We Have Become the Soviet Union Our Parents Used to Frighten Us When We Were Children.

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Uncle Volodya says, “Anger is an acid that destroys its own container.”

“Together, they would watch everything that was so carefully planned collapse, and they would smile at the beauty of destruction.”

Markus Zusak, from “The Book Thief

And you tell me over and over again, my friend;
You don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction…

Bob Dylan, from, “Eve of Destruction

Most of us are familiar, in that casual way of recognizing something heard before without really pondering its import, with this Nietzsche quote: “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster . . . when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” It is just as apparent that the west’s political leaders have never read it, or if they have, have decided to ignore it in favour of becoming the monsters they condemn. And so, slowly at first but with gathering speed and breathless momentum, we are ‘fighting those who hate us for our freedoms’ by giving them up, or at least remaining silent while they are taken away for our own good.

Journalism such as we once knew, at least the older among us, has given way to ‘shaping the narrative’, and authors take pride in steering people’s beliefs in various directions regardless what is actually happening; I’ll give you an example. Give this a quick read.

Finished already? Let’s start with the opening sentence: “As the war in Ukraine goes on way longer than Vladimir Putin appears to have anticipated, the Russian leader is getting increasingly aggressive.” This is typical of a fairly-recent phenomenon in what used to be journalism, in which you tell your readers what the target’s objectives and reasoning are, and then mock him for failing to achieve the objectives and for commencing on such half-baked reasoning. Nobody outside Russia has the slightest real idea how long the Russian government expected a war it entered into with the greatest imaginable reluctance, and only after being pushed and baited and prodded by the west, to endure. The imagined and much-touted hammerstroke which would have had the Russians in Kiev in just 72 hours is and was always a western invention, based entirely on unsupported assumptions – in this case by America’s top soldier, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley. But you can google the phrase “Russia could be in Kiev in 72 hours analysts” and come up with pages of predictions by ‘people familiar with the assessments’ and unnamed ‘security officials’ which line up behind the purported lunge at Kiev, with the entirely fictional goal of “remov[ing] the country’s democratically elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky.”

Russia has never said or published any timeline for the operation, has never said it intended to seize Kiev, has never in any way implied that removing Zelensky is an objective. In fact, as reported by Jacques Baud in The Postil Magazine’s “The Military Situation in the Ukraine—An Update“, there was never any reason to strike at Kiev, although a feint was made toward it simply (a) because that’s what the west expected based on the silliness broadcast by its quacking analysts and its soldier-politicians, and (b) to prevent reinforcement of the bulk of the Ukrainian Army, which was poised on the line of contact of the Donbas/Lugansk Republics to effect the violent capture and return to Ukrainian control of those republics, and for which military operation the artillery bombardment had already commenced.

Moreover, Ukrainian forces are never indicated on our maps, as this would show that they were not deployed on the Russian border in February 2022, but were regrouped in the south of the country, in preparation for their offensive, the initial phase of which began on February 16th. This confirms that Russia was only reacting to a situation initiated by the West, by way of the Ukraine, as we shall see. At present, it is these forces that are encircled in the Kramatorsk cauldron and are being methodically fragmented and neutralized, little by little, in an incremental way, by the Russian coalition.

The vagueness maintained in the West about the situation of the Ukrainian forces, has other effects. First, it maintains the illusion of a possible Ukrainian victory. Thus, instead of encouraging a negotiation process, the West seeks to prolong the war. This is why the European Union and some of its member countries have sent weapons and are encouraging the civilian population and volunteers of all kinds to go and fight, often without training and without any real command structure—with deadly consequences.

Another effect of this vagueness is that Ukrainian casualties are whatever Zelensky and his and the western PR machines say they are; consistently low-balling Ukrainian losses and wildly exaggerating  Russian casualties contribute to a tentative western belief that Ukraine is ‘winning’ and that pouring more weapons and money into Ukraine will propel it to success rather than condemn more Ukrainians to death by dragging out the war for as long as possible. Anyway, I could go on all day with that one sentence; let’s wrap up, because we have somewhere else to go. The opening sentence closed with “…the Russian leader is getting increasingly aggressive.” The ‘aggression’ referred to here is the shutting off of gas supply by Russia to Poland and Bulgaria, both transit countries for Europe, because they had refused to pay for gas in rubles as required by Russia and had let the compliance deadline pass. So, by refusing to sell gas to those countries on their terms, Russia is ‘being aggressive’. Why would it take such steps? I can explain in two words; “Michael McFaul”. Continue reading “We Have Become the Soviet Union Our Parents Used to Frighten Us When We Were Children.”

Offramps and Blind Alleys: NATO is Reduced to Directing Traffic.

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Uncle Volodya says, “Mockery and derision have their place. Usually, it’s on the far side of the airlock.”

“Nothing is easier than self-deceit.
For what every man wishes,
that he also believes to be true.”

Demosthenes

“Stupid is as stupid does”

Forrest Gump

Mick Jagger taught the world that it can’t always get what it wants. But if I could get what I wanted, just once, I would hope for a moment of clarity in which the western ‘democracies’ looked back upon the events of the past decade with absolute objectivity – if necessary, viewing their own actions and reactions as if they had been carried out by someone else – and appropriately judged them with candor and responsibility. Once I would have hoped these executions and maneuvers would be assessed with a generous dose of “What the fuck were we thinking?” But I’ve grown a touch cynical since then, and I’m pretty confident much if not all of it was deliberate, planned. What in the name of God are we turning into?

