Streetwise Professor

February 2, 2012

Forget Sublime: In Russia, It Is But One Step From the Ridiculous to the More Ridiculous

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 10:23 am

Russia has released findings of a report that allegedly explains the loss of the Phobos-Grunt Mars probe.  It blames “space radiation” that caused a malfunction in the onboard computers:

“The most likely reason, in the opinion of the commission, was the local impact of heavily charged space particles that led to a failure in the memory of the main onboard computer in the second stage of flight,” Popovkin told Russian news agencies in Voronezh, a town 450 km (280 miles) south of Moscow.

A burst of space radiation caused the onboard computers to reboot and go into standby mode, he said.

So I guess HAARP is off the hook, but uhm, why would a craft designed to go into space be so vulnerable to space radiation, especially before it had really gotten into space? Furriners, of course:

Popovkin said foreign-made counterfeit or defective microchips were partly to blame for the failure of the $165-million (104 million pound) spacecraft, designed to retrieve soil samples from the Martian moon Phobos.

The accounts I read did not identify the source of foreign parts, but counterfeit parts from China are are serious problem, one that has bedeviled the US military.

And Russia’s too:

And it’s not just the United States. Russian aviation officials were alarmed when, upon inspecting 60,000 aircraft parts, they found that nearly a third of them were counterfeits. While most of the substandard fake parts came from neighboring countries, many were made in Russia. While China wins first place when it comes to stealing technology and producing counterfeit goods, Russia is solidly in second place, turning out about a third as many counterfeit goods as China. Russia’s neighbors, many former parts of the Soviet Union, have the same bad habits. But Russia and China together produce about 80 percent of counterfeits.

Western nations would like to get both Russia and China to crack down on the counterfeiting. That has not been easy. In both countries, the counterfeiting is a multi-billion dollar a year industry, run by guys who know how to bribe the right politicians. The counterfeiters have another incentive to keep the prosecutors at bay; counterfeiting kills. Phony medicines and aircraft engine parts have both been linked to deaths in Africa and Asia, where the imitation goods are often sold. If brought to justice, Chinese and Russian counterfeiters would likely be executed..

Though note those last bits: Russian counterfeits are a problem, even for Russians.

So although it is at least plausible that bad chips were responsible for the loss of PG (a) it is not necessarily true that foreigners are responsible, (b) it still does not reflect well on the Russian space agency that it would not adequately test parts, and (c) some experts–including Russian ones–are not buying it.  From the Reuters article linked above:

Experts said Moscow was blaming external factors for the loss of its ambitious Mars mission to distract from chronic failings with its once-pioneering industry.

“You can fantasize about everything. This is one of a number of possible reasons but one that is convenient for many people,” Alexander Zakharov, the mission’s lead scientist, told Reuters.

“Even if this was the true reason, which we can’t completely rule out because it does happen, then there is some kind of problem with the flight system or the programming, which were not designed to guard against this (space radiation).”

State RIA news agency cited an industry source as saying it was “simply absurd” that Phobos-Grunt had not been made to withstand cosmic rays on its two-year interplanetary mission.

“They did not make a vacuum cleaner but a spacecraft that is intended to fly in the aggressive environment of outer space. They couldn’t have failed to take this into account,” the source said.

Another space industry source said potentially damaging bursts of radiation were highly unlikely in low-Earth orbit, where hundreds of satellites circle within the protective bubble of the planet’s magnetic field.

“This usually happens with interplanetary satellites around Mars or Venus, in other words, in deep space,” the source told RIA. “This phenomenon occurs every one or two years on average, but it is very unlikely to see it in low-Earth orbit.”

So, the mystery remains.  It is no mystery, however, that the efforts to deflect blame to foreigners will continue.

Dmitri Rogozin is not mentioned in the Reuters article, although he was earlier identified as being tasked with leading the investigation.  But that’s not to say that he has been out of the limelight.  Hardly.

