Barrel Strength

Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Barrel Strength - Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

More on Ukraine and great power politics

Dealing with Russia involves recognizing two important and unchangeable facts:

  1. It is its own civilization. Samuel Huntingdon marked it as one of the permanent cultural boundaries  in his great book The Clash of civilizations. Orthodox Christianity has religious and historical differences with Latin Christendom which go back to the division of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires under the Emperor Diocletian in 284AD, and probably that division was underlain by the differences between Greek-speaking and Latin -speaking regions of the Empire. The Russians were evangelized by Greek, not by Roman Christians, and consider themselves the heirs of Byzantium, that part of Rome that lasted until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 to the Turks.
  2. It is a continental power, and it expands until its is militarily rebuffed. It has to expand to the largest possible size it can because it has not convenient 100 miles  of ocean between it and its neighbours. The wholly different strategic vulnerability of Russia means that the Russians must have plenty of space with which to absorb foreign invasions, whether Swedish (Charles XII), Napoleonic, Hitlerian, or Mongol.

Western diplomacy has been bone-headed in its treatment of the Ukraine. The US and the Europeans sponsored a democratic coup against a legally elected President, Yanukovich. That he was as corrupt as the woman president (Timoshenko) he replaced is of no account.

Now it appears the heads of the European Commission (or whatever the thing is in Brussels is called) were in conference with Putin. This is how it went:

Over recent days, accounts of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s baffled frustration at the EU’s conduct have begun to emerge. Following a summit in Brussels last week, senior European diplomatic sources gave an account of a meeting on 28 January between Herman Van Rompuy and José Manuel Barroso on the EU side and the Russian president on the other. According to accounts, Putin said he was increasingly concerned at developments in Ukraine, particularly the threat of extra-parliamentary protests against the government. But he was still willing to negotiate if the EU recognised Russian fears, including fears of Ukraine’s potential membership of NATO.

According to one source who was present at the meeting: ‘Van Rompuy told Putin that the EU was not playing geopolitics with Ukraine, the Maidan protests and the association agreement [with Russia]. Putin asked him if signing the agreement would be “a step to EU membership”. “Yes, Ukraine can have a European perspective if it chooses”, replied Van Rompuy. “Does that mean you think Ukraine would join NATO?”, asked Putin. “Yes, that could well be part of the process”, replied Van Rompuy. “Then that is playing geopolitics”, replied the Russian leader. “No, we do not do geopolitics”, insisted Van Rompuy. Barroso added that the EU was opposed to a bloc-against-bloc view of the world. Putin was not impressed: “It’s geopolitics”, he said.’

Russia will not allow its strategic glacis in the Ukraine to fall into the hands of NATO, and more than the US would allow Canada to sign up with a military treaty organization headed by Russia.Just not going to happen.

And if I may say a word in favour of Obama, his response recently in a press conference in Belgium was absolutely correct. He said he was much more concerned about a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan than with the Russians as a strategic threat, which is to say, in plainer language, that Obama is more concerned with Islamic terrorism than Russia. I agree.

The relevant portion of Obama’s press conference is found here, at the end of an opinion piece taking the opposite position as I do.

The whole press conference is here:

The relevant question is asked at 30:02. The interesting portion of Obama’s answer starts at 34:02. It is very significant indication that Obama has clued in, and I was as surprized as I was impressed.

“Russia’s actions are a problem.They do not pose the number-one national security threat to the United States. I continue to be much more concerned, when it comes to our security,with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan…”

The Marriage of Two Insanities

The Congressional Black Caucus and the Hip Hop Caucus are launching a hip-hop tour on how climate change is victimizing black people.

Said Congressman Keith Ellison:

If you’ve ever wondered about test scores between black students and white students, if you’ve ever wondered about health disparities, if you’ve ever wondered about who gets to make it through the flood and the big bad storm and who doesn’t, you really don’t have to look any further than this issue of climate change.

Because clearly the only way to put a cap in that racist Gaia is to bust some tricky rhymes.

What did they think they were agreeing to? Eating ice cream?

