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Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Navalny

The Russia wide protests organized by Navalny on June 12 were a flop.

This was not unexpected, given the lack of enthusiasm on social networks – in Moscow, there were 20% fewer people expressing interest in going to this event relative to the March 26th protest on Facebook. The earlier event had translated into 8,000 people, which is pretty much a “fail” so far as a 13 million population metropolis is concerned.

In the smaller Russian cities, where the June 12 protests went ahead as agreed with the local authorities, turnout was unimpressive, typically numbering in the low 100’s.

Pavel Gladkov has collected some photos (h/t melanf):

The protest in Novosibirsk, the third biggest Russian city (1.5 million) and unofficial capital of Siberia, gathered 2,000 people, which is about the same as in March.

Turnout has in general been similar to the March 26 rallies. This implies Navalny’s support on the streets – as in the polls – hasn’t improved since then.

Which, I suppose, explains why Navalny decided to sabotage his own protests in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg.

Quick recap:

The Moscow city authorities gave Navalny permission to stage a meeting at prospekt Sakharova, a relatively central and spacious location. In Saint-Petersburg, they offered a location at Udelnaya, which is less central, but still spacious and easily accessible by metro.

In the last few hours before the protests, Navalny made a location change, to Tverskaya in Moscow and The Field of Mars in Saint-Petersburg, both of which are at the very centers of those cities. Moreover, Tverskaya in particular was already hosting a massive historical reconstruction festival.

sakahrov-speakersBefore the protests, many observers, including myself, had expressed skepticism about Navalny’s claims that stage and sound suppliers had been pressured not to service his event. Navalny used this “insult” as the formal explanation for why he was moving the location of the protest.

However, the only evidence he provided was a phone conversation between two anonymous people. Moreover, as the liberal blogger Ilya Varlamov pointed out, why couldn’t he have bought speakers at a store and then returned/resold them?

Then on the day of the event itself it emerged that a sound and speaker system did emerge on prospekt Sakharova anyway, which should blow up anyone’s suspicion meter through the roof.

The weight of the evidence thus indicates that the sound and speaker blockade reason was bogus.

The likeliest alternative explanation is that Team Navalny, aware that attendance numbers were going to be unimpressive – in the event, an accurate assessment – decided that the only way to get into the news cycle would be to create an interesting spectacle for make benefit of Western cameras.

Unfortunately, due to the very low quality – or malicious competence – of the Western media, he largely succeeded in this, as RT’s Bryan MacDonald points out:

macdonald-crap-russia-journalismThen there were the blatant misrepresentations. Such as when New York Times’ bureau chief Neil MacFarquhar and Financial Times’ Eastern Europe Editor Neil Buckley both attempted to depict barriers clearly erected as props for the military history show as “traps” to impede protesters. Tweets they later deleted, in fairness. Nevertheless, this particular “fake news” tweet by the anti-Russia activist Alex Kokcharov has been shared hundreds of times, enjoying retweets from the likes of Economist magazine editor Edward Lucas and Anders Aslund of NATO’s Atlantic Council adjunct.

Almost every correspondent refused to tell followers how the event was “unsanctioned” and “illegal,” instead preferring to act as cheerleaders. Some examples included hacks from Foreign Policy, the Guardian, BBC and the Moscow Times. Meanwhile, Associated Press, the Washington Post, ABC and Fox all managed to omit any mention of the history festival in their reaction to the change of location.

And then there was CNN, always good for a laugh on this beat, breathlessly telling its viewers that hundreds of thousands of demonstrators could be mobilized. When in reality it was around 5,000 in Moscow.

Unfortunately for Navalny, the Russian electorate are not Western audiences, and these stunts are unlikely to work out well for him.

The March 26 meeting was an essentially harmless affair, perhaps a minor inconvenience to some Muscovites, but one that was adequately compensated by the entirely voluntary personal risk the protesters took by participating in an unauthorized gathering.

It was the protesters’ choice to come there and effect non-violent resistance (for the most part) in service of a cause they believed in. It was OMON’s choice to uphold the letter of the law and clear out an unsanctioned protest; they are well-compensated for their trouble. It was my own choice to risk arrest by covering it as a “citizen journalist” of sorts; as with Vincent Law, my greater fear is not getting arrested per se, nor the fines, nor a day or two in detention; it’s the fact of getting arrested at a Navalny protest.

The important thing is that the risk of innocent passersby getting caught up was minimal.

This time round, Navalny and his crew purposefully crashed a separate event where people wanted to cosplay historical battles, not participate in an actual one against the police. This would have been irresponsible and unethical course of action for anyone with pretenses to serious politics. That this was very likely based on a lie makes it outright disgraceful. These are the actions of a two bit rabblerouser.

For instance, here is one account of how Navalny supporters ruined the day of one reconstructor who wanted to show Muscovites how medieval Russians made decorative beads (h/t E for partial translation):

They [the liberals] yelled into the faces of myself, the musicians and historical reconstructionists that we were “traitors”, that what we’re doing is useless sh*t, that we should instead be having meetings, that we are paid-off varmints who were placed there in order to disrupt their meetings. To our protests that we’re teaching people crafts and history, we received the reply: “Nobody needs any of that sh*t! We need to have meetings and create a revolution!”. I really wanted to bash these people’s faces in, but people were yelling at us that we shouldn’t give in to provocation, because EVERYTHING was CONSTANTLY being filmed by dozens of cameras.

In the end, the programme continued after a several-hour interruption. Of course, I didn’t make any more beads, because I needed to heat up my oven again and there wasn’t much time left.
In one of the camps, they took down and broke a pavilion, and broke the tent in another. But the reconstructionists, having armed themselves with shields, saved the most important places from total destruction. I understand how difficult it must have been not to grab the spears and axes, as well.

By all rights, this should finally finish off Navalny’s portrayal of himself as a champion of honesty and transparency in politics.

As his recent interview with Ksenia Sobchak confirmed, this is a non too bright man who does not know elementary facts and figures about the state of the Russian economy or public health. He is a one-trick pony who is only any good on corruption, or at least coming up with catchy slogans about it. However, even on corruption, it just so often happens that Navalny’s demonstrated behavior is at odds with his purported principles and beliefs, with this latest episode being just the latest example.

