Tag Archives: election

This Is Completely Normal!

Anyone else out there following Russia’s upcoming nail-biter of a presidential election? If not, don’t worry- it seems a lot of Russians are apathetic too, and that’s a problem as Bloomberg’s Leonid Bershidky points out in a recent article. Of course that’s not necessarily the part of the article I wanted to focus on, but rather this paragraph here:

Putin doesn’t appear to feel any need to campaign. His election website, as perfunctory as if he were running for a municipal council seat, has just gone live, and it doesn’t even contain a program or any promises — just some questionable statements on how life in Russia has improved under Putin (“The illegal cutting of trees has practically stopped”; “Russian universities have entered the BRICS Top-50”). The site also reports that it only took a week for the Putin campaign to collect 30 percent more than the 300,000 citizens’ signatures necessary to put him on the ballot — an impossible achievement for any other candidate but not for the president: Reports come in from different parts of the country of students being pressed into collecting the signatures and workers told to sign for him at work (the campaign has even rejected the signatures harvested at two factories in Kurgan in the Urals).

The Western Putin fan club just loves claiming that Western Russia journalists don’t really understand Russian politics simply because they often focus on the activities of non-systemic opposition figures like Alexei Navalny (who is not in the running this time anyway). They continually point to the polls of Russia’s loyal opposition such as the KPRF and LDPR, along with the poor polling of the non-systemic opposition, and gleefully lecture us about the latter’s minimal popularity as though we, and those Western journalists, aren’t fully aware of these facts. They’d have us believe that Western focus on people like Navalny would be like America’s media focusing on Jill Stein or Gary Johnson in 2016’s presidential election. In reality, however, journalists follow Russia’s opposition not because it is big or has any realistic shot at winning, but rather because it is the only faction actually opposed to the Kremlin and Putin.

Reading that paragraph above, it is clear that Russia is not a normal electoral democracy. Apart from the fact that the President changed the constitution so he could come back for another pair of six-year terms, he’s running in an election with virtually no campaigning, no promises, no platform. To the extent that he’s campaigning, he’s harping on “accomplishments” from the mid-2000s, during the oil price boom. Does that sound at all normal for a system that is supposedly no less democratic than what exists in the West and other developed countries? If 2016 did anything positive, it was shutting up the cynics who called American elections predictable (ditto Brexit, Corbyn, etc).

Of course I know many Putin fanboys who, if pressed, will more or less admit that Russia’s elections are not fair and the system is biased towards Putin. Usually they deflect by asking “Who else is there?” But you see- that’s the problem. If Putin were ever a good leader, even during the years when things were on the up and up, he would have at least had the prescience to understand that he’s not immortal and he should probably construct Russia’s state institutions so as to ensure stable, democratic succession long after his death, incapacitation, or retirement. In general, he would use his authority to build a system based on rule of law and some kind of values as opposed to a cult of personality surrounding himself. He barely toyed with the concept back in 2008 when he let Medvedev take the reins, but he was so paranoid and concerned with image that he decided to come back to the presidency early.

The ultimate result of this is that wherever you fall on the spectrum of Putin/anti-Putin, there’s really no getting around the fact that sooner or later Russia is fucked, and there’s really nobody to blame for that but Putin. Therefore I can’t really understand why he still has Western admirers today. I do get the ones who just hate their own governments, have no experience with Russia, and just absorb a steady diet of bullshit from RT, Sputnik, and pro-Kremlin sites. But I don’t get the people who work for outlets like that and continue to defend the man and his system. Even if we foolishly attributed all the positive things in the mid-2000s to Putin, all of that has either been negated or on the chopping block to be negated within the coming years. All I can think of is that the Western apologists do it for the money. Those who don’t are complete idiots. There just is no other explanation.

Durp Impact

I’m going to be busy for the next few days, I think. Take a look:

I’ve already made some preliminary responses to the video on Twitter, but there is a ton of stuff to unpack here. What is disturbing is the apparent lack of expertise one sees in the advisory board of the organization which put poor Mr. Freeman up to this.

How bad is their “investigation” so far? Well earlier this morning my friend Alexey Kovalev caught this gem:

He’s wrong though- this is Valery Gerasimov. Shapeshifting maskirovka to disguise one’s identity is a core tenet of the Gerasimov doctrine. If you say otherwise, it’s obviously because you’re a subtle propagandist dog whistling that Russia isn’t a threat and Putin is just a peace-loving leader who wants to cooperate with the West to solve global problems. That is an entirely rational thing to imply.

Anyway, you can catch the rest of the reactions here. Freeman’s video demands a much more detailed response from me, and as I am apparently still jet-lagged (earlier I thought otherwise but I was wrong), that will have to wait a bit. For now let me just say that Freeman is mistaking Hollywood for history and politics. He’s given us a movie pitch instead of actual insight into Russia’s ruling regime and why and how it interfered in America’s politics.

Lastly, so I don’t have to put it at the front of my next piece on this subject, let me just remind readers that saying “the threat isn’t what the hacks are saying it is,” is in no way equivalent to saying “Russia’s not a threat” or “Russia is for peace.” The problem with these grifters is that while they play up the threat, they also offer poor solutions, if any. If I believed Russia was as dangerous and powerful as these people say it is, I think I’d be coming up with more radical solutions that what I’ve seen from the grifter community so far. In any case, if you believe you’re “at war” with Russia, and Russia is the enemy, then you ought to be study the enemy as it is, and not what you wish it to be.

