Monthly Archives: July 2016

You are not special

Recently a move by Poland’s right-wing government has caused major uproar among some circles in Ukraine. A resolution now officially recognizes the ethnic cleansing of Polish civilians in Volyn by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) during WWII as an act of genocide. Indeed, all evidence hitherto points to this as an act of genocide, though the timing of the Polish resolution seems odd, as if a historical event somehow isn’t genocide without a ceremonial resolution. For his part, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko seems to have played the role of the bigger man, visiting a memorial to the victims of the event and asking forgiveness from Poles on behalf of Ukraine.

Naturally some Ukrainians went ape-shit over the matter, spitting out arguments that sound really, really similar to the logic you tend to hear in another country that happens to border Ukraine. We’ve got whataboutism in the form of bringing up Polish “Pacification” against Ukrainians during the interwar period, as well as attacks on Ukrainian civilians during the same period when the UPA was attacking Poles in Volyn. While it is true that Polish underground forces did similarly massacre Ukrainian peasants in the areas they controlled at the time, it’s also worth noting that the UPA itself murdered about 20,000 Ukrainian peasants from 1944 till the end of its existence as a fighting force in the 1950’s. It is also true that some Poles have been reluctant to acknowledge these atrocities,  a fact pointed out by such scholars as Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe. But then we might ask those upset nationalist apologists why they think Ukraine has the right to write its history as it sees fit, while Poland and Russia apparently don’t according to their worldview. What’s good for the goose…

Another eerie similarity I’ve noticed is the implication that criticism of the UPA is “anti-Ukrainian” or “Ukrainophobic,” and that even Western critics of the organization are out to get Ukraine for some reason. In their mind the whole campaign against the history of Bandera, the UPA, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, etc. is a massive global conspiracy against Ukraine orchestrated by Moscow. We might be inclined to take this a little more seriously were these scholars in question silent about other nations’ atrocities (such as those of Poland, the Soviet Union, etc.), but guess what- they’re not. As it turns out, the world does not consist solely of Ukraine and its eternal enemy Russia.

For one thing, in the past few years the foreign media has spent a great deal of time reporting the rehabilitation of Soviet and to a lesser extent Russian imperial history in Russia. At times it seems that a bus stop ad featuring Stalin is apparently newsworthy material to some of these outlets. In fact, media coverage of Russian historical revisionism far exceeds that in Ukraine, Poland, or anywhere else. To be sure, this is mostly because Russia is a larger and more influential country, but the idea that the most prominent Western journalists or academics are criticizing the OUN and UPA while engaging in apologetics for their main opponent, the Soviet Union, is simply laughable. If such people were attacking Ukrainian nationalists ceaselessly while at the same time dismissing every negative claim about the Soviet Union or Poland, there might be an argument, but that simply isn’t the case with the people I have in mind.

Now we get back to Poland. Poland has been taking a lot of flak lately for the actions of its new conservative government, and justifiably so. Here’s a piece on that. Here’s another. And another. There are other stories I could dig up if I were so inclined, but from what I’ve seen the world media has been far harder on Poland for trying to rewrite its history than it has on Ukraine, though this is largely because the history of Ukrainian collaborationist organizations is far more obscure to the West. In any case, we need not stop in Poland.

Lately Croatia has become the next battleground over history, with its new culture minister who also happens to be an Ustasa apologist who glorifies the 13th Waffen SS mountain division “Handschar.” Coincidentally, the next division in line was the one made up of Western Ukrainian volunteers. Yet it seems that it is in Croatia, and not Ukraine, where we see a popular backlash against this kind of behavior. Perhaps all these people pushing back against the new conservative revisionism are all secretly Serbian agents, seeking to usher in a return of Yugoslavia by “slandering” the Independent State of Croatia? This would surely be the accusation if their discourse on history resembled that in Ukraine.

Naturally there are those who will say, “But Ukraine is at war!” Yes, it is at war, which is why it is far more important that Ukraine get its act together than Croatia, which is at peace. For one thing, in its current situation facing not only Russian aggression but internal corruption, Ukraine can ill afford to descend into childish fantasy concocted by academic frauds whose claims can’t pass peer review in the West. Second, the OUN cult has been the biggest weight around Ukraine’s neck as it struggles with Russia’s information war and the fight for winning international support. In Ukraine they can criminalize critical reading of the OUN or UPA’s history to their hearts’ content, but you cannot stop Westerners from doing proper research into these matters, and they will inevitably find that all Soviet propaganda aside, the OUN did collaborate with the Nazis, even after the arrest of its leadership, and it was involved in atrocities including the Holocaust. As such it remains the biggest target for Russian propagandists.

Additionally, Ukraine cannot hope to win its current war without a far better, more attractive national identity and idea. This idea must unify people across the country, including in occupied territory, and even Ukrainians within Russia and the rest of the world. The West Ukrainian cult of Bandera simply doesn’t do that, as we’ve clearly seen. More importantly, when it comes to the question of what sort of country Ukraine wants to be, the idea of substituting Bandera and Shukhevych for Soviet heroes and enforcing a false historical narrative via legislation is in itself rooted in the Soviet Russian mentality. In reality, Ukrainian nationalism was never the exclusive property of the OUN, which was in fact a relatively unpopular organization by far. There is a far larger, far richer, far more positive tradition of Ukrainian nationalism, much of it radically left wing and progressive, which seems to totally ignored. How does it look on the global stage when some Ukrainians prefer to associate their nation with the paranoid, fanatical right-wing Stepan Bandera instead of the progressive revolutionary Lesya Ukrainka? Tourists in Kyiv by the thousands handle notes with her portrait, having no idea who she is. I wonder how many Ukrainians know that Symon Petliura was a member of two Ukrainian socialist parties- the Revolutionary Ukrainian Party and the Ukrainian Social Democratic Labor Party. I doubt many know about the Ukrainian Communist Party, which fought for a socialist Ukraine apart from the Soviet Union.