That said, Navalny is undoubtedly extremely talented at playing the democratic martyr for the Western cameras.

Therefore, the main part of his constituency – Western consumers of CNN and Buzzfeed – will have to keep on wondering why the collapse of the Putin regime keeps failing to pan out for the nth time.

“Fake News” Fizzles on Arrival

The entire rigmarole around “fake news” is very curiously timed.

So far as I’m aware the general “theory” behind it was primarily developed in the past year or so by Peter Pomerantsev and Edward Lucas under the aegis of the Legatum Institute. Edward Lucas is a Russophobe even by the standards of Economist journalists (suffice to say that he seriously compares Putin to Sauron). Peter Pomerantsev is a journalist with a very murky biography who emerged seemingly out of nowhere to become a hugely influential voice in the Russia debate as a propagator of the “post-fact”/”post-truth” meme. In their August 2016 report “Winning the Information War,” they went so far as to suggest Islamist deradicalization programs as a template for dealing with “radicalized, pro-Kremlin supporters, those on the far left and the far right, and Russian speakers.”

In the past couple months, impartial arbiters of the truth like Facebook – the same company that was recently found to have censored conservative news source from its news feed – have seized upon and ran with this theme. The same media outlets that cheered on the Iraq War now wax lyrical about “post-truth politics.” The German bloc in the EU – the most prominent outpost of Atlanticism in our new Trumpist world – has spearheaded the adoption of an EU resolution against Islamic State propaganda and Russian information warrior (adopting wholesale the equivalence proposed by Lucas and Pomerantsev).

The latest prominent example is an “expose” of fake news sites by the Washington Post, one of the most widely shared articles on the planet in recent days that garnered accolades and RTs from hundreds of prominent journalists. Ironically for an article about fake news, their source is a group of (completely anonymous) “researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds” on a website with a private WHOIS profile and no detailed explanation of their methodology but who do want the FBI and DoJ to investigate the sites on their list for pro-Russia espionage. (Yes, The Unz Review makes the cut).

I am getting the distinct impression that this is a very well planned information operation that was that was meant to kick into high gear upon Hillary Clinton’s election, perhaps in conjunction with the “Russia bombed The Last Hospital in Aleppo” meme to set up the groundwork for a showdown in Syria (there are hints that this is indeed what Hillary Clinton was planning upon assuming the Presidency).

Given the extensive ties of Western intelligence services with MSM editors, as claimed by whistleblowers such as Udo Ulfkotte and Paul Barril, and the CIA’s allegiance to the “blue empire,” the direct involvement of Western intelligence services cannot be excluded.

But Trump threw a yuuuge! spanner into the works. The operation continued, carried along by inertia, but just as a snake that has had its head cut off it, its strikes became disjointed and flailing, unable to accomplish much. Hopefully we will just have to wait long enough to avoid getting accidentally bitten by the dismembered head before Trump clears out the trash and the Europeans get the memo that a new sheriff is in town.

Michael Weiss, The Neocon’s Neocon

In terms of content, the Weisses of this world are a dime a dozen. So why “expose” yet another neocon propagandist?

Because he is also very nasty, and very dangerous – as Richard Silverstein’s comprehensive profile of Michael D. Weiss, just published at The Unz Review, convincingly argues.

So far as (functional) psychopathy goes, he really is one of a kind in the world of journalism.

And if pushing kompromat up the Google rankings makes at least a few people think twice before associating with him too closely, then the effort will be worth it.

michael-weiss-with-jihadists

Weiss in his element.

I. The Making of a Neocon

The first thing one notices about Weiss is that he is a neocon propagandist.

Yes, to be sure, in 90%+ of cases, the two things are tautological. But Weiss really knows how to take it to the n-th level.

Despite knowing neither Russian nor Arabic nor Farsi, he has somehow – by somehow, I mean sponsorship by such doyens of the Pozocracy such as #NeverTrumper PNAC neocon Bill Kristol, exiled Russian crook Khodorkovsky, and Bill Browder – become an authoritative MSM voice on Russia, Syria, Iran, the war in Donbass, and many other geopolitical topics.

Here is a primer on Weiss from Mark Ames’ Pando profile of Peter Pomerantsev, a close associate of his:

During the late Bush years, Weiss worked for the neocon organ of Bill Kristol, the Weekly Standard; afterwards, Weiss headed up a neocon PR project, “Just Journalism,” which policed the English-language press for any journalism critical of Israel in the wake of its brutal war on Gaza in 2008-9. Then, as Syria descended into civil war, Weiss became one of the leading neocon warmongers pushing for America to invade Syria. Perhaps most troubling of all when it comes to Pomerantsev’s credibility — Weiss played a lead role in promoting the career of one of the most notorious academic frauds of our time, Elizabeth O’Bagy, the fake Syria “expert” whom Weiss teamed up with to argue for war in Syria. Apparently after O’Bagy was exposed as a fraud with no Syria credentials, Weiss skulked away, only to reappear with a new co-author—Peter Pomeranstev—and a new beat: Putin’s Russia. [The War Nerd wrote this excellent article on Elizabeth O’Bagy‘s strange & sleazy story.]

When he isn’t appearing on the Clinton News Network as an “expert” to tell everyone about Putin joining ISIS before appearing at academic conferences to wax lyrical about how Russia is a “post-modern dictatorship” where there is “no truth,” Weiss somehow finds the time to serve as editor of both The Daily Beast and The Interpreter.

The Interpreter is a blog dedicated to translating articles from the Russian media (read: Novaya Gazeta, Echo of Moscow, and other almost exclusively anti-Putin outlets), which has recently come under the auspices of the US state-controlled media organization the BBG (Broadcasting Board of Governors), whose main project remains that Cold War era mastadon, RFERL (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty). The RFERL is an organization so dedicated to Western values of free speech that they fired a strongly anti-Putin journalist, Andrey Babitsky, for having the temerity to report on Ukrainian war crimes.

It is in this context, in his capacity as editor of The Interpreter, that I had my first run-in with Michael Weiss.

