the Polar Vortex only came down in North America and eastern Siberia. Other locations around the and within the Arctic Circle such as Alaska, Scandinavia, Europe, and western Russia had a much balmier than normal temperatures. While this year's Arctic Oscillation wasn't very negative, scientists have noticed a tread in recent decades toward more negative phases. Some blame loss of sea ice and other effects from climate change, though the true cause remains unclear.

Mike Halpert
Though many folks like to think this perpetually dark and frozen winter they are suffering through is especially miserable, it's actually not been a particularly severe one when taking the long term view of the entire country. ''People have been saying this winter's been really cold,'' said Halpert. ''When looking at the last three months, yeah, we'll be a little on the cold side compared to average. But it's certainly nothing historic.'' This statement of his was a direct response to the Jeff Master's obviously ignorance of severe weather history and in other severe weather cases he is also a serial exaggerator to boot. Just how cold it is, of course, depends on where you live. While some states like Wisconsin, are experiencing what may be in the top 10 coldest winters on record, California is in the middle of a warm, dry drought while a lot of the U.S. hasn't been having anything really out of the ordinary weatherwise.

J. Masters
The Way I See It.....within the realm of climate change/global warming alarmism, there are scientists who practice (admitted) fraud, such as Peter Gleick, then there is Michael Mann's hockey stick graph that is the most laughable and widely discredited object in the history of science because he purported to abolish the medieval warm period and to show - falsely - that today's quite normal global temperatures were unprecedented in 1300 years! You see, this global warming alarmism science community has fakers like in Climate-gate, and an alarming number of pathological exaggerators and serial incompetents: meet Jeff Masters, that meteorologist I mentioned before, who always takes current individual severe weather events and then claims the event is unprecedented or unusual in weather history. Fortunately he's proven wrong a lot showing the public and his colleagues that his climate change alarmism has an unenviable record of complete incompetence!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Beware The Donbass Elite !

With the Crimean referendum having been decided yesterday, the results seemed obvious to all who have witnessed Vladimir Putin's uncalled for Hitler-style annexation. However, there's more to this story that many people in the West don't know and should, if any future decisions are o be made in resolving Ukraine's political and economic weaknesses.

American and European news broadcasts about Ukraine, sometimes even those involving specialists and political scientists, tend to include phrases like ''In the Ukraine there is a struggle between the Eastern pro-Russian part and the Western pro-European part of the country.'' People hearing this could be forgiven for thinking Ukraine consists only of two regions: The West and the East, animated simply by their pro-European or pro-Russian views. It's not that simple.

This cliché is nothing new and, indeed, 20 years ago it was a reasonably accurate picture of things. The far east of Ukraine had more affection for Moscow than it had for Kiev, while the west had no love for either Kiev or Moscow, considering itself self-sufficient and part of Europe. Remember that Western Ukraine was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Poland and became part of the USSR only in 1939 -- unlike the East, which had long been a key source of Soviet industrial wealth, the site of mines, metalworking plants and barrack towns for the workers and their families who had come from all over the Soviet Union. There, almost all significant posts at the provincial, district and town levels were given to men and women from Russia or Soviet Ukraine.

Putin and Yanukovych
In 1991, Ukraine celebrated the unexpected gift of independence. But in the East - the coal-rich Donbass region - there was a frightened hush. While western Ukraine happily started developing small businesses and embraced statehood, the east followed the model of post-Soviet Russia, with a criminal craving up of the region's factories an the development of its own school-for-scoundrels of oligarchs driven first by a desire to keep Donbass for the use of the Donbass elite alone. So, in 2004, these bums put forward their own candidate in the presidential election: their stooge was Viktor Yanukovych; a Putin favourite.

In 2010 he became master of the whole country and he repeated the policies of 1939. Russian-speaking inhabitants of Donetsk, the largest city in Donbass, were sent our to be chiefs of police, customs officials and heads of the justice system through the country. This infiltration of their country had the inhabitants of many other areas of Ukraine angry with the tough, unsmiling manner of their new bosses from Donbass. The result was a complex national political picture - more complex than the simple division between East and West - one that I believe defines Ukraine today.

Donbass became a Mafia-style headquarters, a shop floor and counting house of Yanukovych's Party, a place of coal mining, metal smelting and unimaginably corrupt schemes that allowed state funds and taxes from the region's businesses to disappear into thin air. Civil society was strangled, and this densely populated area couldn't produce a single honest public figure or writer of national importance to take on the most pressing issues of the day. While the central and western regions had less money but, free from an oligarchy, more ideas and discussion. They became the arts and humanities heart of the country, with a more active civil society and honourable public figures.

