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The rule of law – and other fairy stories

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Two stories on this, one from New Zealand and one from the USA, but both related in ways aside from laughing at the law, let alone justice.

First up is the news that our Foreign Minister, Nanaia Mahuta, has been indulging in some good old feather-bedding of relatives that any old-time American city politician would recognise and approve of:

Frankly for me this is a bit of “meh”, and not just because I’m so used to seeing it in American politics. The fact is that Maori and Pasifika whanau have a different attitude towards this sort of thing. If you achieve wealth and power your relatives damned well expect you to take them along for the ride. To do otherwise would be selfish of you. In fact I’d bet that Nanaia was pressured on these matters by her “rellies”.

I did appreciate these comments from Karl du Fresne, where I first read of this a few days ago

Revelations about government jobs and contracts awarded to Mahuta’s family connections first emerged on The Daily Examiner website on May 22, illustrating the point that it’s often online platforms, rather than ethically compromised mainstream media, that break important stories – especially those that show the government in a poor light.

That has increasingly been the case, which is a welcome addition to the likes of blogs merely taking down a reporter and their story for shallow, braindead hopelessness and/or outrageous ideological and partisan bias.

The Platform has since picked up the story and so has Kate MacNamara, a New Zealand Herald reporter who displays a gutsy independent streak that’s all too rare in political journalism – all of which raises questions about how much longer the rest of the MSM can go on pretending there’s nothing to see here.

Yay. However I doubt it will change any fundamental attitudes in the MSM – or in the Labour Government – which will move past this, with the assistance of that MSM. National can scream long and loud about this but they’ll run out of “new” news sooner or later and in any case will be intimidated into silence by a word that still holds magical powers over them, especially when uttered by Maori – “RACIST”.

The second piece of news on this front is that, as I and many other observers suspected would happen, the Clinton and Democrat National Committee lawyer, Michael Sussman, was found not guilty of lying to the FBI by a jury of his peers – which means a jury selected from a Washington D.C. population that voted 92.5% for Biden:

Turley is a long-time Democrat supporter and long-time Liberal law professor and even he can smell the stench, although it’s also a simple matter of attitudes towards such things.

“I don’t think it should have been prosecuted,” the jury forewomen said, according to an account in The Washington Times. “There are bigger things that affect the nation than a possible lie to the FBI”

Bigger than a lie, plus other lies, that launched a $40 million dollar investigation that handicapped a Presidential Administration for two years?

Well of course! The D.C. crowd, undoubtedly including that woman, hated Trump and wanted him and his policies stopped by any means necessary. They’re all of a piece, which is why former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy argues that Durham’s mistake was to assume that the FBI were the dupes, when the evidence of three prosecutions has by now demonstrated that at least the upper levels of the FBI knew very well who Sussman was connected with:

… he’d represented the DNC when its servers were hacked, and blocked the FBI from conducting its own forensic investigation. When Sussmann purveyed supposed evidence of a Trump-Russia communications back channel, the bureau knew full well that it was getting political information from a partisan source. The evidence at trial showed that FBI headquarters concealed Sussmann’s identity from the bureau’s own investigating agents.

Funnily enough Sussman’s own defence team made the same argument in claiming that he didn’t lie, and I think that actually has merit.

The connection between the Mahuta and Sussman-Clinton-FBI stories is that both of them demonstrate how our Western democracies are increasingly coming to seem more like feudal systems. If you know the right people, move in the right Establishment circles, and have the opinions of the Gentry Class – then you can make a lot of money and get away with almost anything.

But all this is also enabled by a public, by voters, that increasingly could not care less about such things, even as those things steadily screw them into the ground. I’ll bet that the number of people paying attention to the Heard-Depp defamation trial outnumbered the Sussman observers by millions to one.

The next Durham trials will be covered even less than this one, and slowly it will all just fade away.

Jail time for the attempted coup?

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Only minions go to jail in the US political system. I well recall the triumphant online howls of Lefties after Obama’s election in 2008, with visions of Cheney, and perhaps even the evil BushHitler himself, being “perp-walked” in orange jumpsuits. Similarly with Trump supporters on Clinton with “Lock her Up“. Then there’s the endless fantasies of the Left about convicting Trump himself, yet another of which collapsed just the other day.

The Eight Key Russia Collusion Hoaxers TL to BR
Michael Haden, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Susan Rice, Peter Strzok, Fiona Hill, Sally Yates, James Clapper

So it will go for all the assholes shown in this photo, plus many others identified in this Federalist article, who may never even be investigated, which they group as people in: Comey’s FBI, Obama’s DOJ, Obama’s State Department, Democratic National Committee, Clinton Campaign, and Clinton’s opposition research group, Fusion GPS.

Yes, it is that tangled and convoluted, which is yet another reason there will be few consequences. Not enough ordinary people care about what is a bigger scandal and crime than Watergate, because it’s just another complex Washington D.C. scandal they don’t understand – while those who do know, including many outside the USA, don’t care because it helped damage Trump and the implementation of his policies.

The primary criminal investigation is now being led by John Durham, one of the few men in D.C. with a genuine reputation as a straight-shooter, based on his work for both the Bush and Obama administrations investigating the likes of the CIA. He started in 2019 and the going has been so slow that I’d pretty much given up on him catching and convicting anybody. But it turns out that the man does move and in 2022 he’s prosecuting a few people in trials.

Carter Page & Kevin Clinesmith

My cynicism is based on what has already happened to a key, if minor figure in the FBI, who is mentioned in that Federalist article. The story concerns one Carter Page, a Trump campaign aide, who got wire-tapped by the FBI in 2016. By 2018 jokes were being made that Page must be the cleanest man in D.C., for despite all their work there was no sign that the FBI was even going to indict Page, let alone prosecute him, on the basis of dirty work with the Russians, or anything else for that matter. After another year had passed it became clear as to why that was.

Carter Page had actually been working with the CIA. Not unusual; the history of modern spy agencies is that they’ve often used businessmen simply to learn ordinary things that help the spies build a better picture of their frenemies. Thus it’s also standard practice for the FBI Counter-Intelligence group, when they’re about to investigate an American citizen, to contact the CIA and other intelligence agencies to see if they’re using these citizens as a source. The FBI did that in this case and got the confirming email from the CIA.