II. The Russian Spectrum

At the time, I had set up and was trying to find financing for The Russian Spectrum (TRS), a project that aimed to make translations from the Russian press available to the Anglosphere (in other words, a kind of English-language Inosmi, a RIA project to make “free” Western media available for the delectation of information-deprived and Kremlin-brainwashed Russians (if one that has had rather unintended consequences).

https://twitter.com/strana_mechty/status/667477285881122816

If you look at the TRS archives, you will see translations from a variety of sources both pro- and anti-Putin, with the latter including Latynina, Kashin, Lev Gudkov, Yavlinsky, etc: http://akarlin.com/qualia/translation/

Though my skepticism of the Russian liberal movement is hardly a secret, my aim was to keep TRS broadly ideologically neutral by representing all points of view.

At the time I was interested in exploring avenues of cooperation with other projects that were interested in doing stuff similar to what I was doing, and as yet unaware of the extent to which Michael Weiss was… special, I wrote him the following email:

Dear Michael Weiss/Interpreter Staff,

It is great to see you making translations of the Russian press available for a wider audience. Regardless of one’s political views, that is an unquestionably positive and effective means of fostering more informed views and dialog on Russian politics and society.

As it happens, I have a similar project at The Russian Spectrum (though it is more narrowly focused just on the translation activity)….

Since we share a common interest in presenting “English Inosmi” services, I would like to propose a partnership or cooperation agreement to avoid needlessly duplicating work and expanding the range of translated pieces we both offer. …

Thank you for your consideration. I look forwards to hearing from you on what you think of this.

He refused, as I suspected he would, as was of course his complete right, and I treated the matter as done – until I got involved in a Twitter spat with him several months later.

During this “argument,” Weiss claimed that I was running around “begging favors” from him and threatened to publish my letter, gloating in the prospect of mr being discredited amongst my “Putinist chums.” So I was like, LOL, go ahead. Apparently, the idea that not all people operate by Bolshevik principles – of which neoconservatism is an outgrowth – must have been quite foreign to him.

https://twitter.com/michaeldweiss/status/374036171317186560

The banal reality is that my inroads into “Putinist” circles are in fact rather modest, so the harm he could have done by divulging these private communications was in any case negligible. And that was on the mistaken assumption that Weiss’ projections were correct – which they weren’t. The reality is that many “Putinist” institutions are in fact quite pluralist; RIA during its existence was an outright bednest of liberalism, and even “KGB TV” (aka RT) once took the decidedly unwise step of inviting Weiss to participate in one of their shows:

https://twitter.com/michaeldweiss/status/623882251298832384

However, as would soon become clear, my experience with Weiss was not an isolated one. Doxxing, blackmail, and character assassination are central tools in his “journalistic” repertoire.

And those tools are not limited to big people like Putin and  Trump, and big organizations like RT, that can roll with the punches and strike back.

III. Conservative Friends of Russia

In 2012, there was an effort by elements of the UK Conservative Party to improve relations with Russia under the umbrella of the short-lived Conservative Friends of Russia (CFoR) organization.

According to an acquaintance who was involved with CFoR at the time, Weiss sent an email to CFoR’s office posing as an investigative “journalist”  – but essentially demanding that they either come out in support of the Magnitsky Act, or get destroyed in the media.

The guy who was allegedly financing Weiss’ Russia project at the Henry Jackson Society at that time? None other than Bill Browder – the main sponsor of the Magnitsky Act.

Incidentally, since then, it’s become increasingly clear that Browder’s motives were far murkier – and more mercenary – than implied by the simple morality tale of justice for Magnitsky pushed by the Act’s sponsors. And he has expended a lot of effort – mostly successful – to gag a documentary film by (the anti-Putin liberal) Andrey Nekrasov, which made Browder out to be a liar:

Browder has thwarted Nekrasov’s previous attempts to show the film with threats of legal action. The first time, he intervened at the last minute to stop Nekrasov, with Blu-ray disc in hand, from showing it to an audience of European Union parliamentarians at the their headquarters in Brussels… Nekrasov told that his experience dealing with Browder “has been a bit depressing, to be frank.”

“What I discovered is how easy it is — if you have a lot of money — to basically gag somebody,” Nekrasov said.

In any case, CFoR apparently refused to accede to Weiss’ offer that could not be refused, and a defamation campaign by him and others in his circle, such as Sergey Cristo – the guy behind the Guardian plagiarist hack Luke Harding’s attack piece on CFoR – ensued. The specific allegations raised by Weiss were rather comprehensively rebutted by CFoR’s head Richard Royal; most amusingly, the “glowing biographies of Vladimir Putin” that were supposedly distributed at a CFoR event were, according to my source, actually copies of Richard Sakwa’s The Crisis of Russian Democracy – one of the most diligently researched and densely footnoted academic works on the Russian political system in the English language. In no conceivable universe could it be considered a Putin hagiography.

“[Weiss] lies and lies and is very aggressive,” concluded my source.

Unfortunately, as Patrick Armstrong pointed out, there are far more questions than can be answered – or to quote the famous Internet meme, “the amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it” – and so the CFoR came under immense political pressure and had to Shut Down (though it later reappeared as the Westminster Russia Forum, and played a key role in the campaign to reward medals to British veterans who participated in the Arctic Convoy missions in World War 2).

IV. Sundry Other Episodes

I never bothered actively following Weiss, even back when I was on Twitter. That said, at least three additional episodes of his misadventures came to my attention (at the very least I found them on my timeline while researching this article).

(1) Doxxing the “pro-Assad” and “pro-Putin” troll @LibertyLynx.

https://twitter.com/michaeldweiss/status/739567296839045120

The irony is that @LibertyLynx is absolutely nothing of the sort; she has, in fact, along with comrade-in-arms Craig Pirrong (aka Streetwise Professor) been consistently and in the past – virulently – anti-Putin. Moreover, she and I have something of a “history” and thus I can’t be said to have any particularly compelling reasons to take her side. That said, in the past 1-2 years she appears to have moderated in this regard, having come to be unnerved by rampant neocon warmongery and hypocrisy (including in Syria).

This appears to have upset Michael Weiss very much, inciting him and his Interpreter associate the mentally deranged Catherine Fitzpatrick (she literally believes using open-source software like WordPress is “technocommunism” and therefore theft) to advance the conspiracy theory that @LibertyLynx was in fact a sockpuppet of Craig Pirrong and/or Rachel Marsden (!). Conveniently, Weiss made sure to delete those allegations of his before posting the doxx of @LibertyLynx.

https://twitter.com/asherahresearch/status/739618682498863104

(2) Insinuating that Maram Susli, aka @Partisangirl – an Assad supporter, as is perfectly her right as an emigre Syrian woman, and by extension one of the foremost proponents of secularism in Syria on social media – was a terrorist suspect under surveillance by Australian intelligence.

