How Many Frequent-Flyer Miles Would it Cost to Send Ursula von der Leyen Non-Stop to Hell?

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Uncle Volodya says, “Desperate and dammed persons share an affinity for flirting with danger; an infectious case of erotic morbidity fetters them to self-destruction.”

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan;

You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We’re all doing what we can

But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is, brother, you’ll have to wait…

The Beatles, from ‘Revolution

English is the language of a people who have probably earned their reputation for perfidy and hypocrisy, because their language itself is so flexible, so often light-headed with statements which appear to mean one thing one year and quite a different thing the next.

Paul Scott

Everyone is familiar with the quote, “The first casualty, when war comes, is the truth”. But there must be something special about this war – something unique and rare, which inspires public figures to heights of bullshit scarcely attainable without going on oxygen. And none has pushed the upper envelope of the craposphere the way Cowsmonaut Ursula von der Leyen has. Consider, for example, her parallel-universe speech to the World Economic Forum (WEF) on May 24th. We’ll get back to that in more detail, and I am confident that, like me, you will be shaking your head in wonder at its apparently-deliberate falsehoods. But first, a bit of background on Ms. von der Leyen; many of her colleagues in the European Clown Circus refer to her as ‘VDL’ because they are lazy, and so are we, so I’m going to refer to her the same way in this piece if that’s okay.

VDL is said to have been a ‘late bloomer’ in politics, completing medical studies and living for several years in the United States with her family before deciding to enter German politics. But she certainly started as she meant to go on, a series of disastrous failures of leadership and imagination as she quickly worked her way up to a black belt in incompetence.

“Fixing the German army, which had been starved of resources for years after the end of the Cold War, was a herculean task. Von der Leyen blamed many of the problems facing the armed forces on her predecessors. Now in her fifth year atop the ministry, she can no longer point fingers.

Her biggest failure at the ministry may have been in not winning over the officer corps and troops. As a woman in a male-dominated universe, von der Leyen was never going to have an easy task. But current and former aides describe her management style as distant and defensive. She surrounded herself at the ministry with a small group of aides who kept tight control on the flow of information. Many interactions with rank-and-file troops were in the form of photo-ops, which often showed the minister in dramatic poses alongside military equipment.

She offended many service members by saying publicly in 2017, after the discovery of a right-wing extremist in the ranks, that the Bundeswehr suffered from “weak leadership at various levels.”

Well, she was right about that; leadership at the very highest level sucked like a black hole. But I think we are well past the novelty phase of feminine leadership where you are being made to look like a failure because you’re a woman. It didn’t stop the political system from letting her hand-pick another woman – Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer – to succeed her, and she promptly proposed Germany acquire a first-strike nuclear capability as a deterrent to ‘Russian aggression or provocation’. Both these individuals were useless as a chocolate teapot at their jobs and it had not a thing to do with their gender, and everything to do with their overall uselessness at leadership. However, being a useless leader has not prevented VDL from pole-vaulting to leadership of the entire bloc.

And she might have offended some service members as Defense Minister of Germany, but by God it did not stop the Defense Ministry from trying to protect her from accountability by wiping her official phone records even after the Bundestag had ordered her phone held as evidence in an investigation.

Lindner also gave an exasperated interview to public broadcaster ARD on Friday, in which he described the Defense Ministry’s continued failure to produce the phone data, even though the Bundestag had declared the phone should be classified as evidence several months ago.

“First they said von der Leyen’s phone could not be found, they didn’t know where it was,” he said. “A week ago they said it was in the ministry, but only von der Leyen knew the PIN code, and yesterday they confessed that the relevant phone data had been deleted in August.”

Sound familiar? She might have only lived in the United States for a couple of years, but she certainly picked up a few tricks – remember the interrogation tapes from Abu Ghraib that were destroyed by the CIA even after a direct order to preserve them as evidence? And the woman who ordered them destroyed went on to be CIA Director from 2018 to 2021; poor thing, they probably promoted her because they felt guilty for picking on her because she is a woman.

