It’s not as if the blogger who calls himself “A Good Treaty” needs the likes of me to defend him. No, I’ll do it for the pleasure of once again discrediting the Duchess of Dunces, the Princess of Prevaricators – the High Priestess of Asshats, at La Russophobe. Parental Advisory: bare-naked stupidity will be exposed that may not be suitable for young and impressionable children.
La Russophobe’s post, “The Lying Jackass Blogging At “A Good Treaty” is a fairly predictable fit of playground petulance inspired by this interview, in which AGT was invited by the interviewer (Anatoly Karlin of Sublime Oblivion, another of the best-informed anong the Russia-watchers) to offer his opinion of the web’s best and worst blogs on Russia and Russian politics. La Russophobe was described as one he doesn’t bother reading. Obviously, this does not square well with “Ms./Mr. Zigfeld’s” own opinion of his/her blog as “the best Russia politics blogger(s) in the world!” Well, let’s see who’s right. We’ll begin by looking at the criticism.
First, a minor quibble. La Russophobe suggests A Good Treaty is a “new Russia blog” that has “appeared”. If you click the archive link, you’ll see it has actually been on the web since February: 7 months, 69 posts. Maybe that qualifies as “new”, but I’ve seen quite a few blogs start up and die in half that period. Perhaps the intended implication is that it has only recently become worthy of notice, although that’s not true at all. Next comes the de rigueur suggestion that AGT must be on the Obama payroll, or the Kremlin’s, or both. There are some bloggers who do it for a living, but AGT is not one of them, and the assumption that nobody would compete for fairness for Russia unless they got paid for it is just automatic and childish spite.
Actually, just before that assertion is more demonstrable nonsense; to wit, the contention that AGT’s “purpose is to offer one-sided propaganda in support of the notion that Barack Obama’s sham treaty on nuclear weapons with Russia is a good idea and should be ratified as the U.S. Senate considers the document.” We can take this one apart fairly quickly: of 69 posts on the site, two relate directly to the new START treaty, and one peripherally (a criticism of what an idiot Mitt Romney is, which is nothing less than the truth). Allowing the most generous standard of measure, 3 of 69 posts relate to the START treaty, while the rest relate to Russian politics, the U.S/Russia relationship or personal observations. Does it look like the purpose of the site is to offer “one-sided Obama propaganda”?
Need more convincing? All right; here are a couple of excerpts. From “Why New Start is Lose-Lose for Neocons” – “I turned to Alexander Golts, one of Russia’s most prominent military affairs commentators, expecting to hear about what a great win this was for the Motherland. As it turns out, he thinks the treaty represents a complete defeat of Russian interests.” Is Alexander Golts an Obama-loving neoliberal hanky-waving pussy? Hardly – he’s La Russophobe’s go-to guy whenever she wants to heap scorn on the Russian military, such as here and here and here. Of course, then he’s a “Defense-Policy Expert”. Really? And he thinks the START treaty represents a defeat of Russian interests? Call yourself a Russophobe? Whose side are you on, anyway?
Wait – there’s more. From “The Piper’s Call“, we read, “So there does appear to be a degree of stupidity entrenched in realist aspirations of Obama’s diplomacy. Maybe it’s only rhetorical and, behind closed doors, the White House is in fact speaking more plainly about conflicts and zero sum. Unfortunately, I doubt this is the case. I attended a luncheon with Obama’s top Russia adviser, Michael McFaul, last year and there was zero indication that the U.S. is ready to acknowledge a sliver of legitimacy in Russia’s geopolitical ‘designs.’” What? Stupidity? Hey, that sounds critical of Obama! Actually speaking to politicians to assess their views? When will you learn – you just copy and paste from the Moscow Times!
A Good Treaty is available, in its entirety, in Russian. AGT does his own excellent and accurate translations. La Russophobe is available only in English, except for translations occasionally done by Dave Essel, who does these from the viewpoint of advocacy journalism and often draws hilarious conclusions from what he reads. If Russia actually collapsed as often as these two have forecast it “any minute now”, Russians would be dizzy indeed.