And then FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith changed it to read the exact opposite, which was then presented to the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court, together with the infamous fake known as the Steele Dossier, as evidence that Page deserved to be spied on. Incredibly Clinesmith was already serving on the Mueller investigation when he did this – until he got dumped after the revelation of his private texts by the FBI Inspector General’s Report showed an incredible degree of anti-Trump bias. Of course the more famous of these people and their texts was this one between Lisa Page and Peter Strzok:

The IG report said [Lisa] Page texted Strzok in August 2016, after Trump won the GOP presidential nomination, fretting, “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!”

Strzok replied, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,”

Aside from getting canned by the FBI, Strzok and Page suffered no other penalties. After Durham got Clinesmith the government requested a three-to-six month prison sentence but instead the judge sentenced him to community service and imposed no fine. In June 2021 his law license was suspended for just one year, but it was applied retroactively from his guilty plea so he got it back in August 2021.

For lying to not just any court but the FISA court to enable spying on US citizens. Must be nice to be a partisan Democrat working for the FBI, DOJ or the State Department.

But why pick on Clinesmith, Strzok and Page when other parts of the Establishment were just as dirty, right to the top:

The very day in January 2017 that then-FBI Director James Comey signed a FISA surveillance warrant application declaring content from Christopher Steele’s dossier had been “verified,” he wrote President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, that “We are not able to sufficiently corroborate the reporting”

“The FBI filed three renewal applications with the FISC, on January 12, April 7, and June 29, 2017. In addition to repeating the seven significant errors contained in the first FISA application and outlined above, we identified 10 additional significant errors in the three renewal applications,” Horowitz’s Inspector General report said.

The following links are an excellent three part summary of the 400 page, 2019 Horowitz report: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. There are extensive quotes from the report about the problems with both Steele and his “Primary Sub-source” but I’ll stick with summaries from two different articles, starting with Steele…

The FBI had terminated Steele two months earlier for violating the terms of his confidential informant agreement by leaking to the news media. The FBI had also had been warned by the CIA since 2015 that Steele was susceptible to Russian disinformation because he was too involved with oligarchs…the FBI had interviewed in November 2016 one of Steele’s former MI6 bosses, who warned agents that Steele had overstated his seniority during the time he served in British intelligence.

… followed by the details of the “Primary Sub-source”, who should have been investigated before the FISA applications were made:

The FBI also hid all that from the FISA court and even during later testimony before Congress. Comey has no excuses. His FBI knew all this by January 2017. They also fought like hell to prevent then House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes from releasing this in early 2018.

But one big letdown of the Horowitz report was that it treated all this as mere “errors”, and it did not ask why the FBI had failed to investigate a big problem with Steele:

One area the FBI assiduously avoided was Steele’s knowledge that he was working for the Clinton Campaign and his understanding that his research would be publicized and used to affect the 2016 election.  This information, had it been presented, would have been critical to the FISA Court’s ability to evaluate Steele’s bias.

This lack of information or deference means that, first, the IG did not fully establish exactly the relevant chains of command (Comey and McCabe at the FBI; Yates, Boente and Rosenstein at the DOJ); and second, he did not pin down what the players knew and when they knew it.

Some of this information vacuum occurred because several players in the FBI’s crime drama (such as Comey), refused to cooperate with the IG.  What they knew or should have known and when they knew it will be key questions that need to be answered.  Bottom line, the IG’s Report is itself damning, but it is not the final word.

And this is where Durham’s investigation has differed from Horowitz’s: it’s a criminal inquiry. Durham clearly does think that criminal skullduggery occurred across these agencies, and showed his teeth right from the start in 2019 by dissenting from the IG’s view that the Steele dossier “played no role in the Crossfire Hurricane opening”. That link has a concise list of the reasons why Durham does not agree, together with a detailed timeline of how the FBI learned of the dossier and started the investigation, including these two doozies:

  • The FBI’s faith in Steele extended to sharing classified information with him. According to Horowitz, at an October 2016 meeting in Rome, FBI agents gave Steele a “general overview” of Crossfire Hurricane, including its then-secret probes of Manafort, Page, Flynn, and Papadopoulos. The FBI was so eager to enlist Steele that it offered to pay him $15,000 “just for attending” the Rome meeting and a “significantly” greater amount if he could collect more information.
  • Then-senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, whose wife Nellie worked alongside Steele at Fusion GPS, first made contact with Steele right before the former British spy’s meeting with [FBI agent] Gaeta on July 5,

Wheels within fucking wheels in this crowd of husbands, wives and lovers. Pillow talk among honourable people! Trust in people you already knew should not be trusted.

Incidentally, it turns out that Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (whose clearance from charges I covered here), accused by the Clinton campaign, sundry Intelligence Community leakers and the MSM (of course) of getting too close to Russia, starting in 2015 with a dinner with Putin, was operating then as an intelligence source for the USA. In his case for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), who testified to Mueller that Flynn had approached them before the meeting and been de-briefed afterwards. Mueller sat on those affidavits because they weren’t material to his prosecution of Flynn’s 2016 actions as NSA – and also because they would have blown up the Mueller-Clinton narrative. They were only just released the other day after some minor news outfit called JustTheNews extracted them from the government – doing the work the MSM did not want to do. Flynn is now suing the US government for $50 million, and in act of petty revenge they’re suing him for the $40,000 they spent on the 2015 trip.

Igor Danchenko

In November 2021 Durham made public that the “Primary Sub-source” was one Igor Danchenko and indicted him for lying to the FBI. That led to other revelations such as him being investigated in 2009 by the FBI as a possible Russian spy since he was connected to two men they were already investigating as spies.

But, in what would become an alarming theme, the FBI did not follow through and closed the investigation in March 2011, apparently believing that Danchenko had gone back to Russia.

In fact, he had begun working with Steele. Danchenko was introduced to Steele in 2010 by Fiona Hill, another Brookings Russia scholar.

