Forget The Cold War, The Summer Is Here

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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2nd cold war

The world breathed a great sigh of relief when the Soviet Union broke apart in 1991, but somehow we’re in the middle of another cold war that nobody wants or needs.

How did that happen?

As most things do, it all started with a huge mistake. That mistake was the West, particularly America, treating Russia like a defeated country after 1991, instead of the formidable nation that it still was despite the breakup of the USSR. Mikhail Gorbachev has acknowledged that fact.

Unfortunately Americans have no clue about foreign affairs and never have had. That, plus a ton of arrogance, led us to the Ukraine which America thought it could more or less capture as an ally to be slotted into NATO. They wanted a fully armed NATO nuclear arsenal on the Russian’s doorstep.

The Americans quite rightly didn’t like it when the Russians tried to do it to them in Cuba way back in the early 1960s, so what idiot thought that the Russians would like it when they did it to them?

Zbigniew Brzezinski

Whoever formulated the plan, it was heavily influenced by Zbigniew Brzezinski, former US National Security Advisor during President Carter’s administration. His theory was that the only way to prevent Russia becoming a great power again was to remove the Ukraine from its sphere of influence.

Thus America initiated an eastward expansion of NATO, using the EU to present the Ukraine with a choice between Russia and Europe. Some Ukrainians, like those in the Crimea favored Russia and others in other parts wanted closer ties with the EU.

Like many other countries, the prospect of joining the EU is attractive to a significant proportion of Ukrainians. But the way America tried to bring it about was just a step too far. The Ukrainian President, who had been duly elected, was removed in what would have been called a “coup d’etat” had it happened elsewhere, or had Russia been the culprit.

That is why a lot of the tensions between the West and Russia is centered on the internal troubles within the Ukraine.

If one looks into the history of the Ukraine another significant part of the puzzle presents itself.

ukraine-map

In much the same way as stupid English bureaucrats redrew borders in the Middle East without any consideration for the people who lived there, (for example, the Kurds), which resulted in wars and upheaval ever since, when the Soviet Union broke apart somewhere in the region of 25 million Russians were left outside the borders of Russia. A lot of them were in the Crimea in the Ukraine.

But the Ukraine had only been independent for three years in its history (1917-20), after the collapse of the tsarist armies.

The post-December 1991 Ukraine was thus a composite entity, its western regions had belonged to Poland between WWI and WWII; its eastern regions were Orthodox and Russian-speaking; and its Black Sea coast had been Ottoman.

The Crimea had never been Ukrainian until Nikita Khrushchev decreed it should be in 1954.

Thus, for anyone with any degree of understanding of foreign affairs, the troubles now being suffered by the various peoples in the Ukraine were both predictable and avoidable.

But the stupid bureaucrats in power were not able to predict it and thus the mess became inevitable.

Ukraine crisis

Sadly the situation has now deteriorated into what amounts to a civil war in the Ukraine. On one side there is the Ukrainian army plus “volunteer battalions”, supported by the US and its allies, and on the other the “separatist” militias who draw their support mainly from Russian-speakers in the east, and who are supported by Russia.

Outside of what is happening in the Ukraine itself, the US and EU implemented severe sanctions against Russia which have hurt, but not nearly as much as they were supposed to. In turn Russia announced counter-sanctions on food and looked to emerging markets, particularly China, to diversify its foreign trade and industrial cooperation.

And so the Cold War part two has begun and shows little sign of ending just yet.

In fact it looks like the Ukraine will remain in a mess until it gets its act together and decides whether it wants to remain on friendly economic terms with its huge neighbor Russia, or whether it will settle for becoming subservient to the whims of the US, via some kind of economic agreement with the EU.

It has a third option, though, perhaps its best option, and that is not taking sides, but rather remaining on friendly terms with both East and West.

However, they may never get the chance to choose option three. In plain language, I don’t think that the people who arrange assassinations and coup d’etats will let them do that.

Meantime, summer or not, the chill continues.

snow in summer sun

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The Conservatives Win The UK General Election!

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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UK General Election 2015

 

Like the last election in the UK, this one was a close run thing – but nowhere near as close as the pollsters predicted. At least this time there is an outright winner, the Conservative Party, with David Cameron still as Prime Minister.

No hung Parliaments, no dodgy coalitions between parties that obviously did not really like each other, and no more general elections for another five years.

Stability is always good.

Indeed the Conservative victory is already being seen as a positive step for the UK economy, with both shares and the pound sterling rising in value.

But during the next five years, although a degree of stability has been achieved, the UK is still in for challenging times economically.

Like the Unites States, the UK has been living well beyond its means for far too long. Eventually these delusions end in harsh reality. America will find this out too, but not until after their election next year.

austerity measures sign

 

At the start of the campaigning there was an unexpected degree of sense in being shown the two main parties. Election messages were warning of the need to cut spending, that Britain was still living beyond its means, and that there would be ‘difficult’ choices ahead.

