The Department of Making Shit Up Welcomes New Rising Star Daniel Bilak

Uncle Volodya says, "Once you know the truth, you can't ever go back and pick up your suitcase of lies. Heavier or not, the truth is yours now. "

Uncle Volodya says, “Once you know the truth, you can’t ever go back and pick up your suitcase of lies. Heavier or not, the truth is yours now. “

Ladies and gentlemen, attention please;
come in close so everyone can see:
I got a tale to tell,
a listen don’t cost a dime -
And if you believe that we’re gonna get along just fine.
Now I’ve been travelin’ all around,
I heard trouble’s come to your town;
well I’ve got a little somethin’
guaranteed to ease your mind:
It’s called Snake Oil, y’all
It’s been around for a long, long time

Steve Earle, from “Snake Oil“.

Setting a sombre mood right from the get-go, Daniel Bilak leads off with Edmund Burke’s cri du cœur – “all that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.” Please, EU; stop playing Putin’s game, and sanction that prick back to the stone age. Help Ukraine succeed by destroying the economy of its former largest trading partner, so that Ukraine – a country with screaming territorial disputes which have resulted in Ukraine using its military to bludgeon the civilian populace into submission – can become a smiling and happy member of the rich EU even though the newly-minted EU Association agreement does not even offer membership, and although membership is not considered in the case of supplicant nations with ongoing territorial disputes.

That’s quite a pipe dream, Daniel. Pardon me – is that a crack pipe? Just curious; I’m not judging.

Before we start unpacking it, which is our stock in trade, allow me to counter with a quote from a less well-known philosopher; Ally Carter, author of “Heist Society“.  “It is an occupational hazard that anyone who has spent [his] life learning how to lie eventually becomes bad at telling the truth.”

I’m not sure how Mr. Bilak is at telling the truth, because we don’t get to see any of that in this piece.  However, I can vouch with complete confidence for his suitability to lead a weekend retreat in  lying; he is a veritable wizard of whoppers. Let’s take a look at some of them. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Government, Law and Order, Military, Politics, Russia, Terrorism, Ukraine, Western Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1,021 Comments

No Way To Slow Down – America’s Foreign-Policy Dilemma

Uncle Volodya says, "No foreign policy, no matter how ingenious, has any chance of success if it is born in the minds of a few and carried in the hearts of none. "

Uncle Volodya says, “No foreign policy, no matter how ingenious, has any chance of success if it is born in the minds of a few and carried in the hearts of none. “

He hears the silence howling;
catches angels as they fall
And the all-time winner
has got him by the balls:
He picks up Gideon’s Bible,
open at page one;
God stole the handle, and
the train won’t stop going…
No way to slow down.

Jethro Tull, from “Locomotive Breath

Almost since the steam locomotive debuted in the USA with Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s “Tom Thumb”, the train has been a symbol of implacable and unstoppable power, while a “train wreck” has become synonymous with any initiative which ends in complete ruin and destruction. This is the impression Ian Anderson sought to create with “Locomotive Breath” – according to Wikipedia, “The song’s lyrics use the imagery of an impending and unavoidable train wreck as an allegorical portrayal of a man’s life falling apart”.

The USA’s foreign policy is a train wreck, and it can’t stop or even slow down on the careering, destructive course it has set itself.  Far from cutting a wide swath in the world and increasing its influence, the United States is increasingly being left out of international decision-making and its influence, more and more, is unwelcome and unsolicited. How did we get here, from the time when ordinary people respected the government and journalists reported the news instead of making them up? Why did Americans think the way they did back then, and why do they think the way they do now?

But it’s not as simple as just passing judgment, or saying “Americans make bad foreign policy because they are idiots led by criminals”. Here to help us understand the legislative framework that holds America together, and the foreign policy which results from the choices left to Americans, is the commenter I know only as UCG. University of California Graduate? Uruguayan Cowboy Groupie? No way to know, although he is clearly from California. I recommend you check out the other fine and perceptive discussions on his blog – meanwhile, read on.