Occasionally the gap between what I know for a fact and what appears in the newspapers to cries of shock! horror! is wide. Take the NSA and Snowden for instance. Of course the NSA and CSE and every other British commonwealth signals intelligence agency has been vacuuming everyone’s email and phone messages for years. What did you think they were doing? Playing bridge with each other in those sealed conclaves of Cray computers? They are not looking for you or your porn habits, your secret trysts, or your bad habits, though I am sure a  moment’s tracking will reveal everything you ever wanted to hide. They are looking for patterns that indicate Islamic terrorism, needles in haystacks the size of Jupiter. We are more transparent to them than the Emperor Shaddam IV was to the Guild Navigators.

The top lawyer for the National Security Agency told a civil liberties oversight board on Wednesday that US technology companies were fully aware of the surveillance agency’s data collection – knowledge which the firms have vigorously denied having.

NSA general counsel Rajesh De said companies like Facebook and Google had complete knowledge of all communications information and metadata collected by the agency pursuant to the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, whether the material was gathered by the internet data-mining program PRISM or by the “so-called ‘upstream’ collection of communications moving across the internet,” the Guardian reported.

How could they not know? The tech companies had signed agreements with the NSA, acting under authority of law, to conform to the intelligence requirements of signals intelligence agencies. This from Wikipedia:

The FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Amendments Act also added a new Title VII to FISA which contained provisions similar, but not identical, to provisions in the Protect America Act of 2007 which had expired earlier in 2008. The new provisions in Title VII of FISA were scheduled to expire on December 31, 2012, but two days before the U.S. Senate extended the FISA Amendments Act for five years (until December 31, 2017) which renews the U.S. government’s authority to monitor electronic communications of foreigners abroad.[8]

Section 702 permits the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence to jointly authorize targeting of persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States, but is limited to targeting non-U.S. persons. Once authorized, such acquisitions may last for periods of up to one year.

Under subsection 702(b) of the FISA Amendments Act, such an acquisition is also subject to several limitations. Specifically, an acquisition:

    May not intentionally target any person known at the time of acquisition to be located in the United States;

  • May not intentionally target a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States if the purpose of such acquisition is to target a particular, known person reasonably believed to be in the United States;
  • May not intentionally target a U.S. person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States;
  • May not intentionally acquire any communication as to which the sender and all intended recipients are known at the time of the acquisition to be located in the United States;
  • Must be conducted in a manner consistent with the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Section 702 authorizes foreign surveillance programs by the National Security Agency (NSA), like PRISM and some earlier data collection activities which were previously authorized under the President’s Surveillance Program from 2001

You ask, quite reasonably, does this not exempt US citizens?

Yes it does.

So how do you collect data on US citizens?

Simple. What do you think the CSE does? The British and Australian counterparts?

Oh. So every signals intelligence agency uses its foreign intelligence powers to snoop on citizens of other countries and then shares data with a select trusted few agencies according to long-standing agreements?

Yes. The intelligence sharing among Anglosphere signal intelligence agencies is a deeper political fact than NATO.

Without breaking any law?

Yes. But note that, if any foreigner is involved, then the NSA can legally target the communications, even if the preponderance of them involves resident US citizens. So if Abu-Jihad abd el Nasir is targeted, his American correspondents in the territory of the US are a legitimate target.

The lies and hypocrisy start when the Googles of this world deny their active cooperation. The phone companies have been hand in glove with the intelligence agencies for ever, and why should it be any different in the Internet-protocol world?

And did I forget to mention Executive Order 12333 on the subject of US Intelligence activities?

Wood stoves menaced by EPA rules

New rules from the American federal Environmental Protection Agency threaten to render most stoves made before 1990 unusable. This from Obama’s regime, friend to the poor, right?

How do the rural poor heat their homes? With wood. Some twelve percent of American households heat primarily with wood.

The Census Bureau reports that 2.4 million American families (12 percent of homes) use wood as their primary heating source — seven percent depend on fuel oil to heat their homes.

From another source:

According to the EPA, there are about 12 million wood stoves in the US, and about nine million of those are less than half as efficient as the newest models. The EPA says that current wood stove owners would not be affected (a claim disputed by Forbes and other media) and it would only affect the sale of new wood stoves. Manufactures would have five to eight years to comply.

Most will see it for what it is: an attack by the Volvo-driver class upon the rights of the self-employed, the rural poor, and the independent.

