When I Fight Reality, Reality Always Wins.

Uncle Volodya says, "A stupid man's report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.”

Uncle Volodya says, “A stupid man’s report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.”

When I hear the phrase, “American rocker”, I frequently think of John Mellencamp. He started out in the 1970’s, professionally, as ‘John Cougar’ because his manager said nobody would ever buy a record by someone named John Mellencamp. Eventually, when he was well established in the music business, he went back to his birth name, after a brief transition period as ‘John Cougar Mellencamp’.

He seemed to me the quintessential American performer in the few interviews in which I saw him; although he does not come across as particularly well-educated, he is always honest, modest and direct, and…real, I guess. He still lives in the same Midwestern state where he was born, and dedicated much of his musical career to mild activism in support of American farmers, small-town life and the environment. If you were looking for an American star who is not a pretentious prick full of himself, but who reflects quiet dignity, self-awareness and what Americana beyond the delusional world of the Beltway is all about, I don’t think you could do much better than John Mellencamp.

I’ve never seen him play, although we were actually in the same city at the same time once; Norfolk, Virginia, in the early 80’s. I was only there for a couple of days, and by the time I heard about the show it was sold out.

But this post isn’t about John Mellencamp; we just want to borrow the lead-in from his “Authority Song”. When I fight authority, authority always wins, baby. In discussion of the situation in Ukraine, long-time commenter Yalensis proposed a slight rewrite to encompass the yawning chasm between Kiev’s happy talk of visa-free travel and Eurosnuggling, and the miserable penury that is the daily lot of Ukrainians who do not own a candy company, a TV station and assorted other business ventures. The new version would be, when I fight reality, reality always wins. And so it will, because you can only keep it at bay for so long.

The story that inspired his witticism was this one: “Natural Gas Shortage Will Cause Ukraine to Look to Russia”, in The Observer. That’s how it’s listed by search item, but for some unaccountable reason the headline on the actual story reads, “Russia is Hoping to Freeze Ukraine Into Submission”.

That so? Well, their hopes of doing that must have been temporarily dashed back in November, when Poroshenko assured the country that Ukraine had enough gas and coal to last through the winter. Bragged about it as just another of Ukraine-under-Poroshenko’s miraculous achievements, in fact. But who knew winter would still be going on in January, am I right? Must be climate change, or something. Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Europe, Government, Investment, Politics, Russia, Strategy, Trade, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , , | 927 Comments

Get in There and Win One For Mom and Apple Pie: Non-Combatant Molly McKew Pounds the War Drum

Uncle Volodya says,

Uncle Volodya says, “Given a choice, it seems like pity would be easier to bear than mockery, but that’s not true. Mockery hardens defenses; pity slips through, finds the softest places you have, and slices to the bone. Pity will break you, every time.”

Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War. He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and calm pulse to exterminate his kind.

He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm, and with whom he has no quarrel.

And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood off his hands, and works for the universal brotherhood of man with his mouth.

-Mark Twain

It is a phenomenon that is none the less remarkable for the frequency of its observation that none is so enthusiastic an endorser of armed combat and violence as he – or she – who has little or no personal acquaintance with  military service, and is among the least likely to participate if her earnest advocacy for war bears fruit.

The poster-child for this philosophy is Molly McKew, of The Washington Free Beacon and Politico, and former adviser to deposed Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili. Right up until his people kicked him out of the saddle, in fact, in favour of eccentric billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. And now, as another eccentric billionaire is preparing to take over the reins of power in the United States, Ms. McKew joins luminaries of the Make War, Not Love Club Samantha Power and Susan Rice in advocating military action to stop Russia’s Vladimir Putin, because the United States has not depended on diplomacy for so long that it now stinks out loud at it and has no international credibility. When the only tool in the toolbox of the tough is a hammer, the tough get going, and all that.

Ms. McKew gives us a guided tour of her philosophy in “Putin’s Real Long Game”, for Politico, and it is already piling up rave reviews in her Twitter feed from the usual Amerika-Uber-Alles types, such as Catherine Fitzpatrick.

It turns out – not to be a spoiler, or anything – that Putin’s long game looks remarkably like what is customarily the long game for the United States; ensuring by various non-violent means a receptiveness to national interests. Although when the United States does it, it should not be imagined to be sinister in any way, because the United States is a dedicated international philanthropist which consistently works for mutual benefit, and would never abuse a trade-based economic arrangement for its own benefit or use the threat of its mighty military to intimidate an ally into compliance. Whereas Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy boils down to sucking the life-force from hapless countries too weak to resist his bony-fingered embrace, like the pitiful Podlings in The Dark Crystal.

