16 March 2018

Moscow was confident that nobody will catch them

The latest news on the poisoning of the Russian colonel Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia brings another twist to the story.
The nerve agent which poisoned a Russian double agent was planted in his daughter's suitcase before leaving Moscow, it has been reported.
Of course, this is not (yet) a rock solid proof that the hand of Kremlin was in this assassination. As the article shows, there is a possibility of a run-of-the-mill criminal revenge, carried out by a person with security connections, possibly able to obtain the poison. A bit too far out, but still useful for deniers...

Whatever the conspinuts say, the nerve agent was traced back to Moscow. Not that this will deter the seekers of "real truths". For the rest of us, I am translating* here an interview with Vil Mirzayanov, a scientist and later head of Foreign Technical Counterintelligence at the State Scientific Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology (GosNIIOKhT) in Moscow in the 1970s and 1980s, which produced the shadowy class of binary nerve agents known as the “novichoks” (newcomers). The reason for this translation: there are several other interviews in English with the man, however in all cases the interviewers were too lazy or too unprepared to ask the right questions. The reporter for Voice of America has done a better job.

(The headline of this post is, in fact, a translation of the title of the article in question).


The world learned about the existence of the nerve-fighting poisonous substance "novichok" from Vil Mirzayanov. In 1992 he wrote an article "Poisoned Politics" for the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets. Mirzayanov was arrested twice, but the case against him collapsed before coming to court. The chemist went to the US, where he wrote the book "State secrets: the Russian program of chemical weapons from the inside." In his blogs, he argued that Washington was extremely unhappy with the publication containing complete chemical formulas of the poison agent.

Since 1992, Mirzayanov tried to achieve the ban of "novichok" as a chemical weapon, but failed. The substance officially still does not exist.

Where could have British chemists got samples of the "novichok", which country could organize the production of this nerve agent, how long the chemical weapons are stored, why Moscow insists on actions "in strict accordance with the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,"  - Vil Mirzayanov tells in an interview for Russian service of the Voice of America.

- You have participated in the development of unique Soviet chemical poisons - nerve agents, known today as "novichok". At the same time, you argue that there is no such weapon in any country in the world, except Russia. How did British investigators find out which substance was used to poison Sergei Skripal?

- In order to establish what "preparation" was used in this case, you need to have access to a powerful high-resolution mass spectrometer, in the "library" of which there are spectra of all compounds known to date. The sample taken is compared with those already known, and the computer indicates the spectrum with a 96 percent probability. That's it, there can be no mistake here.

- But for this purpose the investigators should have some kind of sample?

- These are the usual procedures. You can take blood, urine, extract the sample from clothes with the help of solvents. There are many ways.

- Russian officials have repeatedly stated that the chemical used to poison former colonel GRU Sergey Skripal could be produced in other countries, including the UK. You say that in England there were samples of the "novichok".

- The British could synthesize it on the basis of the formulas that I published in my book in 2008 [State Secrets: An Insider's Chronicle of the Russian Chemical Weapons Program Secrets .- VA]. Each country takes care of its own security independently, and in the study of potential threats it was possible to create a sample.

So that samples could exist in many countries, but production was set up only in the USSR and Russia.

- Have you published these formulas completely?

- Completely. I suspected that something like that [an attempt on the Skripal - VA] could happen, and therefore for a long time, since 1992, I tried to include "novichok" in the list of officially banned chemical compounds. But this can only be done by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), having an agreement on this decision with all the member countries of the convention.

After my book was published, this issue was discussed at a meeting at the OPCW headquarters and, to my knowledge, no decision was taken.

- The head of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Sergei Lavrov, responding to the claims of the British side, accused London of non-compliance with the requirements of the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

- The OPCW, within the framework of this Convention, can only work with compounds that are on the list of banned substances. "novichok" is not on this list, and, therefore, the headquarters of this organization does not have methods for recognizing the "drug".

- You have announced the existence of "novichok" in 1992 for the first time. These weapons could have been improved since then? How can you be sure that in this case we are not talking about a completely different compound with similar characteristics?

- Of course, it could have been improved, but the "skeleton" of the drug remains unchanged. "novichok" differs from all, without exception, nerve gases in that it is based on the connection of phosphorus and nitrogen. All other poison agents do not have such a connection, so "novichok" is a fundamentally new class.

- "novichok" was created in the State Scientific Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology (GONIIOKHT) back in the late 1980s. While working on this project, you have assumed that it could be used in such cases as the "Skripal affair"?

- In Soviet times we always worked together with the KGB. When Markov [the Bulgarian writer Georgy Markov, killed in London in 1978 - VA] was killed, ricin, obtained in our laboratory, was used in the assassination. But we did not engage in tools of murder, for this purpose the KGB had its own laboratory.

- Russian officials claimed that the "drug" you created could be found in the republics of the former USSR. As a possible source, for example, they have named Georgia and Uzbekistan.

- This is empty talk. The Soviet Union collapsed 27 years ago, and if somewhere in the republics there was a clean "novichok", it had long since disintegrated and would not do as a weapon.