Such a moment of clarity, too, might reveal the grotesque misjudgments which prevailed in the quickening events that resulted in Russia entering Ukraine upon a military operation. For months a substantial force of Russian military equipment and personnel remained near the Ukrainian border with Russia, within Russia but in plain sight of observers. The purpose of this seemed clear to everyone, not least the Ukrainians – we see you, and we know what you’re thinking. Don’t do it. Because unremarked by many and almost exactly a year ago, President Zelensky had issued a decree that Crimea was to be recaptured by Ukraine, and began to deploy his forces along the borders of the rebel eastern provinces. Most thought – I among them – that the Russian forces arrayed within easy striking distance would deter the Ukrainians from anything foolish. In this, NATO was in exactly the kind of no-lose position it relishes after months and years of careful plotting and instigation – if the Russians reacted, it would be an unwarranted invasion of Ukraine, exactly as NATO had been warning of with increasing stridency, because it was provoking just such a development. If it did not, the Ukrainian forces would inexorably roll over the eastern provinces, all the way to Crimea, and bring it back under Ukrainian control while Russia raged from the sidelines, impotent.

Anyway, I have no intention of simply lifting all the references from Jacques Baud’s seminal post, “The Military Situation in the Ukraine”; it is a dramatic departure from The Narrative, and I’m sure the Wikipedia Patrol is already hard at work painting him as some sort of compulsive loon, who occasionally escapes from the asylum long enough to expound a crazy conspiracy theory before the white coats seize him and hustle him back to medicated slumber. No matter – his work speaks for itself, and is impeccably referenced using official UN and national reports and documentation. Although it provides powerful substantiation for what we have been arguing here for years now, and could not have appeared in a more timely fashion unless it could have averted the crisis altogether; although I enthusiastically urge that it be shared widely – it’s not the piece I came here today to talk about. This is.

Putin needs an off-ramp.

Yes, that’s The Thinking Westerner’s position as laid down in The Atlantic: NATO has been handed the puzzler of how to make Putin think he won, while displaying to the entire rest of the world that he lost, convincingly. And it’s what makes Baud’s exposé so serendipitous, because he recounts how the west has completely lost its mind, to the extent it believes – or affects to believe – its own Hollywood nonsense.

And in precisely the moment of clarity and reflection I described in the beginning of this effort, the dedicated observer might note that western think-tanks were occupied with how they might rescue Putin from his crazy bad self, only three weeks into an invasion the Ukrainians were supposed to be winning on sheer guts.

How could that be? I guess we should take a closer look. Continue reading “Offramps and Blind Alleys: NATO is Reduced to Directing Traffic.”

Experience is a Hard Teacher. Get Ready for the Lesson.

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Uncle Volodya says, ““Those who are capable of tyranny are capable of perjury to sustain it.”

We didn’t start the fire;
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning:
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it,
But we tried to fight it…

Billy Joel, from “We Didn’t Start the Fire”

Experience. Life-lesson quotes frequently feature it, like the one in the title; experience is a hard teacher, because she gives the test first, the lesson after. Also in one of my favourites, which I have occasion to use often; experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn at no other.  The two are enough alike in meaning that they could be variations of one another. At any rate, the meaning is clear; if opportunity affords, learn from the experience of others – and only fools need to repeat the mistake themselves before they learn anything.

What can be said, then, of those who fail to learn from the experiences of others, repeat their mistakes and still learn nothing?

Humanity is complicated. Over a period of years, prevailing social mores and, more recently, ‘cancel culture’ have made even humour a minefield that you navigate at your peril. To say nothing of hate. Hate is simply an emotion that we must never express. All the precious ones are off-limits, and it is getting so that even tolerance is no longer enough – endorsement is increasingly the standard, and celebration would not be too much to ask. In an ambient state of such frustrated fury, little wonder that many of us are getting like Michael Douglas in “Falling Down”. We need someone to hate, to blame for our troubles and to loathe for the sorrows of others. It has always been a little bit fashionable in the west to dislike Russia, although until 2014 it was mostly limited to sneering at imagined Russian backwardness, based on trace memories of its Soviet past that were themselves more stereotypical than typical; unsmiling people trudging to endless labor in their ill-fitting clothing, through grey streets devoid of cheer or hope.

But the full-on hatred now, fired in the forges of a western media which simply takes dictation from the Ukrainian government and does not bother to fact-check anything, is something to see. Nothing, apparently, is too small-minded or petty to turn into a political statement.

The French, unwilling to just stand by helplessly, have turned their wrath on…Russian cat owners. And Russian cats. The Fédération Internationale Féline issued a chilly directive during the first week of March banning Russian cat breeds from international competition.

“According to a statement released last week by the Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe), as it’s known in French, all cats bred in Russia, as well as all cats with owners living in Russia, would not be permitted to register for international competitions outside of Russia nor even be added to pedigree books starting this week.”

A concert in Vancouver featuring rising young Russian superstar Alexander Malofeev was postponed, because the director of the Vancouver Recital Society feared that protests by activists and their supporters would spoil the show. This was the third attempt to have the artist perform in Canada; the previous attempts were aborted due to the COVID ‘pandemic’. Canada has the second-largest Ukrainian diaspora in the world, many of them the descendants of west Ukrainians who fled Soviet Ukraine ahead of the Red Army near the close of the Second World War. International soprano Anna Netrebko and Director of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra Valery Gergiev were fired because they did not respond to a deadline directive to denounce Vladimir Putin and the war. Gergiev still had 3 years remaining on his contract. Netrebko issued a statement saying “…forcing artists, or any public figure to voice their political opinions in public and to denounce their homeland is not right.” Germany didn’t want to hear it. Nothing is outside politics anymore – not art, not sport, not cat shows. Continue reading “Experience is a Hard Teacher. Get Ready for the Lesson.”

