Drool, Britannia: The Ongoing Imbecilization of Britain Proceeds Apace

Uncle Volodya says, "The myth of neutrality is an effective blanket for a host of biases.”

Uncle Volodya says, “The myth of neutrality is an effective blanket for a host of biases.”

2016 is already shaping up to be a watershed year in world history in several respects.  It will be – probably – the year that ISIS’ resistance to the Syrian Arab Army collapses, and Bashar al-Assad drives them out and reclaims control of the whole of the country. It will be – probably – the year that something big happens in Ukraine. It’s impossible to say what, exactly, but the present reality is unsustainable, and if Ukraine rolls into spring with nothing much changed about the situation – no visa-free travel to Europe, no resolution on the eastern mess, the economy still passively obedient to the law of gravity – I believe the Poroshenko government will fall. Probably.

It will also be the year that “probably” entered the British official and legal lexicon as an acceptable modifier to judgment. Let’s preview what the updated definition might look like, shall we?

Probably

  1. adverb/UK/ˈprɒb.ə.bli

Used to mean, “very likely”

 I’ll probably be home by midnight                                                                                                  I’m probably going – it depends on the weather                                                                          He probably didn’t even notice

2. judicial modifier/UK/ˈprɒb.ə.bli

Used to mean, ” judged to have occurred as described despite the inability to prove it did through the introduction of compelling and demonstrable evidence; based, rather, on a surpassing need for it to be true. Shall be assumed for reporting purposes to constitute sufficient certainty that extrapolations can be made as if they were facts”

The murder was probably carried out by the Russian state, probably on the personal orders of Vladimir Putin

The British press has long been an embarrassment (as is, in fact, the political establishment itself), and it often seems as if every British newspaper is nothing more than a tabloid, filled with the most salacious gossip interspersed with photos of the idle rich or ‘hot’ celebrities capering and mugging and showing off their naughty bits. The Independent is owned by a former Foreign Intelligence officer of the KGB and billionaire, although nobody in the British press ever refers confrontationally to his spy background – instead making excuses for it and suggesting he was not really very interested in British secrets, ho, ho – or calls him an oligarch unless it is immediately followed by an explanation of why the label ‘tycoon’ or ‘businessman’ fits better.

Let’s look at their latest cacophony of outrage over thoroughly un-British evildoing, featuring the British media’s favourite target – Russia, and its president, Vladimir Putin. No barbarism, savagery or disgusting perversion is beneath him, as we will learn. Try to keep a stiff upper lip. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Europe, Government, Law and Order, Politics, Russia, Strategy, Trade, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , | 1,238 Comments

Last Train From Desperateville

Uncle Volodya says, "There are no humane methods of warfare, there is no such thing as civilized warfare; all warfare is inhuman, all warfare is barbaric; the first blast of the bugles of war ever sounds for the time being the funeral knell of human progress.”

Uncle Volodya says, “There are no humane methods of warfare, there is no such thing as civilized warfare; all warfare is inhuman, all warfare is barbaric; the first blast of the bugles of war ever sounds for the time being the funeral knell of human progress.”

NATO’s sandlot team, the Atlantic Council, is off to the kind of grim start for 2016 that suggests it has given up hope, and reconciled itself to blowing the grant money on recreational drugs. Aaron Korewa’s non-stop nonsense piece for that august deliberative body sounds like the original was probably finger-painted on whatever parts of his body he could reach given the restriction of his leather restraints. I have to say, if that’s the best that Chevron’s, Lockheed Martin’s, Thompson-Reuters’, Bank of America’s, Raytheon’s, Boeing’s, Thales’, Conoco-Phillips’, Exxon-Mobil’s and Northrop-Gruman’s cash will buy, we’re in for a year of world-class  flailing in the quicksand pit, and we will have a ringside seat.