The Brookings Institution is essentially the foreign policy cover organisation for the Clinton Foundation. And Fiona Hill? Where have you heard that name before? Oh right, she was a key witness during Trump’s first impeachment. No bias there. It gets better.

In 2016, she introduced Danchenko to Charles Dolan, a Russia-focused businessman and Democratic Party activist.

Dolan is identified in the indictment as “PR Executive-1” because he helped run a public-relations firm. He is a longtime Clinton insider, having worked on Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns, as well as Hillary’s failed 2008 and 2016 bids. In the interim, he was appointed by President Clinton to a State Department advisory committee. From 2006 until 2014, the Kremlin retained Dolan to be its global public-relations agent. For much of that time, conveniently, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the Obama administration point-person on the “Russia Reset,” in which the State Department promoted Russian economic development.

So far from being “inside Russia” it would be more accurate to say that Danchenko was inside the Clinton orbit. Information from Russian sources was actually from the Clinton campaign, with key player Dolan as – literally – a Kremlin agent. If you read that article (from none other than the Trump-loathing team at National Review) you’ll see that the information flow ran from Dolan to Danchenko to Steele to the FBI.

By the way, Clinton’s opposition research firm FusionGPS was also simultaneously working directly for Vladimir Putin, attempting to drum up media and government support for overturning the US Global Magnitsky Act, which Putin did not like.

And these people had the chutzpah to say Trump was tied to the Russians. There is no better deflection than to accuse your opponent of what you’re doing.

I’ve no doubt that Danchenko will be convicted of lying to the FBI and since he is not a precious worker for any of the three-letter Federal agencies he might see some jail time, but not much.

Michael Sussman

Which brings us to the latest in Durhams work: the prosecution of former Hillary Clinton and Democrat National Commitee (DNC) lawyer, Michael Sussman, for the same crime of lying to the FBI.

In Sussman’s case he approached the FBI directly, claiming that he had damaging information about Trump – specifically that he was colluding with the Russian Alfa Bank via a secret server hotline – and claimed that he was doing so out of his concern as an American citizen – when in fact he was acting as the Clinton campaign lawyer and billing them for the time he spent with the FBI.

That last fact caused some fun when Durham subpoenaed key people from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign – the DNC, Fusion GPS, and liberal law firm Perkins Coie – and demanded to see all of Sussman’s communications with them. His lawyers claimed attorney-client privilege that meant they would not disclose them, but Durham already had the text messages:

“Jim – it’s Michael Sussmann. I have something time-sensitive (and sensitive) I need to discuss. Do you have availability for a short meeting tomorrow? I’m coming on my own – not on behalf of a client or company – want to help the Bureau. Thanks.”

Durham had painted him into a corner. He got the comms. He’s also got some star witnesses who are singing in the dock, likely to save their own hides.

Former FBI General Counsel James Baker, who Sussman met, testified that he was “100% confident” about the following, which confirmed Sussman’s own text.

Sussmann claimed no client was behind the Alfa-Bank disinfo, a claim represented in a subsequent meeting with “Bill Priestap, who was the assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, and Trisha Anderson, the FBI’s deputy general counsel, right after his Sussmann meeting.” Both wrote down that there was no connection to a client in their meeting notes.

In other words, not just a dumb process lie (like “lying” about the date of a meeting) but a material lie; one that directly affected the FBI investigation of Trump and his team.

Then it was the turn of longtime Clinton lawyer, Mark Elias:

Sussmann’s partner at the time, also testified that they were representing the Clinton team and had hired the Fusion GPS to help dig up dirt on the Trump team. Durham also got in other records during Elias’ testimony showing that they were meeting on the Alfa Bank, and Elias said that he considered his work with Sussmann and Joffe to be part of his Clinton campaign work.

Durham then played a crucial card by getting the testimony of two former CIA agents who testified that Sussman had told the same lies to them, which shows a pattern of deliberate lying.

Then, last Friday, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook directly implicated Hillary Clinton herself by testifying that she approved the plan to spread the lie. Some people, like Liberal Democrat law professor Jonathan Turley, seem to think this is a big deal, and perhaps if the MSM put it on the front-pages (Yes, yes, I know) it might become a big deal for the general public. But as the boys at Powerline point out, if you didn’t follow the MSM then you already knew about this ages ago:

More broadly, we have long known that Hillary personally directed the Russia collusion hoax. Indeed, the Obama administration knew this virtually from the hoax’s inception. We wrote about this a year and a half ago, based on handwritten notes by John Brennan, then CIA Director, dated July 28,2016.

According to these documents, Hillary approved the plan to smear Donald Trump with the Russia collusion hoax on July 26, 2016. (The Fusion GPS/Christopher Steele “dossier” fabrication was under way by this time.) Her action was immediately picked up by Russian intelligence. At almost the same time, U.S. intelligence, spying on the Russians, got the story. On July 28, just two days after Hillary allegedly green-lighted the smear, Barack Obama, James Comey, Susan Rice and Denis McDonough assembled to be briefed by John Brennan on the situation.

Hillary Clinton – and friends

Closer and closer Durham comes to the heart of the scandal. I think Sussman is a dead duck, but even in his case there is a glimmer of hope in that it’s a jury trial set in Washington D.C where 92% of voters went for Biden in 2020:

Many of the members of the broader jury pool, as well as some selected for the jury itself, expressed strong disdain for former President Donald Trump and/or support for Clinton. Most said they hadn’t heard of the Sussmann case until the judge told them about it last week.

“I remembered that the 2016 election was kind of a mess and that there were a lot of shenanigans,” one of the selected jurors told the court.

Heh. A perfect example of the general public and this entire scandal. Maybe that sort of ignorance will help the prosecution: maybe it will help the defence. Sussman has probably bet on the latter, otherwise he’d have pled guilty by now in the face of all this evidence.

