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Tag: Russia

And there are gooseberries

Tuesday, 18 June, 2019

“Country life has its advantages,” he used to say. “You sit on the veranda drinking tea and your ducklings swim on the pond, and everything smells good… and there are gooseberries.” — Anton Chekhov, Gooseberries

Storyline: Ivan Ivanovich Chimsha-Gimalayski tells of how his brother Nikolai Ivanovich, a government official, becomes obsessed with the idea of returning to the countryside where the two of them had spent their happy childhood. The symbol of this obsession is a gooseberry bush. So, Nikolai buys a farm, plants gooseberry bushes, and when Ivan Ivanovich visits him he’s shocked so see this apparently happy man, now grossly obese, living in what he imagines to be his earthly paradise. Nikolai refers to himself as “We, noblemen” and expresses delight when his cook, as fat and pig-like as he is, arrives with a heaped plate of gooseberries. All this makes Ivan Ivanovich think about the nature of human happiness, which for him is the result of any happy man’s unawareness of how much grief and pain there is in the world.

Gooseberries


These EU elections again

Wednesday, 15 May, 2019

Apart from the excitement generated so far by the astonishing polling performance of the Brexit Party in the UK, this year’s European Union Parliament elections are inducing even more torpor than ever. European political debate, such as it is, is still dominated by Brexit, while President Macron’s EU reform proposals, which should have lit a fire, have been completely quenched. Credit for that must go to Chancellor Merkel, who ignored them, and her designated successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, has done nothing to suggest that she’s going to deviate from Mutti’s cold-shoulder line. Reformist ideas coming from France simply don’t survive the crossing of the Rhine anymore.

This leaves us with an election in which mostly Lilliputian candidates repeat mostly hackneyed phrases. Because the stakes are so low, turnout will be low, too. And because nothing much will change after 26 May the lack of voter excitement is totally justified. Despite Brexit, the immigration crisis and the fragility of the euro, the EU seems unable to energize itself or the citizens of its member states. This is all the more astonishing, given that Europe’s North Atlantic partner and protector is drifting away, China’s rapacious Belt and Road initiative is making inroads in Italy after making important acquisitions in Greece and Russia is becoming ever more dangerous as it expands its malign influence into the eastern regions of the EU. There’s lots going on but the European Union seems destined to a future of global irrelevance. It’s not surprising, then, that the so-called populists get all the attention.


The stupid cult of Russia & the Latin American Idiot

Wednesday, 1 May, 2019

May Day: The comrades are unfurling their red flags and dreaming of revolution. There will be rallies today for expropriation in Berlin and against capitalism in London.

Which reminds us that it was none other than the great George Orwell who said that “Socialism… smells of machine-worship and the stupid cult of Russia.” And it was the same Orwell who brilliantly described the typical Russian commissar as “half gangster, half gramophone”. Which sounds just like Corbyn. But Orwell wasn’t done. “The fact is that Socialism, in the form in which it is now presented, appeals chiefly to unsatisfactory or inhuman types.” Which sounds just like Maduro.

These withering observations have to be placed in context. Orwell was a lifelong democratic socialist and the context in which he made his remarks was the delivery of The Road to Wigan Pier manuscript in 1937. The book had been commissioned by Victor Gollanzc, who ran the Left Book Club, and its 40,000 members regularly received a work that reflected their beliefs. Gollanzc hoped that a work about poverty in the British Midlands would fit the bill. The first half of Orwell’s book depicted the awful conditions in which the coal miners worked and described the sordid nature of their housing. A clear case for socialism, felt Gollanzc. But it was the second half of the book that upset the apple cart.

Orwell stated plainly that the British working class would never take socialism seriously. The notion of a classless society was a delusion, he wrote. Adding insult to injury, he noted that ordinary people could not identify with the Marxist ideologues because they were objectionable cranks, teetotallers and health-food fanatics. He was particularly scathing of those who peppered their sentences with “notwithstandings” and “heretofores” and got excited when discussing dialectical materialism. Gollanzc was shocked and wanted to publish the first part of the book only, but Orwell was a man of principle, not a gramophone, and he stuck to his guns.