A bit about the author, before we go on – Aaron Korewa is a Pole by ethnicity, who grew up in Stockholm and is an American citizen. With all those disparate foreign influences jangling around in him, he has never been to Russia, although it is his personal whipping-boy; his knowledge of it is that of the typical Atlanticist: constructed from ideology. He is also a former political adviser to Carl Bildt, the Swedish speed-bump who was that country’s former Foreign Minister. He was, in short, fated to be a Russophobe, and he has fulfilled his destiny early.

So let’s take a peek inside his love-letter to Ukraine, shall we?

If you like your crazy cobbler served up fresh and hot, this is the piece for you, because he gets straight to it. Ukraine united against ‘Russian aggression’ (the ‘must-mention’ buzzword of the Atlanticists) in 2015, he says, and proved to Russian President Vladimir Putin that it was no pushover. How do we measure the sobering effect of Ukraine’s fierce resistance? By Putin’s not mentioning Ukraine even once in his 2015 address to the Russian Federal Assembly.

Perhaps that was because Mr. Putin is becoming bored with the ongoing stalemate in Ukraine, and that’s why it did not rate a mention. It certainly was not due to the inspirational nature of its fierce union in resistance – Ukraine did not win a single victory in the whole of 2015, its advance on Donetsk was slowed, halted and then rolled back in 2014, and Kiev squealed for a ceasefire when it began to lose ground, culminating in the disaster of the Debaltseve cauldron. Kiev’s efforts throughout 2015 have been focused on defending Mariupol from being re-taken. I could be wrong, though, and invite Mr. Korewa to highlight for me examples of Ukraine’s spunky defense against ‘Russian aggression’ in 2015. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Europe, Government, Law and Order, Military, Politics, Russia, Strategy, Trade, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1,122 Comments

The Unbearable Unseemliness of Partnership

Uncle Volodya says, "However, remember this: They hate you because you represent something they feel they don’t have. It really isn’t about you. It is about the hatred they have for themselves. So smile today because there is something you are doing right that has a lot of people thinking about you.”

Uncle Volodya says, “However, remember this: They hate you because you represent something they feel they don’t have. It really isn’t about you. It is about the hatred they have for themselves. So smile today because there is something you are doing right that has a lot of people thinking about you.”

Well, sometimes the faster it gets
The less you need to know…

The Tragically Hip, from “Blow at High Dough

Jim Hoagland, at The Washington Post, is upset. Not furious, or anything – it would never do to get angry at such a solid, reliable and inspirational ally as Germany. No, it’s more….miffed. The kind of vague disquiet you feel when a good friend suddenly reveals a side of themselves you didn’t know existed. It’s kind of like Germany got sloppy drunk at an international party and threw up on the carpet, or in the punch bowl. The kind of embarrassing performance that will probably fade with time, but good friends should step in immediately and set Germany straight, in case there’s a deeper problem that foreshadows, say, a precipitous descent into alcoholism. That’s kind of how Mr. Hoagland views Germany’s unseemly insistence that going into business on a pipeline deal with Russia is just a straight commercial arrangement (thanks for the tip, Warren).

Pardon me while I segue sharply away from this subject for just a moment, but I promise all will be made clear. In the sidebar to the referenced article, from the very same newspaper, is a piece entitled, “It’s Time to Curb this Widely-Committed Journalistic Sin“. The sin referred to is the contempt in journalism for the requirement that disputable assertions be backed by reasoned argument or reference to a reputable source. Use of the passive voice, such as “it is widely believed” is not good enough on its own and is often a cover for something the author would devoutly love to be true, but cannot prove is true. Curiously, the author goes on to assert, in the very next paragraph, that a statement such as “it is widely believed that MH17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatists” is an example of a reasonable statement…because almost everyone believes it. The author does not touch upon this widely-held belief being the direct result of a massive campaign of deliberate disinformation, and an investigation in which a major suspect was allowed unrestricted access to all of the evidence and a seat on the investigation.  But we can only do so much in one post, and we simply can’t take that one on right now.

