It’s Time for a Serious Conversation About Socialism.

Uncle Volodya says,”If we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help people.”

“The few own the many because they possess the means of livelihood of all … The country is governed for the richest, for the corporations, the bankers, the land speculators, and for the exploiters of labor. The majority of mankind are working people. So long as their fair demands – the ownership and control of their livelihoods – are set at naught, we can have neither men’s rights nor women’s rights. The majority of mankind is ground down by industrial oppression in order that the small remnant may live in ease.”

Helen Keller, from “Rebel Lives”

“Socialism” is no more an evil word than “Christianity.” Socialism no more prescribed Joseph Stalin and his secret police and shuttered churches than Christianity prescribed the Spanish Inquisition. Christianity and socialism alike, in fact, prescribe a society dedicated to the proposition that all men, women, and children are created equal and shall not starve.”

Kurt Vonnegut, from “A Man Without a Country”

“The bandits of the old days would hide their heads in shame,
Their old-time buccaneering was hardly worth the name.
They used to end on gibbets and dance against the skies,
And now they live on top the town and sport their minks and cars around
And buy up Congress by the pound, free enterprise.”

Malvina Reynolds, from “Free Enterprise”

Show of hands, please – how many of you really knew already that Helen Keller was a radical socialist? I surely didn’t. In fact, I would not have pegged Kurt Vonnegut for a socialist, either, and perhaps he isn’t – but it still sent a little chill through me to read the words, “…all men, women and children are created equal”, and to recall where else I saw it – the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, Mr. Thomas Jefferson. Oh, he just said that all men were created equal; not much of a guy for women’s rights, I guess you could say. But the premise is precisely the same, or should be.

Which, in its turn, invoked in me a longing for the days of free thought and philosophy, when a ferment of ideas brewed around the betterment of the common man’s station in life, even as the notion of nobility by birthright rather than merit came crashing down. Nothing like that any more, of course – because modern democracy revolves around indoctrinating you, John or Jane Q. Public, that you are there. Mankind has never been so free, so unconstrained, so sticky with the sweetness of liberty that we are tacky to the touch. Hypocrisy and oppression are looking longingly through the chicken-wire, but they’re not allowed in here…in Freeworld.

Before we get into what nonsense that is, maybe it would be best if I showed you what motivated this…whatever it turns out to be. Because I would not consider myself a socialist, either. Perhaps – as someone suggested to me earlier – that’s because I don’t really understand socialism myself.

Anyway, I’ve grown tired over the years of the braying of corporate enablers, “Socialism always fails”. It seems to come from the smug and the simple-minded more and more frequently, the cheerleaders for might-makes-right and the pom-pom girls for American leadership, and it should be clear to even those who have only the fuzziest notion what socialism is that the reason socialism fails is because it is the sworn enemy of capitalism and corporatism, and the latter will not suffer it to live. Continue reading “It’s Time for a Serious Conversation About Socialism.”


Loose-Screw McKew, and America’s Learning Disability.

Uncle Volodya says, “Spoon-feeding, in the long run, teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.”

Well, then can I walk beside you? I have come to lose the smog;
And I feel myself a cog in something turning:
And maybe it’s the time of year; yes, and maybe it’s the time of man
And I don’t know who I am, but life is for learning.

We are stardust, we are golden; we are billion-year-old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden…

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, from “Woodstock

Life is for learning. Occasionally, as events of great moment pass us by without destroying the world, as they may have had the potential to do, we sigh with relief, and say, “There was a lesson that came at tremendous cost – I just hope the right people learned something from it”. And if the disaster was one which resulted from an unsafe situation such as a badly-planned intersection or a highway with inherent dangers, there’s every chance the right people will have learned something, and that the situation will be quickly addressed; municipal or federal governments frequently get sued for safety situations, often successfully.

Not in politics, though. Oh, people get sued in politics, too, from time to time. But politics is not what you would call a rich learning environment. People get used to doing things a certain way, and they keep on doing things that way. Party loyalty often inspires bizarre behavior and indefensible statements long after it is obvious they are indefensible. Fortunately – for politicians – it is the one forum in which people are seldom punished for being wrong, or for continuing to maintain they were right long after it is evident they were wrong. And no forum is more illustrative of this than American politics. Few examples are more illustrative than the ridiculous position – seized upon and promoted by the Democratic party – that Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election because the Russians rigged the election for Donald Trump.

The Mueller Report, recently released, tried its best to imply that there was collusion even as it stated baldly that the investigation had yielded no evidence of collusion. But what struck me with the most force was the manner in which the Democrats – and the entire crowd which has so much invested in having had an illegitimate president foisted upon them by the Godless Russians – simply shook its head, took a deep breath…and went right on blathering the same lunatic narrative. The Russians interfered with our democracy. Nothing is safe. Russia is the enemy of democracy, and will not suffer a democracy to live. Get the kids and pack up enough food for traveling, Mabel; we’re headed for the mountains – it’s “Red Dawn”, babycakes.

