Sep 262022
 

Putting aside Trumpism, woke-ism, the politics of the day, populism, the whole kaboodle, here’s something to contemplate.

Tonight, Russia is continuing its efforts to subjugate the independent nation of Ukraine, not refraining from committing serious, intentional, criminal acts against the country’s civilian population to further its goals.

Also tonight, the space agency of the United States, NASA, is conducting a ground-breaking experiment, the first of its kind testing a method that might one day avert a global disaster, protecting the entire planet from an asteroid impact.

DART: View of the asteroid Dimophos 20 minutes to impact

I think it speaks volumes about the different ways in which these countries see their respective roles in the world.

I almost long for Soviet times. The regime was assuredly brutal, but at least it professed to seek noble goals. Not anymore, I guess.

 Posted by at 7:18 pm
Sep 232022
 

I admit that to date, I only viewed the first season of Game of Thrones. One of these days, I’ll watch the rest but there’s so much good television and so little time… I don’t spend much time watching TV, so I am behind even with series that I really like. (Hint: haven’t yet finished the last season of The Sopranos.)

Yet… I get the catch phrase. Winter is coming. And yes, I am filled with a sensation of dread because winter, indeed, is coming. quite possibly the world’s worst winter since… 1914? 1939? 1941? Not sure.

For some reason, I keep thinking about a silly but perhaps relevant analogy: the flight envelope. Move too slow, your airplane falls out of the sky. Move too fast and your airplane is overstressed and disintegrates. The higher your altitude, the smaller the difference between the two, until eventually you run out of options: no matter what you do, you fall out of the sky. That was the tragic fate of AF447 over the Atlantic Ocean 13 years ago.

And I now feel that geopolitics is locked in a very similar pattern. With each and every passing day, our options are becoming more constrained. Take Putin’s nuclear threat, combined with the sham referenda he’s organizing in the occupied Ukrainian territories. He says he’s not bluffing. What if he means it? What are our options if he does deploy a tactical nuke in the battlefield?

There really are no good choices.

If we do nothing, that will only encourage him to go for more. The rest of Ukraine. Moldova. A Kaliningrad corridor. Perhaps the Baltic states since if NATO failed to respond to nukes in Ukraine out of fear of triggering a nuclear world war, he can count on NATO’s restraint in the Baltics, too. Where will he stop? Will he stop?

If we respond tit-for-tat, with a NATO tactical nuke, that risks escalation. The genie is now truly out of the bottle.

The best option I can think of is to use all of NATO’s might to do two things: 1) immediately establish a no-fly zone over all of Ukraine, and 2) use a direct, overwhelming conventional strike to annihilate the unit that launched the nuke.

This still carries the risk of escalation. But at least it would show that the West is not afraid to respond, it just calibrates its response appropriately: to deter, but not to escalate. And of course telegraph this well in advance, to make it clear to Putin that unlike him, the West really isn’t bluffing.

Yet I cannot escape the thought of that flight envelope. When the difference between your minimum speed and your top speed gets reduced to nothing, that means you have no good options left. Whatever you do, you fall out of the sky.

Winter is coming. A winter bringing with it the risk of escalation in Ukraine. A global food crisis as a result of the Ukraine war. An energy crisis (which may be mitigated but cannot be fully averted) in Europe. Growing tensions concerning Taiwan. A democracy crisis throughout the West as right-wing populism prevails and the rule of law suffers.

I am increasingly convinced that October 1962, the Cuban missile crisis, was a pleasant afternoon tea in a kindergarten, surrounded by friendly teddy bears, compared to what we now face, in the fall of 2022.

Back then, the choices were clear and the major players shared a common goal: avoid global confrontation.

Today? The choices are murky and we have leaders who built cults on the shared belief that they are all victims. That they have no choice but to defend themselves. From what, you ask? Well, how about defending yourself from the rule of law when you want to break it. Defending yourself from a country you attacked and tried to destroy or occupy. Defending yourself from a territory that does not want to live under your one-party totalitarian regime. Of course they do not see things this way. And that’s what make things scary.

