Monthly Archives: January 2017

How Putin “Won”

So about eight days into his first term and Trump has already managed to spark nationwide protests, rebellion within the government, a constitutional crisis, and he may have already committed an impeachable offense (apart from being utterly incompetent and unfit to serve in any public office whatsoever).

And while this was happening, there was a seriously escalation in the fighting around the town of Avdiivka in Ukraine. As a result, the government has been talking about evacuating the town’s population after Russian shelling knocked out its power and heating. When I was in Avdiivka, I’d been told that the town had lost water and power for a significant amount of time in the past, but as far as I know full evacuation was not mentioned. The situation now is most likely more serious due to the low temperature and the scale of the damage to the vital infrastructure. If authorities do decide to completely evacuate the town, this means the transfer of between 16,000 to 20,000 people.

Naturally, with all the Trump/Putin conspiracy theories still fresh in everyone’s minds, there’s a lot of speculation that this has something to do with the two presidents’ telephone conversation a few days ago. My take? Yes and no. Trump, who claimed that Putin would respect the United States if he were elected president, could have warned Putin about any provocative moves in Ukraine. He could have made it clear that escalation means increased consequences. While we don’t know what was said, it’s fairly safe to assume Trump issued no such warning to Putin. That is on Trump. But some kind of grand bargain in Ukraine? That’s unlikely.

It’s important to keep in mind the context of the recent fighting. The Russian forces have suffered several embarrassing setbacks, one of which was recently in Avdiivka. Naturally, they are thirsting for revenge and no doubt want to take back at least some of the territory they’d lost. Since this process started quite some time before the phone conversation, we can’t quite attribute the most recent escalation to something Trump told Putin. Again, if anything it was what he didn’t say to the Russian president.

That being said, let’s get one thing straight- Putin is benefiting from Trump being in office, and it’s not because they’re ideological blood brothers or because Putin has “kompromat” (blackmail material) on Trump.

During the election, when the Trump/Putin “bromance” became a meme, I gave an opinion as to what the Kremlin sees in Trump, and I think the past week’s events have tentatively confirmed that hypothesis. In short, I wrote that the Kremlin most likely sees Trump as the incompetent buffoon that he is, but more importantly they see him as a highly polarizing and controversial figure who will create so much scandal and discord with his domestic policies so as to distract him and much of the American establishment from foreign policy. It’s not that the truly intelligent people in the Kremlin believed that Trump would give them what they want, but rather he wouldn’t be able to stop them, and he’d keep anyone who might be able occupied as they react to his bumbling idiocy.

And look what we’ve got here? The orange moron almost immediately plunges the whole country into confusion to the point where pretty much the entire American media has forgotten that there’s a war going on in Europe which has killed nearly 10,000 people. Sweet deal for Putin.

But that’s not all! Trump’s clowning serves the Russian state media’s narrative that democracy is nothing but a corrupt circus everywhere. In reality, the infighting we see in the US government at the moment is actually a positive thing- it’s what proves our institutions and laws still matter more than the will of one deranged man in the Oval Office. But Russian state TV will spin this as the dreaded “chaos,” and disorder- both the opposites of the precious and holy “stability” which only Putin provides. In other words, they’ll portray it as an even bigger version of a Ukrainian Rada fistfight and tell their viewers that America is falling apart.

And what I cannot stress enough is that none of this requires Trump to be a true lover of Putin, and ideological soulmate, or an agent carrying out the Kremlin’s orders because he thinks they have footage of him getting pissed on by prostitutes (as though the release of such a tape could faze Trump). Trump just being Trump is all it takes.

If you’re still not convinced, look at it this way- suppose there’s a parallel universe Trump who’s totally identical to our Trump except for one difference. Instead of the praise of Putin and promises to better relations, he takes a hardline anti-Putin, anti-Russia stance. Now since this Trump does everything else the same, do you see him pushing aside everything that’s going on at the moment in order to make a firm statement about what went on in Ukraine in the past couple days? Would interrupt everything he’s been doing to start drawing up new sanctions? Of course not. Roughly ten days ago the guy was whining about how big his inauguration was, and now he’s in even more hot water.