Amazing as it will sound, America has learned nothing. Continue reading “Loose-Screw McKew, and America’s Learning Disability.”

New Management Wanted: Ukraine Cannot Seem to Stop Delighting Putin.

Uncle Volodya says “As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation.”

Those who have been following, since its inception, the western attempt to turn Ukraine into a remote-controlled weapon against Russia have probably noticed a curious phenomenon. Whenever Ukraine falls short of western expectations for it, or fails to act as the west directed it to act, it is said to be making Putin happy. Kind of like how your mother used to tell you, when you were a small child, that the bogeyman would get you if you didn’t stop getting out of bed, or asked for just one more drink of water so you could stay up a little longer. Visions of Putin’s smirking face are called up to rebut Ukraine’s consistent failure to let go of an oligarch-dominated political system and magically achieve prosperity, while having nothing to do with its former largest trading partner – Russia – and not bothering Europe by horning in on its subsidies in an attempt to sell more goods to it. For its part, the United States insists on running Ukraine, appointing a special envoy – Kurt Volker – to preserve its feeling of international importance after it was pointedly left out of the Normandy Format; Meddlers R Us; we don’t need no steenking invitations.

A glance over trade statistics suggests this was a wise choice for the Exceptional Nation – the year before the Glorious Maidan, Revolution of Dignity, the USA did around $3 Billion worth of trade with Ukraine, selling it $1.92 Billion worth of goods and services, and buying $1.03 Billion worth of goods and services from it, posting an American trade surplus of $888 Million. Last year the USA did around $4 Billion worth of trade with Ukraine, selling it $2.46 Billion in goods and services, and buying $1.35 Billion worth of goods and services from it, handsomely increasing the American trade surplus to $1.13 Billion. Considering Ukraine is impoverished and living on handouts, while the per-capita GDP has fallen by more than 6% despite the country having lost about 3 million people (Ukraine’s population today is almost exactly what it was in 1960), that’s quite an achievement.

Per-Capita GDP 2009-2018

Ukraine GDP per capita PPP

Population of Ukraine 2009-2018

Ukraine Population

Ukraine, and indeed the world, cannot seem to stop dancing to Putin’s tune – the puppet-master pulls the strings, and we all jerk and stumble as he wills. If nothing else brings home to you how genuinely fucked-up the world is, consider for a moment that the best excuse world leaders have for not being able to direct global affairs to their liking is that Putin – leader of what is supposed to be the most isolated and friendless country in the universe – prevents them from having their way, and laughs at their discomfiture.

In that spirit, we’re going to take a look at Justin Lynch’s “Ukraine’s Election Is a Mess—and That’s Exactly What Putin Wants”, for Foreign Policy magazine.

Before we get started – unusually, I suppose – we’re going to assume it is nonsense based on common sense. As we’ve often mentioned before in various conversations, Ukrainian and Russian are mutually intelligible languages. What leader in his right mind wants an unstable, never-far-from-imploding impoverished state right on his doorstep, considering his own state is a likely destination for fleeing refugees, economic or otherwise? Russia was already home to the world’s biggest Ukrainian diaspora, and the dizzying circles Ukraine has made of the toilet bowl since early 2014 have increased Russia’s population of Ukrainians by more than a million. Russians are not idiots, and they keep electing Putin by a wide majority. He can’t be completely clueless, and even though the west portrays him as sustained only by purest evil, there’s no reason to imagine continued instability in Ukraine pleases him except that it is probably fun to watch the west step on its dick again and again, after all its bragging that it will show everyone how it’s done. Ukraine as a western project is a thundering failure, and the west owns every bit of that failure. But Moscow would much prefer it reach some level of stability, although of course it would not like it a bit if a Ukraine relentlessly hostile to Russia became a NATO member. Continue reading “New Management Wanted: Ukraine Cannot Seem to Stop Delighting Putin.”

I Spy, with my Little Eye…Someone Who Can’t Wait to Start Using Energy as a Weapon

Uncle Volodya says, “The more a man knows, the more willing he is to learn. The less a man knows, the more positive he is that he knows everything.”

