Author Archives: Jim Kovpak

About Jim Kovpak

Journalist, translator, actor, humorist

Eric Garland: Time For Some Descent Into Madness!

So yeah- Eric Garland is still a thing, apparently. He calls himself a “Strategic Intelligence Analyst” these days, and turns out he has some strong opinions on Bernie Sanders.

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Yeah. There’s a lot to unpack there, but it’s probably better to just chuck the whole suitcase into an incinerator instead. I have no idea how to respond to that other than to point out that Bernie Sanders did in fact release 10 years of tax returns, and while I’m haven’t browsed them all myself, I’m fairly confident there’s nothing about receiving massive payments from the GRU in them.

Naturally Garland’s bizarre statements provoked some negative feedback, which of course he’s convinced is coming from the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency. That’s when things got even weirder.

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Let’s just get this out of the way- Vladimir Putin has never had any sisters. He was his parents’ third son, the two brothers that preceded him both died in childhood in the 30’s. Garland’s bizarre, frankly sick scenario here sounds like descriptions of what goes on in Bashar al-Assad’s prisons.

I’ve got to be honest, I’m now starting to wonder at this point whether Garland is still funny or whether he’s actually going to pose a danger to himself or others. What does it say when a man can go on Twitter and write like Dril without actually being Dril, i.e. just a type of performance artist? Are we supposed to laugh or be horrified? I’m not sure anymore.

 

Special thanks to a reader for producing the cover image for today’s piece  -J.K. 

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Admiral Kuznetsov Converted to Submarine

SEVEROMORSK– Russia’s Ministry of Defense announced that the Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s only aircraft carrier, will be converted to an “advanced, high-tech submarine.” This announcement contradicted earlier reports that the carrier would be scrapped after suffering damage during an incident involving a floating dry-dock.

“Western media has always laughed at our aircraft carrier, but we are the ones who laugh last,” said Captain Igor Kostyakov, a spokesman with the Russian Northern Fleet.

“All this time the Kuznetsov was undergoing trials to become the first working submarine aircraft carrier since the Second World War.”

According to Kostyakov, two incidents in 2016 when aircraft crashed into the Mediterranean Sea, thought to be due to technical problems aboard the carrier, were actually “special landing trials.”

“Obviously aircraft based on a submersible carrier must be able to land in conditions when the deck is awash. That’s what they were training.”

The Admiral Kuznetsov was the target of much ridicule online when it left Russia for the eastern Mediterranean in 2016 in order to take part in Russia’s assistance to the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Most of the criticism centered around its long cloud of smoke that could often be seen for miles around. The carrier was also implicated in several more serious incidents besides the aforementioned aircraft losses.

In January 2017, the carrier was implicated in the crushing of four endangered pandas in Madrid. Ten days later, it was suspected in a supermarket robbery in Malaga. The Russian Ministry of Defense has denied all charges.

Kremlin Admits Past Five Years Was Elaborate April Fools’ Day Joke

MOSCOW– In what may be called one of the most elaborate pranks in history, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov revealed that the past five years of Russian foreign policy had been a “massive April Fools’ joke” at a briefing on Monday.

“Andy Kaufman has got nothing on us,” Peskov said, tears streaming down his face as he clearly struggled to contain his laugher.

“The look on your faces this whole time- priceless! Absolutely priceless!”

Over the next two hours, Peskov revealed how Putin and other members of his government and security apparatus plotted to play what they called “the greatest prank of all time” on the West. Summarizing the plan, Peskov explained that it would begin first with the annexation of the Crimea, then a war in Ukraine, and finally a host of various international scandals and incidents over the following five years. The events themselves, however, were not the most important part of the plan.

“Of course starting wars and poisoning people in other countries, in and of themselves, are really just acts of aggression and assassination,” Peskov explained.

“The real prank, the thing that made the whole five-year affair so hilarious, was that we planned to just stupidly deny everything despite overwhelming evidence that we were guilty. To that end, we harnessed the entire state media apparatus.”

Peskov then broke down laughing as he recounted the ways in which some independent media outlets and commentators in the West actually took Russia’s denials seriously, even as the Kremlin knew its deliberate lies were “totally idiotic.”