The Way I See It.....Crimea is a lost cause with it being the only area with a large percentage of pro-Russian inhabitants and Europe and America powerless to stop the referendum much less the Russian occupation and Putin will shrug off the impending sanctions. But let's not forget that there also exists in this region a fast-increasing Tatar population, with is generally anti-Russian. Putin may get the majority vote on this referendum but it won't be unanimous across the Crimea. To my mind, the central-southern area and Zakarpattia area make up another region, the commercial region, with seaports like Odessa and Mykolayiv and the tradition of cross border commerce with Romania, Hungary and Slovakia. There you notice more ideas and more discussion; just like the Tatars, they too have no time for Donbass.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

My God! Journalists are Suckers for Any Kind of Scare !

Early this week Australian Broadcast Company senior interviewer, Kerry O'Brien, groaned that our ''once-spectacular reef '' was ''threatened by global warming'' and ''up to 10% of the reef has been lost to bleaching since 1989'', turning it ''bone white''. Up popped Ove Hoegh-Guldberg (yeah, I know it sounds like a glandular disease). a Queensland reef researcher with a natty patter, to warn us to ''change our lifestyles'' or the reef would go - killed by hotter seas.

Just like last week's Liz Hayes' (see previous posting) catering to Helen Caldicott's latest diatribe crap about how many Japanese that'll die from the radiation from the Fukushima accident three years ago. So now, Kerry, another respected journalist shows his major ''suckerhood'' by giving Hoegh-Guldberg uncritical coverage of his latest scare. It's like they actually want to be fooled - or to fool you.

Hoegh-Guldberg is now said to be the world's most influential reef scientist in global warming circles. Pity that, because he rose to fame on a gravy-train of our tax dollars having got big government grants, chaired a $20 million World Bank study of warming, and worked as an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lead author. That's not saying much judging by the low standard of ''expert'' authors that's come to light and their incestuous relationships in so called peer-review circles.

Last week he bobbed up on radio, being fronted by a sweet-youth-thing (a favourite student perhaps) waving a report he'd just done for the WWF green group with the sweet-young-thing promoting this month's useless Earth Hour. Again journalists lapped it up, not bothering to check how all Hoegh-Guldberg's other warnings had panned out. He keeps predicting the death of the reef that refuses to die. Intelligent people ask, ''Will Professor Ove's latest reef scare turn out better than his many lasts?'' (Answer: no..., as you'll see.)

His report states:  ''The Great Barrier Reef will suffer irreversible damage by 2030 unless radical action is taken to lower carbon emissions. Coral bleaching, which occurs when water becomes too warm and coral's energy source is decimated, is now a ''serious threat'' to the reef, having not been documented in the region prior to 1979.''  He continued, ''The current climate trends signal game over for the Great Barrier Reef.''  But what of Hoegh-Guldberg's previous scares? 

In 2000....he warned that ''The reef building corals are likely to become very rare indeed if warming continues unabated. We now have more evidence that corals cannot fully recover from bleaching episodes such as the major el Nino event
in 1998. The overall damage is irreparable. We're seeing the first signs of a major change to an ecosystem due to climate change.'' Ka-cling!!

In 2006....he shockingly stated; ''Between 30 and 40% of the coral on Queensland Barrier Reef could die within a month!''  Ka-cling!!

In 2009....more scary stuff;  ''So what we know now, with rising CO2, the Great Barrier Reef has started to low its calcification rate. Tests show that coral reefs are calcifying now 50% slower than they did prior to 1990.  Ka-cling!!

In 2011....a shocker;  ''We will see large-scale mortality of reef-building corals (30% or more) and many organisms on reefs along the West Australian coastline (300 km or more). This will occur over the next 1-3 months. These reeks will take more than 10 years to recover. Ka-cling!!

But now?   REALITY ! 
          A Government-run research body has found in an extensive study of corals spanning more than 1000km of Australia's coastline that the past 110 years of ocean warming has been good for their health. I exposed this warmist climate-reef deception in a posting Warming Gives Us MORE reefs ! (June, 19, 2011). The findings undermine blanket predictions that global warming will devastate coral reefs, and add to a growing body of evidence showing coral reefs are more resilient than previously thought. Maria Byrne, a professor of marine biology at Sydney University, said after reading the paper published in the leading journal Science, that its findings ''made perfect sense''. She added, that ''Temperature rules metabolism, so it's a no-brainer that if you get more temperature you will get more metabolism.''