And that’s why I worry that winter, indeed, is coming, a kind of winter we have not seen in many generations, if ever.

From the opening scenes of the Fallout 3 computer game:

War. War never changes.
Since the dawn of human kind,
when our ancestors first discovered
the killing power of rock and bone,
blood has been spilled in the name
of everything: from God to justice
to simple, psychotic rage.

 Posted by at 5:54 pm
Sep 092022
 

In the wake of the passing of Elizabeth II, there are once again voices advocating that Canada should shed its “colonial past”, get rid of the institution of monarchy, and transform itself into a republic.

I think it’s an absolutely horrible idea. Why? Well… let me present the ten countries at the top of the 2021 Freedom in the World index:

Finland Parliamentary Republic
Norway Constitutional Monarchy
Sweden Constitutional Monarchy
New Zealand Constitutional Monarchy
Canada Constitutional Monarchy
Netherlands Constitutional Monarchy
Uruguay Presidential Republic
Australia Constitutional Monarchy
Denmark Constitutional Monarchy
Ireland Parliamentary Republic

Notice that seven out of these ten countries are constitutional monarchies (four of them, in fact, under the same monarch.)

Let me present, in contrast, the ten countries at the bottom of the list:

Central African Republic Presidential Republic
Tajikistan Presidential Republic
Somalia Parliamentary Republic
Saudi Arabia Absolute Monarchy
Equatorial Guinea Presidential Republic
North Korea Socialist Republic
Turkmenistan Presidential Republic
South Sudan Federal Republic
Eritrea Presidential Republic
Syria Presidential Republic

With the sole exception of Saudi Arabia (an absolute monarchy) all of them are republics.

I think these lists speak for themselves.

Thankfully, changing the Canadian constitution is a monumental task and I doubt any major political party would have the appetite to initiate something like this.

As for the “colonial past”, this excessive wokeness is beginning to sound almost as crazy as the convoy nutbags’ cries for “freedom”. Enough with the insanity already. Stop trying to turn this wonderful country into a battleground between two competing insane asylums.

 Posted by at 1:48 pm
Aug 292022
 

The reputable think tank, the Atlantic Council, published a list of 23 lessons from the Ukraine war.

The details are well worth reading, but I thought I’d post here a brief summary of the lessons themselves.

  1. Lesson for Western diplomacy: Don’t second-guess Ukrainians
  2. Lesson for global diplomacy: Putin’s regime can’t be trusted—and needs to be defeated
  3. Lesson for US foreign policy: The United States can no longer rely on strategic ambiguity
  4. Lesson for US national security: Washington must contend with Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran at the same time
  5. Lesson for military operations: Equipment doesn’t win wars. People do.
  6. Lesson for military planning: Nimble modern weapons can defeat larger, conventionally armed forces—especially when on the defensive
  7. Lesson for deterrence: Troop deployments work better than threats of economic sanctions
  8. Lesson for the global economy: The new tools of conflict are economic—and they are powerful
  9. Lesson for economic statecraft: Don’t separate sanctions from longer-term foreign-policy objectives
  10. Lesson for economic statecraft: Sanctions work, but they are messy and take time
  11. Lesson for wartime strategic communications: Influence operations are a day-in, day-out job
  12. Lesson for hybrid warfare: Don’t ignore the fundamentals
  13. Lesson for the energy sector: Decades of energy diplomacy can disappear with one brutal invasion
  14. Lesson for global intelligence: Russia is not ten feet tall
  15. Lesson for would-be invaders: You can’t hide preparations for a full-scale invasion
  16. Lesson for cybersecurity: The private sector should play a critical military-operational role in cyberspace
  17. Lesson for US homeland security: Ignoring the home front is a serious mistake
  18. Lesson for US assistance policy: Invest deeply in key resilient partners
  19. Lesson for NATO: The Alliance is a uniquely valuable institution that requires enduring political and financial investment
  20. Lesson for Ukraine: There’s no way back for relations with Russia
  21. Lesson for China: Today’s Ukraine is not tomorrow’s Taiwan
  22. Lesson for Middle East policymakers: America will always do the right thing, but only after exhausting all the alternatives
  23. Lesson for Germany and its allies: Seize this moment for a strategic reversal

I fear that there are many more lessons yet to come, some with potentially devastating consequences outside of the conflict zone.

