Yeah, be right there!

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No, this won’t be a post about Hobby Lobby. Frankly, if you’re so progtarded that you think your employer’s refusal to pay for your abortifacient is somehow equivalent to infringing on your right to get birth control, even though said employer already pays for 16 other types of birth control, and even though you have every right to go out and purchase any birth control you want on your own, you cannot be helped, and get the fuck out of my gene pool.

Rather, this is a post about… WTF?

Apparently ISIS or ISIL, as they are sometimes called, are in the process of building themselves a little society (complete with stonings, gang rape, selling little girls to fat rich guys as sex slaves and slaughter of infidels), and they need skilled people to actually… you know… help build their pig bothering caliphate.

The leader of jihadist militant group Isis has called on Muslims to travel to Iraq and Syria to help build an Islamic state, in an audio message.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called on Muslims to immigrate to the “Islamic State”, saying it was a duty.

He made a “special call” for judges, doctors, engineers and people with military and administrative expertise.

Isis says it is forming an Islamic state, or caliphate, on the territories it controls in Iraq and Syria.

Let me get this straight. I’m a professional with experience, a ton of schooling and opportunities to earn and achieve pretty much unhindered and unbothered in the West. Am I really going to ship my happy ass to a decimated shithole filled with goat bothering neanderthals, because somehow it’s my “duty”?

Dafuq, you say?

I’m fairly sure the educated, skilled types will stay where there is money, soap, showers and freedom, but at least they recognize what kind of people are needed to build a society!

When Governments Fail

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I know I’ve been gone for a while, but here’s my latest for JPFO

This natural logic is what prompted the people in the Mexican state of Michoacan to stand up and take up arms against a drug cartel Los Caballeros Templarios – the Knights Templar – in a nation that does not respect the people’s right to keep and bear arms…

…with a government that forces people to depend on its armed “authorities” to protect their property, loved ones and lives.

In Mexico, it is illegal for citizens to bear most firearms, but the Knights Templar wreaked such havoc in Michoacan, that self-defense groups arose and adamantly declared their right to protect themselves and their communities against equally armed criminal groups.

via When Governments Fail.

The King is Dead! Long Live the King!

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For those of you interested, I have begun writing for Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership. I will be writing three alerts weekly over there.

It’s a great organization, and I would urge you all to subscribe to the alerts. We have some great writers over there!

This is my first effort for them. More today and tomorrow.

The King is Dead! Long Live the King!.

My Putin Paranoia (FYI – some sources cited are in Russian)

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This is my blog, and I’m allowed to don the tinfoil hat every once in a while. Now… if you’re looking for inane conspiritardery about U.S. involvement in Ukraine, us funding protests, chemtrails, using supersonic, nuclear generated EMP weapons to foment unrest in Ukraine in order to capture the considerable assets of Oleksandr Yanukovych, you’ve come to the wrong place. I’m paranoid, not insane.

Besides, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. Right? RIGHT???

In all seriousness, I’ve been quite a bit perplexed by the actions of Vladimir Putin these past few weeks.

I explained the background on the Ukraine situation already, so I’m not going to get into it here. You can certainly read what I’ve written on the topic here and here. But what I haven’t done is write down my theories on the Russian reaction to the unrest in Ukraine and the ultimate fall of Ukraine’s ever-so-corrupt government.

I will admit I was a bit surprised.

President Vladimir Putin spent a lot of time and resources integrating Russia into the global economy, positioning Russia as a legitimate member of the international community, entering the World Trade Organization, developing economic ties with the European Union, freeing political opponents, including Mikhail Khodorkovsky, had been imprisoned for more than a decade, and brokering a deal with Syria. Putin has endorsed some free market principles, such as privatization and improving Russia’s business climate.

But on the other hand, I also understood that Putin wanted to return Russia to its former world power status, and that was the ultimate goal all along.

But on the third hand, I figured economic development and GDP growth were critical to Putin’s ultimate goal. After all, returning  the country to its superpower status also involves not only the modernization of the Russian economy, but also the Russian military – a goal toward which Russia claimed it would commit between $650-$700 billion in procurement dollars.  That’s a lofty goal for a nation whose armaments programs had a tendency to fail due to inefficiencies, corruption and inflation. Russia needed the money after its little incursion into Georgia in 2008 showed just how ill-equipped its military was. Russia expert Dmitry Gorenburg says the military received no funding for new equipment between 1993-2008, and post-2008 programs were a big fail in executing the Russians’ lofty rearmament goals.