Any chemical poisoning agent decomposes. There is no compound that retains its properties for a long time. In the first year, 2% is lost, in the second year - 3%, and the resulting decomposition products accelerate the decay process. That is why the storage and disposal of toxic substances is a big problem, which, moreover, is more expensive than production.

- You said that during the assassination of Skripal and his daughter binary weapons could have been used ...

- Yes. It is because of the difficulties in storing and recycling that today nobody will produce the so-called "final product". Instead they produce components, relatively harmless individual components, which are mixed immediately before use.

- And such production can be hidden?

- Yes, for example, simultaneously with the development of a promising substance, when stage-by-stage tests are already under way, an agricultural pesticide is being developed, which in its characteristics basically repeats this substance. That is, the production of so-called "subproducts", which are components of binary weapons, can be conducted quite officially. At some enterprise they can carry out a plan for the production of pesticides, even without realizing that they are actually producing chemical weapons.

- From your point of view, how easy it is to transport such substances across borders and then use them?

- It's not very difficult. You need two glass ampules, some high-pressure agent, for example a light volatile gasoline. Ampules must be broken before use, and the mixed substances will give the desired compound. Then, as an aerosol, it can be sprayed. But this is a very crude option, and I'm sure that the FSB could come up with a more sophisticated way.

- You think that the attempt on ex-colonel Skripal was "emphatically demonstrative." That is, the culprits counted on the fact that traces of the "novichok" will be found in advance?

- I do not think so. This was really a demonstrative punishment, but in my opinion, Moscow was sure that no one would find traces of the substance. This "drug" does not officially exist, it is not mentioned in any of the lists of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Since almost 30 years ago, no one has been engaged in its development. It is obvious to me that Moscow was counting on the fact that no one will catch them.

- But you have published the formula of "novichok" eight years ago.

- I do not know whether the FSB saw my book. Perhaps in one of the departments it was read, but in the other one, which was preparing the attempt, they did not hear anything about it.

- After the incident with Sergei Skripal, representatives of the OPCW or of any international organizations approached you as one of the creators of the "novichok"?

- No, nobody approached me, except journalists.


(*) With kind assistance of Google Translate, for the bulk of the material.

15 March 2018

Craig Murray: deep at the bottom and busy digging

It is usually not a surprise for anyone, when, a few hours after any atrocity happening on this globe, the usual conspinuts come out from under their stones and Mossad gets fingered for another "false flag" opearation.

It is thus no wonder that, when the recent Russian style poisoning of a Russian ex-colonel Sergei Skripal and his daughter happened, Mossad came up almost immediately. Sure thing. And even the de facto confession of Kremlin on the air didn't help:

The source of the "nudge nudge, wink wink" this time, though, was somewhat interesting. Craig Murray, an ex-ambassador of UK in Uzbekistan, whose righteous fight against the British FCO and, especially, his epic legal and moral war against the mogul Alisher (Jabba) Usmanov, were supported by the blogging world (and yours truly) with no hesitation at the time.

Since then, Mr Murray settled down to a mundane career of what he defines as "a professional dissident"*. One of his preferred targets became - how not? - the Zionist Entity. As could be witnessed by these two posts, for example. Or by his collection of speeches, selling on Amazon under a quaint title: Zionism is Bullshit.

So this is no wonder as well that, while deflecting the blame from Kremlin, Mr Murray digs up his favorite foe in the article Russian to Judgement (cute, ain't it?). It is no wonder that he dedicates a good part of that piece to the devious Mossad. So why do I produce a post with so many "no wonders"?

Just because the article definitely shows some troubling signs of brain softening in our hero. Small signs, like twice misspelling the term "novichock" ("newcomer" in Russian) for the nerve agent used in the Skripal affair. Sometimes he calls it “novochok”, sometimes "novachok". Of course, Russian is a) a difficult proposition at all times and b) not of much use to an ex-ambassador. But a simple copy/paste operation would have sufficed, I would dare say.

A more troubling sign comes now. The second paragraph of the article starts with:
The “novochok” group of nerve agents – a very loose term simply for a collection of new nerve agents the Soviet Union were developing fifty years ago...
And - lo and behold, the next paragraph begins:
Incidentally, novachok is not a specific substance but a class of new nerve agents.
By the way, have I already mentioned brain softening? Hmm...

But these are only symptoms. There is more. Here is the usual conspinut's "Cui bono", used by all and sundry to the same end:
And while I am struggling to see a Russian motive for damaging its own international reputation so grieviously, Israel has a clear motivation for damaging the Russian reputation so grieviously.
Interesting, innit? That same Israel that tiptoes around Syria, doing its best not to harm a single hair on a single head of a Russian "adviser", when there is a need to do some surgical bombing of a Syrian (read "Iranian") ammunition depot. That same Israel that avoids any public condemnation of Russian orgy of killing in Syria or any other place, for that matter. Does it sound logical to you that this same Israel will dare to damage the Russian reputation so "grieviously"?

Update: From the latest news:
Israel issued Thursday a belated criticism of the poisoning on British soil of a former spy with a powerful nerve agent, but failed to attribute responsibility to Russia in a bid to avoid souring relations with Moscow.
As noticed above, no need to expand on this, I believe.