The Dunning-Kruger Epidemic Sweeps the West

image“Go tell the Spartans, thou who passest by – that here, obedient to their laws, we lie.”

Simonides

“It is a disaster that wisdom forbids you to be satisfied with yourself and always sends you away dissatisfied and fearful, whereas stubbornness and foolhardiness fill their hosts with joy and assurance.”

Michel de Montaigne

Are you familiar with the Dunning-Kruger Effect? I wasn’t. either, until I ran across this titillating article in The Washington Post. They used it as an attempt to explain Trump, and apparently it interested a lot of other people, too – searches of the term surged after May 2015, and remained high for a considerable period after that.

I’m sure everyone remembers Trump’s turn-your-teeth-sideways-irritating habit of speaking in hyperbole – if he was accused of being a racist, he would respond with “You’ll never find anyone who’s less of a racist than me”. Literally, nowhere in the world. Gandhi, maybe? Martin Luther King? Not even in the running, apparently. By the same reasoning, but if racism was something to which everyone aspired, Trump would claim, “You’ll never find anyone who’s more of a racist than me”. It just basically depended on whether you were talking about turds or truffles.

Because this was such an annoying habit, and because the President of the United States is seen and heard on television a fair bit, everyone was exposed to it, and people sought an explanation for it. And the psychological and behavioral phenomenon seemed to fit like a glove; “put simply, incompetent people think they know more than they really do, and they tend to be more boastful about it.”

You might say “Well, I knew that. There’s a brag-ass idiot at every party I’ve ever been to”. But we might be talking about completely different things. Some people are merely parroting – loudly – the last opinion they heard from someone they thought sounded smart, because we all like to sound smart and when we run up against something about which we know nothing, we try to changed the subject until we’re on safer ground. Some people just naturally boast about themselves. But the Dunning-Kruger effect is a real thing, with psychological tests and everything to prove that it exists and that its effects are predictable.

“Dunning was shocked by the results, even though it confirmed his hypothesis. Time after time, no matter the subject, the people who did poorly on the tests ranked their competence much higher. On average, test takers who scored as low as the 10th percentile ranked themselves near the 70th percentile. Those least likely to know what they were talking about believed they knew as much as the experts.

Dunning and Kruger’s results have been replicated in at least a dozen different domains: math skills, wine tasting, chess, medical knowledge among surgeons and firearm safety among hunters.”

Darwin called it, ‘way back in 1871; “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.” This might go a long way toward explaining the boastful self-confidence that made those in striking range want to break a chair over Trump’s head. But there was another word in there that should have jumped out and screamed at you when your eye skipped over it – experts.

It is common practice now for media outlets discussing a particular subject to refer to any gawping simpleton with two feet and a heartbeat as an ‘expert’, so long as his or her ‘expert opinion’ coincides with ‘the narrative’. Routinely, no substantiation is provided as to the ‘expert’s’ credentials; you’re just supposed to figure he or she must know, because everything he said corroborates the media’s story. Once you had to attain some pretty impressive standards in your field before you could be considered an expert, but nowadays you merely need to be warm to the touch and breathe without assistance, because the narrator or journalist assumes you don’t know anything about the subject, either, and as long as what they say and what the expert says have some observable parallels, sold!

Thus we find ourselves where matters of the utmost gravity and consequence are routinely endorsed by smackheads who talk a good, confident game, who know little to nothing about what they’re saying – but who are nonetheless touted as experts, while many believe them just because they say things like “Oh, absolutely” and “there’s no doubt”.

And those are the people who are driving and making and cementing decisions that are going to affect the world for a long, long time. A world that is going to be different from the one it was two weeks ago, and unrecognizable as the one it was two years ago. Influencers who shape the opinions of the ignorant and herd them into crowds, yelling for this or that.

Let’s look at an example; GQ’s, “The Improbable Rise and Endless Heroism of Volodymir Zelensky” by Michael Idov.

Michael Idov is Latvian by birth, and has lived in the USA for 20 years, 14 of them in New York, which he claims to love. He was appointed editor of GQ Russia magazine in 2012. GQ is not a political magazine, it is a style magazine for men. When Michael Idov writes a story about Russia, he is often courting ‘dissidents’ like Pussy Riot, and seems to savor the scent of rebellion. That’s fine as long as it remains an individual preference. It’s a little different when he’s holding Zelensky up as an inspirational leader.

To be fair, he does mention that Zelensky’s popularity upon which he swept the presidential vote did not last long with his own people. He promised to normalize relations with Russia, and end the war. Since his popularity sank like it was tied to Jeffrey Epstein, it is not hard to figure out that the people wanted those things, and expected them to happen, and they didn’t. He appointed old friends to ministerial positions, and although that is hardly unusual for Ukraine, he had implied his leadership would be different.

But Idov is plainly taken with the man.

“You’ve been told I’m going to bomb Donbass,” Zelensky said, countering the official Kremlin justification for the strike. “Bomb what? The stadium where me and the local guys cheered for our team at Euro 2012? The bar where we drank when they lost? Luhansk, where my best friend’s mom lives?” He name-checked the arena, the street where the bar stood, the bar itself; he was acting like a parent of an abducted child in a movie, addressing the abductor on TV news and saying the child’s name over and over. It was an incredibly savvy double play—Zelensky clearly knew this tactic was a Hollywood cliche of sorts, and used it for both its direct purpose (humanize Ukrainians) and its meta-purpose (Putin is a serial killer).

