Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christie Blatchford cockeyed on Aleppo (too) !

   No, I am not obsessed with Christie Blatchford: I swear!  It's just that it so happened as I was busy with my Czech blog since summer, that she is the focus of my writing here back-to-back.  Something caught my eye in her writing on Friday, and I think I need to make a few points. 

   We live in parallel universes. It seems more and more self-evident. The amount of  irreducible moral values that we share has shrunk to almost nothing; critical thought has been has been banished out of almost any discourse; to demand balanced view of anything in the social or political sphere, you may as well admit that you are "in the other camp".  This is live because increasingly in a binary world of white against black, and most people (starting with generation  X-ers, but even more so with the millenials) no longer process the world based on what they digest by scavenging information from various sources, but simply plugging into ONE virtual reality that obsesses with a selection of real and imaginary outrages against THEM and THOSE who declare themselves believers in that virtual reality out of sense of kinship.  No dissent is allowed. If you have doubts about the basic tenets of the belief system  you are an agent of EVIL, or at best you are still in denial.

   There is no way you can convince the batshit crazy feminist troopers on campus that there is no world-wide male conspiracy against women or a culture of rape that every dick knows and lies about. There is no way one can reason with them and increasingly no way one can reason with the academia administrators who - if not in sympathy - are plainly intimidated by them. No way the famous Rolling Stone campus false rape accusation (there was a number of less-publicized similar cases before) would convince any of the troopers of the need to tone down the inane rhetoric if not to spend their creativity and energy in more useful social projects.

   Similarly, you cannot convince anti-Putin fanatics to drop their idiotic narrative in which he is a murderer of domestic political opponents, invader and oppressor of foreign countries, and a commander in chief of a grand army of hackers.  There is always the insane pitch that will sooner or later arrive in any of these virtual reality information channels.  In the campus statistical follies, it has arrived with the conviction that one in four women on campus has been sexually violated.  On the other front, this past week we learned that Putin was "personally" involved in the hacks. It could not have been otherwise; no-one in Russia could have ordered the hacks but Putin. But what is this saying?  People who don't know anything about Russia - let alone about Putin's Russia - automatically assume that this axiom must hold even though it should obvious to any modestly smart intelligence officer that someone high up might have (just might have) want to protect the boss and order the hacks to curry favours because he knew (or thought he knew) that Putin would be pleased with that sort of activity. It also would give him a way out - it's called "plausible deniability". That is a possibility, right?  But by the pedestrian logic deployed here, it must have Nicholas who ordered the assassination of Rasputin. No-one in Russia, the theory goes,  would have had the nerve to take bake cakes with potassium cyanide at the court without the express permission of the Tsar. Would he ? Vozmozhno?   But interestingly this childish assertion about Putin masterminding anything nefarious in Russia, has become a blood sport.  Kovtun and Lugovoy, the murderers of the former KGB agent Litvinenko in London in 2006 likely had had a clearance from Putin, Lord Owen concluded in a pathetic inquiry into the death of the émigré.  This of course opens the door for someone like Terence McKenna to claim there is no doubt Putin did it, and that he did it cover his tracks in the murder of Politkovskaya which Litvinenko alleged.  Our journalistic standards at work.

      With Christie Blatchford, it astonishes me to learn that she is willing to lap up much of the mainstream media garbage that one reads about Syria in general and Aleppo in particular.  It is very clear that she has no alternative source of information about the place and what is going on in there.

She excuses herself at the start of her National Post piece (Aleppo Needs Us, 16/12/2016) saying she is "certainly no foreign policy wonk".