Well, as logical as this pearl:
On the other hand, in Syria Russia has saved the Middle East from domination by a new wave of US and Saudi sponsored extreme jihadists.
Saved indeed. A few years of more of this "saving" and there will not remain a Syrian alive to save, but what do we all know? Anyway, the finger pointed at the hated Zionists was only an exercise, as our hero confesses:
Both the Orbis and Israeli theories are speculations. But they are no more a speculation, and no more a conspiracy theory, than the idea that Vladimir Putin secretly sent agents to Salisbury to attack Skripal with a secret nerve agent.
Oh, it's speculation time then! OK. So what if a certain retired diplomat, who always brags about his special friendship with all kinds of spooks in all kinds of spooky establishments, not excluding that infamous Porton Down, decided to harm the British/Russian rapprochement extremely "grieviously"? What if he sneaked out some of that nov/o/a/i/chok stuff out and, devilishly laughing, sprinkled it on that poor Russian ex-spy and his daughter? I am just speculating here, of course...

And I simply don't recall: have I mentioned already the softening of the brain?

(*) This definition comes from the blurb on Amazon, written by the author himself in all probability. The text as a whole is priceless and the only reason to link to that vile opus. There couldn't be a price for this one, for instance:
But a combination of his patent honesty, muscular logic and fluent writing style gradually found its audience.
But I really don't want to spoil your reading of the whole, so go there and enjoy!

12 March 2018

Matt Adler and the bitter reality of Israel

I have had a curious Facebook encounter recently that caused me to do some searching for an explanation. On an FB page that is dedicated to left wing Zionists' aspirations, I have got involved in a discussion of an ancient expression "אור לגויים" or, in a not totally precise, but widely accepted translation, "Light to the Nations". The expression itself, as could be easily (but only partially) seen from the links above, is quite a complex one and given to wide, and sometimes wild, interpretations.

The person who raised the issue, one Matt Adler (מטע אדלר) insisted that the current use of this expression in Israel is to stress the perceived superiority of people of Israel (or, rather, Israelis, which is not one and the same) over goyim. And that he hears it used all the time by these stuck up obnoxious Israelis.

I was quite surprised by that strong observation. In my experience almost all people who use that term, do it with a healthy dose of irony (or sarcasm, depending on the context) and in most cases it is self-deprecatory, as Jewish habits go. Which was the point I made. The response was quite surprising: in a minute or so I got blocked by Matt. That without any personal remarks or attacks, in the midst of a polite exchange of opinions.

It isn't that I am oversensitive. After many years of keyboard wars, one tends to grow a thick enough skin. It is just that, after finding Matt's blog, Planting Roots Bearing Fruits and reading a few posts there, I feel quite concerned about the author. Concerned because he seems to be good people and because we (the state of Israel) seem to be losing him. So, exactly as I am concerned about hundreds of thousands of other young people we have lost during these 70 years, I am worried about Matt.

Matt describes himself as "An open-minded* multilingual Jewish explorer". From his other remarks, it appears that he moved to Israel in July 2017 (less than an year here), that he is gay, belongs to the Reform community and strives "to learn and grow here in Israel".

And here is Matt's opinion, quite a firm one, crystallized in half an year of his presence here:

Israel is pretty awful when it comes to human rights, to respecting diversity, to preserving Jewish culture, to living up to Jewish values, to treating people with respect, and to pursuing peace both within society and with our neighbors.
Oh, and another one I almost missed:
Israel is a super stressful place to live...
So much so, that Matt's deep dissatisfaction with his findings ends in:
I’ve been pretty fed up with God lately, tired of Zionism, and not even really sure if I feel Jewish anymore. So I decided to see if maybe Diaspora Judaism, the Judaism I grew up with, still fit.
I am not sure what the deity or, for that matter, Zionism (rather a concept to tickle the Diaspora Jews - we don't deal much with Zionism here, we just live in the land) and the technicality of being Jewish - what measure of bitterness each of the three contributes to Matt's tiredness? but anyhow it's a rather troubling picture.

So what, would you ask, is the ideal situation Matt looks forwards too? Probably in this passage Matt gives a partial answer:
Much like Israel, Judaism needs a revamp. No need to throw everything out, but the way it’s going isn’t working- at least not for me. As I watched two Israelis living in Barcelona learn the Reform liturgy Friday night- and engage in gentler, more peaceful ways than I usually see in Israel- I see a bit of light. Jews outside of Israel need Israel. Yes, it’s a deeply f*cked place and I would rather the world not have states at all. And I’ll keep fighting for that.
Yes, a stateless open world, a gentle and peaceful globe, where the lamb will lie down with the lion. Wouldn't we all love that? I dare say only a hardened asocial psychopaths will willingly offer an objection to that proposal.

I don't think that I could parse all of Matt's complaints in the limited format of a blog post. But one thing should be said about many of them - and his blog in general is full of unhappy observations. "A little learning is a dangerous thing". And some of Matt's (quite firm) opinions and conclusions are indeed a result of little learning. Things that he picked up rather as a result of a confirmation bias than a well-rounded observation and research.