What makes this interesting is not so much the dog-whistle appeals to exceptionalism and good ol’ American can-do, because those are the perennial Hallmark card to the low-information reader that we have become accustomed to. No, what makes this a noteworthy piece is its tentative bellwether sucking up to Trump, who will succeed to the Presidency of the United States despite a cacophony of caterwauling from the neoconservatives who lusted after the war-hammer of Hillary Clinton. Having painted Trump with excrement and ridicule daily in the full expectation that he would lose, America’s War Party must now explore how they might best make use of him to return to the pleasant pastime of perpetual war. Thus Trump becomes an unconventional thinker rather than a self-absorbed simpleton; a rough-hewn individualist rather than a maudlin bumpkin, as out of place as a rap star at an IPO after-party. The apparent aim is a no-hard-feelings attempt to co-opt Trump to the cause of returning Russia to its also-ran box. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Europe, Georgia, Government, Law and Order, Middle East, Military, Politics, Religion, Russia, Strategy, Terrorism, Trade, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2,345 Comments

What Does Freedom Mean to You? Putin at Valdai, 2016

Uncle Volodya says, "The right thing to do and the hard thing to do are usually the same.”

Uncle Volodya says, “The right thing to do and the hard thing to do are usually the same.”

American protest songs, lyrically at least, showcase that as an expression of national consciousness, Americans lost their understanding of what freedom means somewhere in the early 1970’s. Sentiment against dictatorships and enslavement of populations gave way to more America-centric problems, dominated by the war in Vietnam and, to a lesser extent, national race relations and the problems associated with getting a job. In latter decades the media honed its skills at what has become known as the politics of division, and became adept at turning whole segments of the population against one another, always dangling the illusory concept of freedom just out of reach.

What is freedom, really? Is it the liberty to make mistakes while pursuing greater goals, knowing that you still must bear responsibility for the consequences – unintentional and potential – of those mistakes? Or is it simply the removal of all restraints on one’s personal behavior, as Jen suggests here?

This and other issues is discussed here in a provocative guest post by the inimitable Aussie contributor, Jenifer Hor, in her analysis of Putin’s speech to the attendants of the final plenary session of the Valdai Discussion Club at Sochi, last month. For me, it reaffirms that Vladimir Putin remains committed to a united global problem-solving approach which emphasizes frank and open discussion of world problems, while the west remains mired in creation of wedge issues for its own benefit and discrediting all sources which do not correspond to its worldview. Permit me to offer my accolades in advance for a solid and perceptive first-line analysis. Take it away, Jen!

Vladimir Putin’s Valdai Speech at the XIII Meeting (Final Plenary Session) of the Valdai International Discussion Club (Sochi, 27 October 2016)

As is his usual custom, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a speech at the final session of the annual Valdai International Discussion Club’s 13th meeting, held this year in Sochi, before an audience that included the President of Finland Tarja Halonen and former President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki. The theme for the 2016 meeting and its discussion forums was “The Future in Progress: Shaping the World of Tomorrow” which as Putin noted was very topical and relevant to current developments and trends in global politics, economic and social affairs.

Putin noted that the previous year’s Valdai Club discussions centred on global problems and crises, in particular the ongoing wars in the Middle East; this fact gave him the opportunity to summarise global political developments over the past half-century, beginning with the United States’ presumption of having won the Cold War and subsequently reshaping the international political, economic and social order to conform to its expectations based on neoliberal capitalist assumptions. To that end, the US and its allies across western Europe, North America and the western Pacific have co-operated in pressing economic and political restructuring including regime change in many parts of the world: in eastern Europe and the Balkans, in western Asia (particularly Afghanistan and Iraq) and in northern Africa (Libya). In achieving these goals, the West has either ignored at best or at worst exploited international political, military and economic structures, agencies and alliances to the detriment of these institutions’ reputations and credibility around the world. The West also has not hesitated to dredge and drum up imaginary threats to the security of the world, most notably the threat of Russian aggression and desire to recreate the Soviet Union on former Soviet territories and beyond, the supposed Russian meddling in the US Presidential elections, and apparent Russian hacking and leaking of emails related to failed US Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton’s conduct as US Secretary of State from 2008 to 2012. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Europe, Government, Law and Order, Politics, Russia, Strategy, Trade, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2,425 Comments

What if Trump Were Running Against Putin? The Struggle to Sell Clinton as a Democratic Inevitability.