This is coming from a guy who regularly pals about with moderate jihadists(TM):

(3) There is also an extensive account from Irish journalist Bryan MacDonald about his run-ins with Weiss and his Interpreter associate James Miller.

Later in 2014, I wrote a couple of op-eds for RT on and Ben Judah. Both centred on erroneous, factually deviant articles they had written. At no point did I cast aspersions on their private lives, the very thought would have been abhorrent. Around this time, Weiss, a close associate of that pair, began to make obnoxious tweets of a personal nature, directed at me. Miller then emailed me a list of questions, which essentially asked me to “prove you are not a spy” and tagged Weiss on the correspondence. I later sent Weiss a few similar posers so he’d see how ludicrous it was.

Then a “hit piece” appeared on the Interpreter blog, written by James Miller and the same Robert Schultz, making all kinds of wild allegations. The whole thing was so ludicrous that nobody with a brain could possibly have taken it seriously. It essentially alleged that I was a Russian spy who had lied about my background. It also slandered the same ex of mine, calling her a “porn star” and was obsessed with the fact that I changed the spelling of my name for work reasons.

It gets a lot worse:

Right on cue, the Twitter attacks resumed. Then the phone calls started up again. One ‘gentleman’ phoned the local newspaper in the town where I grew up looking for information about me. I last wrote for them in 1998. Someone then called my mother, at home, asking questions. This made me extremely angry because my mother was very sick at the time and it greatly distressed her. She, sadly, died a few months later. I’m not sure what these scumbags were hoping to achieve by harassing my poor mum.

These are the people whom American taxpayers effectively employ following The Interpreter’s partnership with RFERL.

V. We Have Yet to Hit Bottom

Go read Richard Silverstein’s profile of Michael Weiss.

All the above was just the tip of the iceberg.

There are good reasons to believe Weiss is substantially responsible for an American citizen wrongly ending up in an Iranian jail in his zeal to torpedo the US-Iranian nuclear deal.

Here are the most important bits:

Another puzzling, problematic author Weiss brought to the magazine was “Alex Shirazi” (a pseudonym). Until he published his first piece in July 2015 (a month after Weiss took on his new editorial role) under a joint byline with Weiss, there is no online record that “Shirazi” ever existed.

In preparation for his second [Daily Beast] article, “Shirazi” first approached Iranian-American oil executive Siamak Namazi, while the latter was visiting Iran in June 2015. At that time, the “journalist” did not reveal his real identity to his subject. He e-mailed a list of questions he wished Namazi to answer about the supposed financial benefits the Iranian regime offered his family.

The nature of the questions alarmed Namazi and members of his family Shirazi also contacted. As a result, they contacted Shirazi’s editor, Weiss, requesting that he review the questions himself, suggesting that they were unfair and even libelous. Weiss declined to intervene, so Namazi escalated his concerns to managing editor, John Avlon. He warned the Daily Beast executive that such an article was likely to harm both him and his family. All this was to no avail.

Within a week of receiving Shirazi’s inquiry, Namazi was stopped at the airport by Iranian security officials and refused permission to leave the country. Several months later, in September, DB published Shirazi’s profile, and within a month Namazi was in the notorious Evin Prison. This raises the strong probability that Iranian hardliners were monitoring either Shirazi or Namazi’s e-mail accounts, and that the questions and implicit accusations raised in the messages were exploited by Iranian intelligence officers to implicate Namazi.

Who is Siamak Namazi? His good friend, Reza Marashi, wrote this appreciation of him in Huffington Post:

He helped run a world-renowned consulting firm – staffed predominantly with Iranian-born citizens – that facilitated badly-needed foreign investment from blue-chip multinational corporations.

Neither money nor power was ever a driving force behind Siamak’s work. It was the indigenous development of his motherland that motivated him. Siamak wanted Iran to live up to its vast potential, and he was at the forefront of teaching international best practices and standards in business and management to scores of young Iranians. The pride on his face was always evident when his employees would move on to successful careers across a variety of fields in Iran.

…As U.S. sanctions were causing medical supply shortages in Iran, he independently researched and published what became the authoritative literature on the subject. I was in the audience when he presented his findings in Washington DC. As Siamak began to describe the disastrous impact of sanctions on innocent Iranians, he choked up, paused for a moment, composed himself, and then proceeded to finish his presentation. That’s how much he loves the country that is currently keeping him in prison.

To reinforce the ominousness of the charges against Namazi, the graphic art accompanying the DB article consisted of a series of shady-looking Arab militants sporting beards, long hair, a turban and sunglasses. The image is a cross between an Arab playboy and an ISIS fighter. No one in Iran dresses this way…

The main contention implicit in the headline was itself wrong on several counts. Neither Siamak nor his family are “behind” the so-called “Iran Lobby.” Nor is the Iranian-American NGO attacked in the article, the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC) “America’s Iran Lobby.”

A common smear tactic of DC Beltway neoconservatives and the Iranian cult group, Mujahadeen e Khalq (MEK) has been to label NIAC a stooge of the Iranian regime. In reality, NIAC is a completely independent, nonpartisan organization.

Ironically, Aipac, a group heartily supported by those like Eli Lake, Kenneth Timmerman and Weiss who’ve attacked NIAC, is far more of a slavish booster of the Israeli regime than NIAC is of the Iranian regime.

Among Iranian-Americans, there has been a great deal of speculation about “Shirazi’s” real identity. A number of them have noted that shortly before his DB article was published a very similar post appeared in a Farsi-language blog written by a former Iranian journalist and activist, Nikahang Kowsar.

Iranians I spoke with believe Kowsar hates the Iranian regime so much, he hopes the hardliners will come to power. Then, it will be that much easier to promote a western attack on Iran that would topple the regime. So in a terribly perverse way, his interests coincide with those of the hardliners.

