Monday, March 31, 2014

Uproar in Albuquerque

We were in town yesterday but we missed this because we were attending other events and didn't take Central or I-25 on our way out of town. So we didn't find out what was going on until we saw the news on teevee.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

About That Bailout for Ukraine?

We've been hearing rumblings since before the overthrow of Yanukovych last February that the IMF/EU would be delighted to refinance Ukraine's debts on favorable terms -- provided Ukraine adopts severe austerity measures like those of Greece -- or even twice as harsh as the terms imposed on Greece.

Yanukovych was overthrown in large measure because he refused to accommodate those terms -- once he fully understood what those terms meant. The problem with negotiating EU/IMF bailout terms is that the actual terms are not disclosed until the moment comes for signing the documents. And then, oh my goodness. The terms are much harsher, the consequences for not abiding with them are much more severe, and the determination of the EU/IMF negotiators to have their way, no matter what, is shocking.

Yanukovych was expected to sign away Ukraine's patrimony and sovereignty at the Vilnius conference last November, but he balked, said "No!" and turned to Russia for aid. Russia offered a much better deal on terms that did not unduly interfere with either Ukraine's sovereignty or the welfare of its people. Compared to IMF/EU demands for harsh and immediate austerity measures on the people of Ukraine in exchange for a "bailout" that required extremely harmful and unpopular economic "reforms," (reforms that potentially included some "good" measures along with the bad) the Russian deal allowed a much more moderate economic transition and the integration of Ukraine's economy with those of the Russian led Eurasian Economic Union -- apparently as well as that of the EU, but on terms that would protect Ukraine's people from the abuses so customary from the EU toward the Periphery.

The anti-Yanukovych demonstrations in Kiev and elsewhere in Ukraine began immediately when Yanukovych refused to sign in Vilnius, as if they had been organized prior to the conference. What struck me about the research I did into New Citizen and Center UA, the NGOs Pierre Omidyar funded in Ukraine, was the fact that the dozens of orgs under them, some of which, in turn, were umbrellas for dozens or even hundreds of other NGOs and individuals, like Russian matryoshka dolls, was their obsessive focus on EU integration and 'education' (propaganda) on behalf of Europe. This was a long term project. Some of the orgs and NGOs had been promoting the EU cause in Ukraine for decades, since independence from the Soviet Union. Many of the orgs were focused on youth, which meant that over the decades, Ukrainians grew up knowing little or nothing besides pro-EU propaganda.

Many of the NGOs under New Citizen and Center UA's wing (New Citizen is a "project" of Center UA, which appears to be the master org) were also funded by NED (National Endowment for Democracy) and USAID (US Agency for International Development), both of which are considered CIA fronts, though NED has so far been able to abjure the label and claim independence from CIA control.

My point has never been that the US precipitated the revolt in Ukraine against Yanukovych. If it had, I don't think the rightists in this country would be parading around screaming about "weakness." Instead, it looks like there was a coalition of pro-EU interests in Ukraine who were prepared to go to the streets should the Yanukovych regime balk at EU/IMF demands for austerity and other "reform" measures. Up to the point of the Vilnius conference, the Yanukovych government had been working closely with the EU and IMF toward the goal of European integration. There was very little indication prior to Vilnius that Yanukovych would balk and take the Russian offer.

For its part, the US seems to have been most concerned with the US corporate sector and its interests in exploiting the resources of Ukraine. I haven't written much about that, but there were and are major US corporate interests involved in the Ukrainian issue, some of which are highlighted in the triumphal Vicky Nuland-Kagan video posted previously. But there are many more. A number of people have looked into the corporate interests involved in Ukraine's current unpleasantness, and they read like a who's who of American corporate greed. While their corporate interests are being protected and fostered by the US government, they do not appear to be the ones who precipitated the revolt. The revolt seems to have arisen locally if not spontaneously, driven by the many EU integration currents fostered by the multiplicity of NGOs -- hundreds and hundreds of them -- which had been promoting EU interests in Ukraine for many years.

Now that the interim "government" of Yatsenyuk has signed onto the IMF/EU "reform" demands, some of the details of just what is being provided and required are coming out, and it is becoming clear what a duplicitous two-step has been underway all along.

According to the UK Telegraph, what the deal amounts to is paying off Russian banks and Western hedge fund creditors at 100% while forcing increasingly dire levels of austerity on the Ukrainian people, austerity measures that will lead to misery and despair, death and depopulation, much as happened in Latvia, and much more severe than the measures imposed on Greece. The fact that Russian banks and US and European hedge funds are being paid off at the expense of Ukraine's people is interesting and gives a clue to the thinking behind the various maneuvers that have taken place.

The claim is made that Yanukovych absconded with tens of billions (up to $70 billion) in his flight from Kiev, and that's why such severe measures are "necessary" to prevent Ukraine's economic collapse. Yet prior to the overthrow of Yanukovych -- and his alleged theft of funds -- the same measures were being demanded.

In other words, the issue of how much has been "stolen" by the Ukrainian oligarchs and the Yanukovych government is beside the point. The money which is being offered by IMF and EU (which includes a little bit from the US) has nothing to do with that issue. It's propaganda to say it does, propaganda that is supposed to make Ukrainians more compliant with their suffering now by blaming Yanukovych for it.

It seems to me that Yatsenyuk's belligerence during this period is also part of a propaganda campaign to ensure popular submission to these highly destructive measures being imposed by the IMF and EU, and to ensure that the resource exploitation by American and EU companies is not interfered with. 

And if I'm reading the beads right, Russia has no problem with any of this as long as their interests and oligarchs get paid. Jesus, what a cockup.

Quite a show when you think about it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Oh Fer F@*k's Sake

(Via Willy Loman, which you ought to read if you want to know what's up with That Plane and all...;-)

Last week the NYT was all hopped up about the Evil That Is Iran, supposedly building a "non-functional mock up" of a Nimitz class aircraft carrier in their Gachin shipyard in the Persian Gulf. Oh. Noes. What could the perfidious Persians be up to now????

The Evil Non-Functional Aircraft Carrier of Doom!!!

The Times speculated that the Perfidious Ones would blow up the mock up for propaganda value!!!! Eeek!!!!!!. The EVIL!!!!!!

 This is just some of the hyperventilating included in the Times piece:

Navy officials responded that no drones had been shot down by enemy fire, although the Pentagon acknowledged at the time that it had lost a small number of ScanEagles, likely to engine malfunction.
Iranian Navy officials could not be immediately reached for comment as the country prepared to celebrate its New Year festivities on Friday. American intelligence officials cited a photograph taken on Feb. 22 in Bandar Abbas and a brief description in Persian of the vessel on a website for Iran’s Ministry of Industry, Mines and Trade.
For now, Navy analysts and American intelligence officials say they are not unduly concerned about the mock ship. But the fact that the Iranians are building it, presumably for some mysteriously bellicose purposes, contrasts with the fact that the Iranians stepped back from their typically heavy anti-American posture during a recent naval exercise in the gulf.
So. Proof. Proof I say! of Evil Intent. They want to blow it up!!!! For propaganda!!!!

More from the Times story (remember, this was in the New York M-F Times:)

“Based on our observations, this is not a functioning aircraft carrier; it’s a large barge built to look like an aircraft carrier,” said Cmdr. Jason Salata, a spokesman for the Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, across the Persian Gulf from Iran. “We’re not sure what Iran hopes to gain by building this. If it is a big propaganda piece, to what end?”

Whatever the purpose, American officials acknowledged on Thursday that they wanted to reveal the existence of the vessel to get out ahead of the Iranians.

There you are. That's all you really need to know! Teh EVUL!!!!!

The bullshit was revealed somewhat later. Not by the NYT but by the EA Worldview news site.

The Non-functional Aircraft Carrier of Doom is a... movie prop. Oh. Well. I guess never mind then.