That might all have been ‘incredibly savvy’. And I don’t think anyone truly thought Zelensky was going to bomb anything himself. But Ukraine was a different place in 2012. If you doubt it, look at Sergei Prokofiev International airport, Donetsk, in 2012, after more than $12 million was spent on renovations for the same Euro 2012 where Zelensky and his friends cheered their hearts out.

https://www.airports-worldwide.com/img/ukraine/big/donetsk_international_ukraine_01_big.jpg

And now.https://media-cldnry.s-nbcnews.com/image/upload/newscms/2015_03/853666/150118-donetsk-02.jpg

As Lou Reed sang to Sweet Jane, those were different times. Ukraine and Russia were still brotherly nations, Nazi-lovers knew to keep their mouths shut about their fetish unless they were with their own kind, and the hryvnia was trading at about 8 to the US dollar instead of the 25 it was right after the Glorious Maidan Revolution of Dignity, or the 27 it is right now.

And maybe Zelensky’s best friend’s mom still lives in Lugansk. But I bet she’s a lot happier to see Russian https://www.moonofalabama.org/11i/ukrinv1.jpgsoldiers than she would be to see Zelensky right now. Considering, you know, that the Ukrainian Army has been shelling Donetsk and Lugansk for 8 years now, day in, day out. The bar where he and his friends raised a glass to drown their sorrows might still be there, or it might be a smoking pile of bricks and twisted metal, like the airport. This is a map of ceasefire violations, as recorded by the OSCE Monitoring Mission, on the Ukrainian line of demarcation for February 21st, just before the balloon went up. Where are most of the explosions happening? Obviously, on the DPR/LPR side of the line. Where’s the heaviest concentration? Lugansk.

Not Zelensky personally, of course. The Army. Which works for the Defense Minister. Who works for Zelensky. During all those years of shelling, how much territory has been taken by the rebel regions, advancing on the rest of Ukraine? None. Do you think maybe they just want to be left alone, and that if the Ukrainian Army was not shooting across the line at them every day, there might not be any shooting at all? Kind of a moot point now, though, isn’t it? You can’t turn back the clock.

Which brings us to where we are now. Zelensky, speaking at the Munich Conference, suggested that if the west would not come to Ukraine’s aid, it might have to look to nuclear weapons to guarantee its security. That was the last straw. President Putin recognized the DPR and LPR as independent states within Ukraine, making the border between those regions and Russia an international one rather than Ukrainian in Russia’s estimation, and responded swiftly to a plea for military assistance from those regions, which had already evacuated most of their women and children to Russia as the increased intensity of the bombardment from Ukraine suggested an infantry and/or armored push was imminent.

The republics have to win every time, or be rolled over. Ukraine only has to win once; upon driving all the way to the border, the west would exclaim in unanimity, Huzzah! Ukraine is whole again! And immediately order Russia in no uncertain terms to not intervene in the workings of a sovereign state which had broad latitude to safeguard that sovereignty. And then the punishment would begin. Is that an unreasonable forecast? I don’t think so – did you want to look at those airport photos again?

So now, a Russian operation is ongoing to ‘de-Nazify’ and disarm Ukraine, and to pressure it to sign a promise that it will remain neutral and not try to join NATO. Russia does not intend to occupy Ukraine, or change its leadership, provided those conditions are met.

But the experts – and the combined journalistic persuasion of the western media – are telling Ukraine that it is gallant, it is brave, its defiance and courage are inspirational. And, most importantly – that it is winning.

This is the sort of deliberate bullshit that is making the Ukrainian delegation to peace talks adopt a starting position that it wants a cease-fire so that Russian forces can withdraw, and surrender Crimea and Donetsk and Lugansk. Propaganda like the ‘Ghost of Kyiv’, a mythical Ukrainian fighter plane whose pilot cruises the skies above Kiev, potting Russian aircraft effortlessly and racking up a score of kills that catapulted him to top air ace of the world in less than a week. Thousands of Russian soldiers killed every day. The Russian population is turning against Putin, he will be overthrown any day now. Entire Russian armored and artillery formations are defecting to Ukraine, turning their weapons upon their former countrymen, for whom all is lost.

The west knows objectively that these things are not true, and that Ukraine is decidedly not winning; the USA predicted Kiev would fall in 96 hours, and that was under the assumption that Russia would launch an irresistible hammer-blow of combined arms that would crush all before it rather than the slow, deliberate campaign it has undertaken, with pauses when leaders are engaged in negotiations. At such junctures, the western media shouts that Russian forces have had to stop and regroup because of the unexpected fierceness of Ukrainian resistance. This contributes to mind-boggling foolishness like Kiev issuing automatic weapons to anyone with a Ukrainian passport – including junkies, alcoholics and rival gangs – as ‘civil defense’. How many of those assault rifles are not going to be returned later? How many of them will end up on the black market and funneled into organized crime worldwide? How much longer will the happy talk prolong the war?

Continue reading “The Dunning-Kruger Epidemic Sweeps the West”

Goodbye, Science – Hello, Modeling!

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Uncle Volodya says, “Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.”

“You see, there is one very good thing about mankind; the mediocre masses make very few demands of the mediocrities of a higher order, submitting stupidly and cheerfully to their guidance”

Alfred de Vigny, from “Stello”

“Trust is earned, respect is given, and loyalty is demonstrated. Betrayal of any one of those is to lose all three.”

