Venezuela: Even Fellow Socialists in S.A. Embarrassed

It’s pretty bad when the collective socialist States of South America think you have gone too far:

https://www.yahoo.com/news/venezuela-threatens-withdraw-oas-regional-070427272.html

Venezuela threatens to withdraw from OAS regional group as pressure mounts on President Maduro
[International Business Times]

Nandini Krishnamoorthy
International Business Times April 26, 2017

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez on Tuesday (25 April) threatened that the strife-torn nation could pull out of the Organization of American States (OAS) if the group goes ahead with a possible foreign ministers meeting to discuss Venezuela’s current political unrest, which has worsened over the past three weeks.

Rodriguez told state TV that President Nicolas Maduro had instructed her to initiate Venezuela’s withdrawal from the organisation if it holds the meeting on the Venezuelan crisis without the ruling Socialist Party’s backing.

In the recent times, the Maduro-led socialist government and the OAS have not been on the same page. The regional body even called for the suspension of Venezuela from the group at the earliest. The measures were urged over Maduro’s failure in meeting with the demands of millions of citizens to hold general elections as soon as possible.

Like all good Socialists, can’t stand criticism and likes using force to maintain power even when doing a lousy job of running the place.

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Is it hot snow?

Sometimes I wonder about things. Especially when 2 different claims are made that seem contradictory.

This year, yet again, we are being told it is the hottest ever snd with the least snow and ice cover in the arctic. Then I look at this map:

2017 April 23 Snow Anomaly

2017 April 23 Snow Anomaly

From: https://www.ccin.ca/home/ccw/snow/current

Do note that the red lines do not mean warm. They outline normal snow locations.

I also note that the California mountains look a bit lite on snow cover compared to local news reports of record ever in some places, but who knows…

With all that said, there is s LOT of blue and green, meaning excess snow.

One wonders how it can be so warm when covered in snow… ,

Perhaps it is a very warm snow…

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French Election Round One

An open discussion page for the French Election Round One.

Looks like about 2 PM ET or about 11 AM PT for the first exit poll results (on Sunday). After 8 PM Paris time poll closings.

The top 4 candidates include 2 who are quasi-anti-EU. This could encourage a Frexit movement. Then there are two others, including the one given the best chance of winning round 2 ( IFF he survives round one…) who is pro-EU.

The 4 of them are at 20% +/- a point or two, and only the top two proceed (per what I’ve read), so anything could happen.

Marine Le Pen impresses me as a French Female Trump in policies.

It is possible that both the Euro and the EU hang on this election. Or nothing could change much.

https://secure.marketwatch.com/story/when-are-the-french-election-results-out-on-sunday-2017-04-20

By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch

All eyes are on France this week

Investors are nervously counting down to the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday, which has raised worries it may rattle the foundations of the European Union.

Polls are still nail-bitingly tight, so the election result is far from as clear-cut as it has looked in previous years.

The first exit polls from French media are published when the last polling stations close at 8 p.m. Paris time , or 2 p.m. Eastern Time, and should give a fairly accurate picture of which two candidates have won the most support. Those two will compete in a runoff vote on Sunday, May 7 and the winner will become France’s next president.

French law prohibits local media from publishing exit polls before 8 p.m., but indications may leak out earlier Sunday if foreign media carry out their own surveys. The final result usually becomes clear around midnight (6 p.m. Eastern).
[…]
The race is effectively down to four candidates, each currently polling at around 20% support. Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen are the favorites to win the first round and meet in the runoff vote in May.

However, after a late-campaign surge in support for scandal-ridden conservative candidate François Fillon and far-left euroskeptic Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the election is still seen as an open contest.

Read: How to dazzle voters on the campaign trail? Upstart French candidate turns to holograms

“Investors (and French voters) are getting worried about a ‘nightmare’ scenario in which Le Pen faces Mélenchon on 7 May, leaving them with a hard choice between two anti-globalization, anti-EU and pro-Russia candidates,”
Citigroup said.

Nightmare, or dreams of Liberté?

For me, those results are tomorrow just before noon. For others, there may be lots of interesting bits “break” while I’m sleeping. So I’m putting up this fairly lite posting as a place to discuss it “while it happens” even if I’m not awake yet or paying attention.

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LatAm, Canal 26, Argentina Protests, Venezuelan Mess

I first started watching events in Argentina about a week ago. I’d discovered a channel on the Roku named “LATAM” that has a selection of Latin American news. Along with Telemundo and Brazil, it has a Venezuelan news channel and “Canal 26” from Argentina. That night, on the Argentine news, was coverage of a wage strike to be held for one day, the next day, by teachers wanting a wage hike.

Today, the Reuters channel on the Roku covered news of more wage protests and strikes in Argentina. Well, at the point where it is reaching Reuters, I suppose it is of more general interest.

Tuning in today to Canal 26, they covered the wage protests some, but then went on to more “happy talk” programs (near as I could tell it was about the actors in a romance show, but I couldn’t tell if it was a movie or TV series). The Venezuelan channel covered it a bit too, but only obliquely. Nicaraguan TV was showing a local baseball game (no team I’d ever heard of and attendance was very low, lots of empty bleachers, but the play was good…)

Now the reason I find this experience compelling is simple: You learn things NOT reported. Things like: Nicaragua doesn’t give a tinkers damn about the goings on in Venezuela and Argentina. Even Argentine news seems to see it as more of “the usual and expected” than some great crisis. Venezuelan news has that formal not-quite-stilted manner of all Communist News shows. Things carefully manicured to The Narrative.

For those who don’t know, Maduro, the present President of Venezuela, tried to do a “Me & The People!” show of popular support. It didn’t work out well:

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-idUSKBN17D2F3

Wed Apr 12, 2017 | 10:27 AM EDT
Venezuela’s Maduro jeered by crowd as unrest grows

Venezuelans jeer President Maduro as unrest grows

By Maria Ramirez and Alexandra Ulmer | SAN FELIX, Venezuela/CARACAS

Angry Venezuelans threw objects at President Nicolas Maduro during a rally on Tuesday, as protests mount against the unpopular leftist leader amid a brutal economic crisis and what critics say is his lurch into dictatorship.

State television footage showed a crowd mobbing the vehicle that Maduro was standing on as he waved goodbye at the end of a military event in San Felix, in the south-eastern state of Bolivar. Amid the commotion, people threw objects at Maduro, who was wearing a traditional Venezuelan suit and a yellow-blue-red presidential sash, while his bodyguards scrambled.

The state broadcaster then halted transmission.

In a separate video shared on social media, voices yelling “Damn you!” were heard as the vehicle apparently transporting Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader, tried to make its way through the crowd.

Note the State broadcaster cutting transmission and yet “Social Media” gets out anyway and has the reality…

This wasn’t the first time:

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/04/world/americas/venezuelan-president-is-chased-by-angry-protesters.html

Venezuelan President Is Chased by Angry Protesters

By NICHOLAS CASEYSEPT. 3, 2016

So at least 1/2 a year…

Now the protests are so large, counted in the tens of thousands officially, so likely even larger, and completely taking over whole freeways / avenues, that it can’t be ignored. So what did the Venezuelan news show?

They actually showed the marchers and the completely full major roads, with a ‘crawler’ that I’m pretty sure said something like “protesters moving freely” in the city, as though it were being allowed instead of tolerated due to inability to stop it. That itself is interesting news…

Meanwhile Maduro was on (some other USA news channel) saying how he was sure that this was all just a USA / CIA driven attempt to subvert his government and stop the revolution (or some such… hey, it was mix of him speaking Spanish and the translation being ‘free’ over the top of it and my so-so hearing has trouble unscrambling the two language at the same time…) I suppose the fact that the people of Venezuela are starving has nothing at all to do with their protests asking for a job and / or food… /sarc;

Oh, and Venezuela nationalized the GM factory there. They have not assembled any cars there since 2015 due to the political environment and government making a mess of the economy, so nobody can buy one, but hey, the Government can run it now. Of course, figuring out how to make cars with no inventory of parts will be an interesting exercise. That, and no electricity to run it, and no money for wages, and no food for the workers, and… But I’m sure The Government will realize all that in “due time”…

The bit that interested me, though, was the indirect things you can pick up from the Local News. For one, the image was much lower resolution than the Nicaraguan feed that was nice high def image. Now if Nicaragua and Argentine can managed much better equipment and bandwidth being not-so-hot economies themselves, Venezuela must be way far into the toilet. Also the Venezuela feed would run for about 2 minutes, then go to “downloading, please wait” for an indefinite period. I began to just exit and relaunch it as that restart was quicker. They are having “issues” with connectivity, IMHO.

Then the announcer was clearly well fed, and NOT going to risk anything. Perfunctorily reading news with that flat “I Know NOTHING!” presentation of a guy who could read “The USA has been bombed and subjugated by The People’s Venezuelan Victory Force. Long live Maduro.” without a hint of surprise, doubt, or incredulity, and about as much emotion as reading “Coffee futures were flat today”…

All manicured and equally dead.