Surviving in the US

According to Indeed.com, the average salary in the US is $62,000.  Since that’s on the high end of the spectrum, let’s go with that, even though the Sacramento Bee places the average salary at $51,190.  And let’s take your average family, two parents, (both working,) and two kids. That’s $124,000. This seems like a lot of money, but it’s not.

First we have to subtract taxes and insurance fees which are essentially taxes paid to private corporations for providing the people with essential services. For instance let’s take health insurance. Even if you do not fall into one of the mandated categories for Obamacare, you either need to buy health insurance or risk being fleeced by the medical companies and hospitals, where a simple medical procedure can cost over $80,000.  And that case is not unique.  How is that not equivalent to a tax?

The reason that I use the combination of taxes and insurance is that these are services that should be provided by the government. Most industrialized countries have universal healthcare, so America’s health insurance is most definitely similar a tax. It’s just not called tax, because apparently, calling it a tax magically gives it cooties. Believe it or not, in the US, most Americans pay half of their income to cover their taxes and insurance fees. Keep in mind that America has a progressive income taxation system and a regressive insurance system, which keeps most Americans dutifully paying half of their incomes to the government and the insurance companies. Continue reading

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Don’t Talk to Me About the Rule of Law. Ever Again.

Uncle Volodya says, "In the west, every rainbow ends at an empty pot of gold and the chalk outline of a dead leprechaun. "

Uncle Volodya says, “In the west, every rainbow ends at an empty pot of gold and the chalk outline of a dead leprechaun. “

“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”

Voltaire

An interesting poll review came out last year in The Washington Post. It will surprise no one, I’m sure, to learn that confidence by the American people in their government is in, as the article puts it, “used-car salesman territory”. I’m sorry I can’t show you the original article, but its link results in a server error – this is a reprint, and you can’t actually see the chart they describe. But the statistics discussed are clear enough, and an impression that people have always sort of thought the government was comprised of liars and cheats would be exactly wrong. Back in the 1960′s, more than 70% of Americans thought the federal government could be trusted to do the right thing “just about always” or “most of the time”.

That social trend collapsed, likely as a result of the Vietnam War and Nixon’s resignation after Watergate, from 53% in 1972 to 36% in 1974.  In 2010 that figure was 19%, and I can’t think of a reason it would be higher today. Moreover, trust in government is globally at historic lows – public trust in government has fallen to 14% in Spain, 18% in Italy and 20% in France, and is below 50% in 22 of 27 countries surveyed.

Why is that, do you suppose? It wasn’t always that way, obviously. Once people trusted government, broadly, to do what was right. But people can hardly be bothered to turn out to vote any more. The World Policy Institute has a possible explanation: “Measuring a democracy solely by voter participation can be deceptive and yield false results. Low election turnouts can signal a lack of confidence in the electoral system—but may also signify apathy or satisfaction with the status quo. Meanwhile, strong voter turn out may hint at a vibrant democracy, but it could also indicate intense propaganda, authoritarian rule, and false reportsas seen in Turkmenistan, where voter turnout topped an unbelievable 96 percent for the 2012 presidential election.”

Show of hands, please – how many think low voter turnout in western democracies signals satisfaction with the status quo? Uh huh. That’s what I thought. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Government, Law and Order, Military, Politics, Rule of Law, Russia, Terrorism, Ukraine, Western Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1,046 Comments

Good Judgment Comes From Experience. Experience Comes From Bad Judgment.

Uncle Volodya says, "If you insist on disavowing that which is ugly about what you do, you will never learn from your mistakes. "

Uncle Volodya says, “If you insist on disavowing that which is ugly about what you do, you will never learn from your mistakes. “

“Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.”

Oscar Wilde, from “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

And so begins the liberal application of whitewash to one of the most disgraceful episodes in Ukraine’s history. From shouting know-nothing students high on protest being made to look like a massive multitude of savvy political hipsters to the deliberate and calculated interjection of violence when Yanukovych crumbled and gave the opposition everything it had asked for – because everything was still not enough – to the premeditated and grisly murder of peaceful protesters in the Odessa Trade Union Building to the pummeling of eastern-Ukrainian towns in a punitive operation because the townspeople dared to speak up for themselves, to strafing attacks on helpless civilians that left  dead innocents sprawled in the careless choreography of broken limbs and smashed bodies.