Orwell is gone, but all is not lost. The Peruvian thinker Alvaro Vargas Llosa patrols a similar beat and a decade ago, in “The Return of the Idiot,” he wrote: “European journalists like Ignacio Ramonet and some foreign correspondents for outlets such as Le Nouvel Observateur in France, Die Zeit in Germany, and the Washington Post in the United States, are once again propagating absurdities that shape the opinions of millions of readers and sanctify the Latin American Idiot.” Llosa was on target, especially when noting the curious penchant of Western intellectuals to admire thuggish leaders who sprout anti-American slogans and pay lip service to The People. Interestingly, their admiration for these thugs — Castro, Ortega, Chávez, Morales, Correa, Maduro — somehow never leads the same intellectuals to depart the decadent West for the glories of the Workers’ Paradises.

In the 1993 Fall issue of Dissent, Günter Grass, the German winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1999, wrote: “Cubans were less likely to notice the absence of liberal rights…[because they gained]… self respect after the revolution.”

Alvaro Vargas Llosa’s reply was perfect: “Reality check: How would you feel, Günter, about trading your bourgeois liberal rights, including the right to publish, for a bit of Cuban dignity?”

Looking at the misery of those parts of South America then in the hands of the “carnivorous” left, Alvaro Vargas Llosa concluded: “Until the Latin American Idiot is confined to the archives — something that will be difficult to achieve while so many condescending spirits in the developed world continue to lend him support — that will not change.”

But it will. As Sam Cooke sang: “It’s been a long time, a long time coming / But I know a change gonna come.”


Narcissist of The Week: Julian Assange

Friday, 12 April, 2019

In Westminster Magistrates’ Court yesterday, district justice Michael Snow summed up Julian Assange perfectly: “His assertion that he has not had a fair hearing is laughable. And his behaviour is that of a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interests.” Supporters of Assange are now claiming that he’s either a journalist or a publisher, as if this were an excuse for his actions. The fact is that Wikileaks’ role in the illegal transfers of information and its links to the Russian government make it more like a foreign intelligence operation than a journalist or a publisher.

Back in 2010, Tunku Varadarajan captured the essence of this ghastly man in a Daily Beast piece titled “WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Is a Fraud.” Snippet: “Assange looks every inch the amoral, uber-nerd villain, icily detached from the real world of moral choices in which the rest of us saps live. Call him the Unaleaker, with apologies to the victims of Ted Kaczynski.”

Julian Assange is a criminal who evaded charges of sexual violence and then skipped bail. Regardless of whether Wikileaks was started with noble intentions, it ended up doing Putin’s dirty work. Example: In 2016, Assange declined to publish 68 gigabytes worth of leaked Russian documents that could have helped expose Moscow’s evil activities in Ukraine. For this, and more, Julian Assange should be sent down.

Wikileaks for Putin


“Sometimes you have to walk,” Mr. Trump said.

Thursday, 28 February, 2019

The date was 12 October 1986 and the place was Reykjavik. President Ronald Reagan got up and and walked out of a summit with a Communist Party boss, Mikhail Gorbachev, of the Soviet Union. “What appears to have happened in Iceland is this,” the New York Times opined. “Mr. Reagan had the chance to eliminate Soviet and U.S. medium-range nuclear weapons in Europe, to work toward a test ban on his terms, to halve nuclear arsenals in five years and to agree on huge reductions later. He said no.”

The awful Willian Greider of the equally awful Rolling Stone titled it “Reagan Flubs Reykjavik Summit” and claimed that “the President’s obsession with Star Wars allowed Gorbachev to outmaneuver him on arms control.”

And today? The same sour faces, the same ominous predictions and the same visceral instinct of the Left to blame the US for everything.

What appears to have happened in Hanoi that North Korea would not agree to the denuclearization that the US wants, and the US would not agree to the dismantling of all the sanctions it has placed on North Korea. The temptation for President Trump to reach some kind of deal must have been huge and he’d have enjoyed returning from Vietnam with news to to put the Michael Cohen show in the shade, but he walked, as Reagan once did. And we remember who won and who lost the Cold War, don’t we?


The eleventh post of pre-Christmas 2018: November

Sunday, 23 December, 2018

Frederick Forsyth was 33 when his first novel, The Day of the Jackal, was published in 1971. The story of how the OAS (Organisation Armée Secrète) hires an English assassin to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle became an international bestseller and gained the author fame and fortune. On 14 November, here, we welcomed Forsyth’s latest novel, which is very much about modern espionage.