 Posted by at 4:26 pm
Aug 212022
 

I have a sign next to our front door, on the inside, warning those who are stepping out:

Occasionally I wonder if I might be overreacting to the state of things in this world. Not today.

I admit, my first reaction was that it must be a satire site. As far as I can tell, it is not.

Now someone please tell me how the world is not one nice, big, comfy insane asylum.

 Posted by at 11:13 pm
Aug 212022
 

Another thing I’ve been meaning to mention all the way back in May: This new national security policy document, produced by a task force at the University of Ottawa.

It is a sobering read, coming on top of earlier concerns raised by CSIS. The main theme is a degenerating international security environment. But a key concern is democratic backsliding in the United States.

In a section titled Democracy under siege, the authors note that “[w]e are witnessing a renewed contest of ideologies, pitting liberal democracy against autocracy”. Mentioning the protests in Ottawa and elsewhere early in the year, they observe that “[t]he protestors were non-state actors, some of whom advocated for the overthrow of the democratically elected government. […] The protests also involved widespread intimidation of the media […] It also quickly became apparent that there were ties between far-right extremists in Canada and the United States.”

Continuing, they assert that “[t]he protests also pointed to a broader and potentially existential question for Canada: the implications of democratic backsliding in the United States. Should scenarios of widespread political violence in our southern neighbour materialize, how should Canada respond? This question would have been fanciful only a few years ago, but it is very real today.”

So there we have it. Long a de facto guarantor of Canada’s national security, the United States has become a potential source of concern. How can Canada respond? The authors’ conclusions offer little comfort: “We live in an increasingly dangerous and unpredictable world, a reality driven home by recent events like the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the pandemic, and domestic protests against government health measures. Canada cannot isolate itself from the many and varied security threats facing the world. Our ‘fire-proof’ house has vanished.”

 Posted by at 12:08 am
Aug 202022
 

I think I just realized something about Trump’s popularity among American Evangelicals.

And that is that there’s precious little difference between Trump and the version of god these good folks worship.

The god they worship (and fear) is nothing like the Abrahamic god that I learned about when I studied religion. Not the all-knowing, wise, benevolent heavenly father who is best known for granting his creations free will, and promising them an afterlife that rewards lives lived with decency and compassion, with caring for others.

No, the Evangelical god is a shallow, vain, vengeful creature who keeps strict records of church attendance, and who severely punishes those who do not show due reverence. An omnipotent bully, who doesn’t really much care what you do, how you live your life, so long as you show up for Sunday mass and dutifully pretend devotion. Who, rather than advising you to avoid judging others, encourages you to do so, and who will help you find excuses for your own behavior, including greed, even violence, justifying your life choices even as you trample over the lives of others. A deity that is the enemy of free will: one that you serve best by forcing your views and way of life onto others, through aggressive proselytizing or worse, corrupting the laws of the land to reflect your religion.

The same kind of corrupt, self-aggrendizing personality who uses positions of authority not to serve people but to bully them.

In light of that it should come as no surprise that Trump struck a chord with these good folks. After all, he behaves precisely like their vision of their favorite deity.

As the Rolling Stone article from which I lifted the image above suggests, this is what happens when people embrace a thoroughly unholy (and, I daresay with conviction, un-Christian) union of religion and politics, warping them both in the process.

 Posted by at 2:12 pm
Jul 032022
 

So let me get this straight. You are pro-life. You stand strong. No exceptions. Once a woman is pregnant, she must be compelled by the full force of the law to bring that pregnancy to term. If she tries to assert bodily autonomy by essentially withholding her support from the fetus, you call it murder.

Very well, I understand that viewpoint. I might even be sympathetic to a certain degree: human life is precious, and even an unborn infant can often survive with medical help, and grow up to be a wonderful person.