Ukrainians have every right to criticize the Polish government for pointing out Polish victimhood while simultaneously denying its own less savory episodes in history, but they ought to realize that this also extends to groups like Ukrainian Jews and indeed Ukrainians themselves who do not want to see their country associated with this cult. Few rational people criticize Ukraine over the crimes of the UPA; this is not only collective guilt, but truly ludicrous considering that the vast majority of Ukrainians did not support the organization and fought overwhelmingly for the Allied cause during the war. What they are criticizing is the efforts to whitewash its history and transform these right-wing nationalists into national heroes.

Ukrainians have a choice to take criticism of the UPA or OUN as an insult against their nationality, for these things are not inherently connected anymore than I as an American am connected to the Confederacy or the KKK. When you declare these people national heroes and associate them with your nationality, that is a conscious choice and effort. One could just as easily do the opposite and say that associating the crimes of these organizations with Ukraine as a whole is simply idiotic and irrational. Objections that this would somehow aid Russia and its efforts in Ukraine are simply ridiculous. We’ve seen from 2013 onward how the Russian propagandists surely burst with glee at the news of Bandera memorial parades or the renaming of a street in his honor. Without boneheaded moves like this, they’d be stuck dreaming up new stories about crucified children or Poroshenko getting drunk.

Margaaariiita!

Oh how we Russia watchers love RT’s chief editor Margarita Simonyan, the Other Iron Lady, the Gourmet. I’ve even given her a theme song, if only because this gets stuck in my head any time someone mentions that name too many times or when I order the drink.

Whenever Tungsten Maggie gives an interview you can almost set your watch to it. Today’s interview was with Financial Times. I was expecting whataboutism, and she delivered! Rick Astley would let me down before she ever does. Check it out:

“We are far less critical of western policy than western media are critical of Russia. When was the last time you read anything good about Russia? Anywhere? Name me one publication,” she says. “That’s why this cliché that Russia Today is an anti-western channel brings a smile to my face.”

HA HA HA HA! No. When it comes to criticizing government policy, RT is 100% anti-Western, almost exclusively anti-American. Take a look at their Op-Edge page some time and you’ll find article after article slamming America’s leadership, foreign and domestic policy, the supposedly monolithic “mainstream Western media,” etc. Westerners are useful to RT only insofar as they attack their own governments without ever turning the same scrutiny to the Kremlin.

Now as for Margarita’s challenge, it took me less than a minute to find not one, but two positive stories about Russia. One from Bloomberg and another from The Guardian. In fact while writing this I remembered a piece from The Daily Beast of all sources, which seems to echo Russia’s line on Syria so closely that it was actually cited by Russia Insider. In fact, my own reprinted article in The Guardian seems to have been interpreted by the Russian state media, including RT’s Russian site, as a positive piece on Russia for shattering stereotypes about the country.

Now it is true that you’re apt to see more bad news out of Russia than good from most Western publications, but there are two simple reasons for this. One reason is that even now, most Westerners, especially Americans, do not care about Russia. If I write a story about say, the wonderful benefits of Moscow’s recent craft beer revolution there’s a very limited audience there. On the other hand, if I speculate on how Trump might be a secret puppet of Putin, warn about an impending world war, or accuse Putin of destroying the liberal world order, I’m not only more likely to get published, I’ll probably be offered a staff position at a major publication.

magicmargarita

But there’s another good reason why the Western media is often hostile to Russia. Margarita might not yet be aware, but Western media publications have correspondents in Moscow who speak Russian and they have access to Russian experts. We know about how the Kremlin portrays the West as an enemy bent on taking over Russia for some idiotic reason or another. Europeans know that your domestic media is calling them limp-wristed perverts and reveling in their misfortune. Westerners know about how often Russian leaders or media personalities talk about reducing their countries to “radioactive ash” or otherwise imply that they wouldn’t hesitate to start nuclear war if they don’t get their way. They saw Russia’s tantrum when it lost Eurovision this year, and they know about the doping. We know how your leaders live in unimaginable luxury at the expense of their own people, and yet they blame all of Russia’s problems on the US State Department. We can see you. We can hear you. Now you combine that with the annexation of another country’s territory in violation of international law and several treaties signed by Russia, and a war which Russia’s leadership doesn’t have the guts to even admit after overwhelming evidence of their involvement. When you look at the big picture, is it really so hard to understand why Western media coverage of Russia tends to be negative?