********

What if the most dangerous weapon in the world is not a nuke in a backpack but a 17-year-old boy with a brilliant mind, “who can run rings around the most sophisticated security services across the globe, who can manipulate that weaponry and turn it against the superpowers themselves?” That’s the premise of The Fox, the new thriller from Frederick Forsyth. Born in the year of the Munich Agreement, when British, French and Italian leaders agreed to Hitler’s demand for the German annexation of the Sudetenland, Forsyth has grown up in a world that has experienced its share of evil in his 80 years. The latest manifestation, in his latest novel, is the Vozhd, a Russian word meaning “the Boss” or, in the world of crime, “the Godfather”. When Forsyth was 15, the old Vozhd, Joseph Stalin, died. The new Vozhd is Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and one of his prized assets arrived in Russia in 2013, having fled from Hawaii. Snippet:

“When defector and traitor Edward Snowden flew to Moscow it is believed he carried over one and a half million documents on a memory stick small enough to be inserted before a border check into the human anus. ‘Back in the day’, as the veterans put it, a column of trucks would have been needed, and a convey moving through a gate tends to be noticeable.
So, the computer took over from the human, the archives containing trillions of secrets came to be stored on databases… Matching pace, crime also changed, gravitating from shoplifting through financial embezzlement to today’s computer fraud, which enables more wealth to be stolen than ever before in the history of finance. Thus the modern world gave rise to the concept of computerized hidden wealth but also to the computer hacker. The burglar of cyberspace.”

The Fox

********

The review of the year as posted by Rainy Day ends tomorrow with the twelfth post of pre-Christmas 2018. The subject is the street-fighting man, then and now.


Russian thuggery in the Sea of Azov

Thursday, 29 November, 2018

Austin Bay says:

“Putin’s Kremlin specializes in adding complex twists to blatant falsehoods. There is no evidence the Ukrainian ships did anything but try to avoid being intercepted. Russian territorial water? To buy that you must accept Russia’s illegal seizure of the peninsula. However, the strait is an internationally recognized waterway open to transit by commercial shipping and naval vessels. Kerch is comparable to other straits around the globe, like the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. Iran routinely threatens to close Hormuz to shipping, but to do so would violate freedom of navigation and constitute an act of war.”

Excerpt from On Point: Russia’s War with Ukraine Goes to Sea.


The Russian Vozhd is the sick man of Eurasia

Friday, 16 November, 2018

Hadn’t heard of the Barents Observer, but it’s one worth bookmarking. What it does is provide “daily news reports from and about Scandinavia, Russia and the Circumpolar Arctic.” It’s also “a journalist-owned” online newspaper. Top story today: “Finland accuses Russia for disruption of GPS signals.” Quote: “Jamming of GPS signals first came known to public when the Barents Observer on November 2 could tell about pilots on a civilian passenger plane in Norway’s Troms and Finnmark region reporting about loss of satellite navigation.”

Back on 2 November, the Barents Observer did indeed publish a story about the jamming of GPS signals in the airspace between Kirkenes and Lyngen. Snippet:

“As previously reported by the Barents Observer, the Foreign Ministry brought up the question with Moscow after a similar jamming in March this year and requested Russia to halt such jamming. Last week, Deputy Director of Communication with the Foreign Ministry, Kristin Enstad, was not willing to share with the readers of Barents Observer what was said in the dialogue with Russian authorities.

Lina Lindegaard, press-officer with regional airliner Widerøe, told Barents Observer about one of their flights losing GPS signals. ‘Our chief operating officer got a report from a captain about loss of GPS signals,’ Lindegaard said. She underlined that the crew in cockpit always have alternative procedures on how to navigate if satellite signals can’t be received.”

Putin’s Russia is truly an evil entity and it’s determined to destroy what it can before it descends into complete decrepitude. Emmanuel Macron’s “European army”, which right now couldn’t fight its way out of un sac en papier in Brussels, will never be a match for the Vozhd. There’s no there there.