First, he penned an over the top defense of Putin that brought to many minds Soviet-style effusive praise of the Party leadership and demonization of the opposition:

A staunchly pro-government newspaper published a warning Wednesday that Russia faces ruin if Vladimir Putin is not returned to the presidency next month, but critics said the lengthy article recalled the old Soviet Union and contained vitriol so extreme that it appeared probable to backfire.

The 1,900-word piece, full of flamboyant belligerence and fawning praise for Putin, was published on the front page of the Kremlin’s most loyal newspaper, Izvestia. In fits of Soviet-style language, it raised the level of hostility toward the United States and toward Putin’s domestic opponents to new heights.

It pronounces, melodramatically, that “Putin is the only leader left in Europe not to be crushed down by U.S. hegemony.” And it warns that Russia will be ruined by its enemies if he is not elected president on March 4. Putin, 59, served as president from 2000 to 2008, then stepped aside because of term limits and became prime minister.

The author of the Izvestia article was Dmitry Rogozin, until recently the Russian ambassador to NATO and now a deputy prime minister in charge of armaments. His piece appears to be an aggressive attempt to protect Putin’s nationalist flank, at a time when most of the nationalist movement has turned its back on Putin and joined liberals in protests.

But the language is so intemperate, said Stanislav Belkovsky, president of the Institute for National Strategy here, that “it sounds ridiculous.”

Rogozin ridiculous? My faith in humanity is shattered!  Actually, Rogozin the Ridiculous sounds like the perfect sobriquet, especially given his other foray into the news today.  Namely, his call for ensuring that Sov I mean Russian youth has good Russian military toys to play with, rather than evil Western toys (pahoben caught this too):

Russian boys should play with Russian toys, not guns and battle tanks fashioned after Western models, the cabinet minister in charge of Russia’s defense industry said.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin took some time out from his oversight of the production of real weapons, turning to toy arms in comments on Twitter.

“Our children have played with Leopards enough,” he said on his Twitter account, referring to a German-made tank first introduced in the Cold War era.

“I have given a command to think about the production of toy models of Russian weapons and military equipment,” said Rogozin, a former nationalist political party leader who until recently was Russia’s envoy to NATO.

“A command to think about.”  Gotta love it.  Also have to love the kinds of pressing issues that Deputy Prime Ministers feel deserve their attention.

And of course, it is much more important that the government focus on getting good Russian tank toys in the hands of its youth, than reliable computer chips in its spacecraft.

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  1. “Then there’s the growing number of Chinese companies that will try to improve their profits by putting more and more of the cheaper counterfeit parts in shipments of legitimate ones to customers they have established relationships with. ” Add to that China’s history of counterfeit medications (see : link… , contaminated food ( see The Guardian: link … ) and tainted drywall ( see link.. . )
    June 2009, Nigeria has seized a large consignment of fake antimalarial drugs with the label of “made in India”, but found the medicines were in fact produced in China and were imported into the African countries

    results in the question -Why doesn’t the Defense Department enact a ban on goods made in China? Use national security and the current unemployment rate as a justification. Send your opinions here: U. S House of Representatives:

    Comment by Anders — February 2, 2012 @ 11:11 am

  2. Counterfeiters — many of them based in China — often tear apart scrapped computers to obtain chips, which they then mislabel to appear suitable for jobs that exceed the parts’ capabilities. That can result in the components suffering dangerous glitches.,1

    Comment by Anders — February 2, 2012 @ 11:19 am

  3. Mere or More ridiculous doesn’t describe the pathology Putin and Company are demonstrating: Hyper surrealist reality syndrome? What allows this is, of course that the productive parts of the economy – those that generate an expropriate-able surplus value for You Marxists out there – is relatively small and easily controlled: oil, raw materials and some defense products. This means that these characters can go off on rants because they don’t need them: the expression popularized about the oil rich Middle East by Lewis was “No representation without Taxation”.

    In other words, if the state doesn’t need your money or production, it doesn’t have to pay attention to you. The Sliviki can delude the willing and sadly broken populace, too, because a lot of the population realizes this, and / or has been beaten into apathy and/or a sense of inferiority that accepts such nonsense, because to face the truth is to admit powerlessness: and incredibly painful thing. The poor Rus are to be pitied. A Great Venezuelan described oil as the devil’s excrement for what it had done to their society. Russia, with its civil society shattered by years of Bolshevik murder and manipulation is even more vulnerable.