In case you need to be reminded who these people are, you should watch a terrific movie, set in Missouri, called Winter’s Bone, about  rural, largely Scotch-Irish meth-producing rednecks, who live with twenty cars and trucks in their pasture, of which three or four function. Don’t mess with these people. Okay, go ahead and enforce your ban, you poncey bureaucrats. Just wait for the rural reaction.

A good review of Winter’s Bone is found here.

I do not think the US Government wants to mess with its rural poor. They are close to the point of explosion against the regime which drowns them in Mexican immigrants, despise their values, and keeps them unemployed. Somewhere in Taleb’s Anti-Fragile I read that, while bankers have, since 2007, lost some $3 trillion (3 thousand billion) of US pensioners’ savings, cororate executives of companies on the stock market have awarded themselves $400 billion in bonuses. Thus for every $30 they have lost they have been rewarded with $4 of private profit. Socializing losses and privatizing gains; and this is going on in a Democratic administration.

So I figure coming for the wood stoves of the rural poor is going to get some official shot by an enraged old redneck. I hope so.

Western follies continue in relation to the Ukraine

The greatest take-away from the Ukrainian crisis is that we live in a propaganda environment so thick that we can scarcely perceive it. Imagine if Quebec separated and the international community was trying to drive us out of the G8 because the federal government seized the western portions of (English) Montreal, plus the triangle of land between the Ottawa and St Lawrence rivers,  and Pontiac County.

Ludicrous huffing and puffing when we have neither the means, will or justification for stopping Russia from seizing Russian-language territories. Andrew Coyne, for example:

It is interesting to reflect on Russia’s long historic and emotional ties to Ukraine, as it is useful to bear in mind its strategic interests in the naval base at Sevastopol. But it is not actually germane. Whatever its motivations or explanations, the issue at the heart of the invasion remains: it is wrong, and it must be stopped. If it is not possible to eject Russia from Crimea, then certainly it must be deterred from expanding its reach further. That’s not only a matter of defending the right of Ukrainians to decide their own future. It isn’t even about Russia, in the long run. It’s about the whole structure of international relations.

Ah, no, Andrew, it isn’t. History is entirely germane. It is a matter of great power politics, in which right and wrong play rather less role than we idealists might like. It is about Russia’s interests and power as a state to control its near-abroad.

I hope the Ukrainians can pull themselves out of the mess they are in. I hope they can manage to lift their abysmal GDP per capita of $3,800 to the levels of prosperity found in, say, Slovakia [$17,600]. I hope they can maintain friendly relations with both the European Community and with Russia. I hope, I hope, but it is not going to happen without serious territorial adjustment to let Russians live inside Russia.

Everyone knows this, except people who write in newspapers.

Crimea: it was never Ukrainian until the Soviet dictatorship handed it to the Ukraine in 1954. See purple-coloured peninsula into Black Sea, below.


Electorally, look at the difference between largely Russian-speaking areas and Ukrainian-speaking areas. Blue supported the ousted President Yanukovich, yellow the losing candidate Tymoshenko.


Linguistically it is divided this way. The solid red and pink is majority Ukrainian.




If Obama had any brains he would be congratulating Putin on firm and decisive leadership on the issue (lying through his teeth of course) but remembering how much we owe to Putin’s non-interference  in important decisions in the United Nations and a few other favours he has done us in the nature of suppressing Islamic terrorism, which we have failed to be grateful for.

I hate dictatorships as much as the next sensible man, but when a foreign leader is claiming back territory vital to his national interest, which was handed over by a discredited former dictatorship to a neighbouring state which is now on its way to becoming foreign and possibly hostile, and when you have no capability of resisting that leader, nod sagely and agree.

Russia will dictate what is going to happen here, and we are just blowing smoke. Vlad the Impaler knows this. Apparently we do not.


All you need to know about the Ukraine

Russia can no more afford to let the Ukraine go than Canada can let Manitoba and Saskatchewan merge with the United States, or the US let Alaska go to Russia, or Texas to Mexico. The Ukraine is their western and southern frontier.

The United States has been insanely irresponsible in pushing the elected government  of Ukraine to fall into the hands of the current revolutionaries, who are not the US-funded liberals whom the US thought they were supporting. Russia has been fighting to capture Crimea from the Tartars and the Ottoman Turks for several centuries; they will not let it go to some Western Ukrainian Catholics who no more represent the Russians of the Crimea than our Prime Minister Harper represents Quebec nationalists.