Forsyth namechecks Snowden

Wednesday, 14 November, 2018

What if the most dangerous weapon in the world is not a nuke in a backpack but a 17-year-old boy with a brilliant mind, “who can run rings around the most sophisticated security services across the globe, who can manipulate that weaponry and turn it against the superpowers themselves?” That’s the premise of The Fox, the new thriller from Frederick Forsyth. Born in the year of the Munich Agreement, when British, French and Italian leaders agreed to Hitler’s demand for the German annexation of the Sudetenland, Forsyth has grown up in a world that has experienced its share of evil in his 80 years. The latest manifestation, in his latest novel, is the Vozhd, a Russian word meaning “the Boss” or, in the world of crime, “the Godfather”. When Forsyth was 15, the old Vozhd, Joseph Stalin, died. The new Vozhd is Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and one of his prized assets arrived in Russia in 2013, having fled from Hawaii. Snippet:

“When defector and traitor Edward Snowden flew to Moscow it is believed he carried over one and a half million documents on a memory stick small enough to be inserted before a border check into the human anus. ‘Back in the day’, as the veterans put it, a column of trucks would have been needed, and a convey moving through a gate tends to be noticeable.

So, the computer took over from the human, the archives containing trillions of secrets came to be stored on databases… Matching pace, crime also changed, gravitating from shoplifting through financial embezzlement to today’s computer fraud, which enables more wealth to be stolen than ever before in the history of finance. Thus the modern world gave rise to the concept of computerized hidden wealth but also to the computer hacker. The burglar of cyberspace.”

The Fox


Time Trial in France

Wednesday, 11 July, 2018

When it comes to sport these days, all eyes are on Russia, where the World Cup is approaching its climax. For those who aren’t that into football, there’s always tennis and Wimbledon right now offers a more genteel alternative to the mania in Moscow. If neither small ball nor big ball satisfies, the Tour de France ticks the remaining boxes.

Today’s stage from to Lorient to Quimper glides past the citadel of Fort-Bloqué and through Pont-Aven, the city of the painters Paul Gauguin and Emile Bernard. The focus will be on Ménez Quélerc’h, a famous climb in Breton cycling, and the last 35km includes the medieval village of Locronan and the challenging côte de la chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Lorette.

Couch-based Tour fans are treated daily to spectacular landscapes steeped in history but what’s usually missing from the picture is the pain of the participants. Finlay Pretsell, the award-winning Scottish filmmaker, places pain at the centre of his film, Time Trial, and his anti-hero is Scottish-born David Millar, a Tour stage winner, who was suspended for doping in 2004. If the World Cup is ecstasy and Wimbledon is elegance, the Tour de France is human, with all the heroic and horrible facets of humanity exposed. Time Trial is a valuable contribution to our understanding of sport.


And then there were six

Saturday, 7 July, 2018

The tournament that began on 14 June with 32 teams is nearing its end on 15 July, but before we reach to the World Cup Final the quarter finals have to be sorted and they began yesterday and finish today. First, a recap.

True to our prediction, France defeated Uruguay in what was an uninspiring affair marked by the absence of the South American’s talismanic striker Cavani and a terrible error by their keeper, Muslera. Adios, Uruguay! What we didn’t predict, however, was Belgium beating Brazil. Big shock, that. The story, here, too, was very much one of striker and keeper, with the Brazilian star Neymar being denied decisively by the Belgian goaltender Courtois. Adeus, Seleção!

And, now, to today’s quarter finals. Candidates: England, Sweden, Croatia and Russia.

England vs. Sweden, Samara. Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (The Netherlands). It’s Captain Kane against the Nordic Giants. The big backs of Sweden are specialists in ensuring that goals are not given away and Harry Kane is all about bagging goals. So, can England figure out a way past the obstacle course, or are they doomed to run and run against the yellow-blue wall until exhausted? On the way to this appointment in Samara, England survived Colombia, while Sweden subdued Switzerland. Both games gave pundits plenty to chew on and our conclusion is that it will be tactical and it will be tough, but football will out. Verdict: England by a foot.

Croatia vs. Russia, Sochi. Referee: Sandro Ricci (Brazil). Croatia have the talent but Russia have the drugs, as one wag put it. The Croats beat Nigeria 2-0, thrashed Argentina 3-0, and crafted a 2-1 win over Iceland to clinch first place in Group D. But they looked ragged grinding out a 1-1 draw with Denmark, to force the game to extra-time and penalties. Despite some wonderful saves by Kasper Schmeichel, Croatia pulled off the win and now face the home side. Anything could happen in the heat and humidity of Sochi. Verdict: Croatia by an inch.

World Cup England