Friday Double Feature

Okay so two things. One story floating around the news lately is a supposed “leak” of plans for a top secret nuclear torpedo that is essentially a type of “dirty bomb.” You’ve probably heard the term dirty bomb plenty of times before, but in case you never bothered to look it up (you’re not missing much), it’s basically a speculative weapon designed to contaminate an area with radiation and thus deny it to the enemy. Naturally, The Daily Beast decided to take the alarmist route when reporting on the story.

The headline says “Russia’s got a dirty bomb.” Well no, not according to this story they don’t. What they have is a nice little cartoon picture of some kind of nuclear torpedo which could be likened to a dirty bomb, but I don’t see any photos or footage of this actual device. Ergo we can only confirm that they have: 1. High quality paper 2. Graphic designers.

Honestly I think this “leak” was planned. Make no mistake, Russia is run by idiots who think five minutes into the future, but they’re not idiots in every sphere. They’re really great at laundering money, for example. They’re also very good at keeping secrets, except when they’re constantly running snap drills around the Baltic region and engaging in pointless foreign military adventures which basically leak their entire doctrine. But seriously, they’re pretty good at keeping secrets. You might have heard that in 2014 and 2015, even more Russian government officials were forbidden to travel abroad by their own government. While the number of people banned from foreign travel increased significantly, this isn’t really a new thing. In the past I taught students who were banned from traveling abroad due to the nature of their work, in one case simply being a student at some kind of institute that was connected to the defense industry.

Therefore, I believe the most likely explanation is that this was purposely leaked for the sake of Russian TV. On one hand, it might have been intended to provoke some kind of overreaction, which outlets like The Daily Beast dutifully provided, but on the other I think this was most likely aimed primarily at the domestic, vatniy audience. Russian “news” is always reassuring them that their country is a great superpower armed with nukes, and that it can reduce other nations, primarily the USA, to “radioactive ash.” Vatniks watch this nuke porn and start fapping furiously. Curiously, it is not clear whether the target demographic for this news understands that any nuclear attack on the US will result in a multinational nuclear counter-strike on Russia that will quite literally relegate Russia as a nation to the history books, along with their icons, their flats with carpet-covered walls, and their bottles of Putinka brand vodka. After all, the population of the US is over twice that of Russia, there’s better infrastructure, and though it is smaller, far more of the US is habitable than Russia. Of course we all know Russia will never nuke the US because that’s where many of the Russian elite’s kids are living.

Apparently someone needs to translate this video into Russian so they will learn:

I’m out of touch with US news, but I can’t imagine that comparisons of Russian and American nuclear arsenals are a common topic on the evening national news, even these days.

And as for The Daily Beast and the prospect of improvement for its Russia coverage? Well…No. Best quote from that ridiculous article?

“They’re saying we’re ISIS although we live in the midst of Free Syrian Army and al-Nusra areas and amid revolutionary factions, most factions work with us and support us,” Majd said.”

Hey Majd, fire your PR guy.

In other news, I follow Snowden on Twitter (he never did respond to my invitation for a beer), and a couple days ago he was tweeting about a US court’s decision regarding the NSA’s metadata collection program. Yesterday, I found an article on the subject from the Putin cheerleaders at Zero Hedge. Based on their account, DC District Court Judge Richard Leon slammed the government over the unconstitutionality of its domestic spying program.

This is by no means the first victory in the struggle to restore civil rights which had been eroded thanks to 9/11 and the subsequent passage of the Patriot Act. This year, several key provisions of the act expired. Among the provisions set to expire was the NSA’s bulk data collection program.

So there you go. Snowden won. Thousands, maybe millions of American activists, and I mean real activists, the ones who actually study the laws and what they can do to change them, won. And yet while Zero Hedge is celebrating this vindication, I wonder if the irony isn’t lost on them. After all, when would we see such an independent court ruling in Russia, that great rising superpower? Would we ever see a Russian judge slam the law on “offending the feelings of believers,” seeing how it’s a clear violation of the Russian constitution? Nope. Maybe a decision restricting the powers of media watchdog Roskomnadzor on the same grounds? Nope.