As a result, the vast majority of its armaments are both physically old and based on outdated designs. To deal with this problem, the Russian government has begun to implement a 10-year and $650 billion State Armament Program. The program’s goal is to ensure that 70 percent of the Russian military’s equipment is modern by 2020. The program’s top priorities are to re-equip the Strategic Rocket Forces, the air force, the air defense and space forces, and to provide more advanced command and control equipment for the military.

The problem is there’s just not enough money. Russia’s crumbling economic infrastructure needs urgent updates, and Russia’s economic growth is unable to support the planned levels of military spending. Hell, former Minister of Finance Alexey Kudrin resigned over the issue! And Putin himself admitted that GDP needs to grow before Russia can afford to fund all its ambitious military plans.

“We are setting the goal of accelerating economic growth to 6 percent, better to 6-7 percent, and join the list of the world’s top five economies in five years but not only because advanced economies will be falling but also because we’ll be growing,” Putin said at a congress of Business Russia public association, which unites the country’s medium-sized businesses.

Russia has set the ambitious task of expanding its per capita gross domestic product by 50 percent in the next decade “to achieve the level of more than $35,000 per person from the current $20,700,” Putin said.

In 2011, Russia’s GDP will grow by 4.2-4.5 percent, the premier said.

It did. According to the Economist, Russia’s GDP grew by 4.4 percent in 2011. You know how much it grew in 2012? 3.5 percent. You know how much it grew in 2013? 1.4 percent. Hardly close to Putin’s economic goals. And between the rising inflation and the possibility of sanctions that could impact the Russian economy, and the continuing capital flight, Russia’s economic modernization and its military rearmament goals aren’t likely to happen.

But on the fourth hand, if Putin did, indeed, want to return Russia to some semblance of a “держава” or world power status, he wanted a customs union to counteract the EU, and he needed Ukraine to join, since the latter is a significant Eurasian economy. This is why Russia put so much political and economic pressure on Ukraine to not sign the Association Agreement with the EU, which ultimately caused Yanukovych to turn away from the West and pursue closer ties to Russia, and precipitated the demonstrations which later turned violent.

And that’s why I was a bit perplexed. Turning around into an aggressive invader shortly after hosting a Winter Olympics and after joining the WTO, and claiming to embrace economic development is incongruous. But it happened, didn’t it?

But what if…?

What if Putin’s plan all along has been to contribute to the destabilization of Ukraine and ultimately annex the Crimea?

What if Putin very carefully worked on crafting Russia’s image for the past decade, integrating his country into the international community and global economy, and lulling the west into a false sense of security?

What if Putin was playing the long game, working to ensure that the economy of Russia was so connected to the economies of the West and the United States that any significant economic decline in Russia would mean severe economic consequences for the United States and the European Union?

Because the result seems to be the following:

Any sanctions imposed on Russia or its assets will affect the EU and the United States. Andrey Klishas, chairman of the Federation Council committee for constitutional legislation has introduced a bill in the Duma that would seize the assets and accounts of American and European companies should sanctions be imposed on Russia.  Europe’s sanctions on Russia could cut the oligarchs and members of the Russian government off from the European cities where many have properties and European banks, where many have cash. Meanwhile, Russia is threatening retaliation if sanctions are imposed. A Kremlin aide publicly warned a few days ago of the repercussions. Sergey Glazyev said if America were to impose sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, Moscow might drop the dollar as a reserve currency and refuse to pay off any loans to U.S. banks.

Frankly, Russians are used to economic hardship. Us spoiled first-worlders in the West are not so much.

Could Putin’s calculus include the fact that the West would be just as impacted by Russia’s economic downturn as Russia itself?

Could he understand that despite the current economic slowdown and Russia’s obvious intent to annex the Crimea after the latter holds a vote on independence this weekend, his approval ratings are still fairly high?

Could Putin’s intent all along have been to play long-term chess? To integrate Russia into the global economy and make it a vital source of energy for the West, and then to foment instability in Ukraine and move in with practical impunity, because he knows that the West would be loath to tank Russia’s economy for fear of taking themselves down as well?

It’s a pretty convoluted case, but it’s not unlikely.

Consider the fact that the European Union gets 37 percent of its oil and 39 percent of its natural gas from Russia.