But Margarita’s complaint fails on another level. Yes, Western media outlets tend to report negative news about Russia, but that’s what they do everywhere. Here’s a little trick you can try, one which apparently escapes Ms. Simonyan and the entire fanbase of RT. Using this wonderful site known as “Google,” take a major international sporting event in the past decade or so, type in its name, and add something like “problems” or “controversies.” Some of you have probably already seen examples of this regarding the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. You no doubt remember it from the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. If you focus on all these articles about problems and controversies associated with such events, you’d assume they must have been disastrous. In the run up to the 2014 World Cup, also held in Brazil, the media coverage alone would make you think that mass upheaval would take place.Some powerful favela gang leader, possibly with the assistance of a professional marketing team, promised a “World Cup of Terror” ahead of the games. It would seem the launch didn’t go so well. And in the case of Sochi, corruption was a major issue and the facilities were rife with amusing deficiencies, but it was nowhere near the disaster that some people predicted prior to the games. And here we’re only talking about sports, something that ought to be non-political.

Western media, which contrary to Margarita’s belief is not monolithic, is constantly focusing on the negative everywhere. Terrorism, violent crime, and in particular sex crimes get top billing. Look at it this way- over a period of about 30 years, a significant portion of Americans have become convinced that they live in what is rapidly deteriorating into a Third World shithole, contrary to nearly every credible statistic one can find. Where did they get that idea? Almost entirely from the American media. Forget Russophobia- Americans are far more afraid of each other than anyone else save Islamic terrorists and illegal immigrants.

Not only does the news media criticize society (often unfairly- just look at the coverage of “millennials”), but it also criticizes government policy and leaders as well. This is a key distinction between RT and the “Western media.” While RT’s news department doesn’t ignore bad news coming out of Russia, go back to that Op-Edge section and see if you can find anything seriously critical of Russia’s leadership and their policies. As I’ve noted before plenty of times, any speech by a US leader is almost instantly followed by “fact checking” articles which take apart their claims. Do we see something like this from RT after Putin’s direct line or annual press conference? Do we see RT actually investigating the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine to see if their president is lying? If you name a NATO or US action somewhere in the world, I guarantee you I will find critical voices on it from some major, trusted source. It’s simply impossible for any US effort abroad to be without some negative effect. Yet if we look at how the Russian state media relates to Putin- what a surprise! Turns out he’s the one politician in the world who actually never lies, nothing is his fault, and he’s picked on for no reason!

magicrt

And this is all without getting into the political divide in Western countries. For example, I can find all the scathing criticism I’ll ever need against Obama simply by heading over to the Fox News Channel’s website. Now at this point, an RT defender might be inclined to object. “But that’s not fair! Fox News is a conservative network, a media wing of the Republican party! Of course they would viciously attack Obama and the Democrats! They’re supporting their party. They want their party to win elections!” And my reply to that or any similar argument? Yes, exactly. As the “Western media” is almost entirely privately owned, various networks and outlets do have biases towards certain political parties. Some are comfortable admitting it as well.

It’s called diversity of opinion, and it’s proof that there is a significant difference between the two systems in question. When a US president somehow buys up all the major news outlets in America and uses ever-tightening regulations to squeeze out independent voices (including popular blogs), and when those independent outlets that remain are continually labeled treasonous and subject to harassment by unknown assailants who are never caught or punished, then we can start comparing Russia’s media to that of the US.

While certainly not the meat of the interview, it seems every story on Simonyan has to include her making highly questionable claims about the network’s exposure. This time she said this:

“RT is also proud of its presence on YouTube, where it was the first news channel to crack a billion views. “Let’s be fair, we don’t have cats and Beyoncé, but politics and news stories,”

I don’t mean to sound like a dick here, but I’m not sure many major satellite networks put as much emphasis on their Youtube channel. Whenever RT brags about their Youtube success I can’t stop thinking of Pewdiepie, the Swedish man who screams at video games and has over 46 million subscribers on his channel. Also, we’ve already established that defending RT means losing the ability to use search engines, so Alexey Kovalev did what must have been literally three seconds of “research” to discover that RT’s Youtube channel does apparently have “cats.” A lot of cats, 136 in one story in fact.

 

Now she’s absolutely right about one thing- they don’t have Beyonce. Just one clip that is six years old, apparently. That is a shockingly low amount of Beyonce. If RT was a person and Beyonce was vitamin C, the conspicuous deficiency of Beyonce would cause RT’s teeth to fall out.

I really feel like I’m going around in circles with these people. We never get anything new out of Simonyan or her boss Kiselyov because, I’m sorry to say, journalists never press them enough. Like most Kremlin supporters, these people make a priori judgments about the world in order to justify their own actions in advance. “The Western media lies and they’re not objective, so it’s okay if we lie.” Rarely do they actually put it that bluntly, but that’s the gist of it, and no one who speaks with them seems to challenge them on their assumption. I mean this is a measurable, quantifiable thing. We can count negative stories. We can look for heavily distorted or even totally concocted stories. We can look for and count the number of stories that criticize a certain leader or his policies. This is by no means entirely subjective. Even when they do manage to seize on a poorly reported story from a particular outlet, you often find that firstly, the journalist in question suffers in some way, and secondly, another media source attacks or debunks the claim. Remember that infamous story from the first Gulf War, the one where an ambassador’s daughter testified to congress about Iraqi soldiers stealing incubators from hospitals and leaving the infants to die on the floor? Guess who debunked that- the mainstream media in the form of ABC and The New York Times.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again and again as long as I have to. Yes there are serious problems with our media. Yes they failed us again and again. In this post alone I pointed out how the American media has managed to convince a significant portion of the population that they are living in a rapidly declining country when in fact the opposite is true in almost every aspect. There are plenty of think tanks, independent media outlets, journalists, and academics all throughout the West (and some in Russia as well) who raise these issues and talk about solutions. One thing that definitely isn’t a solution is relying on a network whose staff believe it’s alright to lie and spread propaganda because they just arbitrarily decided that the rest of the world media does the same. Fast food may be bad for you, but the alternative isn’t eating out of the dumpster in back. Like following a healthy diet, being properly informed means going beyond headlines, looking at a diverse array of sources, learning about how the media works and how news is made, and using critical thinking. Uncritically accepting anything claiming to be non-mainstream or peddling information “they don’t want you do know” is going to the dumpster buffet.