Well, the Iranian model is part of a drama, albeit not one that is supposedly worrying the Pentagon — and the story isn’t that much of a mystery.
If The New York Times had come to EA, rather than the Pentagon, we could have eased their minds while deflating their headline: the “aircraft carrier” is a movie prop — one that we have known about for almost a year. 
In April 2013, Iranian websites announced that a joint Iranian-Canadian production was going to tell the story of Iran Air 655, the civilian jet shot down in July 1988 by the USS Vincennes, killing all 290 passengers and crew. 
include Iranian and American actorsCo-directed by Nader Talebzadeh and Paxton Winters, the film would  include Iranian and American actors.

US officials and analysts forgot or were unaware of all this — or were confident that Schmitt would not discover the truth as they put out their scarier tale:
“It is not surprising that Iranian military forces might use a variety of tactics — including military deception tactics — to strategically communicate and possibly demonstrate their resolve in the region,” said an American official who has closely followed the construction of the mock-up….

“The system is often too opaque to understand who hatched this idea, and whether it was endorsed at the highest levels,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Schmitt wrote of his efforts to check the US claims, “Iranian Navy officials could not be immediately reached for comment as the country prepared to celebrate its New Year festivities.” 
Schmitt did not say if he had tried to confirm the story with The Times’ Tehran correspondent, Thomas Erdbrink. 
Other US media raced to get Washington’s officials and politicians for their own versions of the story. Representative Eliot Engel told USA Today, “We don’t really know what it means, but I for sure don’t trust the Iranians. It’s some kind of a ruse and whatever they are up to, it’s no good.” 
CNN announced that it had “commercial satellite images” and brought out its unnamed US official to declare, “While the purpose of the fake carrier is unknown, Iran may be planning to destroy it in a propaganda move.” 
Meanwhile, Iranian outlets — some of whom have long been noted for their propaganda and scare stories — reveled in The Times’ conversion of the movie ship into a menace. 

Mashregh News laughed at the “quandary of America’s security and intelligence officials”. Alef put on a more serious face:
The issue has turned into a good excuse for another wave of hype against Iran. Without any proof or real basis, the western media have jumped again to paint a negative picture of Iran.
The Times and Schmitt — and their Pentagon and intelligence sources — don’t seem bothered, however. They have not stepped back from their original story:
This is exactly the kind of lie routinely propagated by US and EU media, on their own or by military and government impetus, propaganda that keeps international tensions at a feverish level.

If it's in the Times, of course, it must be true. (Forget about Judith Miller and Michael Gordon and Curveball and all the rest for the moment, these are different times.)

Nevertheless, the debunking of this little bit of hoo-hah is somewhat delicious...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Summary Executions

Recently a homeless, mentally ill man was killed by Albuquerque police in the Sandia Mountain foothills where he had been camping without a permit.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Putin-Hitler Continues His Stalin-Rule, Crushing The Aspirations of Mankind!!!!

Overwhelming the peaceful people of Ukraine, Putin-Hitler continues his Stalin-Rule while enforcing an Iron Curtain around his latest illegal imperial acquisition in Crimea, forcing out dozens of valiant Ukrainian troops while enslaving the multitudes of Crimeans who would resist if they weren't surrounded by Putin's Wehrmacht-Red Army. As all peoples everywhere do, Crimeans desperately yearn to breathe free.

As one day they shall! The unauthorized, illegal conquests of the Wehrmacht-Red Army shall not stand!!! Ukraine shall be restored to its rightful place among the Community of Nations!!!! Ukraine's territorial integrity is paramount!!!! Give Crimea back to Ukraine!!!!! NOW!!!!

The Great Ukrainian Reconquista is under way! Stand with Ukrainian Patriots against Putin-Hitler's Soviet Stalin-aggression!!! We are all Ukrainians!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Additional Ukrainian Matters

As Putin-Hitler Stalin-rules the revivified Soviet Union, bulling his way into Europe and re-erecting an Iron Curtain around Crimea and his Russian cronies, enslaving the multitudes and subverting the nations, the cries for even greater ridicule of Romney and Palin and the dreaded Turtle increase.

They love Putin! Therefore, their time in the spotlight is nearly at an end. Well, it would be if they weren't so fun to ridicule. And what about those Duck Dynasty guys? And the Missing Plane? Hmmm? What about them?

Speak not of Young Snowden, however, for his case under HitlerStalin-Putin's fulsome wing is different. He says nothing, he knows nothing, he merely tries to open a debate about the nature of our society and what we and only we want it to be, not about the Soviet Union, which is different. Like he is. So stop saying that. And besides, there isn't any Soviet Union any more, so stop saying that, you look like a fool.

In fact all this hoo-hah does make one wonder. All this hoo-hah, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing but masking plenty. What could it be, what could it be? Huh. It's just so puzzling.

Truth is, more and more people are recognizing the real Game here, the Game being obscured by all the hoo-hah and propaganda. By keeping the Rabble uninformed and propagandized to death about the situation faced by Ukraine, its dismemberment -- shall we say, even if it stops with the return of Crimea to Russia -- is simpler. Domestic unrest over economic and social issues is channeled into patriotism and nationalism (it always works, until it doesn't) and anti-enemy-of-the-day OUTRAGE!!!!™.  This shall not stand!!!!


From the signs, it's looking more and more like Ukraine will be carved up into enclaves, the easier to exploit its resources and further impoverish its people. The national government of Ukraine has never really worked out well for anyone except the kleptocrats and oligarchs, some of whom are behind the Maidan thing. As much as the Yatsenyuk government is dancing to the tunes of his EU and US "partners," I'm not sure it's playing all that well on the street. The problem which can't really be handled is that of the Nazi shock troops who were used to incite violence and control the crowds in the Maidan and who have been given the "Law Enforcement" and "Justice" portfolios in the self-proclaimed "Interim Government." These people tend not to take well to the diktats of their Betters in Kiev, Berlin and Brussels. They have their own agendas, after all. Ahem.

And there are plenty of separatist interests throughout the rest of Ukraine. The rather elaborate coup that brought down the Yanukovych regime appears to be backfiring. How it was engineered is not entirely clear.

There are more than a few signs that neither the EU nor the US was prepared for what happened when Yanukovych refused to sign away Ukraine to the loving embrace of Europe and NATO in Vilnius last November. They encouraged the demonstrations that arose in response, they may have even planned and helped some of them. But demonstrations along the lines of "Color Revolutions" -- which this one might have been too, as the tactic has been used in Ukraine before (see: "Revolution, Orange") -- but it quickly got out of hand.

The Ukrainian Nationalists, Fascists and Nazis, though relatively few in number, were able to take charge of the course of events. They weren't afraid to use their limited numbers in a forceful and at times violent way, something that was being documented by the Kremlin, but which was largely ignored in the West, although the engineers within the EU and US couldn't have been unaware. They had to have known. They had to have given at least tacit approval.

This was no "nonviolent" Color Revolution. This was an engineered take down of a non-compliant regime, something that was attempted in Syria but has so far failed. How to do it seems clear enough: present the appearance of a mass-revolt through well-attended protests in a significant public space. Inflate the numbers of protesters well beyond the actual numbers present. Tightly control that crowd so as to keep them intently focused on a limited range of "reasonable" issues (in Kiev it was to be European integration, government corruption, and popular dissatisfaction with economic prospects) while the behind-the-scenes operators focus on subverting the government and making it impossible for officials to govern.

The Nazis were the wild card-enforcers, and it doesn't look like it is working out well.

The government ("") that replaced Yanukovych is on a knife-edge. It is unlikely to survive in its present form for much longer. It appears to have little or no control beyond the Palace in Kiev, and the efforts of the US and EU to prop it up are looking more and more dishonest and pathetic. The frantic efforts to solidify agreements with western corporate and EU interests for the prompt exploitation and "economic reform" of Ukraine are unseemly at best, further cause for revolt if the plans are carried out.

The assignment of pro-Yatsenyuk oligarchs to rule the restive Eastern Sektor is simply gob-smacking in its simplicity and obviousness.

The total disinterest of the Powers in the well-being of the People is striking.  This of course follows the same pattern as has been employed already in the EU's near-Periphery, particularly in Greece but not solely there. If the People suffer, according to this Iron Law of Economics, it is their own fault. If they protest their impoverishment and ruin, they are to be suppressed with whatever force is necessary. If they starve and die, too bad, so sad. If this Iron Law is not followed or is resisted in any way by native governments, they are to be replaced, forthwith. That is all.

