Guilty Until Proven Guilty

Uncle Volodya says, "For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.”

Uncle Volodya says, “For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.”

“Right is right, even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.”

– William Penn

“If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine.”

Ernesto Che Guevera

I can’t claim the social conscience of a Che Guevera, but it’s absolutely true that I feel more motivated to write when I am furious about something, and few things so infuriate me like smug pig-ignorance. And no smug pig-ignorance is so infuriating as that displayed by one’s own countrymen, as they happily allow themselves to be played like violins by an outside authority and exhibit their naked buttocks before the world. I really thought you were better than that, Canada.

According to the CBC – the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, a Crown corporation and the official voice of the nation – Russian athletes are “emerging as the villains of the Rio Olympics“. And maybe it’s just me, but the tone seems approving, self-righteous…judgy. As if the official mouthpiece of Canada is delighted to sign on to the Get Russia program offered by its southern neighbour and business partner to all its toadies and would-be chambermaids.

In a word, this is disappointing. I used that word because I didn’t want to start swearing so early, although I’m sure we’ll get to it.

Just so we’re clear – whose interests does it serve for Canada to enthusiastically sign on to booing and hooting like howler monkeys whenever Russian athletes step up to compete, like we were English football hooligans? Canada’s? How?

In fact, as everyone who is not thick as a BC pine knows, it serves Washington’s interests, because the USA wants Russia isolated and alone and friendless because it is pissed off at it for other things, and the more disrespect and ignorance and rudeness it gets from the former politeness capital of the world, the better Uncle Sam likes it. WADA is going after every medal Russia ever won, and it is not even looking at anyone else. And that entire effort rests on the credibility of two people; one who was convicted of doping herself and barred from competition for two years for it, and her husband who knew and did nothing about it while he worked for the national anti-doping agency.

We’ll get to that.

“It’s something not usually heard at the Olympic Games. Booing. Loud, sustained booing. The rain of fury is directed at a common enemy: Russian athletes. The contingent, clouded and shrouded by drug scandal, has quickly emerged as the villains of these Rio 2016 Games. Like Cold War days of old, the Russians are once again the global bad guys.

After avoiding a full Olympic ban, some wondered how fans and fellow athletes would treat Russian athletes. That answer came quickly. At the opening ceremony, even athletes from pariah nations were given polite applause. But fans interrupted the global Kumbya moment to let the Russians know their presence wasn’t welcome.” Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Europe, Government, Law and Order, Russia | Tagged , , , , | 754 Comments

Who Needs Luck When Your Enemies Are Stupid?

Uncle Volodya says, "I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”

Uncle Volodya says, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”

“People always call it luck when you have acted more sensibly than they have.”

-Anne Tyler

“Luck is a word the bitter teach the ignorant”

-Steve Maraboli; “Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience”

Perhaps this would be a good time to dispel any misconceptions about the quote which is attributed, each post, to Uncle Volodya.  See, how it works is, I make an assessment of what is the overall theme of the post: betrayal, ignorance, overconfidence, whatever. And then I search for “Quotes about…whatever”. Goodreads is a very good source, and probably the bulk of them come from there; it combines pithy aphorisms from history – Franklin, Roosevelt, Bonaparte – with modern authors, so long as they are all talking about the same aspiration, human failure or behavioral habit. Occasionally, I simply make them up myself. The only thing all of them have in common is that Putin did not ever say any of them, unless by some chance he was quoting the same source I am.

Today’s Uncle Volodyaism is actually from Thomas Jefferson, perhaps the greatest of American statesmen, orators and free thinkers. And indeed there is likely a causal link between luck and hard work. And because I am a wiseass who derives a good deal of enjoyment from seeing pompous prognosticators infuriated by the world’s unwillingness to conform to their fortune-telling, it needs some context to showcase the rich irony that is apparent to me. And here it is.

“Putin has the luck of the devil,” said Mark Galeotti, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “He can just sit back and watch this richer, more powerful and legitimate values-based bloc tear itself apart.”

Here’s the thing about being cast as the villain – the more successful you are, the more determined the self-appointed do-gooders of the world harden themselves to have nothing to do with you, the while they happily disport themselves with dictators of the Arab monarchies, hole-and-corner coup winners and fabulously wealthy despotic oligarchs, just as long as all those people avow – publicly, at least – western values. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Europe, Government, Investment, Politics, Russia, Strategy, Trade, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , | 714 Comments

Putin is Weaponizing Popularity: Newsweek is not Amused.