    Comment by sotos — February 2, 2012 @ 11:30 am

  4. I would challenge the statement made in the article that a Russian counterfeiter could be executed. I believe that a promotion to the Duma or the Deputy Prime Ministry would be the more likely career path.

    Also, it is now my goal in life to write a sentence with the word “sobriquet” in it. Wait, does this sentence count?

    Comment by Howard Roark — February 2, 2012 @ 11:40 am

  5. @Howard-Yup, that counts 🙂 But I’m shocked that’s not part of your everyday lingo!

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — February 2, 2012 @ 12:26 pm

  6. One must question the competence and knowledge of someone who missed the memo that Russia has had a moratorium on the death penalty since 1996.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — February 2, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

  7. Ah Sublime, there you are wrong, the president or prime minister can order the FSB or SVR to eliminate troublesome people.

    Comment by Andrew — February 2, 2012 @ 2:13 pm

  8. One must question the competence and knowledge of little Berkley schoolboy who missed actions of the corrupt and murderous Putin -regime –

    Sergei Yushenkov presented the film at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in 2002, decrying lack of civilian control over the Russian armed forces including the secret services. A staffer in Senate Foreign Relations Committee said, “We just cannot go out and say that the president of Russia is a mass murderer. But it is important that we know it.

    Comment by Anders — February 2, 2012 @ 2:41 pm

  9. Ah Sublime, there you are wrong, the president or prime minister can order the FSB or SVR to eliminate troublesome people.

    Comment by Andrew — February 2, 2012 @ 2:13 pm

    So can Obama, except he’ll use drones. He said so himself in the signing statements for the NDAA. Go read them.

    Comment by Mr. X — February 2, 2012 @ 3:31 pm

  10. And Andy regarding your claim that Ron Paul is unpopular, he’s not running very far behind Obama in the same RCP national polls you cited:

    from Tennessee Law Professor Glenn Reynolds site:

    JIM VANDEHEI: Why Obama Should Be Worried. His other problem is that the press will bend over backwards — or just plain bend over — in order to save his presidency, but if it looks like he’s going down they’ll turn on him and try to prove their objectivity by reporting all the bad stuff they’ve been soft-pedaling to date.

    And note this: “Heck, Ron Paul is running only a few points behind Obama, and he’s yet to win more than 23 percent of the vote in a GOP primary or caucus.”

    So no, apparently most Americans still don’t know who Ron Paul is, they simply know he’s not Obama, and they don’t share your irrational hatred of him for daring to criticize the Demintern/NGO/Military Industrial Complex that keeps your friends in Tbilisi so gainfully employed.

    Comment by Mr. X — February 2, 2012 @ 3:35 pm

  11. And Anders you crazy old Norwegian, my mother’s Nana and Gaga wouldn’t approve of the poor English demonstrated in your ramblings. But since you apparently endorsed ole’ Z. Bzrezinski’s strategy of constantly using Muslims as cannon fodder against Eurasia and East…er, Russia and China, here’s a story about Chinese stepping up police presence in Xinjiang and blaming outside forces for stoking Islamism there:

    Comment by Mr. X — February 2, 2012 @ 3:37 pm

  12. The paranoid Putin-mafia supporters are funny . Thank you moron X

    Comment by Anders — February 2, 2012 @ 4:26 pm

  13. No Mr.X, I have quite a rational dislike of him for his overt support of racism, all the Paulbots attempts to explain away many of his statements are epic fails, especially yours.

    I have a quite rational dislike of his foreign policy which puts millions at risk of being swallowed up by the evil empire that is Russia.

    I know you worship Putin, so does Paul, another reason to intensely dislike both him and you.

    And I thought you were leaving, or were you lying again, oh that’s right, you can’t help but lie can you X?

    Comment by Andrew — February 2, 2012 @ 10:49 pm

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