We've seen it happen over and over again, even in an EU Core country like Italy, where the prime minister was replaced with an unelected technocrat when he attempted to mitigate some of the harsher provisions of the Austerity diktats out of Brussels and Berlin.

As more and more are recognizing, however, it will be worse -- far worse -- for Ukraine, for the simple reason that Ukraine is the Far Periphery, not an EU member, and at best it will serve as a EuroAmerican Colonial-Corporate enterprise zone. At best.

Few among us want to imagine the worst-case scenario, but the embrace of the Ukrainian Nazis and Fascists and Nationalists by the West is a sure clue to where this whole thing may be headed.

"Stalin-Hitler" Putin ought to be concerned.

On the other hand, as always, the people caught in the middle are conscientiously forgotten by all sides in the Pageant of Power.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Vladimir Putin Speechifies on the Crimean Thing -- "What about Russia?"

I noticed a number of people on the interwebs and the TeeVee referring to Putin's recent speech at the Kremlin's Grand Palace regarding the Crimean Thing, but no links to it, or at least none that were immediately accessible. So I went and and found one to the text (at the Beeb) and it linked to the one at the Kremlin, so I'm copying and posting that one  -- without the sometimes querulous and childish annotations by Bridget Kendall that the Beeb seems to think meet.

March 18, 2014, 15:50The Kremlin, Moscow
PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN: Federation Council members, State Duma deputies, good afternoon.  Representatives of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol are here among us, citizens of Russia, residents of Crimea and Sevastopol!

