Archive for July, 2016

Almost Heaven, West Slovenia

July 29, 2016

Near-term prospects may be improving for Danilo Turk –at least one potential veto voter seems to be hinting at a possible okey-doke:

Russian President Vladimir Putin will be visiting European Union and NATO-member Slovenia this weekend, signaling a bid to maintain ties amid simmering tensions between the Kremlin and the two Western-led blocs.  While in Slovenia –his only third visit to an EU-member country this year– Putin will attend a commemoration of the centenary of a chapel at Kranjska Gora, which was erected in the memory of dozens of Russian World War I prisoners of war who died in an avalanche while building a [road through a] mountain pass in the Julian Alps for the Austrian army.

Kranjska Gora_0

Putin will also unveil a memorial to Russian soldiers who died in World War II at the main cemetery in Ljubljana, and meet Slovenian officials. The memorial is made up of eight pillars symbolizing the eight-year duration of both world wars.  There is a crane atop each of the pillars and the names of 3,000 soldiers are embossed in marble. The memorial has been made by Russian sculptors and financed by Russia.

Russia is Slovenia’s top non-EU trading partner, but the trade between the two has dropped by nearly 30 percent since EU sanctions were imposed [following Russia’s 2014 Ukraine incursion].  Some media reports suggest that the United States had advised Slovenia against inviting Putin given the enduring tensions between Russia and NATO. [However,] Slovenian authorities have been emphasizing the ceremonial nature of Putin’s visit and the absence of formal talks.  Slovenia has supported EU and NATO policies with regard to Russia while also striving to push aside obstacles to relations, which are underpinned not only by trade but in particular by shared Slavic culture.

St_Cyril_chapel

It’s pretty clear that Putin is (and has been) making a blatantly obvious point about the numerous Russian soldiers who have died on European soil during the past 100 years.  This is probably considered diplomatic subtlety by Russian standards of international relations, and people who “share Slavic culture” probably understand the message all too well.

So what might this mean for the Moldovan candidate?  I don’t know.  What does Auntie Sam have to say on this topic?

 

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Head Caseworker

July 28, 2016

Back in the day, I and my colleagues used to amuse ourselves and our newly-recruited lunchtime companions with a simple, politically incorrect quiz game that had no hard-and-fast correct answers.  After a short preamble explaining that we the American people have coined numerous verbal expressions to describe (or label) out-group members of society, and noting that each of us often has a slightly different understanding of what these colloquial terms actually mean, we would pose the following short question:

In your opinion, which of these three informal expressions describes someone with the most serious mental illness?

We usually didn’t ask anyone to justify their choice, and on several occasions our respondents suggested that we add the term “head case” to the list –triggering discussion of whether (and in what way) a “head case” might be a more mild or severe form of mental illness than a “wacko” or a “nut job.”  Sometimes, one of the group might seek to illustrate his reasoning by adding a common verbal intensifier to the chosen term, attempting to argue that a “complete fuckin’ wacko” is clearly crazier than the guy who’s merely “looney tunes.”  This would give us the opportunity to demonstrate that you could add “complete(ly) fuckin'” to any of the original expressions to make it seem worse than those that lacked the intensifier.  But when each term is thus modified the effect is cancelled out:  A “complete fuckin’ wacko” is no better –or worse– than a “complete fuckin’ nut job.”

At the time, the main point of this frivolous exercise was to demonstrate that spoken language –especially colloquial speech– becomes an inexact tool for communication when the semantic linkage between concept and word is highly subjective, culturally specific, and somewhat variable.  What you think you said isn’t necessarily what I believe I heard.

 

Pivot to Present … and Future

Why bother to mention any of this?  Because modern-day regime preservation functionaries, their advisers and their media propaganda specialists have lately been uncertain about whether to describe the world’s recent crop of ‘lone wolf’ mass murderers as actual terrorists … or just plain crazy.

