George Sarant

A raw feed of material that may be updated or appear elsewhere.

Posts Tagged ‘Putin

BAD NEWS

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There is a bigger problem with the media today than the bias that often distorts stories. It is not “fake news” either. It is rather, no news. There is a paucity of real news everywhere and far too much goes unreported or is very briefly summarized. Cable news gives us mostly talking heads expressing opinions and not much in the way of real news. Broadcast news isn’t much better these days to the extent that there are too few stories that are selected in a rather arbitrary way, while hiding the fact that they have seriously cut back on correspondents covering various subjects or parts of the world. On cable “news” you see few correspondents reporting actual stories. Newspapers, and news magazines, even the “serious” ones aren’t much better, again with fewer correspondents now covering things regularly. News sites online aren’t all that informative either, especially to the extent that they are simply extensions of the television and publishing companies. 

A recent search I attempted clearly illustrates how shallow all of this is. The other day Vladimir Putin made what seemed to be some important statements, and from the news summaries my curiosity was engaged. But that’s all I could find, anywhere- summaries. I wanted to see more of the substance of what he said but could not find it anywhere from any “news” organization despite fairly extensive Internet searching. But the search engines are part of the problem because if the information was out there they weren’t showing it and what you usually get nowadays is top listings that re mostly paid followed by more that are basically off-topic. I find this happening time after time. Just try this with almost any other story. The idea that we are now able to easily obtain more serious information online is false. What one gets is the usual repetitive nonsense. 

 What we actually have now is mostly a repetitive echo chamber. In other words one source comes up with a story, say, the New York Times or Washington Post, and it is picked up by everyone else and repeated. This creates the illusion that they are actually covering the story from multiple points when in fact they are mostly repeating and uncritically passing on the same story. It is not just a herd mentality, but lazy, superficial reporting, Furthermore things that might really matter are often subsumed by nonsensical, superficial stories. Just think about what stories dominate the news every single day. Barring some sort of natural disaster the news contains a lot of trivia when not devolving into entertainment stories. As a result we are getting dumbed down news provided by dumbed down reporters and commentators. 

It gets worse. What we now get is more “entertainment news” instead of real, hard news. The entertainment news is ubiquitous, with each having its own entertainment program. In the recent past this did not exist at all and there were basically only gossip columns in this area, but now it supersedes everything. We get a huge amount of attention devoted to dopey “celebrities” that in reality are of no consequence in the larger scheme of things, and who are getting far more attention than they deserve. The media that now show unprecedented hostility to Donald Trump are largely themselves responsible for producing his presidency in the first place. Thus for all the information the we are supposedly being overwhelmed with, the truth is that we are less informed than ever. 

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Written by georgesarant

October 22, 2017 at 7:26 PM

THE RUSSIANS, THE DEMOCRATS AND THE MEDIA

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There was a time when Russia was the enemy, back when the Russian people suffered under the communist yoke. Then opposition to the Soviet Union was the right position, while many on the Left were outright communist sympathizers or treasonous pawns of that evil empire. The Russian people were never the enemy.  The enemy was the odious regime that murdered millions of its own people. But the Soviet Union is long gone and communism belongs in the dustbin of history.

Russia has come a long way, and today under Putin is anti-Bolshevik.  Is it democratic in the way of the west? No, but it is an infinite improvement over the communist regime. When the Russians were behind the expansion of communism there was reason to consider them the enemy. But the Left instead was reliably anti-anti-communist, ever promoting “peaceful coexistence” and understanding where none could be had. But today the new theme of the Left, and the Democratic party in the US, is anti-Russian. Perhaps they mourn the old Soviet regime and resent its replacement, no longer of the “left,” but one that has restored Russian tradition, culture, and religion. This is not meant as an apology for the Russian regime, which in many respects is mismanaging the country to the detriment of its long-term interests, and with its low tolerance of opposition, but these are self-inflicted wounds.