More good news!  The reef is recovering from damage caused largely by cyclones, which even the CSIRO admits have not been made worse or more numerous by warming, stating ''The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority scientists say baby corals are blooming on the reef, which is a positive sign of recovery. It is showing that even though it has had multiple impacts in the last few years, it is able to bounce back. It is good news for the fast growing coral but there are slower growing coral that need more time and thankfully cyclones numbers are the lowest in years.''

And Still More !  The Catlin Seaview Survey, an underwater survey, has found thriving coral reefs at depths of 30 meters and below, on the Great Barrier Reef and no above-average sea warming. This
is good news has come just a few weeks after a survey by the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the University of Wollongong, which revealed it has not being global warming that was involved in the decline in coral over the years but storm damage, fresh water bleaching and the population explosion of the Crown of Thorns starfish. It is with satisfaction that we know the Barrier Reef in still flourishing underneath the damage coral.

The Way I See It.....Professor Hoegh-Guldberg must have been too busy riding the gravy train not to notice while real science has been going on checking the health of our coastal reefs. He seems to have ignored or not taken seriously the fact that global warming has stopped rising over the last 17 years even though the Carbon Dioxide levels have gone up 25% with no obvious ill-effects. And coral bleaching is mainly due to fresh water runoff from cyclonic rainfall.

Now the warmists, without batting an eye or and an apology in their throats, say the heat has gone into the ocean depths to work it's devastation.......where?  The dreaded acidification of the sea water isn't happening either, and even tests show that the fish can breed quite happily in warmer water as well, if need be. I think Ove should give back some of our grant money since his predictions about our lovely Barrier Reef have been a series of duds and the money would be better spent on scientists with no ideology or agenda to push..

Friday, March 14, 2014

60 Minutes' Disgraceful Fukushima Scare Beat Up !

Liz Hayes' credibility dropped into a toilet last week by giving another disgraceful example of enviro-porn - the kind of green scaremonger that kills more people than it saves. Her truly irresponsible report on the three years after the Fukushima nuclear reactor incident featured Australia's resident fruitcake and anti-nuclear hysteric Helen Caldicott. She was introduced as merely a ''paediatrician'' and falsely billed as a ''nuclear expert''. The closest thing she's come to a nuclear expert is looking at the photos of the incident in TIME magazine and borrowing some books from the library.

Caldicott's past alarmism is not mentioned (because she would look like a true idiot if the truth be told), and not least her unforgivable fear mongering at the time of the emergency. She warned on radio station 3AW that Fukushima reactor could blow (a scenario ruled out by nuclear experts). This, she wailed, meant ''hundreds of thousands of Japanese will be dying within two weeks of acute radiation illness, with countless more later suffering an epidemic of cancers!''  Hayes fails to find a single example of anyone at all in Japan - not even the workers at the emergency site - suffering ill-health as a consequence of the emergency. Not one - despite clearly hunting for atrocity stories.

Hayes shows Caldicott (photo left) claiming Japan is now so unsafe that athletes should not go to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Hayes fails to mention the truth, as established by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effect of Atomic Radiation last year: that no evidence is likely to emerge of any radiation illness from the incident, even among the heavily exposed workers who were at the plant. As UNSCEAR officially said:

          ''Radiation exposure following the nuclear accident at Fukushima-Daiichi did not cause any immediate health effects. It is unlikely to be able to attribute any health effects in the future among the general public and vast majority of workers.''  They went on to report that the exposure of the Japanese population was very low, leading to correspondingly low risks of health effects later in life. Also, no radiation-related deaths or acute effects have been observed among the 25,000 workers (including TEPCO employees and contractors) involved at the accident site. The assessment also concluded that ''although the rate of exposure may have exceeded the levels for the onset of effect on plants and animals in the first few months following the accident, any effects are expected to be transient in nature, given their short duration.''

Hayes then goes on to report more scary claims that the ''whole world'' is being contaminated by the fallout, including the west coast of the United States. What she fails to add is that any contamination that washes ashore will not affect anyone. Carl-Magnus Larsson, chair of the UNSCEAR says ''we're not about to produce a race of sea monsters.''  He went on to say, ''This radioactivity is also being transported over very long distances with the ocean currents circling up and around Alaska and down the west coast and by that time be diluted to levels where there is no concern for harmful effects on the sea life or for using the beaches along the California coast for recreational purposes.