Ziad K. Abdelnour, from “Economic Warfare: Secrets of Wealth Creation in the Age of Welfare Politics”

I’d like to think the readers of this blog always knew this is the way it would turn out. The ‘Pandemic’, I mean. The narrative was just too clumsy, so blunt, so jackboots I’m-out-of-reasons-so-do-it-because-it’s-an-order. First, as we all remember, it was just two weeks to ‘flatten the curve’, and the public-health authorities would like you to wear a facemask, but you should understand there is really no evidence that they do anything to stop the spread of infection. Just to comfort you, like. Then masks absolutely worked, there was no end of proof; in fact, wear two! To be perfectly clear, the CDC did not ever order the population to wear two masks, or even recommend such a practice. It merely offered guidance in a manner which suggested only idiots don’t care about ‘being safe’.

Research released Wednesday from the CDC found that wearing a surgical mask underneath a cloth mask “substantially improved source control and reduced wearer exposure” to the viral particles that cause COVID-19. It marked the first time the CDC has released guidance on the most effective ways to wear masks, NBC News reported…“That’s all (the CDC is) saying,”

[Fauci} added. “One mask at least, but if you want to really be sure, get a tighter fit with a second mask.”

The ‘viral particles that cause COVID-19’. But before, it spread through ‘droplets’, and masks were effective at stopping them even though Fauci privately confided in email traffic that it spread through particles which are too small to be deterred by non-medical cloth masks. Besides, everybody had to wear a mask because of ‘asymptomatic spread’, which the CDC acknowledged publicly was not a real threat, but if something was not done the anti-maskers would never wear one, and they’d get a break, and public-health momentum would falter.

And on and on we went, full-tilt down Bullshit Boulevard. The PCR test was the ‘gold standard’, even though the guy who invented it was quite clear that it was not a test. I’d like to just let it go at that, but I can’t; the ubiquitous ‘fact-checkers’ employed directly by the pushers of the narrative claim that Kary Mullis ‘never said PCR testing couldn’t be used for testing for any diseases‘. Before we go any further, because I am prone to distraction – when you’re picking out the lampposts to swing the public-health quacks from, be sure to save some for the fact-checkers. Here’s what they said:

“He did invent PCR, which is a process used to test whether someone currently has Covid-19…He didn’t say PCR testing couldn’t be used for testing for any diseases, as some social media posts claim. Confusion dseems to have arisen from quotes of his in a 1996 article about HIV and AIDS. In this, neither the author of the article, nor Dr Mullis said PCR testing does not work or only identifies the DNA or RNA of the person being tested.”

A word here about the emergence of these ‘fact-checkers’; this is an insidious new tool used by corporate interests or others to discredit points of view which oppose The Narrative. There seem to be two primary modes of attack; argue that the person named is not the one who said what was claimed (rather than that it was never said at all), or in cases where the fact-checkers want to argue it was never said at all, pursue the point that the person claimed did not say those exact words, verbatim. Refinements on these themes include “we could find no evidence that this is true”, which could mean something so simple as ‘we didn’t look very hard”.

Anyway, in the instance we are examining, the ‘fact-checkers’ led off with the admission – which was not in dispute – that Kary Mullis did invent the PCR process…and followed it immediately with the contention that it is a process used to test whether someone currently has COVID-19. Is that a lie? Technically, no. Medical personnel did use it to test whether a person currently had COVID-19. It was just never designed for that purpose, and when used, does not yield reliable diagnosis of COVID-19. If you’re okay with unreliable results just as long as the process errs in favour of false positives, it works like a charm. Continue reading “Goodbye, Science – Hello, Modeling!”

I Can’t Dance and I’m Too Fat to Fight

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Uncle Volodya says, “Aggression is just when politeness is ignored.”

Too bad that you had to get caught;
That’s not like you to lose face
So sad that you’re not as smart
As you thought you were in the first place…

Doug and the Slugs, from “Too Bad”

“It would be well to realize that the talk of ‘humane methods of warfare’, of the ‘rules of civilized warfare’, and all such homage to the finer sentiments of the race are hypocritical and unreal, and only intended for the consumption of stay-at-homes. There are no humane methods of warfare, there is no such thing as civilized warfare; all warfare is inhuman, all warfare is barbaric; the first blast of the bugles of war ever sounds for the time being the funeral knell of human progress… What lover of humanity can view with anything but horror the prospect of this ruthless destruction of human life. Yet this is war: war for which all the jingoes are howling, war to which all the hopes of the world are being sacrificed, war to which a mad ruling class would plunge a mad world.”

James Connolly

The title is a riff on a common phrase from my youth; when asked by a friend, “Want to go down to the tavern for a beer?”, a casually humorous response might be, “Why not? I can’t dance, and I’m too fat to fly”. It suggests that you have nothing better to do and going to the tavern for a beer is as appealing an alternative as any other, considering one’s physical limitations and the options available.

However, the phrase as it appears in the title struck me as a particularly appropriate aphorism for the west’s confusion and flopping about since it was presented with a written list of Russia’s security concerns and the remedies it would accept to allay those concerns. Strongly implied, although not specified in the written summation, is this, paraphrased: you say we are your enemy, and that you wish to fight. You push us further and further, until our backs are against the wall. Very well, then – either agree to the terms as written, propose alternative arrangements for discussion that are not too far from the terms as written…or fight.