Today the Democratic party in the United States has gone totally off the rails in its delusions about Russian involvement in our elections and government. At this point it is pure hysteria, not even so much because of anything the Russians might have done but that it might be used to undermine the Trump administration. This is unadulterated hatred seeking a target aided by a compliant and partisan media.

If you were skeptical of the criticism of the media in the past, the current kerfuffle over Attorney General Sessions supposed contacts with the Russians proves the point. From Democratic operatives the word was passed to the media that Sessions met with the Russians twice and didn’t mention it in his Senate testimony. But what were these meetings? The supposed contact with the Russian ambassador consisted of questioning him with other senators in a hearing, and an otherwise casual and trivial passing conversation at a reception. To any objective observer this is nonsense, and a truly honest media would have passed it over or concluded that there was nothing there. Instead we have a bogus “scandal” without substance that most people can parse out on their own. The only real offense of Sessions is being a southern white man; talk about prejudice and hatred!

Now they are finding, or rather looking for Russians everywhere under the bed without a shred of evidence. A responsible media would stick to the facts, but they have degenerated into a partisan opposition, relying on embittered holdovers from the Obama administration.

This Russomania is going nowhere. It is the last gasp of scoundrels who have nothing left in their arsenal.Their only objective is to undermine the Trump administration. It isn’t just the Democrats, but the Bush-league Republicans who failed miserably when in power. These old cold warriors have now made common cause with the new cold warriors of the Left. In the complete absence of factual evidence and endless innuendo, the net effect of this behavior is to drive more and more people into the Trump camp.

Written by georgesarant

March 3, 2017 at 2:44 PM

RUSSIA AND UKRAINE PART 2

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There are those who are criticizing President Obama for not doing more about Russia and the Ukraine. I would argue that he and Kerry ought to be doing less because what they are doing is so inept it is almost comical. We have a weak leader (as perceived by a majority of Americans) playing a weak hand. Given that, less is better than more, lest the US be perceived as even weaker. Red lines that are indefensible and threats of “consequences” that impress no one are pointless. Given the nature of this administration, the less action there is the less embarrassment there will be.

Putin sees a power vacuum, with weak, irresolute western leaders that he has only contempt for, and he is acting on it. The main basis for the “illegality” of Russian actions is an agreement made in the 1990s to guarantee the territorial integrity of Ukraine as it gave up its nuclear weapons. Among the signatories to this were Russia and the US. So Russia has reneged on another agreement. Who is surprised by this? For it is not only international agreements that they have discarded but also contracts with gullible western corporations dumb enough to do business there under current conditions. 

The notion of the “west” and Russia as the “east” is a false dichotomy. The Russians inherited the same Greek foundation as the west via Greek monks who created their alphabet and converted them to Christianity a thousand years ago. It is ironic that after more than seven decades of communism Russia today is far more Christian than the west. It is through this prism that Putin views western countries as degenerate and weak. But Russia also feels threatened by NATO expansion to its borders, which is one of the main reasons that Putin wants the former Soviet republics to get in line with Russia. 

The real barrier to better relations and integration with the western world is the lack of rule of law in Russia, which involves more than just arbitrary government. Normal business cannot be conducted with parties who renege on contract agreements. This will continue as long as there is not a a truly independent judiciary. Constitutional government requires more than the formal edifice of institutions with separate powers. Putin’s government is not so much in opposition to this as several steps removed. His model now is essentially that of the state as protector of traditional values, defender of the faith, etc.  with himself at the apex of the state. Nevertheless his government still has support with the majority of the population.

This is not to suggest that Russian aggrandizement should not be opposed, but realistically just what assets do we have available for this? This administration does not have the standing in the world to support its posturing. We need to take a longer term view to a post-Obama (and Putin) world. If Russia annexes Crimea based upon a popular vote it will backfire on them badly. For if Crimea can have self-determination then logically the restive regions in the Caucasus could do the same. Thus Chechnya and Dagestan could use the same pretext to break away from Russia. What the US and other western countries need to do is focus on rebuilding the economy, institutions, and strength at home before we can be taken seriously abroad. 