Two commentaries to which you should pay attention:

A former US Secretary of Commerce under Reagan, Paul Craig Roberts, gives a a very bleak interpretation of how much the Ukrainian revolution has been fomented by the US  and how it  has now fallen out of US control; and

Spengler on why the whole thing does not matter that much: “hopeless but not serious”.

Paul Craig Roberts would argue that it is both very serious and utterly hopeless, that Russia has absolutely vital interests at stake, and that our media are systematically misrepresenting how Russian actions are  reasonable, and fairly mild, having regard for the forces and issues at stake. You should hear  Roberts’  interview. It is shocking, but highly plausible.



Kerry has swallowed the Kool-Aid

There are two people who can be relied upon to always grasp the wrong end of the stick: Prince Charles and John Kerry, US Secretary of State. The engage in full-scale warmist hysteria, complete with absolute belief, and denigration of skeptics. Today it is John Kerry’s turn to sound the alarm about incontrovertible science. From the Toronto Globe and Mail.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Indonesians on Sunday that man-made climate change could threaten their entire way of life, deriding those who doubted the existence of “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction”.

Kerry described those who do not accept that human activity causes global warming as “shoddy scientists” and “extreme ideologues”, and said big companies and special interests should not be allowed to “hijack” the climate debate.

Within my lifetime, the “extreme ideologues” will have been shown to be right, as in factually correct. The warmists will have been shown to be a doomsday cult. Intelligent opinion will deny ever having bought into it (they will lie).

Deforestation, overfishing, soil erosion: these are real and pressing problems, about which much more might be done if we focused on them. But trillions are being spent on measures to combat  anthropogenic global warming, a problem that may or may not exist, and whose cures are worse than the disease, while the world’s political attention could better be turned to improving farming, forestry and fishing practices. But that would be too real for John Kerry.

Roger Ailes as not heard by the CBC

Yesterday, the CBC aired an interview with journalist and author Gabriel Sherman about Roger Ailes, the presiding genius of Fox News.

There was something obscene about the shared world view of the CBC and Gabriel Sherman, the attacker of Roger Ailes. I shall explain why in a moment. Let me be more precise. The CBC and Gabriel Sherman are allowed to share a world view, but the CBC is not allowed to be so bad at interviewing.

Roger Ailes did not create modern American conservatism. He did not cause the political divisions of contemporary American life. The main thesis – unstated of course – of Gabriel Sherman’s book is that, but for Fox News, American political life would not be so stressed, fractious, and divided.

That essential question was never asked by the CBC interviewer.

Fox News continues to outperform other cable news networks because it represents a view that millions of Americans hold, and more of them hold conservative views than people like Gabriel Sherman would like.

Unfortunately, as the interview made clear, the people who hold those views tend largely to be white, older, and male. Gabriel Sherman and the CBC interviewer made no pretense of their disdain for the audience of Fox News. If one had said that the audience for a news network owned by George Soros was predominantly urban, liberal and Jewish, or black, you would have heard the screams of outrage all the way to a Human Rights Commission. The real obscenity of the interview was the presumption that the views of older, male, conservatives was illegitimate because held by older, male, conservatives. And they did not have the balls to say it out loud, but left it hanging like smoke in the air.

Every time you think that perhaps, perhaps, intelligent radio might be possible, and turn to the CBC for some relief from advertizing and the general moronicity of commercial radio, you encounter the smug certainties of the chattering classes. Roger Ailes is bad, thinks the CBC, and though we do not know quite how bad, here we have this young author of impeccable credentials to tell us exactly how bad in this wonderful book.

A search of Gabriel Sherman/Roger Ailes will show that the young man’s book is receiving rave reviews in all the right places in the media.

The real crime of people like Roger Ailes is that they broke the monopoly of received wisdom from people like Gabriel Sherman and the mainstream media; they showed that millions of people did not buy into the CBS/NBC/ABC world view, and that they were not taking it anymore, by voting with their eyeballs to trust views more raucous and conservative than the twee little world of Our Established Masters.

For this crime, Ailes must be vilified, and Gabriel Sherman’s fortune has just been made by his allies in the media. It may be tiresome to harp on the “media party”, but to see it in action is to remind oneself of its power.