The west was plainly not ready for that. Its ‘diplomatic’ behavior since then suggests it has…well…no good options. Before, it was all pressure, and ‘Russia must do this’ and “the rules-based international order calls on Russia to do that’. Now, it’s ‘we need more time’. Although its more hawkish policymakers – not one of whom will have to fight, if it comes to that – have spluttered that all Russia’s demands are absurd and are complete non-starters, nobody seems ready to commit that response to print. And the Russians have insisted on answers in writing which will be legally enforceable.

You know why that is, don’t you? Sure you do. The verbal commitment that if Russia would just let the west have Germany without making a fuss, NATO would advance no further eastward. And you know how that turned out. The west can officially no longer remember anyone making such a promise, although people who were present on the occasion say the Russian description of the deal is accurate. Not Mikhail Gorbachev, naturally; his western pals would never lie. But he claims the subject did not even come up.

“The topic of ‘NATO expansion’ was not discussed at all, and it wasn’t brought up in those years. … Another issue we brought up was discussed: making sure that NATO’s military structures would not advance and that additional armed forces would not be deployed on the territory of the then-GDR after German reunification. Baker’s statement was made in that context… Everything that could have been and needed to be done to solidify that political obligation was done. And fulfilled.”

Well, the ‘not one inch eastward’ commitment was definitely made; official records of the conversation so reflect.

“And the last point. NATO is the mechanism for securing the U.S. presence in Europe. If NATO is liquidated, there will be no such mechanism in Europe. We understand that not only for the Soviet Union but for other European countries as well it is important to have guarantees that if the United States keeps its presence in Germany within the framework of NATO, not an inch of NATO’s present military jurisdiction will spread in an eastern direction.”

So the semantics of the argument have shifted – western negotiators for the reunification of Germany never promised that NATO would not expand eastward. No, they promised only that there would be no eastward expansion of NATO’s military jurisdiction. You Russians have to learn to pay attention to context. So now the official western storyline is that while the Russians understood that to mean no eastward expansion of NATO, that was not the promise at all; what you thought you heard was not what I said.

Has NATO expanded its military jurisdiction eastward? You tell me. Are new NATO countries with full membership the subjects of Article 5 – an attack against one is an attack against all, conveying the responsibility of NATO military forces to mount a defense in and around the country which is the object of the attack? They certainly are.

“Membership in the most powerful military alliance in the world has given Poland not only security guarantees in the form of Art. 5 of the Washington Treaty, but has also led to an increase in the position and prestige of our country on the international stage. The need to adapt to NATO standards, the participation of Polish soldiers in missions and exercises, and training with soldiers from other NATO countries, has led our Armed Forces in reaching a high level of interoperability (the ability to interact) with other Alliance Members. Our contribution to and involvement in NATO operations, has made Poland a reliable partner both for our Allies and third countries.”

The foregoing is a somewhat roundabout way of illustrating why Russia now wants its agreements with the west in writing, accepted only after a comprehensive review of the text to ensure there is no leeway for interpretation – if you promise, it must be written, “I promise”. Because no matter what NATO says, it will later say “That’s not what I said at all”. Regardless of what was presented to Gorbachev, I don’t think the casual observer would need to be much of a diplomat to guess the intent of the discussion – Baker was plainly seeking to downplay any threat Russia apprehended from an increase in NATO influence. Had he said “Oh, no: NATO plans to take in every eastern European country that makes the cut, full membership. But you should not view that as threatening.”, I’m pretty sure Russian cooperation would have taken an abrupt downturn. Would that be fair to say? Continue reading “I Can’t Dance and I’m Too Fat to Fight”

In International Affairs, What You Say Matters Less Than How Quickly You Answer.

Uncle Volodya says, “Sometimes there’s not a better way. Sometimes there’s only the hard way.”

“Watch a man–say, a politician–being interviewed on television, and you are observing a demonstration of what both he and his interrogators learned in school: all questions have answers, and it is a good thing to give an answer even if there is none to give, even if you don’t understand the question, even if the question contains erroneous assumptions, even if you are ignorant of the facts required to answer. Have you ever heard a man being interviewed say, “I don’t have the faintest idea,” or “I don’t know enough even to guess,” or “I have been asked that question before, but all my answers to it seem to be wrong?” One does not “blame” men, especially if they are politicians, for providing instant answers to all questions. The public requires that they do, since the public has learned that instant answer giving is the most important sign of an educated man.”

– Neil Postman

For the west, at least, all questions regarding trouble in the world have the same answer – Putin. All conversational roads, you might say, provided the conversation is about an election stolen, an incipient war bubbling like an evil stew, the road not taken…lead to the President of the Russian Federation.

I’ve said before and will say again that I consider Mr. Putin the greatest – and perhaps the only – statesman alive today, and I will miss him when he’s gone. But the ones who will be snuffling into their black hankies at his funeral, whether present in person or only in spirit, will be the luminaries, policymakers and sages of western government as well as the celebrities of western news networks and journalism. The departure into the mystic of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin will mean they will have to learn to think again when invited to attribute responsibility to some minor or major calamity.

Who’s to blame for instability in eastern Europe? Putin. Who put the haywire in European energy markets? Putin. Who’s making Joe Biden’s government look like someone arranged the high-speed collision of chaos theory and the law of unintended consequences? Putin. Who’s home screwing your wife while you’re at work? You know.

Thus it is that when the new year kicked off, it was easy to put the blame for the boiling over of unrest in Kazakhstan where it belonged – Putin. Thanks, et Al and Moscow Exile, for the link.

