How Full of Shit Would You Have To Be, To Be More Full of Shit than Dmitry Tymchuk?

Uncle Volodya says, "Because veven if the lie is beautiful, the truth is what you face in the end. "

Uncle Volodya says, “Because even if the lie is beautiful, the truth is what you face in the end. “

Most of the readers here know, at least peripherally, who Dmitry Tymchuk is. He’s Kyiv Post‘s military expert, a former soldier in an Army Air Defense unit in the mid to late 90’s, the National Guard until 2000 and in the Defense Ministry after that. Most recently, he has started up the Center of Military and Political Research in Kiev; he is what passes for a think tank in Ukraine.  He writes a blog on military matters, regularly updated, in which he informs his Ukrainian “brothers and sisters” about the latest depredations of the Moskali scoundrels who are coming, any day now, to kill little Ilona and Stas and Maxim in their beds.

In fact, the Moskali invaded Ukraine just yesterday. Yes, sad to say, the fact is confirmed that a Russian military column broke through yesterday to Lugansk, to aid the beleaguered defenders of that city. Up to 40 of them are heavy armored vehicles, which customarily means tanks. How they managed to break through, considering the glorious Ukrainian army has Lugansk surrounded and controls all checkpoints, he is not able to say. This intelligence report is backed up by a photograph of some Russian armored units at the roadside – a truck and a pair of infantry vehicles – in Donetsk, Russia.  There apparently are no photographs of the ones in Lugansk, so pictures of Russian army units in Russia are used instead. But we should not doubt Mr. Tymchuk, because this is confirmed. The Kyiv Post “has not independently verified his findings”, but will be quite happy to accept corrections just as soon as you send them photographs of a Russian armored column not in Lugansk.

If I could have a little sidebar with you for just a moment before we go on, I’d like to talk briefly about jobs in which the experts are full of shit. According to Cracked Magazine – admittedly, not the most reliable source, but I think as long as we’re talking Dmitry Tymchuk, reliability is not a deal-breaker – the 6 Most Statistically Full Of Shit Professions are, in ascending order;

6. Stock Market Experts. The majority of professionally managed funds picked by stock market experts (70 to 85 percent) actually underperform the Dow or S&P indexes, which are technically supposed to represent the average performance of the market to begin with.

5. Wine Tasters. In a university experiment, tasters were given two bottles of the same wine. One was labeled a “vin de table” (France’s version of “Night Train”) and one was labeled a “grand cru” (top-rated vineyard since 1855). According to the article: “Whereas the tasters found the wine from the first bottle ‘simple,’ ‘unbalanced,’ and ‘weak,’ they found the wine from the second ‘complex,’ ‘balanced,’ and ‘full.'” Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Europe, Government, Law and Order, Military, Politics, Russia, Terrorism, Ukraine, Western Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 830 Comments

From Breadbasket to Basket Case: A Survey of Ukraine’s Economy

Uncle Volodya says, "The angry men know that this golden age has gone; but they cannot find the words for the constraints they hate. Clutching their copies of Atlas Shrugged, they flail around, accusing those who would impede them of communism, fascism, religiosity, misanthropy, but knowing at heart that these restrictions are driven by something far more repulsive to the unrestrained man: the decencies we owe to other human beings. "

Uncle Volodya says, “The angry men know that this golden age has gone; but they cannot find the words for the constraints they hate. Clutching their copies of Atlas Shrugged, they flail around, accusing those who would impede them of communism, fascism, religiosity, misanthropy, but knowing at heart that these restrictions are driven by something far more repulsive to the unrestrained man: the decencies we owe to other human beings. “

Once again, our stooge on the Australian desk has come through, this time with a well-researched post on Ukraine’s economy. Most people know now that the economy is in the toilet, with the national currency – the hryvnia – having lost about 40% of its value since the crisis began. Various agents offered financial help: Yanukovych reversed himself on the very brink of signing the EU Association agreement, and went to Vladimir Putin (whom the pundits love to cast as his bosom pal and confidante, although in reality the two men loathe each other), who offered to buy $15 Billion in Ukrainian debt and cut Ukraine a sweet deal on gas prices, which would have allowed the country to go on subsidizing gas for its citizens to help soften their relative poverty, which was not a good thing. Russia ponied up 3.5 Billion within days, but rather than being happy, the people revolted because they wanted to break away from Russia, or at least the vocal minority did. They didn’t mind keeping and spending Russia’s money, which it didn’t get back, but a western-engineered “popular revolution” drove Yanukovych from power, and a coup government took over. So excited they were practically wetting themselves, the EU promised pots of money in return for Ukraine adopting austerity – which has never worked, not once – and enacting some 2000 reforms. So far, about the same amount of money has shown up as Ukraine got from Russia, except they are expected to pay this back. What are the prospects of them being able to do that?  Here’s Jen to tell us. Take it away, Jen!