That's Christian of you, Christie!  But what do you think you have to contribute here other than repeating the revolting and insane lies, which equate the bad things wrought by Assad  (and his friend Putin) to the monstrosities of people who massacre and terrorize civilians on grand scale.  Isn't the narrative that you and the Western media propagate the very guarantee of more death, destruction and misery, that Syria's people presently suffer?  Did you do some sanity check on some of the things you allege the government side does?  Like "chemical weapons" ?  You know that the evil Assad gave those up three years ago?  Don't you ?   (You evidently missed the Seymour Hersh's piece that no major outlet would initially publish in the U.S.) At any rate, you should know, that the only undisputed use of chemical weapons in the five-year war came from the rebel side. Very few people would argue with this on the basis of facts.  As for barrel bombs, well it's a brutal weapon and it was used by Assad, although I am still missing evidence that it was used "on civilian population" indiscriminately.  I am pretty sure that the Syrian dictator would be less generous in providing warning that hell is going to rain down on houses with people in them than the Israeli's were in Gaza.  But that the use of barrel bombs seems to have been limited to places (like the vicinity of Damascus or Homs) from which rockets were fired on civilian areas under government control.  Now, if you went as far as listening to Assad himself talking about his tactics in trying to dislodge the fanatics from heavily populated areas toward open spaces, you might have learned something. The Evil Man  has actually won a great deal of popularity in Syria as a "protector"  and in the internal dislocations over 80% of the displaced population migrates to the government-controlled areas. Now if you asked , "how much relief do these people  (over four million of them) get from the UN" you would be asking the right question.  But you are not asking that. Actually you are not asking anything (like Robert Fisk is, e.g.) You come to lecture, and lecture about something you personally have no background in, either as a first-hand experience or in absorbing some credible in-depth information on the conflict.  I am talking about judicious weighing of the alternatives, not the phoney ceasefires, peace proposals which by now everyone knows are just a smoke screen for the continued license to wage war on Syria. Boris Johnson has no solution for Syria. After he said that Russia could be guilty of war crimes in Syria, someone retorted that only "an idiot" would see the two sides of the conflict in terms of moral equivalence. And there are only two sides! The non-jihadi militants have never been a factor in the fighting!  Now what about the sudden surge of ISIS in eastern Syria after the Iraqis and the allies opened up a corridor for thousands of fighters to escape through, and the sudden reversal of Obama in signing an arms waiver for the rebels?  Any connection there, you think?


 So I would forget about getting rid of Assad!  It's not anyone's call to make but the Syrians'.  If one wants to help one should diversify a bit one's reading and seeing: try Eva Bartlett or Vanessa Beeley.  Too bad that in the English-speaking world I have not found a writer like  Tereza Spencerova who sends dispatches to the Czech weekly Literary News.  She has a great sense of what is going on on the ground and a way to make the landscape speak out in a way that is both believable and touching without melodrama. Here is an interesting excerpt from one of her blogs: 

"I had the opportunity to visit one of the improvised refugee camps a few kilometers from Aleppo, on the grounds of a former textile factory. There was a  flood of women covered in black; some had their faces covered as well, except eyes. The eyes were empty. No mourning, no celebrating. One man from the Red Crescent tried to convince them over a bullhorn from a warehouse ramp that it is not against Allah's will to allow their children to be vaccinated against all manner of diseases.  Al-Qaeda forbade this as a conspiracy of the West to uproot Islam. In the meantime their men fought over unleavened bread Syrian soldiers were distributing from trucks. It was a view of human beings who have no idea what is going on around them, or what will be, humans with a single desire to survive the present, which in the shock from any radically new situation is, well, an automatic reflex.
    I tried to find out - in vain it turned out - if people from East Aleppo were more inclined to practice a very conservative form of Islam before the war or if they accepted the new ways as a part of their "Stockholm syndrome" from their captors, al-Qaeda. In any case, it was a horrific scene. In the middle of (relatively) cosmopolitan and civilized Syria, suddenly materializes a scene from Middle Ages - a Kandahar.   
    But the West does not care about these people any more - they were of interest only when they were under Russian or Syrian bombardments, and until anyone knew who they were. Now, when they are out - in the daylight, so to speak - no one can pretend they represent the masses struggling for democracy in Syria, and hence the Western humanitarian and other organizations lost their interest...but is anyone surprised?"