For example - human rights, in this case as related to Matt's view of the refugees issue. To start with, I am generally with Matt on the subject of forceful expulsion. Only generally, because there still is a need to resolve the question of who exactly is a refugee (asylum seeker) vs who is a work seeking migrant. But first and foremost, there is an issue of integration of refugees here. A grave mistake, made by our government, as it was made by practically all European governments, was in letting the refugees to gravitate to the same two gathering spots - one, smaller, in Eilat and the second in the poor neighborhoods of Tel Aviv. This "I wash my hands" policy, practiced by many governments, under the guise of so called "multiculturalism", was a total failure. Multiculturalism was clearly an euphemism for doing practically nothing and investing no effort in real integration of newcomers in the society. The problems created by this approach (or, rather, lack thereof) in south of Tel Aviv, with resulting bitterness of local population and eruption of what Matt considers to be racist affectations. It is easier to blame the government for trying to resolve the problem, as government clerks know to, by forcing the refugees out. As it is easier to blame the embittered south Tel Aviv Jews for their racism than to look a bit deeper into the issue.

But is it a Israeli-specific fault? I dare say hardly, and many a refugees' ghetto in Europe confirms my point of view. And how does Matt round up the discussion? From here:
The Israeli government, then, is willing to deport these people who it views as economically beneficial. Why? Jewish supremacy and racism.
And, to go for some proof:
It’s telling that the government isn’t stepping up enforcement of the thousands of Romanian or Ukrainian or Filipino workers. Just the really black ones.
This statement is interesting only as a proof of strong confirmation bias that allows a person to ignore a simple detail: that these "Romanian or Ukrainian or Filipino workers" usually come here with working visas, which are quite tightly controlled and only in rare cases these workers break the visa conditions. A bit different from the refugees, I would say. But when you are consumed by a righteous wrath against racist Israel, you can't be really bothered by details like this one, can you, Matt?

Matt is frequently raging. Against what he considers to be a all-consuming Jewish supremacy, the institutional racism, the mutual hate between various groups and subgroups of Israeli citizens. The problem with his observations, as I have mentioned, that they are too shallow, built on skimming the surface to confirm his existing prejudices and beliefs, to strengthen his preoccupation with (what he believes) is the only solution to he world't sickness:
What’s the best solution for the Middle East? Perhaps for the world? The no state solution. For anyone. We need a better way of organizing human life. I don’t- and can’t- have all the answers because it’s something we need to talk about together.
The saving grace is that in his heart of heart Matt does understand the necessity and rightfulness of this little and maddening state. From the post already quoted above, where Matt provides his litany of complaints about the place, quite a different sentiment:
Which brings me to what else Israel does well- it gives me a place where if people are ignorant about my tradition, they can learn on my terms. It gives me a place where I’m in a position of power- as fraught as that is. A place where if people want to expel us or lecture us or deride us, we don’t have to grit our teeth and put up with it.
Yes, Matt, and while we all strive to bring the stateless and borderless world to being, let's not forget what exactly was going on with your stateless tribe during the last, say two thousand years. After all, you seem to understand this point only too well, no matter how hard it is for you to make (temporary) peace with it.

There are a lot of other points wrong with Matt's observations on other issues, big and small (and no, Matt, the Adalah's "Discriminatory Laws Database" is not persuasive, sorry - it could be read in different ways, which Adalah is known to exploit quite well). But I really can't go on for much longer. Just to stress the importance of complete and unbiased observations, a small but oh so typical point. Matt on Tel Aviv Purim festivities - a side observation that is wrong too:
I can’t imagine a small town in Israel- Jewish or otherwise- putting together this level of festivity. It’s amazing.
In small villages, Matt, where people are much closer to each other, the Purim celebrations are, of course, not as grandiose as in Tel Aviv. However, after spending some time with my nearest and dearest in a village in the northern parts of the country, I can say that the week-long Purimspiel, with different costumes every day and lots of different daily activities for the kids puts Tel Aviv in a rather humble shadow... so there.

Oh, and another point. Matt, as long as you talk about the local population as "they" or "Israeli Jews" or any similar variation but not "we" and "us", you are not there yet. Consider it a point to study.

(*) Regarding Matt's open-mindedness: his propensity for blocking people who disagree with him was already noted (I wasn't the only one, by the way, as it appeared). Another testimony offered by Matt himself:
One commenter on my last blog suggested deporting African refugees isn’t racist because Israel “absorbed” Ethiopian Jewish immigrants.
If you follow the link to that last "blog" mentioned, titled There is no racism in Israel, you would search for the above mentioned comment in vain - Matt deleted or otherwise disappeared it. So much for open-mindedness...

14 February 2018

Bibi and his cigars: I am sure he didn't inhale!

Of course, only a millennial wouldn't recognize the reference to inhalation. Besides, one doesn't usually inhale cigars' smoke anyway. It is a bit different with champagne, though.