“Can you believe there were- there are people in the West who after all these years seriously believe we didn’t shoot down MH17?” Peskov asked reporters.

“There are. There really are. The Ukrainian military had zero reason to fire at a single plane flying at that altitude, from east to west, while they were fighting a war against an enemy with no air force whatsoever. And yet despite that, and despite the fact that we must have put out no fewer than two dozen different stories, many of which blatantly contradicted each other, some of your citizens still bought it! And they thought they were the clever skeptics who don’t fall for government lies!”

Peskov again broke down laughing after that point and needed to take a few minutes to regain his composure before moving onto the topic of Syria.

“Syria was another one where your gullible audiences totally fell for the flimsiest lies. Remember how many times in 2018 our Ministry of Defense said it knew that the White Helmets and possibly Western special forces were about to stage a fake chemical attack? Did you ever get suspicious when that never happened? What kind of idiot would you have to be to believe something that stupid?  Sure, the false flag to bring Western intervention could have made sense that one time in 2013, but after that, two, three times? Come on? You’d have to be the dumbest imbecile in the world to believe that!”

According to Peskov, “only a total, utter moron” could believe the claims and denials of the Russian government.

“Bellingcat had us dead to rights on the identity of the Salisbury poisoning culprits,” he said.

“If we had been telling the truth about these two men, we had the perfect opportunity to totally discredit those Bellingcat nerds forever. And yet despite the fact that we never even attempted this and instead kept spinning more and more unbelievable alternative theories about the poisoning, so many of your self-proclaimed media skeptics totally believed our side! Hilarious. Absolutely hilarious!”

Putin’s spokesman also told reporters that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the encouragement of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, even treated the prank like a type of competition, whereby different Russian embassies around the world would compete for whose official Twitter account could “tweet the dumbest thing” and still have followers believing them.

“The competition was fierce, but our embassy in the U.K. won ever year, hands down,” Peskov said.

When asked if the revelation of this five-year prank meant that Russia would pull its forces out of Ukraine and apologize for incidents such as the downing of MH17 and the Salisbury poisonings, Peskov said it would not.

 

Russia Mulling Switch to ‘Western Cyrillic’ in Bid to Popularize Language Abroad

MOSCOW– Russia’s State Duma is currently proposing a historic language reform bill that would see the Russian language switch from Cyrillic to what they are calling “Western Cyrillic.” The new alphabet is based on the way Cyrillic often appears in advertising and art in the West, particularly in the United States. Chairman of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin explained the basis and rationale for the new alphabet in an address to the legislative body on Friday.

“Westerners apparently think the letter ‘ya’ is an R, and that our letter ‘D’ is an A- well soon they could be right,” Volodin said.

To demonstrate how the new alphabet would work, Volodin presented slides of various advertisements, book covers, t-shirts, and video game cases in order to explain how words would be pronounced in the new alphabet. One example was the cover of the book Once Upon a Time in Russia: The Rise of the Oligarchs―A True Story of Ambition, Wealth, Betrayal, and Murder

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Cover of Once Upon a Time in Russia, which Duma Chairman Volodin claims is a good example of why the alphabet needs to change

“In our current alphabet, this cover would be very confusing to read,” Volodin said.

“As a Russian speaker, your mind wants to read ‘Oisye Uroi a Time Ii Yaussia.’ With the new alphabet, however, what the Westerners call ‘those backwards N’s or backwards R’s’ will actually be N’s and R’s.”

The new alphabet was designed at Moscow State University’s linguistics department, whose researchers scoured the internet for Western media containing examples of faux-Cyrillic to use as a basis for new letters. At times different Cyrillic letters have been used to replace Latin ones, which means that linguists sometimes have to debate which replacement is more common and therefore more suitable. Many examples come from the 1980’s, however, even recent media can be useful, such as the promotional material for HBO Films The Romanovs, and the very popular FX series The Americans.

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In the current Russian Cyrillic alphabet, this would read “The Amyeyaisans,” but if the new language reform passes, it will be read as it appears in English

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Unfortunately not all examples are salvageable. This name shown in the film The Bourne Identity cannot be corrected in any was as to be pronounceable by a human being.