 

 

 

Written by georgesarant

March 16, 2014 at 7:38 PM

WHAT TO DO ABOUT RUSSIA & UKRAINE?

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Russian actions in Ukraine continue to dominate the headlines, and there is no common western policy beyond expressions of disapproval. The question now is what should be done about Putin’s actions? The short answer is, not much. First, because not much can realistically be done by outsiders, and second, given the extent to which the Obama administration has abandoned leadership in the world, things like this are bound to happen in that power vacuum. With the “reset” in relations with Russia in shambles who can have confidence in the ability of this administration to handle this appropriately?

There has been some tough talk from Hillary Clinton, which makes some sense on the surface. She compares the Ukrainian situation to that of Nazi Germany, which grabbed the Czech sudetanland followed other territories on the pretext of protecting Germans in those areas. When there was no effective response Hitler’s appetite increased until the invasion of Poland finally brought on World War II.  However, Putin is not Hitler, and the global context is quite different. Britain and France were committed to alliances with Poland. No one apart from Russia is allied with the territories of the former Soviet Union, which we can assume Putin dreams of recreating. But what can he realistically do in that regard?

If Russia were to regain all those territories the Russians themselves would become a minority in the federation. They would have a substantial, growing and increasingly restive population on their hands. They have yet been unable to completely subdue the existing Muslim population in Chechnya and other Russian territories in the Caucasus. The Russian population is roughly 142 million and declining, with a non-Russian minority at nearly 20% and growing. Russia cannot possibly maintain a stable society with more ethnic minorities in its fold. Putin is no fool and he must know this. But he also knows that he can annex some territories with little to lose. 

Crimea, which is now basically occupied, has a Russian majority and the regional government is seeking a referendum on joining Russia. That should be amended to say rejoining Russia, insofar as Crimea was in fact Russian territory until Kruschev ceded it to the then Ukrainian SSR, in what was basically an internal shuffle, never imagining an independent Ukraine. From the Russian point of view they are simply reoccupying historically Russian territory. Given the history and the demographics there is not much of a case for a strong response to this by anyone. Putin took advantage of the political turmoil in Ukraine. A similar case could be made for Russian majority areas in eastern Ukraine. As long as there are substantial majority-minority population differences there is certain to be instability, and a degree of sorting out would mitigate that and eliminate any pretext for further aggrandizement. A more Ukrainian Ukraine could then pursue its goal of joining the west via the European Union. 

What disturbs much of the world is the use of force in this situation, and for that there should be consequences. The problem is that there is really no one in a position to do much of anything. The next step would be to give a strong message along the lines of “this far but no further.” The problem is that the US administration has drawn red lines before that fell away without consequences, and has no credibility left. The outrage of some hawks on the right is misplaced. This is not the Soviet Union. Russia is not an enemy and there is nothing to be gained by treating it like one. The notion of the west versus Russia is a false dichotomy. . Russia has been a part of the “west” in some sense, at least since Peter the Great. The real barrier to better relations and integration with the western world is the lack of rule of law in Russia. To be continued. 

 

Written by georgesarant

March 6, 2014 at 6:59 PM

THE WEST & THE MIDDLE EAST 1: SYRIA

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It’s a crazy world we live in when one has to decide whether John Kerry or Vladimir Putin is lying about who is using chemical weapons in Syria.  Kerry testified there is ample evidence it was initiated by the Assad regime, while Putin says he has a detailed 100 page report indicating that the rebels did it. Given the murkiness of this situation congress ought to think twice before rushing into another Middle East conflict, the consequences of which cannot be known. There has been no indication of any contingencies which might result from such action. Are we really prepared for this? 

The President’s credibility is on the line, or what’s left of it, but contrary to prevailing assumptions that does not mean America’s credibility is also hanging by a thread. For what we have here is a regime of the Left such as we have never seen before, mismanaging just about every aspect of government. The administration only now has had to reach out to Republicans to get something done, who would be ill-advised to be suckered in, despite some naturally hawkish tendencies.  Do they really have confidence in the leadership of this administration at this point? Then there is John Kerry, the point man on this mission, who once falsely testified before congress that American forces were regularly committing atrocities in Viet Nam and who met with Assad several times, praising him, against the wishes of the Bush administration.  Can we trust this man now? Republicans are out of their minds if they fall in line for what is likely to be a fiasco, given this kind of leadership. Can they really still have any confidence in them at this point? 

