Khodorkovsky Speaks on the War in Ukraine

Russian Opposition figure Mikhail Khodorkovsky says:

️ Putin spends about $120bn a year on the war – 5.4% of Russia’s $2.2 trillion GDP – with the most commonly used Russian shell costing about $500

️ European aid to Kyiv over two years amounts to $88bn – about 0.25% of the EU’s GDP – with shells that cost between $5,000 and $8,0002

️ This means that, if we include the American contribution, Putin is outproducing the West by at least 2.5:1. This year, without US support, that ratio jumps to 4:1

️ At the start of the war, Russia’s population was 142 million to Ukraine’s 40 million – a ratio of about 3.5:1. Now, two years later, that ratio is  7:1. And yet, we demand that Ukraine continue to fight on – but with what?

️ At the current rate, Kharkiv will fall within the year, and Odesa – next year. By 2026, Ukraine will be capable only of maintaining a small-scale partisan resistance – and that is in the best case scenario

Sergey Markov comments:
Khodorkovsky’s forecast. If all trends continue, Ukraine will lose Kharkov by the end of 2024, and Odessa by mid-2025. From the end of 2026, all of Ukraine will pass to Russia. And Lvov will remain outside of Russia only if Poland sends troops there.

In fact, this is what Khodokovsky is calls for. This is  in an interview with Bild.

In this case, Khodorkovsky simply conveys those conversations that Western politicians do not say publicly. They consider this a disaster and figure out how to avoid this disaster.

There are 3 options. 1. Send troops to Ukraine. 2. Offer a truce. 3, help Ukraine organize a massive terrorist war in all regions of Russia. The third option is the most likely.

Ukraine Declares General Mobilization

Today, May 18, Ukraine is officially turning into a concentration camp. The most severe law on general mobilization comes into force. 1. The main goal of the law is to make Ukraine ready for a long war with Russia. 2. All men from 18 to 60 must indicate their place of residence themselves.
3. Mobilization summonses are considered served without actual delivery. And then criminal liability begins.
4. Dodgers lose their rights, including driving a car and receiving documents at the consulate. And many others. 5. All prisoners are in the army by order.
6. All disabled people of groups 2 and 3 go to military medical examinations again. And there new rules were adopted, so that 90 percent of disabled people go to the front. 7. Women also become liable for military service.
8. There are very complicated rules everywhere. 25 million Ukrainians are now sitting and reading complex instructions. 9. The law comes into force two days before the end of Zelensky’s powers. 10. The United States demanded the adoption of this law.

Florida Condo Prices in Free Fall

Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk.com,

Have a Florida condo? Can you afford a $100,000 or higher special assessment for new safety standards?

After the collapse of a Surfside Building on June 24, 2021that killed 98 people, the state passed a structural safety law that is now biting owners.

Not only are insurance rates soaring, but owners are hit with huge special assessments topping $100,000.

New Florida Law Roils Its Condo Market

The Wall Street Journal reports New Florida Law Roils Its Condo Market

Condo inventory for sale in South Florida has more than doubled since the first quarter of last year, to more than 18,000 units. While the sharp rise in Florida home insurance costs is driving some to sell, most of the units on the market are in buildings 30 years or older. Under the new law, buildings must pass milestone structural inspections no later than 30 years after they are built.

In Miami, about 38% of the housing stock is condos, the highest of any major metropolitan area in the U.S., according to Zillow. Of those buildings, nearly three-quarters are at least 30 years old. For those that have large repairs looming, many owners are scrambling to sell before Jan. 1 when building reserves must be fully funded to be in compliance with the law.

“I think this is just the beginning,” said Greg Main-Baillie, an executive managing director at real-estate firm Colliers, who oversees 40 condo renovation projects across the state.

Owners are struggling to find all-cash buyers because mortgage lenders are increasingly unwilling to take on the risk associated with these units. “It’s not the buyers that aren’t qualifying,” said Craig Studnicky, chief executive at ISG World. “It’s the buildings that aren’t qualifying.”

State law previously allowed condos to waive reserve funding year after year, leading many buildings, including the nearly 50-year-old Cricket Club, to keep next to nothing in their coffers. Now, about 40 units in the building of 220 are listed for sale but are seeing little interest.

“These units are practically being given away,” said Sari Papir, a retired real-estate agent who has lived in the Cricket Club with her partner Shaul Szlaifer since 2018. “Even if we found a buyer, what could we buy with the pennies we’d receive for our unit?”