However, as the election campaign progressed and the pollsters warned how tight the result was likely to be, all the political parties regressed into doing what they do best, regardless of what country they are in. In their desperation to get votes they ignored reality once again, started hiding the truth from their voters, and promised more goodies that the country can’t afford.

You know the sort of thing, better education, better health service, more jobs, etc., and to pay for it all less taxes.

Huh?

Yes, elections are full of ‘spend more and collect less’ promises.

In the non-political world we call them lies, because that’s what they are.

The smaller parties never suffered from the same restraints. Even from the beginning of their campaigns small parties like the Scottish SNP promised massive spending. They knew they would never be in a position to have to follow through on these boasts, but their message got out and, as always happens, many voters fell for it. The Scottish National Party (SNP) had a landslide victory in Scotland, winning 56 of the 59 seats – and all they promised was extra £180 billion ($280 billion) more spending over the next five years.

The two main parties soon countered with their own promises – the Conservatives talking about things like 30 hours of free child care a week for parents of 3 & 4-year-olds, no tax for people earning the minimum wage, an extra £8 billion (US$12 billion) for the National Health Service, free access to a doctor seven days a week, and a freeze rail ticket price increases for five years.

debt

 

On the face of it, the past five years have seen the UK economy growing, unemployment down below 6% and a booming housing market, particularly in the South East of the country. All part of the reason why the Conservatives have their victory.

But, returning to reality for a moment, Britain is now in the most debt it has been in, relative to its economy, since 1967. The financial crisis hit the UK hard. From 2009 to date, British government borrowing has been at a higher level than at any time since World War II.

The scariest part is that, whilst the governments all talked about “cuts” and “austerity”, not a penny of this money has been paid back.

And like American politicians, and others, they use deliberate deceit to cover their lack of progress. Well-worn phrases like “cutting the deficit” are designed to make people think that the government is paying back its debt, but in fact all that has been happening is that they have been borrowing a little less money this year than they did the year before.

If you are any good at math at all, you will know that in reality this means that the debt burden is increasing, not decreasing. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that Britain would, in all probability, not even begin to pay back its debts until sometime after 2020 – and that was even before all these new election promised of spending more!

eu referendum in uk

 

In addition to all that, one of the fundamental platforms that helped the Conservative Party to get elected was the promise of a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union. The result of that will have its own impact economically too.

Personally if I were them I’d drop the EU like a hot poker. For more than forty years Britain has been paying more into Europe than they have got out, a situation that is likely to continue as rafts of the poorer European nations continue to join.

So the next five years are shaping up to be very interesting for both Britain and America.

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Watch This Space!

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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classified space shuttle mission

Have you ever wondered what all those space shuttle flights were about? Not the headline grabbing ones, but all the others. Everybody is at it, the US, Russia, China, the EU….

That’s the ones we know about. There have been many others that are never publicized.

And then there is the question of what happens to whatever it is they put up there when they have served whatever purpose they were originally sent up there to do. They call that bit “space junk”. Except sometimes it isn’t junk at all. It only looks like it.

space junk

For example, the Russian government says it recently detected a group of satellites that are spying on Russia while orbiting the Earth camouflaged as “space junk”.

They made the announcement rather appropriately on April 12, which ever since 1961 is known as “Space Day”, when Russia commemorates Yuri Gagarin’s pioneering voyage into outer space.

There wasn’t so much junk about in his day. Now it is estimated that there are 100,000 objects orbiting planet Earth on any given day. So plenty of cover to hide your spies.

spy satellite

Apparently these ‘disguised-as-junk’ spy satellites are designed to collect signals from Russian telecommunications and other electronic systems.

So far the Russians aren’t saying who these junk satellites belonged to, or whether it had tried, or was going to try, to shoot them down or disable them.

Chinese junk

It would be rather appropriate given the name ‘junk’ if they turned out to be Chinese, but with America’s recent record for snooping on the whole world you’d find it hard to rule them out of the silent running.

Watch this space!

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I Spy With Your Little ‘i’ – A Free And Open Internet?

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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internet surveillance

When the internet was born it was a tool of the military establishment.

Then it broke out of that stranglehold and escaped into a world of freedom of expression and communication for everyone.

Never before had a system like this been available to the general public. Never before had it been so easy to find information, search for friends, communicate with groups with similar interests, etc. Its popularity was assured.

The world wide web developed at break neck speed, much too quick for the people who hate and detest freedom. They were confounded.

It was a free and open internet.

world wide web

So how could it ever go wrong?

Well, as with the financial crisis, when you dig down a bit you find the Clinton administration again as the culprit.