Hayes stupidly warns Fukushima could turn out as terrible as the Chernobyl disaster without adding that Chernobyl was beaten up just like Hayes is now beating up Fukushima. I remember when another idiot, Peter Garrett, as President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, thundered on the danger of all things nuclear and claiming the Chernobyl nuclear explosion in 1986 ''caused the deaths of more than 30,000 people!''  In fact, the known death toll of that explosion of a badly designed reactor is not 30,000, but just 65, according to the Chernobyl Forum that included the Ukraine, Belarus and Russia as well as all relevant United Nations agencies, including the World Health Organisation and International Atomic Energy Agency.

But I said that Liz Hayes' reckless scaremongering is the kind of thing likely to kill more people than it could possibly save. It's true. Radiation scare-mongers risk scaring people to death, Just ask the thousands of evacuees who have just recently been told by the Belarus government that, ''Opps, we made a mistake, there really wasn't any risk from Chernobyl and you can go back to your homes.'' No matter that a generation of their lives were destroyed, that about 10,000 died from suicide, depression and alcoholism because the fear was far more devastating than the event itself. During the first year after Chernobyl, the average dose to inhabitants in Northern Europe was 4.5 mrem, i.e., less than 2% of the average global annual natural dose of 240 mrem/yr. This was not worth destroying these people's lives. And it is exactly the same danger as eating a bag of potato chips a day.

The Way I See that the first thing that people don't realise is that radiation is natural. We are exposed to radiation from outer space....that radiation is there, it provides us with a background exposure as we live on this planet. How many Fukushima residents are being scared to death by the likes of Hayes and Caldicott?  Sadly just two weeks ago it was revealed stress-related deaths among the evacuees had topped the actual death toll of 1,600 from the earthquake and tsunami. Terrible!

All this dogmatic nonsense rests upon LNT, the Linear No-Threshold Dose hypothesis, a supposition that all radiation is deadly and there is no dose below which harmful effects will not occur. Double the dose, double the cancers. Of course, this is not true! The millions of nuclear workers that have been monitored closely for 50 years have no higher cancer mortality than the general population but have had several to ten times the average dose. The Chernobyl Forum summed it up by stating, ''Persistent myths and misconceptions about the threat of radiation have resulted on paralysing fatalism among residents of affected areas.''

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Origins and Consequences of Barack Obama's Weakness !

President Obama and John Kerry
In 1983, an idealistic socialist student of political science at Columbia University in New York City penned an article for the university magazine railing against the ''war mentality'' of America and ''the relentless, often silent spread of militarism in the country.''  He said President Ronald Reagan was a hostage to the ''twisted logic of the Cold War'', he wrote, and was ''playing into the Russians' hands'' rather than ''shifting America off the dead-end track'' and pursuing the proper goal of a ''nuclear-free world.''  Well, we all know it was Russians that played into Reagan's hands that ended the Cold War.

A quarter of a century later, the author, Barack Obama was elected to the White House. While due allowance could be made for the callow scribblings of any student, there have been striking echoes of Obama's naïve suspicion of American power during his five years as President. In those five years President Obama has led a foreign policy more on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality. It was a world in which he said ''the tide of war is receding'' and the United States could, without much risk, radically reduce the size of its armed forces. Other leaders, in this vision, would behave rationally and in the interest of their people and the world. Invasions, brute force, great-power games and shifting alliances -- these were things of the past. Secretary of State John F. Kerry stupidly displayed this Obama-mindset on Australian radio when he said of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, ''It's a 19th century act in the 21st century.'' 

Unfortunately, President Vladimir Putin has not received the memo on 21st century behaviour. I remember last October in the 3rd presidential campaign debate with Mitt Romney, Obama smugly critiquing a quote Romney made saying that the biggest geopolitical  threat to the America and the world is not al-Qaeda but Russia, by saying loudly, ''don't you know that the Cold War has been over for 20 years?'' What an idiot Obama seems today. Unfortunately he's the idiot in charge of what's left of a defence of what is left of the free world. Obama's leadership - or lack of it - has only hastened the decline of Western power and the new axis emerges.

Russia has said China is largely ''in agreement'' over Ukraine, after other world powers condemned Moscow for sending troops into the country. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov discussed Ukraine by telephone with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, and claimed they had ''broadly coinciding points of view'' on the situation. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said: ''China has always upheld the principles of diplomacy and the fundamental norms of international relations.'' But he added, ''At the same time we also take into consideration the history and the current complexities of the Ukrainian issue.''