Uncle Volodya says, "Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”

Uncle Volodya says, “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”

“The mind, placed before any kind of difficulty, can find an ideal outlet in the absurd. Accommodation to the absurd readmits adults to the mysterious realm inhabited by children.”

 – André Breton

How appropriate, to say nothing of au courant,  to kick off this post with a quote from André Breton; a French poet, writer, and author of “The Surrealist Manifesto”, he is best remembered as the founder of Surrealism. And oh, Mama; surreal is what we have for you today. Yes, having weaponized everything from refugees to referendums, Putin has finally rolled out his magnum opus: he has weaponized his own popularity. Except it is somehow a secret. What a good thing that we have Newsweek to brief us on how that works, because at the outset I confess I am puzzled as to how secret popularity could function as a weapon.

I hate to give away right at the beginning how numbingly idiotic the piece is, but I am afraid most of you would guess as soon as you learned that the primary source upon which Newsweek relied for its breathtaking Kremlin insights was that old ‘Kremlin insider’ himself – Gleb Pavlovsky. Epiphany Number One: the overriding reason the west has Russia so wrong is that it keeps tapping the same sources for instruction and inspiration – Fiona Hill, Clifford Gaddy, Gleb Pavlovsky, Yulia Latynina, Stanislav Belkovsky, Edward Lucas, Julia Ioffe, Miriam Elder, Garry Kasparov, the late and mostly unlamented Boris Nemtsov…a phalanx of sycophancy that always tells it what it wants to hear. Thou, O Queen, art fairest still. Gleb Pavlovsky affects to know everything that goes on in Russia as if it were all unfolding to his own plan, and nobody ever seems to notice when he is catastrophically wrong or that he has been predicting Putin’s collapse for a decade. Here he is, running his mouth in The Guardian, four years ago: “[Putin] thinks man is a sinful being and it is pointless to try to improve him. He believes the Bolsheviks who tried to create fair people were simply idiots, and we wasted a lot money and energy on it … So Putin’s model is that you need to be bigger and better capitalists than the western capitalists. And more consolidated as a state: there must be a full, maximum unity of state and business.”

For Pavlovsky, United Russia’s collapse in the polls in December was obvious. “It was nothing more than a telephone system for conveying the Kremlin’s orders. It transmitted a signal. It has absolutely not independence and can not act on its own. It needs full instructions – 1,2,3,4,5. If 3 and 4 are missing, it stops and waits for instructions.”

The masses, in Putin’s mind, cannot be trusted to rule. Pavlovsky said: “What is the Putin consensus? It is a construction of a pact between the ruling elite and the main groups of society in which society is guaranteed a degree of social distribution and an elite which feels free to move across borders. This state has no ideology. It will be a state without ideas oriented on common sense, the average man, the citizen. Nonetheless the masses must not be given access to power.”

The Putin consensus began when Putin decided he was the sole bearer of that guarantee and he controlled the whole situation. But it ended at precisely point he decided to return to power as president: “That was his mistake. His decision to return was a certain delusion of grandeur, ” Pavlovsky said. Continue reading

Posted in Alexei Navalny, Boris Nemtsov, Corruption, Economy, Europe, Government, Law and Order, Military, Politics, Russia, Strategy, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2,623 Comments

The Madness of Anders Aslund; Economic Advice for Ideologues With Too Much Money

Uncle Volodya says, "To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.”

Uncle Volodya says, “To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.”

Unwrap yourself for a starving man
Come drown your thoughts if they bite you
Turn off the world if it makes you hurt
I’m just a clown but I like you…

Max Webster, from “Let Go the Line”

What follows is an object lesson in how a bitter hatred of a country or an institution, nurtured over a lifetime, can make an educated man forswear everything he ever learned in an effort to make the desired end-state a reality, against every single glimmer of common sense. In this, you can no longer tell hatred and besotted love apart, because both can cause the afflicted to make a fool of himself and not care, having lost sight of everything else but his objective.

I have speculated here in the past, several times, on the question whether Anders Aslund is (a) a victim of a progressive and creeping malady which is causing him to lose his mind, (b) a natural-born idiot who tricked the world into believing he is an economist, or (c)  a madman who should be locked up. I am afraid I am no closer to an answer, although we can rule out (d), he is right and his advice is sensible. But perhaps if we break the situation down to two stark truths, you can help me reach a decision.