Uncle Volodya says, "And thus I clothe my naked villainy With odd old ends stol'n out of holy writ; And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.”

Uncle Volodya says, “And thus I clothe my naked villainy, with odd old ends stol’n out of holy writ; and seem a saint, when most I play the devil.”

The fortuitous discovery of perhaps thousands of emails exchanged with Hillary Clinton’s private email server, recovered from the computer belonging to sexual cluster bomb Anthony Weiner and his estranged missus – Clinton Chief of Staff and vice-chair of her election campaign Huma Abedin – has once again interrupted the manufactured momentum of Clinton inevitability. First and foremost, it reemphasizes the transient nature of Clinton’s understanding of ‘truth’; she clearly did not turn over to the FBI all emails on the server which were not of a personal nature. Or perhaps it is the concept of ‘personal’ with which she has an imperfect understanding, so that it includes ‘things which might get me in trouble’.

Several sites have attempted to make sense of this election campaign, which is noteworthy as it pits perhaps the two most despised people in America against one another for the increasingly tawdry prize of President of the United States. Let me say that again – the only thing unusual in these times of negative campaigning and character assassination is that a popular candidate has not emerged – it remains to be determined only who is less hated. Anyway, of those sites, the best I have seen can be found at the Archdruid Report (thanks, Cortes); poignantly entitled, “The Last Gasp of the American Dream”, it is at pains to explain – among other things – that the claim this is the most important election in American history is simply a flailing attempt to lend some dignity and appearance of deliberation to a process that has become nine parts entertainment mixed with one part immature graduation kegger. There’s an old military parable which is a cruder analogy of “You can’t put lipstick on a pig”, and it’s, “You can’t buff a turd”.  It is, frankly, impossible to invest the ongoing election process in America with anything like dignity, and it is instead increasingly apparent to uncomfortable Americans and gobsmacked internationals that it is a desperate contest by a serial liar to prevent an interloper from outside the insular American political class from occupying the highest office. The Clinton campaign’s subtext that repudiating Clinton is spitting in the face of women everywhere is a cheap trick – no further demonstrations are necessary to prove women can do anything men can do which does not require superior upper-body strength, and there are a few women who can do even that. Speaking in the broadest and most general terms, there are some fields in which women are a little better than men, and some in which they generally do not perform as well. But there are virtually none women just can’t do, and it should be clear that gender has nothing to do with a natural ability to assume the office of president. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Government, Law and Order, Politics, Russia | Tagged , , , , , | 1,648 Comments

The Quality of Mercy

Uncle Volodya says, "The darkest secret of this country, I am afraid, is that too many of its citizens imagine that they belong to a much higher civilization somewhere else.”

Uncle Volodya says, “The darkest secret of this country, I am afraid, is that too many of its citizens imagine that they belong to a much higher civilization somewhere else.”

“Murdering the innocent to advance an ideology is wrong every time everywhere”

-George W. Bush

The western press, and the political systems it serves, are rousing themselves to a frenzy of effort to stop the Syrian government forces from re-taking the Syrian city of Aleppo, which the west would very much like to see the ‘rebels’ retain as the capital of a federalized opposition state within Syria.

The Washington Post is a good example of the outage flooding the net, chucking out articles like it was a snowball fight, each vying with the last to explore new heights of this-must-not-stand noble fury at the Russian/Syrian military operation to drive Islamic State from  the last major city in Syria in which it has a significant presence. If Assad’s forces are successful, as they will be without a direct western military intervention on behalf of the al Qaeda affiliates, the IS insurgency will be reduced to terrorizing small villages and spray-painting its tags on mailboxes.

Consider Richard Cohen, figuratively dancing with rage, beside himself with fury at the Russians’ temerity in supporting Assad – who is the democratically-elected leader of Syria, who retains the loyalty of a convincing majority and who would win easily in free elections.

According to Cohen, what is going on now in Aleppo is murder, plain and simple, and that it is being allowed to continue is a symbol of American weakness. Cohen implores the United States to gird itself for battle, and issue forth and save the al-Nusra Front, Islamic State and whatever other al-Qaeda splinter groups might be in Aleppo, from defeat. Well, them, too – but he’s mostly concerned about the civilians, especially the children. Because, in the end, it’s for the kids, right?