Meanwhile, the Nicaraguans were clearly having a great time (at least the ones calling the game… one guy tried to bunt and popped up, flied out. The excitement by the announcer even got me interested and I didn’t even know who was playing whom…).

The Argentine news was interesting. The announcer of the news clearly was not happy about the need to have protests for wages. That vague undertone to the voice that says “I know folks who have been hurting, but all I can do is report the news”. The folks doing the “happy talk” show having a great time getting excited about the diversions that were available (and celebrity is often about that.) One unexpected bit is that I could hear a slight Italian influence / accent in the Argentine Spanish. A large number of Italians emigrated to Argentina when the Irish were headed to the USA (and after; even up to W.W.II era) and it seems to have left an imprint on the local dialect. Not much, just a bit more song and less trilled R and clipped consonants. I’m thinking I’m going to watch them a lot more and try to adopt that accent as I like it more ;-) It’s a more European sound (but NOT Castilian Spanish with the lisp…)

Basically, just the manner of the presentation and the “set dressing” and how much at liberty the various “talent” is to create their “show” comes through. You get a very real feel for the people, and that gives context to The Story.

For those wishing a bit of background on Argentine wage issues, but without the Spanish immersion:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/06/argentina-strike-labor-unions-austerity-wages-inflation

This is from Reuters via The Guardian. I’d rather quote the Reuters article directly, but it loves to toss the R. Pi into the “mobile” version and I can’t get it to stop… so the link ends up not being exactly the one I’m quoting, or you get a ‘mobile’ link on a non-mobile device… Bolding mine.

Reuters in Buenos Aires

Thursday 6 April 2017 10.27 EDT

Police and protesters clash as worker strike paralyzes Argentina

Truck and bus drivers, teachers, government customs agents and others march on Buenos Aires as labor unions demand higher wages in line with inflation

Protesters in Argentina have clashed with police during marches over government austerity measures as labor unions challenged the president, Mauricio Macri, in the first general strike since he took office 16 months ago.

Security forces used high-powered water cannon and teargas to control picketers who had blocked the Pan-American Highway, the main road leading from the north to capital city Buenos Aires, where normally bustling streets were half-empty and businesses were closed.

“No customs officials are here, so there will be no exports or imports today,” said Guillermo Wade, manager of the maritime chamber at Argentina’s main grain hub of Rosario. The country is the world’s top exporter of soymeal livestock feed and the third-largest supplier of soybeans.

Macri, a proponent of free markets, took office in December 2015. He eliminated currency and trade controls and cut government spending, including gas subsidies, a move that sparked steep increases in home heating bills.

Protesters are also clamoring for wage increases in line with inflation, which was clocked at 40% last year and is expected at about 20% in 2017.

“The situation is dramatic,” Julio Piumato, a spokesman for the labor umbrella group CGT, said in a telephone interview.

“Wealth is being concentrated in the hands of a few at the same rate that poverty is growing,” he said. “Urgent measures are needed to create employment. One out of every three Argentinians is poor.”

A poll last month showed that for the first time since Macri took office, more Argentinians disapprove than approve of his performance.

He was elected after more than a decade of populist rule left Argentina with rampant inflation, dwindling central bank reserves and a wide fiscal deficit.

As they have an economy that was run into the ditch by “populist rule”, a sudden application of “austerity” and realizing that you not only must live within your means, but make up for prior high use of the National Credit Card, comes as a shock to those who want to have everything without necessarily producing enough profit to pay for it.

While I’m no fan of inflation, it is THE most common way to repudiate the past debts while still nominally paying them off and not being in official default. It’s the huge spending in excess of income that’s the root cause, but that is years in the past so largely forgotten by those feeling present pain.

Sadly, I’m pretty sure this scenario is what’s in store for the EU and the USA given current debt patterns. (Though who gets there first is still a bit up in the air). That, IMHO, is just why it matters to look at and watch Argentina.

When your economy is growing at 1% / year, and you have wage increases of 3% / year, that excess accumulates as a problem. Then, when it must be rebalanced, either you accept that you do NOT get any raise for years or by necessity the monetary officials will do the same thing via inflation. Often the excesses were more like 10% wage hikes and 20% benefits promises with a stagnant or shrinking economy. After a few years, you are 50% to 100% “in the hole” and it takes a couple of years of 40% inflation to re-balance. But economies don’t function well at inflation over about 5%, and are seriously broken in hyperinflation ranges like 40%+, so things just spiral down the sewer in real terms while the nominal economy comes to balance.

Then you get marches, changing the political guard, replacement of currencies, etc. etc. IF you are lucky, you avoid a ‘revolution’. If not, you end up with a destroyed country and economy (wether by economic ruin or by war often depending on which neighbors can be attacked or what DemiGod rises to power and how psychopathic he / she might be…)

What is very clear is that for the present, nobody with any real money is going to be investing it in either Argentina or Venezuela. One is in economic free fall and headed for hyperinflation and the other one is… well, the same only more so with revolution against the revolutionary in the air.

But hey, there’s a good ball game on in Nicaragua… Even if “not many” could afford to buy a ticket…

Oh, wait:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014%E2%80%9315_Nicaraguan_protests

The 2014–16 Nicaraguan protests are a series of protests against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and actions performed by his government. The protests initiated when construction began on the Nicaraguan Canal, with several hundred protesters blocking roads and clashing with police during the groundbreaking of the canal. Since then, tens of thousands of Nicaraguans protested against President Ortega due to the canal and what they call a corrupt electoral system.

Oh Dear…

Maybe I’ll just go start the BBQ instead…

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Earth Day – The Green Faux Religion Pagan Knockoff Day

Welcome to Earth Day!

The Green Religion “knock off” of a pagan earth and life celebration “holiday”.

Given as the original Pagan rites were more appropriate to an actual appreciation of life and the earth that nurtures it, I would suggest a celebration more along those lines.

Activities such as:

A long “drive in the country” to appreciate the beauty and wealth of nature.

A barbecue or similar fire based feasting. Preferably involving grilled meat and good grog. (Hey, it’s the Pagan thing to do! Pig ribs and other ‘game’ bones found in abundance, often charred, at Pagan ritual sites… “ritual” also know as “Party at The Chief’s Place!! BYOB – Bring Your Own Boar…”

Since bonfires to light up the night are now likely to get you arrested in most urban or suburban areas (unless, of course, you are having a nice riot at Berkeley to protest folks who think) it is preferred now to run your home lighting and exterior lighting “full on” to drive away the dismal darkness… and the dismal dark souls…

That’s the short list, I’m sure folks can think of more ways to celebrate this Earth!

Had I time and ambition enough, and more friends to help, I’d have put a pig in the ground at Midnight for a slow roast Hawaiian Luau Pig… But as the spouse and I can barely get through one ham in a month or two, that’s a bit much. I suspect either a 1/2 ham, or maybe some lamb chops. I still have a bit of manzanita wood ( h/t P.G.) to use in the BBQ!

So enjoy this real pagan traditional approach to Earth Day. Celebrate the unending bounty of resources it supplies with a good old hoe down / bbq / party on / what floats your boat!

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Unlimiting Growth

Running Out!!!!

It is shouted by the modern day Chicken Littles of the world as though it were a sin to have breakfast since no chicken will ever lay another egg. Yet it begs the question:

Running out! of what? Exactly?

The claim is extended to a variety of resources. Everything from metals to ores to minerals and even food and water. Yet we don’t really care about things like hematite, we care about the iron we can extract from it. Or even more often, the things we can make from that iron and even more than that, the services we can perform with those objects made of iron.

Do I care about the hematite, the iron, or the knife?

The truth is that for most of us, we think about the set of kitchen knives and not very much at all about the iron in them.

So it isn’t a shortage of iron, so much as a shortage of kitchen knives that would cause us some grief.

When our old knives wear out, do they “go away”? And just where is “away”?

No, they stay right here on earth. They might be resharpened (perhaps after a visit to the Goodwill Store) or they might be recycled into a new set of knives (or even a new car). Even if we throw them away, over a much longer time period that iron will rust and return to the natural soils or the oceans and eventually become ore again. Geological processes have not stopped just because we exist. They are slower than our recycling processes, but they do still work.

So first off, we need to realize that what we are really caring about is various devices and services, not any particular element or material. Even then, the elements never “go away”.

For that reason alone, the Running Out! Scare is a broken concept. Simply because what is a resource changes over time. The devices we want, the materials we make them from, they are in constant flux. 3000 years ago, knives were bronze and copper was the important resource. Then the Iron Age came along when we started making them from Iron (copper having gotten a bit expensive). Eventually stainless steel. Now my kitchen knife set is made of a Zirconia ceramic. Does that mean Zircon is now Running Out!!!? Or does it just mean we can make knives from all sorts of metals and ceramics, as we feel like it, based on price and performance? The stone age did not end for lack of stones. Nor the Iron Age for lack of iron. Nor will the Space Age end for lack of space.

The simple fact is that “what is a resource?” depends only on our creativity in making things. Since creativity is unlimited, resources are also unlimited. We find ever better ways to extract various atoms from the earth around us, and ever more interesting things to make with them, at ever lower real costs. That is technological progress and it applies to raw material resources as well as to end products.