Anyway, where I wanted to go with that is to appoint you all members of a sort of jury panel. We’re going to look at Mr. Hoagland’s piece, and I want you to watch for examples of occasions in which Mr. Hoagland makes a disputable assertion that is not backed up by facts – just an “ask anyone” kind of substantiation. Ready? Let’s go. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Europe, Government, Investment, Law and Order, Politics, Russia, Strategy, Trade, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1,010 Comments

Sundown in the Somalia of Europe

Uncle Volodya says, "You should be nicer to him,' a schoolmate had once said to me of some awfully ill-favored boy. 'He has no friends.' This, I realized with a pang of pity that I can still remember, was only true as long as everybody agreed to it.”

Uncle Volodya says, “You should be nicer to him,’ a schoolmate had once said to me of some awfully ill-favored boy. ‘He has no friends.’ This, I realized with a pang of pity that I can still remember, was only true as long as everybody agreed to it.”

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Matthew Arnold, from “Dover Beach

The startling reversals in Syria and Iraq now afford us our daily whiff of gunpowder and desperation, and Ukraine has been largely swept from the front pages. This is a matter of no small concern to the incompetent train wreck that is its government, because the flow of financial life support on which it relies is, to a large extent, dependent upon the sense of urgent emergency it is able to convey. So long as Kiev is able to fog the media’s glasses with “Russian aggression!!!” and a dire sense of a building menace, western leaders do not press it too hard for reforms, and are more likely to spit fat wads of cash because…well, because it’s an emergency.

And, of course, it is. I don’t want to create the impression I think the Ukrainian government is faking its sense of crisis, because Ukraine as a state is in a power-dive that is making the the wings shudder and shed rivets. Much of the government itself actually does not realize just how bad it is, because its clown-car membership is too busy throwing haymakers at one another in the legislature and squabbling over who is (a) the most  Ukrainian, and (b) the biggest crook. Mistrust among the factions also contributes to a degree of compartmentalization which prevents more than the broad outlines of the catastrophe from being seen.

We could feel a lot of things, dependent on our position and our sympathies. We could feel vindicated, if we were among those who foretold disaster from the hurried rounding-up of thieves, rabid nationalists, opportunist criminals and sycophants and labeling the result “the government”. We could feel stunned and disillusioned, if we were among the formerly-giddy dissident morons jumping up and down on the Maidan, who expected to be opening their Christmas presents in the European Union this year. And if we were among the poor sods who live there, who trudge to work every day from Monday to Friday, pick up a paycheck that buys less every month, and try to support a family on it… we could feel bewilderment, gnawing fear and a gathering apprehension that the world is spiraling down and down to a sunless pit of misery where no light reaches. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Europe, Government, Investment, Law and Order, Politics, Russia, Trade, Ukraine | Tagged , , , , , , | 812 Comments

Admiral Kirby Buys a Farm

Uncle Volodya says, "Far better to be hurt by the truth than to be comforted with a lie.”

Uncle Volodya says, “Far better to be hurt by the truth than to be comforted with a lie.”

The British navy was involved in some peacetime maneuvers at sea, involving a column of cruisers. They were steaming along in formation when a signal was given to execute a ninety-degree turn. The maneuver went off flawlessly, except for one cruiser, whose captain missed the signal. The ship almost collided with the one in front, and when it swerved to avoid a collision, the whole convoy was thrown into confusion. Only some very skillful seamanship by the other captains prevented a serious accident.

When some order had been regained, the Admiral on the flagship sent a message to the captain who had caused all the trouble; “Sir, what are your intentions?” Immediately, the reply came back, “Sir, I plan to buy a farm.” He knew without being told that one missed signal had terminated his naval career.”