But as I said at the start of this post, I can’t believe that any of these senior people will ever suffer any legal penalties for all this, especially Hillary Clinton. A lot of minor figures in the Clintons world have gone to jail over the years, all the way back to the Whitewater scandal, but never the main players. As just one current example, Hillary’s original Tweet about the Alfa Bank mentions one Jake Sullivan releasing the statement as the Hillary for America Senior Policy Advisor: Sullivan is now Biden’s National Security Adviser FFS. As professor Turley says:

Hillary Clinton has always had a sort of Voldemort-like status of she who must not be named in a scandal. The Clintons have really been able to avoid direct responsibility in a series of scandals. And here was her campaign manager effectively dropping the dime on his former boss and saying, “Look, she approved it. She knew about it.”

But the thing to keep in mind is that President Obama was briefed when he was president, that Hillary Clinton was planning to make a Russian collusion claim against Donald Trump to try to sort of get out of her own email issues during the campaign.

And we now have someone saying, “Yeah, she green-lighted the Alfa Bank claims,” which were completely without foundation. The Clintons are really quite adept at avoiding direct responsibility on some of these scandals, and I expect that will be the case here.

With the exception of false statements made to federal investigators, there’s not a lot that can be brought for charges against a wide array of individuals.

UPDATE:

Courtesy of RealClearPolitics:

The Sussmann trial indicates how the media and federal agencies play into the Democrats’ scandal-industrial process. Take Mook’s testimony last Friday. It was a huge story because, for the first time, a Clinton insider directly tied Hillary to the smear campaign. That campaign was the biggest political dirty trick in modern American politics, one the media had actively promoted. Yet, when the bombshell exploded, the mainstream media went silent, both about the news and about their own culpability. On Friday, when the news broke, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and MSNBC did not mention the Mook bombshell or even the Sussmann trial. Not a peep. Saturday’s New York Times was equally silent. The Washington Post did cover the story but buried the lede – Hillary Clinton’s direct involvement – well down in their report. A Post national correspondent actually ran an “analysis” piece entitled “Again: There’s No Evidence Hillary Clinton Triggered the Russian Probe.”

Written by Tom Hunter

May 23, 2022 at 6:00 am

A different kind of war

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Putin and his cronies have recently rattled their nuclear sabres over Ukraine, in a rather pathetic effort to frighten the West into stopping their support for the latter and thus hopefully achieving some sort of Russian success in the conventional war.

Given that no Western nation has increased their nuclear alert levels it’s clear that they don’t take this threat of nuclear war seriously, and I think they’re correct (circumstances can change of course).

But there are other ways to wage war. We’ve already seen how much a part of warfare drones have become in Ukraine, a capability that has built up steadily in the last twenty years and, like planes in WWI, has gone from mere observation in the battlefront to combat and whose capabilities are sure to expand given that a $10 million tank can now be destroyed by a $300,000 drone.

But one thing that has not been considered very much is the prospect of a full-scale Cyber War. If this sounds less harmless then read this:

The event that would come to be known as “Cyber Harbor,” or “Cyber 11th,” started small. One morning, the “autopilot” mode on some Tesla cars started going haywire. First, dozens, then thousands of cars began veering into oncoming traffic all across the country. Emergency rooms were swamped with crash victims. Then, office workers in dozens of industries watched in shock as their computers began spontaneously deleting files. It took about 24 hours for officials to realize that these scattered problems were connected. The power grid was next: Blackouts began in California and soon rolled across most of the U.S. The Internet started crumbling as well. Routine communications became impossible.

It took only a few days for grocery-store shelves to go bare. Gas stations put out “No Fuel” signs. Even if supplies of food and gas were available, trucks couldn’t deliver them. The country’s banking system had collapsed; with credit cards and ATMs disabled, truckers had no way to buy diesel fuel. The backup generators powering hospitals, police stations, water-treatment plants, and other critical infrastructure eventually drained their fuel tanks and went silent.

There is also an eerie similarity to nuclear warfare in that you can’t really defend against this sort of attack either because to do so involves a degree of rebuilding our IT control networks and systems far beyond even what’s required to build a missile defence. As with nuclear warfare the best that can be hoped for is to make it clear to potential attackers that you have the same weapons and they have the same vulnerabilities.

But what if an enemy calculates that dragging the West down to its level would enable a second war, more conventional, to be won? The old nuclear First Strike scenario but without the radioactivity?

Written by Tom Hunter

May 22, 2022 at 10:29 am

Russia’s existential crises.

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This is basically a followup to the article I wrote yesterday about the US intelligence agencies proxy war against Russia, because I wanted to explore some of the larger issues surrounding that war.

That includes the idea that – while Putin’s invasion of Ukraine needs to stopped and even turned back – there’s no need to try and leverage it to get rid of Putin right now, as various fools from “President” Biden to Lindsay “There is no off-ramp” Graham have been demanding in the most bellicose terms.

There are two reasons why getting rid of Putin should not be considered an objective right now, let alone a priority.

First, because Russia’s thousand year history is of a massive, centralised, state led by a strongman “Czar”, from Czar Ivan to Czar Stalin. Putin is merely the latest and would likely be replaced by someone in his inner circles (or even the outer ones) who thinks much the same about Mother Russia, the West and Ukraine. In light of the history of such leaders back to the ancient civilisations you can bet there are already such schemers at work, thinking ahead to post-Putin days.

But the second reason is actually more sobering and, frankly, a bit sad; and it is that the Russian nation is slowly dying, war or not, and it’s this I want to focus on here, starting with a blunt statement in this article, Russia is dying out:

“One hundred and forty-six million [people] for such a vast territory is insufficient,” said Vladimir Putin at the end of last year. Russians haven’t been having enough children to replace themselves since the early Sixties. Birth rates are also stagnant in the West, but in Russia the problem is compounded by excess deaths: Russians die almost a decade earlier than Brits. Their President is clearly worried that he’s running out of subjects.

That excess deaths bit has a very nasty reference point from the 1990’s in the wake of the collapse of the USSR.

One journalist in Russia at the time wrote about how “the deaths kept piling up. People … were falling or perhaps jumping, off trains and out of windows; asphyxiating in country houses with faulty wood stoves or in apartment with jammed front door locks … drowning as a result of driving drunk into a lake … poisoning themselves with too much alcohol … dropping dead at absurdly early ages from heart attacks and strokes”. By the early years of this century, life expectancy for Russian men was on par with countries such as Madagascar and Sudan.

