Category: Europe

Gorby’s Empire

One of the most baffling developments of the 1980’s was the Cult of Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev had his qualities. He was one of the few leaders in the Soviet Union who understood that the system wasn’t working and was absurdly corrupt (I met a general who identified Gorbachev as a potential reformer back in 1983). He reigned in some of the worst parts of the police state and, unlike his predecessors, did not use military force to hold the Communist Bloc together. There’s a famous story of him meeting Reagan and asking if Reagan really did think the Soviet Union was an evil Empire. Reagan was impressed because Gorby’s predecessors hadn’t cared whether it was or not. He deserves credit for the role he played in winding down the Cold War.

But that’s enough for some people. Gorbachev has to be a visionary who saved the world from the nuclear fire that the evil Ronald Reagan was driving us toward. He was the messiah who delivered freedom to Eastern Europe. He was the visionary who ended half a century of antagonism from Western imperialists.

This line of thought ignores that Gorby was and is a supporter of communism who truly believed in Marxist-Leninism. He was sad that the advance of Marxism faltered — an advance played out in dozens of devastating civil wars. He has said, repeatedly, that the collapse of the murderous Soviet Union and the loosening of its stranglehold over Eastern Europe was a bad thing. He is a critic of the Washington Consensus that had led the world to the greatest prosperity in its history and thinks China’s economic model — see Alex’s posts on that subject — is the example to the world.

I’d like to think that this will rattle a few misconceptions:

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev hailed Crimea’s vote to join Russia as a “happy event” on Tuesday.

In remarks carried by online newspaper Slon.ru, the last leader of the U.S.S.R. said Crimea’s vote offered residents the freedom of choice and justly reflected their will.

You know, it’s like if we invaded Quebec and had a plebiscite for them to become our 51st state. Everything would think that was legit, right?

It gets more ominous.

Gorbachev added that the Crimean referendum has set an example for people in Russian-speaking in eastern Ukraine, who also should decide their fate.

I expect that Gorby-worshippers will resolve this cognitive dissonance by deciding that Gorbachev is right: that the Crimea should be part of Russia and the US is wrong to oppose it. Of course, that would put them in conflict with Kerry and Obama. Good God, whose Cult of Personality do you follow?

Gorbachev has always been an imperialist who believe in a greater Marxist-Leninist state. That he eased up on enforcing that state with gulags and murder — the only way any such state has ever survived — is to his credit. But maybe we should reconsider his canonization.

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Russia?

Let’s not beat around the bush. Russia has invaded the Ukraine, violating their sovereignty, breaking the treaty they signed and violating international rules of warfare. The Ukraine gave up their massive arsenal of nuclear weapons on the promise that the Russians would respect their sovereignty. That agreement is now dead.

The Russian excuse — that Crimea is ethnically Russian — is flimsy at best. Crimea is self-governing and is only 60% Russian. And Putin hasn’t really cared for the sovereignty of ethnic conclaves when they aren’t Russian (see Chechnya). His motivations are pretty plain: expand Russia and/or build a buffer zone of vassal states between Russia and Europe.

Frankly, I’m getting sick of this constant look into Russia’s motive and the unceasing slew of articles claiming that we need to see this from Russia’s perspective. Every aggressor in history has had his reasons. People don’t invade other countries for fun. What matters is what Putin has done, not what his motives were.

So what do we do about it? We don’t have a lot of options, barring a war. And I don’t think the Crimea is what we want to start World War 3 over. Zakaria proposes a few things, including kicking Russia out of the G-8. But I think the primary response has to be diplomatic. Whatever the result here, Russia’s neighbors have got be nervous. Now is the time to tighten those alliances and restart missile defense. I’m not sure if we should expand NATO to the Ukraine. A NATO alliance could prevent further aggression; it could also draw us into a war (or worse, not draw us into a war and collapse the entire concept of NATO).

Whatever our response is, we have to realize that we have a large aggressive nation in Eastern Europe that is devoted to slicing off chunks of their neighbors to consolidate their power. This may not quite be a cold war, but it requires us to create a bulwark against further expansion before this really does explode into World War 3. The good news is that we have a team at the State Department that can …

….

… oh, crap.

Getting Real in the Ukraine

So the Ukraine’s murderous Russophile prime minster was driven out of Kyiv last week. Earlier today, the Ukraine parliament elected the opposition leader as PM. Everyone has been wondering what Russia is going to do now that they don’t have to pretend to be (sorta) nice for the Olympics.