Truth one: Anders Aslund despises Russia, loses no opportunity to disparage it, and especially loathes its president, Vladimir Putin. Truth two, Anders Aslund continues to offer irrational advice on putting money into Ukraine, although it has been identified by even its most fervent cheerleaders as the most corrupt nation in Europe, staying in some sort of twilit half-life only through IMF handouts whose future is uncertain. In fact, Anders Aslund continues to beat the drum for investors to put their money into Ukraine although returns on existing invstments have been terrible, and investor sharpies who bet big on snapping up Ukrainian debt took a bath, as the expected IMF transfer of money from taxpayers to wealthy investors did not materialize.

Although that’s a pretty slender dataset on which to base a conclusion, I nevertheless conclude that Anders Aslund is so dizzy with hatred for ‘Putin’s Russia’ that he is offering economic advice which runs completely counter to common sense, in the desperate hope that a flow of new money will keep Ukraine alive long enough that it can serve its purpose and destroy its neighbour.

Aslund proposes that there has been a number of positive changes in Ukraine since the revolution, and proceeds to enumerate them. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Europe, Government, Investment, Law and Order, Russia, Trade, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1,887 Comments

Rope-a-Doper, American Style: Don’t Do As I Do, Do As I Say

Uncle Volodya says, "What will the preachers say to teach men not to persecute men? For, while a few sanctimonious humbugs are burning a few fanatics, the earth opens and swallows up all alike.”

Uncle Volodya says, “What will the preachers say to teach men not to persecute men? For, while a few sanctimonious humbugs are burning a few fanatics, the earth opens and swallows up all alike.”

Before we get started, a moment of silence, please, for Mitt Romney, who collapsed and died on Tuesday following his fourth consecutive multiple orgasm of vindication, at A.R. Valentin’s restaurant in La Jolla, California. His dinner companions did not notice at first that Mr. Romney had fallen off his chair, all having raised their eyes to the ceiling and chorused “America’s foremost geopolitical enemy!!!” to complete Mr. Romney’s statement, “I told them Russia was…” because they had all heard it at least a hundred times that day.

No, seriously, of course Mitt Romney is not dead. In fact, he must be on top of the world; after all, he is America’s foremost psychic seer – he knew Russia would be America’s acknowledged geopolitical foe before anyone else did except for the very core of the corporate elite who run the country. Back when he said it, though, in 2012, his presidential opponent – Barack Obama – ridiculed him. “A few months ago, when you were asked what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia. Not al Qaeda; you said Russia,” the president said. “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”

Funny old world, innit? Then, Obama fancied al Qaeda was America’s greatest geopolitical foe, and now they’re allies, united by the common imperative of overthrowing the President of Syria. Politics makes strange bedfellows; my, yes, ne’er a truer word was spoken. Well, Barack Obama might be slow to catch on, but he’s making up for lost time – demonization of Russia now goes on all day long, day in, day out, on every front, and no sector is too unimportant for The Land Of The Free to denigrate Russia’s efforts in that direction, and to paint its people as liars, cheats and savages. Not even during the sullen night watches of the Cold War was the rhetoric so corrosive and inflammatory, or the call to arms so strident. All, all is now subordinated to politics and the catechism of contempt and exclusion. Russia is the enemy, and whom the Gods would cast down, they first make inhuman.

The latest bear-baiting arena is international sport, as Washington goes all-out on cementing the impression that Russian athletes could not win an apple-bobbing contest unless they were high as kites, doped to the eyeballs. It’s not hard to see where this is going – exclusion of Russian athletes from the next Olympic Games, perhaps a permanent ban, and the degradation of Russian athletic performance in the past by implication. Nothing strategic about it, and it wouldn’t gain Americans anything other than an imaginary moral victory – it’s just more of the small-minded meanness that has grown to characterize American global relations. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Europe, Government, Law and Order, Politics, Rule of Law, Russia | Tagged , , , , | 574 Comments

Red Hot Jingoism, With a Side of Apple Pie

Uncle Volodya says, "Empty threats are for dreamers. And I fancy myself a realist.”

Uncle Volodya says, “Empty threats are for dreamers. And I fancy myself a realist.”

Peruse, if you will, this sabre-rattling pile of poop. Coming on the heels of recent articles which warn that the west sees a nuclear war as both winnable and possible, even probable, and the conviction that a new western strategy is the attempt to initiate a Kremlin palace coup  by Russian nationalist hardliners fed up with Putin’s squishiness because he will not respond more aggressively to NATO provocations on Russia’s doorstep, it’s hard not to conclude that the west has lost its mind. If the fear of a planet-devastating nuclear war – in which the two major world nuclear powers pull out all the stops in an unrestricted attempt to annihilate one another – no longer holds our behaviors in check…what’s scarier than that?