Consider also that Russia is one of the largest economies in the world.

Consider also that economic growth in the EU and in Russia generally mirror one another, although Russia’s swings are a bit more extreme.

EURussianGDP1.

What if Putin has decided that the West won’t do much if he decides to annex Crimea after Sunday’s vote, and has ensured this by working to ensure that any sanctions would bite all parties involved?

After all, Russia has already been conducting “exercises” on the Ukrainian border.

After all, the Duma has already passed legislation outlining how Russia will annex new members of the Federation.

And according to at least one report, pre-marked ballots have already been delivered to Crimea in time for Sunday’s referendum. Yes, I said “pre-marked.”

So what if this was Putin’s plan all along?

This is where I was born

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For the past few months, I’ve been watching the events in Ukraine with interest and growing horror. What started out as fairly tame set of demonstrators, protesting President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision to abandon an Association Agreement with the European Union and move closer to Moscow, grew into violent suppression by the police against protesters, progressed into shooting of demonstrators after the Rada (Ukrainian parliament) passed a law banning most forms of protest, making thousands into criminals overnight, and culminated with more than 100 dead over the past few days.

Kyiv burns.

Anti-government protesters throw stones towards Interior Ministry officers during a rally near the building of Ukraine's house of parliament in Kiev

It looks like a war zone, even though most still describe the events there as mass protests and demonstrations.

UKRAINE-UNREST-EU-RUSSIA

And now, the rest of the nation mourns the events in Kyiv… the deaths… the blood… the corruption.

This is the city in which I was born. Lviv.

lviv

The situation in Ukraine is complicated. It isn’t as easy as Yanukovych is a thug. He is a corrupt goon, as is most of his administration and his inner circle. He saw his authority swirling the drain, and instead of displaying some accountability to the will of the people who put him in office, this dumb bastard decided to outlaw dissent.

In an era of the 24 hour news cycle and social media, this douchetard thought the news about his tyrannical oppression wouldn’t get out? He thought bloody suppression of dissent would somehow allow him to hold on to his power – power he would probably not have gotten without the support of the Russians.

Yanukovych was indebted to and feared Moscow. Not only did the Russian support help his Party of Regions win elections, but the Russians hinted they would cut prices on natural gas – prices that Kyiv complained were exorbitant – and would help Ukraine service its debt. Additionally, Moscow screwed with Ukraine (and other former Soviet states that were considering closer relations with the European Union). Last August, Russia blocked nearly all imports from Ukraine in an attempt to pressure Kyiv into rejecting an association agreement. Plus, the Russians and Ukrainians share historical, cultural and religious roots.

It’s a complicated relationship, and one I somewhat understand. During the Cold War, no one differentiated between Ukraine and Russia. They were both part of the USSR. I spoke Russian at home. I spoke Russian in school. I was considered Russian.

Cultural and religious ties aside, Ukraine is economically dependent on Russia. Russia is Ukraine’s largest trade partner. Loads of Russian tourists visit Ukraine every year. Ukraine buys its natural gas from Russia’s Gazprom, and Russia has been holding gas prices over Kyiv’s head for years.

Additionally, even though an association agreement with the EU would have helped the Ukrainian economy, the EU was demanding reforms, to include the release of imprisoned former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko. And Yanukovych, being the tyrant and coward that he is, was afraid to release her for fear that she would run against him, AND win, especially as unpopular as he is.

Yanukovych doesn’t care about the welfare of his country. Yanukovych cares about Yanukovych. He tried to suppress the very people who elected him to office, to keep his competition locked up and to cozy up to the very nation that manipulated him into turning away from an agreement that could have improved and modernized his nation’s economy.

But I guess he didn’t exactly count predict the insanity that ensued. Bloody suppression during the Olympic Games. Hundreds of people dead or wounded. Yanukovych forced to sign an agreement with the opposition that vastly dilutes his powers, as well as institutes a caretaker government until a special election can be held. The Rada passed a law that would free Timoshenko, and the Minister of the Interior has been booted for ordering his thugs to fire live rounds at protesters.

In other words, everything Yanukovych was trying to do to avoid losing his power has happened…

…but only after a lot of bloodshed, trauma and heartache.

Yeah. This is where I come from.

Is it any wonder I love this country as much as I do?

Paging George Orwell!