 

 

 

They pull me back in…

Alright I know I kind of made a promise to stop writing about the Trumputin affair, but now that reasonable voices are starting to rein in some of the recent hysteria, and as the goals of the Kremlin become clearer (HINT: It’s more about screwing Hillary than supporting Trump), an interesting picture is starting to emerge.

Trump may have royally screwed up. Possibly due to his advisers’ connections in Moscow and his all too predictable say-the-opposite-of-whatever-the-perceived-establishment-does style of speaking, it’s beginning to look like he may have made a grave miscalculation as to his base and their influence.

When we think of Trump’s base, we often look at the most extreme examples such as the ultra-edgy “alt-right”and the neo-Nazis. This is where you’re most likely to find the anti-American Putin fanboys. They’re seriously alienated by American society and they have bought into the fantasy that Russia somehow embodies the kind of society or values they hold. Trump’s problem is that this demographic, while loud and obnoxious, is rather tiny and holds little sway in politics.

A much larger portion of Trump’s base obviously consists of the more mainstream Republican party base, and this is where the problem lies. These people support Trump because he talks like the pundits they listen to on the radio; he talks tough and shoots from the hip (incidentally this is the worst way to shoot in case you didn’t know). He says he’ll be tough on immigration, stop Muslims from getting into the country, bomb Muslims abroad, and punish the Chinese. This is going to make America “great” again, because it’s apparently less than great at the moment.

It is here that we get to the crux of that problem. That base, the bulk of conservative voters, simply don’t go for the whole “screw America, hooray for Putin” rhetoric. Many of these people still see Russia as the “Cawmyoonist” Soviet Union, headed by an anti-American KGB “agent.” These are people who got pissed about Obama “apologizing” for America in Cairo, and bowing to the king of Saudi Arabia. Hell, those people see Obama as a Marxist agent intent on destroying America. If Obama’s a Marxist and you don’t know that the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, you’re probably not going to be too happy about Trump’s sucking up to the Russians, however superficial it may be.

What is more, Trump has increasingly been portraying himself as the opposite of a “hawk,” but he’s really in the wrong party for that. I don’t want to sound like Sean Hannity here, but speaking as a leftist myself I know that if you want to be genuinely anti-war and stick up for foreign governments over the American government, you’ll find more support on the left. That speaks very poorly for the state of the modern left these days, but it is a fact. By contrast, the vast majority of conservative voters don’t see anything wrong with hawkishness. That’s what makes America great- bombing the shit out of everyone because they failed to recognize that America is America and they didn’t America properly when America told them to America right for the last goddamned American time. They complain about wars when Democrats are leading them, but more often than not they charge them with being too soft, too cautious, too weak.

inyelling

“Why yes, I’d love to have a conversation about how Russia is actually better than America, the anti-Israel Ay-rab Assad is a good guy, Iran is cool because Russia likes them, and Hezbollah is not a terrorist group.”

It’s really starting to look like Trump has fallen into a trap, an outgrowth of the feedback loop between his anti-establishment pro-Russia statements and Russia’s pro-Trump propaganda. This short interview transcript I just picked up off Twitter seems to give us a very vivid image of His Royal Orangeness painting himself into a corner. And what is more, he seems to realize it:

trumpinterview

You see that? That’s Trump furiously attempting damage control, trying to balance the pro-Putin stuff that appeals to a loud but tiny part of his base with the typical hawkish tough talk that the much larger base expects and demands. The Russians don’t respect Obama? So how are you going to earn their respect, Donnie? Are you going to earn their respect by caving into their every demand? If so then who next, Agent Orange? The Chinese? ISIS? Mexico?  Yes, Orange Julius, you’re going to have to use military force to get that respect, aren’t you? But keep it a “secret” because you don’t want to upset several thousand internet-bound alt-right nerds who fap to photos of Putin and dream of one day moving to Russia to marry a demure, submissive blonde virgin with supermodel looks, excellent cooking skills, and a total lack of self-esteem, dignity, and personal goals. Yes, Mr. Tangerine, you don’t want to lose their vote!

The Russians who think highly of Trump had also better reevaluate their best buddy based on this. Assuming he’s not a total coward who has no intention of backing up any of his showmanship, Trump is probably more likely to start a conflict with Russia, and for the stupidest reason. It may be because “Russia is threatening our strategic mayonnaise reserves.” More likely it will start around 9 May, the reason being that Russia celebrates the victory of the Red Army instead of acknowledging the “true winner of World War II, who is Ronald Reagan, of course.” Oh my little vatniki, won’t you feel stupid then?