Common sense is indeed coming, creeping on unobtrusive pads and hoping to restore normality with a dash of amnesia. The sad and simple fact of the matter is that Ukraine’s leadership committed war crimes, knowingly and deliberately, and was encouraged to commit them and to go on committing them by the governments of the United States and Canada and the European Union, who provided them with cover, rationalized away their actions as simple acts of law enforcement to which any government is entitled, and pretended that Ukraine’s leadership had a perfect right to behave as it did.

Now all the actors are realizing that there can be no solutions to Ukraine’s terrible troubles without involving Russia. Something quite a few people tried to tell them at the outset, when taking good advice would have cost nothing. There is a name for people who must learn everything the hard way, but I am too tired to say it again. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Government, Investment, Law and Order, Politics, Rule of Law, Russia, Terrorism, Trade, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin, Western Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , | 931 Comments

Wanted: Research Assistant. Must Write Braille. Apply to: U.S. Department of State

"Unchain my heaarrrt...lemme go my way...unchain my heaarrt...you worry me night an' dayy.. "Marie Harf riffs on Ray Charles at the State Department Presser, June 5th.

“Unchain my heaarrrt…lemme go my way…unchain my heaarrt…you worry me night an’ dayy.. “Marie Harf riffs on Ray Charles at the State Department Presser, June 5th.

It was the kind of thing you have to see with your own eyes. Unless you are a reporter who has physical access to U.S. State Department press conferences, that is, in which case you could see it with your own eyes and hear it with your own ears. But we’re not, so we have to settle for reading the minutes of the aforementioned U.S. State Department presser, which took place June 5th; and during which, this priceless exchange took place (Thanks to Moscow Exile for the tip):

 

 

QUESTION: On Ukraine.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Would the United States support calls for an investigation of alleged use of military aviation for bombings on the Ukrainian cities? We talked about it in the previous days you talked that you don’t have information on that. I’m referring to such alleged bombings in Luhansk which had led to civilian casualties and alleged use of bomb plot units and the military seizure of Slovyansk and other alleged crimes.

MS. HARF: You’re talking about by the Ukrainian Government?

QUESTION: Excuse me?

MS. HARF: Is that what you’re asking about? By the Ukrainian Government?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: So I think – and I – look, I’ve gotten a lot of questions on this over the past few days, and yesterday I did a little bit of – we have no credible evidence to back up any reports about human rights violations by the Ukrainian Government. I also think that it’s really unacceptable to try to draw moral equivalence here between a country defending itself and its people and its buildings and its land and its territory from armed separatists backed by another government who are trying to sow chaos. There is just not an equivalence here, and to try to equate them I think is just fundamentally misreading the situation.

Yes, up here.

Nothing to see here, folks – let’s keep it moving. Just so there’s no doubt where I want to go with this, Jen Psaki was a moron with a room-temperature IQ who was probably hauled offstage with that big hook they used to use on “The Gong Show” for her numerous sidesplitting gaffes and visible flounderings. But Marie Harf makes her look like Aristotle; Stephen Hawking with red hair and breasts. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Government, Law and Order, Politics, Rule of Law, Russia, Terrorism, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin, Western Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 339 Comments

“Pavlovian Bipolar Fantasies”: Le Monde Hammers the West’s Scrotum Flat

Uncle Volodya says, "Hell is a restaurant where the cooks are British, the waiters are French and the customers are Americans. "

Uncle Volodya says, “Hell is a restaurant where the cooks are British, the waiters are French and the customers are Americans. “