The truth – according to a report by influential German publication Der Speigel – is that VDL has cocked up everything she touched since entering politics, blamed it on her predecessors, and shaken the dust of her last shattered ministry post off her heels too quickly for her to be punished for it . By the time investigators get their shit together, she has already moved on.

“VdL was in lots of ways a perfect appointment as President of the European Commission. She is good at grand promises, pledges of unity, and commitments to diversity. The problem comes when it’s actually time to deliver. At three major ministries in Berlin, she stumbled from one disaster to another. The vaccine debacle unfolding across the continent won’t have come as any surprise to those who have followed her career. When it came to buying vaccines, the Commission was too late, too chaotic, and too stingy. But when the problems emerged, VdL disappeared, and then tried to pin the blame on someone else: in this case first AstraZeneca, for failing to deliver supplies on time, and then on the British, for investing more, and earlier. ‘It is, to put it bluntly, a pattern that has occurred frequently throughout her career,’ concluded Spiegel.”

Stumbling from one disaster to another. Just the resume you want in the dreamweaver who is inspiring the eggheads at Davos. Well, I think that’s enough stage-setting – lets move on to her recent load of rubbish, introduced at the beginning of the post. Continue reading “How Many Frequent-Flyer Miles Would it Cost to Send Ursula von der Leyen Non-Stop to Hell?”

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.”

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”

Highway to the Danger Zone

 

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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?

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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?”

Washington Pretends it was Always the Manager of Nord Stream II

Wink
Uncle Volodya says, “All over, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.”

“Narcissists are very retaliative if they believe another has achieved what they desire, exposed their insecurities, or refused to be under their control.”

-Lorraine Nilon

Well, it’s official: Washington has ‘decided’ to stop opposing the Nord Stream II pipeline from Russia to Germany, and has struck an agreement with the latter for the pipeline’s completion. Nord Stream II is a twin pipeline laid alongside the original, which has been operational since November 2011. Nord Stream already consists of two lines, the first opened in November 2011 and the second in October 2012. Nord Stream II will double that again, and increase pumping capacity to well over 100 BcM at maximum volume.

There’s a certain art – which Washington has perfected – of continuing to spin even when you failed to get your own way so that failure looks like a kind of success. A skill that allows you to pretend everything is unfolding exactly as you had planned it would, so that you even appear to believe it yourself. And few can surpass the arch-demoness of the US Department of State, Victoria Nuland, in that arena. Listen to her strut and swagger (translated by Moscow Exile).

“We imposed significant sanctions in May on an additional 19 organizations, and we also imposed sanctions on the [pipeline] operator and employees, but we suspended them in the interest of seeing if we could get Germany to work with us, the Ukraine and Poland on the issue of the consequences and vulnerabilities that this pipeline creates for the Ukraine,”, Nuland said.

“We have not taken any action to [force] the Ukraine to remain silent. The Ukraine is a sovereign country and speaks for itself”, the diplomat said, commenting on the Politico newspaper article about Washington’s alleged demand for Kiev to stop criticizing the pipeline.

“Today we will publish the agreement that we have reached with the German government. I can provide you with a number of details here”, she said.

According to Nuland, within the framework of agreements with the United States on the Nord Stream 2 project, Germany has undertaken to seek the development of pan-European sanctions against Moscow in the event of aggressive steps by Russia against the Ukraine.

“Among other things, Germany has pledged to take measures at the national level, as well as to seek the application of effective measures at the European level, including sanctions, to limit Russia’s export potential to Europe in the energy sector if Russia tries to use energy resources as a weapon or commits further aggressive acts against the Ukraine. This is one aspect of this agreement”, she said.

In addition, Nuland noted, Berlin, within the framework of the agreement with Washington on Nord Stream 2, had agreed to support the extension of the agreement on the transit of energy carriers between Russia and the Ukraine, which expires in 2024. The United States is seeking to extend this agreement for 10 years, said the deputy head of American diplomacy. “Another aspect of the agreement is support for the extension of the transit agreement between Russia and the Ukraine. As you know, it expires in 2024. We will seek with all the levers of influence for an additional 10 years for the Ukraine,”, Nuland said.