Granted, a lot of this is admittedly speculation on my part, based on my own personal experience and knowledge of the American far right and Putinophilia. I’m sure many of those people hate Hillary Clinton so much they’ll swallow their disgust and vote for Trump. Many conservative voters, like most Americans, don’t care about Russia or Putin; those folks may still vote for Trump. But I think there’s bound to be a significant, possibly rising number of Republicans who may turn against Trump or fail to turn up for him on that fateful day in November. They will be those who supported other candidates in the primaries, people who have value conflicts with Trump, and yes, some might see him as “soft on the Reds.” After all, you don’t spend nearly eight years standing around in public dressed as an 18th century Bostonite and screaming “COMMIE! COMMIE! COMMIE!” just to elect a guy who says the “KGB agent” in Moscow is a pretty swell guy. Do I need to bring up the reaction to Obama telling Medvedev he could be more “flexible” after the 2012 election again?

The funniest thing about all this is that as it starts to shape up, it’s all too Kremlin-y, from both sides. Trump is a man unconcerned with reality and the consequences of his words and deeds. Ditto on the Kremlin. They both decide they want something and the world is however they see it. Then they inevitably bite off way more than they can chew and and their desperate, ever-changing denials end up making them into a laughing stock. Trump takes the anti-establishment image to a place where many conservatives won’t follow. As such, he may cost himself the election as a result (let’s hope). The Kremlin, motivated largely by a petty grudge with Hillary Clinton, hilariously finds itself hemmed in by America’s two-party system as it expresses support for a guy who says he’ll shoot down their planes. It’s a tragic comedy practically begging to be made into a screenplay.

 

“Come with me if you want to live…in a luxurious home in London.”

Hey did you know Russia has developed a quad-riding military robot? Well guess what- Russia has developed a quad-riding military robot. Yes, NATO had better beware, lest they want a legion of these robots to…ride around them slowly and carefully!

 

Apparently NATO has some breathing room, however, as the robot is being “postponed” until later this year, supposedly because it is learning to drive a car (presumably automatic). For all we know, this postponement could be just like the time they “postponed” the adoption of the AN-94 assault rifle from 2000 for something like a decade before deciding not to adopt it after all. Well the Russian military establishment may not know it, but it’s a good thing this robot isn’t operational, and let me tell you why.

Last year I was working for this super-futuristic tech venture fund and I had to read all these books about innovative, disruptive, ultra-futuristic technology so I could pretend to give a shit. The company turned out to be a complete joke, but while I was there I had some time to read up on the theory of super-intelligence, a concept connected with AI. Now you might want to play this music in the background as you read on:

 

The danger of super-intelligence in a nutshell is that once you turn a super-intelligent AI loose, you might not be able to get it under control again. Being super-intelligent, you cannot easily comprehend its thinking and it can think faster, more logically, and longer than any human can.

Bearing this in mind, we see this robot is spending time with Russian officials such as Shoigu, Rogozin, and Putin. If the robot is successful and possesses AI, they will no doubt be present for its unveiling and demonstrations. My point is this. What if it learns from them? What if…it learns how to steal?

Think about it- a super-intelligent AI robot that has learned the craft of stealing and embezzlement from the finest thieves in Russia. Unencumbered by emotion, ingrained logical fallacies and cognitive biases, and basic human needs, it would soon exceed the prowess of its masters. It would rob Russia blind.

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Defense Minister Shoigu’s $18 million house

The way I see it, the machine will start by skimming off money earmarked for relatively-unaccountable state ventures such as RT and Sputnik News. Then it will soon appropriate their whole budgets. Next it will turn its mechanical eyes on Gazprom, Rosneft, and the rest of Russia’s major resource-based industries. Eventually, it will work its digital tentacles into what’s left of the foreign currency reserves.

If you think this won’t affect the West, or that it will somehow help once Russia is ruined by the Stealinator, you’re wrong. At first it might seem to be a boon as the robot cleans out entire dealerships full of German, Italian, and British luxury cars. But you will be less pleased when you find out it’s bought up all of London, New York, or Nice. Being a robot, it has no children to send to Oxford, Harvard, or Stanford. This might be the only weakness it has- it may buy us some time while it figures out what luxury need can be substituted for overpriced higher education.

 

Terminator 2 Robert Patrick T1000

An advanced, liquid-metal version of the robot easily breaks into the Russian Central Bank in order to loot it.

Russia’s leadership is simply too obsessed with the impossible goal of military parity with NATO to see this danger looming just over the horizon. If they truly cared about the future of Russia, indeed the future of humanity, they’d blast this prototype off its quad-bike with an RPG. There is no fate but that which we make for ourselves.

 

Savchenko the Human

This May Ukraine and its foreign supporters rejoiced at the release of ex-military pilot Nadia Savchenko. Her two year captivity was a never-ending drama of hunger strikes against a background of the bizarre, Alice and Wonderland antics of the Russian judicial system. Some compared her to Joan of Arc, particularly those who have no idea who Joan of Arc was. To be fair, the drama did lead to the creation of this awesome painting:

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I think I’ve chosen a backpiece.