But let me offer a strong analogy. Suppose you are the driver of a vehicle that causes an accident. Not necessarily your fault. Perhaps you did everything right: you obeyed the rules of the road, you paid attention, you were not impaired. Yet… shit happens. You hit someone. That person is now on the side of the road, bleeding to death when the paramedics arrive.

“What’s your blood type?” asks one of them. You dutifully answer, “O, RH-negative.” – “Excellent,” says the paramedic. “Now lie down here while I hook you up.”

“Wha…?” you ask in shocked surprise. “Oh, you will be donating your blood to keep the victim alive.”

“But… I don’t want to?” – “Doesn’t matter. The law says that you have no choice,” they reply.

“But,” you continue, “I am anemic. I cannot give blood without serious risk to my own health.” – “Doesn’t matter,” says the paramedic. “The law permits no exceptions.”

“But,” you interject again, sounding like a broken record, “look at the victim! His skull is split open! Half his brain is smashed! He will never recover!” – “That may be true,” says the paramedic, “but so long as there’s a heartbeat, we must act according to the law or we risk criminal prosecution.”

At this point, you take a tentative step to leave, but the paramedic warns you that this would qualify as fleeing the scene of an accident, and your refusal to give blood will automatically result in a second degree murder charge.

A week later, at your funeral, your deeply religious relatives remark what a good person you were, willingly risking, in the end sacrificing your life to save that of a stranger, a shining light for the pro-life movement. The irony is completely lost on them.

Lest we forget, many abortions (pretty much all later-term abortions) happen for similar reasons: because the fetus is not viable, because the mother’s life is at risk, or both. Not because of some imaginary pro-choice callousness when it comes to the meaning and value of human life.

 Posted by at 5:45 pm
Jun 172022
 

Let’s not mince worlds: the alternative to liberal democracy is tyranny.

Oh, did I say “liberal”? Note the small-l. This has nothing to do with the ideological battles of the day. It’s not about woke nonsense in math textbooks or the number of gender pronouns you need to use to avoid being called a somethingophobe. (Hint: If you are a public figure concerned about being canceled, check every day. The list might change.)

For what does “liberal” (again, small-l) really mean? It means rule of law. It means civil liberties. It means freedom of enterprise. It means political freedoms and limited government.

As for democracy, the Greek roots of the word say it all: power derived from the will of the people.

The alternatives are varied. A regime can be liberal but undemocratic: e.g., a hereditary kingdom that adheres to the values of classical liberalism.

A totalitarian regime is neither liberal nor democratic: power is based on might, an oppressive security apparatus, and liberal values are rejected. I know what it’s like: I grew up in one (albeit a relatively mild case, the “goulash” version of totalitarian communism.)

But then, there is “illiberal democracy”: power derived from the will of the people, but used to suppress liberal values. This has been in vogue lately. Orban of Hungary proudly proclaimed that Hungary is now an “illiberal democracy”. Trump’s America was heading in this direction, as does Johnson’s Britain.

But Russia, especially of late, really shows us the true nature of illiberal democracy, which we appear to have forgotten during the golden era of the past 70-odd years. For “illiberal democracy” is just a euphemism. A euphemism for, let us call a spade a spade, fascism.

To be sure, there are degrees of fascism. Franco’s Spain, for instance, was arguably a great deal more liberal than Hitler’s Third Reich. Perhaps even more liberal than Italy under Il Duce, though I wouldn’t know; I am not well-acquainted with the details of daily life in either regime. And no, I certainly do not mean to suggest that Orban’s Hungary is comparable.

But ultimately, whether it is the Proud Boys in the US trying to hang Mike Pence for not granting their orange Leader a second term in the White House, the Freedom Convoy here in Ottawa trying to have sexual intercourse with the Prime Minister, Johnson’s lot trying to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda (and then in a plot twist, blaming Winston Churchill’s brainchild, the ECHR—established to prevent a recurrence of fascism in Europe, which is especially ironic considering the case—when they are temporarily prevented from doing so) or Putin indiscriminately bombing the hell out of Ukraine, it is the same theme. The leaders are populists who act in the name of their followers, using slogans of nationalism and freedom, but inciting fear, anger and hate, ultimately acting in their own self-interests, for power, for wealth, for influence.