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Team Women Rocks Means Team Men Sucks?

Oh dear, it's Christie Blatchford!  Here is a journalist whom I have long considered the voice of reason among women, one who had her female libido dominandi firmly in check. Well wouldn't you know: somewhere, at some point the FCS (female chauvinist sow) will bubble up even in her.

  To hell with you, Christie! Why does the courageous and successful showing of Canada's women's soccer team have to invite the silly "comparison" with the lack of overall medal production from men?  (Team Women Rocks, Ottawa Sun, 21/8/2016) What is to be gained by that ? It is not even that monumental battle of sexes in tennis in which a top woman professional beat the pants off a male champ, alas, twenty years after his competitive career in which time he turned pudgy and developed a heart condition.  What possible satisfaction can someone derive from the fact that one's women's Olympic team wins close to three out of four medals for the country? It is the greatest female-male disparity among nations of the developed world.  What can women possible gain from the poor showing of their male team-mates?  Another rung on the ladder of pride?

      Before Rio, I never saw Christie write on soccer. From the way she writes about the game, what she focuses on and what exercises her, it seems clear she is out of her depth and does not have a clue of what is going on.  No, the popularity of Marta is not anywhere near that of Neymar in Brazil, even though the two are soccer prodigies. Seasoned soccer fans do not compare compulsively the leading men with women in the sport or, for that matter, whether women are fairly represented among football hooligans. It's like in all other sports: people compare the competitive qualities of players in their own milieu.

       I love watching women's tennis. The idea of comparing Serena Williams with Novak Djokovic does not enter into my mind because I am sane. One heard comparisons between the "quality" of soccer during  women's world championships on US TV networks in the 1990's and the view was that women play soccer better than men. But anyone who knew the style of women's soccer then (and I played it competitively in my youth) would laugh that off.  The women's game was still in its infancy and often resembled unstructured "swarms" such as you would see on a pitch among boys under thirteen. There was no real competition because other than US colleges (under Title IX.) no-one even had a national-level soccer program.  Women's game made enormous leaps since then, and the matches are now great fun to watch even for the connoisseurs. 

    I like the Canadian women's soccer team very much. It has spunk, strong desire to win, and ability to grind out difficult matches. But let's not get carried away: the squad still punches above its weight. In team strategy and tactics, and most players' individual technique, it still has a way to go to catch up with the six top teams in the world.

    As for the men/women disparity in podium production in Rio, Christie Blatchford would do us all a great service if she looked seriously into what I suspect are great disparities in funding between the two genders that promote women's sports over men's in Canada. Google searches for sources of funding consistently find number of programs  specifically for women but none for men. I have heard from several sources that many men coaches in Canada now distinctly prefer to train women because that's where the money is and success guarantees more of it. My hunch is (based on watching CBC commercials) that the corporate sponsors also go for the brownie points in shelling more money to women's athletes.  So it looks, a least based on anecdotal evidence that men athletes chez nous are distinctly second class citizens. And one only needs to recall what Simone de Beauvoir said on the lack of women's intellectual achievements: 'The point to be grasped here is that if you are brought up as an inferior, you will become an inferior'.

       

Saturday, May 21, 2016

On Cultural Belonging

Whatever it is that the picture to the left seeks to convey it would leave all people in the world clueless and puzzled, save in one country. Among people who grew up there, four out of five would react to the suggested scene with loud, even convulsive laughter.  Why ? 

It is not easy to explain one's attachment to the place to which one was born, and why a child's picture of the world etched in one's soul  for life cannot be torn from that one place one calls home. It is in everyone of us, regardless where we come from. We instinctively deal with the kaleidoscope of the world at large through a prism that was given to us and to which we belong.  We don't know why. It is just the way we humans are and no amount of good-intentioned or hateful preaching will change this.