The Limits To Growth – Meadows et. al.

This book was written back in the ’70s. When it had currency, I studied it. Literally. There was an Economics class at my university that was entirely devoted to the study of that book and the various critiques of it.

The general motif of the book is a Computer Scare Story. They take the then-known economical to produce quantities of resources and did a linear projection of their extraction. Against this they plotted an expected exponential growth of demand from an expected exponential growth of population. At the point where these crossed, they screamed DISASTER!!! DOOM IN OUR TIME!!! but via a computer program running the math, so as to make it look all scientific.

There are a great many problems with that approach. A brief list is in the top page that collects links to the various “Not Running Out” postings: https://chiefio.wordpress.com/nro/. Their basic faults being failure to notice that growth is S shaped, not exponential, and that what is a resource changes over time with technical change and price. Compounded by a complete failure to understand that resource economics defines the present resource as what is economical at the price now and not at higher prices or with new extraction methods. Raise price a little, you get a lot more “reserves” to mine or pump as more dilute sources become economical to produce.

Since what is a resource changes over time, to focus, as they did, on specific resources in isolation is fundamentally flawed. Using only then-known resources is also a broken idea. Clearly demonstrated by natural gas. As I recall it, they predicted (or “projected” if you prefer their Politically Correct distinction without a difference) that we would run out of natural gas in the 1980s. Well, 30 years later we are awash in natural gas and the prices are depressed.

But despite all that, many folks have bought the Running Out! Scare story hook line and sinker. Just expect it. People love to be scared. They love to have a Mission. They love to be part of a cause, especially one that is to “save the planet”. They really love being in the role of hero. When you inform them it is a silly waste of time since we are NOT running out, they don’t take kindly to it. Expect that, and ignore their protests. They are delusional and seduced by the need to be a messiah and important somehow.

So what’s the real state of things?

Open Your Eyes and Look Around

Really. Just do it. What do you see? Books? Book cases and furniture. Appliances, TV sets, rugs, windows, cups and dishes, pots and pans, maybe cars and trains, skyscrapers and airplanes, houses and streets. THOSE are the things we want, not lumps of iron or cubic feet of gas. We can make them in very many ways and from very many other things.

Now look a bit deeper. Of what parts are these things made?

Nails, screws, bolts and nuts, wood, fabric, surface sheets & finishes, paint, beams, panels and foundations, wires, semiconductor chips, glass moldings, buttons and knobs.

But what are THOSE made of?

A much shorter list of basic materials. Often called “raw materials” for the most primitive sources and “processed materials” for the more refined and fabricated ones. Mostly that consists of a variety of rocks (sand, gravel, rock, aggregate, muds & clays), plants (wood, fibers for paper and cloth, food), metals (iron, copper, zinc, tin, cobalt, calcium, aluminum…) and non-metallic elements (oxygen, nitrogen, sulpher, carbon, chlorine, argon, boron, …) for the base materials. Some fabricated ones are things like glass, ceramics, plastics. While some natural complex materials are things like oil, bones & hides.

We then use those things to fabricate all the other things we want in life. Sometimes with making special materials along the way, like “petro” chemicals and artificial fertilizers, cement / concrete and semiconductor materials. We also use farming to produce foods and animal products from little more than dirt and work.

From those materials we build up the rest of our economy.

When you focus on the basic raw materials, rather then the intermediate products (man made or natural) and look at how they map to the desired end products and services, it becomes much more clear why “Running Out!” is just silly.

Take the toilet as an example. We can make them from ceramics and plastics (most in our modern society today are those kinds). So mud to make the ceramics (or bones for fine ‘bone china’…) and any carbon source to make the plastics. Yet I’ve also seen them made from stone, metal, and even wood. So are toilets critically dependent on the supply of ceramic mud? Nope. It is like that for almost everything in our society. There are a few odd bits at any one time in technical history that are dependent on some particular element or raw material, but we then invent new methods and new designs that don’t need that material when (and if) it becomes an issue. Rubber is an interesting story.

Sidebar on Plastics and “Petro” Chemicals:

Many of the Chicken Littles get excited about “saving the oil for plastics”. Why can only be explained by ignorance. Originally the organic chemical industry was based on coal. Eastman Chemical still uses it last I looked. During the ’60s, oil became VERY cheap, so we used it as ‘feed stock’ to make a variety of chemicals. The term “petrochemical” was born to signify it was made from petroleum. Yet nothing prevents making those same chemicals (like plastics) from any OTHER carbon source.

In fact, the first step of the process is typically to turn your carbon source (coal, oil, natural gas, garbage, poultry byproducts have all been used commercially) into something called “Synthesis Gas”. A mix of Carbon Monoxide and Hydrogen. Using that standard gas, you can make all the “petro” chemicals you want. There is zero need to “save the petroleum for petrochemicals” and in fact after the Arab Oil Embargo of the 1970s, the USA industry substantially converted to using natural gas.

Sidebar on Rubber:

Tanks and trucks and airplanes and such use a LOT of rubber. At the start of World War II it was all made from the sap of the rubber tree. This became a big problem when Japan captured the plantations that were the source of most of the rubber in the world. Can’t fight a war without it, and Japan had it. So we set about trying to fix that. Ford had set up a plantation in South America some years earlier, but it was not a rousing success.

The eventual solution was found in isoprene and neoprene artificial rubbers. Now nobody talks about a shortage of rubber anymore. We can make it anytime we want. We still use some natural rubber in the mix in most rubber items as it has some qualities that make it better in some uses, and since doing the work to make a complete replacement is just not worth it. Yet.

History is just chock full of stories like rubber. Where one material was suddenly critical, so folks set about finding ways to replace it, and did. There are now whole categories of materials where we can make as much of it as we want at any given price, so they are effectively unlimited. Plastics and rubbers are two of them. Glasses and ceramics are another. Some sands and muds work better than others, but the supply is functionally unlimited. Cement and concrete are another group (including the newest member of that group, the geopolymers) as are native rocks. Most of the periodic chart of the elements is metals, so the earth is mostly metals. Extracting any particular metal at the lowest possible price takes some care, but absolute supply of metals is functionally unlimited. Similarly, extracting oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide (and through it carbon if desired), and argon from the air are unlimited compared to demand. Pure water and salts from the sea are also made if needed. With just those things we could build an entire technological society, if needed.

What is the earth made of?

Well, it has a lot of water on the top in the oceans. We can now turn that salty water into fresh water at acceptable prices, so “water shortage” is really just a question of how much money you want to spend. The bottom of the oceans are littered with everything from calcium carbonates (useful for cement) and clays, to ‘manganese nodules’ that also contain a lot of copper and other metals. Several hundred pounds per person and far more than I could use in my share.

The next layer is a variety of rock types. These give us all manner of metals and non-metal resources. The geological process of the planet are still working (though geology is slow) and is still sorting more magma into things like gold, silver, zinc, copper, and more. The various rocks can be used to make all manner of ceramics and glasses too. Some parts of the planet are soaked in oil and some have vast fields of carbon as coal. That carbon is in addition to truly gigantic fields of various carbonate rocks.

Above all that is a layer of air. Mostly nitrogen and oxygen (both harvested for various uses as liquid air) and a smaller amount of argon and other noble gases (also harvested via air liquefaction).

Most of the middle of the planet is an iron / mixed metals core. For that reason volcanic magma is often very iron rich. We have more iron than we could ever even imagine using.

Literally, the entire planet is a big ball of resource.

In space, there is much more stuff available, if desired or needed. The entire solar system is a resource. But it would be better if we went there, since there isn’t enough room to bring Titan here. ;-)

Making Things From Stuff

All the various fields of Engineering are devoted to the job of taking those piles of stuff and using them to make the things we desire at the lowest cost and with the best things. We’ve been at this job for thousands of years and now our Engineering skills are really quite remarkable.

So what we do is to take those basic materials, and from them make the things we want. That processing from materials to products takes “know how” (that we now call technology) and energy. That know how is often embodied in various tools and machines, but sometimes is still done by hand. A rock on the ground is a useful tool as it sits. It can be a hammer stone, an anvil, a corn grinding implement, even a seat (to sit on while a smaller stone is the weight on your fishing line); depending on size, shape, kind of rock, and any shaping we have done to it.

Our earliest technologies were about ways to use rocks, plants and animal products as raw materials, or “resources”, to make things. You can build a pretty good life using just those materials. As animals and plants reproduce, we need never “run out” of them. The entire land surface of the planet is made of rocks and their erosion products, so not going to run out of those either. For generations folks made comfortable homes using rocks, plants, and animals. We can still do that today, though we now often add some more modern bits like windows and electric wiring. Yet a typical suburban home is made of sticks (wood frame), rocks (usually processed a bit to make cement / concrete), and ‘finishes’ that are substantially like the old plant and animal based ones, even if made from oil or natural gas. (Rugs, paints, curtains).

Early on in history we learned how to farm animals and plants instead of just hunting and gathering them, so as to increase supply and reduce the cost (or work) to get them. We now apply even more know how and make machines to do a lot of the farming for us.