I think we’re finding out:

Dozens of armed men seized the regional government administration building and parliament in Ukraine’s southern Crimea region Thursday and raised the Russian flag in a challenge to the Eastern European country’s new leaders.

Crimea, with its ethnic Russian majority, is the last big bastion of opposition to the new political leadership in Kiev after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster Saturday.

The incident, coming a day after Russia ordered surprise military exercises on Ukraine’s doorstep, has raised fears about the push and pull of opposing allegiances in a country sandwiched between Russia and the European Union.

Ed Morrisey has more, including a now clear alliance between Ukraine’s ousted PM and Putin.

I don’t think Putin is going to do a full-on invasion of the Ukraine. A nation of 44 million people is a lot to handle, even for him. But I do think we’re going to get something like the 2008 South Ossetia War, with Russian military forces “assisting” the ethnically Russian Crimea to “independence” from the rest of the Ukraine, following by an ethnic cleansing of Ukrainians. The end result will be to give Russia effective control of the Black Sea but with the Ukraine less divided and firmly in the European sphere of influence.

There’s not a lot we can do about that, short of a massive and extremely dangerous war. I suspect we’ll protest and maybe send a carrier out there. But any real pushback would have to come from Europe and … that ain’t happening.

You have got your facts wrong buddy

Peter Hatcher at “The Sidney Morning Herald” has an editorial post titled Poll shock as Swiss vote to slam the door shut dealing with the recent vote in Switzerland to curtail immigration.

So it seemed unlikely the Swiss would vote to put new limits on their country’s immigration intake in the referendum held at the weekend. The opinion polls concurred – surveys showed most Swiss opposed the idea of putting a cap on annual immigration numbers.

But the surprise result late on Sunday was the slimmest of majorities in favour. By 50.3 per cent, the Swiss voted to impose an annual limit.

The government, however reluctantly, will be obliged to implement the policy advocated by the far-right Swiss People’s Party. The policy itself is not an extreme one – it simply means Switzerland can exercise the traditional sovereign right to limit its immigration intake, which is about 80,000 a year in a country of 8 million.

In a nutshell, despite whatever the polls said or wanted people to believe, Swiss voters, by a slim margin I admit, in a referendum on the subject, decided they would prefer some restrictions on immigration, and that’s being sold as a huge upset. The author is concerned with the impact this vote will have on the relationship between Switzerland and the EU, which up until now had an agreement that allowed people to move freely between the two, despite the fact that Switzerland is not an EU member (smart on their part I say), especially in the economic arena. He foresees some kind of retaliatory strategy from the EU, and I would tend to agree that the hoity-toity bureaucrats in Brussels would respond exactly like that. But that’s not my beef with the article, and my focus is elsewhere.

The author also is worried about the repercussion of this referendum’s success and the implication for similar movements in other EU countries, expecting voters there to be galvanized by this victory for what he coins as “the far-right Swiss” movement, and that’s where I disagree with the article. First off, there are no far-right movements in Europe. That concept is ludicrous. Europe has become a collectivist cesspool, and anything that doesn’t involve a massive government bureaucracy that controls all aspect of life, completely in opposition of what the real movement on the right believes in because it stifles individualism, dignity, and freedom,, has about zero chance of existing there. Big, all controlling, government are the only political entities that exists. Some are labeled as far right, by people that either bought into or want to propagate the left’s myth that fascism is not just another socialist disease, like communism. It plays well to revive those fears of fascism as motivation for whatever the leviathan nanny state leftists want to oppose. Don’t take my word for this: here is the author of this post making the point:

Third, this event will energise far-right parties across Europe in the approach to elections for the European Parliament, due in three months.

The echoes of Europe’s grim history of the early 20th century, during which economic downturn led to the rise of fascism, always intensify in times of economic hardship.

Get it? Far-right movements are shadow fascism. That’s pure and simple bullshit. As I already mentioned, there are no far-right – in the traditional sense of what the right really stands for – in Europe. What these people coin as far-right is anything but. The fact remains that fascism is another spawn of the socialist movement. It’s communism’s brother, and only has a bad reputation because the old left liked the idea of communism, where the few oligarchs or single dictator running the show controls and owns everything, while pretending that property belongs to the people through the state, more. Today’s left is far more enamored of the incestuous relationship between an all controlling state that picks winners and losers, in the name of idiotic concepts like “social justice” or other such pap, and those elements in the private sector that the state approves of.