To preempt the obvious questioning: no, I am not happy with the charges of bribery as described in a very general way in this article:
The gifts the Netanyahus received—such as cigars, champagne and jewelry—were given over the course of about a decade, reaching a total of about NIS 1 million—NIS 750,000 in gifts from Milchan and about NIS 250,000 from Packer, according to the police.
According to the police, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth owner and publish Arnon Mozes discussed mutual assistance to promote one another's interests during private meetings that began in 2009 and lasted for several years.
Nope, I am not happy about it, unless in my own general way of cynical suspicion toward any and all politicos out there. The words of Peter the Great that could be roughly translated as "Every superintendent should be hanged after three years of service without investigation and without trial" ring now as true to me as at any other time.

The main reason I am unhappy about is that the political scene in our smallish place is devoid of people who look half able to take over that thorny and sleepless job. There are a lot of mice and no men*. Not that Bibi is... but I am diverting from the main subject.

At the end of the day, no matter what his other transgressions are, Bibi confesses to taking the above mentioned cigars, champagne etc. And no matter what will the final decision of Attorney General be (we'll have to wait for it quite a long time, several months at least) - the law forbids a person in Bibi's position to receive gifts of any kind - even a movie ticket.

No matter whether the whole caboodle will come to trial or, moreover, the trial will end in a conviction: this behavior stinks to high heaven. As does the wall-to-wall support Bibi receives from the coalition parties.

This, to remind you, in a country where one PM (Itzchak Rabin) resigned because a foreign account in his name, containing about $10,000, was discovered.

And another PM (Menachem Begin), who, aside of other stuff, is remembered for this:
His family lived in a one bedroom flat on Rosenbaum street in Tel Aviv the entire time he was in the opposition, a period of almost three decades.
And his three rooms flat in Jerusalem...

Just go, Bibi.

(*) "Men" in this case applies (but not limited) to cisgendered men and women as well as to all 70+ known genders.

02 February 2018

Lady Liberty - a result of Jewish conspiracy?

There hardly are many people who don't recognize this statue. Most people, however, don't detect the Jewish conspiracy behind this historic monument. So here comes news for you.

The story of Lady Liberty doesn't start with Jews, rather with French people who initiated the idea and financed the work by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi.

Than it went sideways...

Bartholdi's search for a female face to serve as a prototype for the lady stopped on one Isabella Eugenie Boyer:

who, accidentally (?) happened to be a wife of one Isaac Merritt Singer:

This sewing machine Jewish magnate, inventor, actor, businessman and father of about 23 children he sired with (approximately) 6 women, doesn't play a direct role in the fate of the statue, however an inquiring mind might be concerned...

Then the American side of the story comes in. And the fundraising for the pedestal, where:
Fundraising for the statue had begun in 1882. The committee organized a large number of money-raising events.[81] As part of one such effort, an auction of art and manuscripts, poet Emma Lazarus was asked to donate an original work.
She saw a way to express her empathy for these refugees in terms of the statue. The resulting sonnet, "The New Colossus", including the iconic lines "Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free", is uniquely identified with the Statue of Liberty and is inscribed on a plaque in the museum in its base.
And this is not all, because:
Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World, a New York newspaper, announced a drive to raise $100,000—the equivalent of $2.3 million today. Pulitzer pledged to print the name of every contributor, no matter how small the amount given. The drive captured the imagination of New Yorkers, especially when Pulitzer began publishing the notes he received from contributors.

Well, it makes four "Zionists" out of five. Well, rather three out of four, if you (correctly) consider Mr Singer to be only a random actor in this story. Although, what with him being an oligarch and all, no normal conspiracy seeking head will discount him, of course.

Now you know...

P.S. Since only Wiki was used for this quick and dirty compilation, who knows which additional names might come up with some more digging. One shudders at the thought.

30 January 2018

Lenin and the log: a recent rendition that leaves comedy standing

The oldish post of mine Subbotnik, Lenin and the log is crucial for better understanding of the following. There isn't much verbiage, it is all in the pictures, so go there first.

The article Now I have seen it all... Ballet "Lenin and the log" is faithfully translated here with no additions from yours truly.

It turned out that the video "Lenin with a log", actively discussed in recent days, is not a fake, but a real ballet "Falcons of Revolution" staged by the head of the State Academic Dance Theater of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Bulat Ayukhanov.

The ballet is devoted to the ideas of equality and fraternity on the labor front. The play is divided into three parts. In the first appears the leader of the world proletariat. To the music of Georgy Sviridov "Time, Forward" Ilyich helps his party comrades to carry the log during a proletarian clean-up [Subbotnnik]. The theme of labor enthusiasm continues with a scene in the fields, where ballerinas dance in masks of old women.

In an interview with "Rossiyskaya Gazeta" Bulat Ayukhanov told the details:

"The premiere of the ballet took place in Almaty in 2013 and was a resounding success. Then it was called "Hammer and Sickle". Now we have made some changes and called it "Falcons of the Revolution." The main characters - Abai (Kazakh poet, public figure), Marx, Lenin, Stalin and our Kazakhstani president (Nursultan Nazarbayev) - he appeared on stage at the end of the ballet. "

There is nothing to add, just enjoy.