During the 1990s, when the World Wide Web was first being woven into social and cultural life, internet companies and corporate advertisers lobbied the Clinton administration to minimize privacy restrictions, so that they could re-engineer the Web to enable commercial surveillance of internet users.

The warnings of public interest groups were ignored as social networks, search engines, service providers and advertisers lobbied hard against even the smallest of efforts at data protection. Motivated by greed, they ensured that commercial surveillance would be pervasively integrated online. They are still at it today, that’s really what cloud computing services are all about.

A few thousand giant corporations, like Google, have become able to capture information every minute, of every hour, of every day, from everyone who uses the internet. And they can’t stop because their profit strategies totally rely on accumulating user data.

google for profit surveillance

Thus began the surveillance society. The government saw how easy this could now be done and began to catch up fast. If there was snooping to be done, they were not to be left out in the cold.

Until Edward Snowden, who had been a computer consultant working for a subcontractor to the US National Security Agency (NSA), copied several hundred thousand classified documents relating to surveillance programs being conducted by the US and its allies in the name of the war on terror, and sent them to journalists, nobody really understood the level of snooping that was going on.

Most of it was unnecessary, intrusive, unproductive and immoral, and after Snowden’s revelations nobody believed the United States government was totally innocent of any wrongdoing.

ennesssseh

Further revelations published since have helped to reveal a surveillance system that intrudes into almost every facet of our private lives. Privacy in fact is a thing of the past, unless you have the time, resources and knowledge to try to circumvent it.

If the government was only spying on the communications of foreign countries such as China, Russia, North Korea and Iran, and if it was confined to what could be termed ‘unfriendly’ nations and their agents throughout the world, then I don’t think anyone would mind so much. It’s a necessary evil in today’s world.

But unfortunately it doesn’t stop there. Friendly nations and heads of state, European institutions, the UN headquarters, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to name but a few, have all also come under the snooper’s gaze.

This has not only shown up the irresponsibility and arrogance of those in charge of the snoopers, and their lack of common sense and ethics, but it has also created even more ill will against the United States.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, an ally of the United States, was a victim of the snoopers. As a result of that revelation, the German government protested publicly its outrage. It also terminated its longstanding telecommunications service contract with Verizon, directing its business to Deutsche Telekom instead. Two weeks after that it expelled the head of US intelligence in Germany.

The President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, also took public stands against US privacy invasions. He, like Merkel, had also personally been a victim of the US snoopers.

Then the UN General Assembly voted unanimously to affirm online privacy as a human right, and in June 2014, responding to the EU, the US Justice Department had to promise to send legislation to Congress that would grant European citizens many of the (inadequate) privacy protections accorded to US citizens.

Bad enough not trusting your supposed ‘allies’, but US intelligence agencies have gone even further. Now they don’t even trust the decent, honest, hard-working citizens of America who have never broken any laws, nor have any intention of doing so.

prism

The Prism program, for example, allows the NSA to collect data from your emails, telephone conversations, contacts, videos, etc., from major US digital companies including Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.

The XKeyscore program uses several hundred servers distributed across the world to store information on the activities of every Internet user, including your emails, internet searches, the websites you visit, what you post on social networks, and blogs like this. (Whoops!)

The list goes on and on.

After Snowden’s revelations, commercial firms like Google, Facebook and others scrambled to distance themselves by professing outrage. Their protestations had little to do with political principle but a lot to do with ensuring they continued to make fortunes by collecting data on us.

The US Internet companies went on a public relations offensive, and also raced to reorganize their overseas operations, to reassure worried foreign customers that they were complying with local data protection measures.

IBM, for example, committed over a billion dollars to building additional data centers overseas, hoping to ease customer fears that their data was not safe from the US government’s surveillance. But then the US authorities demanded that Microsoft, which deploys more than a million computers in over 40 countries, hand over emails stored on its servers in Ireland. Data is not safe and private anywhere it seems.

Last week I wrote a post about the Facebook/US Army experiment in trying (successfully) influence how people thought. (Click here if you want to read it.)

And so it continues.

Personally I think it is a pity that the powers that be are able to devote time, energy and money against people who have done nothing wrong, yet seem unwilling to remove child pornography and other evils from the world wide web. But the latter would require a decree of decency and morals that is sadly lacking in those who direct such matters for the government.

The US has lost the moral authority to talk about a free and open Internet, because that free and open internet has already been destroyed.

No doubt there is worse to come.

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Anyone Feel A Chill?

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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The Sunday Sermon

USA-and-USSR-Flag

I know the summer is coming to a close, but the chill I’m talking about in this post is the one coming from the Cold War.

You remember it?

The thing that we though we had got rid of in 1992 when Daddy Bush said, “A world once divided into two armed camps now recognizes one, sole and pre-eminent power, the United States of America.”

That ended the Cold War and everyone was happy. America had won.

So why did it start again? And why did our politicians not have the gumption to avoid it?