Those who do not remember history are destined to repeat its mistakes. I am not looking forward to this cheap, Hollywood-style remake or reimagining of the 1930s, but it seems to be happening anyway.

 Posted by at 6:20 pm
May 312022
 

Apparently, a growing number of people are framing the question concerning Russia’s war in Ukraine in terms of peace vs. justice. Peace would mean some kind of a settlement to end the fighting now, even if it means granting, e.g., territorial concessions to Russia to avoid humiliating Putin. In contrast, continuing to fight for Ukraine’s liberation is about justice.

In my view, it is dangerously wrong to present Russia’s war of aggression in these terms. Peace without justice is simply not possible. Believing otherwise amounts to repeating the tragic errors of 1938: When Britain’s Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, triumphantly returned from the Munich conference carrying a document with Hitler’s signature, declaring that he brought “peace for our time”.

We all know how “our time” lasted. The grand total of 11 months.

That’s what peace without justice looks like. A despot like Putin is only encouraged by what he sees as weakness, signs of the cowardly decadence of the West. And just as he has now done repeatedly (!) in the past, he will happily ignore any agreement he signs today once he sees an opportunity, once he thinks that conditions are in his favor.

No. We must categorically reject such compromise. Much as we desire peace, we must not confuse lasting, robust peace with an armistice that only allows the despot to regroup, learn from his lessons, and start his aggression anew at the first viable opportunity. And his success might encourage other nations to resort to armed aggression, knowing that the West is too weak, too divided to stand up against them.

It is an unfortunate fact of human history that sometimes the shortest, surest route to “peace for our time” is through the battlefield. I wish the war stopped right now, with no more suffering, no more destruction, no more killing. But if the price we will likely pay is a greater, deadlier war tomorrow, I’d rather we do what it takes to avoid it.

And yes, I recognize that it’s easy for me to say these things from the comfort of an armchair in a peaceful city many thousands of miles away from Ukraine. But you know what? It’s also easy to speculate about these things in Washington or Brussels. How about we ask the Ukrainians? Do they want peace now, even with concessions? Or do they prefer to liberate their homeland and ensure that the Russians will be in no mood to attack again anytime soon?

Because this, after all, is the other lesson of 1938. Nobody asked the Czechs. The decision was made by the great powers without consulting those who would actually be paying the price in blood.

 Posted by at 5:38 pm
May 262022
 

News on CNN: Apparently hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are now in “filtration camps” in Russia. That is to say, concentration camps.

Make no mistake about it, this is just the beginning of evil. As the West continues to flirt with various forms of authoritarianism or illiberalism, Russia has gone full-blown Nazi, with a war of conquest, severe oppression at home, an idolized leader and a national ideology of predestined greatness held back only by some evil international conspiracy.

Our only hope… ONLY hope is that they remain as incompetent and as corrupt as they are, with an ill-prepared military using substandard training and equipment as monies have been syphoned away to finance the oligarchs’ superyachts, and with a Ukrainian nation more capable of defending itself against this horrific aggression than anyone thought possible.

But so long as we have elder statesmen like Kissinger advocating a Munich-style appeasement, the world remains in danger. Bullies cannot be appeased; it just encourages them to come back and ask for more. Kissinger, of all people, should be intimately aware of this lesson of history.

And even if escalation is avoided, the fallout of the conflict, especially the looming global food crisis, can be devastating.

All it takes is a couple of generations to forget the lessons of history and start anew. So we keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

 Posted by at 8:03 pm
May 122022
 

Dear Russia,

In the wake of Finland’s imminent decision to join NATO, you threaten again. You present yourself as the victim of aggression by Nazis.

So let’s take stock. Who did what in Europe since 1945?

In 1953, you used your military force to crush an uprising against hardline communist tyranny in East Germany.