Dear friends, we have gathered here today in connection with an issue that is of vital, historic significance to all of us. A referendum was held in Crimea on March 16 in full compliance with democratic procedures and international norms.
More than 82 percent of the electorate took part in the vote. Over 96 percent of them spoke out in favour of reuniting with Russia. These numbers speak for themselves.
To understand the reason behind such a choice it is enough to know the history of Crimea and what Russia and Crimea have always meant for each other.
Everything in Crimea speaks of our shared history and pride. This is the location of ancient Khersones, where Prince Vladimir was baptised. His spiritual feat of adopting Orthodoxy predetermined the overall basis of the culture, civilisation and human values that unite the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. The graves of Russian soldiers whose bravery brought Crimea into the Russian empire are also in Crimea. This is also Sevastopol – a legendary city with an outstanding history, a fortress that serves as the birthplace of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Crimea is Balaklava and Kerch, Malakhov Kurgan and Sapun Ridge. Each one of these places is dear to our hearts, symbolising Russian military glory and outstanding valour.
Crimea is a unique blend of different peoples’ cultures and traditions. This makes it similar to Russia as a whole, where not a single ethnic group has been lost over the centuries. Russians and Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars and people of other ethnic groups have lived side by side in Crimea, retaining their own identity, traditions, languages and faith.
Incidentally, the total population of the Crimean Peninsula today is 2.2 million people, of whom almost 1.5 million are Russians, 350,000 are Ukrainians who predominantly consider Russian their native language, and about 290,000-300,000 are Crimean Tatars, who, as the referendum has shown, also lean towards Russia.
True, there was a time when Crimean Tatars were treated unfairly, just as a number of other peoples in the USSR. There is only one thing I can say here: millions of people of various ethnicities suffered during those repressions, and primarily Russians.
Crimean Tatars returned to their homeland. I believe we should make all the necessary political and legislative decisions to finalise the rehabilitation of Crimean Tatars, restore them in their rights and clear their good name.
We have great respect for people of all the ethnic groups living in Crimea. This is their common home, their motherland, and it would be right – I know the local population supports this – for Crimea to have three equal national languages: Russian, Ukrainian and Tatar.
In people’s hearts and minds, Crimea has always been an inseparable part of Russia. This firm conviction is based on truth and justice and was passed from generation to generation, over time, under any circumstances, despite all the dramatic changes our country went through during the entire 20th century.
After the revolution, the Bolsheviks, for a number of reasons – may God judge them – added large sections of the historical South of Russia to the Republic of Ukraine. This was done with no consideration for the ethnic make-up of the population, and today these areas form the southeast of Ukraine. Then, in 1954, a decision was made to transfer Crimean Region to Ukraine, along with Sevastopol, despite the fact that it was a federal city. This was the personal initiative of the Communist Party head Nikita Khrushchev. What stood behind this decision of his – a desire to win the support of the Ukrainian political establishment or to atone for the mass repressions of the 1930’s in Ukraine – is for historians to figure out.
What matters now is that this decision was made in clear violation of the constitutional norms that were in place even then. The decision was made behind the scenes. Naturally, in a totalitarian state nobody bothered to ask the citizens of Crimea and Sevastopol. They were faced with the fact. People, of course, wondered why all of a sudden Crimea became part of Ukraine. But on the whole – and we must state this clearly, we all know it – this decision was treated as a formality of sorts because the territory was transferred within the boundaries of a single state. Back then, it was impossible to imagine that Ukraine and Russia may split up and become two separate states. However, this has happened.
Unfortunately, what seemed impossible became a reality. The USSR fell apart. Things developed so swiftly that few people realised how truly dramatic those events and their consequences would be. Many people both in Russia and in Ukraine, as well as in other republics hoped that the Commonwealth of Independent States that was created at the time would become the new common form of statehood. They were told that there would be a single currency, a single economic space, joint armed forces; however, all this remained empty promises, while the big country was gone. It was only when Crimea ended up as part of a different country that Russia realised that it was not simply robbed, it was plundered.
At the same time, we have to admit that by launching the sovereignty parade Russia itself aided in the collapse of the Soviet Union. And as this collapse was legalised, everyone forgot about Crimea and Sevastopol ­– the main base of the Black Sea Fleet. Millions of people went to bed in one country and awoke in different ones, overnight becoming ethnic minorities in former Union republics, while the Russian nation became one of the biggest, if not the biggest ethnic group in the world to be divided by borders.
Now, many years later, I heard residents of Crimea say that back in 1991 they were handed over like a sack of potatoes. This is hard to disagree with. And what about the Russian state? What about Russia? It humbly accepted the situation. This country was going through such hard times then that realistically it was incapable of protecting its interests. However, the people could not reconcile themselves to this outrageous historical injustice. All these years, citizens and many public figures came back to this issue, saying that Crimea is historically Russian land and Sevastopol is a Russian city. Yes, we all knew this in our hearts and minds, but we had to proceed from the existing reality and build our good-neighbourly relations with independent Ukraine on a new basis. Meanwhile, our relations with Ukraine, with the fraternal Ukrainian people have always been and will remain of foremost importance for us.
Today we can speak about it openly, and I would like to share with you some details of the negotiations that took place in the early 2000s. The then President of Ukraine Mr Kuchma asked me to expedite the process of delimiting the Russian-Ukrainian border. At that time, the process was practically at a standstill.  Russia seemed to have recognised Crimea as part of Ukraine, but there were no negotiations on delimiting the borders. Despite the complexity of the situation, I immediately issued instructions to Russian government agencies to speed up their work to document the borders, so that everyone had a clear understanding that by agreeing to delimit the border we admitted de facto and de jure that Crimea was Ukrainian territory, thereby closing the issue.
We accommodated Ukraine not only regarding Crimea, but also on such a complicated matter as the maritime boundary in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait. What we proceeded from back then was that good relations with Ukraine matter most for us and they should not fall hostage to deadlock territorial disputes. However, we expected Ukraine to remain our good neighbour, we hoped that Russian citizens and Russian speakers in Ukraine, especially its southeast and Crimea, would live in a friendly, democratic and civilised state that would protect their rights in line with the norms of international law.
However, this is not how the situation developed. Time and time again attempts were made to deprive Russians of their historical memory, even of their language and to subject them to forced assimilation. Moreover, Russians, just as other citizens of Ukraine are suffering from the constant political and state crisis that has been rocking the country for over 20 years.
I understand why Ukrainian people wanted change. They have had enough of the authorities in power during the years of Ukraine’s independence. Presidents, prime ministers and parliamentarians changed, but their attitude to the country and its people remained the same. They milked the country, fought among themselves for power, assets and cash flows and did not care much about the ordinary people. They did not wonder why it was that millions of Ukrainian citizens saw no prospects at home and went to other countries to work as day labourers. I would like to stress this: it was not some Silicon Valley they fled to, but to become day labourers. Last year alone almost 3 million people found such jobs in Russia. According to some sources, in 2013 their earnings in Russia totalled over $20 billion, which is about 12% of Ukraine’s GDP.
I would like to reiterate that I understand those who came out on Maidan with peaceful slogans against corruption, inefficient state management and poverty. The right to peaceful protest, democratic procedures and elections exist for the sole purpose of replacing the authorities that do not satisfy the people. However, those who stood behind the latest events in Ukraine had a different agenda: they were preparing yet another government takeover; they wanted to seize power and would stop short of nothing. They resorted to terror, murder and riots. Nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites executed this coup. They continue to set the tone in Ukraine to this day.
The new so-called authorities began by introducing a draft law to revise the language policy, which was a direct infringement on the rights of ethnic minorities. However, they were immediately ‘disciplined’ by the foreign sponsors of these so-called politicians. One has to admit that the mentors of these current authorities are smart and know well what such attempts to build a purely Ukrainian state may lead to. The draft law was set aside, but clearly reserved for the future. Hardly any mention is made of this attempt now, probably on the presumption that people have a short memory. Nevertheless, we can all clearly see the intentions of these ideological heirs of Bandera, Hitler’s accomplice during World War II.
It is also obvious that there is no legitimate executive authority in Ukraine now, nobody to talk to. Many government agencies have been taken over by the impostors, but they do not have any control in the country, while they themselves – and I would like to stress this – are often controlled by radicals. In some cases, you need a special permit from the militants on Maidan to meet with certain ministers of the current government. This is not a joke – this is reality.
Those who opposed the coup were immediately threatened with repression. Naturally, the first in line here was Crimea, the Russian-speaking Crimea. In view of this, the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol turned to Russia for help in defending their rights and lives, in preventing the events that were unfolding and are still underway in Kiev, Donetsk, Kharkov and other Ukrainian cities.
Naturally, we could not leave this plea unheeded; we could not abandon Crimea and its residents in distress. This would have been betrayal on our part.
First, we had to help create conditions so that the residents of Crimea for the first time in history were able to peacefully express their free will regarding their own future. However, what do we hear from our colleagues in Western Europe and North America? They say we are violating norms of international law.  Firstly, it’s a good thing that they at least remember that there exists such a thing as international law – better late than never.
Secondly, and most importantly – what exactly are we violating? True, the President of the Russian Federation received permission from the Upper House of Parliament to use the Armed Forces in Ukraine.  However, strictly speaking, nobody has acted on this permission yet.  Russia’s Armed Forces never entered Crimea; they were there already in line with an international agreement.  True, we did enhance our forces there; however – this is something I would like everyone to hear and know – we did not exceed the personnel limit of our Armed Forces in Crimea, which is set at 25,000, because there was no need to do so.
Next. As it declared independence and decided to hold a referendum, the Supreme Council of Crimea referred to the United Nations Charter, which speaks of the right of nations to self-determination. Incidentally, I would like to remind you that when Ukraine seceded from the USSR it did exactly the same thing, almost word for word. Ukraine used this right, yet the residents of Crimea are denied it.  Why is that?
Moreover, the Crimean authorities referred to the well-known Kosovo precedent – a precedent our western colleagues created with their own hands in a very similar situation, when they agreed that the unilateral separation of Kosovo from Serbia, exactly what Crimea is doing now, was legitimate and did not require any permission from the country’s central authorities. Pursuant to Article 2, Chapter 1 of the United Nations Charter, the UN International Court agreed with this approach and made the following comment in its ruling of July 22, 2010, and I quote: “No general prohibition may be inferred from the practice of the Security Council with regard to declarations of independence,” and “General international law contains no prohibition on declarations of independence.” Crystal clear, as they say.
I do not like to resort to quotes, but in this case, I cannot help it. Here is a quote from another official document: the Written Statement of the United States America of April 17, 2009, submitted to the same UN International Court in connection with the hearings on Kosovo. Again, I quote: “Declarations of independence may, and often do, violate domestic legislation. However, this does not make them violations of international law.” End of quote.  They wrote this, disseminated it all over the world, had everyone agree and now they are outraged. Over what? The actions of Crimean people completely fit in with these instructions, as it were. For some reason, things that Kosovo Albanians (and we have full respect for them) were permitted to do, Russians, Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars in Crimea are not allowed. Again, one wonders why.
We keep hearing from the United States and Western Europe that Kosovo is some special case. What makes it so special in the eyes of our colleagues? It turns out that it is the fact that the conflict in Kosovo resulted in so many human casualties.  Is this a legal argument? The ruling of the International Court says nothing about this. This is not even double standards; this is amazing, primitive, blunt cynicism. One should not try so crudely to make everything suit their interests, calling the same thing white today and black tomorrow. According to this logic, we have to make sure every conflict leads to human losses.
I will state clearly - if the Crimean local self-defence units had not taken the situation under control, there could have been casualties as well. Fortunately this did not happen. There was not a single armed confrontation in Crimea and no casualties. Why do you think this was so? The answer is simple: because it is very difficult, practically impossible to fight against the will of the people. Here I would like to thank the Ukrainian military – and this is 22,000 fully armed servicemen. I would like to thank those Ukrainian service members who refrained from bloodshed and did not smear their uniforms in blood.