This is not Kerry’s failure. It is Obama’s. He takes overweening pride in being the anti-George W. Bush. Obama is the president who did not get us into any nonessential wars of the Iraq variety. The consequences for Syria have been dire — perhaps 500,000 dead, 7 million internal refugees, with millions more surging toward Europe like a tsunami of the desperate.

Syria had a pre-crisis population of just over 21 million, so according to Cohen, a third of the Syrian population has either been killed or internally displaced. But the west is just now getting extra-concerned. Cohen’s anguish certainly speaks well of him; I will do what I can to put him in touch with an agency that will send a Syrian refugee family to share his accommodations. I sure hope he doesn’t live in one of the states that has refused to take Syrian refugees, especially considering the death toll appears to have doubled in less than a year; in November 2015 it was guessed to be around 250,000. But Richard has shown us how to arrive at a more sensational number – you just put ‘perhaps’ in front of it. In reality nobody has much of a clue, since the UN takes its numbers directly from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. As I have pointed out many times before, this is one guy working out of his living room in England, funneling figures from his network of activists in Syria. Nobody checks anything, and the one time the UN tried to verify the numbers it was successful in doing so for less than a dozen casualties. Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Europe, Government, Law and Order, Middle East, Military, Politics, Russia, Strategy, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2,542 Comments

Seeing More of the Big Picture in Ukraine

Uncle Volodya says,

Uncle Volodya says, “Disaster is not necessary; the better world could be achieved through reason and common sense and a sense of fellowship — but most of the present human world is dead set against us.”

They whisper still, the injured stones, the blunted mountains weep
As he died to make men holy, let us die to make things cheap
And say the Mea Culpa, which you’ve gradually forgot
Year by year
Month by month
Day by day
Thought by thought

-Leonard Cohen, from “Steer Your Way”

A comment on the previous post reminded me of how informative it can be, particularly in the (mine)field of geopolitical analysis, to go back a year or two from the present, following a significant event, and enjoy the confident predictions of kingmakers and hacks – which could now not be much further from the situation which actually prevails.

In that spirit, let’s roll the counters back to September 18, 2013 – almost exactly three years ago.  Just before, of course, the glorious Maidan which freed Ukrainians from the oppressive yoke of Russia. At that moment in history, western analysts were trembling with eagerness to vilify Yanukovych, but were still hopeful that he would stick his head out of his shell long enough to sign the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the European Union. Washington maintains a kind of ongoing paternal affection for revolution – which is always less painful and noisy when it’s a continent or two away – but is practical enough to accept an easy victory if that’s the way it plays out.

It didn’t play out like that, of course, and an American-backed coup ensued in which Yanukovych offered to give the revolutionary political figures everything they had asked for – early elections, a provisional coalition government with the egghead among the revolutionaries as Prime Minister, the works. They were a little taken aback at how easy it was, and then decided it wasn’t enough – Yanukovych must  be holding back something if he gave in that easily, and therefore he must be tricking them, since the script called for the dictator-president to cower in fear and to be flung into the street in disgrace. So they went ahead with the traditional revolution, gaining nothing at all thereby except the ushering-in of a self-appointed revolutionary junta, and the empowerment of fervent fascist nationalists who had previously had to keep their admiration for the Nazis on the down-low.

It is worth mentioning here – because whenever it is brought up, the response ranges from amnesia to outright denial it ever happened – that the pre-revolutionary government went into it with its eyes wide open and a good working awareness of the probable consequences. Yanukovych and Azarov, at least, were briefed that cutting off trade with Russia, which Brussels and Washington insisted upon, would likely be disastrous for the Ukrainian economy. Deputy Prime Minister Yuriy Boiko announced that Ukraine was not blowing off the deal entirely; it was just suspending it until the state could be sure that increased trade with Europe would compensate for the loss of the Russian market. Before that, Yanukovych and Azarov tried energetically to broker a triumvirate coalition of Ukraine, Russia and the EU, to sort out the trade issues that Brussels insisted made such an arrangement impossible. Not to put too fine a point on it, Russia and Ukraine proposed a tripartite forum which would see Ukraine as a bridge between the Eurasian Economic Union and the European Union. Brussels emphatically rejected it, confident that it could pry Ukraine away from Russia, because the initiative was always strategic rather than economic. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Europe, Government, Investment, Law and Order, Politics, Russia, Trade, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin, Yulia Tymoshenko | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1,213 Comments

Olympian or Politician? Make Up Your Mind.