So from the beginning of history, people have been using resources and finding ways to make the supply bigger and the costs lower.

That trend continues to today.

Today we no longer worry about where to get more hides to make shoes and coats. Each person is so well fed that the real question is what to do with all the hides from so many farmed animals. I have one sheep skin rug that I’ve used for about 35 years. During that time I’ve eaten far more than one sheep as dinner.

There is no shortage of hides, bones, leather and other animal resources and materials. In fact, each year huge quantities of those things are made into fertilizer and plant foods. We simply could not use that many leather coats, sets of bone china, or similar products.

Farming has advanced to the point where we now plough under loads of stems, leaves, and more. We only eat the flower of the broccoli plant, for example, despite the leaves being edible too, and we don’t care at all about eating the stems for fiber in the diet (Yes, I’ve tried them!)

That story can be repeated for most crops. From corn (maize) stalks to rice hulls, the problem is not a shortage of plant fibers, but how best to be rid of them. (Folks have made ‘pressed board’ out of stems and grasses and built houses from it, they have turned it into fuels, and much more).

There is no shortage of plants, plant fibers, and plant products. The advance of technology has increased the supply faster than the demand can use it all up, and land needed to produce has dropped, not risen. We now feed a huge chunk of our corn production to automobiles instead of to people and animals and we still have too much.

There is no shortage of the land on which to grow it either. We can now make arable land as desired and even grow plants without any land at all, using methods like hydroponics and aeroponics. There will be more on that in another chapter.

On Rocks

When it comes to rocks, our use of rocks as rocks has become fairly small. We no longer spend days searching for a nice big chunk of obsidian to make a good blade, scraper or arrow head. We can make various ceramics and glasses as desired, using rocks turned into feedstock to ceramic and glass factories and chemically or physically rearranged. There are mountains of clay and sand to use for various ceramics and concretes too, and nature is constantly making more via erosion processes.

The example of the stone knife vs a modern ceramic knife may seem a bit trite, but it really is a profound example of technical advance creating resources. In the stone age, we find tribes with good obsidian deposits trading chunks with other tribes, and those pieces found great distances away from their source. It was a precious and rare resource. Now glass is ubiquitous and we hardly think about it. Working obsidian into a fine blade took hours of highly skilled craft work. Now in my kitchen is a set of “ceramic knives” that are the same basic product as the old stone knives of obsidian. But we make them cheaply with little labor and the edges are finer and stronger with overall superior quality. We do this by creating the rock we want, in the shape we want it. Creating the material and the product in one operation.

Instead of one hard to make obsidian knife, I have a superior set of a half dozen knives. (Plus 2 peelers!)

Similarly, we no longer build water viaducts by stacking up natural rocks, mile after Roman mile. Instead, we cook limestone and then use that to make a kind of liquid rock, concrete, that is used to make concrete pipes. These kinds of manufacture pipes are used all over to carry water to cities and carry waste away.

We learned to mix sand, gravel, and burned limestone to make concrete. There is so much sand, gravel and limestone it literally covers the planet. We could not possibly use it all.

Yet there is another point here. Cement and concrete do not leave the planet. There is no such place as “away” and it can not go there. Old concrete can be simply ground up and reused to make new concrete, so we will never run out of the materials needed to make that liquid stone, or the products made from it. Even if some cement eventually erodes to atoms and washed out to sea, the oceans turn it back into new limestone.

We have a perpetual supply of limestone, cement, sand, gravel and other stones as the natural processes that creates them continue to act. The present quantity is so overwhelmingly large we could never use it all.

There is no shortage of stones, rocks, sands, gravels, marble, limestone, etc. etc. And thus no shortage of the products made from them. Among those products are the major roads, freeways, bridges, buildings, infrastructure of pipes and even power poles and dams for fresh water year round. The Civil Engineer is abbreviated C.E. and sometimes in jest called the Cement Engineer as so much civil engineering work is based on cement and concrete structures. We use so much of it precisely because it is so ubiquitous in supply and low in cost.

A Tiny Bit Of Chemistry

The elements of the universe consist of a few groups. One divide is into metals and non-metals. Some elements where those two meet are semi-metals and are used to make semiconductors.

Think on that for a moment. Rocks are made of a mix of metals and non-metals. How can you ever run out of metals if you can’t run out of rocks and they are made of metals and non-metals mixed? Especially when the metals you extract can not “go away”. The same reasoning applies to non-metals.

We do spend a good amount of time looking at the rocks all over the globe. Finding the rocks richest in the particular metals and non-metals that we want, available at the lowest costs to produce. Geologists do a lot of that. That does not mean those rich low cost rocks are the only source of supply, just the best and cheapest. For now… And our present technology level…

As an example, let’s look at feldspars.

Feldspars (KAlSi3O8 – NaAlSi3O8 – CaAl2Si2O8) are a group of rock-forming tectosilicate minerals that make up about 40% of the Earth’s continental crust.

So it has K Potassium used in plant fertilizers, Al Aluminum useful to build things and as a replacement for copper in electrical wires. Ca Calcium used in making cements and for nutrition too. There is also a lot of O Oxygen and Si Silicon. So much we don’t really need it. But that’s basically what you use to make glass and various abrasives. Some do have Na Sodium in them, but that’s everywhere. Still, it is useful for making lye and soaps and in a variety of chemical processes.

So just in that one most common rock, we can make everything from rock buildings to glasses and ceramics, and extract metals for everything from fertilizers to electrical wiring and much more. Even build pickup trucks, motors, and bikes out of it, along with pots and pans. We do look for other rocks as our preferred source of Aluminum and Potassium, but that is for our convenience and lower price, not because it is impossible to use this more common rock.

Production and uses

About 20 million tonnes of feldspar were produced in 2010, mostly by three countries: Italy (4.7 Mt), Turkey (4.5 Mt), and China (2 Mt).

Feldspar is a common raw material used in glassmaking, ceramics, and to some extent as a filler and extender in paint, plastics, and rubber. In glassmaking, alumina from feldspar improves product hardness, durability, and resistance to chemical corrosion. In ceramics, the alkalis in feldspar (calcium oxide, potassium oxide, and sodium oxide) act as a flux, lowering the melting temperature of a mixture. Fluxes melt at an early stage in the firing process, forming a glassy matrix that bonds the other components of the system together. In the US, about 66% of feldspar is consumed in glassmaking, including glass containers and glass fiber. Ceramics (including electrical insulators, sanitaryware, pottery, tableware, and tile) and other uses, such as fillers, accounted for the remainder.

Hmmm… From fiberglass insulation to glasses and ceramics, pottery and tiles and even a variety of chemicals. All from THE most common rock on the planet. Tell me again how we can “run out”?

Metals

Now this matters more than one might think. Aside from just how much cement and concrete is used in the modern world, the simple fact is that the supply of metals comes from rocks, as does the supply of other materials. That the supply of rocks is not limiting means those other materials are also not limiting. We use the easiest to use kinds of rocks first, but we could use the most common rocks to yield metals if we needed to do so.

So underlying all the metals, like iron, aluminum, cobalt, lithium, copper, etc. etc. – you find some particular kind of rock (or a dirt or a salt deposit) that is the easiest from which to extract the metal. We could get the metal from other kinds of rocks, but at a higher cost or a somewhat more complicated process. We may do that someday, but don’t need to do it just yet.

Now again, we have to ask: Where is ‘away’?

All those metals ever mined (aside from a trivial bit shot out of earth orbit) are still here. It does not “go away”. It may become dilute enough that we find it cheaper to extract it from native rock instead of scavenging the dump, but it IS still here should we need to go there.

If we used up all the richest easiest ores of silver laying on the surface, do we “run out” of silver?

Well, no. We’ve already used up the “native silver” where pure silver was found free on the surface. We’ve also used up the richest surface ores. Each time we found ways to extract silver from even more dilute ore, and so a lot more silver became a ‘resource’ and available to us. We’ve done this several times, so we know what happens. We recycle the exiting silver. We dig deeper and develop better ways to use more dilute deposits. We develop better ways to know where to dig. As of now, most sliver production comes as a byproduct of copper refining, so it doesn’t even take a mine and silver ore.

Why search the land, drill holes, move hillsides, haul silver ores, just to get more of something you get for “free” from refining copper?

If, for some reason, we suddenly needed a lot more silver, we could go looking and mining. But until then, we really need zero new silver mines. That is a very important point.

Resource Economics Is Important

The economics of resources says the supply depends on the price. It is just wrong to say “There is THIS much silver” to mine without saying at what price. As price rises, more expensive to work deposits pay to work, so you suddenly get more resource. It really does work that way.

Raise the price a little, you get a lot more supply of resource. This basic fact makes it stupid to talk of “running out” of known supply. As supply gets scarce, the price rises, and more supply becomes worth finding and producing. In some cases, the prior mine tailings have become the current mine ore due to price rises and technical advances.

We stop looking for more supply when we have found enough and the price is too low to justify looking for more. We look, and find more, when prices rise enough to pay for it.