“Make way, we are coming! Give us every right and don’t you dare breathe a word before us. Pay us every sort of respect, such as no one’s ever heard of, and we shall treat you worse than the lowest lackey… Why, you are so eaten up with pride and vanity that you’ll end by eating up one another, that’s what I prophesy.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky, from The Idiot

“Now you’re messin’ with a son of a bitch…”

Nazareth, from Hair of the Dog”    

You know, if I had to sum up in one word the quality that makes my blood boil, infuriates me, that makes me turn to angry writing for release, it’s smug. Smugness, smugalicious self-congratulatory kiss-my-feet-peasants lording it over everyone. It almost turns my teeth sideways, and when such a person is holding forth, I concentrate with absolute intensity on mentally trying to cause a 10-ton concrete counterweight to materialize above them, to subsequently plummet onto them and crush them to a little oozy spot, and silence their quacking forever.

And, increasingly, nobody does smug self-congratulatory we’re-the-shit-and-don’t-forget-it like official America. Before we go any further, Americans have every right to be proud; it’s a great country. Once upon a time, when it said “I must use my powers for good”, nobody laughed or smirked, because it probably meant it. But somewhere along the way, the wish to do something good for the world was mislaid; perverted, stripped of its original meaning, reduced to a cheap label for regime change and asset-grabbing and little-tin-god swaggering. When you hear that guy, you want him to fail. You want him to trip over his own feet and fall right on his face.

So I say, thank God for Mike Pompeo. Because it’s mean to wish for someone to fail. But somehow, whenever you hear the former CIA Director and current American Secretary of State blathering about how great and mighty America is, you don’t feel bad for wishing God would turn him into Mimi Bobeck’s bicycle seat. Image result for mimi bobeck

In fact, it feels pretty good.

Before we get into the latest thing the Scintillating SecState said that made me wish he had his ears pop-riveted to a corkboard in front of a punching machine with an uninterruptable power supply (UPS), a little background. Scene-setting, if you will.

Remember when John Kerry, the walking chin who personified The Importance Of Being Earnest, waxed eloquent on how Russia was ‘using energy as a weapon’? Oh, he was by no means the first to say it, or even one of a select crowd, but he was the first to come up on Google. And it’s kind of appropriate,  because he’s almost as instructive as Mike Pompeo at illustrating what a stuffed-shirt insufferable prick Washington has become. Remember when he promised that if the UN would only authorize a cruise-missile strike against Assad in Syria, it would just be a tiny one? And that the ‘Arab countries’ had agreed that if America would go in and smash Assad, they would pick up the tab? It did not seem to occur to him that he had just stipulated to Washington hiring itself out as a mercenary to whoever had the money, as long as they were on the right side. Ahhh….memories; thank you, John. Continue reading “I Spy, with my Little Eye…Someone Who Can’t Wait to Start Using Energy as a Weapon”

Stephen Blank has a Tantrum

Uncle Volodya says, “No sound is so ominous as the silence of a patient man.”

“It is cruel to discover one’s mediocrity only when it’s too late. It does not improve the temper.”

W. Somerset Maugham, from “Of Human Bondage”

Stephen Blank is upset; in a bit of a pet, as the English of years ago would say. Gosh-darn it, those thickheaded Yurrup folk know nothing of loyalty – you always buy from friends, even if their product costs more, and its logistics for delivery are shaky. You know: those friends who threaten to sanction you until you can’t see straight if you don’t do as they want you to. Because in the end, it’s about freedom, damn it all.

I’m speaking of his recent effort for The Atlantic Council; “European Involvement with Nord Stream 2 Is a Deal with the Devil”. Well, it’s no surprise that The Atlantic Council is opposed to Russia’s Nord Stream II pipeline; it’s an American-dominated think tank headquartered in Washington, DC, formed in 1961 with the mission of preserving the cooperation between Europe and the United States that was forged in World War II. A big part of ‘cooperation’ in modern American parlance is ‘trade policies which are in our favour’, and the current president has squashed quite a bit of goodwill to death in his pursuit of US advantage. The Atlantic Council has included such congenial friends of Russia as Susan Rice, and hosted such pro-Russian guests as Mikheil Saakashvili, Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Richard Lugar. The United States wants to sell Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to Europe, but it would not be the happiest to do so in concert with Russian pipeline gas – it would like to replace Russian gas supplies. And there, I’m afraid, Mr. Blank and his friends are the victims of geography and America’s own capitalist success. I’m not going to dwell on it, because readers of this blog are well aware of it, but the United States cannot sell LNG to Europe at a competitive price with pipeline gas, and delivery would have to be via seaborne tankers, which are at the mercy of weather conditions and marine traffic congestion. Delays would be remarkable only if there were none, while the necessary increase in trans-Atlantic marine traffic would increase the risk involved.

Instead, I’d like to focus on the petulance.

Failure - Demotivational Poster

Mr. Blank draws on every trope, every stereotypical insult and childish squall he can muster, and if it is a measure of his frustration, he must be wound tighter than a Timex. I have to say, I’m kind of enjoying it. Let’s look, shall we?