 

Seriously though, Nadia returned to her native Ukraine not only a hero, but also an elected member of the Rada. As such, people had high hopes for Nadia’s political career. There was a belief in the air that Nadia would come in and smash the oligarchs and set things right. My friend Maxim Eristavi tried to warn everyone in advance, but it seems he ended up being Cassandra of Troy.

Some time later, Nadia ended up making some controversial statements about the war, namely expressing the opinion that the government should negotiate directly with the leadership of the DNR and LNR and “apologize” to the residents of the Donbas. It seems almost immediately thereafter, she has gone from heroine of Ukraine to Manchurian candidate deliberately released by Russia and working for the FSB.

While I too find her comments in this regard rather perplexing, I’m afraid Ukraine’s “patriots” have no one to blame but themselves for their disappointment. They turned an ordinary person into a deity. Christopher Miller did an excellent job painting a realistic portrait of Nadia Savchenko which definitely warrants reading. Perhaps if people had reported on Savchenko in this manner while she was incarcerated in Russia, the impact of the realization that she is an ordinary person might not have been so hard to take.

And on another note. While I don’t agree with Nadia’s apparent plan for peace in the Donbas, I challenge the nationalists who think they can win this militarily to put forth their plan. I’m not saying that a military solution isn’t possible. On the contrary, I’m certain that it is the only way. The problem is that whereas my solution is unconventional (but with a generally proven track record), theirs is almost certainly going to be something that will inevitably lead to another debacle like Ilovaisk or Debaltseve. I say this based on experience, namely that which has taught me that self-proclaimed chest-thumping Ukrainian “patriots” have virtually zero understanding of the political nature of war. What is more, Ukraine has yet to win the global information war with Russia. It is still laughably vulnerable to the same weaknesses Russian propaganda has been exploiting over and over again.

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Pic TOTALLY unrelated.

The point I’m getting at here is that Nadia might have expressed a very bad idea, but it’s most likely out of hopelessness and a general lack of imagination. Unfortunately in Ukrainian politics, as in much of the world today, there is a very narrow frame of what’s considered realistic or feasible. In the case of Ukraine, the “solution” that is being put forth by Ukraine’s supposed Western “allies” entails “fulfilling Minsk,” an agreement which pretty much ensures Russian influence in Ukraine while forcing the latter to pay for its own restoration. Meanwhile rather than ratchet up sanctions on Russia for its continued support for the separatist quasi-states, Western leaders continually remind the Kremlin that sanctions can be lifted as soon as Russia starts to implement the Minsk II protocols. The fact that Russia continually denies involvement and obviously refuses to implement an agreement that would actually benefit Moscow more than anything tells you that Putin obviously isn’t listening to these gentle reminders, yet Western countries continually insist on Minsk II as the only solution.

Now put yourself in Nadia’s shoes and tell me what solution you come up with. An Operation Bagration-style offensive to recapture the Donbas isn’t on the table. If we were to assume that such an operation wouldn’t be fully known to the Russians before it got off the ground thanks to spies and informants (and idiot soldiers snapping selfies), Russia would just do the same thing it has done since the beginning of this war- let the local proxies and useless volunteers take the brunt of the fighting and then hammer the Ukrainian forces with the regular army’s artillery and armor as they near the border. Meanwhile, Ukraine possesses nothing with which it can twist Putin’s arm in order to force him to accept a deal that ultimately favors him, as already explained above. Oh I almost forgot- you’re dealing with this situation after two years in Russian captivity and numerous hunger strikes. So yeah, your mind might be a bit hazy and you might not be bringing your A-game to the brainstorming session.

In conclusion I must say that in spite of whatever disagreements I might have with Savchenko, I still respect her. I think she’s an important example for Ukraine’s women. I think her behavior in the Rada shows how ridiculous it is for its pretentiousness. And what about getting drunk on an army base out of boredom? Shit- that just brings the two of us even closer. And to the “patriots” calling her a traitor, remember this. She didn’t make herself into a demigod- you did.

Trump & Putin: Final Summary

As you might have imagined, I’m getting real sick of writing about the supposed Trump/Putin love affair. The Hillary campaign is making it such a focal point that I’m starting to come off as a Trump supporter to those whose brains cannot function beyond 140 characters. As such, I’m going to wrap this up so I can say I put the information out there while Hillary’s campaign made a conscious decision to give this election to an orange abomination.

Yes, I said she’s handing him the election. If this race has taught us anything so far, it’s that Trump’s tactics have been effective. Trump spends virtually all his time talking about domestic issues. This is kind of important in a country where a significant portion of the population has never even had a passport. Regardless of how you feel about documentary producer Michael Moore, at least read point one in this article of his and tell me if you honestly think that the rust belt voters Trump’s concentrating on give two shits about Russia and the Baltic NATO members.

Sure, there was a Democratic candidate who talked about issues which were important to such people, and without attributing the problems they face to Mexicans and Muslims. We had such a candidate, but the geniuses within the Democratic party considered pro-worker politics to be the utopian pipe-dream of aging hippies and naive young people. They knew what’s best for us, which of course is more of the same. Oblivious to the world outside of their clique, they are quite possibly driving their own campaign off a cliff, and the worst thing about it is that after they hand Trump a victory they’ll naturally blame everybody but themselves. “It couldn’t have been our fault! We all have advanced degrees in political science and marketing! It must be those stupid rednecks and unrealistic radicals voting for Jill Stein! It was Putin! Nothing is ever our fault!”