Some are worried developers may already be purchasing condos in the building for a potential takeover, where a developer tries to gain control of a building to knock it down and build a newer, more luxurious one. These condo terminations are happening up and down the state’s coastline. While the rules can vary by building, if enough people vote to sell their units, the others have to follow along.

No Way to Escape the Assessment

Those who cannot sell and don’t have the special assessment, will be evicted and their units seized for whatever the Associations can get for them.

South Florida listings have doubled in the past year to over 18,000. Few of those units will sell, and those that do sell will be at a huge haircut.

The Journal noted the plight of Ivan Rodriguez who liquidated his 401K to buy a condo for $190,000. He then faced a $134,000 special assessment. Eventually he sold the unit for $110,000.

Got the Insurance Blues?

Auto insurance is up more than 20 percent from a year ago. In many places, private home insurance isn’t available at all. Consumers are steaming.

Insurance data from the BLS, chart by Mish

On February 17, 2024 I asked Got the Insurance Blues? Auto and Home Insurance Costs are Soaring

Car insurance is on an amazing run. For 13 straight months, insurance is up at least 1.0 percent. For 20 straight months car insurance is up at least 0.7 percent.

Home insurance, if you can get it at all from any private insurer, is also rising at a fast clip.

If you live in a flood zone, hurricane zone, or fire zone, insurance may be very difficult to get.

Proposition 103 Backfires, State Farm to Cancel 72,000 California Policies

Citing wildfire risk, State Farm will not renew policies on 30,000 homes and 42,000 business in California. Blame the state, not insurers.

On March 26, I noted Proposition 103 Backfires, State Farm to Cancel 72,000 California Policies

Proposition 103 limited the annual increases of insurance companies. State Farm responded by cancelling 72,000 policies.

The Idiot’s Response

Carmen Balber, the executive director of Consumer Watchdog, said “The industry is not going to start covering Californians again without a mandate.”

That is why we think the legislature needs to step in and require insurance companies to cover people.

Force companies to cover people. What a hoot. The insurers would all leave and everyone would be on the “FAIR” plan.

Think!

Think carefully about where you want to live. And if it’s a condo, you better be prepared for huge special assessments.

Andrey Belousov’s Plan for Russia’s War Economy

As Putin’s adviser on economics, Andrey Belousov proposed increasing the role of the state in the economy. He was a monetarist in his youth and became a Keynesian. And he suggested that the state should subjugate big business.

In the West, the main explanation for the appointment of Belousov as Minister of Defense is that Putin is preparing for a long war, and for this Belousov will rebuild the entire Russian economy in a military format. Everyone in the media asks about this. Will there be a long war?

Russia does not want a long war. But to avoid a long war, you need to be very well prepared for a long war. Otherwise, the West will never stop the war against Russia.
Therefore, Belousov’s task is to create a modern Russian army with which the West would not want to fight, but to make peace.

Belousov is a “military Keynesian,” his informal ideological name. Military Keynesians say that during a war you need to throw a lot of money into the military-industrial complex and this will be very beneficial for economic growth. And after the war, carry out the conversion of technologies from the military-industrial complex to civilian industries and thus again give impetus to economic growth and a technological breakthrough. Sounds very reasonable.

Nord Stream Gas Pipeline Attack – Another Theory

Here is one theory:

Terrorist attack on the Nord Stream gas pipeline. An “investigation” is underway. What is the picture now?
1. Chief coordinator of the terrorist attack, Deputy US Ambassador to Ukraine Christopher Smith. After the terrorist attack, he was promoted to the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.
2. A group of former Ukrainian intelligence officers was created for the terrorist attack itself. 3. The group was directly led by Roman Chervinsky.
4. General management – former head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine Vasily Burba.
5. Kirill Budanov, the current head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, actively participated. 6. The group was trained in the Zhytomyr region, in a deep-sea quarry.
7. At the second stage, the group worked at a military base in Romania in the city of Mangalia. 8. Equipment and technical guidance were provided by US intelligence officers. 9. The yacht Andromeda was rented from Poland for the terrorist attack.
10. The mines were directly installed by Oleg Varrava, from the main police department of Kyiv, Ruslan Rudenko, former deputy mayor of the city of Bila Tserkva, and a still unknown diver with the call sign “Marisha”. All mercenaries.
11. A terrorist attack scheme was chosen with the help of mercenaries and retired officers in order to simulate a terrorist attack not as a state attack, but as an “activist” one.
12. Thus, the organizers of the terrorist attack are the intelligence services of the United States and Ukraine, with the complicity of the intelligence services of Poland and Romania.
13. The top leadership of the USA, Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Germany, Sweden, and Denmark can be considered accomplices in the terrorist attack. They all know who carried out the terrorist attack, but they are trying to hide the criminals from their citizens.