To shorten all that up for you, in case high-octane political bullshit makes your eyes glaze over, the United States ordered Russia not to complete the Nord Stream II pipeline, emboldened by its unqualified success in stopping its predecessor, South Stream. Russia kept plodding ahead. The United States gestured mystically, and international sanctions rained down upon Russia’s head. It turned up its collar, set its feet and resumed plodding ahead. When the pipeline was nearly completed, the United States ordered Russia’s Swiss pipelaying partner, Allseas, to abandon the project or face American sanctions, and the company immediately put its tail between its legs and scampered away. Russia brought its own pipelayers into service to finish the project. Increasingly frantic, the United States began probing and brainstorming how best to manage the catastrophe…and settled on the German marshmallow as the weak link.

A Workplace Guide to Managing Your Control Freak Colleague

Perhaps it’s unsubstantiated nostalgia on my part, but I remember the United States being a lot better at strategy. You’re never on your best game when you’re an habitual aggressor who is playing defense, but not even that accounts for the misplaced triumph of a fabricated win after a bunch of flailing around that has achieved more or less nothing. The USA’s aim, ostensibly, is to force Russia to continue transiting gas to Europe via Ukraine, and paying Ukraine a lucrative premium for the privilege. This, in turn, is so the United States can impose a measure of control both over Russia’s ability to transit gas, and over Europe’s ability to receive it, by stirring up trouble in Ukraine. It is fairly plain Washington intends to manipulate circumstances in Ukraine so as to create a situation in which Germany must keep its promise to petition for more sanctions if Russia is ‘acting aggressively’. However, as soon as Nord Stream II is complete, Ukraine will have lost nearly all its strategic value. Continue reading “Washington Pretends it was Always the Manager of Nord Stream II”

Look Out the Left, the Captain Said: the Capture of Roman Protasevich

Wink
Uncle Volodya says, “He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it.”

Star bright, star bright, you got the lovin’ that I like;
Turn this crazy bird around…
Should not have got on this flight tonight

From “This Flight Tonight“, by Nazareth

For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.

Noam Chomsky, from ” Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World 

When news happens, there is a rush on the part of the press to get it out there, hopefully so that their paper or reporter is the one to bring it to you first. This race to be your headline eye-candy king is greatly simplified by having a preformed narrative bias – if we did it, or one of our close allies did it, it was either good or it was an honest mistake; you have to laugh, really, our intentions were so good and look how it turned out. If our enemies did it, or even those who are in arrears on their friendship dues, it’s because they are rotten to the marrow of their wicked bones, and of course there was the basest of evil intent behind it. The story almost writes itself, you just need to plug in a few assumed facts here and there, wind up with a bit of soulful off-the-cuff analysis, maybe a reasonably-safe prediction (“there will be consequences”, said a government source who cannot be named…), et voila!

I usually don’t like to do that. Well, partly it’s because I am often too busy to sit down and write the moment I hear something; I just don’t have the time. But also, I like to give it a couple of days – often, there are major changes in the original storyline, which I often heard entirely one side of anyway, and sometimes there is a complete and embarrassing reversal, in which I would have been complicit had I jumped on the bandwagon.

This story is not like that. There have been some major revelations and mitigations, but we are still left with a lot of questions. Let’s start out with what we know, or think we know. The description of events lifted straight from TASS seems to me to describe the ‘known knowns’ – to borrow from legendary cold warrior Donald Rumsfeld – as well as any I have seen, or at least it more or less encapsulates what I know;

Protasevich was detained on May 23. On that day, a Vilnius-bound Ryanair plane that took off from Athens made an emergency landing at Minsk International Airport after a reported bomb threat. After the landing, the plane was inspected and no bomb was found on board. Among the passengers on that flight was Protasevich who was wanted by Belarusian authorities. Protasevich was detained by law enforcement agents once the plane had landed in the Belarusian capital. Russian national Sofia Sapega was also detained together with him.

