Feb 282022
 

This image of Putin a few days ago, with his so-called “security council”, tells us all we need to know about a leader who lives in a self-imposed bubble, isolated from reality. Isolated from humanity.

It is beyond scary. Not even Hitler isolated himself this much from people whose advice he relied upon (or ignored, near the inglorious end of his regime). My reading of this image is that Putin represents an existential threat to the democratic West, if not the whole of our civilization.

 Posted by at 12:20 am
Feb 272022
 

This photo of a WWI/WWII memorial in Vácrátót, Hungary, just appeared in my feed moments ago in a group dedicated to historic photographs.

Yet it reminds me not of the past but the present: the observation that almost all the refugees streaming from Ukraine to Europe are women and children, as men stay behind to fight.

 Posted by at 4:02 pm
Feb 262022
 

This piece of news caught my attention a couple of weeks ago, before Tsar, pardon me, benevolent humble president Putin launched the opening salvo of what may yet prove to be WWIII and the end of civilization. Still, I think it offers insight into just how sick (and, by implication, how bloody dangerous) his regime really is.

We all agree that planning to blow up a major institution, even if it is a much disliked spy agency, is not a good idea. But this is what the evil extremist, hardliner Nikita Uvarov was trying to do when he was getting ready to blow up the headquarters of Russia’s FSB, it’s federal security service.

Oh wait… did I mention that Mr. Uvarov was 14 at the time, and the FSB building he was planning to demolish was, in fact, a virtual version that he himself and his buddies constructed in the online computer game Minecraft?

It didn’t deter Mother Russia’s fearless prosecutors, intent on restoring law and order and maintaining the security of the Russian state. A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Uvarov was sentenced, by a military court no less, to serve five years in a penal colony.

 Posted by at 12:25 am
Feb 242022
 

These words, uttered by Putin, are the words of a madman:

Whoever tries to interfere with us, and even more so to create threats to our country, to our people, should know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences as you have never experienced in your history. We are ready for any development of events. All necessary decisions in this regard have been made. I hope that I will be heard.

Enjoy these good days with warmth, food security, functioning Internet and a working infrastructure. They may not last much longer, no matter where you live in the world. And when the nukes come, thank Putin.

 Posted by at 1:25 am
Feb 222022
 

This is the last moment until well into the 22nd century that the current time and date in UTC can be expressed using only two digits.

I can only hope that this date will not be memorable for another reason, you know, something like the start of WW3?

 Posted by at 5:22 pm
Feb 212022
 

There is an imminent possibility that Russia, a fossilized, sick regime, might attack Ukraine. The supposed reason? Ukraine is seen as a persistent national security threat bordering Russia.

There is a sobering historical parallel. A little over a century ago, another “sick man of Europe,” the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, faced a similar perceived threat by a much smaller nation bordering their empire, Serbia. After the assassination of the Crown Prince, Franz Ferdinand, by a Serbian nationalist who was supposedly supported by the Serbian state, the Monarchy decided to act. Committed to Serbia’s defense, Russia entered the war; committed to their allies, but also fearing an emerging Russia, Imperial Germany soon followed suit. And as they say, the rest is history.

But what history books don’t often detail is what happened to the Monarchy’s armies in Serbia. Surely, the great armies of a major European power just crushed the defenses of a much smaller, less well-developed neighbor?

Er… not exactly. First, in August 1914, Serbian forces won the first Allied victory, when they pushed back the armies of the Monarchy in northwestern Serbia. Later that year, in December, the Serbian army launched a successful counteroffensive and pushed the troops of the Monarchy out of Serbia.

In other words: with sufficient material help from France and Russia, plus support on the diplomatic front, Serbia could have bloodied the nose of the Monarchy and won the war, without Russia or Germany (or France, or Britain) ever entering into the conflict. The Great War, arguably, was both avoidable and in the end, completely unnecessary.

I wonder what things will be like in the Ukraine. Should Russia attack, will other powers enter the conflict, risking a wider war, perhaps a world war? And if they do so… will it be just as unnecessary as it was in the case of Serbia a century ago?

I hope we won’t get a chance to find out. Meanwhile, I cannot help but wonder what Europe would be like had events in 1914 unfolded without the Great Powers entering the fray. An embarrassing military fiasco in Serbia might have done to the Monarchy what the Falklands war did to Argentina, ending authoritarianism, forcing the Habsburgs, if not to abdicate, then to enact reforms that would have transformed Austria-Hungary into a modern, constitutional monarchy. Similar developments might have taken place in Russia and Germany, following the British model, and avoiding bloody communist revolutions. Just imagine a united Europe emerge by the 1920s, 1930s, without the rise of fascism, Nazism, Bolshevism, without the devastation of two world wars?

Instead, 1914 ended a golden era.