Other thoughts come to mind in this connection. They keep talking of some Russian intervention in Crimea, some sort of aggression. This is strange to hear. I cannot recall a single case in history of an intervention without a single shot being fired and with no human casualties.
Like a mirror, the situation in Ukraine reflects what is going on and what has been happening in the world over the past several decades. After the dissolution of bipolarity on the planet, we no longer have stability. Key international institutions are not getting any stronger; on the contrary, in many cases, they are sadly degrading. Our western partners, led by the United States of America, prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun. They have come to believe in their exclusivity and exceptionalism, that they can decide the destinies of the world, that only they can ever be right. They act as they please: here and there, they use force against sovereign states, building coalitions based on the principle “If you are not with us, you are against us.” To make this aggression look legitimate, they force the necessary resolutions from international organisations, and if for some reason this does not work, they simply ignore the UN Security Council and the UN overall.
This happened in Yugoslavia; we remember 1999 very well. It was hard to believe, even seeing it with my own eyes, that at the end of the 20th century, one of Europe’s capitals, Belgrade, was under missile attack for several weeks, and then came the real intervention. Was there a UN Security Council resolution on this matter, allowing for these actions? Nothing of the sort. And then, they hit Afghanistan, Iraq, and frankly violated the UN Security Council resolution on Libya, when instead of imposing the so-called no-fly zone over it they started bombing it too.
There was a whole series of controlled “colour” revolutions. Clearly, the people in those nations, where these events took place, were sick of tyranny and poverty, of their lack of prospects; but these feelings were taken advantage of cynically. Standards were imposed on these nations that did not in any way correspond to their way of life, traditions, or these peoples’ cultures. As a result, instead of democracy and freedom, there was chaos, outbreaks in violence and a series of upheavals. The Arab Spring turned into the Arab Winter.
A similar situation unfolded in Ukraine. In 2004, to push the necessary candidate through at the presidential elections, they thought up some sort of third round that was not stipulated by the law. It was absurd and a mockery of the constitution. And now, they have thrown in an organised and well-equipped army of militants.
We understand what is happening; we understand that these actions were aimed against Ukraine and Russia and against Eurasian integration. And all this while Russia strived to engage in dialogue with our colleagues in the West. We are constantly proposing cooperation on all key issues; we want to strengthen our level of trust and for our relations to be equal, open and fair. But we saw no reciprocal steps.
On the contrary, they have lied to us many times, made decisions behind our backs, placed us before an accomplished fact. This happened with NATO’s expansion to the East, as well as the deployment of military infrastructure at our borders. They kept telling us the same thing: “Well, this does not concern you.” That’s easy to say.
It happened with the deployment of a missile defence system. In spite of all our apprehensions, the project is working and moving forward. It happened with the endless foot-dragging in the talks on visa issues, promises of fair competition and free access to global markets.
Today, we are being threatened with sanctions, but we already experience many limitations, ones that are quite significant for us, our economy and our nation. For example, still during the times of the Cold War, the US and subsequently other nations restricted a large list of technologies and equipment from being sold to the USSR, creating the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls list. Today, they have formally been eliminated, but only formally; and in reality, many limitations are still in effect.
In short, we have every reason to assume that the infamous policy of containment, led in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, continues today. They are constantly trying to sweep us into a corner because we have an independent position, because we maintain it and because we call things like they are and do not engage in hypocrisy. But there is a limit to everything. And with Ukraine, our western partners have crossed the line, playing the bear and acting irresponsibly and unprofessionally.
After all, they were fully aware that there are millions of Russians living in Ukraine and in Crimea. They must have really lacked political instinct and common sense not to foresee all the consequences of their actions. Russia found itself in a position it could not retreat from. If you compress the spring all the way to its limit, it will snap back hard. You must always remember this.
Today, it is imperative to end this hysteria, to refute the rhetoric of the cold war and to accept the obvious fact: Russia is an independent, active participant in international affairs; like other countries, it has its own national interests that need to be taken into account and respected.
At the same time, we are grateful to all those who understood our actions in Crimea; we are grateful to the people of China, whose leaders have always considered the situation in Ukraine and Crimea taking into account the full historical and political context, and greatly appreciate India’s reserve and objectivity.
Today, I would like to address the people of the United States of America, the people who, since the foundation of their nation and adoption of the Declaration of Independence, have been proud to hold freedom above all else. Isn’t the desire of Crimea’s residents to freely choose their fate such a value? Please understand us.
I believe that the Europeans, first and foremost, the Germans, will also understand me. Let me remind you that in the course of political consultations on the unification of East and West Germany, at the expert, though very high level, some nations that were then and are now Germany’s allies did not support the idea of unification. Our nation, however, unequivocally supported the sincere, unstoppable desire of the Germans for national unity. I am confident that you have not forgotten this, and I expect that the citizens of Germany will also support the aspiration of the Russians, of historical Russia, to restore unity.
I also want to address the people of Ukraine. I sincerely want you to understand us: we do not want to harm you in any way, or to hurt your national feelings. We have always respected the territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state, incidentally, unlike those who sacrificed Ukraine’s unity for their political ambitions. They flaunt slogans about Ukraine’s greatness, but they are the ones who did everything to divide the nation. Today’s civil standoff is entirely on their conscience. I want you to hear me, my dear friends. Do not believe those who want you to fear Russia, shouting that other regions will follow Crimea. We do not want to divide Ukraine; we do not need that. As for Crimea, it was and remains a Russian, Ukrainian, and Crimean-Tatar land.
I repeat, just as it has been for centuries, it will be a home to all the peoples living there. What it will never be and do is follow in Bandera’s footsteps!
Crimea is our common historical legacy and a very important factor in regional stability. And this strategic territory should be part of a strong and stable sovereignty, which today can only be Russian. Otherwise, dear friends (I am addressing both Ukraine and Russia), you and we – the Russians and the Ukrainians – could lose Crimea completely, and that could happen in the near historical perspective. Please think about it.
Let me note too that we have already heard declarations from Kiev about Ukraine soon joining NATO. What would this have meant for Crimea and Sevastopol in the future? It would have meant that NATO’s navy would be right there in this city of Russia’s military glory, and this would create not an illusory but a perfectly real threat to the whole of southern Russia. These are things that could have become reality were it not for the choice the Crimean people made, and I want to say thank you to them for this.
But let me say too that we are not opposed to cooperation with NATO, for this is certainly not the case. For all the internal processes within the organisation, NATO remains a military alliance, and we are against having a military alliance making itself at home right in our backyard or in our historic territory. I simply cannot imagine that we would travel to Sevastopol to visit NATO sailors. Of course, most of them are wonderful guys, but it would be better to have them come and visit us, be our guests, rather than the other way round.
Let me say quite frankly that it pains our hearts to see what is happening in Ukraine at the moment, see the people’s suffering and their uncertainty about how to get through today and what awaits them tomorrow. Our concerns are understandable because we are not simply close neighbours but, as I have said many times already, we are one people. Kiev is the mother of Russian cities. Ancient Rus is our common source and we cannot live without each other.  
Let me say one other thing too. Millions of Russians and Russian-speaking people live in Ukraine and will continue to do so. Russia will always defend their interests using political, diplomatic and legal means. But it should be above all in Ukraine’s own interest to ensure that these people’s rights and interests are fully protected. This is the guarantee of Ukraine’s state stability and territorial integrity.
We want to be friends with Ukraine and we want Ukraine to be a strong, sovereign and self-sufficient country. Ukraine is one of our biggest partners after all. We have many joint projects and I believe in their success no matter what the current difficulties. Most importantly, we want peace and harmony to reign in Ukraine, and we are ready to work together with other countries to do everything possible to facilitate and support this. But as I said, only Ukraine’s own people can put their own house in order.
Residents of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, the whole of Russia admired your courage, dignity and bravery. It was you who decided Crimea’s future. We were closer than ever over these days, supporting each other. These were sincere feelings of solidarity. It is at historic turning points such as these that a nation demonstrates its maturity and strength of spirit. The Russian people showed this maturity and strength through their united support for their compatriots.
Russia’s foreign policy position on this matter drew its firmness from the will of millions of our people, our national unity and the support of our country’s main political and public forces. I want to thank everyone for this patriotic spirit, everyone without exception. Now, we need to continue and maintain this kind of consolidation so as to resolve the tasks our country faces on its road ahead.   
Obviously, we will encounter external opposition, but this is a decision that we need to make for ourselves. Are we ready to consistently defend our national interests, or will we forever give in, retreat to who knows where? Some Western politicians are already threatening us with not just sanctions but also the prospect of increasingly serious problems on the domestic front. I would like to know what it is they have in mind exactly: action by a fifth column, this disparate bunch of ‘national traitors’, or are they hoping to put us in a worsening social and economic situation so as to provoke public discontent? We consider such statements irresponsible and clearly aggressive in tone, and we will respond to them accordingly. At the same time, we will never seek confrontation with our partners, whether in the East or the West, but on the contrary, will do everything we can to build civilised and good-neighbourly relations as one is supposed to in the modern world. 
I understand the people of Crimea, who put the question in the clearest possible terms in the referendum: should Crimea be with Ukraine or with Russia? We can be sure in saying that the authorities in Crimea and Sevastopol, the legislative authorities, when they formulated the question, set aside group and political interests and made the people’s fundamental interests alone the cornerstone of their work. The particular historic, population, political and economic circumstances of Crimea would have made any other proposed option - however tempting it could be at the first glance - only temporary and fragile and would have inevitably led to further worsening of the situation there, which would have had disastrous effects on people’s lives. The people of Crimea thus decided to put the question in firm and uncompromising form, with no grey areas. The referendum was fair and transparent, and the people of Crimea clearly and convincingly expressed their will and stated that they want to be with Russia.
Russia will also have to make a difficult decision now, taking into account the various domestic and external considerations. What do people here in Russia think? Here, like in any democratic country, people have different points of view, but I want to make the point that the absolute majority of our people clearly do support what is happening.
The most recent public opinion surveys conducted here in Russia show that 95 percent of people think that Russia should protect the interests of Russians and members of other ethnic groups living in Crimea – 95 percent of our citizens. More than 83 percent think that Russia should do this even if it will complicate our relations with some other countries. A total of 86 percent of our people see Crimea as still being Russian territory and part of our country’s lands. And one particularly important figure, which corresponds exactly with the result in Crimea’s referendum: almost 92 percent of our people support Crimea’s reunification with Russia. 
Thus we see that the overwhelming majority of people in Crimea and the absolute majority of the Russian Federation’s people support the reunification of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol with Russia.
Now this is a matter for Russia’s own political decision, and any decision here can be based only on the people’s will, because the people is the ultimate source of all authority.
Members of the Federation Council, deputies of the State Duma, citizens of Russia, residents of Crimea and Sevastopol, today, in accordance with the people’s will, I submit to the Federal Assembly a request to consider a Constitutional Law on the creation of two new constituent entities within the Russian Federation: the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, and to ratify the treaty on admitting to the Russian Federation Crimea and Sevastopol, which is already ready for signing. I stand assured of your support.
I would just add that Stephen Cohen has been asking whether there is anything "true" in this speech -- that is generally not available to American audiences -- and if there is, whether it isn't appropriate to approach any future negotiations on the region from that standpoint rather than from the hyperbolic and sometimes hysterical belligerence that has been emanating from Kiev, London and Washington.