Similarly, a bit higher price pays for new extraction methods. Mining and ore enrichment technology has regularly produced new supply out of rocks that were ‘useless’ before. Each more dilute source contains exponentially larger quantities of the desired metal than the prior more concentrated ore, simply because there are vastly more rocks with a little of something in it than there are rocks with a lot of that metal in them.

To claim “running out” is to claim “no new inventions, ever”.

Energy As Key Resource

Plants, animals, rocks, ores, metals, non-metals, ceramics, glasses, masonry, cement and concrete, water, salts and fertilizers. All essentially unlimited.

What is the last, ultimate, resource sort not on that list? Energy sources.

All those changes, refining, reforming, extraction, transportation processes and more all need an energy source to operate. It is fairly trite but true that with technology and enough energy you can make anything else you need. So are we running out of energy?

Much noise is made about running out of oil or having an ‘energy shortage’. It is basically non-sense. The only shortages that happen are man-made and often artificially so to raise prices. This inevitably fails in the long run as higher prices lead to more supply, but in the short run it can gain $Millions.

We already have, in hand, technologies to provide all the energy needed for the global economy for all foreseeable time and at acceptable prices. Millions of years worth of energy, at least. At prices not significantly different from today. There are several forms and sources for this energy, but I will mention just one here. Ocean uranium.

How was this done? Well, some very clever Japanese researchers found a way to make a plastic mat that adsorbs Uranium from sea water. The cost is about double the cost of that from mines on land, so we don’t use it at present, but the cost is still so low it would not change electricity prices if we were to use this method. It is well inside the range to run the economy at a profit. There is more U in the oceans than we can use and more erodes in every year from the mountains of the world.

There is no energy shortage, there can not be one, and there never will be one. We just use cheaper more convenient land sources at present. (Yes, there can be local temporary shortages due to stupidity, government mistakes, and lack of will to use the available Uranium. But that is a shortage of intelligence, not of energy.)

But what about Oil? Isn’t it limited, running out, and needed to make plastics and fertilizers and chemicals? Well, no. Some decades back we learned how to make oil if needed. Germany ran their W.W.II war machine on synthetic oil made from coal.

More importantly, what we use is not crude oil. We use fuels, lubricants, plastics, organic chemicals. All those products can be made from other carbon sources. We have made them all from other sources in the past, and many are made from natural gas today. Using nuclear process heat, we can continue using gasoline, motor oil, Diesel fuel, and plastics forever.

Even garbage can be used as the feedstock to make fuels and “petro” chemicals. At least one company has done it. There is no risk we will run out of garbage.

The source I find most interesting is the farm. We can, and do, grow plastic feed stocks. “Bio-plastics” are relatively common now. Rayon and your kitchen “viscous” sponge are two early plastics made from plants. Cellulose makes cellophane, rayon, and the “viscous” fluid used to make the sponge. George Washington Carver made plastics from soybeans used in early Ford Automobiles

The founding president of Israel used a bacteria to grow chemicals.

Chaim Azriel Weizmann (Hebrew: חיים עזריאל ויצמן‎‎ Hayyim Azri’el Vaytsman, Russian: Хаим Вейцман Khaim Veytsman; 27 November 1874 – 9 November 1952) D.Sc, Sc.D, LL.D was a Zionist leader and Israeli statesman who served as President of the Zionist Organization and later as the first President of Israel.
[…]
Weizmann lectured in chemistry at the University of Geneva between 1901 and 1903, and later taught at the University of Manchester. He became a British subject in 1910, and while a lecturer in Manchester he became known for discovering how to use bacterial fermentation to produce large quantities of desired substances. He is considered to be the father of industrial fermentation. He used the bacterium Clostridium acetobutylicum (the Weizmann organism) to produce acetone. Acetone was used in the manufacture of cordite explosive propellants critical to the Allied war effort (see Royal Navy Cordite Factory, Holton Heath). Weizmann transferred the rights to the manufacture of acetone to the Commercial Solvents Corporation in exchange for royalties.

See also: Acetone–butanol–ethanol fermentation

All that was before the age of genetically engineered bacteria. Simply put, we can ferment all the industrial organic feed stock we want and the fuels we want. There are some algae that produce up to 1/2 their weight as oil. It is just cheaper to pump and refine fossil oil instead. For now…

Simply put, organic chemicals (those with carbon in them and often called “petro” chemicals) can be made from any carbon source (gas, oil, coal, trees, garbage) by many processes. Typically those things are first turned into synthesis gas to make all the rest, but some of the desired chemicals can just be fermented or grown directly. Similarly, we have several methods to grow, ferment, refine, or synthesize fuels if desired or needed.

There is no shortage of plastics, the ubiquitous chemicals from which so much is made today. We can grow them, and make them from all manner of other things. Similar things can be done to ‘grow fuels’ if desired. We can use nuclear power to generate all the electricity we could need to power all those other chemical processes, and we can use nuclear electricity to directly drive oil pumps (long after the energy needed to lift the oil exceeds the energy in it, we can turn it into motor fuel as the form of the fuel matters) and we can use nuclear process heat to manufacture motor fuels if desired.

Given that nuclear power is unlimited, that means motor fuels are also unlimited. We need only build the factories and pay a modestly higher price for the gasoline and Diesel (or alcohols or…) based fuels.

In Conclusion

Engineering is the art and science of using what you have to make what you want. Engineers look at the prices of different materials, and their properties, then choose the best way to make the desired product at the best price. This means that what is a needed resource changes with the price and desires.

Take a look at power or telephone poles. They can be made from wood, or concrete, or aluminum or steel (and likely a few other things I’ve not seen). We could make them from plastics, garbage, geopolymer (a kind of synthetic cast rock), laminated wood, straw (suitably processed) or even lake mud. We don’t since we have cheaper choices in wood and concrete and aluminum. But it IS a choice.

We have a few thousand year history of technical change in what resource or material is used for which products. We never “run out”, we just change the preferred material. The stone age ended when we learned to make tools from copper.

The copper age ended when we learned to add tin and zink to make bronze and brasses.

The Bronze age ended when a scarcity of copper made it expensive (after what looks like a natural disaster wiped out the shipping culture mining and supplying copper to Europe) so we started making swords and tools from iron.

Today, my kitchen is slowly converting from iron and stainless steel based tools back to a special kind of stone. Customized at the molecular level to make superior ceramic knives and ceramic coated aluminum pans.

We have not run out of rocks, copper, bronze, iron, or ceramics. All those materials are still here on the planet and still used. No rocket has sent them out to space and out of the solar system. We do not run out, we change.

The next chapters will look at specific raw materials and resources in more detail. Folks who wish to poke at any particular resource are best served by going to that chapter first (once written).

Along the way, various products and services will be profiled, but with an eye to showing the variety of materials used, or that could be substituted. In some cases, input-output charts with choices may be shown. (So, for example, [corn, trees, coal, gas, oil] can all become synthesis gas used to make [oil, Diesel, plastic, alcohols…] and more.)

The point being that if any one input becomes dear, we just shift to a cheaper one or invent something new. We have at least 10,000 years of doing this under our belt, so I see no reason to think it stops with us.

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Posted in Earth Sciences, Economics - Trading - and Money, Energy | Tagged , , | 74 Comments

Korea – A Legal Context

Given that the Kim Dum Shrimp in N. Korea is being belligerent against THE most capable military in the world, one that could have had his parade stand go “POOOF!” mid parade with zero notice and undetectable methods, just what would be the legal context for such a thing.

The Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. Technically we are still at war and under a UN Authorization.

But such things have a rats nest of “in the details”. This one is worse.

So here’s my take on it.

First off, an Armistice is just an agreement between the belligerent ARMIES (read ‘military’) to stop shooting for a while. Kind of a formal long truce or time-out. There’s some fur on this one (details below) that amounts to them coming in 2 flavors. Those with a specified time limit and those without. Those with have an end time where you can start shooting again. Those without mean you can start shooting anytime. This one has a ‘definite time limit’ of ‘forever’, so is an odd duck… sort of implying can never shoot again… but also not forbidding it.

Another bit of murk is “Who is the belligerent?”. Turns out the folks who signed the Armistice are not necessarily the ones who did the fighting, so “who knows” if it binds on anyone in particular…

Then there is the ‘violation out’. If a party violates an armistice the other party can start shooting. One of the agreed points was no new armaments in theatre. Since a whole county full of new armament has been loaded up by BOTH sides, looks to me like either side can declare a breech. In fact, N. Korea has claimed it several times, so all Trump needs to do is agree with them… them bomb the living daylights out of them… (“Hey, they said it was over… don’t blame me…”)

OK, here’s the murk and muck:

History

We’ll start with the wiki:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_Armistice_Agreement

The Korean Armistice Agreement is the armistice which serves to insure a complete cessation of hostilities of the Korean War. It was signed by U.S. Army Lieutenant General William Harrison, Jr. representing the United Nations Command (UNC), North Korean General Nam Il representing the Korean People’s Army, and the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army. The armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, and was designed to “insure a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved.” No “final peaceful settlement” has been achieved. The signed armistice established the Korean Demilitarized Zone (de facto a new border between the two nations), put into force a cease-fire, and finalized repatriation of prisoners of war. The Demilitarized Zone runs not far from the 38th parallel, which separated North and South Korea before the Korean War.