What we have here is an example of extremely unpopular laws being overturned thanks to years of activism, free and open debate, investigation by independent media, and yet America’s the totalitarian dictatorship ruled by “banksters” while Russia is the valiant land of freedom from Anglo-American hegemony. Sure. And to be fair, I’m not saying anyone at Zero Hedge actually makes that argument, but there are people out there who basically do all the time.

What we witnessed with the expiration of those provisions and the court’s decision about the NSA’s unconstitutional program is an example of the system actually working. It may be flawed as hell, but it still works so long as there’s something called rule of law and people have the freedom to organize and express their dissent freely. Hell, we might have seen this happen years ago if it weren’t for so many potential activists deciding to bury their heads in 9/11 Truther propaganda and GMO conspiracy theories instead of learning how to write to their damned congressional representative or helping organizations like the ACLU, a long time opponent of Patriot Act provisions. In Russia, this bastion of “freedom” for the angry middle aged white male who’s too fucking lazy to do any of that, you don’t have a free press and you don’t have rule of law. You have rule of the midget. What the midget wants, the midget gets.

As I keep saying again and again, you can find virtually no end to the flaws and problems in American “democracy” and its society. Ditto for the countries of Europe as well. But when people are allowed the tools to fix those problems, eventually they will. Sometimes it’s solved by an election that throws a ruling party out, other times it takes a virtual revolution, but it happens, and it works. Meanwhile we’ve seen the results of handing one’s freedom over to a thief who promises “stability” (and fails to deliver). At times, the difference seems small, and perhaps it is in fact small. But in politics, small differences lead to vastly different results. And if the Tyler Durdens of Zero Hedge disagree, perhaps they should come to Russia and start lobbying against Russia’s domestic spying program, known as SORM, its internet blacklist, and its data localization laws.

All this isn’t to say Americans should shut up about their government and be happy with it. That would make this whole topic an American version of whataboutery. On the contrary- learn what problems America actually has (HINT: if Trump is talking about it, it’s probably not a real problem), and go out and do something about it. Don’t sit on forums or social networks grumbling about it and sharing bogus infographics. Don’t become a cheerleader for Russia just because the “mainstream media” is criticizing it. Go use what freedoms you still have and improve your society while you still can. Yes, it’s hard work. Yes, you might have to work with people who disagree with you and don’t fully subscribe to your one-off, custom-made personal ideology that mixes Anarcho-primitivism with Maoist Third World feminism. Yes, it will take a long time and you might not get exactly what you want at first, but if you keep at it and keep bringing more people to the cause, you will probably succeed.

And how much you want to bet the fact that in America, super-patriotism is seen as a literal joke by at least half the country is also totally lost on Putin's fanboys in the US?

And how much you want to bet the fact that in America, super-patriotism is seen as a literal joke by at least half the country is also totally lost on Putin’s fanboys in the US?

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8 thoughts on “Friday Double Feature

  1. EP

    “seriously, they’re pretty good at keeping secrets.”

    Not really. The only reason people think that is that Western intelligence agencies actually ARE good at keeping secrets. If you’ve read declassified intelligence documents from 20-40 years ago, you must realize that. Making the Russians (and consequently the world) think they’re good at keeping secrets involves major ongoing effort on the parts of CIA and the rest.

    “It may be flawed as hell, but it still works so long as there’s something called rule of law and people have the freedom to organize and express their dissent freely.”

    In fact, as long as the former is strong, some limitations of the latter can be tolerated. (And vice versa.)