Overview of Ukraine since November 2013

Almost a year has passed since November 2013 when the former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych decided to postpone signing the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, to which decision individuals and groups favouring closer EU and Ukrainian political and economic ties (with a view to Ukraine gaining full EU membership and a visa-free travel regime allowing more or less unrestricted travel through other EU member countries) began assembling on Independence Square (the English translation of the Ukrainian name Maidan Nezalezhnosti – from here on, the square will be referred to as the Maidan) in the capital Kyiv to protest and call for European-Ukrainian integration and Yanukovych’s resignation. Demonstrations and protests escalated on the Maidan and culminated in the shooting of Berkut police and demonstrators alike by unknown snipers on the night of 21 February 2014. Yanukovych and several other government officials fled Ukraine and the Ukrainian parliament impeached Yanukovych’s government and replaced it with a temporary one led by Oleksandr Turchynov, the Speaker of the parliament (Verkhovna Rada), and Prime Minister Arseni Yatseniuk.

A number of new laws passed by the interim government antagonised the ethnic Russian-speaking minority in eastern and southern parts of Ukraine (and smaller groups of Hungarians and Czechs in far western parts). In March 2014, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol held a referendum, deemed illegitimate by Kyiv and the wider world, in which voters overwhelmingly voted for accession to Russia. Russia responded to the referendum result and admitted Crimea and Sevastopol to the Russian Federation on 18 March 2014. Inspired by Crimea and Sevastopol’s actions, the eastern Ukrainian oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk also tried to break away from Kyiv’s control by declaring themselves People’s Republics in April and holding their own independence referendums in mid-May. The response of Kyiv to Donetsk and Luhansk’s actions was to instigate military action against breakaway oblasts in April. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Europe, Government, Investment, Law and Order, Politics, Trade, Ukraine, Western Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , | 440 Comments

The High Cost of Leaving – Russia and the EU Sign Divorce Papers

Uncle Volodya says, "Divorce isn't such a tragedy. A tragedy's staying in an unhappy marriage, teaching your children the wrong things about love. Nobody ever died of divorce. "

Uncle Volodya says, “Divorce isn’t such a tragedy. A tragedy’s staying in an unhappy marriage, teaching your children the wrong things about love. Nobody ever died of divorce. “

When two people decide to get a divorce, it isn’t a sign that they don’t understand each other, but a sign that they have at last begun to.

Helen Rowland

James Nixey has been doing a considerable bit of compositional prancing lately over at The Moscow Times, and since it has been a long time since we visited that American rag, let’s drop in for a bit. James Nixey is head of Chatham House’s Russia and Eurasia Program, and the current British passion for sanctions based on the supposition that Russia is masterminding – not to mention extending – the war in eastern Ukraine should tell you quite a bit about his position on Russia. But if you’d like to form an opinion yourself, by all means check out his latest effort, published at The Moscow Times:  “Russia and EU are Signing Their Divorce Papers“.

Those who are regular readers will know I rarely write of an opinion on Russia which is approving and supportive, both because it hardly ever happens in the English-speaking press and because I naturally prefer an adversarial role. You might therefore presuppose I view James Nixey as a pretentious toad and pompous British windbag, and his learned scrivening as the polar opposite of the gritty realism he obviously fancies it to be. And you’d be right. All in favour? Carried. Shortest post ever, for me.

No, seriously; it’s true that among those who know me even peripherally, my distaste for those who slag Russia day in and day out based on non-facts and silly prejudices is a given, but I like to have a go at convincing those with whom I engage, to try and make a case. So let’s see if I can make a case that James Nixey is full of tightly-compacted dung. Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Government, Investment, Politics, Rule of Law, Russia, Trade, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin, Western Europe | Tagged , , , , , , | 793 Comments

To Sin By Silence: The Juggernaut of Ukrainian State Murder Lurches Onward

Uncle Volodya says, "Right is right, even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even if everybody is for it. "

Uncle Volodya says, ““To sin by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards of men.”

To sin by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards of men. The human race has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised against injustice, ignorance, and lust, the inquisition yet would serve the law, and guillotines decide our least disputes.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox, “Protest”

“In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

Even Human Right Watch, despite its selective concern for human rights based on its political underpinnings, is beginning to get uncomfortable with the ongoing butchery in eastern Ukraine at the hands of “Poroshenko the Pragmatist”. I’ll say he’s pragmatic; he’s an exterminator. Ukraine under his rule is spiraling down, down to a hellish inferno where the basest appetites for cruelty are rewarded and no opposition is tolerated. Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Government, Law and Order, Military, Politics, Rule of Law, Russia, Terrorism, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin, Western Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1,260 Comments

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 , , , , , , , | 1,173 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