As with so many current events these days, when the world seems to make less sense every time the sun starts its daily pilgrimage from east to west, I hardly know where to start. The popular protests in Kazakhstan began in Zhanaozen when drivers learned the price of fuel had doubled overnight. Protests tied to the rising cost of living simmered throughout 2020, and boiled over on New Year’s Day. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) is, unsurprisingly, broadly approving of the protesters, just as it is enthusiastic about protest anywhere in the lands of its enemies and just as broadly scolding about protests at home or in countries which are its allies. There are degrees and gradations of government in the western lexicon; friendly governments are to be heard and obeyed by their populations, while their leaders are accorded generous slack in the methods they may use to keep the recalcitrant in line, and those methods are termed ‘protecting the country’. In the bitter and authoritarian countries of non-aligned governments, resistance and opposition are transcendingly noble, and measures taken by the government to control them are ‘crackdowns’. If you paid close attention to the foregoing two sentences and are not afraid of changing jobs, you probably know enough already to be a journalist for Reuters or the Associated Press.

Continue reading “In International Affairs, What You Say Matters Less Than How Quickly You Answer.”

Where Peace is Impossible, Violence is Inevitable

Uncle Volodya says“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”

Sleepin’ on the interstate, wo oh; gettin’ wild, wild life;
Checkin’ in, checkin’ out, uh huh, I got a wild, wild life…

Talking Heads, from “Wild Life

People have only as much liberty as they have the intelligence to want and the courage to take.”

Emma Goldman

I have recently added ‘The Burning Platform‘ to the blogroll. I ran across it a couple of posts ago, while searching for a reference on something or other. It was a good piece, well-written, readable and well substantiated, and I went back a couple of times for more. The newest post, released yesterday, is a guest post from Straight Line Logic, which is another source that numbers me among its fans. Both often discuss economic news, and I am regularly amazed that I can find a subject I loathe so fascinating. Because at bottom, nearly all seminal events have an economic trigger, and the events we are currently experiencing are no exception. Wealth is power, and the ongoing campaign by the global political elite to recast the people’s freedoms as privileges, to push their faces in the mud and make them love it, is all about state power.

https://s.abcnews.com/images/US/covid-vaccine-vacc-pass-01-ht-llr-210329_1617055894331_hpMain_16x9_992.jpg

How many of us who took freedom for granted all our lives used to shake our heads in pity for the poor citizens of the Soviet Union, later the Russian Federation, and their absurd security-state freedom-crushing requirement for a domestic passport just to travel in their own country? My son, that ain’t freedom, as the Newfoundlanders would say. And now we have exactly that, and according to the media in the gulag that used to be called Canada, the people are just as chuffed as pigs in shit with it all; can’t think why we didn’t have them before, and many hope they will persist long after COVID is just a memory. Well, all you proles who yearn to be told what to do and to obey, you’re going to get your wish. Unless he is stopped, The Prime Minister Who Ruined Canada intends to implement a federal vaccine passport for all travel outside your own province as well as internationally, plus as many non-essential services as he and his kommando can think of in order to make life unlivable for those who will not submit. And British Columbia’s Premier, John Horgan – if you believe the papers – is the most popular Premier in Canada. Anybody who thinks a federal government program like that is short-term, ad hoc or anything other than permanent after all that money has been allocated to make it national is as delusional as Craig D. Button.

But uneasy lies the head that wears the crown of state, they say, and all governments fear revolution; totalitarian governments more than any other.

Continue reading “Where Peace is Impossible, Violence is Inevitable”

Highway to the Danger Zone

 

Wink
Uncle Volodya says, “Confusion is a luxury which only the very, very young can possibly afford and you are not that young anymore.”

Better listen now; said it ain’t no joke
Let your conscience fail you – Just do the stroke
Don’t you take no chances, Keep your eye on top
Do your fancy dances – You can’t stop, you just

Stroke me, stroke me: Give me the business all night long…

Billy Squier, from “The Stroke

 

“Try again. Fail again. Fail better”.

Samuel Beckett

Cue ominous music.

Ha, ha; sorry to jump the rails before we’ve even got properly started, but that reminds me of the short film, “The Gunfighter“. The part where Sally, the whore, says, “That music seems kinda ominous, don’t it?”, and the younger of the murderin’ Henderson boys replies, “Ominous….what’s that mean?” That film was my introduction to the genre, and I think it set the bar pretty high. Check it out, it’s less than ten minutes of your busy day. This has been a grim year; you need to laugh more.

Anyway, as usual, that’s not what we’re here to talk about. So once again, please, cue ominous music.

The United States Air Force – indeed, the US military as a whole, but today’s highlight is on the Air Force – is in a very bad place.

Remember when it used to be both fun and fashionable to mock the Chinese military? Their funny, stilted marching, their ancient, terrifying (for the crew) submarines, their crappy stolen-technology fighter planes? No more, it seems. The USAF is struggling just to remain at parity with modern Chinese air power.

“Hinote said the Air Force is not having success in war games fought with today’s technology.

“What we’re finding is that in key areas of the competition between China and the United States … we’re pairing. In a few important areas, we’re behind — tonight. This is not a tomorrow problem. This is a today.”

That would be Lieutenant-General Clinton Hinote, DCOS Strategy, Integration and Requirements for the USAF. Empowered to speak for the country on policy, and America’s policy is ever-more focused on confronting China. Pivoting away from Russia as now a mere irritant, the United States feels the chill as the long shadow of China falls over it, and in the knowledge that of the two major powers it has settled upon for enemies, only one can threaten its global economic dominance.

China.