16 January 2018

False alarm on Hawaii and the people of Sderot

Even several days after the advent of the false alarm, issued on Hawaii by a hapless employee, the noise and the excitement caused by the alarm have not abated. The number of search results on the subject,  returned by Google, is staggering - above 5 million hits:

This CNN article reports on the level of anxiety and panic caused by the event, and it is quite helpful to watch the included clip to learn about the terror in the people's minds.
"You're thinking, 'Oh my gosh, are we going to die? Is it really a missile (headed) our way, or is it just a test?'" the 24-year-old told CNN. "We really didn't know."

The Hawaiian incident started a wave of introspection in other places, interestingly. Such as this, fairly ridiculous BBC piece:

Hawaii false alarm: How would UK handle missile threat?

The conclusion is, as expected - poorly. Why wold anyone today aim a ballistic missile at London isn't the subject of the article. And the insignificant question of where was all that expected readiness years ago, during the Cold War, when such an outcome was more realistic, remains unanswered, of course.

After looking at all this for a while, I couldn't avoid comparing this affair with the almost weekly (and real) terror experienced by the citizens of Sderot* in their provincial and mundane routine. Such as shown in this clip:

Almost weekly, I said... yeah, and during a conflagration it happens many times a day. But panic, heartbreak and PTSD of Israeli kids and adults, happening in reality, are of much lesser interest, of course:
Nope, I don't really envy the popularity of that missile "incident", nor do I try to diminish the possible implications of Kim the Fatso madness, it is just that... what, really?

I don't know. You tell me.

(*) Apologies to the good people of many other towns and villages around the Gaza strip, not mentioned above. Me too, you know...

10 January 2018

Exhumation of Stalin's fetid carcass: step by step

People carry a portrait of Soviet leader Josef Stalin during a march to celebrate the 72nd anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in Sevastopol in Russian occupied Crimea on May 9, 2017,
The slow motion Russian zombocalypse - returning to unlife the Bolshevik murderers and tyrants - is nothing new. It started in a relatively hushed manner, with Stalin and his sidekicks favorably mentioned on different state occasions. With Stalin's portraits appearing in private dwellings. With Stalin's statues reappearing in various cities, joined by Lenin, Dzerzhinsky etc.

Today nobody stirs while reading that "Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the "excessive demonization" of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin "is one means of attacking the Soviet Union and Russia.""

This roundabout expression of support for the smelly stiff pales, though, compared to the following clip. The recording comes from Omsk, not from a central Russian media outfit. Boonies by Russian standards, but the level of adoration heaped on the premier mass murderer is staggering. So I decided to translate the speech for those in the West who might be interested.


On December 25th 135 years passed from the birthday of Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin. During the time of his rule [sic!] Stalin succeeded to return to the State all historically Russian lands, lost as a result of wars and political intrigues. Under his direct guidance a really socially-oriented economy was created. It excluded parasitism and exploitation. In addition a powerful industrial-technological breakthrough occurred. The national economy progressed without crises and credits and without foreign manpower. The Soviet state succeeded on its own, without borrowing foreign capital, to perform a grandiose program of socialist endeavor. And this on the background of devastating international economic depression. A two-dimensional (?) system of pricing, the most effective in the history of humanity, was created.

Profit was derived not like it is done now - from a components of the end product - but from the end product itself. Thus the whole system was aimed at reduction of costs and reduction of the consumer prices. This is what allowed reduction of prices and increase of wages.

Iosif Vissarionovich was ahead of the whole world in the development of democracy. USSR already had direct elections system since 1936. Moreover, he insisted that the elections be equal and the ballot - secret. For comparison we'll remind that the least democratic elections system is the American one, where it is not direct and the right to elect was given to Americans only in the sixties [XX century]. It will be prudent to mention that the "exemplary democracy" in Switzerland allowed women to participate in election only in 1972.

From the point of view of a regular worker, unskilled in politics and economics, evaluation of Stalin's achievements could be expressed in simple words:
  • A worker could be paid more than director.
  • Everyone was guaranteed free healthcare.
  • Pensions were higher than a minimal cost of life.
  • Everyone could achieve free high education.
  • A peasant boy, having the ability, could grow to become a minister.
  • The referees in Olympic games were literally afraid to judge our athletes unfair.
  • Not a single shred of Russian land could be sold to a foreign speculator.
The people loved Stalin and our enemies feared him. Our enemies fear Stalin even today, and, as long as the power of his spirit is alive in every one of us, as long as we feel pride in our past and believe in our strength, we are invincible.


So there. I am not commenting on this at all.

One remark only: after reading the list of Stalin's achievements, I realised that I want to live in USSR.


08 January 2018

CNN on NK Fatso or how to produce a tasty nothing burger

Just a bit of the usual grumbling about the media. Probably my stomach problems and all... anyway, here it is.

The headline was way too alluring to skip:

Who is Kim Jong Un? Separating myth from fact

There are two key sentences, one at the beginning of the piece and one a bit down the screen:
The little that is known about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is, for the most part, questionable.
All conclusions over Kim Jong Un's motives are speculative at best, and preposterously hysterical at worst.
Saying this, the author succeeded to produce a very long screed, full of information that could be easily collected by a most unprofessional internet surfer. Freely available to all. And no separation of crap from fact, as promised...