    “so many potential activists deciding to bury their heads in 9/11 Truther propaganda and GMO conspiracy theories instead of learning how to write to their damned congressional representative or helping organizations like the ACLU”

    This! (Incidentally, I can think of at least one government-funded network that worked ever so hard to promote both of these brands of mass psychosis… A complete coincidence, I’m sure…)

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      I still think they would have been good enough not to leak such a “secret weapon” in such a ridiculous way. These weapons are all speculative, and you notice how he’s holding a paper that really ought to be a powerpoint presentation? It’s simplistic, colorful, easy to read from a distance.

      Reply
      1. EP

        Well, either (1) they actually are that bad at security, or, what seems almost certain given what I’ve read, (2) they are stupid enough to leak disinformation about an utterly fantastic uber-weapon they are supposedly developing, which, according to their own disinformation, won’t have an operational carrier for many years (one of the two subs listed as carriers has been mothballed for 15 years, and the other was laid down only one year ago).

        Or (3): both (1) and (2) 🙂

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        I heard the Soviets had plans for a nuclear torpedo, and this dirty bomb is basically a speculative weapon which is by no means a new idea(even the DB noted the idea of using cobalt bombs in the Korean War).

        It seems to me like this was deliberate, half for reaction, half for the carpet on the wall crowds at home. It’s not too hard to go through some database of weapons designs and work it into a public-friendly infographic like that.

        Actually I’m with Mark Galeotti on the topic of Russian nukes, when he said that the fact they are wasting more money on nukes is reassuring. I actually had this same thought literally more than 10 years ago, back when I was a total Russia cheerleader. I noted how the US was always developing these conventional weapons and they were going around the world USING them. Then there’d be a story from Russia about how they were developing a new nuke. Always nukes, nukes, nukes.

        Nowadays when I see these news stories here bragging about their nuclear arsenal I want to ask people if they remember how many nukes the Soviet Union had, and how that clearly didn’t do shit for them.

        Probably what will happen sooner or later is that the Putinist system will collapse, chaos that makes the 90’s look like 90’s America will ensue, and the remaining nuclear arsenal of Russia will be turned over to NATO powers for dismantling and destruction in exchange for badly needed monetary aid.

        That’s what this “stability” leads to.

      3. EP

        Oh, the story is total BS, of course! We know because Mr. Mustache admitted to it, instead of giving a no-comment.

        I keep seeing Sakharov’s name brought up in connection with this story on Russian blogs (as well as how Soviet military allegedly balked at his proposal because it was too TERRIBLE and INHUMANE – which I’d refuse to believe even from Sakharov’s own mouth.) The original Soviet project was one of those grandiose “let’s reverse the flow of Siberian rivers without considering the consequences”-style concepts, involving fuckhuge warheads turning US coastal areas into IRL Fallout. Completely retarded within the MAD framework, since, unlike the standard strategic nukes it would not at all hamper the US capacity to launch its counterstrike. Which, I bet, is the real reason the Soviet military shelved it.

        As for Russia buildind anything like what is on that picture, given their inefficiency, isolation and technological backwardness it is probably literally out of their price range at this point. As it is, the only effective dirty bombs Russia is capable of manufacturing are (a) stationary (i.e., Chernobyl-style reactors) and (b) inward-directed (i.e., its nuclear subs).

      4. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Kind of unrelated, but Carl Sagan once suggested that had the US not built the hydrogen bomb(which some scientists were against apparently), the USSR might not have sought its own.

        Oh well, the Cold War arms race at least gave us space exploration.

      5. EP

        Cold War gave us lots of things a lot more important than space exploration. Like, it greatly accelerated computer science and the growth of respect for human rights in the West, to name just a couple…

        And Carl Sagan spent way too much time hanging out with flaky Soviet SETI enthusiasts for me not to smile whenever his name is mentioned…

      6. gbd_crwx

        But didn’t the USSR build some ship-to-ship missiles which could carry a nuclear warhead? (as well as a SAM) I mean do they really need to develop a nuclear toredo specifically? It should be enough to make the warhead big enough to fit in a torpedo, and haven’t that been accomplished already?

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