Over which an often drunken, shambolic President Yeltsin “ruled”. It was no surprise to many Russia watchers that Putin rose to power and promptly went after the causes of these things, to the extent that he could, starting with getting rid of the first wave of post-Soviet oligarchs who’d looted the place and replacing them with more cautious and amenable men. A must-read book on this is the 2011 work, The Oligarchs, by the former Moscow bureau chief for the Washington Post.

Unfortunately there’s not much that Putin can do, any more than can other leaders facing such demographic problems (It should be noted that here in the West it’s not even considered a problem – yet)

It’s a humiliating state of affairs because Russian power has always been built on the foundation of demography. Back in the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville foresaw that Russia would become a world power, because “Russia is of all the nations of the Old World the one whose population is increasing most rapidly”. The only other country with its population potential was the United States. De Tocqueville prophesised that, “Each one of them seems called by a secret design of Providence to hold in its hands one day the destinies of half the world.” A century later, they were the world’s two uncontested superpowers.

The article points to practical outcomes such as the Eastern portions of Russia – the ones right next to a resource hungry China – being steadily abandoned, as well as rural areas and small towns dying as young people flee to the cities. When it comes to the military the current demography is one of the reasons the Russians are having so many problems in the Ukraine.

Year after year, the share of recruits from the peripheral republics went up, while the share from Russia went down; in the late Eighties, three-quarters of recruits from Central Asia could not speak Russian.

It’s also worth recognising that the Russian men who fell fighting the Germans in the Forties were from families of six or seven siblings; those who fell fighting the Afghans in the Eighties were from families of two or three. Those falling now, fighting in Ukraine, are likely to be only-children or one of two siblings. The preparedness of a society to sustain military losses falls as family size falls.

That sort of fundamental problem also goes to the heart of how you design a military that allows for it. As pointed out here in The Russian Army Wasn’t Designed for War:

With the break up of the USSR, Russia no longer had access to virtually unlimited manpower supplied by Belarus, Ukraine, and other now-independent nations. It attempted to create a hybrid of the traditional Russian military where soldiers are cannon fodder with a professional Western military, including a professional corps of noncommissioned officers. They gave up on the noncommissioned officer experiment about 20 years ago and rely on commissioned officers to do all leadership and management tasks.

The problem is that the Russian armed forces are neither those of the USSR nor the West.

That article is long but has a wealth of detailed evidence on the problems with ethnic units in the Army – who are basically the cannon fodder nowadays – including a story from March that I thought was propaganda bullshit but turned out to be true; several hundred Ossetian soldiers got so pissed off with the uselessness of the Russian Army that they just up and quit, hitchhiking their way 500 miles back home, where they later got into public, video-recorded arguments with the Ossetia President Anatoly Bibilov, telling him exactly how bad it was.

No WWII Russian steamroller then, but also not a flexible, networked modern military either, as shown with other things like:

  • Abandoning their secure military comms and using captured cellphones and Ukrainian cellphone networks instead, with the associated loss of security.
  • Hopeless logistics capability, covered here in Punch It Vladdy.
  • Legal desertions by paid contractors.
  • “Training” and “Discipline” that still involves the traditional practice of dedovshchina.

As this other article (which references that first) points out, one of the real, unspoken reasons for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine may have simply been the prospect of instantly adding 40 million Russian speakers to the Motherland:

I think Russian chauvinism despises the very idea of a free and independent Ukraine, and lot of Putin decisions seem to be driven by ego. Pro-natalist policies like tax and welfare incentives seem a much better way to deal with their looming population crash than a risky invasion. But Putin makes all sorts of stupid calculations. And seeing his army’s performance in Ukraine would cause a sane man to back away from open conflict with NATO.

Yes, well, “artificial nation” and all, fits perfectly with that take. The article also references a YouTube analysis and summarises its points, of which I’ll list just three:

  • Russia has to win in Ukraine because ““The Russians see this as an existential crisis. They will fight until they can’t.This is their last chance….they will never stop until they have to, or they are forced to.
  • This is going to last months, probably years.
  • “They’ve killed at least 50,000 [Ukrainians], probably closer to 100,000.”

That last is important when you consider that Ukraine is about as bad a demographic basket case as Russia, with an even lower birthrate. The last comment in that piece also fits with yesterday’s post:

But Zeihan’s theory that the U.S. and NATO see this as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to defang Russia short of a direct conflict with NATO countries strikes me as correct.

Finally there’s yet another example of the dysfunction of Russian institutions in this story of how the GRU (Russian military intelligence) seems to be gaining influence over the FSB (the former KGB) because of FSB failures in the Ukraine – starting with their under-estimation of the ability and desire of the Ukrainian military and government to fight, as well as Western and US resolve, but also including propaganda failures from the recent past in Ukraine:

“The Kremlin’s decision to favour outgroup animosity over in-group identity building, and its vast overestimation of the extent to which its lies about non-existent Ukrainian ‘fascists’ promoted pro-Russian sentiment, are key reasons why the invasion has been a strategic and logistical disaster.”

“What identity-building propaganda I could find in Donbas after 2014 was vague, poorly conceived, and quickly forgotten. Political attempts to invoke Novorossiya [“New Russia”] were cast aside by the summer of 2015, but such weak propaganda suggests they didn’t stand much chance anyway.”

In short, too much “de-nazification” bullshit and not enough, “Why Russia is amazeballs”. FSB propaganda is not what it once was in the days of the KGB, but that’s true of the FSB across the board.

Read the whole story here, but don’t laugh too much at such things. Here in the West, we’re merely traveling down a different dysfunctional path with our various government institutions, whether in NZ, Europe or the USA.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 17, 2022 at 6:00 am

Discretion is the better part of valour

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“Joshua son of Nun sent two spies out from Shittim secretly with orders to reconnoitre the country. The two men came to Jericho and went to the house of a prostitute named Rahab..”