Is there any truth in what Putin said?

And I'd add too that despite the general level of hysterics, polemics, and propaganda that most Americans, many Western Europeans, and too many Ukrainians are exposed to, it appears that overall, cooler heads are prevailing and Russia and the Rest of the World are not going to war over the Republic of Crimea.

At least not any time soon.

Their oligarchs and our oligarchs are simply not into it.

So there is that.

The Measure of Propaganda -- Ukraine Edition

The corporate news -- such as it is -- has been dominated with an intense barrage of Anti-Soviet propaganda since well before the opening of the Sochi Olympics. The inundation of Anti-Soviet propaganda has been complimented with as strenuous an Anti-Putin demonization campaign as we've seen since the days of Stalin.

Most people alive today never directly experienced Anti-Soviet/Anti-Stalin propaganda and may have difficulty making the connection, but I'm old, and I have witnessed it in the past. I lived through the Post War/Cold War Red Scares and hysterics, and even though I was a child, it made a big impression on me. I knew even then that it was propaganda, and it was mostly based on lies and fantasies. It was story-telling on a grand and destructive scale, intended to keep us from knowing what was true and from thinking critically about any of it.

Similar tactics were used to demonize Saddam Hussain and Iraq in the lead-up to the catastrophe of the Second Gulf War, perhaps the most egregious example of war of aggression since the Unfortunate Era of the 19th and 20th Centuries, when the war of aggression was refined to an art form and implemented widely, not solely by Hitler!!!!™  either. Far from it. The war of aggression was a basic tactic in the Imperialist kit bag, frequently employed by colonialist and imperialist powers -- with or without pretext -- to seize and control what they wanted. The colonialist and imperialist powers were not supposed to do it to one another, but sometimes they did anyway.

That's all water under the bridge, however. We're in a New Century now, the supposed American Century if the neo-cons get their way, and progress requires continued conquest or the game is up. Can't have that.

You'd think they'd learn, but they don't.

Reading the beads and parsing the text, what I'm getting out of the current propaganda barrage regarding Ukraine is that the nation-state called Ukraine is falling apart, disintegrating. The reasons why are somewhat masked under the propaganda barrage, but it might be due to the fact that Ukraine only ever existed before as a satrapy and province of the Russian Empire and relatively briefly as a dependent republic of the Soviet Union. It was never organized into an independent nation-state, in other words, but was always the appendage to some other Empire, state or interest. Even during its brief hey-day under Nazi occupation, the point was never for Ukraine to be an independent nation-state, but for it to be a colonial resource for the benefit of Germany and the Aryan Race, no matter how this status was being sold to the Ukrainian people.

The disintegration of Ukraine is not due to Russian pressure, nor is it due to the return of Crimea to Russian control, though the propagandists like to pretend Russia is the cause of all troubles in Europe's Eastern Partnership. It's just not true.

What seems to be true is that internal tensions are the driving forces underlying the disintegration of Ukraine. The population, for example, is not homogeneous but is in fact quite disparate. It's not simply a matter of Russians here and Ukrainians there. The ethnic issues are far more complex than that. It may be analogous to the situation in Yugoslavia prior to its breakup and civil war. Under Russian Imperial control or Soviet control, the pseudo-state of "Ukrainia" (actually, they do use that term over there) could function relatively well, because loyalty was not to "Ukrainia" but to Russia or the Soviet Union. Ukrainian nationalists were the outliers.

Now it seems "Europe" wants to become the master and overlord of the Ukrainian nation and people as a whole, and it doesn't look like it is going to work. The Ukrainian people(s) have different interests. Their national identity is weak. The various ethnic enclaves each have separatist notions of their own. Russia's modern history in Ukraine (that is since the disintegration of the Soviet Union) is slight at best, something the propagandists can't seem to grasp. Independent Ukraine has been a full-on basket-case from the get-go. Despite the billions of dollars pumped in by the United States and Europe to prop up some form of nationalism and national government, it hasn't worked.

The desperation of the Interim Government (so-called) to "integrate" with Europe is palpable. But to what object? Certainly not on behalf of the Ukrainian people(s). It's self-evidently a personal quest of those in charge for the moment, something they've wanted for themselves, bugger the "people." They're trying to sell a pig in a poke, not even bothering to put lipstick on it, and it's not very pretty.

Russia's claim on Crimea can be disputed on technical grounds, but not on historical, social or practical ones. Europe's counter-claim on the whole of Ukraine under a EU puppet government -- which is what has been installed using local Nazi shock troops to make it so -- is truly outrageous. Russia's claim on Crimea seems modest by comparison. Despite the hysterics in the West, Russia appears to have no particular interest in the rest of Ukraine.

Let them go their own way, poor devils. They'll learn their lesson soon enough. 

And if Ukraine is disintegrating anyway, perhaps the EU/NATO will wash its hands of the mess it has made, leaving the constituent parts of what will come to be called The Former Ukraine to sort out their own fates and futures.

Of course, they'll be unlikely to do that so long as global corporations have their hooks in and assert their prerogatives and power. It's all highly unseemly.

And as always, the people being squeezed from both sides are the losers. On its present trajectory, no matter what the propagandists tell us, there is no good way for this to end for the Ukrainian people(s). They've been had.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Don't Forget Latvia!!!

According to Himself, the Yats, Ukrainia signed the EU's political package today in Brussels, marking the next step in the integration of Ukrainia into the warm and welcoming bosom of Europe. Hail! Hail! Ukrainia!

I've long said that this European "Integration" program for Ukraine (and the other Eastern Partnership members, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus) is intended to impose severe austerity measures on the population while stripping the region of resources, something like the EU has done to Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland during the past several years. It is a matter of simple economics, no?

Of course, the peoples of these regions probably have no idea what Europe's intentions are for the simple reason that they have been sold rainbows and unicorns. For decades. That's what all those NGOs I listed and looked into are for. Make them believe their lives will be filled with prosperity and joy, once their country is part of Europe!

More likely, their fate will be that of Greece, or say, Latvia. Latvia's situation is perhaps the more instructive. As the economy collapsed, Europe imposed such severe austerity than not only were conditions measurably worsened for Latvians, a considerable portion of the population abandoned their own country and went roaming Europe, Russia and the globe looking for work. Depopulation was policy.

And yet, despite the fact that Latvia's economy is still in shambles, the EU and many neo-liberal think tanks call it a stunning success for "austerity." Why? Because, after the near total collapse of the Latvian economy, it began to grow again, at a very modest pace. So. Success!

You would think that Ukrainians would know better by now than to trust any promise from Europe -- or Russia for that matter.

Meanwhile Dmitri Yarosh of Right Sektor (the agglomeration of fascist and Nazi parties even farther to the right than Svoboda) has declared the intent to sabotage the Russian oil and gas pipelines through Ukraine to Europe in order to "prevent World War III!!!!!!™. That ought to work out well...

Hail! Hail! Ukrainia!

The Venezuelan Thing Abides

Venezuelan protesters being hosed down in Caracas
In all the hoo-hah over the "Crimean Crisis" (right, whatever), the ongoing sabotage and subversion situation in Caracas and much of the rest of Venezuela is often forgotten, not even a sideshow in the pageant of world events.

But we shouldn't overlook it.