In 1956, you did the same thing in Budapest, inflicting severe damage on my city of birth, still recovering from the devastations of WW2.

In 1968, you crushed the Prague Spring with tanks.

Kudos to you: You refrained from the direct use of military force in Poland in 1980, though you supported the regime that imposed martial law.

After the Soviet collapse, as the newly independent Russian Federation you supported separatists in the Transnistria region of Moldova.

You waged not one but two wars in Chechnya in the 1990s, with tens of thousands killed and cities like Grozny leveled.

In 2008, you launched a war against Georgia, seizing territory and creating two phony mini-republics.

In 2014, you launched another war, against Ukraine, seizing the Crimea and parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, creating a permanent war zone, even shooting down a civilian airliner that flew over the area on a scheduled route.

And now you attempted a full-scale war, hoping to decapitate Ukraine, Blitzkrieg-style, and resorting to horrific, genocidal tactics of purposefully targeting civilians when your ineptitude and Ukrainian resistance thwarted your plans.

But you are the good guys. I get it. Meanwhile, what did evil, imperialist, Nazi NATO do? How many times were you attacked by NATO nations? What territories were seized by NATO?

Oh, I get it. NATO bombed Belgrade. Never mind that the goal was not to seize territory or even change a regime, simply to stop the (now well-documented) ongoing genocide in Kosovo. Because, I get it, that’s what Nazis do: they stop genocide. And you, the good guys?

This video speaks for itself.

Still wondering why Finland is keen on joining NATO?

They don’t want to end up like this hapless car dealership owner and his security guard.

Killed by Putler’s Russist thugs.

 Posted by at 5:57 pm
May 032022
 

I am beginning to wonder if the American political system is truly broken beyond repair.

I wonder what this means for Canada. No change? Will we become a safe haven for refugees from Gilead, as in The Handmaid’s Tale? Or will we be this new America’s Ukraine?

I am afraid that we will find out.

 Posted by at 12:36 am
Apr 252022
 

I am reading an article in The Globe and Mail, with an attention-grabbing headline: Unvaccinated disproportionately risk safety of those vaccinated against COVID-19, study shows.

Except that the actual study shows no such thing. Nor does it involve actual vaccines or actual people.

What the study shows is that the simple (dare I say, naive) epidemiological model known as the SIR (Susceptible-Infected-Removed) model, when applied to a combination of two (vaccinated vs. unvaccinated) populations, indicates that the presence of the unvaccinated significantly increases the chances of infection among the vaccinated as well.

D’oh. Tell us something we didn’t know.

But the point is, this is a purely theoretical study. The math is elementary. The results are known (in fact, it makes me wonder why this paper was published in the first place; it’s not that it is wrong per se, but it really doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t know simply by looking at the differential equations that characterize the SIR model.) Moreover, the actual nuances of COVID-19 (mutations, limited and waning vaccine efficacy, differences between preventing infection vs. preventing hospitalization, death, or “long COVID” — in other words, all those factors that make CODID-19 tricky, baffling, unpredictable) are omitted.

So what will such a study accomplish? The authors’ point is that the model’s simplicity is a strength, as it also offers transparence and flexibility. I think in actuality, it will just muddy the waters. Those who are opposed to vaccination, especially mandatory vaccination, will call this study bogus and naive, an example of ivory tower theorizing with no solid foundations in reality. Conversely, some of those who are in favor of vaccination will present this paper as “proof” that the unvaccinated are selfish, irresponsible extremists who should be marginalized, ostracized by civilized society.

The Globe and Mail article is already evidence of this viewpoint. A quote from one of the study’s authors serves as a representative example: “In particular, when you have a lot of mixing between vaccinated and unvaccinated people, the unvaccinated people actually get protected by the vaccinated people, who act as a buffer – but that comes at a cost to the vaccinated.”

Does anyone think that pronouncements like these will help convince those who are ideologically opposed to vaccination or bought into the various nonsensical conspiracy theories about the nature, dangers, or efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, especially mRNA vaccines?