PS: I wrote much of the above last night, less than 24 hours ago, but before Russia’s announcement that they now recognize the “independence” of two regions of Ukraine that their irregular troops “liberated” a few years back, and before they announced that they will send “peacekeepers” there. History, here we come…

 Posted by at 8:53 pm
Feb 192022
 

I first heard about it from a friend, though he didn’t call it by this name.

It was a few days ago. Another convoy of trucks was approaching downtown Ottawa, to join their freedom-loving brethren to promote their message of love, peace, and, ahem, “fuck Trudeau”, “Trump 2024”, “Make America Canada Great Again” and other wonderfully delightful things representing our shared Canadian values.

But some evil, selfish Ottawa citizens, like my friend, had enough. Enough of the noise, the disruption, the lawlessness, the mob rule. And since the police were nowhere to be found, they took matters into their own hands.

Quite simply, they blocked the convoy’s path. They did exactly what free citizens are supposed to do when their community is threatened by a lawless mob: they defended it. The convoy turned back. And this event now has a name: The Battle of Billings Bridge.

Thank you, neighbors. And finally, a few days later (and arguably, three weeks late) our police are doing what they are supposed to do, and by all indication, they are doing a good job. Of course there are the inevitable cries, complaints about the abuse of power, the end of democracy, the tyranny of Trudeau. Never mind that it’s our city police (of course with help from other police agencies) and they are not doing it for Trudeau. They are doing it for us, citizens of Ottawa. To help us get our city back.

No, I do not enjoy the thought of a city under lockdown, with checkpoints all over downtown. And once the thugs with their weaponized transport trucks are gone, I hope our city will come back to normal, and that the lessons learned will not include turning Wellington Street into a copy of Pennsylvania Avenue, blocked from traffic with permanent concrete barriers, with ever present police armed with military gear. This spring, I hope I’ll be able to walk on Parliament Hill again, a free citizen, not prevented by the authorities but also not intimidated by thuggish occupiers and their vehicles.

 Posted by at 10:18 pm
Feb 192022
 

In the first season of Amazon’s political thriller series Jack Ryan, a terrorist cell releases poison gas in a crowded church after chaining the doors on the outside, to ensure that the victims are locked in and suffocate.

Amidst all the news unfolding in our fine city, it escaped my attention that something similar almost took place two weeks ago on Lisgar street in the downtown core: two criminals, apparently associated with the “freedom convoy”, attempted to set the lobby of an apartment building on fire while taping its front door shut on the outside.

In case anyone wonders what grants us the right to ask our police force to defend our city from those who occupied its downtown core for more than three weeks, this is your answer.

Had this attempt succeeded, it might have entered the history books as one of the worst incidents of terrorism in the history of Canada. Thankfully, the door was freed up and the fire was extinguished by a good Samaritan. The police are still looking for the perpetrators.

 Posted by at 6:05 pm
Feb 142022
 

Protesters here in Ottawa claim that the public supports them, but surveys say otherwise. In fact, apparently some two thirds of Canadians support the use of the military to end the illegal occupations.

I am fed up to my eyeballs with these insurgents, these seditionists who think mob rule is the way to resolve what could be a rational discussion about the value and validity of certain pandemic measures. (Of course we all know that it’s not about the mandates, it never was. The protesters might think that they are here on account of the mandates but in reality, they are just pawns, the forces behind them are much more sinister.)

But using the military? Talk about turning the propaganda into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The protesters may think of themselves as peaceful, perhaps even law-abiding, but the forces behind them actually covet violence: To them, success is measured by the number of dead cops and dead protesters that will be left on Wellington Street.

Which is why I sincerely hope that the military stays put in their barracks, and once this madness is resolved, the only thing that will need to be cleaned up on Wellington Street will be some litter and debris, and perhaps some doggie poo.

 Posted by at 2:26 pm
Feb 102022
 

Some random thoughts concerning this siege and occupation by an astroturfed movement.