We seriously need to persuade our leaders, in the strongest terms, that they cannot talk smack like that.

Do the leaders of the free world need a refresher course in nuclear explosions? Hiroshima 1945, before and after what was, at the time, the greatest destructive force in the world fell upon it. The bomb which flattened Hiroshima had a yield of 15 kilotons, or 15 thousand tons of TNT. Modern Russian ICBM’s typically carry MIRV warheads, Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles, of up to 250 kilotons yield; more than 16 times the destructive power – each – of the Hiroshima bomb. A MIRV carrier releases its warheads individually, post-boost-phase, and they reenter the atmosphere independently and not necessarily proceeding to the same target. Their accuracy is a few hundred feet CEP (Circular Error Probability); in the case of the RS 24 Yars, about 150 feet. Increased accuracy means less necessity for huge warheads, so more can be carried. At about the same time, the missile releases decoys, to make it more difficult to establish which are the real warheads. Finally, the payload accelerates to 15,000 mph for the sprint to the target. Anyone who tells you the missile shield can take care of a target traveling at 15,000 mph in any profile except coming directly at the missile shield’s launcher could probably sell you a bridge, if you believe them. The crossing rate is just too high.

Alternatively, the Topol M can carry a single 800 kiloton warhead – more than 53 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb. Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Europe, Government, Military, Politics, Russia, Strategy, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , , | 491 Comments

Ask Not What Lithuania can do for You…

Uncle Volodya says, "None are so empty as those who are full of themselves.”

Uncle Volodya says, “None are so empty as those who are full of themselves.”

But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up around them.

Ray Bradbury; Fahrenheit 451

Hey, remember that annoying nineties phrase, “Don’t go there”? It meant, don’t even talk about it, thereby implying that the subject introduced – or some association with it – is so fraught with social unacceptability as to be unmentionable.

Well, Petras Auštrevičius  just went there.

Let’s back up for a second; addressing the European Parliament, Auštrevičius summarized the goals of the energy union: to wit,

“The Energy Union was launched by the European Commission with the intention of developing consolidated action that would provide benefits to everyone involved: secure energy for consumers at affordable prices, competitive market opportunities for suppliers and strengthened solidarity and trust between EU member states.”

Remember that; you’ll see why,  in a minute.

Auštrevičius then goes on to bad-mouth Russia and the Nord Stream pipeline in the fashion we have become accustomed to seeing from stuffed-shirt EuroBullshitters, including the favourite canard that Russia constantly uses energy as a political weapon. To hear him tell it, Nord Stream II will ruin the entire Energy Union concept, if Europe is so foolish as to not take stopping it in its tracks seriously.

And just about here, the wheels fell off Auštrevičius’s truthwagon.

“The EU is heavily dependent on imported natural gas. And while Russia’s share has decreased rather dramatically over recent years it still remains very high: Russia supplies 39 per cent, Norway 30 per cent and Algeria and Qatar far less. Twelve EU member states rely primarily on one source, with Russia supplying between 75-100 per cent of their supplies. “

Has Russia’s share decreased rather dramatically over recent years? As usual, the devil is in the details. You could probably pick a moment last year when imports were down – say, the first quarter. What’d the picture look like at the end of the year?

“In the first 9 months of the year, imports from Russia were at the same level as for the comparable period of 2014 but the distribution of volumes throughout this period was markedly different: year-on-year, imports decreased by 22% in the first quarter, followed by 8% growth in the second quarter and 18% growth in the third quarter. The share of Russia from total extra-EU imports were 41% in the third quarter. This is lower than in the previous quarter (45%) but Russia remained the EU’s top supplier.”

Petras, you Lithuanian liar, you. You’re talking about eliminating your dependency on your main supplier. Do you know what those words mean? While we’re talking about shit you don’t understand, how about the fact that LNG imports decreased 7% year-on-year from 2014. But here’s Petras, shilling for Lithuania’s shiny new LNG terminal. According to Lithuania’s assessment, the fall in the price of Russian gas (in Lithuania) over 2014 was the result of Russian confusion over the introduction to Lithuania of Norwegian LNG – realizing it could no longer exercise political control over Lithuania, the dirty Russians backed down. It had nothing to do with a deliberate economic campaign, originating in Washington, to knock the bottom out of energy prices in an attempt to crash the Russian economy. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Europe, Government, Investment, Politics, Rule of Law, Russia, Trade | Tagged , , , , , , | 1,250 Comments