The only sensible thing to do is to either vote against this action, and/or get out of the way and let the administration take the fall for botching this entire situation. Given its tenuous credibility, drawing red lines and then saying they didn’t, and then stating that  “the world” did; never mind that virtually no one else in the world wants any part of this mission. Action was not taken two years ago when it would have mattered. It is too little too late, and yes, action at this point would be worse than doing nothing. There is nothing to be gained and a lot to lose by doing it now. If there were another chemical attack and it was clear who did it, then action might be justified. But the UN has yet to issue a report either way, which at least give some substantive support to whoever is right. 

A wise government would be looking to get us out of the line of fire, but they instead want to jump into it. Both Secretary Kerry and President Obama strongly opposed the Iraq war, but now are pursuing a comparable policy on far more tenuous grounds. There is no coalition, no congressional support as yet, and no conclusive proof. To claim that Syria is a threat to our national security is preposterous. Just what national security do we gain when this administration has leaked like a sieve and a good portion of our national secrets have been spilled all over, and governments the world over are alienated and angry. Due to their breathtaking ineptitude they have managed to make Russia a major player again, and make Putin look like a statesman. What we really need is a congressional no confidence vote, so at least the rest of the world know it is not us taking action but an administration acting against the wishes of the people, and then somehow muddle through three more years of this lame duck presidency. 

 

 

Written by georgesarant

September 6, 2013 at 5:11 PM

G-7, G-8? CANADA, US, & EUROPE

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The west again has a leader with vision, courage, and resolve. Too bad he’s not an American. He is Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, who had the fortitude to directly call out Vladimir Putin for his bad behavior, particularly with regard to Syria, where Russia continues to provide vital support for the Assad regime. At the “G8” summit Harper boldly stated that there is no G8. He stated that instead “this is the G-7   plus one. Let’s be blunt, that’s what this is: the G-7 plus one,” basically giving up on Russia ever behaving like a normal country. 

The G-7 was originally a group of the world’s leading economic powers with a shared democratic government and market economy. Membership consisted of the US, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Great Britain, and Japan. Then Russia was invited in in 1997 to encourage the continued transformation toward democracy, political and economic freedom. Unfortunately Russia has instead reverted to an authoritarian tradition that goes back centuries. It is nowhere near as odious as the Communist Soviet Union was, but it has consistently been at odds with the west on issue after issue. Part of this is Putin’s illusion of being a great power, which is achieved by opposing anything the US does. He is basically disruptive of the G8, as Harper suggested, and is not suitable for participation. This doesn’t necessarily mean expelling Russia, if only for the Russian people, and the hope that they will eventually produce a less thuggish regime instead of one headed by a clown who cannot be taken seriously. 

Leaving this aside the US is also negotiating a free trade agreement with Europe, which would be a tremendous plus for the economies of all participants as well as the whole world. Obama deserves credit for pursuing this opportunity, which if consummated, will be the major achievement of his administration. Notwithstanding very justified criticism on the domestic front, when the President does something good in foreign affairs he ought to get credit for it. One of the principle roadblocks to completing the agreement has been put up by France,which wants some exemptions and protections for its cultural institutions. In this instance I sympathize with the French, in trying to maintain their national culture and not be overwhelmed, i.e.  by Hollywood. They do not want their culture ruined the way Hollywood has ruined ours, with mediocre productions, offensive material, and monotonous left-wing themes. I hope that they can be accommodated and that other countries will follow suit, in order to maintain their distinctive cultural identities. For that matter it would be nice if Americans rediscovered their own identity, which has been trampled not only by Hollywood, but by a dysfunctional education system. 

Written by georgesarant

June 17, 2013 at 7:21 PM