Quote from Andrey Belousov, Russia’s New Defense Minister

An interesting quote by the new Russian Minister of Defence Andrey Belousov: ‘By preserving traditional values of the West, which are originally the values of Western Christian European civilization, Russia can become a guardian of these values. This may seem like a paradoxical idea, but it is nonetheless true. Therefore, it is incorrect to say that the West is our enemy.’

Western Police Beating Own Citizens in the Name of Israel

Amsterdam, 2024: Police Officers Assault Their Own Citizens in the Name of Israel. Medieval.

If this had happened in Iran, Russia or China, these scenes would have made international news and Western governments would have risen up in protest and anger.

‘Rules-based’ western democracy in action.

What Does it Take to Be Middle Class in the US These Days?

by Gabrielle Olya Edited by Gary Dudak via gobankingrates

Over the last decade, the household income needed to be a part of the middle class has increased significantly. In 2012, a household income of $35,364 qualified you as a member of the middle class in the U.S.; in 2022, $50,099 was the lowest minimum household income threshold.

It also takes a lot more to reach the next level of wealth. In 2012, the highest household income considered to be middle class was $106,092, but as of 2022, that high end of the middle-class household income spectrum had reached $150,298. Overall, the household income required to be considered middle class in the U.S. has increased by 41.67% during that time frame.

However, the shifts in middle-class household income requirements have not been the same in every state. In some states, the household income range of the middle class hasn’t increased quite as much as the national average. On the other hand, it’s shot up by as much as 53.15% in one state.

To find the household income needed to be middle class in each state, GOBankingrates defined “middle class” as those with an annual household income that is two-thirds to double the median income.

Here’s a look at how much the definition of middle class has changed in every state from 2012 to 2022. States are ranked by largest to smallest percentage change.

Key Findings

  • Mississippi has the lowest household income needed to be middle class. As of 2022, a $35,323 salary is considered middle class in the state.
  • Maryland has the highest household income needed to be middle class. As of 2022, $65,641 is the lowest household income that qualifies you to be considered middle class in the state.
  • The definition of the middle class has changed the least in Alaska. The household income needed to be middle class in Alaska has increased by just 23.53% from 2012 to 2022.
  • In Oregon, the household income needed to be middle class has increased by 53.15% from 2012 to 2022 — the biggest increase of any state.

Read more here https://www.gobankingrates.com

What if Russia Does Not Win the Ukraine War Soon?

There are disturbing signs that the West is serious about making this a “forever war.” The idea is even worse than it looks at first sight.

By TARIK CYRIL AMAR

Tarik Cyril Ama is s historian from Germany working at Koç University, Istanbul, on Russia, Ukraine, and Eastern Europe, the history of World War II, the cultural Cold War, and the politics of memory

https://tarikcyrilamar.substack.com/p/what-if-russia-does-not-win-the-ukraine

At this moment (and for quite a while already), Russia clearly has the initiative in the war between it, on one side, and Ukraine and – de facto – the West on the other. High Ukrainian officials and military officers – including the commander-in-chief Oleksandr Syrsky and the deputy head of Kiev’s military intelligence service Vadim Skibitsky – are admitting publicly that their country is in deep trouble. Realistic observers in the West, such as Brian Berletic and the Duran’s Alexander Mercouris and Alex Christoforou, correctly point out that the West’s injections of aid cannot turn this situation around, partly because there is no way to compensate for Kiev’s lack of manpower and partly because the West itself does not, actually, have industrial resources to render support at a scale that would make an effective difference.

We also know that Russia has built up large reserves, which it has not yet committed to the fight. Moreover, there has been an intriguing shift in Russian terminology: While the term “offensive” has been avoided for a long time – with Russia categorizing its territorial gains as the result of a strategy of “active defense” – it has now popped up officially. The Russian Minister of Defense is reported to have spoken of the need to step up supplies to the front in order to “maintain the required pace of the offensive.” This may or may not have been a deliberate signal. It could also be a simple way to keep Ukraine and the West guessing. Yet, taken together with recent Russian advances and other operations – such as air strikes on Odessa and Kharkov/Kharkiv – it could mean that Moscow will launch a major offensive either this spring or summer, as many observers are expecting.