So far it isn’t clear whether Vladimir Putin will approve the new reform should it pass the State Duma. However, Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov recently hinted that the Russian President could see the reform as a way to secure his historical legacy.

“This would be the biggest reform of the Russian language since the Bolshevik Revolution,” Peskov said.

“We could finally start to improve our relations with the rest of the world. Instead of telling them they’re writing our language incorrectly, we’d essentially be telling them they were right all along, and that our Cyrillic alphabet is really just a funny looking equivalent to their Latin alphabet- nothing more.”

During the same briefing, Peskov showed reporters a slide to demonstrate how President Putin’s name would be written in the new alphabet: “VLДDIMIЯ РЦТIИ.”

Bandera, Shukhevych Had ‘Intense Sexual Relationship’ -Viatrovych

KYIV– Head of Ukraine’s Institute and National Memory and beloved writer of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) young adult fiction series Volodymyr Viatrovych dropped a bombshell on fans on Thursday when he announced that two of his biggest characters in the franchise had what he called “An intense sexual relationship.”

“Stepan Bandera, Roman Shukhevych- all the fans who really pay attention knew what was going on there,” Viatrovych said, adding that the new plot point was “canon.”

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So far reactions from the fanbase have been mixed over what they call Viatrovych’s latest “retcon” to the series.

Dasha Ponomarenko, a 22-year-old student from the city of Lviv, said that she see’s the change as mostly positive.

“I mean sure, it’s great that he’s giving his main characters more progressive values that fit 21st century Ukraine,” she said.

“But just once it would have been nice to see things like this in the story rather than Viatrovych just saying them after the fact on Twitter.”

Oleh Kolysnik, 19, said he wasn’t against the changes, but that he didn’t really see evidence for the relationship between the two in the material he’d read in school.

“Relationships have to have build-up, chemistry, ” he said.

“You can’t just drop that on the die-hard fans who pay attention to every detail without laying the groundwork.”

Some were not pleased with the revelation, however. Yaroslav Tereshchenko, 18, is a member of the National Corps, one of the most rabid fan-clubs for Viatrovych’s work.

“This is nonsense,” Tereshchenko said at a recent event for fan-fiction writers who write their own stories based on the characters in Viatrovych’s fitional universe.

“Neither Stepan Bandera, nor Roman Shukhevych, were homos. This just shows how Viatrovych is ruining his own work due to pressure from the Marxist SJWs (“Social Justice Warriors”)!”

According to Tereshchenko, fan-fiction writers often “ship” different characters, a term meaning to put two characters in the story into a romantic relationship even if this isn’t in the text. However, he expressed his anger at Viatrovych for declaring this allegedly new relationship to be “canon,” making it an official part of the fictional universe’s history.

In the past Viatrovych was praised for introducing progressive values to some of his characters. For example, long after the OUN series was finished, Viatrovych changed many key points in the story to reduce needless violence and make some characters more positive. For example, he declared certain parts of Ukrainian Insurgent Army leader Roman Shukhevych’s backstory, such as the part where he spends time in Belarus fighting for Nazi Germany, to be “non-canon” and part of a “dream sequence” that did not actually happen.

Viatrovych said that most of the replies to his latest retcon tweet thread have been “overwhelmingly positive,” but he also reminded fans that while he encourages them to imagine his characters however they like, as the author and their creator, his word is final when it comes to what happened or didn’t happen in his fictional universe.

Guest Post: Ukraine Wonk Explains Elections, Neo-Nazis, and Russian Propaganda

By Joe Dandleton

With less than a week to go to Ukraine’s historic presidential election, it’s a good time to discuss what this means for Ukraine, the West, NATO, Russia, Putin, and the Baltic states. There are several dozen candidates but only three in the top three and only one can win after two rounds of democratic combat. Already things are looking difficult for incumbent Petro Poroshenko, known as the “Porky Chocolate Man” on the streets of Kyiv. He’s facing series challenges from TV comedian Volodymyr Zelensky and Gas Queen Yulia Tymoshenko, who comes in both her normal female form and a male form known as Yuriy Tymoshenko. In a way, you could almost say the top three is a top four, but that’s what you’d say because you’re not Ukraine-savvy and never worked for the State Department like I did. So take my word for it, Russian trolls, it’s a top three- both Tymoshenkos count as one person.