Discretion is certainly a quality prized by both the first and the second oldest professions in the world.

Nobody who uses either of these services wants that fact broadcast across the community, and both the provider and the user understand the mutual protection provided, even in these days of legal prostitution and advertising thereof.

Speaking of the CIA and its friends, they’ve been leaking to their favoured MSM sources, starting with the NYT, that they’ve provided intelligence to the Ukrainians that has enabled them to:

  1. Kill some of Moscow’s generals,
  2. Down a plane carrying Russian soldiers (at the start of the war near Kyiv International Airport)
  3. Sink one of Putin’s warships (the Moskva)

Now I doubt that anybody, least of all the Russian FSB and GRU, has ever doubted that US intelligence has been helping the Ukrainians from day one and earlier, using satellite and drone observation, plus signals intelligence of all types. And I don’t have a problem with that because I want Putin to lose.

But it’s long been understood that all this is done on the down low. Aside from anything else you don’t want to show your cards to the enemy as to how you’re getting all this information. Let them guess. And in this case you also don’t want to start a larger war by pushing the Russians to start taking more direct actions against specific US intelligence platforms and generally pushing Putin into a corner he can’t get out of. For once I’ll quote the Democrat-supporting moron NYT opinionater, Tom Friedman:

“Boasting about killing his generals and sinking his ships, or falling in love with Ukraine in ways that will get us enmeshed there forever, is the height of folly.”

Which leads into one of those classic spycraft, “you know that I know that you know…” things. Surely the US intelligence agencies are not so stupid as to run such risks, in which case the question is why they would be blabbing about this.

The rather frightening theory I have is that elements of US intelligence have concluded that since the Russian military has proven to be a bit of a paper tiger and Putin has been revealed as not so smart as was claimed, that the US can start rubbing his nose in this stuff; “Yeah, we did all this! Watcha gonna do tough guy? Huh? Huh?”

Before anybody says that the CIA and company could not be that arrogant, hubristic and stupid let me remind you of the rather long list of hubristic failures they’ve had over the decades, from missing the fall of the Shah of Iran, to missing the fall of the Warsaw Pact and then the USSR, to the 9/11 attacks and Iraqi WMD’s. Yes, they’ve had spectacular successes, including greatly contributing to the fall of the USSR. But there’s enough failure and mistakes in that history to put the brakes on when it comes to confronting a nuclear power, one still with some 6000 warheads.

Incidentally that second claim about the downed transport plane is likely to be bullshit, as detailed here in Red State where the reporter (a former US Army officer) tears it apart and wonders why the CIA is trying to take credit for something that does not appear to have happened. The details of the claim are fascinating in themselves, like no wreckage spotted for such a shoot down; but in light of the other stuff about killing Russian Generals and the Moskva it’s this I find fascinating:

The lead reporter on the story was the Intelligence Community’s and FusionGPS’s go-to guy, Ken Delanian. Delanian is basically a stenographer for the IC who, in the past, has submitted his reporting to the CIA for pre-publication review and correction. The story goes on to sing the praises of the intelligence community’s work in keeping Ukraine in the fight.

Why did the IC “officials” who fed stuff to Delanian push this story out, and why Delanian and his co-authors didn’t attempt a fact check?

Actually he answered that question with that earlier paragraph. He goes on to point out that the sources probably have little to do with with Ukraine and are just passing along water cooler gossip.

But that’s still rather reckless in this situation. Another writer points out that the Pentagon is pushing back on such claims, and that this leads to a speculation only a little less worse than the deliberate goading of Putin:

Now, however, identifiable Pentagon officials—people with names, like, “John Kirby”—are walking back the claims of the anonymous “senior American officials” and “US officials”.

That the US government is so divided on the core issue of war or peace with a nuclear power is disturbing in and of itself. That one faction in the government is attempting to go over the heads of the Pentagon on the issue of a war of choice adds to the concern. The fact that the sources are identified so vaguely is further cause for concern, since it suggests a lack of military expertise. That this semi-public debate is taking place with essentially no significant input from the one constitutional institution of the American republic which has the authority to declare a war—the legislative branch—or meaningful public debate should raise our concerns to the level of alarm.

Then there’s “The Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022”, which is being touted as a way of expediting the delivery of weapons and munitions to Ukraine. Lend-Lease? I don’t object to the actions but the choice of name, with its quite deliberate echo of World War II history, is another marker of Washington arrogance and hubris, on both the Democrat and GOP sides.

And that’s apart from the $40 billion Ukraine aid bill passed by the House, amazingly an increase from the $33 billion requested by Biden, so you know how hot a bipartisan Congress is for this stuff, even when it contains shit like this:

  • $54 million goes to the Center for Disease Control.
  • $67 million is given to the DOJ for salaries and expenses.
  • $110 million is marked for embassy security in other countries
  • $4 billion is delegated to Joe Biden for “foreign military assistance” with essentially no stipulations.
  • $17.6 billion goes to the Department of Defense for stuff that may or may not have anything to do with Ukraine.

Chip Roy of Texas summed it up very well.

None of this is smart, from the leaks to the spending, all of which may be nudging the US to something more than a proxy war, which is why it’s even led to speculation about other reasons that may lie behind all this:

Abraham Lincoln arrested opposition journalists and publishers during the War between the States.  WWI saw the passage of the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918, the latter of which absolutely infringed upon freedom of speech.  And Franklin Roosevelt is notorious for having interned U.S. citizens of Japanese and also of German descent and for persecuting some Italian-heritage Americans.

Civil rights’ trampling would surely be worse under a major-war scenario today.  Not only are we much farther down the rabbit hole of moral nihilism and wanton constitutional trespass, but Americans who even question our Ukraine policy are already labeled “stooges of Putin.”  Moreover, Democrats have already made crystal-clear what they want: complete power — by any means necessary.

I don’t think the Democrats are either smart enough or courageous enough to pull that off.

Lastly from the world of Smart People In Charge, I’ll leave you with this video of some Ukrainian “soldier” supposedly doing a training video on how to operate a mortar. It’s not just the Russian military that have training problems. Here’s the snapshot from near the end in case you don’t want to watch two minutes of video.