I also know that some members of Team Anti-Deza would chafe at my population-centric solution proposals. To that I must say- If you have the money to spend on high-tech “anti-propaganda” computer programs, NATO military exercises, and fact-checking projects, surely you could spare a little for healthcare, education, or literally anything that might make more Americans think that their government actually gives a little bit more of a shit about them than say, Saudi princes. Russian propaganda channels have mastered the art of appealing to disaffected, disenfranchised Americans and other Westerners. If you don’t want to speak to them, RT and Sputnik are more than happy to do so.

Stay tuned and we’re going to deal with Morgan Freeman’s movie pitch very soon. It brings me neither joy nor pleasure to do this. Would that this day never have come, but it has been forced upon me.




Managed Democracy

In case you’re not a patron and haven’t read my piece on Zombie Putin, rest assured that other Russia watchers are starting to notice we’re in a period which could be called “late Putinism.” Just today I’ve seen Brian Whitmore expound on the very same topic, albeit without all the Simpsons references. I suspect most of this speculation (much of it starting in the Russian press) is all due to the fact that Putin still hasn’t declared his candidacy for the upcoming election in March next year. If he’d just thrown his hat in the ring like everyone expected him to do, this whole issue could have been put off for another six-year term. Yet for some reason, Putin holds back.

Then Vedomosti reported that the Kremlin is seeking a woman to run against Putin. This was later refuted by Kremlin Press Secretary Peskov:

I certainly hope I’m not the only one that sees something amusing in the idea that the Kremlin wants to run a woman against Putin, as well as the fact that they denied it. This, folks, is just more proof that Russia’s “sovereign democracy” is just a reality TV show. The growing feeling that the Kremlin’s political technologists are running out of ideas has led some to speculate as to what novel gimmick they’ll come up with next. Medvedev the liberal back in 2008 bombed. Putin the Russian avenger from 2014 has gone stale. Perhaps Peskov is telling the truth this time, but it’s not hard to believe that someone in the Kremlin suggested running a female to take a dive against Putin in March.

Even in the very managed two-party system of the United States, there’s still evidence of competition. Hillary was seen as a shoe-in for the Democratic nomination in 2016, only to be blindsided by a Sanders campaign that punched far above its weight. Meanwhile Trump went up against more than a dozen opponents, many of them well-financed and connected, and who ticked all the boxes on the conservative Republican checklist. The result? Trump slayed them one after another. In the end, in spite of nearly all the polls. The sexual abuser with the mind of a child beat the Democratic establishment’s “most qualified” candidate. Surkov and all the political technologists in Moscow could never hope to write a better show than the 2016 presidential election.

Woman or no, Putin has at least found a way to generate uncertainty about an election in a country where elections have rarely been free nor fair- silence. What is more- he may actually succeed in generating an interest in politics in a long burnt out population. It may not be as flashy as last year’s American elections, but if Putin doesn’t declare his candidacy by the end of this year things might get interesting indeed.

The End of the Beginning

What seems like one of the worst elections in American history (yes, even worse than that one) is finally coming to an end. In case you’re wondering, I don’t intend to stay up through the night to see the results. I’m going to act like it’s Christmas and I’m waking up to presents under the tree. Of course there’s a slim chance those presents might turn out to be rotting animal corpses, but either way I prefer a surprise.

As some readers might have imagined, yes, I held my nose and voted for the status quo candidate- Hillary. Had anyone but Trump been her opponent, I wouldn’t have bothered voting at all. If it had been Rubio or Cruz running against her, my state probably wouldn’t be anywhere near a toss-up anyway.

I know that many of my radical leftist readers have probably had to swallow the bitter medicine as well. It’s not pleasant being mistaken for a Hillary supporter. But to those of you who made the adult choice this election in spite of all your qualms, take consolation in the fact that you can do something I can’t do after Tuesday.

You can get to know your congressmen at the state and federal level. You can organize groups to advocate for the issues that matter to you. You can volunteer, or even consider running for office yourself. If you were disappointed that Bernie didn’t win the primaries, you can spend the next four years advocating for those policies you believe in, instead of imagining that some presidential candidate will appear one election and make everything alright.

As a certain Cracked.com article I read today remarked, voting is the least you can do to participate in democracy. And while there are certain structures in place which make politics less accessible for the majority of people, you in America have far more opportunities to make a difference than most of the world’s population. Sure, when we think of the so-called 1% dominating politics, this is a feature of the system. But that’s only part of the explanation. Look at voter turnout alone, especially in midterm elections. As powerful as lobby groups are, there aren’t really that many other groups actively competing for politicians’ attention. They may have more resources, but why let them win unopposed?

Don’t take this as my “get out the vote” rant. This is my “get out and do something after 8 November” rant. Do it because you can. There’s not too much I can do from here; I may not be in Russia much longer but I have no idea when I’ll return to the States. I regret that I didn’t realize what I could do many years ago. Radical solutions seemed so much more appealing, and yet those who insisted they were the only way didn’t really do anything radical at all. In fact, they were less politically active than the “mainstream normies” or whatever you want to call them.

Tuesday is not the end. It is the beginning of a new struggle. Remember, in defeat the dark forces Trump’s movement has conjured up will not simply vanish back to their anime porn image boards. Sure, many of them will, but others will be organizing, plotting for the next run in four years. What are you going to be doing during that time?



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.



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.