  • Lots and lots of volatile fuel in unsafe containers in the open, and people playing with powerful fireworks. What can possibly go wrong?
  • To those concerned about the rights of these truckers, ask yourself: were you equally concerned about the rights of Occupy protesters who were evicted from Ottawa a decade ago? What about the rights of BLM protesters last year in the US?
  • A protester asserted that they cannot cut off his fuel supply that keeps him warm. It is against the law. Isn’t occupying the streets of my city, honking through the night, creating a fire hazard with fireworks and fuel in close proximity, and holding a city hostage while demanding the resignation of a lawfully elected government not against the law?
  • How an issue gets politicized, in three acts:
    Act I: Natural disaster occurs.
    Act II: Politicians in charge respond.
    Act III: Populist opportunists react: Look, the government is politicizing the disaster!
    (NB: I don’t care if the populist are MAGA-hat wearing opportunists from the US or the left-wing opposition in Orban’s Hungary.)
  • In a recent article, Toronto journalist Matt Gurney describes the protest as having evolved into a “cover to a cadre of seasoned street brawlers whose primary goal is to further erode the legitimacy of the state — not just the city of Ottawa, or Ontario or Canada, but of democracies generally,” and worries that “any move they make will trigger an incident that can easily result in dead cops, dead truckers and delighted far-right agitators.” Wish I could disagree with him.
  • One swastika flag is one too many. Why was it tolerated any more than an “I love Trudeau” flag would have been tolerated by the same protesters?
  • The Conservative Party may have done an about-face today, but it will take a long time for me to forgive them for abandoning core values of our constitutional order for the sake of short-term populist advantage.
  • Is it 1914 all over again? Looking at Ukraine, I wonder. Or is it more like 1933? That’s what Wellington street looks like, for sure. History, of course, never repeats itself, it only rhymes. But generation after generation, we keep making the same mistakes…
 Posted by at 11:54 pm
Feb 042022
 

Here is a quote from an internal e-mail, obtained by The Globe and Mail, that interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen authored:

“I don’t think we should be asking them to go home […] I understand the mood may shift soon. So we need to turn this into the PM’s problem.”

The evil cynicism is palpable. As is her complete disregard, contempt even, for the well-being of us, residents of Ottawa.

There was a time when I considered myself a supporter of the Conservative party. I even voted for Kim Campbell in the first Canadian election in which I could participate as a newly minted citizen.

But this sick joke of a party? I’d sooner vote for a rabid toad as prime minister than these shameless, power-hungry sociopaths.

 Posted by at 12:01 am
Jan 272022
 

I am restraining myself as I do not wish to contribute to the hate and division that is plaguing our societies. I keep many of my thoughts and suspicions on this topic to myself.

But I still can’t not comment on this “freedom” convoy that is coming to mess up our lives here in Ottawa this weekend.

Freedom to do what? Let me tell you:

  • The freedom to infect others with a severe illness.
  • The freedom to act in a way that can be a direct, tangible threat to the lives of some of the most vulnerable among us.
  • The freedom not to take part in preventing the spread of a severe communicable disease.
  • More broadly, the freedom from any responsibility towards others in our society.

Presenting this as “freedom” offends me deeply, as I personally experienced not being free, having grown up in a communist dictatorship. What is evident to me is that you don’t know what it is like to be deprived of freedom. This is why you cannot tell the difference between a true desire to be free as opposed to just blind, unconstrained selfishness and egotism, the freedom to do whatever the heck you want with no regard to any consequences that might impact the lives of others.

 Posted by at 8:15 pm
Jan 262022
 

World War III is long overdue.

Back when I started grade school, more than 50 years ago (yikes!) no sane adult expected the world to survive through the rest of the 20th century in one piece, without another major war. Recall that even Star Trek, for all its optimism, assumed that World War III (sometimes called the Eugenics Wars) would break out in 1992.

Yet here we are, the year is 2022, and the world is still largely peaceful. But for how much longer?

Ukraine is rapidly turning into a hot spot that might yet trigger a conflict the world has not seen in many decades. And it appears that we are on a collision course that resembles in some ways the events leading up to World War I. Nobody wants escalation; yet everyone believes escalation is inevitable and necessary.

Russia supposedly wants NATO to stop expanding, stop encircling their country. On the surface, this might seem like a valid concern. Russia, after all, has been one of the great losers of the past half century. The collapse of the USSR, the loss of its system of allied satellite states, internal strife, a struggling economy all add up. Of course having an increasingly authoritarian government serving a corrupt oligarchy doesn’t exactly help either.

On the other hand, Russia’s willingness to use force in the “near abroad”, including Georgia, the annexation of Crimea, and Eastern Ukraine rightly troubles other neighboring nations, especially the Baltic states that spent decades under Soviet occupation, incorporated into the USSR. Other Eastern European states also have not forgotten what it was like to be occupied by the Soviet Union. NATO is rightfully concerned that if it does not show resolve, its credibility as a defensive alliance will be destroyed.

And this sets up a tricky situation. Every step Russia takes to push back NATO actually strengthens NATO’s resolve. Every step NATO takes to deter Russia from aggression and to assist Ukraine actually strengthens Russian resolve. Moreover, NATO’s resolve helps Putin set the pretext for an almost certainly unpopular war, by presenting NATO actions as a threat to Russian security. Add to this that a war in Ukraine could do wonders to help Putin’s waning credibility, and that Russians, rightly or wrongly, see political discord in the United States as a sign of weakness and, for them, an opportunity, and we have a perfect storm.