In a way, this is even worse than if Trump were a pro-Putin agent. Today it’s Avdiivka, but in a few weeks some other part of the globe might ignite and meanwhile the president’s too busy explaining how he “never said” something that he’d actually said dozens of times on camera.

What to do? Well obviously Americans can’t stop their resistance now just to focus on Ukraine, Syria, or any other country, but it’s worth bringing those issues into the larger conversation. This is a president who campaigned on being a tough guy who would make dictators respect America. Instead he’s making them laugh and letting them do as they please. That needs to be added to the long list of Trump’s offenses.

 

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Russian Aircraft Carrier Suspected in Robbery

MALAGA- Spanish law enforcement authorities suspect that the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov may have been involved in the armed robbery of a supermarket in Costa Del Sol.

Investigators have submitted a request to inspect the Russian naval vessel to the Russian Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Defense, according to the National Police Corps’ press office.

“Based on eyewitness statements and security camera footage from the store, we have decided to pursue the Admiral Kuznetsov as a per- ship of interest in the robbery case,” said Alejandro Ramirez, the lead investigator on the case.

Spanish authorities noted that the aging aircraft carrier, which passed by Spain during its voyage back to Russia after completing its military mission in the eastern Mediterranean, had already been implicated in another incident in Madrid one week earlier.


READ MORE- Russian Aircraft Carrier Kills 4 Pandas on its Way Home


On the night of 18 January, cashier Pilar Espinoza noticed that her small supermarket was rapidly filling with smoke. At first she suspected a fire, but seconds later one of the shop’s walls collapsed entirely and she heard a loud, booming voice demand all the money in the register.

“I couldn’t get a good look at him, or it, because of all the smoke, of course,” Espinoza told a local news outlet.

“I just threw the money in the direction of the voice, and when the smoke cleared I saw this giant trench running from the store back in the direction of the beach. It was like some giant monster just dragged itself out of the sea.”

Meanwhile, Moscow has refused to even consider the Spanish request, denying any connection between the robbery and the Admiral Kuznetsov.

“It’s simply absurd- no foreigners will be allowed to inspect one of our naval vessels after making such baseless accusations,” Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on her personal Facebook page.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense also slammed the request, dismissing claims that the aircraft carrier had been involved with any mishaps while at sea.

“Preposterous. The Admiral Kuznetsov had nothing to do with this incident,” said Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

“I have been reliably informed that the carrier successfully completed its mission in the Mediterranean and has definitely not become self-aware nor malevolent. I am saying this entirely of my own volition.”

It is expected that Spanish authorities may appeal to Angela Merkel to present their case to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

 

So You Live in a Dictatorship Part II- No Ideology

Click Here for Part I of this series.

Welcome to the second part of my series geared towards Americans about to experience the Trump regime. Drawing from my experience both living and traveling in 21st century authoritarian “soft” dictatorships, I’m doing my part by giving you a preview of what you have to look forward to.

In the previous installment, I talked about how the basic frames of discourse will change so that it’s no longer a matter of regime supporters seeing your dissenting views as misguided or wrong,  but rather the very idea that you sincerely hold any beliefs will be challenged. You’ll be called a shill or a “disinfo” agent. You actually know that those opinions you’re expressing are wrong or immoral, but you’re just online saying them because you are being paid to do so, because you just want to destroy America by any means possible, or at best- you’re “virtue signaling” in hopes of getting praise for beliefs you don’t even really hold.

Does that sound bad? It gets worse. Way worse.

Many thinking folks have noticed a number of glaring inconsistencies within what we might call conservative values (yes, we see many among “liberal” or “progressive” values as well, don’t get triggered, conservative readers). For example, many conservatives are die-hard opponents of abortion and call themselves pro-life. But once you’re out of the womb- piss off! “I don’t wanna spend muh tax dollars feedin’ yer kid! No affordable housing, no healthcare, no food stamps, no education! What’s that? A trillion dollar fighter plane that blows stuff up? Sure!”