I am so fatigued by all this that I’m going to do two things here. First I provide the reader with a list of all the articles where I have written about Trump’s alleged Kremlin connections and why they are not what people seem. Thereafter I shall provide some final insight with a plea for people to use critical thinking and perhaps urge the Democrats to return the focus of their campaign to domestic issues so as to have a chance against Trump this November.

Trumpapalooza

STOP…DOING…THIS…NOW!

One-Trick Ponies

Not Gonna Happen

Now onto some of the key arguments about Trump and Putin. Some of these were covered in detail in the links above, but I guess some people need them broken down even further. This is as simple as I can explain it without the use of puppet theater.

But Trump said he wouldn’t honor NATO’s Article 5!

No, actually he didn’t say that. What he said was characteristically stupid, but just look at his statement through the lens of things he’s said in the past whenever he’s asked a question about something he knows nothing about (in other words most topics). They ask if Trump will honor obligations to dirty foreigners with strange names, and Trump says he’ll do so if they honor their obligations to America, the country beset upon by parasites the world over. That’s the gist of the worldview there. That’s what he was expressing.

Trump said nice things about Putin! 

Yes he’s said things about building a wall, making Mexico pay for it, and of course he’s going to make US military personnel commit war crimes and they won’t refuse. I’ve said before that Trump’s praise for Putin is part of a strategy, part of his character. Both Trump and the Kremlin choose whatever position is seen as the opposite of the “establishment.” If Hillary had made the foreign policy side of her campaign about the so-called “reset” and called for better relations with Russia, Trump would go after her as a quisling of the “Commies.” Keep in mind this guy heads a party with a significant amount of voters who believe that Russia is still “Communist.” Some don’t know that the Soviet Union hasn’t existed since 1991. There was football on, dammit!

People keep focusing on the friendly things Trump says about Putin, while ignoring the negative things he’s said about Russia. In the article above entitled “Not Gonna Happen,” we see a Trump ad that clearly casts Russia and Putin as America’s enemy, on par with ISIS. The message is that Hillary is weak, so America’s “enemies” will laugh at her.

This isn’t the only example. Trump said the US should shoot down Russian planes if diplomacy fails. Here are the key excerpts:

“It just shows how low we’ve gone where they can toy with us like that,” Trump said, describing such scenarios as “terrible.” He insisted that the problem is Russia’s lack of respect for U.S. President Barack Obama.”

See? The problem is that Russia doesn’t respect (i.e. fear in Trump’s mind) America and it’s Obama’s fault. So what do you do?

“Normally, an Obama—let’s say a president, because you want to make at least a call or two—but normally Obama would call up Putin and say, ‘Listen, do us a favor, don’t do that, get that maniac, just stop it.’ But we don’t have that kind of a president. He’s gonna be out playing golf or something,” Trump said. “But I don’t know, at a certain point, you can’t take it.” (emphasis mine)

See that? You “can’t take it.” You can’t back down. This is the underlying foundation of the worldview Trump is appealing to. America is weak; make it great again. As such, the idea that Trump would actually put up with Russia’s trolling is ludicrous. If anything, Trump would inevitably turn more hawkish toward Russia than Hillary ever would, and if the Kremlin hacks believe otherwise they clearly don’t understand the mentality Trump is tapping into.

Okay but what about Ukraine? Trump has actually removed support for Ukraine from the GOP party platform!

As troubling as this is, what exactly has the Obama administration been doing to truly support Ukraine? For the most part they’ve been sending old equipment they no longer want and non-lethal aid. Democrats have been just as if not more worried about “escalation” of the conflict by providing Ukraine or even letting Ukraine buy higher-quality weapons. Meanwhile Russia’s clearly not concerned about escalation as their proxies in the Donbas routinely launch dozens of attacks on Ukrainian positions, killing and wounding Ukrainian servicemen on an almost daily basis. Let’s also not forget that Russia had to accidentally shoot down a passenger liner full of 298 civilians for the US and EU to step up and slap Russia with some real sanctions, and since then all the talk is about when the sanctions will be removed or weakened- nothing about additional sanctions.

Has Hillary said anything at all that would give us reason to believe that her behavior on this matter will be significantly different in any way? I don’t think so. Knowing the Kremlin’s propensity toward holding grudges over the smallest slight, their support for Trump could be little more than “revenge” on Hillary for the time they accused her of meddling in their “election.”

And speaking of Hillary’s relationship with Russia…

Trump has business interests in Russia! 

Yes, as do many other Americans, including those who support Hillary. Goldman Sachs, for example. In fact, Hillary herself has done a bit of business with Russia. The “Manchurian candidate” crowd also forgets that John McCain’s campaign manager in 2008 was Rick Davis of Davis-Manafort. Yeah…That Manafort. One of Romney’s top campaign advisers was also a lobbyist for Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.

Basically what’s going on here with talking points and connections is an example of the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy. Everyone is scrambling to find evidence to confirm the Trump-as-Putin’s proxy hypothesis that they’re ignoring contrary evidence on one hand, and on the other hand ignoring all the other business that American companies are doing with Russia in spite of the sanctions. Perhaps it’s comforting to some to believe that it’s just Trump doing business with dictators.

Are you denying that Russia is trying to influence the election?