The protests by the Prada and Gucci set in Venezuela against the Bolivarian Revolution and the Maduro government have not stopped, not by a long shot, but participation seems to have declined significantly. This may or may not be due to official repression -- which has sometimes been reported to be severe. More than likely, it is due to the protesters' lack of unity and coherent policy prescriptions.

I've said, and I'll say again, these people just want their power back. The protesters are mostly middle and upper income Venezuelans, mostly white, and mostly of the former ruling class. Their power was diminished or eliminated by the Bolivarian Revolution, and they are still resentful and determined to restore their position and status in order to once again be able to exploit and oppress the lower orders, the poor people, the zambos, indios, and negros who have seen their condition improve and their situation advance under Chavismo.

More than likely, the protests in Venezuela will resume their intensity once the situation in Crimea stabilizes -- if it does -- and the various NGOs and government agencies in Colombia and the US can once again focus their attention on detaching Venezuelans from their Boliavarian Revolution, and detaching Venezuelan oil from the clutches of the Revolutionaries.

Returning things to the status quo ante in Venezuela, when the right kinds of people ruled the unruly masses with rod and staff and they could loot the treasury at will is only just, amirite?

But these things take time in the Modern World; no longer is Gunboat Diplomacy manifested throughout the uncivilized parts of creation, no longer does Washington just dispatch the Marines any time the natives get restless under the thumb of their overlords.

The hubris that led to the bloody debacles in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to many other interventions and drone wars against "suspected militants" -- (Good doG in Heaven, suspected? That could be anyone, for any reason or none at all. What are they thinking? Or is thinking no longer allowed among the High and the Mighty?) -- has somewhat tempered the urge to send the troops much of anywhere these days. Their fights against peoples struggling to be free -- as they interpret the term -- haven't turned out so well.

But Venezuela is being "done" nonetheless, through internal subversion and sabotage, directed from the palatial suburban spreads of the wealthy in Caracas as well as the fincas in the outlying regions, as well as from Bogata, as well as from Miami, and I think there is no doubt of consideration and direction from the think tanks and strategic centers of Washington, DC, as well.

When the time is right, and the situation is ripe, Venezuela will be returned to its rightful place among nations, subservient to the will of the Grand Pooh-Pahs in Washington, and once again, its people impoverished, embeggared, ragged and starving, under the let and authority of some of the very people who are causing so much ruckus in the streets.

At least that is the scheme, that is the plan.

Please note: This Plan, which was circulated by RT in Spanish last November, in advance of the Venezuelan municipal elections on December 8, 2013, has not been authenticated. There is no proof in other words -- none that I've seen, anyway -- that the plan as it was published by RT was ever actually created, developed and implemented in toto or in part by the actors and elements named.

And yet, rather shockingly prescient, many of its aspects have been part and parcel of the demonstrations and their string-pullers since the latest wave began right after the elections in December. There has been a mounting level of violent protest, sabotage, interference with supplies and deliveries of electricity, food stuffs, and basic supplies (the Toilet Paper Revolution, this one is) and to favorably propagandize the rebels everywhere. Whether or not the plan is authentic, in other words, it is being carried out almost to the letter.

As far as I know, no one has attempted to discredit the Plan, either. There have been ritualized denials by the State Department that their personnel have had anything to do with the uprisings, but they are as creditable as this unsourced document, maybe less so, given the fact that the State Department has a somewhat sketchy relationship with the truth now and then. So I don't know. I can't vouch for the authenticity of the document that RT circulated, but it is certainly interesting that some parts of it are being implemented in Venezuela.

Once the Ukraine Thing is stabilized and Moldova is folded into the EU's Far Periphery, I'm sure attention will once again be turned to Venezuela, where all eyes will be on that bus driver in Miraflores Palace, and getting his ass out of there.

Until then, Venezuela abides.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Edward "Robot" Goldstein Speaketh

Interesting. I picked this up over at FDL, and several things struck me about it:

A) Surprisingly, Snowden is able to speak quite clearly and the video of him is quite stable in this "robot" presentation as opposed to the herky-jerky, unwatchable and barely understandable presentation ("through seven proxies!!!") at SXSW.

B) He strikes me as someone making a sales-pitch for a product which he cannot quite show or describe. He talks in endless loops about something we're supposed to just "know," I guess, and ultimately it doesn't amount to anything concrete at all.

C) 'Taking back the Internet'? What is this supposed to be? A "Magna Carta?" Would this be some sort of agreement between the Internet Barons and a diminished government such as was concluded at Runnymede? An agreement, by the way, that only protected the Barons from the Crown, not the villeins from their overlords. And which was not anything remotely resembling "democracy."

All in all, I was quite taken with the technology -- my the set up in Moscow must have been dandy, and who did it? But the content? As with so many TED talks, not so much.

Pushing Back

Recently, there's been an ongoing meta-war over the appropriate role of the "left" at dKos, a site I visit every day, and one of the early online communities I became part of.

My participation at dKos originally grew out of my interest and then involvement in the Howard Dean campaign, which came to prominence when Dean made his stemwinding "What I want to know!" speech at the California Democratic Convention in Sacramento in March of 2003. Markos became one of the Dean campaign's chief online supporters, and quite a few of the early front-page writers were Dean campaign consultants, operatives or other major supporters.

The whole point of the Dean campaign, after all, was that it was a grass-and-net roots insurgency against the accommodationist,  "Republican-lite" and essentially worthless Democratic Party, ossified into irrelevance and scared to death of being called names and having its lunch money taken away by the Big Bad Bushevik Bullies. The fact that Dean and the Dean campaign and its supporters took on the petrified Democratic establishment, and that Daily Kos was a primary online hangout for Deaniacs, some of whom were strategizing political activism well beyond the campaign, was exciting and energizing.

The Dean campaign failed in the primaries. It failed badly. Outside of Vermont, he barely broke double digits, which was a truly shocking, almost incomprehensible result for those of us who were so committed and had worked so hard and were so convinced (albeit by our own mythos) that Dean would win the primaries, the nomination, and the election.

What had gone wrong? We still really don't know. There was no public post mortem, though many of us did our own assessments. Inappropriate Blogger Triumphalism was clearly a part of the problem. There were many other aspects to the failure of the Dean campaign, but one that continues to haunt, perhaps, is the arrogance of an online community that was actually very small and which had failed to connect with the public at large, indeed, it hadn't even tried.

After the nomination the Dean campaign shifted gears almost immediately into general election support-for-Kerry mode, and then, once Kerry lost in the general election, the Dean campaign shifted to getting him elected chair of the DNC. That one, he/we won, though at considerable cost and against a great deal of Old Guard resistance. That resistance never ceased, and Dean was constantly fighting off the Old Guard's carping and subversion of what he was trying to do: run Dems everywhere and get Dems elected everywhere. The Old Guard didn't want things done this way, and they still don't.

Nevertheless, during the four years that Dean chaired the Democratic National Committee and instituted a model 50 State Strategy for electing Dems, there was an astonishing rebound of Dem fortunes, including the 2006 election which returned control of the House and Senate to Democrats, and resulted in the election of dozens of Democratic state governors and legislatures as well as hundreds of Democrats to local office. The 2008 election was a spectacular success for Democrats, too. Dems not only won the White House, but both houses of Congress increased their Dem majorities to the point where they were almost veto and filibuster-proof. The number of statehouses in Dem control increased as well.

Immediately after Obama's election, Dean was dismissed from the DNC chair, and the 50 State Strategy was dismantled. The Old Guard returned, unchastened, to its accustomed role. The 2010 election results were disastrous for Dems, especially at the state level, where all the gains of the past four and six years were lost and then some, resulting in some of the most egregious gerrymandering of congressional districts in history, gerrymandering that will ensure Republican control of the House of Representatives at least until 2020. 2012 saw the re-election of the president, but he had no coat-tails, and the dire situation for Dems in the majority of statehouses and in congress continued unabated.

From an observer's standpoint, the Dems had blown it, bad. It was partly due to awful policy decisions by the administration, and partly due to the elimination of a Party infrastructure that could elect Dems to office at the local and state level. The infrastructure for Party success at the polls was what Dean had put in place and what the Old Guard DNC under the leadership of Obama had dismantled.  No wonder the Party failed time after time. Instead of seeing a holistic picture of being a dominant party built from the ground up, the Old Guard insisted on a top down model operating on a limited candidate-by-candidate basis.