I could go on but you get the idea. At least you should, because this isn’t going to be one of those “conservatives say they believe this, but they support that” articles. I’m sure you can find dozens of those on Alternet, Salon, or some equally insipid site where liberals pat themselves on the back for being so educated and enlightened. This series is about going deeper and looking at more subtle aspects. It’s not about pointing out how people often have inconsistent values, but rather how in the new type of authoritarian state like Russia, the very idea of trying to have a consistent worldview or ideology is discarded.

Let’s go back to the conservative analogy and compare George W. Bush to Donald Trump. Admit it, liberals, you’re starting to get nostalgic, aren’t you? But seriously, look at them. Both did very well with fundamentalist Christians. The difference is that Bush in many ways at least projected the image of the evangelical Christian ideal, whereas Trump is the opposite.

Both Trump and Bush are very rich men who benefited from daddy, but Bush lived in Texas on a ranch. He wore cowboy hats, dammit! He cultivated an image of a down-home cowboy that “you’d like to have a beer with.” He didn’t deny a hedonistic rich-kid lifestyle in his past- instead he embraced it as part of a “come to Jesus” moment. In fundamentalist Christian circles this is often referred to as a “testimony.” Let me tell you, those fundamentalist Christians love them some testimonies.

Even behind the scenes, Bush seemed sincere about his Christian beliefs. He did open cabinet meetings with a prayer and he held Bible study sessions in the White House. In spite of the reality of his policies, if you were a Christian voter who cherishes “family values,” Bush basically walked the walk. Voting for him would be logical and ideologically consistent.

Trump is another matter entirely. He’s a slick-talking east coast businessman with a solid record of leaning liberal, paling around with various liberal celebrities including the Clintons. He doesn’t talk about religion, he never admits even the slightest mistake, and rather than projecting an image of humility, he flaunts his own hedonism. He rails against the elite but he obviously is one of the elite. Trump is so anti-Christian that he almost resembles a character in some Christian movie. The arrogant, decadent businessman who worships money and fame, but then either has a near death experience that leads him to Jesus, or dies and finds out that money can’t buy his way out of eternal damnation in hell. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

And yet- fundamentalists voted for the man in droves, well, white ones, at least. If you dig a little deeper it gets a little more complicated, but we’re still talking about a large portion of Christians voting for a man whose behavior practically screams “I don’t give a damn about your beliefs.” To be fair, there were rumors circulating in the fundie community about Hillary being a literal witch even in the early 90’s (clearly spread by time-traveling RT operatives from our time; this explains their massive budget). Still, I doubt that can explain why so many white evangelicals would vote for a man who is practically a character from a Left Behind novel.

This isn’t just about Christians either. Take a look at the neo-Nazis backing Trump such as David Duke. Trump’s already made it clear that he’s going to be staunchly pro-Israel. Trump’s son-in-law is Jewish and is set to take an important position in the White House. A man like Trump, based on where he lives and the business he does there, has to have or had at least dozens of Jewish friends, partners, employees, and acquaintances. And yet the neo-Nazis, for the most part, still rally behind him. And if you think it’s because Trump doesn’t have enough Jewish contacts I can tell you right now you don’t know neo-Nazis. They can take any social phenomenon that upsets them, any event whatsoever, delve deep into it until they find one person involved whose wife is “1/16th Jewish,” and PRESTO! That whole thing is just another part of the massive global Jewish conspiracy and “ZOG” (Zionist Occupied Government).

And what about the alt-right? I think that movement’s way to nebulous and small to explain Trump’s victory, but I do see it as a potential model to give you an idea of what the future of American politics are going to look like- no coherent ideology, just trolling of perceived outsiders. Most alt-righters look like the type of people who would last maybe ten minutes in a group of real Nazi skinheads before getting heart-checked and stomped into the pavement. And I know evangelical Christians wouldn’t want to personally associate with people who spend a great deal of their time online requesting anime porn. Yet both of those groups found themselves in a coalition with those “deplorables” and nobody seemed to stop and ask “what the hell are we doing with these guys?” Ideology, just didn’t seem to matter. All that mattered was supporting Trump and opposing Hillary.