 Posted by at 5:50 pm
Apr 142022
 

I’ve been finding parallels between the events in Ukraine and 1914 (when Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia), 1938 (when the Western world acquiesced to Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland in the hope that it would bring “peace for our times”, to use Chamberlain’s words), 1939 (Hitler’s attack on Poland) and 1943 (Hitler’s historic defeat at Stalingrad.)

But perhaps it’s 1904-1905, when the Russian Empire waged a naval war against the Japanese Empire.

The specifics are different (for starters, the Russo-Japanese war was started by Japan), but the similarities abound: The general expectation was that a major European power, Russia, will easily prevail over the perceived inferiority of an “Asiatic” empire. Instead, Russia was humiliated, and the political backlash directly led to the 1905 revolution, itself a precursor to the 1917 Bolshevik revolution.

And here we are, in 2022, with Russia humiliated again by an enemy that was widely perceived as inferior. Beyond the tactical defeats, the strategic, political blunders are palpable: threats of Russian aggression have not only breathed fresh life into the NATO alliance, but also prompted traditionally (and fiercely) neutral Sweden and Finland to take concrete steps towards NATO membership.

And now, the Moskva. I am not sure but I am beginning to think that this 12,500 ton guided missile cruiser is the largest warship sank by enemy action since WW2. I mean, if this does not reek criminal recklessness and incompetence on behalf of the Russian leadership, both political and military, I don’t know what does.

Does this mean that a revolution is in the works? Are Putin’s days numbered? Perhaps, but I wouldn’t bet on it. And the nuclear wildcard is… there. Perhaps Putin will resort to nukes if all other options fail. Or perhaps a palace revolution widens into civil war, and the world may yet witness the consequences of the first ever nuclear civil war. Whatever happens, I doubt it will be pretty.

 Posted by at 10:37 pm
Apr 102022
 

Last week, Hungary’s Orban won a resounding victory in Hungary’s elections.

I was not happy about it, to be honest, and many of my liberal-minded friends were bitterly disappointed.

But a few of them began to look more deeply into the reasons behind this outcome. A recent article* by my friend László Mérő, a Hungarian mathematician and publicist, was illuminating. László decided to volunteer in the elections process as a scrutineer. He ended up in a rural electoral district, where he had a chance to talk to many of the voters who cast their ballots, including both the roughly 30% who voted for the united opposition, but also the majority who chose Orban’s government instead.

His conclusion? There was no fraud. The process was conducted professionally, transparently, and cleanly. The government may dominate traditional media (indeed, this is one of the cardinal sins of Orban’s autocratic government) but the voters were not uninformed. They were aware of the opposition, its message, and its goals. They didn’t favor the government because they were brainwashed. They favored the ruling party because those candidates did a much better job on the ground. They were known to the voters, unlike the fly-by-night opposition.

And anyone who thinks Orban represents some fringe must think again. Just days after his resounding victory (he not only retained, he even increased his two thirds parliamentary supermajority) we were reminded by press releases that CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, was already set to hold its next meeting in Budapest. Orban will be the keynote speaker.

Wait, CPAC? The conference series held by one of the most respectable American conservative organizations, the American Conservative Union, dedicated to the foundations of conservatism, including personal liberty, freedom, and responsible governance?

That’s no fringe.

And, I strongly suspect, at least one of the reasons why Trump, Orban and other “illiberal” leaders and opinion-makers managed to hijack conservatism is that liberalism, in turn, was hijacked by the “woke” culture: a culture that is ready to “cancel” anyone who disagrees with whatever the canonical view of the day happens to be on race, gender, and related issues. I mean, J. K. Rowling? For real?

The fact that it all happens in a geopolitical context, allowing the likes of Putin to use his propaganda machine to try and divide the West even as his murderous horde of ill-equipped, badly led soldiers is rampaging in Ukraine, behaving like the worst of the Nazis (and prodded by Kremlin propaganda outlets to erase Ukrainian national identity) while pretending to “denazify” a country led by a Jewish president, is just the icing on this proverbial cake.

Elections are under way in France today. A possible Le Pen victory might have dramatic consequences.