U.S. officials said they are investigating the role mental health issues may have played in the shooting of police in Baton Rouge and Dallas. In both attacks, the shooters had displayed signs of apparent mental illness and extreme views before their rampages. “When someone with mental health issues [finally] snaps, there usually is some external stimulus that also is involved and provides an organizing framework for the violent act,” noted Paul Pillar, a former senior CIA analyst.

[A half dozen American, British and French] counterterrorism officials told Reuters that the assailants in a recent spate of mass killings all had histories of apparent mental illness. They included the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida; the murder of a British parliamentarian in Northern England; the killings of police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Dallas, Texas; the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice, France; and Friday’s mass shooting at a German shopping mall.  [However,] existing systems for collecting intelligence on extremists are not set up to identify individuals with a history of mental illness who come into contact with people or propaganda that could incite them to engage in violence, the intelligence officials told Reuters.

Okay, so we have an intelligence gap big enough to drive a truck through.  On the bright side, at least the gaps are getting smaller: fifteen years ago you could fly four 747s through the FBI’s blind spots.  Nowadays, something as innocuous as this blog post won’t escape notice and might even trigger (intentional word choice) some petty, spiteful electronic harassment by aggrieved LE personnel or their minions.  But if our most vexing intell vulnerability really is the muttering madman loner, I think I can live with that: the odds are working in my favor (to clarify: as a potential victim, not as a perpetrator).

Unfortunately, the United States is also exposed to a much greater threat of politically-motivated mass violence on a much larger scale than any lone wolf terrorist/madman would be able to manage… and the probable perpetrators are hiding in plain sight.  Last year, Dutch sociologist Avram de Swaan described some of the indicators of incipient organized, large-scale atrocities perpetrated by armed political movements or government regimes:

the foundation for future atrocity is laid when latent social tensions are redefined by political actors to:

  • accentuate social differences and divisions,
  • demarcate boundaries of “compartmentalized” social categories,
  • enact physical/spatial separation of these newly defined social fragments,
  • and accelerate (individual) psychological processes of self-identification, projection, internalization, fervent “othering” (etc.) within increasing numbers of the citizenry.

Do these indicators sound familiar?  Copious open source reporting would seem to suggest so.   And yet this is a threat assessment that regime preservationists wouldn’t touch with the proverbial ten-foot pole. Perhaps because they believe that mass violence of this particular kind will actually preserve their regime rather than threaten it.  Perhaps we’ll see whether this is so.

 

John Hinckley Jr

Pika-Chu

July 19, 2016

Once again, “evidence” that Comrade Bear heeds the message of this blog (in some respects, at least):

The (Chabad Hasidic) Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia said in a statement Tuesday that it does not mind people playing “Pokemon Go” near synagogues and other cultural buildings …  as long as it is not disturbing the congregation.  Pokemon has prompted a mixed reaction [in Russian society].  While Russian airports and banks have endorsed the game, the Russian Orthodox Church and some Duma deputies have angrily complained that the Western-developed app [sic] has harmed Russia.

Those Russian nationalists would benefit from a basic geography lesson and a refresher course in late Imperial history:  Nintendo => Japan => East, not West.  Of course, their confused disorientation is entirely understandable … because everyone in Russia is a bit on edge, what with centenary “celebrations” of the October Revolution looming on the horizon.

There’s no actual cause for concern, however, because the next major nation to undergo a genuine social revolution (rather than a mere sham regime change) will have the opportunity to guide the course of world affairs for at least a century.  So rather than fear civic instability, true patriots (of whatever nationality) should embrace the possibility of dramatic change –in the interest of human survival and sustainable ecology.

Pikachu

Back From The Bulrushes

July 13, 2016

Surely I’m not the first to echo the historic words of Moishe the Egyptian from back in the day:

Let my people Go!

 

Go_2

Dee Pelham Blues

July 11, 2016

Stone_free

“The problem is that you have people with great intentions but part of a bad organization that is corrupt.”

— barbershop owner Randall Vaughn

 

And in addition, you also have people with bad intentions who are the reason that an organization/ a society/ a culture is ‘bad’ and corrupt.  Everyone seems to have their own definition of which people are which.