It's a sinister reminder for the West that the rest of the world doesn't think force is a bad thing. While most advanced economies have been cutting back on defence, the Russian Federation has embarked on the greatest expansion of its military since the end of the Cold War. Putin's latest move is further proof that he is prepared to use force to reassert Russian influence within the boundaries of the former Soviet Union - a chilling reality for not just Ukraine but for other Eastern European and Central Asian states. It is also a reminder for a complacent European Union that old-fashioned power politics in Eurasia is not merely a thing of the past but alive and all too well.

Russia's military invasion of Georgia showed that Putin was willing to use force against peripheral states moving against Russian interests. Georgia provides a predictable strategy for Russian response to the loss of Ukraine to Europe: invade on the pretext of protecting a Russian minority. After all, there the EU and US proved powerless to stop the forcible change of Georgia's sovereign borders by force. Reluctant to characterise the Russian military push - a flagrant breach of Ukraine's sovereignty and international law - as a hostile action, the Obama administration chose to term it laughingly as an ''uncontested arrival'', similarly the most startling US foreign policy euphemism since the ''war on terror'' was renamed an ''overseas contingency operation.''

The Way I See It.....the Left, of which Barack Obama is graduate member, (see previous 3 serial posts titled Barack Obama's Un-Holy Trinity (Mentors of Ill-Repute) parts 1,2 & 3 - August, 2012- for enlightenment), have argued for many years for disarmament of the West, can now see what they have wrought. Who now can stand against Russia and China, who have far fewer reservations about the use of force. Obama will not change. We have seen a lot of this and we're going to see more. Besides Russia and China you have Syria, the Egyptian generals, (Hamid Karzi in Afghanistan, Iran within Iraq, Hezbollah - you can keep rattling them off. Everyone is reacting to this weakness.

Next, China might seize the Senkaku, also known as the Diayou, islands from Japan; Iran might judge that the cost of acquiring nuclear weapons would be bearable; North Korea might flex its muscles again; Assad's Syria has no obvious need to come to the table. A vacuum has been created - and is starting to be filled by leaders with far fewer scruples about using force. China is watching the US reaction. What would it conclude about the US's readiness to defend Taiwan????

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Putin Pissed at Political Cold Shoulder: Ukraine Pays !

The Valdimir Putin era in Russia, now in its 15th year, has given birth to the ongoing diplomatic challenge of reading what's going on behind the Kremlin leader's steely eyes. George W. Bush famously perceived ''something trustworthy and sympathetic'' in 2001, while former defence Secretary Robert Gates, in his memoir ''Duty", recalls seeing ''a stone-cold killer.''  The Russian President many seem to many like an unbending autocrat, but in fact Putin has never in his career shown himself to be more susceptible to Western influence than he has during the run-up to the Winter Games in Sochi.

As the Games approached, Putin granted many of the West's most pressing demands. He freed nearly all Russia's most prominent political prisoners -- environmental activists, Pussy Riot, oligarchs turned democrats and street protestors. That still left the U.S. and Europe criticizing Russia's discriminatory law against homosexual ''propaganda'' directed at minors. But Putin eased up on that too, thinking he had earned much diplomatic credit with the West for hosting Sochi and for his acts of conciliation. So far, he has received none. What he got for his efforts was the West's informal boycott of the Games and the most prominent statesman not showing up. That was a mistake!

The closing ceremony attendance by Americas delegation wasn't much better. President Obama could've sent Joe Biden but no, he sent Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul and to gay previous medal winners instead. That would've compounded further annoyance on his mind during the ceremonies in Sochi of the upheaval underway 250 miles to the west, the distance to the border between Russia and Ukraine -- where Viktor Yanukovich's government had just been toppled. As Putin sat in his guarded box in Fisht Olympic Stadium, he no doubt reflected on all the sweat and treasure he poured into these Games and who his friends are. A nice photo opt would have let him feel like he is part of the European family at the very moment he craves acceptance to most. After all his good faith gestures, he still was treated like an outcast.