*Magyar Nemzet, 2022.04.06 — In Hungarian

 Posted by at 1:20 pm
Apr 052022
 

The news we get from liberated areas of Ukraine are getting grimmer every day.

Army general Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States, America’s highest-ranking military officer, told us in his Congressional testimony today that “we are witness to the greatest threat to the peace and security of Europe and perhaps the world in my 42 years of service in uniform”.

I made up my mind. If we want to preserve at least a tiny chance of keeping this world both peaceful and decent, we must take the Churchillian step of openly and boldly confronting evil.

If I were in charge… I would make Ukraine unconditionally a full-fledged member of NATO, effective immediately, with all the protections of NATO’s Article 5 implied. I would at the same time announce that a large contingent of NATO troops are entering the country, in cooperation with Ukraine’s legitimate, elected government, to guarantee the country’s original (!) borders, yes, including Crimea and Donbass.

And let’s do this while the Russian military is led by the same nincompoops who thought that the most important item for an invading army to carry is dress uniforms, or that digging in the Red Forest, in the world’s most contaminated soil with radioactive fallout, is a smart idea.

Mr. Putin, then, it’s your move. You push your button, we push ours, and the world as we know it ends. But I am betting that you are, in the end, just a worthless coward. Waste of skin.

 Posted by at 1:06 pm
Apr 052022
 

His followers probably dismiss these as “fake news”, in the wonderful tradition of Joseph Göbbels, Donald Trump and the rest of their heroes.

But we know that these are not fake news. Like this image of a dog not leaving the body of his dead master.

Or how about distressed parents writing their names and contact information on their children’s backs, in case they get separated or killed? When I saw this image, I must admit I felt like I was viciously kicked in the gut.

Putin must answer for these crimes. His followers, his enablers, his supporters must bear responsibility.

Whatever it takes.

Until and unless that happens, this world will not be whole again.

 Posted by at 2:05 am
Apr 032022
 

Hungary’s elections are coming to a close. All indications are that not only did Viktor Orban win, he won big: it appears he will retain his two -thirds constitutional supermajority in Hungary’s parliament. Yey-ho, illiberal democracy!

And they had the audacity to campaign as the party of peace: by confronting Putin, they argued, the opposition wants war and it is the government’s cowardly attitude that will somehow save the country from getting bogged down in conflict. (Because, you know, this attitude worked so well in the last major war in Europe, which witnessed Hungary as Hitler’s last ally, deporting over 600,000 of its own citizens to Nazi death camps, and having much of the country destroyed when the frontlines finally reached it in 1944-45.)

Meanwhile, Putin’s popularity in Russia is through the roof: The “Nazis” of Ukraine must be crushed, say people on the streets, and perhaps then Poland is next!

In America, Trump’s followers are regrouping, hoping to take back the House, the Senate, and eventually the White House, lining up behind their authoritarian leader to whom the rule of law means nothing unless it serves his personal interests.

Even here in Canada, all in the name of democracy of course, hundreds of unruly truckers blocked my city for nearly a month, and what is worse, their effort was (and remains) supported by millions. Perhaps still a small minority but still: It is a minority that is supporting a movement that is openly unconstitutional and insurrectionist.

And the sad thing is, we’ve all seen this before. The world went through something eerily similar a century ago. The Bolsheviks were popular in Soviet Russia. Mussolini was popular in Italy. Franco was popular in Spain. Hitler was popular in Germany. Even in places like the US and the UK, the likes of Charles Lindbergh or Oswald Mosley had considerable following.

I could ask the pointless question, why? Social scientists and historians probably offer sensible answers. But that doesn’t help. So long as people, even well-educated people, are willing to believe pseudoscience, ridiculous conspiracy theories, half truths, insinuations, and above all messages of hate: the compulsion to hate (or at least fear or distrust) someone, anyone, be it Ukrainians (or Russians), hate “migrants”, hate liberals, hate homosexuals, hate “others” however their other-ness is defined…

Screw you, world. I’m going back to physics. Just leave me alone, please.

 Posted by at 5:30 pm