It would be understandable if the French were getting a little dizzy these days, what with their lurching back and forth on the U.S. government’s Beloved-Ally Meter between “Shits the Bed, Stupid Frog Surrender Monkeys” and “Most Excellent; I Would Not Even Mind if a Frenchman Moved Into my Neighborhood”. The last time they experienced the latter rating was throughout the reign of Sarko the American, the son of a Hungarian immigrant who rose to become Monsieur le President; admired and envied by fellow European leaders for his taste in expensive watches and beautiful women, and regarded with benevolent affection by that demographic among the American public that knew Europe was not a country (sorry, Mrs. Palin). Sarko knew how to walk the walk and talk the talk, and his eagerness to go straight for the no-fly zone and airdrop weapons to rebels without consulting NATO allies made American policymakers applaud his aggressive audacity. Sarko could be counted upon in the circle of global movers and shakers to support the American Way, because he believed in it. If les imbeciles did not do as they were told, why, you gave them one chance to straighten up and fly right. If they didn’t take it, allons-y, NATO!! (Yes, I know it’s OTAN in French, but too many people would not recognize it) Leaders make people do things they would not always do if the choice were left up to them – which, naturellement, it would be foolish to do – because they are too shortsighted and stupid to act for their own good. Yulia Latynina must have loved Nicolas Sarkozy, although I don’t know that I ever read an opinion of him from her, because he embodies every single quality of leadership that she prizes – wealth, arrogance, sociopathy, indifferent education and huge ears.

Just lately, the French have sunk progressively in western opinion downward past “Throw Them Under the Bus” and toward “Shits the Bed”, mostly due to the unpleasant surprise that is Monsieur Hollande, the current leader and Grave Disappointment. He got off to a good start with some rousing pugnacious talk against Russia during his campaign speeches, and good things were expected of him even though he was supposed to be a socialist (because, face it, nobody who matters really gives a toss what happens to the dozy population so long as they vote the right way and keep the complaining to a manageable level). However, he soon revealed his shortcomings in a variety of ways – chief among them his complete inability to stifle dissent among the proles – and went completely off the reservation with his decision to sell French Assault Carriers of the MISTRAL Class to Russia. He compounded this folly by insisting on going ahead with the sale even when the United States government hinted in terms that even a French socialist blockhead should be able to grasp that they thought it would be best if the sale were canceled in the most dramatic fashion possible, perhaps with a nice speech. Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Government, Investment, Law and Order, Politics, Rule of Law, Russia, Strategy, Trade, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin, Western Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , | 563 Comments

The Russian Gas Carousel: Who Wants Off, and Who Wants On

Uncle Volodya says, "The real trouble with modern war is that it allows no one the chance to kill the right people. "

Uncle Volodya says, “The real trouble with modern war is that it allows no one the chance to kill the right people. “

Speculation was rife that Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping would sign a major gas deal during Mr. Putin’s visit to China, but it didn’t happen. Although agreement is still said to be close and is probably contingent on price – the two have been wrangling over price for nearly 10 years – the signatures are typically a formality after all the details have been worked out in furious negotiation beforehand between ministers and industry executives. This suggests there was a fairly serious misunderstanding somewhere, and it may have originated in European bluster of late (because it’s warm now, and the idea of freezing in the winter is a distant echo) about “weaning itself off” of Russian gas.  Europe likes to portray Russia as an unreliable partner who might shut off the gas again, “like they did back in 2009″, and Putin as a dictator who revels in his power to “use energy as a weapon”.

Are those serious concerns? No, they’re not. Currently much of Europe’s gas goes through Ukraine’s pipeline network. In 2009, the currently-operational Nord Stream pipeline was in its initial stages, and all Europe’s gas went through Ukraine. That country began siphoning Russian gas during transit, for its own use, and the quarrel escalated until Russia shut off the gas, provoking a great outcry that Russia was using energy as a weapon. The alternative – for Russia – was to complain, but acknowledge helplessness to stop Ukraine from getting free gas owing to its monopoly. And of course, the easier it became for Ukraine to steal gas, the more it would steal. Yulia Tymoshenko was in the front rank of accusers when Naftogaz was doing this; mind you, she had just left the board of rival United Energy Systems and been appointed to a key post in Yushchenko’s government, and was consequently in a position to punish her archenemy. Yulia Tymoshenko rarely passes up such an  opportunity, and anyone who has any sort of association with her would do well to remember it. She is also a known liar and opportunist, so her accusation against Naftogaz is offered more as an amusement than an indictment, although there seems little doubt the Ukrainian state was indeed tucking in and helping itself. Continue reading

Posted in China, Economy, Government, Investment, Politics, Russia, Strategy, Trade, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin, Western Europe | Tagged , , , , , , | 979 Comments