I saw the picture during my visit to my native Czech Republic in June of last year. I laughed my head off at the ingenious cleverness of its author. But there was distress in that laughter. You will note that the characters to the left are leaving the scene in a hurry.  The village woman runs away from the characters entering from the right in a panic. That much can be read from the picture by anyone, anywhere in the world.  But I will not be able to reproduce that which ignites the neurons in my brain in a way that causes me to go ape momentarily and send spasms to places around my diaphragm. 

I can explain how the collage has been constructed, and I already did that. I can show you the original plate and you will find it to the right of the text here. I can tell you all that you need to know about the original illustrator and I am going to do that. I can also tell you about the fleeing figures in the collage chosen to replace of the cast in the original. All of that I can do and you probably will get an inkling of what was going on in the mischievous mind of the person who modified the picture. But it will not be enough to create the "cultural shock" that your brain will produce if you are a Czech by birth and grew up in the land and if you as a child (and an adult after) learned how to imagine the world painted by the artist.

The artist's name is Josef Lada and he was famous enough in the world to have had an asteroid named after him. Lada was a naivist painter and prolific illustrator of books for children even though he became best known as the illustrator of Jaroslav Hašek's Good Soldier Švejk.





  

Dear Farzana

This is an open letter sent to Farzana Hassan at Easter, taking issue with her apologizing for Islamic terror to Christians:


Dear Farzana Hassan,

               I was touched by your Easter/Passover offer of apology for violent jihadism (Ottawa Sun 25/3) though I think it is a rhetorical exercise which does not does not match the value of the regular contributions of yourself, and the likes of Salim Mansur, Tarek Fatah, Raheel Raza, and others. Actually, I believe it is counter-productive to your (and their) posture, for which I am personally grateful, as your perspective gives hope, that maybe, just maybe, we can stay “civilized” without rivers of blood in the streets. Because, I have this terrible hunch, that this is where we are headed.    

So let me say this: You do not represent the larger Muslim religious community by dint of the fact that you are a believer. You cannot possibly have an intelligent reply to a Toronto imam with islamist connections all over the world, who says that. It is as though a German emigré in 1938 Paris wanted to apologize to Jews on behalf of Germans for Kristallnacht unleashed by the Nazis. The sad fact is that the majority of Muslims today are as much led by their Islamist elites (with the same goals, but different methods of a) trying to achieve them, and b) disguising them) as Germans were led wholesale by Hitler in the thirties.  The problem with you speaking “for the Muslim community at large” is that inevitably some clever islamist propagandist (say ‘Reza Aslan’), will come around and say that the fact Raheel Raza does not wear hijab and that you feel ashamed for what ISIS does in the Levant, is a proof positive that women under Islam are free to do as they please.  You know Ben Affleck’s moral indignation about “stereotyping” Islam and Muslims.  You are simply a proof to him that the vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists, but in fact, peace-loving and friendly folk, so much so, that some misguided sisters are even willing to apologize for the homicidal psychos who misread their Koran, and think that when it says “go and cut the heads of the kuffar” that it means one should buy an airplane ticket to Istanbul and then go by bus to cross to Syria, to do God’s will there by cutting the heads of the kuffar.

You see, I may shock you by saying this, but islamism is only a secondary problem here. The real problem speaks through as the Ben Afflecks, les Belge who lower the threat level forty-eight hours after a jihadi massacre in their capital, and our idiot minister for immigration who sets the limit of refugees to be admitted into Canada in 2016 proportionally to that of Germany’s last year’s million of them, where they overran the social service capacities almost everywhere. John McCallum says we need 300,000 of them this year because our labour force ages.  But we still have over 7% unemployment, and it is 13% among youths. How does mass immigration (at this moment !) help that problem ? What is it that forces that sort of drooling idiocy ?  I am sure it is not pressure from political Islam. 