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If you have been living under a rock lately, or you have been too busy following the antics of Justin Bieber or any number of other celebutards whom this country considers news, there are violent protests going on in the Ukraine.  The Ukraine is this country that used to be a Soviet Republic way back when the Cold War was news, and someone like Miley Cyrus would be relegated to a non-entity.

It’s also where I was born.

The demonstrators are opposing new laws limiting the right to protest in the Ukraine, and four protesters have died so far in clashes with police since things turned violent Sunday.

The corrupt, oppressive regime of President Viktor Yanukovych has been engaging in a campaign of not just violent suppression, but also misinformation and outright psychological warfare. The largely-peaceful demonstrations escalated into violence after Ukraine outlawed demonstrations, making each protester into a criminal in an effort to suppress dissent about Ukraine’s decision not to pursue closer ties with the European Union after months of Russian bullying. Not only did police try to suppress said dissent via violent means, but a text message sent to demonstrators a couple of days ago makes one’s blood run cold.

text

Translation: Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.

While it was unsigned, and local phone companies denied sending it, the text message — which echoed language in a new law making it a crime to participate in protests deemed violent — was widely read as a warning from the government.

Although it is unclear exactly what impact the message had on the stalwart protesters standing in the cold, the we-are-watching-you subtext provoked shivers far beyond Ukraine as news of it spread online. The text was quoted again and again on social networks by users outside Ukraine who called it “creepy” and “Orwellian.”

Yep. Orwell’s eyes are bleeding. This is psychological warfare.

And don’t think for a moment that this isn’t an opportunity for the Russians to step in and assert their influence. They were already successful at forcing the largest country in the CIS to essentially give up its EU aspirations and move closer to Moscow. Their very public security concerns involve stability in their region of influence. This would provide a good reason for them to intervene.

Thankfully, we’re not Russia…

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…Yet.

Between Russia’s new anti-piracy laws that are ostensibly made to protect the work of creators, but which can widely be used as a tool for censorship, and Russia’s new regulations criminalizing “gay propaganda,” Moscow can never be accused of respecting the freedom of speech.

The latest assault on the basic freedom of expression is the recent removal of a painting depicting Russian president Vladimir Putin, in a negligee brushing the hair of a similarly-dressed Dmitry Medvedev in a satirical display of queer and somewhat disturbing snugglery.

putin_2654591b

As they say in Germany… Ich bin grossed the fuck out.

But hell, it’s art. It’s meant to be provocative and in this case, very observant (although I would have painted Medvedev brushing Putin’s hair instead, despite the fact that Putin has very little of it) of real life.

Moscow, however, has very little sense of humor when it comes to critique or satire of its leadership… or its church, which incidentally is very close to its leadership. Russia even has a law banning insults to the “authorities,” that could result in a one-year prison term.

I guess we’re lucky. Aside from very creepy tracking of media communications and idiotic clown firings and death threats from tolerant progressives as a result of mockery of the President, we haven’t seen too much federal meddling into the freedom of expression.

Instead, we have meddling of a different sort. Hell, the feds don’t have to punish those critical of the administration! Why should they? The administration’s private supporters and citizen fellators are doing a superb job all on their own.

Good news for us, I suppose. Any death threat from any zealot for any criticism of any member of the government would be met with a report to the police, and any physical manifestation of that threat would be met with a .45 ACP round ejected from a metal object with very high velocity.

We have ways of taking care of those who threaten our lives and our families.

And luckily we have the right to do so with the most effective tools on the market today.

Unlike… say… Russia.

For the record I don’t see the legislature passing any bill that would in any way prohibit Americans from criticizing and even insulting public officials.

Unlike…say… Russia.

So far, the brownshirted supporters of Teh Won™ only display their impotent rage by hurling insults and empty threats, because really… I’ve seen some of these unwashed hippie types. NO EFFING WAY they would actually have the testicular fortitude to follow through!

I do wonder, however, how supportive the government is of these losers. If they threaten someone critical of the government, it’s their right, and their freedom of speech must be protected. If a right-winger criticizes said government, it’s “extremism” that must be monitored.

It’s an interesting bit of statesmanship.

The government really doesn’t have to pass laws banning freedom of expression and speech. All it has to do is turn a blind eye to violent speech from one side of the aisle, while condemning “extremist speech” from the other.

Maybe I’m just tired, but it sure makes me uncomfortable.

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