From, “Hearts of Iron, Feet of Clay; Practical and Contemporary Lessons From the Book of Judges“, by Gary Inrig

Former Rear-Admiral John Kirby currently serves as the spokesman for the United States Department of State, replacing colourful and ditzy airheads Jen Psaki and Marie Harf. Known affectionately on this forum as Psakipath and Harfwit, their…ummm…moving on to greener pastures was likely precipitated by their comic confusion under the relentless cross-examination of Matthew Lee – reporter for the Associated Press – during those press conferences the State Department regularly hosts for international journalists. Perhaps the State Department thought the presence of a dignified and experienced former military professional would offer a change of course from the hilarious Roman circuses those pressers were becoming, as the spokespersons regularly found themselves pinned like a butterfly to a collection card by questions they could not answer honestly. After all, it worked for CNN.

That’s just a guess on my part, but if their reasoning was something like that, it was a success like the Hindenburg. Driven into a corner by determined questioning from RT’s Gayane Chichakayan (thanks for the link, Tim!), Kirby spontaneously combusted and burned up like a gasbag zeppelin.

Let’s take it from the top. Mr. Kirby is plainly bracing himself for an unwelcome or unpleasant experience; his hand gestures and the sigh before he says, “Okay, go ahead” suggest he is only putting up with this because he is such a nice guy. Start the clock. When she says “concerns”, click stop. 41 seconds. Knock off 5, because she begins to frame her question at the 5-second mark. That’s 36 seconds to deliver the entire question, and subsequent attempts are all shorter than that. Yet Mr. Kirby moans and grumbles about “another 10-minute question, and I’m supposed to get the grain…get the grain out of that”. I certainly hope when he was in uniform, he was better at making a time appreciation than this performance indicates. There are occasional situations in military service – such as, “How long do I hold this thing after I pull the pin before I throw it?” – where if you were off by 564 seconds, it could have some consequences. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Europe, Government, Law and Order, Middle East, Military, Politics, Russia, Strategy, Terrorism, Trade | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1,111 Comments

Turn On Your Receiver

Uncle Volodya says, "People reject what they do not understand because it makes them feel small. They would rather believe in some other reality, even if it is only an illusion, so long as it makes them feel bigger.”

Uncle Volodya says, “People reject what they do not understand because it makes them feel small. They would rather believe in some other reality, even if it is only an illusion, so long as it makes them feel bigger.”

Turn on your receiver,
I’m gonna lay it on the line;
‘cause I’m a great believer
in hangin’ on to what is mine
So come over here and listen;
I don’t want you to be missin’
What I say:
And I ain’t gonna waste my time
sayin’ it all again:

Turn on your receiver,
There’s a message comin’ through…

Nazareth, from “Turn On Your Receiver

This blog has been running for about five years now, long enough for me to think back a little nostalgically on why I started it. I had become fed up, like many others, with the relentlessly negative coverage of Russia in the English-speaking press, and some of it I knew to be false from having been there. Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, was singled out for particularly constant vitriol, and the descriptions of him as a money-grubbing plunderer and authoritarian dictator are greatly at odds with his public appearances. The silly trope that he is the richest man in Europe, and possibly the world, on money he has stolen from the Russian people has been debunked time and again – yet the western press, particularly in the UK, tirelessly and patiently rebuilds the legend of his breathtakingly-opulent Italianate palace, his penchant for crazy-money wristwatches, his secret shares of Russian energy companies and his equally-secret gymnast lover whom his nepotism has granted political office, so she will be close by in case he fancies a quick knee-trembler up against the wall in between hiking taxes on pensioners and giving himself another pay raise.

I started out cautiously, being only mildly critical, bearing in mind that I am a westerner myself and that on the whole, I like living where I live – I have no intention of fleeing to Moscow to be an angry dissident. I kept as my credo that once the press began to show some fairness, and once its coverage of Russia and Putin became somewhat more in line with the way it complains about everyone else, I would stop. I have things to do, after all.