Speaking strictly for myself, I enjoyed a little chuckle over General Hinote’s lament that the United States is failing in war simulations it devises and runs itself, attributing tactics and capabilities to the enemy it often knows next to nothing about, with the added burden of factoring in weapons capabilities which are still on the horizon, such as hypersonics. When the USA was building the National Missile Defense (NMD) system, tests were conducted against a known target with a known launch time and location, a known trajectory and other flight characteristics such as speed and altitude. Technicians would argue that that’s simply the way you do tests; your aim is to collect and compile data which can be studied and interpreted, and testing the ability of the system to actually intercept the target is secondary; a bonus. But strategists will note how infrequently the enemy cooperates by ringing you up or sending you a datasheet to let you know when and from where he plans to attack. Continue reading “Highway to the Danger Zone”

Hey, Democracy! Why Do You Bother to Vote?

Wink
Uncle Volodya says, “The best government is a benevolent tyranny tempered by an occasional assassination.”

“There are no nations, just large corporations
Flying the flag of the day;
From dawn of creation to civilization
Please don’t take my music away..”

From “Joe Fabulous“, by Bad Company

A quote which goes, “If voting actually made any difference, they wouldn’t let you do it” is often attributed – apparently incorrectly – to American humorist and author Mark Twain. Snopes doesn’t know who actually said it, or if anyone ever did, although there are various close versions. For instance, this rant by Robert S. Borden, from the Lowell Sun in 1976:

“Has it ever dawned on the editors that the attitudes of the 70 million projected non-voters may be very consistent with the reality that the concept of voting and electing representatives is basically dishonest and fraudulent? If voting could change anything it would be made illegal! There is no way any politicians can legally represent anyone because he was elected on a secret ballot by a small percentage of voters. He then claims to represent the people who voted against him and even those who wisely chose not to participate in such criminal activity.”

The sentiment was around long before 1976, so he certainly wasn’t the originator. But even without attribution, the notion that voting is just a pointless, slightly pathetic activity which provides the zealous and the patriotic with the illusion that their participation somehow informs and guides national leadership has been around for a long time, and has grown like jimson weed in the fertile ground of government brainlessness. More and more, the electorate is fed up with going dutifully to the polls, only to see another scion of a privileged family up there under the lights giving the clasped-hands victory sign. They see the national leadership forget all his/her promises before the air has even cooled where they were just standing, or within a couple of months when they acknowledge by God, it is going to be tougher than I thought.

Who would ever have imagined Justin Trudeau, poster-boy for quirky LGBTQ issues and social-justice causes – and eye-wateringly incompetent social-hand-grenade at everything else – would morph into an hysterical tyrant, yelling that you don’t have to get vaccinated, but don’t think that if you don’t, you will still be able to get on a plane or a train beside decent folks, and shed your COVID cooties all over them. All right, I might be paraphrasing a little. What he actually said wasIf you don’t want to get vaccinated, that’s your choice. But don’t think you can get on a plane or a train beside vaccinated people and put them at risk!

As the author of the linked reference piquantly pointed out – how does your unvaccinated proximity threaten the vaccinated? If you are vaccinated, aren’t you immune?

Perhaps this would be a good place to highlight the CDC’s latest venture into revisionist history; I’m sure everyone recalls their earlier below-the-radar reinvention of ‘herd immunity’ so that the new text made no mention of the possibility it could be acquired through natural infection and recovery – nope, it was the product of vaccination. Well, they’ve done it again; this time, to ‘vaccine’. See if you can spot the difference. Old definition.

Vaccine: A product that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease. Vaccines are usually administered through needle injections, but can also be administered by mouth or sprayed into the nose.

New definition.

Vaccine: A preparation that is used to stimulate the body’s immune response against diseases. Vaccines are usually administered through needle injections, but some can be administered by mouth or sprayed into the nose.

Did you spot the difference? Yeah; a vaccine no longer has to confer ‘immunity’, only ‘protection’, which is open to a much greater degree of interpretation. Given it mitigates your symptoms if you do get infected, isn’t that ‘protection’? The brighter among you may have noticed the definitions of ‘vaccination’ and ‘immunization’ have also been modified to remove any reference to ‘immunity’. The buzzword now is ‘protection’.

Talking of the redefining of herd immunity, let’s just take a closer look at that. Because the government keeps holding out the prospect – if only a few more people will roll up their sleeves and take the gene-jab – as if it were a realistic goal. Is it? You tell me. I’ll let math-boy sum it up, because, as Geoffrey Rush said in the character of Cap’n Barbosa of “Pirates of the Caribbean”, there were a lot of big words in there; we’re nobbut ‘umble pirates.

“So, to achieve herd immunity we need to make sure that at least a proportion of $1-1/R_0$ of the population is immune. For an $R_0$ of 2.5, the higher end of the estimates for COVID-19, this means that we need to get at least a proportion of $1-1/2.5=0.6$ of the population immune. This translates to at least 60%…How do we do this? Well, ideally we would do it by vaccinating at least 60% of the population. In the absence of a vaccine, we can hope that this level of immunity will be achieved naturally, by people becoming sick and then immune. But because a lot of people die of COVID-19 we can’t just let the disease wash over the population, confident in the knowledge that more infections mean more immunity. “

Fair warning; the referenced site is sympathetic to herd immunity being achieved through vaccination, although at the time of writing, none was available. It has since become fashionable to pretend this is our goal through vaccinations, and that if some of those crackpot conspiracy-theorist anti-vaxxers would just think of their community for a minute, why, we’d be there. Continue reading “Hey, Democracy! Why Do You Bother to Vote?”