I’ve never fired a mortar or even been near one, but I’ve watched enough war movies to know that that is not the end you stick in the mortar tube first.

THAT NICE MR PUTIN’S WAR ON UKRAINE ISN’T GOING WELL ON ANY NUMBER OF FRONTS

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Including the news that the United Nations Human Rights Council is to set up an inquiry into possible war crimes by Russian troops in the Kyiv area and beyond and then the double whammy that Finland is expected, as early as next week, to formally apply to join NATO with the move supported by both its President and Prime Minister. Sweden is reportedly also considering its options after 200 years of neutrality.

Clearly Putin has miscalculated on many fronts and his chickens are coming home to roost with a vengeance.

One suspects the Kremlin ain’t an overly happy place to be right now.

Written by The Veteran

May 14, 2022 at 8:55 pm

Posted in Russia

Tagged with , ,

Mysteries of the Special Military Operation – Part 4

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The Mystery of Putin’s Health

He’s been looking pretty pudgy lately after years of sporting a trim, even athletic figure, well into his 60’s.

But good food and drink catches up to all of us as we age. Perhaps it’s just that? There’s also the fact that Russians of Putin’s vintage had to deal for much of their lives with diets and healthcare that have led to much lower life expectancy rates than are normal for a developed country. Maybe that’s catching up to him as well despite twenty years of what is undoubtedly a very good diet and healthcare as President of Russia.

But you certainly don’t see him doing this shit anymore.

That was just eight years ago.

But there are other things that are just weird about the guy, starting with this photo released by the Kremlin themselves a few months ago.

I haven’t heard of anybody, not even the Russian trolls, who have tried to pass that off as normal. I at first assumed it was some Western smartass having fun with Photoshop to produce a Monty Python moment, but it turned out to be the genuine article.

Then just a few days ago they released this video.

Putin held onto the table with his right hand for many minutes and again he looks bloated compared to even last year.

We all saw how badly Joe Biden deteriorated mentally just between 2017 and 2019, so anything’s possible and can happen quickly in the health area, especially when you’re 69 years old as Putin is. Unlike Biden, he at least appears to have all his marbles intact and can speak coherently, although the invasion of Ukraine cannot be described as the sort of decision you’d expect from the Chess Master that Putin has been acclaimed as for years.

Maybe he senses the approach of the end and is determined upon his vision for a Great Russia before he passes from this world?

Written by Tom Hunter

May 10, 2022 at 7:00 am

Mysteries of the Special Military Operation – Part 3

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The Mystery of the Sunken Ship Salvage

Three weeks ago the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, the Moskva, sank.

In a storm while being towed to port.

After an ammunition bunker exploded.

And it was not, I repeat NOT, anything to do with the Ukranians firing land-based anti-ship missiles at it. In the same way that when reports first broke of it being towed after being damaged by … something… that was denied too – until it could no longer be denied.

As was acknowledged about two weeks later by the US DOD and others, a missile strike is exactly what happened to the ship, but they probably knew from day one, given the electronic coverage they have of the area.

However, things got ever murkier when Russia sent a salvage ship, the Kommuna, to the location, complete with deep diving submersible. (cool side note: the Kommuna was commissioned during the time of the last Russian Czar)

Why would they do such a thing?

I think everyone could agree that the largest warship sunk since 1945 — 600-feet long and displacing 11,490 tons in 300 feet of water — isn’t going to be raised. Then the question is, what is worth the effort of deploying a submersible and possibly divers to recover. It is difficult to imagine that there are surviving electronics or crypto gear that just have to be salvaged. The idea that conventional munitions or missile tubes would be worth this level of effort strikes me as ludicrous. Just as silly is the theory that the Russians are trying to recover bodies from the wreckage. The Black Sea is a closed environment; ships entering have to pass through The Straits, and Moskva’s wreck is a very short distance from the major Russian naval base at Sebastopol. Physical monitoring of vessels entering the Black Sea and the wreck site could provide eternal security. There is no danger of a repeat of the Glomar Explorer going after the wreck of the K-129 in the open Pacific.

Well there could be one reason and it’s related to a propaganda claim that the Ukrainians threw out after they sunk the ship – that it was carrying nuclear weapons. None other than the US DOD jumped on that, saying they’d seen no indications of such. But the Russian reaction was interesting, as this writer said:

What aroused suspicion was Russia ignored the allegation. If you’ve been following the progress of Putin’s War, you know any time Russia is accused of something egregious or criminal, they have three sequential responses:
a) we didn’t do it;
b) you faked it to create a “provocation”;
c) you do it all the time.

All of this, of course, is speculation except for one thing. There is a marine salvage vessel with a submersible at the site of the Moskva, and there are no logical reasons that don’t involve nuclear weapons.

Readers are invited to contribute suggested reasons – logical and otherwise.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 9, 2022 at 11:00 am

Mysteries of the Special Military Operation – Part 2

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The Mystery of the Russian Fires

It seems that the Russians are having an awful run of bad luck with fires in major installations recently.

On Thursday [April 21], a catastrophic fire ripped through the building housing the Russian Ministry of Defense’s 2nd Central Scientific-Research Institute in Tver, some 80 miles northeast of Moscow. This “scientific-research institute” is actually the design bureau responsible for creating Russia’s ballistic missiles and anti-aircraft missiles.

Later that same day one of the largest chemical plants in Russia caught fire.

Dmitrievsky Chemical Plant is the largest producer of butyl acetate and industrial solvents in Russia and Eastern Europe, as well as a supplier of a wide range of chemical and petrochemical products in Russia and in the world. Which means a lot of military applications also in Russia.

Then the next day, Friday, April 23, there was this.

The fire wasn’t just any location. It was at a massive plant owned by Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia, or RKK Energia, Russia’s primary manufacturer of ballistic missile, spacecraft, and space station components.

But wait! There’s more! Early Monday morning (local time), explosions rocked two oil tank farms in Bryansk, Russia.  Bryansk is about 250 miles northeast of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, and less than 70 miles from the Ukrainian border.