Back to Russia. Contrary to the speculation of many Western commentators, Putin’s regime doesn’t really have a concrete ideology- it is pragmatic and survival based. More importantly, even to this day it does not promote any ideology beyond a vague “patriotism,” which means supporting Putin or at not rocking the boat, and of course hating those who fail to do either for being “traitors” and puppets of the West. If the Putin regime had tried to enforce any one ideology, even if it wasn’t terribly consistent, they would paint themselves into a corner like the Soviet Union did. Instead, the system is far simpler. Believe what you want, just don’t rock the boat.

Of course there are certain key concepts the Kremlin wants to drill into people’s heads. Russia is surrounded by enemies that conspire against it. Russia is exceptional  and must make its own path. Russia needs a strong leader to be stable, etc. As long as you are publicly espousing such values, not opposing the state, and preferably advancing the state’s interests in some ways, you’re welcome to take on any ideology you want. You can call yourself a Communist and support alliances with ultra-right reactionaries if not espouse far right-wing beliefs yourself. You can be a monarchist and talk about how Stalin ruined Russia. What matters is only loyalty and usefulness to the state.

There’s a perfect example of this if you look at the way Russian propaganda associates Ukraine with Nazism.

Suppose you’re a radical leftist who supports progressive causes, opposes the far-right in Ukraine the same way you do anywhere in the world, openly denounces the cult of Stepan Bandera and its attempts to distort history, openly criticize genuine problems with the government in Kyiv, but you also support Ukrainian independence and territorial integrity without compromise and staunchly oppose Russian aggression there. Or in other words, suppose you’re like me.

Well I’ve got bad news for you- that last bit about supporting Ukraine makes you a Nazi or at least a Nazi sympathizer. It doesn’t matter than your political views are diametrically opposed to those of neo-Nazis or the far right. Unfair? Wait- it gets even better.

Imagine on the other hand you’re actually a literal neo-Nazi who hates Jews and other races. You literally believe in eugenics, deny or minimize the Holocaust, and think that the US was on the “wrong side” in WWII. But you admire Putin and support Russia because you stupidly think it “opposes world Jewry” or some such nonsense. Therefore you support Russian aggression in Ukraine and express that support on the internet.

If that’s you, there’s good news! You’re not a Nazi! I’ve encountered these characters dozens of times. In some cases they espouse beliefs that are literally identical to the actual German Nazis, and in the same incoherent rant they’ll refer to Ukrainian Nazis (whom they sometimes accuse of being “controlled by Jews”). Hell, one of RT’s “political analysts” who’s reported from Russian-occupied Ukraine on numerous occasions was actually the editor of a neo-Nazi magazine in Germany. I’ve been told he’s still cited as a political expert by other Russian state media. And he’s by no means the only far right reactionary who gets a platform at RT, let alone other Russian state media. So much for tirelessly struggling against fascism.

If all that seems confusing to you, it’s because you’ve misunderstood the term fascist or Nazi. See in the Kremlin parlance, fascism and Nazism have nothing to do with those actual ideologies. It’s rather a question of do you support or oppose Russia’s foreign policy in Ukraine. In Syria failure to support Russia and the Assad regime might make you a “terrorist apologist,” “ISIS supporter,” etc. It doesn’t matter if you abhor both of those groups and hope for a peaceful, secular Syria. Support the regime or terrorist.

At the same time look at what’s happening from the outside. While Russia has in some ways rehabilitated the Soviet Union and practically turned the Soviet victory in 1945 into a national cult, they make the most headway abroad among far-rightists, many of whom openly proclaim themselves to be die-hard anti-Communists and who refer to the “United Socialist States of America” or the “European Soviet Union.” Bring up these inconsistencies with either those right-wingers or their comrades in Russia and you won’t even faze them. The very concept that someone involved in politics should make an effort to have consistent ideological values or a coherent ideology is simply unknown to them (to be fair, I’ve encountered the same behavior with some far leftists).