OK, so first off, NONE of the individual NATIONS fighting in Korea, other than North Korea, signed this puppy.

It is binding on a “Chinese Volunteer Army”, not China. It is signed by a US officer, but FOR the “United Nations Command”. OK, so the UN can’t just ignore it, but the USA isn’t bound, near as I can tell.

By mid-December 1950, the United States was discussing terms for an agreement to end the Korean War. The desired agreement would end the fighting, provide assurances against its resumption, and protect the future security of UNC forces. The United States asked there needed to be a military armistice commission of mixed membership that would supervise all agreements. Both sides would need to agree to “cease the introduction into Korea of any reinforcing air, ground or naval units or personnel … and to refrain from increasing the level of war equipment and material existing in Korea.” The U.S. also desired to make a demilitarized zone that would be roughly 20 miles wide. The agreement would address the issue of prisoners of war which the U.S. believed should be exchanged on a one-for-one basis.

Um, I think nuclear bombs and submarine launched nuclear missiles would count as a breech. As would the miles of long range canon N. Korea has put on the border. So, too, IMHO, would all the gear the USA has shipped over. Near as I can recall, sidewinder missiles from jet aircraft and drones and ship launched cruise missiles were not around in 1953.

I think that pretty much all by itself clears the deck for any attack either side wants to launch. But that’s just my opinion (as is all of this, really…)

While talks of a possible armistice agreement were circulating, in late May and early June 1951, the President of the Republic of Korea (ROK, South Korea) Syngman Rhee opposed peace talks. He believed the ROK should continue to expand its army in order to march all the way to the Yalu River and completely unify the nation. The UNC did not endorse Rhee’s position. Even without UNC support, Rhee and the South Korean government launched a massive effort to mobilize the public to resist any halt in the fighting short of the Yalu River. Other ROK officials supported Rhee’s ambitions and the National Assembly of South Korea unanimously passed a resolution endorsing a continued fight for an “independent and unified country.” At the end of June, however, the Assembly decided to support armistice talks, although President Rhee continued to oppose it.

Like Syngman Rhee, North Korean leader Kim Il-sung also sought complete unification. The North Korean side was slow to support armistice talks and only on June 27, 1951 – seventeen days after armistice talks had begun – did it change its slogan of “drive the enemy into the sea” to “drive the enemy to the 38th parallel.” North Korea was pressured to support armistice talks by allies the People’s Republic of China (PRC, China) and the Soviet Union, whose support enabled North Korea to continue fighting.

Hmmm… Looks like South Korea has a free hand, too. I don’t see anything saying the rescinded that resolution, nor that they signed any deal.

There is a bit of an open question for me about what the UNC has in the way of binding agreements on any participants under their flag. Then again, I’m not seeing how the UN has authority over nations in general…

Skipping a bunch of the history of the negotiations in the wiki:

The signed armistice established a “complete cessation of all hostilities in Korea by all armed force”[3] that was to be enforced by the commanders of both sides. Essentially a complete cease-fire was put into force. The armistice is however only a cease-fire between military forces, rather than an agreement between governments. No peace treaty was signed which means that the Korean War has not officially ended.

The armistice also established the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The DMZ was decided to be a 2.5-mile (4.0 km)-wide fortified buffer zone between the two Korean nations. The Demilitarized Zone follows the Kansas Line where the two sides actually confronted each other at the time of the signed armistice. The DMZ is currently the most heavily defended national border in the world.
[…]
In addition to the established regulations listed above, the armistice also gave recommendation to the “governments of the countries concerned on both sides that, within three (3) months after the Armistice Agreement is signed and becomes effective, a political conference of a higher level of both sides be held by representatives appointed respectively to settle through negotiation the questions of the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Korea, the peaceful settlement of the Korean question, etc.” Even in 2013, 60 years after the signing of the armistice agreement, these issues have not been settled as a peaceful settlement of the Korean question has not been reached and American troops still reside in South Korea.

After the armistice was signed the war is considered to have ended even though there was no official peace treaty. Despite the three-year war, the Korean peninsula greatly resembled what it did before the war with national borders at similar locations. The U.S. views the war as a tie while North Korea and China both claim that they won the Korean War.

So we still have an official hot war, and we still have a failure to make a peace. Seems to me like either side starts shooting anything, even missiles out to sea, the other side can fire back as much as they like.

United States abrogation of paragraph 13(d)

Paragraph 13(d) of the Armistice Agreement mandated that neither side introduce new weapons into Korea, other than piece-for-piece replacement of equipment. In September 1956 the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Radford indicated that the U.S. military intention was to introduce atomic weapons into Korea, which was agreed to by the U.S. National Security Council and President Eisenhower.
However paragraph 13(d) prevented the introduction of nuclear weapons and missiles. The U.S. unilaterally abrogated paragraph 13(d), breaking the Armistice Agreement, despite concerns by United Nations allies. At a meeting of the Military Armistice Commission on June 21, 1957, the U.S. informed the North Korean representatives that the United Nations Command no longer considered itself bound by paragraph 13(d) of the armistice. In January 1958 nuclear armed Honest John missiles and 280mm atomic cannons were deployed to South Korea, a year later adding nuclear armed Matador cruise missiles with the range to reach China and the Soviet Union.

The U.S. believed that North Korea had introduced new weapons contrary to 13(d),
but did not make specific allegations. North Korea also believed the U.S. had introduced new weapons earlier, citing Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission inspection team reports for August 1953 to April 1954.

North Korea denounced the abrogation of paragraph 13(d).[37] North Korea responded militarily by digging massive underground fortifications resistant to nuclear attack, and forward deployment of its conventional forces so that the use of nuclear weapons against it would endanger South Korean and U.S. forces as well. In 1963 North Korea asked the Soviet Union and China for help in developing nuclear weapons, but was refused.

Following the abrogation of paragraph 13(d), the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC) largely lost its function, and became primarily office based in the DMZ with a small staff.

So both sides have already abrogated the agreement. OK, that puts us back at ‘legally a hot war’ as I read this.

Now the fun bit. The UNC no longer exists. One of THE key signatories is a no-op. So N. Korea has an ‘agreement’ with a non-entity and with a ‘volunteer’ force that has disbanded (and was a questionable legal entity anyway). So who’s left to be an active signatory other than N. Korea?

In 1975, the U.N. General Assembly adopted resolutions endorsing the desirability of replacing the Armistice Agreement with a peace treaty and dissolving the UNC.

In October 1996, the U.N. Security Council, by a statement of the President of the Council, urged that the Armistice Agreement should be fully observed until replaced by a new peace mechanism. Approving nations included the United States and the Peoples Republic of China, two of the armistice’s signatories, effectively refuting any suggestion that the armistice was no longer in force.

So if you agree to scrapping something entirely that constitutes affirmation it is working right? Come again? But then there is also the point that the wiki says the USA and PRC were “signatories” when in fact the UNC through a subordinate US officer and a “Volunteer Army” were signatories, not the USA and PRC per se. I think this is a dodgy bit in the wiki.

But I think it is a moot point anyway, as after that, North Korea announced it was withdrawing anyway.

North Korean announcements to withdraw from the agreement

North Korea has announced that it will no longer abide by the armistice at least 6 times, in the years 1994, 1996, 2003, 2006, 2009, and 2013.

On April 28, 1994, North Korea announced that it would cease participating in the Military Armistice Commission, but would continue contact at Panmunjom through liaison officers and maintain the general conditions of the armistice. North Korea stated it regarded the U.S. deployment of Patriot missiles in South Korea as terminating the armistice.

On May 27, 2009, North Korea announced it no longer felt bound by the armistice agreement. There were two isolated violent incidents in 2010, the ROKS Cheonan sinking (attributed to North Korea, despite denials) and the North Korean Bombardment of Yeonpyeong.

In 2013 North Korea argued the armistice was meant to be a transitional measure. North Korea had made a number of proposals for replacing it with a peace treaty, but the U.S. had not responded in a serious way. It further argued the Military Armistice Commission and Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission had long been effectively dismantled, paralysing the supervisory functions of the armistice. North Korea believes the annual U.S. and South Korean exercises Key Resolve and Foal Eagle are provocative and threaten North Korea with nuclear weapons. JoongAng Ilbo reported the U.S. vessels equipped with nuclear weapons were participating in the exercise, and The Pentagon publicly announced that B-52 bombers flown over South Korea were reaffirming the U.S. “nuclear umbrella” for South Korea.