That relationship between the state and the private sector is one of the key components of fascism and was part and parcel of Mussolini’s Italy or Hitler’s Germany. It’s pervasive through what we would label the modern Western nation, but they go out of their way to pretend they are not engaged in it. The left has pretended because they no longer pay homage to the whole nationalist component of old fascism, which is what they used to brand fascism as a right wing phenomenon, that they are not engaged in fascist behavior. So far-right parties in the EU are labeled as the only fascist movement, because one can say they have more of that nationalist component. These big government movements are all fascistic, whether they are nationalistic in nature or otherwise, and we should put an end to the abuse by those that want to pretend otherwise so they can keep people freaked out about their opposition. Soft fascism is fascism. Let’s quit kidding ourselves that it is otherwise. And no entity is a bigger example of this fascism at work than the all-encompassing and pervasive EU bureaucracy with the possible exception of the lawless Obama administration in the US.

Quit the scare mongering about fascism. We are already living under a version of it, and sooner than later it will show us its ugly side, so let us stop pretending otherwise. This shit ain’t far-right anything either: it’s just another incarnation of collectivism.

You Can Keep Him

If you are Global Warming, you better have a thick skin, cancer has a better rep. But not to worry, your days are numbered. See, a UK politician has figured it out, to beat you silly they just need to expand foreign aid, money spent over there will fix our climate problems over here, and you thought Joe Biden was a boner;

Eric Pickles: Spend aid abroad to stop flooding in the UK
Sustainable aid spent across the world will help to alleviate the effects of extreme weather in the UK, the communities secretary suggests
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Britain’s international aid budget will help reduce flooding in the UK by addressing the causes of climate change abroad, Eric Pickles has said.

And I thought I just had to buy a hybrid, shower in rain water collected from my own barrel, and quit eating beans. So all that money sent to Pakistan (who gives succor to terrorists), the PLO (who use it to buy more rockets to loob over at Israel), and to Syria (to, you know, keep the female population in check) will somehow come flying back to us and rid the US of those nasty hurricanes, tornadoes and floods.

Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, has accused the Government of a “lethargic and inadequate” response to the floods and said foreign aid spending should be suspending while the floods crisis was tackled.
Farage said it was ”basic common sense” to suspend international aid while the country was dealing with the aftermath of recent extreme weather.
”Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that a government’s primary duty is to the well-being of its own citizens. Charity begins at home and it is not mean-spirited to say that, it is just basic common sense.”

Not to a politician, or should I say this politician. Common sense is like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, something they just dream about.

European Pussies

Before I get in to the meat of the post, feel free to substitute European for liberal, progressive, or any thin skinned crybaby who makes a living out of victimhood and somehow thinks he/she should be protected from the world meanees out there who just might hurt their feelings, there.

There is a faux outrage story making the rounds about European sensibilities getting irritated by an ambassador making an off color comment. This whole episode gives new meaning to “Tempest in a teapot” and “Mountain out of a mole hill”. The fact that this caused even a hiccup on their outrage meter indicates an even greater degree of sissyness than even I imagined;

German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed outrage on Friday over a leaked conversation in which a top US diplomat used the f-word to disparage the European Union’s handling of the crisis in Ukraine.
The candid remark by the US State Department’s most senior European official threatened to drive a dangerous wedge between the allies in the midst of one their most high-stakes diplomatic tussles with Moscow since the Cold War.

Ho hum, get a life, Merkel.

So, someone, expecting a certain level of privacy considering that it was a private phone conversation said ,”F@ck the EU”, alert NORAD, we are at DEFCON 1.

But the leaked phone call hinted strongly at Washington’s mounting frustration with the Europeans’ handling of Ukraine’s worst political crisis since its independence in 1991.

Our frustration? Can you imagine the EU’s consternation over Obama policies over the last 5 years? Talk about frustration. I imagine that same F word bandied about several thousand times within their neat little circle of phone conversations, who cares?

The US State Department immediately pointed an incriminating finger at Russia for allegedly bugging diplomats’ phones.
“Certainly we think this is a new low in Russian tradecraft,” US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Where is the European outrage over this?

See, this is why we need an adult/rational conversation over NSA practices. I want my government spying on EVERY foreign nation out there, friend or foe. This nonsense about gentlemen don’t spy on other gentlemen, if national security is the goal, and factoring in that each country must look out for it’s own national interests, then knowledge is power and what the other guys are doing and thinking elevates our own security.

This also cements (as if anyone needed more proof) that fact that Russia will always be our enemy. Their interests are in direct opposition to ours, we can make nice with them but like Bill Clinton, we would never let them baby sit our kids.