No, the West’s problems are deeply internal and its response to political islamism, is but a symptom of an underlying disease which openly invites external catalysts for the destruction of its institutions and values.  It is very interesting to observe how this disease manifests itself. It never ceases to amaze me  how certain points of view – and in my mind those that should be ‘common-sense’ among us - do not make it through the mass media outlets, and if they do, they are immediately “owned” by the elitist pseudo-liberal shibboleths.  Or, how the supposed ‘cures’ of the disease are always dumb and not doable. For example, Trump’s vowing to stop immigration of “Muslims,… until we figure out what is going on ?”  But Donald, how can anybody aspire to be the president of the United States and not have figured out what is going on in the Middle East, ahead of his inauguration ? Pray, tell !  Why is it not obvious to the Donald that this is a stupid idea, and that he should have advocated instead “minimal immigration from the Middle East”, until the civilized world cleans the place up and restores a measure of civility there?  Why is it not obvious to Ted Cruz, that “surveillance of Muslims” is an overkill ? He could have simply said that mosques and political organizations  should be monitored for islamist propaganda, and jihadi advocates thrown out of the country. No ? Why would that not be ‘radical’ and ‘anti-establishment’ enough ?  Perhaps, someone should be asking why some American citizens need to organize themselves in an organization which wants to have “relations” with America based on their religion ?  Isn’t the name “Council on American-Islamic Relations” (CAIR)  a self-described misapprehension how a country like the United States operates ?  You are a bloody American citizen: who the hell gives a damn about what you worship, as long as you behave like an American ?  Duh!

But, as I said, the problem runs much deeper than islamism.   Actually, islamism can only thrive with a severely self-damaged democracy, which agrees to replace the idea of citizenry with equal access to the institutions of governance, by “identity politics” which claim that this is impossible and disadvantages by design their particular group, that is discrimniated against and seeks to create special relations with the state to reverse the perceived historical molestations. Under communism, this practice of differential treatment of individuals based on belonging to a certain social group was known as ‘nomenklatura’.  Needless to say, this system, creates a sense of injustice and oppression in groups that do not rank high or are openly despised and excoriated as the “problem”. In time, nomenklatura, destroys people’s loyalty to the social order, and  causes deep disdain for it. This, in the nutshell, is the secret of Donald Trump’s popularity. 

The problem however runs even deeper than that. The global economy has changed everything.  The one unpreceived effect is the decline of the value-add accelerators of the GDP, vis-à-vis services and above all resources. The US dominated the world economically between the world wars and three decades after because of its unmatched industrial base, highly skilled and well-paid labour, and cheap energy and raw materials. This situation has changed drastically in the last thirty years. Manufacturing has moved out of the US, because of labour costs, and raw materials – oil especially – became relatively expensive, or at any rate, allowed the “resource based” economies, and “low-cost labour” economies to surge ahead and dramatically change the relationships among the major players. The US and the West (generally) have become net importers of both manufactured goods and energy. Again, much of the growth of the political clout of Islam is due to the financial clout that the Saudis and Gulf states. They simply have no tradition of a productive industrial economy, (and the social development that goes with it ) or view of manufacturing as the creator of wealth. They are socially backward, but extremely rich, and with the US economy in the boondocks (never mind the Dow Jones Potemkin village) , much of what we observe in the US and Europe as a culturally suicidal policy vis-à-vis the world of Islam, is actually the function of the financial clout of the Sunni Xanadu states, buying political influence in Washington (and through Washington in Brussels). There is no two ways about it.  That the two parties in the US so much resemble each other in foreign policy, may not need explanation other than the king and emirs pay both of them.  Finally, the inequalities in wealth in the US have become simply too great, and resemble more and more the inequality of feudal societies.  This again foists a sense of injustice, distrust and disgust especially among the young, who it seems mostly abandoned the classical dream of American Way of Life. (Note that CAIR is very active in the Social Justice movements, and advertizes Islam as a system with social egalitarian roots – which it hasn’t been since the death of the Prophet.)