One tank farm catching fire is careless; two flaming up is rather extravagant. Two tank farms, geographically separated, going Zippo on the same night pushes the laws of probabilities.

So let’s count them up. A missile design bureau building, a major chemical plant, a place that builds missiles, and not one but two massive oil tank farms. I think these are what’s called strategic targets.

I’m sensing another one of those “Three Five times is enemy action” situations – in a nation at war.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 8, 2022 at 7:00 am

Mysteries of the Special Military Operation – Part 1

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The Mystery of The Dead Russian Oligarchs.

I never did much like the classic British crime story, where a murder occurs in some small, obscure English village, filled with quirky characters, unusual methods of killing and unusual motives; stories crafted by very English writers like Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Ellis Peters. To date there have been at least 132 murderous episodes of Midsomer Murders, which makes that fictional English county seem awfully dangerous.

No, in the face of the drive-by murders that happened in Chicago (and are happening more than ever now), where people are hardly ever even arrested, let alone convicted, the sheer randomness and frequency of modern murders made those English tales just too quaint, one even might say twee, to bear watching.

But there are times when such stories are worth looking at, as with The Mystery of The Dead Russian Oligarchs.

It seems that since January of this year six such people have committed suicide. This seems rather a high rate of death for people who seemingly have everything. I admit I didn’t notice any of this until this story broke a few days ago:

On April 18, former vice-president of Gazprombank Vladislav Avaev was found dead in his multi-million apartment on Universitetsky Prospekt in Moscow, together with his wife and daughter.

Murder-Suicide, and the murder of his own family no less. Unusual. Even amazing.

But it gets more amazing. Another two of those six oligarchs, Sergey Protosenya and Vasily Melnikov, also committed suicide after murdering their families.

[Protosenya], the 55-year-old millionaire was found hanged in the garden of the villa in Lloret de Mar by Catalonian police, Spanish media reported, while his wife and daughter were found in their beds with stab wounds on their bodies.

According to police investigations mentioned by Kommersant, Melnikov—who reportedly worked for the medical firm MedStom—was found dead in the apartment together with his wife Galina and two sons. They had all died from stab wounds and the knives used for the murders were found at the crime scene.

What a coincidence. As a famous writer once put it.

Mr Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: ‘Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action’”

No shit Sherlock. I wonder if the Wagner Group are involved in helping the Police with their inquiries?

Wagner is Russia’s most famous private military company, and is reportedly named after its commander, Dmitry Utkin, a former Russian military intelligence (GRU) officer who used the nom de guerre Wagner during his service in Chechnya.

Wagner is active in eastern Ukraine, Syria, and several countries in Africa and Latin America.

The Russian oligarch, under whose business empire Wagner sits, is a solid pal of Putin’s, naturally. He actually got his toe in the door via catering:

Today, his official business is a sprawling catering consortium that provides meals to millions of Russian soldiers, policemen, prosecutors, hospital patients and schoolchildren in return for hefty tax-funded payments estimated at at least $3 billion since 2011. 

Normally I’d be very surprised if such a man committed suicide. On the other hand he’s leveraged this business into other things to help out President Putin, which may put him at risk when a scapegoat is needed:

During this period, Prigozhin spoke or texted with practically the entire leadership of the Presidential Administration Office, along with a number of senior figures at the FSB, in the Federal Protective Service (FSO) and the Ministry of Defense. In particular, he called and texted Dmitry Peskov – President Putin’s adviser and spokesperson – a total of 144 times. He also called – or was called by – Anton Vayno, Putin’s chief of staff, a total of 99 times.

As well as similar numbers of calls and texts with a lot of other higher ups that would not appear to be connected with catering, even to the Russian Army. At the link (from the Bellingcat investigative site) is a clickable chart for all this with more detail. In case you’re wondering about them being “a CIA-backed venture”, well let’s just say that although their focus has been Russia in Syria and Ukraine, the Dutch-based outfit doesn’t express a lot of warmth to the USA either, given their uncovering of the use of Croatia as a front for shipping MANPAD missiles to Jihadi fighters in Syria.

How they got hold of Prigozhin’s information is a story in itself:

This investigation is based on a review of leaked email archives belonging to employees working for Prigozhin’s group of companies. Some of these archives have already been subject of investigations by independent Russian media while others have been obtained exclusively by the investigative team. We have validated the authenticity of the messages and contained documents through interviews with several former and current employees of Prigozhin’s overseas influencing operations.

Bellingcat has analyzed Prigozhin’s telephone records for an eight-month period spanning late 2013 and early 2014. The records were obtained from hacked emails of Prigozhin’s personal assistant leaked in 2015 by the Russian hacking collective Shaltai Boltay. The emails contained telephone billing records for his company Concord Consulting & Management, and we were able to identify Prigozhin’s personal number among the list of corporate numbers based on a reverse-phone-number-search app.

You may have heard that name before if you follow US politics. Concord is the troll farm that bombarded Facebook and Twitter with about $100,000 worth of adverts and bots (fake accounts) during the 2016 US election. To be fair it should be pointed out that while this was claimed to be “Russian interference” in the election by the Mueller Trump-Russian Collusion Investigative team, leading to Concord and a bunch of other Russians being indicted in 2018, the entire case collapsed when Concord’s lawyers unexpectedly turned up in court demanding to see the evidence, only for the Mueller team to squeal about how they needed more time or that it was “sensitive” information. The judge, aware that when an indictment is made it means you’re ready to go to trial, promptly threw the whole thing out.

Even so, Prigozhin is clearly one of Putin’s right hand men and is up to his armpits with Concord, the Wagner Group and a lot of other business. I’d say he’s playing with fire:

When you combine this with stories of a purge within the Russian domestic security service (150 FSB Foreign Intelligence Agents and Putin’s Domestic Policy Advisor Purged for Ukraine Fiasco), the head of Putin’s personal paramilitary force being placed under arrest (Top General in Putin’s Personal Army Is Arrested by FSB), the firing of eight senior generals, and a fresh purge underway in the Ukraine theater, one is not left with the view of a healthy government.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 7, 2022 at 7:00 am