But it didn’t improve. If anything, it got more strident and hectoring and comically absurd, I often wondered why people didn’t just burst into laughter and say, “Enough!” It’s so predictable now; prior to the winter Olympics at Sochi, the western press could not even show up for work without painting its car and its clothing and itself in the colours of the rainbow, and the drumbeat message was all-gay, all the time – Putin despised homosexuals, he had authored and approved draconian anti-gay laws so that the poor gay people could not even express their love for one another without being arrested and sent to prison. No examples were given, of course, because it was all another western tempest in a teapot, and I said several times, you watch; as soon as Sochi is over with, the gay issue is going to get dropped like a hot rock. And it was – don’t hear a word about it now, do you? It served its purpose, or served at least the effort to get the Olympics taken away from Russia and held someplace more gay. But the press lost interest as soon as that cause was hopeless, and as soon as it was no longer useful to make people stay away. Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Europe, Government, Law and Order, Middle East, Military, Politics, Religion, Russia, Strategy, Terrorism, Trade, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , , , | 497 Comments

Violence Once Removed: War Through the Languid Filter of Bored Academia

Uncle Volodya says, "We measure everything by ourselves with almost a necessary conceit.”

Uncle Volodya says, “We measure everything by ourselves with almost a necessary conceit.”

Mark Galeotti is Professor of Global Affairs at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University.  Touted as a “Russia Expert”, he is also a regular feature of Brian Whitmore’s podcasts for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), as well as the author of many books on Transnational Crime and Russian Security affairs. He also maintains the blog, “In Moscow’s Shadows“, which is usually a very good reference for  new legislation and legislative amendments under consideration in the Russian Federation. He comes educationally well-credentialed – sufficiently so to put PHD after his name – and generally stands in welcome contrast to “Russia Experts” like Edward Lucas, who is actually an expert on licking all the Baltic States from one end to the other in delirious adoration, and who has a head like a roasted nut. For overall density and useful application, I mean; not for appearance.

However, since he began guesting as an expert on RFE/RL’s podcasts, Mr. Galeotti has become…somewhat full of himself. Perhaps this owes its manifestations to the sycophantic gobbling of host Brian Whitmore, but whatever the reason, it is encouraging Mr. Galeotti to branch out into areas he formerly stayed mostly away from, and it would be difficult to reach any conclusion but that he now considers himself an authority on everything to do with Russia.

Consider, for example, the recent downing of a Russia Federation Air Force SU-24 fighter-bomber by F-16’s of the Turkish Air Force, in the vicinity of Turkey’s border with Syria. To the rhetorical question as to whether this is a big deal or not, his self response is – yawn – probably not. A certain amount of “sound and fury” can be expected – because we all know autocratic governments have to posture and show off on the world stage to convince their cowed subjects that they are doing something – but in the long run it is a fairly meaningless incident, and World War Three is not about to break out. In that last prediction, I am in complete agreement.

What I have a problem with is the Solomonesque assumption that Russia quite probably did violate Turkish airspace, or at least “it certainly wouldn’t surprise him” . He appears to base this on “Moscow’s willingness to cross into NATO airspace in the past”.

I suspect we can blame that on the lurid wordsmithing of the popular press – especially in his native country, where you can apparently be a journalist with the least number of measurable vital signs in the Free World – which has become admirably expert at implying Russian aircraft have violated NATO airspace when they have instead “approached” it  or “passed close to it”. Occasionally they resort to comedic lengths above and beyond the call of fantastic invention, like the report – personally cited by the NATO Secretary-General – that a Russian Ilyushin 20 aircraft passed within 300 meters of a Scandinavian Airlines aircraft taking off from Copenhagen airport. Checking reveals the actual position given is 50 miles southeast of Malmo, and more than 70 miles away from Copenhagen. But that’s how nutty memes get started. Russia’s international air safety record is considerably better than that of either the UK or USA, if measured by number of aircraft accidents. Continue reading

Posted in Europe, Government, Law and Order, Middle East, Military, Russia, Strategy, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , | 1,416 Comments