The events going on in the Ukraine are noteworthy, and yes, Russian meddling is bothersome. But I am for letting things play out. Jefferson talked about the tree of liberty and what is required for its refreshment. When the folks are pulling one way and the president, enticed by Russian carrots, pulls the opposite way, a tussle will naturally ensue. This is more a EU fight than ours and we should do whatever we can to assist them is drawing the Ukraine away from Russian influence, but this whinny sanctimony over, “F@ck the EU” only bolsters the notion that they really don’t know what they are doing and need even more hand holding from us.

You guys want to leave the kid’s table and start eating with the adults? grow a pair, forchrissakes.

What could possibly go wrong with this?

Leave it to those crazy Dutchmen to think up an idea like this:

AMSTERDAM (AP) — The men streaming in and out of a small clubhouse in east Amsterdam could almost be construction workers at the end of a hard day, taking off their orange reflective vests and cracking jokes as they suck down a few Heinekens, waiting for their paychecks. But it’s only noon, the men are alcoholics and the beers themselves are the paycheck.

In a pilot project that has drawn attention in the Netherlands and around the world, the city has teamed up with a charity organization in hopes of improving the neighborhood and possibly improving life for the alcoholics. Not by trying to cure them, but instead by offering to fund their drinking outright. Participants are given beer in exchange for light work collecting litter, eating a decent meal, and sticking to their schedule.

“For a lot of politicians it was really difficult to accept, `So you are giving alcohol?'” Amsterdam East district mayor Fatima Elatik said. “No, I am giving people a sense of perspective, even a sense of belonging. A sense of feeling that they are OK and that we need them and that we validate them and we don’t ostracize our people, because these are people that live in our district.”

Hey, they did it with soft drugs and that has had its own bumps in the road. First off, is the fact that their neighbors are all pissed off at them for this stuff, then they tried to keep tourists out, unsuccessfully I add, to please the angry neighbors, but that didn’t work out well either. And while this is not reported, they are no longer allowing new coffee shops to be opened, even as they close down others. That’s usually not a sign that things are working out well.

What the hell can go wrong with giving alcoholics dignity to earn their alcohol? All I suspect is that this will not end well for them either. What if the drunkards want German beer instead? or worse: Belgian beer! This is gonna cause problems. As long as nobody is spilling the stuff nobody can be accused of alochol abuse, I guess. What about a program for sex adicts? Bill Clinton wants to know….

Thank you Keynesians, marxists, and progressives!

At least some people are admitting that we are running out of other people’s money, and that the cost to address this problem is going to be brutal:

Much of the Western world will require defaults, a savings tax and higher inflation to clear the way for recovery as debt levels reach a 200-year high, according to a new report by the International Monetary Fund. The IMF working paper said debt burdens in developed nations have become extreme by any historical measure and will require a wave of haircuts, either negotiated 1930s-style write-offs or the standard mix of measures used by the IMF in its “toolkit” for emerging market blow-ups. “The size of the problem suggests that restructurings will be needed, for example, in the periphery of Europe, far beyond anything discussed in public to this point,” said the paper, by Harvard professors Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff. The paper said policy elites in the West are still clinging to the illusion that rich countries are different from poorer regions and can therefore chip away at their debts with a blend of austerity cuts, growth, and tinkering (“forbearance”).

The presumption is that advanced economies “do not resort to such gimmicks” such as debt restructuring and repression, which would “give up hard-earned credibility” and throw the economy into a “vicious circle”. But the paper says this mantra borders on “collective amnesia” of European and US history, and is built on “overly optimistic” assumptions that risk doing far more damage to credibility in the end. It is causing the crisis to drag on, blocking a lasting solution. “This denial has led to policies that in some cases risk exacerbating the final costs,” it said. While use of debt pooling in the eurozone can reduce the need for restructuring or defaults, it comes at the cost of higher burdens for northern taxpayers. This could drag the EMU core states into a recession and aggravate their own debt and ageing crises. The clear implication of the IMF paper is that Germany and the creditor core would do better to bite the bullet on big write-offs immediately rather than buying time with creeping debt mutualisation.

The paper says the Western debt burden is now so big that rich states will need same tonic of debt haircuts, higher inflation and financial repression – defined as an “opaque tax on savers” – as used in countless IMF rescues for emerging markets. “The magnitude of the overall debt problem facing advanced economies today is difficult to overstate. The current central government debt in advanced economies is approaching a two-century high-water mark,” they said.