Uncle Volodya says, "If you have the power to change the world for the better, you should do it. That's why people who do nothing are idiots, but idiots who do nothing are life-savers.”

Uncle Volodya says, “If you have the power to change the world for the better, you should do it. That’s why people who do nothing are idiots, but idiots who do nothing are life-savers.”

The latest Olympian to shoot off his cakehole to the world and bray his catastrophic ignorance is Canadian swimmer Mark Tewksbury. He tweeted earlier, although he has since taken it down, his extreme disapproval that ‘doper’ Yelana Isinbayeva had been elected to the IOC.

Isinbayeva, a three-time world champion and current world record-holder, double gold medalist for the Russian Federation and widely assessed to be the greatest pole-vaulter of all time, has never failed a drug test. Ever. But you can sort of see where ignorant know-nothings like Mark Tewksbury get the impression that everyone in Russian Track & Field is a zombie dope freak. Because of the just-as-ignorant McLaren Report, in which he and his pals on the ‘Independent Commission’ more or less acted as stenographers for Yulia and Valery Stepanov (who were paid $30,000.00 by WADA as a ‘fleeing fee’) and Grigory Rodchenkov, the central figure in Russian sports doping who is very likely parlaying it into a state-sponsored program to save himself. Grigory Rodchenkov, who previously referred to the members of the ‘Independent Commission’ as “three fools who do not understand how the Moscow lab works”.  But because his testimony was needed for political reasons, which are helping the United States of America humiliate its old and now lifelong enemy, Russia, McLaren deemed him to be credible anyway although his preliminary report assessed the exact opposite. Why? Because up as far as the preliminary report, Rodchenkov was denying everything. By the time the final report was thrown together, at just the right time to slap a national Olympic ban on Russia but leave them not enough time to undo it , Rodchenkov was singing like a canary and confessing to everything.

Confession is apparently not only good for the soul, it is also good for politically-motivated hack jobs which lack the weight of independent verification, setting in motion a rush to judgment that suits the regime-changers of North America and NATO, and feeds the hungry press a sensational story which is immediately assumed to be fact.

WADA and its foot-in-mouth-breathing soldiers would have been wise to sense, in the election of Isinbayeva, an attempt to back away from the precipice McLaren and his buddies are trying to drag us over. WADA no longer enjoys the confidence of the IOC, because it is comprised of partisan zealots who are willingly in the service of a political agenda, at the expense of sport. You can be assured that legal action will follow the Olympics, and if McLaren cannot get his ducks in a row by then, a whole lot of people are going to have egg on their faces.

So let me give you some advice, as a taxpayer who helps fund your spoiled and cosseted pursuit of sport in your discipline. If you’re at the Olympics, bully for you. You have been selected to represent your country. In politics? Check your paperwork; I’m pretty sure nobody ever asked you to perform in such a capacity. Next time you see the Foreign Minister of your country doing wind-sprints, or a tricky dismount from the horizontal beam, you can assume there’s some crossover.  Until then, keep your fucking political opinions to yourself. You’re there to swim, or run or jump or whatever. Let’s get that in perspective, what say? You’re not the discoverer of fire, or the wheel. You’re not the composer of a timeless symphony or the rescuer of a child from a burning schoolhouse. You can swim or run or jump faster or higher or further than anyone else who is involved in this competition. You are living proof that you can be the best at something, and not have a clue about anything else.

Richard McLaren does not have proof of who in the Russian Federation is a doper and who is not. What he has is witness testimony from three people who were themselves earhole-deep in doping,  and have fled their country. The IOC would not consider the election of Isinbayeva to the IOC if they were even optimistic that McLaren’s report rests on solid proof.

Everybody in the world has had it up to here with the behavior of pampered athletes abroad, from finger-wagging to rest-room-door-smashing to making up bullshit stories about robbery to sounding off about events from a dataset of zero. Stick to what you know, and the next time you’re tempted to step out of that circle, think again. Think of everybody in your country with a zipper over their mouths, and follow suit. If somebody asks you a question about your sport and your personal place in it, feel free to enlighten everyone. If you are asked a question or feel moved to publicly comment on something that is not your specialty, remember your mother’s advice; if you can’t say something nice, shut the fuck up. I’m sure she didn’t say it quite that way, but you can extrapolate a little for the times. Use your head for something other than keeping your Nicki Minaj ball cap from shrinking.

Posted in Education, Politics, Russia | Tagged , , , , , , | 1,869 Comments