The recent warming of conservative Republicans toward Russia is a perfect example of how even the bare minimum of a coherent ideology is starting to slip in America. Many conservatives still see Russia as “the Soviet Union,” the “commies.” And here its president is an ex-KGB employee (I’m sorry, I’m not going to dignify him anymore by calling him an agent) and yet they’re starting to praise and defend him because he says flattering things about Trump and he makes Obama and Hillary mad. It wasn’t like this under Bush. Under Bush, the Russian government was still espousing bullshit about safeguarding “traditional Western values” and partnering with the US in the “War on Terror,” yet Putin criticized the Iraq War (and benefited from it) so he was just another America-hater. Foreigners didn’t get to criticize anything America did. It’s also worth noting that the same people would later erupt in violent rage after Obama “apologized for America” in his Cairo speech.

So that’s the next thing to be on the lookout for- the disappearance of ideology in favor of a very rudimentary tribalism. Ideological coherency will be degraded, principles discarded. All that matters is being in the right coalition, the right side of the fence. Trump will never try to promote a particular set of values or ideology, partially because he is simply too stupid and disconnected from reality to even contemplate such a thing, but his PR people won’t either. When you start setting values, principles, ideology, etc., you’re bound to have splits and conflict. Furthermore, people with principles can organize, give and receive solidarity, and make a stand on those principles instead of being bought off- all very dangerous to power. Better for them to be atomized and have a simple us vs. them attitude. As long as they’re fearful, angry, and most importantly- at each other’s throats, power, and that includes the Democratic establishment as well, is quite safe.

What do I recommend? Start with yourself. Continually reexamine your own values and beliefs and try to explain them. Strive for consistency. Do not avoid debate with those who are willing to argue in good faith. Seriously challenge yourself. Weed out those beliefs or behaviors that smack of hypocrisy to the best of your ability. Even many of the most conservative Americans have far more respect for integrity and sincerity than they ever will for the ultra-edgy, hyper-alienated losers whose only joy in life consists of trying to make people “mad” on the internet and long sessions of masturbation to increasingly perverted fetish porn.

What’s at stake? American political life. Once the cynicism reaches a certain point, people stop caring out of sheer apathy or the daily struggle to survive. They start ticking the boxes. Politicians take note and start doing far less to appeal to the electorate since the electorate doesn’t care. Politics becomes reality TV, as it has been for quite some time in Russia.

 

 

 

Russian Aircraft Carrier Kills 4 Pandas on its Way Home

MADRID- The Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov killed four giant pandas at the Zoo Aquarium de Madrid on Monday.

Officials from the park confirmed that male panda Bing Xing and female panda Hua Zui Ba were inexplicably crushed to death by the Russian carrier, which was returning to its home port after combat operations in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The pair’s two cubs, Po and De De, died by smoke inhalation from the aircraft carrier’s exhaust.

deadpanda

Zoo employees pay their final respects to De De, one of the four pandas who died on Monday.

The zoo’s press service declined to give further comment on the matter, citing that they were “reeling from the shock” of an aircraft carrier somehow managing to sail through Madrid.

The Russian Ministry of Defense made a number of comments regarding the incident, including “the pandas were acting in a threatening manner,” and “you never had any pandas.

The Ministry of Defense spokesman summed up his response by stating that Spain “had no right to lecture Russia regarding the death of the pandas, insofar as it devastated the population of the Americas from 1492 onward.”

The captain of the Admiral Kuznetsov suggested the accident might have been caused by a faulty arresting gear.

“We’ve had repeated problems with that arresting gear,” said Captain Sergei Artamonov, the ship’s commanding officer. “I’m not saying any pandas were killed, but if they were, it was probably that.”

The Russian aircraft carrier and its attending ships resumed course back to their home port after the unscheduled detour through central Spain.

Older Than You Realize

The Story of the Mongols Whom We Call Tartars by Friar Giovanni de Pian del Carpini is one of the most important primary sources on the Mongol invasion of Europe and Mongols in general. Giovanni was sent as an emissary to the Mongol Great Khan in beginning in 1245, four years after the disastrous battle of Legnica in which the Mongols had devastated much of Europe’s best armies of the time.  The aim was to determine whether or not the Mongols planned to press their invasion into the Holy Roman Empire, and preferably to prevent this possibility by offering Christian baptism to the Great Khan.