In the course of interviewing Iranian sources for this profile, one told me that the author “Shirazi” approached him with questions about the Namazi family. In the course of the e mails that went back and forth, “Shirazi” slipped up and forgot to use his fake e mail address. Instead, he used his real email address and name: Nikahang Kowsar.

The most profound irony of the entire episode is that a group of neocon polemicists, in an attempt to defame NIAC, have used the Namazi family as a sacrificial goat. The parallel force on the Iranian side, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and other hardliners, have exploited this struggle for their own purposes. …

It’s also ironic that both Kowsar and the Iranian hardliners detest NIAC, and for similar reasons. They each detest the nuclear agreement as they detest any rapprochement in relations between Iran and the west. Inside Iran, the extremists even call NIAC and figures like Siamak “infiltrators.”

Perhaps the ultimate irony of this affair is that Michael Weiss and his neocon comrades, in their desperation to sabotage U.S.-Iran relations have made common cause with the most hardline and vicious of Iran’s clerical regime. They make for very strange bedfellows.

VI.

Or maybe not so strange after all. Birds of a feather flock together, and the totalitarian sees another totalitarian from afar.

We are not merely dealing with an eloquent and well-connected ideologue. This is a psychopath who views the world through a Manichean prism, in which you are either with him or you are subhuman scum, to be smeared into oblivion even if your disagreements with him are ultimately quite modest, as with @LibertyLynx, or tricked and utilized for the Great Cause should the opportunity present itself (as with the hapless idealist Namazi).

As James Carden pointed out in an investigative essay in The Nation, his attitude towards the media is profoundly McCarthyite:

The authors call for the creation of an “internationally recognized ratings system for disinformation” that would furnish news organizations and bloggers with the “analytical tools with which to define forms of communication.” While they throw in an obligatory caveat that “top-down censorship should be avoided” (exactly how is left unexplained), they nonetheless endorse what amounts to a media blacklist. “Vigorous debate and disagreement is of course to be encouraged,” the authors write, “but media organizations that practice conscious deception should be excluded from the community.”

What qualifies as “conscious deception” is also left undefined, but it isn’t difficult to surmise. Organizations that do not share the authors’ enthusiasm for regime change in Syria or war with Russia over Ukraine would almost certainly be “excluded from the community.” Weiss, for instance, has asserted repeatedly that Russia is to blame for the July 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. But would a news organization like, say, The Atlantic or Der Spiegel be “excluded from the community” for writing about a German intelligence report that indicated the missile in question did not come from Russia? Would journalists like Robert Parry be blacklisted for questioning the mainstream account of the tragedy? Would scholars like the University of Ottawa’s Paul Robinson be banned from appearing on op-ed pages and cable-news programs for challenging the notion that there is, in the words of Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, “no civil war in Ukraine,” but rather a war “started and waged by Russia”?

Weiss and Pomerantsev accuse the Kremlin of “making deception equivalent to argumentation and the deliberate misuse of facts as legitimate as rational persuasion.” Maybe so. But these tactics are hardly unique to the Kremlin. In December, a group of Kiev parliamentarians presented photographs to the Senate Armed Services Committee purporting to show Russian troops and tanks invading eastern Ukraine. Subsequent reports revealed that the images had been taken during the Russian-Georgian war in 2008. Did the Interpreter denounce the Ukrainian delegation for trying to pass off doctored photos? No. Its warnings about disinformation cut only one way.

Incidentally, Pomeranstev, a close associate of Weiss and the rest of the yuppie neocon circle (Ben Judah, Ioffe, Applebaum, etc), in a recent report co-authored with Edward Lucas, argues for equating pro-Russian views with those of radical Islam:

A third proposal in this report is perhaps even more bizarre. Citing efforts to deradicalize Islamic militants, Lucas and Pomerantsev write that, ‘Similar initiatives should be undertaken with radicalized, pro-Kremlin supporters, those on the far left and the far right, and Russian speakers.’ Are they suggesting anti-brainwashing programs for people who watch RT or read Russia Insider? I really don’t know what to make of this.

You’ve made it this far down this article? Report to your nearest soma dispensation station immediately, citizen!

What are the ideological roots of Weiss’ totalitarian instincts?

Weiss lists as his special heroes Karl Marx, Irving Howe (a bit of a clash there between the founder of Communism and an ardent anti-Communist), and George Orwell. Among the surprising things this future neocon endorses is “socialized healthcare.”

How… Orwellian.

The Soviet dissident Sergey Dovlatov’s aphorism is rarely more appropriate: “After communists, most of all I hate anti-communists.”

Poland Can Into Putinization?

protect-your-women-not-our-democracy

Protect your women, not our democracy. – Polish volleyball fans to German colleagues.

From the Polish media we learn that German authorities ordered the destruction of CCTV evidence of the Cologne attacks.

We know that the Polish media cannot be trusted because Law and Justice (PiS) has been busy stacking the state media overseeing with its own cronies. To be sure the previous pro-EU leftist government had done the exact same, but that is okay because it was done in pursuit of the goals of social justice. As exemplified by, say, the German and Swedish media, which have been ordered at the highest levels to avoid reporting on minor political issues, such as the mass rape of their own women by refugees. What refugees? What rape? What Turkish sponsorship of ISIS? Hey, look over there – isn’t Julian Assange a chauvinist pig for not wearing a condom during consensual sex?

This has nothing to do with corruption adn authoritarianism because Germany is 12th and Sweden is 5th on the world’s press freedom index according to Reporters Without Borders. The RSF is a very respectable Western NGO, almost as respectable as Freedom House even, and their rankings are completely true and objective. If you disagree you are uninformed at best or more likely some kind of conspiracy theorist or pro-Russian troll.

Speaking of whom, this is nothing more or less than a full-fledged Putinization of Poland. We know this is true – and bad, of course – because EU Parliament Chief Martin Schulz says so. Schulz is a high school dropout who, according to Haarez, believes that “the new Germany exists only in order to ensure the existence of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.” In other words, he is a glowing representative of the European political class and everything he says should be taken at face value.

Moreover, we learn from Anne “Putin Stole My Wallet” Applebaum that pro-Russian “trolls” are in Poland now working for the nationalist Right.

Unfortunately, it has long been established that going by Anne Applebaum’s definitions, her husband Radek Sikorski is one such troll, having tired of giving the Americans free blowjobs. (Though presumably purely metaphorical, one can hardly fault him for his imaginative phrasing, given his domestic circumstances).