It works for some campaigns some of the time, but it doesn't work for the Party or the people as a whole, and it's not intended to. It's intended solely to advance the interests of selected politicians -- and some selected political consultants.

This is all obvious as sin. It's a model that's been criticized extensively online and elsewhere.  Daily Kos shifted gears and became primarily a fundraising and promotion outlet for selected Democratic candidates and policies -- when it had any political function at all. Alternatively, it became an "all Republicans, all the time" one stop and headquarters for taunts and ridicule of same. Mockery of Sarah Palin became an dKos specialty product, but to what object was never entirely clear. In addition, DKos has fluffed tirelessly for the widely unpopular ACA.

There has been a shit-ton of criticism of the Obama administration from the "left." I use scare quotes when referring to the "left" in American politics because there really hasn't been a genuine left in the American political system for decades if not generations. It withered away during the Reagan and post-Reagan years.

Howard Dean, for example, was running on the farthest "left" edge of the Democratic Party -- which was a factor in his loss -- but his policies were basically those of a Rockefeller Republican. This was not any recognizable form of leftism at all; it was a form of pragmatic Republican progressivism that, perish the thought, is driven by a sense of noblesse oblige. That was the farthest "left" the politics of the time could accommodate. And it didn't accommodate it very well, as we found out when the primary results came in.

The Dean campaign pushed the envelope, but not very far. The failure of the Dean campaign demonstrated how far, far right American politics had drifted since the Reagan era.

Lacking any particular political function, but still acting as if it had one, dKos attracted a considerable number of critics of the Democratic Party and the Obama administration, some of whom may have been operatives from the R camp, but most of whom seemed to be genuine and sincere critics from the "left" -- that is to say, genuinely disappointed and in many cases outraged Democrats and independents who honestly felt betrayed by the White House and the Democratic Party and that the policies being instituted and implemented by the Obama administration were too often -- and too obviously -- either newly minted rightist policies or were continuations of Bush-era policies with or without a "kinder-gentler" face.

These critics seemed to grow in number and popularity, and they got a lot of push-back from administration apologists who by and large were angry and upset with any criticism of Obama or his policies. To my eye, the situation was one of dynamic tension. It wasn't always cordial by any means, but at least it showed some signs of strength and weakness on both sides.

Some of the critical posters became more and more provocative. One, for example, consistently challenged the corporatist nature of the President and the Party. Another posted about the "true nature" of a volunteer military -- declaring the soldiers "murderers" by the very fact that they volunteered to go kill people who were in the way of or resisted the march of corporate imperial interests. That one was written by a vet, and he was quite stark in his description of what the modern volunteer military is all about. He raised a good deal of anger and ire among other vets who deeply resented being called "murderers."

These kinds of posts, mostly criticizing and challenging the corporatism and imperialism that had become so ingrained in the Democratic Party and the White House, were fairly frequent and they often raised important issues. There was no way to resolve them, of course, but discussion was valuable.

At one point, Markos intervened with a condemnation of one of the more frequent and popular critics for being "paranoid." This intervention set off a mini-firestorm because it seemed to many that it was inappropriate, wrong-headed and even dishonest. The poster who was criticized by Markos attempted to revise his approach to more adequately meet Markos's objections, but because Markos didn't really say what he was objecting to, he only hinted, it was a nearly impossible task.

The vet who wrote the military "murderer" post was challenged and chastised in his own post, and he seemed to take it well, understanding the objections and alternative points of view. He respected other points of view but strenuously disagreed and said why.

As far as I know, Markos said nothing about it.

And then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the shitstorm hit.

The war began with an intemperate, barely coherent, antagonistic, hurtful and deeply divisive self-described rant by one of the site's front-pagers. She questioned why anyone who "hates the troops" or despises this or that corporatist and corrupt aspect of the Democratic Party and its candidates and policy choices would continue to be at dKos. It was a frank invitation those people to leave. And not come back until they got their minds right.

After triggering this war, she flounced off to her professorship at SUNY New Paltz, ("busy busy busy") and has not to this day responded directly to her critics and questioners. But she has continued to denounce and disparage them from the comfort of her community of friends and colleagues online who rallied to her defense and acted as surrogates to "blaxsplain" what she meant. They haven't helped.They caused even more turmoil and upset.

Then Markos himself got involved by declaring his "100%" agreement and support of her rant, and that triggered yet another round of meta shitstorms.

These wars are nothing new there; they happen with some frequency, and they are often the prelude to a Purge of dissenters and non-conformists. It's all on behalf, they say, of Democratic Party Unity as election season approaches once again. Of course, what it's done is create an echo chamber in which only the party line is permitted, and those with contrary views or questions are not allowed.

Markos issued a passive-aggressive challenge to those who didn't toe the line, to either get on board or get lost, and the push-back was greater than I think I have ever seen there. He was hammered long and hard by highly articulate and increasingly irate participants who saw him as someone who was working against the best interests of the People, the Party, and ironically, the best interests of his own site. He was asked directly if what he wanted was an "echo-chamber" -- and if so, why. He didn't answer. He was challenged to "get out more" and actually see what's going on outside his "inside the gates" bubble. He was routinely accused of being a "gatekeeper" and "gate polisher" who was really only in this game for the money (with quotes from himself to demonstrate the fact) and who had no interest in anything beyond his selfish desires. It got harsh, very harsh. People, many of them long-time participants, were hurt and angry and his behavior was compounding the problem. He was challenged to describe how what he was doing was in any way supportive of building a broad-based and successful Party coalition. He had no answer.

I didn't stick around for the entire episode. It was clear where it was headed. People were sick and tired of the bullshit Markos and a number of other front pagers were selling, and they were not going take it any more. Markos just wanted to be told how much he was beloved, and he wasn't getting much of it.

Interestingly, though, there was a marked change in the front page within a day. It went from being almost nothing but ACA fluff and ridiculing Republican antics to serious posts on Democratic candidates and policies, including an almost unprecedented front page post on the Progressive Caucus's alternative budget. All of a sudden the front page became substantive instead of stupid.

The attacks on the "left" ceased, or at least were put on "pause," and more and more posts were put up encouraging dialog, accommodation, and community.

All this was clearly a response to the intensity of the push-back against the hostility and harm instigated the meta-war. Even HoHo himself (well, whoever posts for him) put in a brief appearance -- to say Look How Much We've Accomplished! Yay Us!

Whether the Powers That Be over there actually recognize how badly off the rails the site had gone in its effort to cleanse itself of the "leftist" taint, or whether they're using a strategy to mollify critics while changing nothing substantively remains to be seen -- though having been through this a few times, I pretty much know the answer.

There is likely to be a purge of malcontents and others who are in the way. Markos passive-aggressively threatened as much. He said there had been three purges already, and if he alone determined it was needed, there would be a fourth. So far, he didn't see the need, but that could change. Rapidly.

At least for the moment -- or the day, yesterday -- there was a pause, and for a little while, the critics got part of their way. Whether it will last is hard to say. I'd be surprised if it does.

In the meantime, the fact that there was so much insistent and forceful push-back to the crap that had been unleashed from On High over there was notable.

Struggles between Old Guards and Insurgents go on all the time, of course. It's a fundamental part of American politics given our anachronistic two party system that sustains itself through the constant interplay between insurgency and stability.

In a sense it's a perpetual virtual war between factions. It means that bloody civil war is relatively rare, but it also means that neither of the two dominant political parties actually represents the people and their interests at all.

The insurgency at dKos is characterized as "from the left" -- which some of it is -- but it is essentially an effort to curb or oust the Old Guard, meaning Markos himself and those he is aligning himself with, and substitute something more... relevant and contemporary, regardless of flavor.

Given the nature of online propertarianism, that is unlikely to succeed, but the effort will no doubt be instructive.

Stay tuned.
NOTE: the "pause" lasted literally a few hours, and then it was right back to non-stop ACA fluffing and Sarah Palin ridicule.

Why am I not surprised?