Do I worry unduly? Is it not possible that even if Ukraine goes up in flames, it will remain a regional conflict on the geopolitical map, like Korea or Vietnam were many decades ago? Or perhaps a quick and decisive victory by Putin, like the one he enjoyed in Crimea, would settle this affair in his favor and the world will move on? Perhaps.

But it will also be the biggest military confrontation on European soil since 1945. And if that doesn’t scare the bejesus out of you…

And of course nobody wants a world war. Nobody wants escalating conflict that gets out of hand. That was true back in 1914 as well. But just as in 1914, political ineptitude, miscalculations, overestimation of capabilities, underestimation of opponents, a false sense of urgency to act, may all add up. And there may very well be parasitic opportunists, other nations who will join the circus sensing opportunities. I can easily imagine, unfortunately, Xi’s China entering the fray when they have reason to believe that the West’s attention is elsewhere. And that’s how a regional conflict becomes a global one.

 Posted by at 12:55 am
Jan 172022
 

Another week has passed in this amazing world of ours.

It is easy to lose perspective as we struggle with the pandemic and make our way through everyday problems. But we shouldn’t. These days, I must admit, I worry more often than ever that our world is heading towards conflict and upheaval, in some ways a repeat of the mistakes made back in 1914, ending a golden era.

A golden era I say? You bet. Yes, I recognize it’s not for everyone, far from it. Far too many people on this planet still struggle for the basic necessities of life; die in conflict; or live miserable lives under oppressive regimes. Yet it is also true that never before did such a large percentage of humanity live as well as today, with access (at least) to most basic necessities, some level of medical care, schooling, a degree of public safety, with at least some of their basic rights respected.

Meanwhile those of us living in luckier corners of the world enjoy everyday luxuries that not even the kings and queens of the past could dream about. Case in question: the other day, my beautiful wife visited a grocery store and came home with a package of assorted fruits, not perfectly fresh, which the store sold at a discount rather than throwing it away. One of the fruits was a kiwi fruit. As I was munching on it (yum!) it just hit me. Here I am, in Ottawa, in the middle of a very cold winter day (it was I think -26 C outside) eating a … kiwi fruit? Not a carrot. Not a potato. A kiwi fruit. Probably not all the way from New Zealand, “only” from California, but still!

Let that kiwi fruit be a reminder of what we might be throwing away if we allow the politics of the day to radicalize us. If we allow politicians to choose conflict that might escalate and get out of hand. “We have no choice” is not an acceptable excuse. It was what the leaders of Europe said back in 1914 when they plunged the world into a conflict of unprecedented scale. But choices do exist.

The world in which I grew up was the world of the Cold War. Yet it was a world led by politicians who experienced war first hand, and for whom avoiding conflict (or at least, avoiding escalation) was a top priority. This was even true for the septuagenarian Soviet elite. Whatever their intentions were concerning the USSR and the spread of communism, plunging the world into another global conflict was not considered an acceptable outcome.

Today? I am not so sure. There are flashpoints we know about (Ukraine, South China Sea) and flashpoints that we may not even have considered yet. More troubling, the world is now led by my generation: a generation that takes peace and prosperity for granted, a generation that believes they have an inalienable right to munch on a kiwi fruit even in the middle of a harsh Canadian winter, and who take it for granted that kiwi fruits appear magically on supermarket shelves whenever they desire to eat some.

That, of course, is not true. But if we have to find it out the hard way, it will be too late.

This is what happened in 1914. No kiwi fruits or supermarkets just yet, but still, that fateful year was preceded by an unprecedented golden era that, in many parts of the world (especially in Europe and North America but not only there) brought about amazing progress. Then, myopic politics ended it all. And now I worry that there will be a repeat performance, and as the world plunges into chaos, just as in 1914, we’ll be told that “we have no choice”.

We do.

 Posted by at 2:15 am
Sep 242021
 

Yes, you got that right. The title of this blog entry is not a mistake. And no, I didn’t suddenly turn into a relic Cold Warrior from the 1950s.

It is how I characterize Xi Jinping’s commie regime tonight.

It may be a “kinder, gentler” version of communism compared to Mao’s or Stalin’s (at least so long as you are not an Uyghur from Xinjiang province, enjoying your vacation in a concentration, oh, pardon me, re-education camp), but it is nonetheless a regime that does not refrain from the most despicable, criminal acts, including the taking of hostages.

In case anyone had any doubts on the matter…

Within hours after the United States dropped its extradition request and thus Meng Wanzhou of Huawei was released from house arrest in Canada (to her credit, she actually thanked Canada for upholding the rule of law), two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, have reportedly been released by China, finally allowed to leave after three years of captivity, despite the bogus allegations of spying against them.

How else can I describe such a regime other than hostage-taking commie bastards without resorting to obscenities?

Oh, I got it.

Rotten hostage-taking commie bastards.

 Posted by at 10:00 pm