Of course Radek Sikorski is also infamous as a hawkish hardliner on Russia amongst Civic Platform, via his connections to the Atlanticist neocon crowd, to say nothing of the PiS nationalists who are governing Poland now. The idea that Russia purposefully orchestrated the 2010 Smolensk crash that wiped out half the Polish government is taken as conventional wisdom amongst its ranks.

So in fact pro-Putin Russia trolls are supporting the most anti-Russian elements of the Polish political spectrum. And if US intelligence services are to be believed, financing them. We know that this is credible because the US is above that kind of thing itself and the idea that any civilized democratic country would finance political and media forces that promote its interests is utterly proposterous that only a pro-Russian troll could believe in. Though as we established above, the Polish nationalist recipients of Russian support and financing are themselves pro-Russian trolls.

Although as Anne Applebaum sardonically noted, the Russian press “worries” about the “Putinization” of Poland.

So in other words, this makes the Putin-controlled media the sole group who are… not pro-Russian trolls?? Frankly it’s well nigh impossible to figure out who’s trolling who by this point.

In case this isn’t obvious yet, unwrapping the logical loops around this zrada/peremoga conundrum (Poland version) is an exercise in futility, because there is no logic behind it. Amongst a clique that includes “thinkers” who blame Putin personally for the theft of their wallets and journalists who compare Russia to Mordor things could hardly be otherwise.

In reality, things are rather more prosaic.

(1) Russians by and large don’t care for Polish nationalists, but considering that most of their energies are going to be expended bickering with the EU, there is no reason not to passively support them.

(2) Even nationalist Poles realize that the biggest imminent threat to Poland is not Russian tanks advancing on Warsaw or even a return to dictatorship (i.e. a right-wing government dismantling the “adminstrative resource” that the previous left-wing government had built up) but the waves of Third World immigrants the likes of Merkel and Schulz are determined to enrich Europe with.

Russian Reaction

russian-reaction

So who are you and why should I read you?

I am a businessman, journalist, and talentless PhotoShopper based in the SF Bay Area. My blogging career began in 2008, when I perceived an increasingly absurd discrepancy between the doom-mongering rhetoric of the Western media towards Russia, which painted it as a “weak,” “dying,” and “finished” country in between hysterics about Putin’s plans to subjugate Middle-Ear- oops, I mean Europe… and its rather mundane and mediocre reality.

I launched my first blog with the intention of clearing up these myths not so much because they were Russophobic as because they were logically implausible or just factually wrong. Personally, the thing I’m most proud of there was modeling and correctly predicting Russia’s demographic turnaround. It is not an exaggeration to say I was a lone voice in the wilderness on this question in 2008.

I will not go into any further detail, because many of you will either be already familiar with my Russia blog, or simply uninterested. If neither of that applies to you, please feel free to explore my extensive, hand-selected posts archive here: http://darussophile.com/start/

Soon my interests soon began to extend well beyond the Eurasian carapace into topics such as geopolitics, futurism, and psychometrics. I found it expedient to launch a second blog to explore these topics. I started reading Steve and Razib. I leafed my way through the Index Librorum Prohibitorum of our days – books by Murray and Rushton, Lynn and Jensen – and found the case for human biodiversity to be near incontrovertible. I started exploring the ways in which human biological differences might have influenced history (e.g. the classic puzzle of why the Industrial Revolution began in NW Europe), affected the present (e.g. why are rich countries rich and poor countries poor?), and what they could portend for the future of our civilization (e.g. will China manage to converge to First World living standards? Will India? Will Russia? Will Africa?). And what practical lessons can we draw from these findings in areas from immigration policy (probably restrict it) to the welfare state (surprising wide range of legitimate arguments)?

It is through these online debates and discussions that I first encountered Ron Unz.

We met at the somewhat arcane intersection of Chinese academic performance, the urban/rural IQ divide, and the Flynn effect. Why are East Asian IQs seemingly so much more resilient than European IQs to negative socio-economic influences? Could it be an artifact of poor sampling? Or maybe we were just comparing the wrong tests? On the other hand, Unz’s theory conflicts with historical anecdotal data, and opens up an additional can of worms in the sense that it makes the question of why China didn’t have an Industrial Revolution first all the more puzzling. But the balance of evidence swings one way then another. In the 2012 PISA, Vietnamese students did as well as the Germans and almost two (!) standard deviations better than the Indians had done in 2009, even though Vietnamese per capita incomes are at India’s level and nowhere near Germany’s. That’s some major support for Unz’s theory of the East Asian Exception!

This particular debate encapsulates what I find so entrancing about HBD and psychometrics. They have immense explanatory power. Nothing else explains why the wealth of nations is so unevenly distributed, or why China started growing so fast after it threw away its Maoist shackles, quite as well and convincingly. But they also open up new conundrums almost as soon as the old ones are resolved.

My blogging fell to near zero in 2014 as I concentrated on real life(TM) things. But I missed the old days of blogging and the indepth research that went into it; quickfire exchanges on Twitter were no substitute. By a happy coincidence, Ron emailed me with an offer to join The Review just as I was about to sit down and update my websites in preparation for resumed blogging.

He believes that my interests in HBD/psychometrics, geopolitics, and Eurasia tie in well with the general themes of The Review. I sure think (hope?) so too, and for my part I am am honored to work with him, and alongside Razib and Steve, two bloggers I have long followed and respected, and the many other great and wonderful columnists who call The Review their home. I am looking forwards to this.

Why the Russian Reaction?

I am a Russian reacting to things. And many people would call me a reactionary. (Though I am broadly sympathetic to NRx, I don’t formally identify with them. They have too many unsubstantiated ideas, like their strange hard-on for monarchy, and rejection of climate change science. It is an ideology like any other and virtually all ideologies have their own specific blinkers).

What are you going to write about?

I will aim to produce about one post per day spread across the following major topics:

  • HBD and Psychometrics – Analysis of topical news from this perspective. New research papers. My own theories/connections between this and various aspects of world politics and history.
  • Geopolitics and the Ukrainian conflict.
  • Russian politics, economics, demography; its portrayal in the Western media.