So allow me to be skeptical. I am appreciative of your gesture, but it is not from you that one should seek a sense of contrition.  As a matter of fact, I don’t believe that sense helps at all in resolving our problems.  It is not the islamist terrorists that should preoccupy us most. It is my lawyer friend who believes that the problem is a direct consequence of imperialist aggression of the West in the Middle East. When I asked her if she read the 1990 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, she had no idea what I was talking about. I told her I was talking about us as a culture which can babble about human rights from dawn to dusk but no longer has any idea what that is, a culture which no longer stands for anything, and a culture which has no idea what is going in the world around it.  Someone should apologize for that but I have no idea who that should be.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Peace With the Ayatollahs in Our Time?


          Times they are a'changin' et plus ça change... Little less than three years ago I blogged in support of Israel and Netanyahu, and affirmed that Iran under the ayatollahs (with Ahmanidejad as prez) were an existential threat for the state of Israel and therefore the West should exert max pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear superpower ambition. 
          In the time intervening, a number of things have happened in the region. The foolish jerk at the helm in Tehran was replaced by a generally more acceptable figure - who though maintaining hostile posture to the sliver of Mediterranean referred to as 'the Zionist entity' among the theocratic elders - nonetheless seems to be doing the ayatollahs' bidding in the matter ex obligo rather than out of deeply-held conviction. It could be, as Bibi says, that Rouhani is superbly crafty in disguising the depth of his homicidal intentions, or it could be that the PM of Israel is exaggerating when he is not talking rubbish.  
          No, the tentative agreement with Rouhani which effectively (on paper at least) stops and rolls back (!) the means to build nuclear bombs is not Munich 1938 simply because the deal signed in Vienna was structured (on paper again) a quid pro quo arrangement, and not a unilateral concession to an aggressor. Hitler did not have to give up anything for getting the Sudetenland. He simply gave a vague promise not to seek any further territorial expansion and consult with Chamberlain when something bothered him. 
         
        There is further issue with the lame comparison.  Iran is expanding its influence in the region, not its territory. That is different from Nazi Germany's aims. Most importantly Iran's gains in prestige came as a direct consequence of the US letting loose its reins in Iraq after it destroyed its political structure without assuring a working administrative model to keep whole the artificial modern entity. Obama acceded to a ham-handed Shia-dominated political elite, without insisting on safeguards for the sizeable Sunnite minority. A little later, the US (and Israel) supported armed and violent international jihad against a relatively stable, even if oppressive, regime of Bashar al-Assad. The strife was against Assad was fueled practically from the start by Islamic sectarianism and terrorism. If Tehran militias showed up to prop up an ally's regime, it is in a very different scenario than Hitler's minions blowing up neutral Austria, and foisting unrest in the German-speaking borderland of Czechoslovakia. For most part, Iran's influence in the region grew in the mirror of  the current US administration's hapless evacuations and dithering.  Iran has been only filling a power vacuum created in the region by Obama's ill-advised anti-imperialist posturing.

    Naturally, with certified fools at the helm of the juggernaut, I would have my doubts about secretary Kerry's ability to negotiate a very good deal with Iran. Maybe a different US administration might have gotten better terms. Except again: the US is not alone in the world with deeply vested interests in nuclear non-proliferation. This was EU3 + 3, or P5 + 1 negotiating team, and the agreement reflects the shift in the world balance of power.  The deal has accomplished what it set out to do: it has very significantly reduced Iran's capacity to weaponize nuclear energy in the foreseeable future. Mohammad Javad Zarif has solemnly signed a document which says in the preamble: "Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons."  That is a significant statement. Would there be any plainer way to denounce the country's  ambition to own a nuclear bomb?  It is only words, true, but certainly a pledge worth testing.  So, the smart money would be on monitoring Iran's compliance, not by trying to scuttle the agreement, as Israel's government  and the GOP have set out to do.   
 