However, there is a great deal more to the story than that, and you can usually make a fairly safe bet that when an immediate western pile-on ensues – given its typically lackadaisical organization where domestic and international affairs are concerned – there is something about it that plays directly to its interests, rather than the non-partisan by-Jove-we-will-have-fair-play-wot-wot that it pretends.

And there was a lot of that; a lot of fist-shaking and blustering about ‘air piracy’ and ‘hijacking’, a lot of hyperbole by sources who would pretty much be living on government assistance programs if hyperbole was not allowed. Serial fabricator and English gasbag Luke Harding, for instance. He has more or less abandoned journalism altogether in favour of waiting for major events to fall in his lap, and simply stringing together a series of comments on them. Here’s a fine example:

Friends have wryly noted that the thunderous and very public manner of his arrest is in keeping with his outsized career and personality. “Everything he does is loud,” Nicolai Khalezin, who has known him for a decade, said. “The riot police came and arrested me. Roma got a fighter jet.”

Anyone with an ounce of journalistic integrity, and a brain that exceeded roughly the same deadweight, would know a couple of things which would have precluded putting one’s real name to such tosh. One, the riot police do not patrol or execute offsite arrests; they provide security at events which have the potential to turn into riots, and when they do, arrest people who showed up; therefore, Khalezin has attributed ‘came’ to the wrong authority. If he ‘came’ to a protest and it got out of hand, perhaps the riot police arrested him there. If he was arrested somewhere other than at such an event, it probably was not by the riot police. But that’s semantics. What I particularly wanted to point out is that escort of civil aviation which is making an emergency landing, owing to a potentially dangerous situation onboard, by a military aircraft is standard procedure since the momentous events of 9-11. The polite and peaceful Canadians go so far as to suggest sending two fighter planes is ‘an appropriate response’.

Maj. Holly Apostoliuk said NORAD officials don’t have time to verify a threat is genuine before responding. “Considering the time available when information is received about a potential threat to an aircraft, one does not have time for a full investigation, and neither would anyone want us to do so,” Apostoliuk told The Canadian Press. “The point is, based on the information, to do all we can to ensure a safe landing of the aircraft.”

Quite. This would seem to be affirmed by Air Traffic Organization policy guidance in the event of a bomb threat received while the aircraft is airborne.

  • When information is received from any source that a bomb has been placed on, in, or near an aircraft for the purpose of damaging or destroying such aircraft, notify the supervisor or facility manager. If the threat is general in nature, handle it as a suspicious activity. When the threat is targeted against a specific aircraft and you are in contact with that aircraft, take the following actions as appropriate:
    1. Advise the pilot of the threat.
    2. Report the threat to the Domestic Events Network (DEN) Air Traffic Security Coordinator (ATSC) via (202) 493-4170. If unable to contact the DEN ATSC notify the Transportation Security Administration/Transportation Security Operation Center (TSA/TSOC) directly at 703-563-3400.
    3. Ask if the pilot desires to climb or descend to an altitude that would equalize or reduce the outside air pressure/existing cabin air pressure differential. Obtain and relay an appropriate clearance considering minimum en route altitude (MEA), minimum obstruction clearance altitude (MOCA), minimum reception altitude (MRA), and weather.

NOTE − Equalizing existing cabin air pressure with outside air pressure is a key step which the pilot may wish to take to minimize the damage potential of a bomb.

    1. Handle the aircraft as an emergency, and/or provide the most expeditious handling possible with respect to the safety of other aircraft, weather conditions, ground facilities, and personnel.

NOTE − Emergency handling is discretionary and should be based on the situation. With certain types of threats, plans may call for a low-key action or response.

  1. Obtain and relay clearance to a new destination, if requested.
  2. When a pilot requests technical assistance or if it is apparent that such assistance is needed, do NOT suggest what actions the pilot should take concerning a bomb, but obtain the following information and notify the supervisor who will contact the DEN ATSC or TSA/TSOC as explained in a2 above.

Continue reading “Look Out the Left, the Captain Said: the Capture of Roman Protasevich”