Apart from this I will also occasionally do book reviews and write posts about futurism, transhumanism, energetics, ancestral health, biohacking, SJW insanities, topical scandals like Gamergate, and other topics that interest me (and hopefully at least some of you).

Where else can I follow you?

  • @akarlin88 on Twitter.
  • Subscribe to me on Facebook (nothing personal… but please don’t Friend me unless I know you).
  • I have some vague plans to start doing YouTube videos. Will update if it happens.

Otherwise, I am working on a book tentatively titled APOLLO’S ASCENT, about the role of intelligence in world history. My basic thesis is that the rate and global distribution of technological and, consequently, economic progress is strongly dependent on the absolute numbers of literate, high-IQ people. Naturally, it ties in quite strongly with the themes I will be blogging about, so I’ll definitely be throwing a lot of ideas out of it here (and your ideas… into it?).

What is your moderation policy?

It is not my choice, but premoderation is system-wide on this website. That said, it does allow me to add exceptions, so I’ll be continuously doing that.

I rarely censor/ban. When I do, it will almost inevitably be for one of the following reasons:

  • Particularly gratuitous ad homs, personal attacks, and/or slander against me or other commentators.
  • Spam.
  • Idiotic unfunny trolling. I tolerate intelligent trolling, and I tolerate funny trolling. But if you are neither intriguing us nor entertaining us, then you are just taking up space. Go do it elsewhere.
  • SIFs (Single Issue Fanatics). You know that one guy who goes on and on and on about the Federal Reserve, the Rothschilds, and how 9/11 was carried out by the Bilderberg Group? Without the option of downvoting him into well-deserved oblivion, like you can do on Disqus, there is no choice but to eradicate his ramblings so that the rest of us sheeple can have a normal conversation.
  • Crude ethnonationalist propaganda (including Holocaust denial). What is the difference between racism and race realism? Half Sigma: “The race realist understands The g Factor, The Bell Curve, and other works of scientific research. The racist apparently thinks that because Barack Obama is half black, it’s impossible for him to have a significantly higher g than John McCain.” I specifically allowed this comment from “David” to use as an example of what I do not want to see here. If you insist on polluting the comments thread with rants about “WHITE EXTINCTION AND WHITE GENOCIDE,” I am certain you would find a more appreciative reception at a certain weather-related forum.

I am absolutely sure that the above will not concern 99%+ of you. But it’s always good to get these things clear straight off the bat.

Anything else?

That’s it. The Russian Reaction begins now.

The World Russia Forum 2013

This June I had the pleasure of once again attending and speaking at the World Russia Forum. The event now happens twice a year, in Washington DC and Moscow, and is intended to draw together Russian and American experts, academics, journalists, and policy-makers in an effort to improve relations between these two nations. An account of it, and the subsequent reception at the Russian Embassy to mark Russia Day, follows below:

1 - me in DC

It was raining with near monsoonal intensity when I disembarked off the train*. I have no complaints; these downpours dispel the sultry oppressiveness inherent to a city originally built on swampland, so far as I was concerned the more rain the merrier.

2 - al jazeera bus

The Qataris sure know how to get their message out!

3 - hotel gathering

Four of the WRF’s speakers in the hotel dining room. From left to right: Pamela (Patrick’s wife); Martin Sieff; Patrick Armstrong; William Dunkerley; your humble servant.

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The Western Media’s War Against Cyprus And Russia

If you ever manage to get a troupe as diverse as Latynina, Mark Adomanis, the Cypriot Communist Party, virtually every financial analyst, Prokhorov, and Putin united in condemning your crass stupidity and cack-handedness, it’s probably time to stop and ponder. But it’s safe to say that’s not what the Troika – the European Commission, European Central Bank, and IMF – tasked with managing the European sovereign debt crisis is going to be doing any time soon. They seem to be living in la la land.

Here is the low-down. Contrary to German/ECB propaganda, Cypriot public finances, while nothing to write home about, are not in a catastrophic state. The debt to GDP ratio, far from ballooning out of control like Greece’s, was actually lower than Germany’s as late as 2011! This was despite Cyprus being steadily hammered by the global financial crisis and the massive explosion at a naval base in 2011 that cost it about 10% of its GDP.

cyprus-debt-dynamics The main problem was in its financial sector. Although it should have been safe on paper, Cypriot banks had the bad fortune to have had many operations in Greece – which hemorrhaged money as Greek debts were restructured under EU guidance. These involved painful austerity, but the principle that bank deposits would be inviolable held across the PIIGS. But for Cyprus, the Eurocrats – egged on by Schäuble in particular – decided to make an exception, demanding a “bail-in” as part of any financial rescue package. For the ultimately trifling sum of $6 billion, they were prepared to erode basic principles such as sanctity of property that the EU is founded on.

According to Edward Scicluna, the Maltese Finance Minister, his Cypriot counterpart Michalis Sarris was for all intents and purposes brow-beaten into accepting the deal – a 6.75% levy on deposits of less than 100,000 Euros, and 9.9% on everything above that – that the country’s parliament would later decisively reject. The Europeans, according to him, were dead-set on “downsizing” Cyprus’ supposedly overgrown financial sector and in particular its status as a tax haven and alleged center of Russian money laundering. After 10 grueling hours of discussions, Sarris finally conceded, and as soon as that happened, “Schäuble demanded that all wire transfers to and from the Cypriot banks would cease forthwith.”

In other words, they wished to destroy Cyprus’ financial system, and it seems certain that they have succeeded in this. As soon as the banks reopen (now delayed until at least May 26th), who exactly will continue to keep their deposits in a Cypriot bank?

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So Who’s The New Clown At The Economist’s Russia Desk?

I really did think it was getting better there under Joshu Yaffa, certainly it’s not typical of him to write such vitriolic but more importantly factually inaccurate articles. Let’s hope the world’s sleaziest magazine was getting one of their old-timers to file for him that day, instead of representing the start of a new descent into Lucasian raving.

As usual, I will ignore the emotive and hyperbolic language which starts from the get go with the title “Herod’s Law“. Though I would note from the outset that The Economist would never in a million years use similar terms to describe, say, the child victims of the US drone wars. That is because its main function is to serve as a mouthpiece of the Western ruling class.