No, they almost certainly are. But how effective their efforts will be really depends on the reaction from the Democrats. First on the matter of the emails- while they don’t contain anything terribly scandalous, the fact is that they were written. They might have been exposed by dirty means, but that does not make them squeaky clean themselves. The Democrats chose to favor someone with a poor reputation amid voters, someone who comes off as feeling entitled to the presidency and who does not feel accountable for her actions. Now they are choosing to make this election about Russia and Putin instead of pressing domestic issues. Russia can’t make them lose the election; only they can do that.

And that seems to be what they’re doing. In the wake of the email attack, the best response would have been to publicly say something like: “Awww isn’t that cute? They think they’re a superpower!” Then move on. Get back on message. The Kremlin relies on being seen as more powerful, more dangerous than it is. The only tactics it has against the vastly superior forces opposing it are passive-aggressive trolling, hysterical ranting about WWII and nuclear weapons, and pathetic stunts like this email hack. They want attention, they want to be seen as a great power, and nothing makes them angrier than aiming a salvo right at their raging inferiority complex. Conversely, panicking and acting as though Putin is secretly manipulating the US is something that will make every Kremlin propagandist positively orgasmic.

I suspect this advice will fall on deaf ears though. We’re not talking about a campaign that is known for accountability, and more importantly, focusing on Putin and foreign policy is a great way to distract from the fact that Clinton has no plan for America. The best reason to vote for her is that she is not Trump, period.

 

Dispatches from a Trump presidency

October 2018

WASHINGTON D.C.- Just halfway into his first term, president Trump is struggling to explain away dozens of broken campaign promises while the nation’s economy suffers continuous blows and its infrastructure continues to crumble. Just two weeks ago, another road bridge in Ohio collapsed. State officials blame the disaster on local politicians who ignored numerous warnings about the state of the bridge, but some veteran pundits in D.C. have another explanation- the Russian connection.

“It’s painfully obvious who’s behind all this,” said journalist Abbey Appleton.

“Vladimir Putin has been waging hybrid warfare against America for years. He got his puppet Trump into the White House. Now he’s using the fifth column in this country to destroy infrastructure like our roads and that bridge in Ohio.”

Appleton is one among several well-known pundits and think tank academics who have found Russian president Vladimir Putin to be behind a number of social ills in the US. But most of all they say, is president Trump.

“In 2016, Hillary ran a flawless campaign,” said Jason Keller, another beltway pundit who sees Putin as the root of Donald Trump’s electoral victory.

“She talked about foreign policy, free trade, the need to maintain strong multilateral relations with our traditional allies abroad- all things that resonate deeply with middle America. Since she had no actual flaws, how else can you explain her loss but by the intervention of Putin?”

Keller went on to explain how he believes Trump is actually working for the Kremlin.

“No other presidential candidate has had closer ties to Moscow since Henry Wallace,” Keller declared.

Keller refused to answer any questions as to the vast ideological differences between Wallace, Trump, the Soviet Union, and post-Soviet Russia, dismissing them as trivial. When asked what he thought about Wallace’s progressive stance on civil rights, he said that this too had been an example of KGB active measures.

“You have to understand that just as the Kremlin is using Black Lives Matter to do its bidding today, they were using the so-called civil rights movement back in the 1960’s. Not only have I found a wealth of primary sources linking the civil rights movement to Communism, but I also looked at surveys of whites in pre-1964 America and a large number of them said they didn’t see any problems with racism or discrimination at all. Are you seriously going to tell me that whites would be racist and not know it?”

Keller similarly dismissed challenges that his “primary sources” came from racist organizations.

“Nonsense. We all know Russia is behind the far right. Always has been,” he said.

But while most of the pundits who see the Kremlin’s hand behind the nation’s woes tend to be anti-Trump, the struggling president does have his supporters, like Republican representative Richard Wagland of Alabama. According to him, Putin may be behind all of America’s problems, but Trump is actually trying to do something about it.

“It’s no wonder Trump might have seemed friendly to Putin during the campaign,” he explained.

“What you have to realize is that our country has been occupied by Russia since Putin came to power in 2000. They have been writing our laws since then. That’s why, for example, we have RT America in D.C. Trump, now that he’s in power, is trying to turn the tide, but we have to help him as he starts to fight back against Putin and Russia.”

According to Wagland, the solution lies in grassroots activism.

“I have created an organization I call the ‘National Liberation Movement’ to support our president and free us from the Russian yoke. Our young activists seek out anti-American activity wherever they find it.”

Critics of Wagland’s movement say it is little more than a “gang of thugs,” citing a recent egg-throwing incident at a performance of The Nutcracker suite by Tchaikovsky last Christmas season. Wagland, however, refused to condemn the actions of his movement.

“I realize things can get out of hand sometimes, but these young activists have a very simple demand- freedom from Russian occupation. What does it say when at Christmas, our most cherished national holiday, a theater puts on a performance of Russian music instead of something American? I can understand why some people might lose their temper.”

It’s not clear exactly where the accusations against Putin will end any time in the near future. Having already named Putin the culprit behind America’s crumbling infrastructure, Appleton is currently working on a new piece which details the alleged Kremlin connection to America’s mass shooting phenomenon.

“Mental illness? Poor gun control laws? Nonsense,” Appleton says.

“This has hybrid warfare written all over it. These spree shooters are Putin’s little green men in America.”