So, is it no surprise that Putin's penchant for using armed force in what is beginning to look like a 21st century version of the ''Great Game.'' Ukrainian officials reported that unmarked Russian soldiers had seized two airfields in Crimea and condemned Russia for committing an act of occupation. This is the second time in six years that Putin has exerted Russian hard power to intimidate a neighbouring country. In August 2008, Putin punished and weakened the pro-Western government in Tbilisi by sending Russian armoured columns into Georgia, ostensibly to ''protect'' and ultimately to ''liberate'' the secessionist enclave of South Ossetia.

The bullying of the Georgian and Ukrainian governments reflect not just Putin's worldview, motives and methods but those that have predominated for centuries in the country he rules. This mentality went back to the czars -- and one uniquely acquisitive czarina, Catherine the Great, whose reign from 1762 to 1796 is often regarded as Russia's golden age. ''I have no way to defend my borders,'' she is reputed to have said as her armies gobbled up much of Eurasia, ''except to extend them.'' Russia was not unique in adopting the principle that the best defense is a good offense. But over the centuries, it felt itself uniquely vulnerable -- to Swedes and others from the north, Mongols from the East, Napolean and Hitler to other great powers. The more of Russia's periphery its rulers could conquer, the fewer and the further away from Moscow their enemies would be. The result was the largest territorial empire in history and the largest state on the planet today.

History tells us that the Ukraine has as special emotional grip on every Russian. The Kievan Rus, a loose assemblage of Slavic tribes in the Middle Ages, became the cradle of Russian civilization. And of all the regions in Ukraine, Crimea was the object of the most resentment and nostalgia in Russia. In 1954, Nikita Khruschev transferred Crimea from the Russian Federation to Ukraine as a gift on the 300th anniversary of Ukraine's absorption into the czarist empire. At the time, it was a symbolic gesture, since Ukraine was, like the rest of the Soviet Union, governed from Moscow. The Crimean port city of Sevastpol was home to the Soviet Baltic fleet. Odessa, Yalta, and other seaside towns were retirement communities for the Soviet military. Hence the heavy concentration of transplanted Russians, as well as Russian-speaking Ukrainians, in Crimea today.

Putin is, at a minimum, dangerously close to violating a compact signed under President Clinton, where Russia promised to respect the ''sovereignty and territorial'' integrity'' of Ukraine. So much for the spirit of the Olympic Games and its celebration of international goodwill, friendly competition and playing by the rules. Putin seems to believe that Mother Russia has the right and obligation to protect ''her children'' in what post-Soviet Russians have called ''the near-abroad.'' That is a code word for what Putin sees as Russia's
sphere of influence and a no-go zone for the NATO and the European Union. Therein lies a profound irony. Putin, like many of his countrymen, is convinced that the West, institutionalized in NATO and the EU, constitutes a strategic threat to Russia. In fact, the West and the North are the only points of the compass that do not point to danger of radical Islamics.

The Way I See It.....the number one threat to Russia's sustainability as a unified state is internal: the combination of a demographic time bomb (low birth rates among Slavs and high rates among undesirable ethnic groups), an intractable public health crisis (high smoking and alcoholism), a failure to modernize the economy, and Putin's ''vertical power'' -- a euphemism for authoritarianism --makes efficient, transparent, accountable, and democratic governance impossible.

This has now led to a final irony. One key goal of Putin's foreign policy has been to prevent Western powers for bringing about regime-change -- especially when the regime in question has ties to Moscow. Yet in the most precious part of the near-abroad there was regime-change in Keiv. It wasn't caused by Western meddling, as the Russians claim. It was caused when Yanukovich, with the evident support from Moscow, resorted to violent tactics and escalating brutality against the people-power movement. Ukrainians came together in outrage and opposition -- not just to Yanukovich but to his backer in the Kremlin.

With film director and ex-supporter Oliver Stone's comment that ''Obama is a weak and spine-less man.'' still ringing in this ears, and 2000 Russian troops invading the Crimean Ukraine, you would think President Barack Obama would have had a sense of aggressive urgency.  But no, his statement to the media was that ''the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.''   Charles Krauthammer, political commentator on Fox News, responded on Special Report last night saying, ''The Ukrainians and I think everybody is shocked by the weakness of Obama's statement. I find it rather staggering.''

Krauthammer thinks Obama's comment is about ''three levels removed'' from actual action. He explained: Obama said ''we will stand with the international community -- meaning we are going to negotiate with a dozen other pussy countries who will water down the statement -- in affirming that there will be costs.  What he's saying is we're not really going to do anything and we're telling the world.....with Putin all ears.''  Once again I can see Vald, the master strategist, skating rings around the feckless West.