What Did Russia Do?


What did Russia do during the 2016 United States presidential election? Did they interfere? Did they work to throw the election to Trump?

There’s been suspicions about this for a while now, and electoral meddling is something Russia has done through parts of Europe. But doing it here in the USA would be something entirely new and different. It also would be without precedent, as while we’ve fucked with elections before, we haven’t fucked with the ones in Russia. If we had, Putin wouldn’t be in charge anymore.

I remain somewhat skeptical of the idea of them meddling in our election, but I can’t dismiss it out of hand, and the fact that now a bipartisan group of American politicians are getting into the action.

I’d very much like to have a full investigation here and find out exactly what happened. It’s worth knowing so that we can prevent it from  happening again.

Понимание Путина


“Vladimir Putin 14 February 2008-7” by Kremlin.ru. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vladimir_Putin_14_February_2008-7.jpg#/media/File:Vladimir_Putin_14_February_2008-7.jpg

I want you to try (yet another) of my little thought experiments. It goes like this:

Suppose that China began forming military alliances with various nations in South America, and eventually signed a defense treaty creating the Sino-American Defense Organization, or SADO (admittedly a terrible name). Let’s say that at the same time the various nations of South America formed the Pan-American Union. They adopted a similar set of laws and a single currency, and did so with China smiling benevolently on the whole affair.

If this happened, we might start to get understandably nervous, much as we did when the Soviets were fooling around down there during the Cold War. Of course it’s no longer the Cold War, so no problem, right? We’d eventually adapt and come to accept what’s happening down there, though we probably wouldn’t like it.

Then suppose that the Sino-American Defense Organization began moving north. First Panama joins up, now putting what we’d view as Chinese proxies in charge of the Canal. Then they move up more, with Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and other nations joining up. As they do, they also begin trickling their way into the Pan-American Union. Now we have a whole set of nation states that are apparently in league with China. But they’re still not touching us, so that’s ok, right?

Well, then suppose that Mexico starts making noises about joining, and as they’re doing that, there’s an uprising in Mexico City. This uprising claims to be about replacing a terrible government that isn’t responsive to the people, and puts in place one that’s much more responsive to China. Ooops, I meant to say, “the people”, though for all we know, that’s as in “The People’s Republic of Mexico”.

Now we’d really lose our minds. Here we’d have a potentially hostile country directly on our southern border that’s being influenced by another country that’s our ideological enemy, and that’s regularly competing with us in the global marketplace. Forget nervous; we’d be scared out of our minds.

Replace China with America, SADO with NATO, the Pan-American Union with the European Union, and Mexico with Ukraine and you begin to understand what Russians in general, and Putin in particular, might be thinking, and why they might be lashing out.

“But!” you might protest. “America and the European Union aren’t like that! We’re friendly, benevolent countries that only want freedom and peace!”

A reasonable point, but this is where the China analogy somewhat falls apart, because China hasn’t launched an illegal, unprovoked war against another country in a fair amount of time. We, on the other hand, have, and did so with much help from the EU.

So try to put yourself in Putin’s shoes. Try to actually think like him. While he is yet another in a long line of Russian dictators, he’s neither insane nor evil. He’s reacting to what he genuinely believes is a threat to his country. Thus Russian actions in Georgia, thus their actions in Ukraine.

I’m not saying this is in any way justifiable. Russia is jumping at shadows, and Putin is a dictator. Russia needs to calm down and Putin needs to step down. Democracy can and should come to Russia, and by that I mean real, solid democracy; not the mocking of it that currently exists with rigged elections and dissenters being punished.

But until that happens, we need to try and understand why Putin thinks the way he does, and we need to deal with him that way. The Cold War is pretty much over, and we need to avoid restarting it, and understanding Putin and treating him and his position with respect, is the only way to do that.

Oh, and for the record: him invading Ukraine and annexing Crimea had nothing to do with any “weakness” on the part of Obama. If it did, you have to ask yourself why he also invaded Georgia during George W’s time in office.

I Kraine, Ukraine


Here is a little video on Ukraine.

Here’s how I think this is going to go down at this point. Crimea will leave Ukraine and become part of Russia again. For Crimea this is probably a better deal, but surprisingly, I think it might be better for Ukraine as well. Why? Because basically Crimea is the poor, impoverished part of the country that depends on the rest of the nation to hold it up. Basically this would be like the US losing Alabama and Mississippi. Ukraine will then spin toward the EU as fast as it can possibly go, because they certainly aren’t going to want to have anything further to do with Russia.

Meantime, Russia will have taken on a place where about 15% of the population is made up of Tartars; an ethnic group very hostile to Russia. Say hello to the new Chechnya. And Dagestan. And other such places. They also will have a large ethnic Russian and Ukrainian population that might not be too happy to be a part of Russia. Remember, just because your parents were Russian and lived in Russia doesn’t mean you want to. The younger generation certainly doesn’t want to.