Back to Zelensky. Is he the Kremlin’s candidate? Or is the Kremlin’s candidate Zelensky? Does anyone truly know for sure in this era of hybrid warfare and dezinformatsiya? No, no one does. Except me. And I will tell you this about Zelensky. He’s a comedian, and comedians see their careers go down in flames all the time. Sure, he might be doing very well now (possibly with Kremlin support channeled through Belarus’ Last European Dictator Alexander Lukashenka), but who’s to say he doesn’t pull a Louis CK before election day? And if he does, do we know if it was genuine or could it have been a case of kompromat set up by the Russian intelligence services. Nobody knows. Nobody can know. That’s the point of clandestine hybrid warfare and dezinformatsiya, known as deza for short.

But there’s one factor everyone (except me) is forgetting during this critical time when Ukraine is standing at the crossroads at the intersection of N. Fulfill Minsk Street and Get Totally Fucked Road, and that is the neo-Nazi ultranationalists such as Andriy Biletsky’s National Azov C14 Corps. Recently they have been holding rallies all across Ukraine attacking Poroshenko. It is they who coined clever nicknames for him such as the aforementioned Porky Chocolate Man, Piggly-Wiggly, and President Fuckface. The question is, who does the Azov 14 Corps actually work for?

To my trained eye, this whole movement appears to be some kind of complex Russian hybrid propaganda campaign. Given the state of advanced animatronics these days, it’s entirely possible that Russia has created a small army of androids capable of marching in parades and mouthing simplistic slogans. Think this is too far-fetched? Just look at how many articles on RT and Sputnik are about sex robots. There are so many that I don’t even have to use Google to learn the latest developments in sex robots; Russia has become my number one source on that. And besides, you cannot say these National Corps thugs aren’t robots when you haven’t administered anything like a Voight-Kampff test or ripped one of them in half to see if they have milky blood a la Bishop from Aliens.

Of course maybe the neo-Nazis aren’t a Russian propaganda ploy to undermine Poroshenko. Maybe I’m just writing the above to make light of those who insist they are working directly or indirectly for Russia. Maybe I am in fact just amplifying the Kremlin’s narrative of a Ukraine overrun by Nazis. You don’t know. I don’t know. You definitely don’t know. Andriy Biletsky may know. Someone should probably ask him. If you do, ask him what he’d do if he were in the desert and saw a tortoise lying on its back. It’s like a turtle if that helps.

The fact is we’re down to the wire in Ukraine. There is corruption and not enough reforms. Or possibly too much reforms and not enough corruption. Will Poroshenko be the one to bring balance to the reforms and corruption so one does not displace the other and allow Putin to seize more of Ukraine? Or will Zelensky and the Tymoshenkos unleash the National Corps which could be as much under the control of Vladimir Putin as it is under the control of Interior Minister Avakov? Too early to call. Much too early. But I feel like we’ll have a lot of answers to a lot of questions we never knew we had until tomorrow, next week. Stay tuned.

 

Joe Dandleton is a DC based analyst who spent a year and a half working for the US State Department in Ukraine after 2014’s Euromaidan Revolution. He says he is lost and can’t find his metro card or keys and that it is ‘getting very cold and dark out now.’ 

Welcome to Camp Reality!

Post dedicated to John, who came up with the name Camp Reality.
Has this ever happened to you? You’re from an authoritarian country whose dictatorial leaders rob the population of the nation’s natural wealth, squirreling it away in Western banks and real estate. It’s so bad that you had to leave your homeland. But, as it turns out, the regime you fled publicly attacks the United States and blames economic problems on being “surrounded by enemies?” Now, every time you try to explain the plight of your people to American leftists who are in many cases fighting for the same social justice you’d like to see in your country, you’re accused of being a secret millionaire, billionaire, or a dupe of the CIA. You try to explain why the sources they are using are worthless and you suggest other info, but they act as though their access to internet makes their opinion equal to yours, even if they’ve never had so much as a passport. Is there anything you can do? NOW THERE IS! 