In one scenario, then, the war could end this year, with a Russian victory. The extent and precise political shape of that victory cannot be predicted. Capturing all of Ukraine east of the Dnepr/Dnipro River (plus those parts of the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions (oblasts) to its west? Seizing major cities such as Odessa and Kharkiv? Another strike at the capital Kiev/Kyiv? Likewise, we can’t forecast what kind of Ukraine would emerge from such a Russian victory: A neutralized and regime-changed rump state? A rump state bent on revenge and continuously subsidized by the West?

In a highly unlikely – given the West’s persistent refusal to consider a real compromise as a way out – the war could end with a negotiated peace, which, given the realities on the ground, would have to be shaped in Russia’s favor and thus would amount to victory by another name.

But it would be unwise to rule out a third possibility. It is true, that the West does not have the means to make Ukraine win. Yet it is crucial to distinguish between this fact and what Western leaderships are ready to acknowledge. The West, in short, is not rational, and it has displayed an enormous capacity for wishful thinking.

Hence, we should pay close attention to signs that the West is seeking to prolong this unnecessary war for years by any means it can. Recently, in particular, there have been several such worrying signs. Here, I would like to highlight three of them:

First, the Biden administration National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has declared that Ukraine should, in essence, hold out this year, so that in 2025, the West can use it again to launch another offensive against Russia. The Ukrainian president Volodymyr/Vladimir Zelensky has also spoken of trying to attack again, provided his country will receive more Western weapons. Both statements are unrealistic – not a first from either Sullivan or Zelensky – suggestion, but let’s set that aside for a moment. Our question here is what harm policies based on unrealistic assumptions can still do.

Second, the Italian newspaper Republicca has published an article – most likely based on deliberate leaks – that purports to report internal NATO thinking on “red lines” in Ukraine. That is, under what circumstances NATO would intervene directly – and, conversely, under what circumstances it would not do so. In essence, the reported “red lines” – as summarized in the Ukrainian publication Strana.ua boil down to two: NATO, so this article claims, considers intervening directly, if Belarus joins the war on Russia’s side (or if Russia launches another major attack from Belarussian territory) or if Russia goes beyond Ukraine’s borders to attack either a NATO member state (duh, frankly) or Moldova, which is not a member but a target of NATO expansion policy. Once again, let’s not immediately get sidetracked by dismissing these purported NATO “red lines” as nothing but a reflection of NATO’s exaggerated sense of its own capacities. They may well be that, but that does not mean that they are not meant seriously or that they can’t do great damage. As they are, they seem to reflect a desire to keep the war in Ukraine and to deter Russia from one of its most devastating conventional options, namely a fresh strike on Kiev/Kyiv from Belarus. That points to an intention to both “cage the war in” and keep it going.

Third, the USA is continuing its push to confiscate Russian state assets of about 300 billion dollars that are currently frozen in Western banks. It has not yet succeeded in persuading the Europeans to join this operation, and on its own, Washington cannot seize – really, steal – more than a few billion. It is, however, the intention that counts here, and that is to find the equivalent of a fairytale pot of gold to go on paying for the proxy war in Ukraine.

Taken together, such Western signals remain hard to read with confidence: They could be no more than a façade of bluffs, meant to distract Russia from pursuing its clear advantage on the ground to full extent. In that interpretation, this is, in essence, a desperate West trying to cheat its way out of a clear, incontrovertible, and very discrediting defeat.

Yet, despite the fact that all of these ideas are deeply unsound, they could also reflect an earnest intention to drag this war out. Behind this could be an idea that Russia’s successful economic mobilization also has costs and may, in its current form, not be sustainable for years. That is, incidentally, the message of a recent Financial Times article that, we may be confident, does not lack political inspiration. The key fantasy here is, in short, to make the war last long enough so that the West can turn the logic of attrition against Russia.

Once again, the key question – in terms of the harm all of this can do – is not, actually, if it could “work.” It very probably cannot. The key question, instead, is what can happen while the West tries such a policy, and it fails. And there the greatest single risk is that if Moscow should ever come to believe that the West might succeed in applying a new combination of proxy war and long-term attrition, it would be sorely tempted to cut that scheme short, including by a limited nuclear strike to make clear that it will simply not accept such “new rules of the game.”

Once a “small” nuke is used, there is, of course, no telling where the escalation will end. It is a bizarre idea to think that we could end much of humanity because Ukraine needed to have an “open door” to NATO through which, however, it was not really supposed to actually ever walk.

I started writing this post before I saw a new piece of news: The Russian President has just ordered forces near Ukraine to drill for the launch of tactical nuclear weapons. I cannot say I am surprised. But we should all be very scared indeed. And, ideally, we should finally sit down and negotiate a realistic compromise.