In March 2013, North Korea announced that it was scrapping all non-aggression pacts with South Korea
, along with other escalations such as closing the border and closing the direct phone line between the two Koreas. North Korea stated it had the right to make a preemptive nuclear attack. A United Nations spokesman stated the armistice agreement had been adopted by the U.N. General Assembly, and could not be unilaterally dissolved by either North Korea or South Korea. On March 28, 2013, the U.S. sent two B-2 Spirit stealth bombers to South Korea to participate in ongoing military exercises in the region, including the dropping of inert munitions on a South Korean bomb range. This was the first B-2 non stop, round-trip mission to Korea from the United States. Following this mission, North Korean state media announced that it was readying rockets to be on standby to attack U.S. targets. In May 2013, North Korea offered to enter into negotiations for a peace treaty to replace the armistice agreement.

In August 2016, North Korea installed anti-personnel mines to prevent potential defectors of its front-line border guards around the “Bridge of No Return,” situated in the Joint Security Area(JSA). The UN Command has protested this move as it violates the Armistice agreement which specifically prohibits armed guards and anti-personnel mines.

The U.S. position, as expressed in 2010, is that a peace treaty can only be negotiated when North Korea “takes irreversible steps toward denuclearization”.

Well, that looks like a UN Weenie trying to claim anything they do is forever, despite everyone else saying “it’s over”. Then, at the bottom, the UN Command says it violates the agreement, that would also mean it is functionally over.

So to me it looks like the whole Armistice thing is a legal red herring. It’s functionally over. It was signed by entities that no longer exist and was not signed by South Korea, China, or the USA as the USA.

All in all, it looks to me like Trump can go ahead and bomb any munitions and sites that are in violation of the armistice (and likely anything else as well) and be on acceptable legal footing.

But what I think doesn’t matter as lawyers have a peculiar way of thinking. So let’s ask the lawyers.

Legal Stuff

Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer. I don’t even play one on TV or the internet. I known nothing about law other than contract law and what I learned as a Police Wanna Be Scout (so about 100 hours of training in those areas all told I’d guess) so don’t depend on me to say what is actually legal or what the armistice really means (besides, it looks like the Real Lawyers ™ don’t even know…) BUT if you want me to sound intimidating and nag them about a breach of implied contract on their deliverables, well, that I can do ;-) once you sign a contract to make me Project Manager… 9-0

The actual text is here. I’ve done a quick scan of it. To me, it is lacking a lot of the stuff I expect to see in contract. Who’s legal structure is used for interpretation. How disputes are settled. Terms for exit. It’s a nice little “aspirational goal” statement, but I’m not seeing much in the way of enforcement provisions or penalties for violation. Maybe I just don’t know how “international law” works, but it seems pretty weak tea to me.

http://news.findlaw.com/cnn/docs/korea/kwarmagr072753.html

Then there is a look at ending the armistice from a legal point of view and a critique of it here:

http://oldsite.nautilus.org/fora/security/2a_armisticelegal_norton.html

CONTENTS

Abstract
Introduction
I. Legal Interpretations of the Korean War
II. The Armistice Agreement
III. Events Subsequent to the Geneva Conference
IV. Solutions
V. Conclusions
Notes
NAPSNet Invites Your Responses

ABSTRACT

This paper discusses the legal arrangements necessary to terminate the Korean War and to replace the current Armistice Agreement with a lasting peace. To that end, it discusses the numerous legal issues arising out of: (1) the tension between the war as, on the one hand, a civil war between the two Koreas and, on the other, an international war involving the armed forces of some 20 countries; (2) the unprecedented use of the United Nations’ name and flag by one side to the conflict; and (3) China’s insistence that the Chinese armed forces participating in the hostilities were only “volunteers.” The paper concludes that: (1) each of the governments contributing forces to the U.N. side was a belligerent in the war and is now technically a party to the Armistice; (2) although the Security Council and the General Assembly at various times endorsed one side to the conflict, the United Nations itself was not a belligerent and is not a party to the Armistice Agreement; and (3) the PRC, despite its disavowals, was a belligerent and is now a party to the Armistice. The paper recommends that the Armistice be supplanted by an agreement among the two Koreas, the United States, and China, accompanied by a resolution of the U.N. Security Council endorsing the agreements, pursuant to Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, as necessary to the restoration and maintenance of international peace and security in Northeast Asia.

Now there’s just now way I can quote the whole thing here, or even enough to make sense of it. So “hit the link” if you want more than a couple of sample bits.

Here’s the response:

http://oldsite.nautilus.org/fora/security/2b_armisticelegal_disc.html

On March 3, the NAPSNet Policy Forum Online featured a paper by Patrick M. Norton, “Ending The Korean Armistice Agreement: The Legal Issues.” A set of questions based on the work was appended following the conclusion. The following response, drawing on these questions, was submitted by Kim Myong Chol, an ethnic Korean born and living permanently in Japan. Mr. Kim’s studies include graduate work in US foreign policy at Tokyo University. Mr. Kim worked as a reporter and editor at “The People’s Korea” and has written extensively on DPRK perspectives on Korean and international relations. To join this discussion, contact the NAPSNet Coordinator at: […]

Kim Myong Chol responds to these questions:

Is the Korean conflict most properly characterized as an international or a civil war? Norton finds fault in both the former position (the premise of UN involvement) and the latter position (held by the DPRK and PRC). What bearing does this problem have on strategies for pursuing peace on the Korean peninsula today?

Norton argues that the four-party peace talks proposal represents an accurate grouping of the major parties to the conflict “in practice.” Given the formal UN role as a party to the war and the Armistice, ought there be a role for the UN in any negotiations toward a peace treaty? In particular, what role might the UN Command allies such as the UK or Australia play in the UN debates which may occur over a proposal to end the Armistice?

Norton notes that the UN abrogated its own charter to involve itself in Korea, that it had no actual control over combat forces during open hostilities, that the UN had no role in the Geneva conference following the Armistice, and that today the DPRK is now a UN member. Do these considerations obviate any UN role in such negotiations?

Norton notes that during hostilities ROK forces were effectively under US control, and that the ROK (unlike the DPRK) was not a formal party to the Armistice. Yet he also argues that the DPRK’s insistence that negotiations for a peace treaty include the US but not the ROK are “polemical and without legal foundation,” given the ROK’s role since the Armistice. Does the DPRK position have a credible legal basis?

Is a formal peace treaty required to bring peace to the Korean peninsula? Norton notes that a peace treaty customarily follows an armistice, and that many interested parties have expressed such a need. However, he also notes that an armistice may evolve over time into a de facto peace treaty (although this has not happened among the major belligerents in Korea). Might more of a political focus (i.e. toward a “detente” rather than a treaty) ultimately prove more constructive than continued abortive efforts to convene formal negotiations?

How do decisions regarding bringing a formal peace to the Korean peninsula bear on the objective of Korean unification?

The Soviet military fought in the undeclared war, although Moscow denied US allegations at the time. Does this provide the legal or realpolitik basis for Russian participation in negotiations to end the Armistice, given the argument that the ROK obtains such a right by virtue of its military participation in the fighting on the Peninsula?

To me, it all looks like a giant Cluster Fondle of Legal Bits. Near as I can tell, there is no real governing law, no clear agreement between parties, not even a decent definition of who the parties are, and the whole thing has been violated and abrogated all over by all sides. But you can read they too and fro and see what you think. I’m going to quote a few semi-random bits from the first paper (bold added by me):

The issues are more complex than may appear at first glance. From a legal perspective the Korean War and the Armistice Agreement are anomalous in several respects: (1) there was from the outset a fundamental tension between the character of the war as, on the one hand, a civil war between the two Koreas and, on the other, an international armed conflict between the armed forces of some twenty different countries; (2) for the first time the armed forces on one side of an international armed conflict fought under the flag of the United Nations; and (3) one of the principal belligerents, China, insisted that it was not, in fact, a belligerent and that Chinese armed forces engaged in the conflict were only “volunteers.” The passage of many years and inconsistent positions taken by all of the interested parties as it has suited their purposes have compounded the legal uncertainties resulting from these anomalies.
[…]
And on July 7, 1950, the Council adopted its Resolution 84(V), “recommending” that Members provide military forces and assistance “to a unified command under the United States,” requesting the United States to designate the commander of such forces,” and authorizing “the unified command at its discretion to use the United Nations flag in the course of operations against North Korean forces concurrently with the flags of the various nations participating.”

Unless 84(V) was rescinded, looks to me like The USA still has the lead as it feels like it.

The Korean War was the first major armed conflict after the founding of the United Nations and immediately called into question the applicability and effectiveness of the peacekeeping provisions of the U.N. Charter,13 which had superseded in large part the customary international law of war (jus ad bellum).14 The governments contributing to the United Nations Command (“UNC”) expressly invoked the new Charter Law, characterizing their participation in the armed conflict as a “collective action” resisting an “aggression” identified as such by the Security Council.15 By cloaking their operations in the mantle of the United Nations, these governments were able, among other advantages,16 to claim that theirs was a “just war” and, as a consequence, that non-belligerent states were not free to assume the traditional rights and duties of neutrals but were, rather, obligated to “tilt” in favor of the U.N. side.17

For their part, the DPRK, the PRC, and their supporters preferred to characterize the conflict as an internal Korean one. In such a “civil war,” they argued, no foreign forces could properly intervene, and the United Nations had no proper role.18 This position was one of the reasons that the PRC chose to cloak its intervention in the guise of “volunteers.”