The source is important because it gives us a clear description of Mongol customs, beliefs, and behavior. However, at one point when the author is in the then-conquered lands of Rus, the story goes a bit off the rails.

If you’re not used to reading medieval primary sources, it can sometimes be a bit of a shock to see how casually an author goes from describing realistic things we can easily imagine, to descriptions of obviously mythical beasts, monsters, or otherwise supernatural beings or phenomena with no setup whatsoever. People were simply more credulous in those days.

Giovanni goes from things like describing Mongol camp life to talking about the Mongols’ invasion of Central Asia and Eastern Europe. In the process, he talks about how they encountered such things as a people who lived entirely underground, another race of people whose females were in human form but whose males were dogs that could freeze themselves and hurl their bodies at high speed against their opponents, and best of all- a race of strange people in the vicinity of Armenia who all have one leg and one arm. They would pair up to operate bows, and they would roll away quickly when attacked.

Obviously this was utter nonsense. What is interesting though is that to the best of my memory, Giovanni didn’t hear any of this from the Mongols themselves. They were related to them by various Rus princes he met earlier in his journey.

So there you have it. Russian “dezinformatsiya” dates back to at least the mid-13th century!

I’m available for commentary, fellowships, lectures, etc. You’re welcome.

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“The Holy Roman Emperor hateth us so! Surely we are great!” -Lady Margaret of Armenia

American Journalists – You are Doomed. You are Just Puppet

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to write since I’m recovering from a surgical operation (that general anesthesia sure is something, isn’t it?) and basically feel like crap. The worst part is that I’m not supposed to engage in physical activity for two weeks, which of course threatens the MASSIVE GAINS I’ve made up to this point.

But, lucky for you, my good friend Alexei “Noodle Remover” Kovalev has penned a very important message for America’s journalists- you are doomed. There is no hope. Get out while you can.

Read his latest here.

Poll Finds Muscovites Fed Up With Giant Spiders

MOSCOW- A new poll from the Levada Center shows that 76 percent of Muscovites say they are “fed up” with the recent outbreak of giant spiders in the capital.

Another 15 percent said they view the giant spiders as “overall negative,” 8 percent said they hadn’t noticed any giant spiders, and one percent of respondents said they were “optimistic” in regards to the giant spiders.

Levada’s results closely resemble those of the state pollster VTsIOM, which found that two thirds of Muscovites viewed the giant spider epidemic as “mostly negative.” A second poll showed that among the various improvements Muscovites would like to see in the capital in 2017, “giant spiders” came in dead last.

Concern about the abnormally large arachnids, some of which are nearly one meter tall, has been growing ever since they were first sighted in Pushkin Square on Jan. 3. However, the Kremlin denies that the spiders pose a serious threat to residents of the capital.

“This hysteria about giant spiders is just another example of a politically-motivated information attack from our so-called Western partners,” Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters as he nervously kicked a large spider away from his podium.

Russian state-run media has so far avoided any coverage of the giant spider outbreak as well. On the Sunday news program News of the Week with Dmitry Kiselyov, there was no mention of giant spiders. Instead, there was a 17-minute story about unusually large insects in Ukraine. Astute viewers quickly took to social media to point out that the footage supposedly shot in Ukraine had actually come from the Amazon jungle.

In spite of official denials, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev issued a decree to take “preventative measures against arachnids or insects of unusual size.”

“Pursuant to the decree, retailers will be ordered to halt the sale of spider-themed products for no less than thirty days,” Medvedev told members of the cabinet in an emergency meeting.

Already retailers have voiced concerns that the decree’s terms are too general. Several bookstore chains have sent letters to consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, asking if the ban includes media such as Spider-Man movies and comic books.

In the meantime, Moscow’s Ministry for Emergency Situations has advised citizens to avoid the giant spiders at all costs, and if this is not possible, carry a rolled up magazine with which to ward off the arachnids should they turn aggressive.