And Jamie Tarabay, the author of the piece, has a formidable record, according to this.

So why?

06 January 2018

Arseny Aleksandrovich Tarkovsky and quandaries of translation

Arseny Aleksandrovich Tarkovsky, one of very few in the Russian poetry of XX century, was a man of tragic times and his life was tragic as well. A poet who, while he escaped the fate of his peers (like Osip Mandelshtam) in the bloody thirties, had his first book published at the age of 55. This alone should tell you most of his life story. Still, he was one of very few to have that elusive deity of poetry guide his pen.

But this post is about translation. One of the most known in the West poems by A.T. is Первые Свидания, a poem dedicated to a woman he loved till his last breath, over several marriages and over life full of pain. And here starts the saga of translation.

In fact, the closest (and most fitting) translation of the title Первые Свидания would have been First Trysts. The multiple attempts of translation ended up with: First Meetings, First Dates, First Times Together, ...

And from this point it all went downhill. The poem itself is a perfect example of a poet at the peak of his power, using the rhythm and the rhyme to the utmost, in their most difficult implementation. With absolute success, at least for a layman like I. So it isn't easy to translate, a towering challenge for anyone. And the last, say, 6 lines, present an even more insurmountable goal:
Сама ложилась мята нам под ноги,
И птицам с нами было по дороге,
И рыбы подымались по реке,
И небо развернулось пред глазами…

Когда судьба по следу шла за нами,
Как сумасшедший с бритвою в руке.
Try your Google Translate and see what kind of challenge these lines provide, even without knowing the original language. Especially the two last lines, justly characterized by Philip Metres here:
The final two lines, a brutal couplet, suddenly brings the lovers into the cold, where fate will have its say—like a madman with a razor. The scales of the poem tip from romance to tragedy.
Yep. He got it. However, the translation he and his Russian colleague provided, didn't get it:
And mint bowed down beneath our feet,
And birds hovered above our heads.
And fish nosed against the river’s flow,
And the sky unfurled above the land…

While behind us, fate followed
Like a madman with a razor in his hand.
In addition to the above translation I have checked another four: First Meetings, First Dates, First Meetings and again First Dates. Only the last one, by Rupert Moreton, somewhat rises to the challenge:
And underfoot was minty sward’s foundation,
And birds along the way flew in formation,
Against the flow the fish were swimming free,
Before our eyes the heavens were unfolding…

Behind us still our fate was grimly holding,
A razor-handed madman, seeking fee.
Playing a bit loose with the text, but doing his best with rhyme and rhythm. Still not there, but more in the spirit of the poem than the others, to my taste.

Oh well, the challenge isn't going away anytime soon.

In the following clip, from the movie The Mirror by Andrei Tarkovsky (the famous son of A.T.), A.T. himself reads the poem.

Even if you don't know the language, the music is there. Enjoy.

03 January 2018

About an alleged article in National Post

Alleged: 1. Declared but not proved; 2. Doubtful or suspect

The above mentioned article in National Post doesn't fit the meaning #1. Being a perennial student of this wonderful language, I can't be totally sure, but I would call the article doubtful. Or suspect. As in "suspect in being skewed to favor one of the parties involved", for instance.

But let's not make an issue of the notorious Tamimi family, it is already overblown as it is. This time it is about reporting, and here is an outstanding example for all lovers of English:

The caption of that picture (which I have chosen to take a snapshot of for posterity) introduced a novel tweak in the use of the word "alleged". Namely: "...after a viral video showing them allegedly assaulting two Israeli soldiers...". Such an artful conjunction of "video showing" and "allegedly" should be studied by all aspiring journalists, I suggest.

That will be all. Oh, and here, allegedly, is the alleged video of the alleged lady allegedly attacking the alleged soldiers.

02 January 2018

The proper progressive response to Iranian people

People are dying on the streets of Iranian cities. Not people with rifles or stones in their hands: just people who are unhappy with the extremist regime of Ayatollahs. Regime that prefers to spend their people's money on fomenting terror over the globe and producing more and more weaponry to become a regional superpower.

Accidentally, that same regime that the last POTUS, Barack Hussein Obama II, decided to befriend from the start of his first presidency. We all know how it ended: with a nuclear agreement hardly worth the paper it was written upon and with "Death to America" demos continuing and even increasing in frequency on the streets of Tehran.

And how do the Western progressive liberals respond to the unrest in Iran? My first jaw-dropping experience with that response was via an article in NYT:

How Can Trump Help Iran’s Protesters? Be Quiet.

The headline is quite sufficient to understand the trend, but here is what is probably the main passage of that (frankly revolting) opus:

One reason to worry that Mr. Trump may try to seize the moment by championing the protesters is that it has become an article of faith among President Barack Obama’s critics than in 2009 he missed a golden opportunity to do just that, when many Iranians took to the streets after a disputed election result. But it was never clear what difference American rhetorical support would have made then, other than allowing the Iranian government to depict the protesters as American lackeys, giving the security services more of a pretext to crack down violently.
Of course, this bit of circular logic (or poisonous wisdom, you name it) is applicable to any tyranny in this here world. And, if you learn a bit about the author of this dreck, one Philip Gordon, who appears to be "a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and an assistant secretary of state and White House coordinator for the Middle East during the Obama administration", you shall understand better the roots. You shall also understand better what kind of "assistants" the last POTUS has chosen - to sing hosannas to his international politicking...