It is also important to understand the limits of American power. There is not now, nor was there ever, anything we could really do to stop this, other than not expanding NATO. To Russia that was a bad idea. It’s like if Mexico had joined the Warsaw Pact. We wouldn’t have tolerated that, and they weren’t going to tolerate NATO in their backyard forever. We can and should suspend Russia from the G8 for a few years and not attend the G8 summit in Sochi, but beyond that, we can’t really do anything more, and shouldn’t do anything more, especially sanctions.

All that said, this is going to be a net loss for Russia. Five, ten years down the line, this is going to look even to most Russians (who are, at best, lukewarm on the idea), as a mistake. I could be wrong, but I’m fairly convinced that this is a short-term victory, and a long-term loss.

Проблема с Россией


There have, over the last few days, been quite a lot of noises about Russia. Much of these noises center on the fact that Russia cannot accept their place as a second-level power. They are no longer a superpower, and that’s something they’ve had a tough time adjusting to. It’s made worse by Putin doing…well, the things Putin does.

There’s two major events going on with them lately that need to be discussed. First, the whole Snowden thing. I’ve already made my thoughts clear on the “man” and what he should be doing. That said, Putin should have not granted him asylum. I think it’s very clear that he’s only doing so as a way of yanking our chain. Also, if Snowden somehow thinks he’s going to be living in a country with free speech and a transparent government, he’s in for a rude surprise.

I feel that the President has handled this in the best way he can, by cancelling a summit with Putin. It sucks that it came to that, but frankly Russia was asking for it. They pushed us to get a reaction, they got one, and the action and reaction are both largely symbolic. So…yeah. Hopefully Russia will soon hand over Snowden and/or we’ll get an extradition treaty with them to put an end to this kind of crap.

608px-2014_Winter_Olympics_logo.svg

Second, the gay thing. Russia has recently passed an insanely restrictive anti-gay law that stifles free speech and makes gay people throughout the country targets. This is a pity for several reasons, including the fact that, until fairly recently, Russia has been reasonably ok about the gays. But now, no.

In the wake of this new law, there have been many calls for the US, the UK and other countries to boycott the Olympics. That’s a bad, stupid idea. For one thing, from what I’ve heard, boycotting the games means you aren’t allowed to participate in the next two or three. It also unfairly punishes the athletes.

A better choice is this: athletes from countries sympathetic to the cause, or athletes themselves who are gay, or sympathetic, can either carry or wear little rainbow pride flags during the Parade of Nations. Russia is not stupid enough to arrest them en masse, and it’s a nice, quiet, not “in your face” way of making it clear that we in the civilized world don’t hold with what’s going on. It also expresses support for the gays in Russia in a nicely quiet, subtle way. Whether or not that will actually happen, who can say. But I really do hope it does.

Torchwood Norway: Vi Forsvarer Jorda!


Apparently Torchwood’s Norwegian branch has been busy in the last couple days, defending us from the latest Slitheen incursion (damn you, Raxicoricofalipatorius!), as can be seen in this video:

Ok, so what is it really? It’s actually a failed Russian missile test.

There were some really ignorant people out there going on about this being something called Project Blue Beam or some alien invasion or what have you, but I’m pleased to see that the MSM actually stepped up and slapped this one down. Good job, guys!

(for a more detailed takedown, check out Badastronomy.com’s explanation)

A Timely Choice


Harrison's_Chronometer_H5

So the Russian government is pondering a reduction in the number of time zones they have. Currently they sport eleven, which as you can imagine makes things somewhat difficult. They’re considering an option that might reduce the number of time zones to as low as four.

This seems like a fine idea to me. It’d make life easier for people in Russia who are trying to deal with Europe and make the whole country somewhat easier to manage. Let’s face it, given what a mess Russia has been over the last several years anything that might help could be worth trying.

Of course this does beg the question of why we need time zones to begin with. Why not just have one set, universal time that covers the entire planet? Oh, well. It’s about as likely as calendar reform bringing us something better than what we have now, so no point in hoping I suppose.

Europe in 2020?


Thanks to the Daily Dish, which the other day linked to a blog that has an interesting map for a possible future version of Europe, circa 2020. Here’s the map:

EuropeMap_2020

I have a few problems with this scenario. First, I’d say the only countries on here likely to wind up existing are Catalonia and some sort of Basque nation (though with parts of France as well as parts of Spain). Scotland is also a remote possibility.

But I don’t think any of the countries on here are terribly likely. There’s independence movements in all of them, sure, but there’s movements like that in Hawaii, Vermont, Texas and Alaska, but while Alaska is the most likely of those to form its own nation, it’s still not likely to happen.

Beyond that, I’d say that countries that might end up realistically coming to pass are some sort of independant version of Kaliningrad (though not likely while the current Russian leadership is in power), and maybe, possibly, Vojvodina, but given the problems with Kosovo, I don’t see that as likely. Other outside possibilities for being their own nations include Transnistria, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, though realistically all would be puppet countries of Russia.

I don’t think we’re likely to see any more real fragmentation of western and central Europe. We might see some with Eastern Europe, but even then I don’t expect much. People are just simply learning to work together and that’s no bad thing.