So here is the list of its lapses in journalistic integrity:

(1) Citing only anti-Kremlin figures: Alexei Venediktov (of Echo of Moscow), an opposition deputy, and an organization headed by Kudrin. No honest attempt is made to question the (57% of) Russians who support the law.

(2) Extremely and almost certainly willfully misleading usage of statistics:

Over the past 20 years American families adopted 60,000 Russian children with 19 recorded deaths among them. Adoption in Russia is relatively rare. Even so, in the same period 1,500 adopted children died in Russian families.

Thanks to Charles Clover, the 1,500 figure very likely originated from a release by the Public Chamber of the RF that argued against the idea that foreign adoption is dangerous. But the Economist did not see it fit to give the full quote (my bold for emphasis):

According to data from Russian experts, in the past 20 years US citizens adopted nearly 60,000 Russian children; during this period, 19 children died by the fault of their adopted parents. In the same period, in the families of Russian citizen adopters, there died nearly 1,500 children.

See what they did there? Needless to say, the numbers of children dying by the “fault of their adopted parents” vs. the numbers who just died (by other murderers; by house fires, traffic accidents, medical complications, etc) are IN NO WAY COMPARABLE! And yet the Economist misleading treats them as the same.

In addition, it is subtly implied that per capita risk may be even greater than the impression generated by the absolute numbers. In reality as I already pointed out adoptions by Russians with the exception of two years have always exceeded foreign adoptions (of which Americans account for one third):

What’s more, the 19 recorded cases mentioned may well be – indeed, are quite likely to be – underestimates, because tracking mechanisms for Russian adoptees in the US are poorly developed (indeed, this was one of the main issues of contention between Russia and the US on adoptions).

(3) Internal contradictions: This is literally one of the most hilarious, keep-your-head-in-a-vise texts I’ve read this week:

Having acquired considerable wealth and freedom of movement, Mr Putin’s elite is growing increasingly tired of his rule. Whereas before he offered wealth and impunity in exchange for loyalty, he now demands that they take sides in the Magnitsky case, a sacrifice that could yet jeopardise their position in the West. Instead of uniting the elite behind him, this could turn more people against him.

So “more people” (57% of whom, BTW, support the Dima Yakovlev Law) are going to turn away from Putin… because his actions threaten the yachts and villas of “Putin’s elite” in the West??

The reaction would be just the opposite because that “elite” is loathed and despised, whereas Putin has overwhelming popular approval. Only a moment’s thought would reveal the absurdity of The Economist’s statement, however I suppose there is no time for reflection when there is a propaganda hit piece to be written.

(4) Edit – this is a new addition. This is the photograph the Economist uses to demonstrate this “Herod’s Law.”

It is captioned “One of the victims of a shameful law.” Thing is, however, that there is a WAITING LIST for adopting children under the age of 3 by Russian citizens. As such using this photo of a toddler to illustrate the piece together with the caption is nothing more than blatant and cynical emotional manipulation.

Blast From The Past: What Jim Rogers Said About Russia In 2003

This guy isn’t as clear-headed as Eric Kraus, is he? But does have company in the form of Andrew Miller, Jeffrey Tailer, “Streetwise Professor”, and Ed Lucas. H/t Mark Adomanis.

—– Original Message —– 
From:
 Dmitry Alimov 
To:
 [email protected] 
Sent:
 Friday, September 12, 2003 11:28 PM 
Subject:
 Conversation with Jim Rogers – HILARIOUS

Jim Rogers, a famous international investor and writer attended HBS this Wednesday. In his speech, he badmouthed Russia (in his usual style) and quoted several “facts” that were completely bogus. As you would expect, I could not let him get away with lying about our country and publicly disputed his factual claims. He basically told me I was a moron and left. In response, I sent an email to him with facts and references disputing his claims (sending a copy to my HBS classmates). What ensued is quite amazing – read attached emails. Start with the first email and read from the end (my original email), then read his response and finally my rebuttal in the second email. This will be worth your time I promise. This has already been circulated all over HBS, several other universities and in the investment community in New York. Since this is already in public domain, feel free to forward on.

Dima
__________________________________________________

Dear Mr. Rogers: I am the “lad” who disputed your factual claims with regard to Russia today. First of all, I would like to thank you for speaking to us at the Harvard Business School.  I think I speak for my fellow HBS students when I say that we enjoyed your original views and interesting stories today. However, I must address the unfortunate reality that your facts about Russia are plain wrong. You made three principal inaccurate claims today – I will deal with all of them in sequence.

Claim #1.  People are leaving Russia

Wrong.  In fact, according to Financial Times, your favorite newspaper, Russia turns out to be the second largest recipient of immigrants after the US (see attached FT article). Oops. While it is true that Russia’s population is declining but the reasons for that have nothing to do with people leaving the country, it is things like low birth rate (only 1.2 per woman), which is an issue that confronts many European states.

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Books I Will Be (re-)Reading While Writing My Own

It’s already a pretty big list, so I won’t be taking nominations for more. I hope to write reviews of all of them as they’re (re)read.

  • The Return (Daniel Treisman) – the best Russian politics books out there. 5/5
  • Armageddon Averted (Stephen Kotkin) – TBR (to be read)
  • Putin (Chris Hutchins, Alexander Korobko) – TBR, but has to be good as it quotes me.
  • Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives (Stephen Cohen) – 5/5
  • Virtual Politics (Andrew Wilson) – too much PoMo, but solid. 4/5
  • Drug, Sex and Libel in the New Moscow (Mark Ames, Matt Taibbi, Edward Limonov) – TBR, for the lulz.
  • From the First Person (Putin) – all Western journalists would benefit from reading this series of telling interviews. 5/5
  • The Oligarchs (David E. Hoffman) – TBR
  • Popular literature with satires of politics/economics including Metro 2033 and works by Pelevin.
  • The New Cold War (Edward Lucas) – to remind myself of hack enemy talking points. 1/5
  • Vekhi (anthology) – key book from 1909 that informs current Kremlin ideology.
  • Putin’s Comeback (Chen Xiaomeng) – TBR, can’t say I’ll read all or even most of it, as it exists only in Chinese and my Chinese isn’t that good, but it will sure make a refreshing change from Western harping.

Obviously these are just the books, I’ll be looking over tons of papers and news articles too.