Since seizing Ukrainian territory, Mr. Blank tells us, Russia has waged systematic warfare in an attempt to destroy Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state energy company. Do tell. I don’t suppose there’s any sense in repeating that Crimea was always Russian, was given to Ukraine as a gift by a decree of the Russian president, and then was taken back – to the obvious delight of the great majority who live there – when it became evident Ukraine would not be satisfied with merely being independent, but wanted to be an enemy. A little like the Sally of “Mustang Sally” fame; remember that old song? “Bought you a brand-new mustang/ nineteen sixty-five/when I come around, you signify, woman/You won’t let me ride.” Okay, perhaps that’s not the best example, since the ‘ride’ in that instance has a tongue-in-cheek double meaning. But I think the context is pretty clear. Ukraine made an ostentatious big deal about its non-Russianness, and seized upon every opportunity to express its contempt and hatred, just as it continues to do now. Why should Russia allow it to keep the gift which was bestowed when they were fraternal brothers? Continue reading “Stephen Blank has a Tantrum”

See Russia Starting Any New Wars? Thanks, Washington.

Uncle Volodya says, “This is my doctrine: Give every other human being every right you claim for yourself.”

…hitched a ride on a monkey’s back;
headed west into the black,
I’m goin’ to dizz knee land

DaDa, from “Dizz Knee Land”

There’s a certain temptation, for me at least, to view an entire people as stupid and self-centered just because their leaders so uniformly are, and I confess I struggle with it. I know Ukrainians are not stupid, know it to be a fact, as I know several personally who are well-informed, sophisticated, pragmatic and bright people; given the size of my sample pool – which I will call Ukrainians I Personally Know – they are as intelligent and perceptive as any other group. My data pool is not large, admittedly, but it’s hard to believe the smart ones I know are all that exist.

However, what are we to make of the alleged contention of Yehor Bozhok (the contortions Ukrainians go through to make sure their names do not sound Russian always crack me up, in this instance resulting in one that sounds quite a bit like the pessimistic donkey from “Winnie the Pooh”) that the world has the sanctions imposed against Russia by Washington and Brussels to thank for peace? For the reality that forces of the Russian Federation are not currently rampaging through the seas, fields and cities of the Free World?

The gospel according to Yehor (Head of Ukraine’s Foreign Intelligence Service, the SZRU) is that the west’s economic sanctions – leaning heavy on the word ‘economic’, because that is what they are – are negatively impacting President Vladimir Putin’s ability to wage war around the world, including in Ukraine. It is assumed that’s what he wants to do, more than anything, and that only the sanctions (and the might of the Ukrainian Army, of course, Geroyim Slava) hold him back. Continue reading “See Russia Starting Any New Wars? Thanks, Washington.”

The Candy Clouds of the Dreamweaver do Battle with the Battering Ram of Reality

Uncle Volodya says, “The real world is where the monsters are.”

Dreamer, you’re nothing but a dreamer
Well, can you put your hands in your head? Oh no
I said, “Far out, what a day, a year, a life it is”
You know, well you know you had it comin’ to you
Now there’s not a lot I can do…

From “Dreamer”, by Supertramp

As this tumultuous year grinds to a close, I wonder what future historians will say of it? Surely it will never be seen as a year of advancement for mankind; a year of stability, an affirmation of the bonds of brotherhood which draw us closer together. Instead, it must be viewed by the dispassionate eye of objectivity as a year of upheaval, of reversals and setbacks and chaos. A year of celebration of mean-spirited goading and provocation, a year of the drawing-together of jealous alliances seeking to preserve a world order which always worked out very well for those so allied, thank you very much. A year of cynical lip service paid to the cause of peace and understanding, trumped by disinformation, propaganda and reality-shaping. If you can’t have world peace, pray enjoy yourself with the vinyl inflatable substitute, anatomically correct for your pleasure.

I’m afraid I haven’t the patience or the resources to cover the whole world for the year. But I was struck by two very disparate recent articles on the same part of the world; Ukraine. Two very different images of what is apparently the same place, depending on whether you are viewing it through rose-coloured glasses, or framed by a toilet seat.

The first, by Andrew Wrobel at Emerging Europe (where he is a founding partner), postulates that 2019 will be a critical year for Ukraine – as, no doubt, it will; I am surprised it has staggered all the way to this point. But much of the article is spent in talking of events of the past year. Let’s take a look.

According to Wrobel, the current government of Ukraine is making serious headway upon a progressive agenda. The economy is stabilizing, President Poroshenko has pushed through a series of reforms to tackle corruption, and the resumption of international ‘lending’ to Ukraine signifies international approval of its progress. Continue reading “The Candy Clouds of the Dreamweaver do Battle with the Battering Ram of Reality”