Let’s move on. Next up, the complaint that AGT claims in a post that the revision of Russian law that formalizes the FSB’s responsibilities is “no worse than America’s Patriot Act”. Does he? Where? In fact, the article points out that both the Patriot Act and the FSB law were hurriedly drafted following a terrorist attack (the attacks on September 11th, 2001 for the Patriot Act, and the Moscow Subway bombings for the FSB revision) and there was considerable pressure to pass them both quickly, citing “national securirty”. This is absolutely true. There’s the comical allegation by La Russophobe that this represents “a vast expansion of the KGB’s power to arrest and harrass”. Does it? Read it. And there has been no KGB in Russia since December 1995, when Boris Yeltsin signed the decree that disbanded the KGB, to be replaced by the FSB. Semantics aside, the new FSB law has the potential to actually increase judicial oversight of surveillance.
La Russophobe apparently has a better grasp of Indonesian folk dancing than of the Patriot Act. According to the American Bar Association, which knows a thing or two about the law, the Patriot Act granted broad surveillance powers over ordinary American citizens engaged in lawful, First-Amendment-protected activities. Its purpose was most emphatically not “deportations of foreigners”: America loves foreigners, remember? Let’s take a look at a few of its provisions.
In Section 203, according to the ABA, “The definition goes on to specifically include information about a U.S. person that concerns a foreign power or foreign territory and “relates to the national defense or the security of the United States” or “the conduct of the foreign affairs of the United States.” The sharing of such a broad range of information raises the specter of intelligence agencies, once again, collecting, profiling, and potentially harassing U.S. persons engaged in lawful, First Amendment-protected activities.” Section 206 “allows a single wiretap to legally “roam” from device to device, to tap the person rather than the phone…for example, without the ascertainment requirement, it is conceivable that all the pay phones in an entire neighborhood could be tapped if suspected terrorists happened to be in that neighborhood.” Section 218 “loosens the standard of a FISA investigation by requiring a showing that the collection of foreign intelligence information is “a significant purpose” rather than “the purpose” of an investigation. Section 218 is an important tool for counterterrorism but, since probable cause is not required under FISA, it also raises the possibility that U.S. citizens who are not terrorists could have their homes searched and communications monitored without probable cause.” In conclusion, “…many aspects of the bill increase the opportunity for law enforcement and the intelligence community to return to an era where they monitored and sometimes harassed individuals who were merely exercising their First Amendment rights.” Does that sound like it was inspired by an interest in “deporting foreigners” to you?
Let’s take a quick look at another source – lawyers are probably necessary up to a point, but they’re boring to read. Let’s see what Slate Magazine said about the Patriot Act. Well, under Section 215, ” third-party holders of your financial, library, travel, video rental, phone, medical, church, synagogue, and mosque records can be searched without your knowledge or consent, providing the government says it’s trying to protect against terrorism.” If the Patriot Act was harmless to ordinary Americans who hadn’t done anything wrong and had nothing to hide, why by 2003 had 89 cities and 3 states passed resolutions against it?
There’s lots more infantile word-twisting and projection, lots of, “So he’s saying…”, and then going on to suggest something he didn’t say at all, too much nonsense to rebut point by point.
An obvious reason for this twaddle, as I pointed out above, is a hurt-feelings reaction to being dismissed as a relatively harmless hysteric. Another is likely an attempt to increase readership by creating a controversy – both comments and readership at La Russophobe have been steadily declining. On some happy day in the not-too-distant future, it’ll be nothing more than a curiosity; a signpost marking an individual’s departure from the corner of Sanity and Reason at escape velocity.
Correction: As per comment by AGT, the blog is not available in Russian in its entirety. There is a selection of articles in Russian, at InoSMI, linked from the blog. As AGT also points out, Anatoly Karlin of Sublime Oblivion makes his blog available in both languages.