   I don't buy the heated rhetoric from Jerusalem and the Republicans. The cries of a catastrophic, cataclysmic miscue of the part of Obama, the EU, Russia and China, are way too ...well, let's say it, 'flakey'.  And if you listen carefully, the complaint is all over the place. Mark Steyn says that the Vienna accord is far worse than Munich because Chamberlain's motives were honourable!  Iran can't be trusted - everybody is supposed to know that. But can US be ?  Susan Rice admitted to Wolf Blitzer that some of the unfrozen funds could be used to support terrorism. Krauthammer wrings hands over the giveaway  in lifting the conventional arms embargo that is years away.   Wake up idiots !  The ayatollahs are not behind the shooting in Chattanooga yesterday.  Yes, there is Iranian terrorism. But the Iranian brand of terrorism also - and for the moment prevalently -  terrorize ISIS (in Syria, Kurdistan and Anbar province of Iraq), and al-Qaeda (in Yemen) from which the US and the rest of the world benefits.  And it appears that the Iranian troopers (beside the Kurdish Peshmerga) are the only credible ground force in the region fighting the real scourge that butchers tens of thousands, enslaves millions and destroys priceless and irreplaceable cultural treasures in the cradle of human civilization. And they will be, at least until the next president of the USA wakes up and realizes that ISIS has to be destroyed immediately, and Iraq needs to be "maintained" pacified by a credible US threat capable of smashing within weeks any sectarian nonsense that bubbles up.  The Armageddon-thumping ayatollahs have become the symbol of American weakness. But they too are mortal. Let us give ourselves a chance to see the next thing that comes out of the great civilization of Persia.      

Friday, July 10, 2015

United by lower Grexpectations


Catching up the last two weeks with the history of the Greek debt, I am left with the strongest hunch that ‘crazy’ is the new mainstream. It appears that if some nonsense overwhelms the body politic, the antidote will almost certainly be product of another politicized form of craziness.

The most informing thing about the €380 billion that Greece owes is that the country does not have the means not just repaying, but servicing it in a meaningful way. All fiscal plans by the Greek government, including the one currently under consideration by the EU, project a magical turn in the country’s economy and the filling of state coffers as a result of minimum additional funds Athens can wrestle from the financiers, in return of promise to implement an effective austerity regime, the very thing that the majority of Greeks have vehemently opposed ever since it was set as a condition of further aid in 2009. The electorate first opposed it covertly, then openly, by voting in a radical Left government which considers the lenders blood-sucking terrorists.  By all appearances, the EU banksters and the Left lunatics have come to an amicable agreement this week, thanks mainly to France’s left liberal cave-in to the Syriza’s implied suggestion that Angela Merkel is a new incarnation of Inspecteur Javert 

In times of reason, premier Tsipras’ dealing hand would be in laughed off and he would be exposed as a hopeless s**t-disturber and demagogue.  But in times of ‘crazy’ he holds the high card. The ace in his hand is Greece-is-a-victim psychobabble.  To be sure, there are some things in his posturing in which I find more than a grain of truth. The financial crisis in Greece has started as toxic private, not public, debt. The fable that the financial collapse originates in Greek civil servants’ retiring en masse with full pension in their mid-fifties, is just another example of counter-crazy. I don’t subscribe to the theory that high unemployment is a contagious outbreak of mass laziness among the drinking classes. I really do feel sorry for the ordinary, below-euro-average Greek sweating hours in the ATM lineups. But all the same: Tsipras’ complaint doesn’t work for the same reason Senator Mike Duffy’s hope for sympathy is vain. As one cannot claim to be manipulated into accepting bribes, one cannot wash one’s hands of money one accepts as loans, by simply arguing that the lender has too much of it.  But for now, it looks Tsipras’ gamble has paid off and his referendum, if not wishing away the debt, means more bailouts and another postponement in paying it.