You can recommend your friends take a very special summer vacation to Camp Reality (TM)! At Camp Reality, they won’t be able to hide from the truth using the internet and confirmation bias to pick sources of information which confirm their worldview. No, here at Camp Reality, they’ll get the most realistic hands-on experience of living under a 21st century authoritarian kleptocratic regime! Inspired by the groundbreaking work on racism by Jane Elliot, Camp Reality teaches people who live in the privileged West who like to live vicariously through countries, regimes, and people they may never have encountered in person what it’s actually like to live under those regimes they have deemed to be “anti-imperialist” simply due to public rhetoric and propaganda.

After signing an extremely detailed 45-page legal waiver which temporarily suspends any rights they might have under their own government, entrants to the camp will have their choice of three different “difficulty levels” based on three different types of real-world authoritarian regimes.

 

Level 1: Easy Mode

This mode is designed to replicate conditions in a 21st century soft dictatorship, specifically the Russian Federation. In the early days you’ll experience chaos as corrupt officials and police either fail to protect your property or actively help criminal groups. After week one, attendees may breathe a sigh of relief when a new leader promises to bring stability. All seems well and you’re prospering until you start to realize that the old gangsters have just been replaced by new ones, and now the state becomes more and more overbearing. Eventually the “economy” starts to decline, the leader changes the constitution so he doesn’t have to leave office, and suddenly you can be facing criminal charges for sharing a joke on social media. If you speak out, you’ll be deemed a traitor who hates your country, often by simulated leaders whose own simulated family members live in luxury in Europe. Hopefully your business doesn’t get raided by someone connected or wiped out when the leader starts a needless war and invents “counter-sanctions” in response to the sanctions he provoked with his own short-sighted actions.

Level 2: Hard Mode

This mode is modeled after countries like Venezuela. Your leader endlessly rants about “Yankee imperialism” while his cronies skim money out of the state oil company and stash it away in Yankee banks and real estate. After a while, the store shelves are empty and you’ll spend at least one whole week trying to scrounge for food. You’ll get a chance to tell simulated Western social media users about the conditions in your country, only to be told that you’re just some “millionaire who lost his land” or a dupe of the CIA calling for military intervention for “regime change.” These people will then bombard you with articles from “your” country’s state media and the state media outlets of government friendly regimes to tell you what’s really happening.

Level 3: NIGHTMARE! 

This mode is based on Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime. We ask that attendees choosing this mode please read the legal waiver very thoroughly and wear comfortable, NON-FLAMMABLE clothing.

After surviving attending Camp Reality, your friends and family members will have learned a valuable lesson in empathy and how social justice without internationalist solidarity can often be a slippery slope to fascism. But don’t take our word for it, read these testimonials from actual attendees of Camp Reality!

“Since I came of age around 2003, I used to compare every international crisis to the Iraq invasion of that year. After attending Camp Reality, I learned that not every regime the US government criticizes is really just trying to fight for its people against the influence of transnational corporations. As it turns out, some regimes really do just suck, and criticism from the US government isn’t the same as openly advocating for a massive invasion as the Bush administration clearly did in late 2002 to early 2003!”    -Carla, 32,  Hard Mode

 

“I used to think the only reason Western media was so critical of Putin is because he made Russia strong again and he opposed NATO. After spending a month in a simulated regime modeled after Putin’s I realized that NATO encirclement was really just an excuse for authoritarian measures and for why my country lagged behind Europe despite massive wealth in natural resources. I also learned that when I posted about this online, I was accused of being a traitor and a Western agent even though I really just wanted to see my country succeed. I think the best touch was how when I brought up problems, people would tell me about something terrible in America as though that had any relevance to the issue I was trying to discuss. It’s the same thing I used to do online!”   –Ryan, 26, Easy Mode

 

“Oh God! Oh God! I…I…I can’t….I don’t even…Who, who are you? Am I safe? Is this safe?!”    –Meghan, 28, NIGHTMARE!

So why delay? Tell your insufferably edgy little shit of a cousin to put their money where their mouth is today and send them to CAMP REALITY!