Two pretty good questions, I think.

I suppose the answer is that it all started again because America desperately needs a bogey man – a global one, not some terrorist organization like Al Qaeda or ISIS.

It gives them a reason to keep the war machine going which is good for the economy.

It gives them the chance to tell the world that the choice they have to make is between America and Russia (in other words, between ‘good’ and ‘bad’).

good_v_bad

And indeed it used to be that way, when the Russian regime was hell bent on imposing their failed communist philosophy on the free world.

The problem is that America wasn’t content with winning. For some reason it felt it needed to win again.

This time it is trying to do so by bribing and coercing former Soviet satellite states into joining an economic and military (EU/NATO) alliance against Russia.

That has, understandably and predictably, provoked the Russians into once again flexing their muscles, the result of which we are starting to see in the Ukraine.

And so the Cold War begins again.

But it won’t be the same as the last one. Some things are very different.

This time America is bankrupt, not Russia, which on the contrary has massive wealth at its disposal. This time America is being perceived by the rest of the world as dithering and incompetent.

nsa-spying-scandal

And, thanks to the arrogance of organizations like the NSA, this time it is America, not Russia, who is perceived by the rest of the world as untrustworthy and untrusting of its allies. That’s quite the reversal of the old Cold War when it was the Russians who were notorious for listening in on conversations, bugging hotel rooms and the like.

In addition Russia is not currently bound to an outdated and failed communist dogma.

Despite all the bogus posturing of President Obama, who it seems can’t make up his mind to do anything, Russia will not allow NATO to set up shop in its backyard.

America has made a huge tactical mistake interfering so close to Russia. They are leaving Putin with little alternative but to do his own bit of posturing. The only difference is he means it.

When a bear is sleeping, poking it with a stick is never a wise move. Neither is trying to force it into a corner.

This time it may well bring consequences that none of us will like.

poking a sleeping bear

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Vlad The Bad?

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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The Sunday Sermon

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“It was the Russians, they’re the ones to blame.”

“It was Putin. He’s the baddie. We can’t let him get way with it!”

 malaysia-airlines-flight-mh17

So go the cries in the US in the aftermath of the shooting down of Air Malaysia Flight MH17 over the Ukraine.

And that was long before any of the facts had been collected and it was known who shot down a plane on a different continent, or why. 

Russia wants (virtual) control of the Ukraine. There isn’t really any doubt about that. For them it is a strategic imperative. Russia’s history has taught it that it needs to be able to control a vast amount of territory, if only to use as a buffer zone against invasion.

The situation is not helped by various US Presidents and Secretaries of State giving Russia assurances that they would not attempt to involve the peripheral former Soviet states in things like NATO – and then trying to do the exact opposite.

It is now widely accepted that the underlying reason for the unrest in the Ukraine and Russia’s reaction is because of US interference in that country, which included helping to overthrow its democratically elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, and replace him with someone who was a virtual puppet of the West.

That was just asking for trouble. And they should have known it.

And they will get trouble, probably much more than they bargained for.

Unfortunately that will impact on ordinary people, like us.

 Major_NATO_affiliations_in_Europe

Just as the US has its beady eyes on bringing the Ukraine and other former Soviet states into pro-Western organizations like NATO, it is equally certain that Putin will have his beady eyes on not only bringing the former Soviet states back firmly under Russian control, but in perhaps expanding his relationships with other parts of Europe.

Putin has the energy reserves to do it. Whilst there is very little in the way of direct trade between the US and Russia, particularly in regard to energy supplies, (Russia is just the United States’ 20th largest trading partner), Europe is largely dependent on Russian gas to keep it going. Over 30 percent of the European Union’s energy supplies come from Russia and the EU is Russia’s largest trading partner.

Russia’s counter strategy, therefore, will obviously be to use its considerable economic influence as leverage to try to break up the NATO alliance and to separate the European power house, Germany, from its Anglo-American alliance.

Putin is being helped by the arrogance of America’s government spooks who thought they could spy on their friends and allies, even going so far as tapping the phone of German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, without there being consequences.  

consequences

Prompted by leaks from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the fallout from America’s spying debacle continues, people have been arrested, and the German government has even ordered the local CIA station chief to pack his bags and leave the country.

Germany may still place some value on its relationship with the US, but not nearly so much as previously, thanks solely to America’s lack of respect for them.

Putin and his advisors know this, even if Obama and Kerry don’t. They see Germany as ready for change. And they may well be right. The German people are angry at the contempt America has shown for them  – just as Americans would rightly have been if the Germans had done the same to them and their President  –  and they are increasingly frustrated at the burden the European Union has become economically.

If the US doesn’t catch itself on and behave differently and with respect towards its foreign friends, it may find that there will be changes it did not expect and certainly did not want.

Kerry Putin Obama

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