Things are bad. Really fucking bad. And yeah, this article focuses primarily on Europe, but Obama and the last 5 years have put the US, whom was on a slow road to the same disaster before the left took over, on the same fast track to disaster. The fact is that our elite have been acting as if their shit don’t stink, and they have basically set us all on a course to becoming a banana republic. With a hard stop in “fuck over the productive tax payers” land, first.

What we have now is unsustainable. Some of us saw this a long time ago. With finite resources this overspending put us on a road to disaster. Worse yet has been the focus on wealth redistribution and the cradle to grave welfare state, geared primarily towards the chronically unproductive, at the cost of the productive, especially in the upper lower and middle classes, whom get shafted far harder by these schemes and scams, and the wealth producers, despite the left’s assurance that was never supposed to be the case. The progressives, with their need to pick who gets to succeed/win and who doesn’t, have destroyed our economies and hobbled our ability to produce new wealth (a concept the progressives simply seem unable to grasp). Sure they will tell you it’s capitalism’s fault, but the real problem has always been that when government starts interfering and favoring something/someone over another, that capitalism no longer exists. What we have, and have had for the longest time, is cronyism: a system where the private sector is in bed with government, and in the US with one particular party which controls practically all access to abuses of the law to favor one group over another (do I need to remind you which party that is again, or can you guess?), and uses favor buying to keep out competition or advancement other than those the intelligentsia approve of, all while larding their campaign coffers and their own bank accounts. It’s not by accident that despite all the progressive overregulation of the Obama years that the rich have gotten richer, while everyone else, and especially the middle class, have gotten hammered.

Oh, the Keynesians will disagree and demand we have more of the same old shit that got us where we are today. But as I have often pointed out, the definition of insanity is that you keep doing the same shit, over and over, expecting different results. All we have done is drastically increased our nation’s debt while exacerbating the problem. Now we are told by the same people that caused this problem that what we need is to let them do even more of this insane tax & spend, government controlled, cronyism. Yeah, and this time it really, really, really, will work. These fucking idiots remind me of the doomsday cultists that constantly find an excuse for why their promise never came to pass, and then, tell us they know what went wrong and the next time they predict doom, it will really be real thing. Only our progressives are predicting salvation and delivering doom, in an ironic twist of faith.

The sooner we dismantle the nanny state, the sooner we can get things back in order. It’s pain now, or a lot more pain, if not outright death, later. But the fact is that what we have today doesn’t work and can’t be continued. Anyone pretending otherwise is not just deluded, but should make the rest of us wonder about their intent. When it is obvious how this plays out, and you will not give it up, we should be able to question your motives. And we should start calling them out on that.

When you run out of other people’s money…

You get something like this in social paradise:
Welfare advocates regularly urge Americans to look to the European welfare state as a model. At least in the case of the Netherlands, they might be on to something.

The Dutch have just announced a massive reform of their welfare system, designed to reduce dependency and put a new emphasis on work. For example, welfare applicants will now be required to prove that they spent at least 4 weeks actively searching for a job before they become eligible for any assistance. And once they begin to receive benefits they will either have to work or perform volunteer community service. Dutch welfare recipients would be required to take available jobs even if they had to move or commute up to three hours per day.

Given that just 42 percent of U.S. welfare recipients are engaged in even broadly defined work activities (including job training, college, or job search), and that an attempt to restore work requirements to the food stamp program has been met with a storm of resistance, the Dutch appear to be much more pro-work than we are.

Other reforms would reduce benefits by treating families as a single unit, rather than as separate individuals. For instance a mother with two children would receive a single payment rather than three separate payments. The combined payment would be less, based on the assumption of “shared expense.”

This is just another change in the whole unsustainable system. A few years back they reformed their healthcare system to provide catastrophic coverage for all while leaving it up to the individual to provide the other coverage needs. Oh yeah, while the article isn’t clear on this issue, I bet that like they did when they reformed healthcare in the Netherlands, they kept the taxes untouched.

People clamoring for European style welfare, be it around healthcare or otherwise, in the US should be weary. There is no such thing as a free lunch…

Yule Log

Christmas time is my favorite time of the year. I will be posting some other Christmas related posts in the next week or so, no War on Christmas posts are coming so relax, and to start it off (they will get better, I promise) I will “roll out” this one;

I really don’t know what to say, other than, you’ve got to be kidding me? Tourists will buy anything, I guess.

I remember years ago visiting Tijuana (or any flee market for matter selling cacti) where I would see the cactus planter of the Mexican guy with his big sombrero and the long phallic shaped cactus emanating in close proximity to his nether regions (do they still sell those things?) I often wondered, aside from say a gag gift, do people actually buy these things and display them in their homes? Here is another one for that category.