But this is not about the POTUS, it is about people dying in the streets, to remind you. Something that should be protested and fought against. And I guess it will be vociferously protested if it were to happen on the streets of, say, San Francisco or London or Buda... no, it is too Eastern for the true progressives, let's say Berlin instead , OK?

Tehran is where all these brown people live, after all. They have their own customs and their own culture, they have that Religion of Peace thing that we are obliged to respect, so it is not our business to stick our noses where our noses definitely don't belong, right?

And speaking about the right: Mr Gordon here is a living proof, among many others, of how the modern progressive left has made the successful voyage to the place where the ultra-conservative paleocons with their non-involvement motto lay in wait for their victory. Now these two, ostensibly mutually exclusive gangs, could lay down together in the same bed.

Of course, Mr Gordon is only a single example. Here are more, from different (oh well...) media giants (headlines only, you can imagine the contents):

Iran: By supporting protests, Donald Trump may inadvertently be helping the government's cause

Trump's backing of Iranian protesters could backfire as Tehran cracks down

The progressive echo chamber at its full glory. And bless the fact that you can't smell the said glory as well...

And here is a slightly different source, one Iranian-British citizen, Aaron Bastani, a Labor activist:
Imploring y'all to desist with your wishes for a change (Remember, the CHANGE?), because the results will be frightful, not to mention the usual suspects fomenting unrest... sweet, ain't it?

Oh well, so what can we all learn from this progressive thing? Only this, I am afraid:

26 December 2017

Anshel Pfeffer‏, RT and Ukrainian corruption...

A list of terms used in the headline first:
  1. Anshel Pfeffer: a nice guy of Haaretz (picture above), prone to bloopers and not always at home, but nice.
  2. RT: a Russian version of Alex Jones' Infowars, but with much more money.
  3. Ukraine: an ex-republic of the late Soviet Union, now an independent country. Mostly, because parts of it are being either "restored" to Mother Russia or are in the process of restoration.
Oh, did I mention that our Anshel is a dork? Yes, I see I did in a way, but no matter: it bears repeating. So here is a new blooper from our poor mixed up Anshelke:

And what do we learn from this Twitter post?
  • That ISIS downed an Egyptian helicopter using a Russian missile.
  • That US sells similar missiles to Ukraine.
  • That Ukraine is corrupt. It is kinda rich, coming from Moscow, but let it go for now.
  • That the missiles sold by US to Ukraine might end up in the grubby hands of Middle East terrorists. Which hands are already full of Russian missiles. Hmm... creates a conflict of marketing interests, it seems.
Er... did I mention that our Anshel is a dork? My memory is not what it was back then.

24 December 2017

Merry Christmas!

To all our friends!

19 December 2017

Uncle Vova - we are with you! Or: Americans, mind Alaska!

I guess there is no need to tell a non-Russian viewer that this is a patriotic song. The performance is staged on a location of historic significance for the Russian people: Mamayev Kurgan.

Here are a few lines starting the song:

The twenty-first century has come, the Earth is tired of wars
The hegemony rides over people of the Earth
In the European Union there is no opinion, the Middle East groans from troubles
Over the ocean, the president is deprived of power

And to us from the northern seas to the southern borders
From the Kuril Islands, to the Baltic coasts
And on this earth there would have been peace, but if the chief commander
Will call for the last fight, Uncle Vova*, we are with you
Of course the patriotic zeal of the children is touching. Not that the words of the song make any special sense so far, but the readiness of a kid to die for Uncle Vova and the Motherland is a sign of uber-patriotic society, ain't it?

And now to a quote of this song that should be of real significance to Americans:
Our Sevastopol and Crimea we will save for our descendants,
We'll return Alaska to the harbor of the Motherland.
As we all (well, most of us, anyway) know, Crimea was already "saved" for the descendants.
Alaska, though, is a new wrinkle in the patriotic fervor, so there is something to think about.

The author of the song is one Vyacheslav Antonov, who, judging by his site, does a brisk business in similar patriotic songs, with hardly intelligible texts but drenched in patriotism.

But the author is much less important in this case. What is amazing is the initiator of (and participant in) the recording, as it is presented in the above YouTube clip. No other than a member of the Russian Duma (parliament), Anna Kuvychko.

So, dear Americans, you have to weigh all the pros and cons of keeping that piece of property. According to Wiki, the price was roughly $1.8 billion in 2016 dollar. Seeing as how the winds are blowing, call Anna and start negotiating. Taking into account all the amenities, infrastructure and all you have built since that purchase, you might get a cool offer... and better hurry before the little green men of Crimea decide it is time to relocate...

More on the subject.

(*) Vova is a endearment for Vladimir (Putin, of course, in this case).