Neither side’s legal position, however, stood up to scrutiny.
The recommendatory, rather than mandatory character of the Security Council resolutions authorizing a “unified command,” adoption of these resolutions in the fortuitous absence of a Permanent Member (the Soviet Union) that was known to oppose them, failure of the UNC structure to follow the procedures specified in Chapter VII of the Charter for United Nations “enforcement actions,” and lack of any explicit Charter basis for the General Assembly’s Uniting for Peace resolutions caused most observers to conclude that the action in Korea was not an action “of the United Nations” but, at most, an action “sanctioned by the United Nations,” or “under the auspices of the United Nations.”19 By the same token, the contention of the Communist side to the Korean hostilities that this was a “civil” conflict in which the U.N. side was impermissibly intervening was untenable, at least after the PRC’s intervention.20

So even the legal basis of the war, and if it be a war between two parties or a “Civil War” is ill defined. If a “Civil War” and South Korea invites our help… Just sayin’…

1. The United Nations Side

Security Council Resolution 84(V) of July 7, 1950, authorized a “unified command under the United States.” The United States interpreted this authorization as constituting the United States itself, in its sovereign capacity, as the “Unified Command.”24 Fifteen nations other than the United States contributed forces to serve under the Unified Command.25 The United States then created, as an entity theoretically separate from and subordinate to the Unified Command, the “United Nations Command,” which it described as an “international field force” conducting the actual hostilities.26 The military contingents from other participants were placed directly under the UNC,27 and the ROK placed its troops under the operational command of the UNC.28

Throughout the conflict, the United States and its allies emphasized the U.N. character of their actions.
Secretary of State Acheson described the Korean operations as being “under the aegis of the United Nations and … not a question of the whole series of nations acting independently to the same result.”29 The U.N. Commander generally characterized his forces as “United Nations forces,” and various of the contributing states made clear that their offers of assistance were to the United Nations.30 One leading legal commentator has concluded that: “There can be no doubt that, in practice, the overwhelming majority of states involved in the Korean action were fully prepared to regard it as a United Nations action involving United Nations Forces.”31

Many actions of the United Nations can also be cited to support the view that the United Nations itself regarded the forces under the UNC as “United Nations forces.” At least three General Assembly resolutions (Nos. 376(V), 483(V), and 498(V)) referred to them as such. And Security Council Resolution 84(V) specifically authorized the “unified command” to fly the U.N. flag.

So the UN via the UNC is a party to the Armistice, but the USA is not, other than any duty to the UN. Since the UNC no longer exists, it would be up to the USA, provided the resolutions were not rescinded, to reconstitute it if needed to restart things… I think… maybe…

Then yet more “what a mess” for S. Korea and the other side:

2. The Role of South Korea

The insistence of the U.N. participants on fighting under at least the auspices of the United Nations also called into question the position of the ROK. The obvious victim of the aggression that started the war and the bearer of the brunt of the casualties on the U.N. side,38 the ROK had been recognized by the U.N. General Assembly prior to the war as the legitimate government in the part of Korea that it controlled.39 Nevertheless, because ROK armed forces were placed directly under the UNC, effectively placing U.S. officers in command of South Korean troops, the political position of the ROK in the conflict was obscured. This was compounded when the Armistice Agreement was signed for all participants on the U. N. side by the U.N. Commander, i.e., a U.S. general, and the ROK, in contrast to the DPRK, did not itself sign the Armistice.

3. The Communist Parties to the Korean War

The status of the Communist forces was subject to other uncertainties. The DPRK was not recognized as a de jure government of an independent state. In order that it could be regarded as a responsible party for applying the laws of war and as a potential party to the Armistice, it was necessary that the DPRK be accorded some form of legal status or “personality.” The U.N. side therefore implicitly recognized the DPRK as a “belligerent” (a sort of de facto recognition for purposes of the law of war), although the articulations of even this position were somewhat ambiguous.40

More problematic was the PRC’s characterization of its millions of troops as “volunteers.” The PRC so characterized its participation in the conflict for several reasons: to preserve the Communist characterization of the war as a “civil war”; to preserve its position that the PRC did not intervene in the internal affairs of other states; and, most importantly, to ensure that its participation in armed hostilities was confined to Korea.

The General Assembly specifically rejected the PRC’s characterization of its role when it found in Resolution 498(V) that the PRC was itself an “aggressor” in Korea.41 The PRC, too, repeatedly contradicted its own position, for example when it appeared at the United Nations to defend Chinese intervention on the grounds of self-defense,42 or when it made demands by diplomatic note that third parties observe neutral duties.43 For present purposes, the important consideration is that China’s solicitude for its ostensible neutrality and the unwillingness of the other belligerents to confront China on the issue led to the Commander of the “Chinese People’s Volunteers” signing the Armistice.

Then this bit seems to say just violating it does not make it go away, but is unclear as to what “belligerents” it binds. South Korea? China? USA? Or just the signatories of UNC and N. Korea?

It further states that the “conditions and terms [of the Armistice] are intended to be purely military in character and to pertain solely to the belligerents in Korea.” Paragraph 60 of the Agreement provided that “the military commanders of both sides hereby recommend to the governments of the countries concerned on both sides that … a political conference of a higher level of both sides be held….” Paragraph 62 provided that the Armistice “shall remain in effect until expressly superseded . . . by provision in an appropriate agreement for a peaceful settlement at a political level between both sides.”44

I think you can make a case that it is binding on the UN and North Korea and nobody else. At least long enough to bomb the snot out of someone and then say “Ooops. My bad.”

It looks to me like this is the bit that lays out the thorns most directly:

C. THE PARTIES TO THE KOREAN ARMISTICE AGREEMENT

The Korean Armistice Agreement is signed by military commanders and is stated to be “purely military in character” (Preamble). Nevertheless, international law has consistently regarded general armistices as of such political significance that they can only be concluded on behalf of the sovereignty of the state.57 As a consequence, although almost invariably signed by military commanders, as in the Korean case, general armistices are universally recognized as binding states.58 Which states are bound is less clear. The Armistice is studiously ambiguous in this regard, referring to “the governments of the countries concerned” (para. 60), a “political conference of both sides” (id.), and a “peaceful settlement at a political level between both sides” (para. 62).

The relationship of the DPRK to the Korean Armistice Agreement conforms to the traditional rules of international law most clearly. Although signed by Kim Il Sung in his capacity as military commander, the Agreement clearly binds the DPRK as such.59

The statuses of the “United Nations Command” and the “Chinese People’s Volunteers” are more problematic.
By all objective criteria, the PRC itself was a belligerent in the hostilities. This belligerent status, the rule of customary international law that the parties to general armistices are states and not military authorities, and the PRC’s participation in the 1954 Geneva Conference argue persuasively for considering the PRC itself as a party to the Korean Armistice Agreement. The PRC, moreover, implicitly conceded the point in a series of diplomatic notes invoking rights under the Armistice, which were sent by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the British Embassy in Beijing to “the Governments of the other countries on the United Nations Command side.”60 Nevertheless, China’s insistence during the hostilities that it was not a belligerent, and the acquiescence of most of the U.N. side, at one time or another, in that position, gives rise to some ambiguity on this issue.

Throughout the hostilities, the United States and other participants in the UNC maintained that it was the United Nations itself that was engaged in the hostilities. This and the fact that the Armistice Agreement is signed by the “Commander-in- Chief, United Nations Command” have sometimes caused observers to conclude that the United Nations is a party to the Agreement.61 Conversely, the DPRK has long argued that the U.N. Commander was a U.S. general, that it was, therefore, the United States alone that adhered to the Agreement
, and that none of the other participants in the UNC, including the ROK, can properly participate in negotiations to supersede the Armistice Agreement.62

The evidence, however, supports neither position.
Paragraph 60 of the Armistice specifically suggests that “the governments of the countries concerned on both sides” hold a “political conference of a higher level of both sides … to settle through negotiation the questions of the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Korea, the peaceful settlement of the Korean question, etc.” It thus clearly contemplates that the governments of individual participants, rather than the United Nations, are the real parties in interest here.

It goes on for a few more paragraphs from there. Read it and scratch your head. Copious Scotch, Gin, or Vodka advised.

IMHO, it is such a legal mess that the USA can do whatever it wants and let the thing go to the lawyers for about 40 years. None of the people in power will be alive then so none will care what is finally decided.

Which, IMHO again, puts this all squarely as a Political and P.R. issue.

But at least we know what the legal types think…

Epilogue

To Bomb, or Not To Bomb, that is the question…

Personally, were I POTUS, I’d wait for a missile test launch, then completely flatten the launch site, ALL the nuclear facilities including fab and labs, and any forces within 50 miles of the DMZ that have the capability to shoot over it. Oh, and send a MOAB or related to The Little Kim and all his palaces, bunkers and parade stands.

After that, ask if “Anyone else want to negotiate?”…

Then invoke the peace negotiations part of the Armistice and “Get ‘er done”.

The cost of the post event legal budget would be far far less than the cost of housing an army or two in Korea.

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