So, what gives?   Tsipras’ victory may be short-lived.  He made Germany dance to his tune but the anger and frustration with Greece remains. The country is by all accounts bankrupt. Anything, at this point – and under the prevailing rules of engagement – will be but a band-aid and short pause to government IOU’s and the return to drachma.  The retardant of the Greek collapse (or better, the end of masking it) is now the IMF following the crazy policy of the US (and EU) towards Russia.  The illusion of unity seems of paramount importance in trying to wall off Russia from Europe. But reality has a way of asserting itself. Europe is divided, not united.  Greek is bankrupt with minimal prospect of recovery in the continuing charades around its debt. The volatile Middle East and Africa pose the real security danger to Europe, not Russia. So, as always, it is pay me now or pay me later.

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ETA (Jul 13):  Tsipras' 'victory' was short-lived indeed.  It appears that Wolfgang Schauble's view of Greece won the day when it came to the nitty-gritty of actual negotiations and Syriza had to back out of the negotiating 'mandate' it claimed was given to it by the referendum. In the end, the Hansa concept of EU prevailed over the Mediterranean bazaar view. Greece - for the time it remains in the Eurozone - will operate as German banking protectorate.  Will Tsipras' politically survive this?  The cynic would say, 'no problem, the Greeks understand the nature of the comedy, in which it does not really matter who leads it.'  The outcome will be the same. 
   

Monday, March 9, 2015

Why Does Putin Kill Kittens ?

    Because of the way MMOs (major media outlets) report on certain realities in the world these days, the question in the headline needs to be grasped first on the merits of its utility. It does not really matter if Vladimir Vladimirovich destroys cuddly domestic pets, or whether such accusation is stupid beyond belief. We have the means to validate whatever beliefs by the wonders of communications technology.  The thing to grasp here is whether it is useful to believe that Putin kills kittens. And the finding would be - I guess - yes it is useful.  It is useful to believe that because it makes available certain options which the US foreign policy would not normally enjoy.

 Now here again I need to pause and digress.  I realize that to say anything about anything in terms of norms in our time is felt by the intellectually destitute squatters occupying main street to be deeply abnormal, as they would no doubt describe efforts to be normal as being patriarchal or heterosexist or dinosaural. So, it is really hard to imagine what normal options in US foreign policy would be to begin with in this particular bubble of here-and-now. Especially, since the women who run (which at this juncture means animate) US foreign policy from Michelle Obama down to Mary Harf are not exactly the blushing types.  But let us just say that in the olden days, say before Reagan's amiable senility set the policy tone, one would not badmouth foreign dignitaries unless one meant business, that is to say, one really meant to kill the sons-of-bitches. But not even then. Churchill omitted Hitler's titles (even the sarcastic Herr) when referring to him only after the war started.  

     Not so in our times. For Hillary Clinton whose demeanor epitomizes the contemporary lack of personal culture, not to say norms of diplomatic protocol, Putin is KGB psycho or Hitler or whatever the brainwave washes up on the spikes of her tongue. She does not mean to kill the son-of-a-bitch when she accuses him (a soulful Russian) of lacking a soul. She just does her politico version of twerking for the evening news. He is smart; he'll figure out it isn't for real - it's only for the masses hungering for some exciting news from a woman who cannot be wrong.  If she says that Putin (Warning : a graphic description ahead may be disturbing to some readers !) skins the poor critters alive it must be so. And if it rings true in the feeble American grasp of the world that,  as Jen Psaki said that the population of Crimea was 'forced to go to the polls facing a false choice' in a 2014, then the claim that the Russian president has vivisectionist tendencies offers tantalizing possibilities in extending NATO to the gates that obsessed the Russian chauvinists since the time immemorial.

So, yes, Putin kills kittens. And we have a proof that ! Well actually, like with the proof of columns of Russian military hardware entering Ukraine, it is more or less in the eye of the beholder. But that does not matter. Let the RT and one of the Rands blow into the wind all they want. The US Senate had a proof of Russian tanks invading Ukraine. We have a proof of Putin killing kittens. It may not be available quite in a consumable packaging but we are all adults and we are sophisticated about the world we live in. And since women rule and the Duchess of Cambridge is into killing kittens as well, the real question is, WTF am I talking about?  Ah, yes, the world where women rule !