Orlov is one of our favorite essayists on Russia and all sorts of other things. He moved to the US as a child, and lives in the Boston area.
He is one of the better-known thinkers The New Yorker has dubbed ‘The Dystopians’ in an excellent 2009 profile, along with James Howard Kunstler, another regular contributor to RI (archive). These theorists believe that modern society is headed for a jarring and painful crack-up.
He is best known for his 2011 book comparing Soviet and American collapse (he thinks America’s will be worse). He is a prolific author on a wide array of subjects, and you can see his work by searching him on Amazon.
He has a large following on the web, and on Patreon, and we urge you to support him there, as Russia Insider does.
His current project is organizing the production of affordable house boats for living on. He lives on a boat himself.
If you haven’t discovered his work yet, please take a look at his archive of articles on RI. They are a real treasure, full of invaluable insight into both the US and Russia and how they are related.
After a year and a half of silence accompanied by much media noise, from the Mueller investigation into Trump the Terrible’s collusion with the Russians (and their lord and master the Dread Pirate Putin) in order to steal the election from innocent young Hillary “twinkle-toes” Clinton, Mueller finally laid an egg. He indicted 13 Russians for identity theft and wire fraud.
He alleges that they bought some stolen personal info (Social Security numbers, names, birth dates, etc.) on the internet, used these to set up PayPal and Facebook accounts, and then used these to buy Facebook ads in an effort to undermine the American people’s faith in the wholesome goodness of their democracy.
There is no evidence that anyone in the Trump campaign or administration knew that this was happening. There is no evidence that any of the 13 Russians had anything to do with Putin or the Russian government. There is no evidence that anything they did had any measurable effect on the outcome of the election.
There is, however, ample evidence that this indictment will go nowhere.
There is a difference between being indicted and being convicted: a convicted person is proven guilty; an indicted person is protected by the presumption of innocence until convicted. To be convicted in a criminal trial, a person has to be physically present before the court because one has the right to face one’s accusers. A trial held in absentia is automatically a kangaroo court. The 13 Russians are Russian nationals residing in Russia. According to the Russian constitution, Russian citizens cannot be extradited to stand trial in a foreign court, and it seems exceedingly unlikely that they will face criminal charges in Russia based on Mueller’s indictment. Therefore, these 13 Russians have to be presumed innocent under US law—forever—even if they get to spend time in a Russian jail, convicted under Russian law.
It’s still possible that one of these Russians will at some point travel abroad, get snatched and shipped off to the US to stand trial, and be convicted of money laundering, identity theft and wire fraud. But the charge of working to undermine the American people’s faith in the wholesome goodness of their democracy would be rather hard to prove, mostly because there isn’t much of it to be found these days. The accusation is a lot like accusing somebody of despoiling an outhouse by crapping in it, along with everyone else, but the outhouse in question had a sign on its door that read “No Russians!” and the 13 Russians just ignored it and crapped in it anyway.
The reason the Outhouse of American Democracy is posted “No Russians!” is because Russia is the enemy. There aren’t any compelling reasons why it should be the enemy, and treating it as such is incredibly foolish and dangerous, but that’s beside the point. Painting Russia as the enemy serves a psychological need rather than a rational one: Americans desperately need some entity onto which they can project their own faults. The US is progressing toward a fascist police state; therefore, Russia is said to be a horrible dictatorship run by Putin. The US traditionally meddles in elections around the world, including Russia; therefore, the Russians are said to meddle in US elections. The US is the most aggressive country on the planet, occupying and bombing dozens of countries; therefore, the Russians are accused of “aggression.” And so on…
If (for whatever stupid reason) Russia is indeed America’s enemy, it stands to reason that the Americans would want to make it weaker rather than stronger. Working to strengthen one’s enemy seems like a poor strategy. And yet that is what has been happening: the last two US administrations—Obama’s and Trump’s—both have been steadfastly aiding and abetting Russia’s rise to greatness. Aiding and abetting the enemy is bad enough by itself, but it would also appear that they have been doing so unwittingly. Thus, if Mueller really had the health and beauty of American democracy in his heart, he would have indicted both the Obama and the Trump administrations for aiding and abetting the enemy through gross negligence. Here is how the indictment would read:
1. The Obama administration falsely accused the government of Syria of carrying out an attack using chemical weapons near Damascus on August 21, 2013 in order to find an excuse to attack and invade Syria. Chemical weapons were in fact used in that incident, but not by the forces controlled by the Syrian government. Since the Syrian government had no interest in either using chemical weapons or in maintaining its chemical weapons stockpile, this gave Russia an opening to negotiate an international deal under which Syria surrendered its entire stockpile of chemical weapons, which were destroyed, and international inspectors subsequently certified Syria as being free of them. This incident showed Russia to be a trustworthy partner, able to peacefully resolve crises through negotiation, raising its stature in the world, and the US to be a rogue state willing to use any means, including the use of chemical weapons against civilians, in order to justify its illegal use of force. Following in Obama’s footsteps, the Trump administration, soon after assuming office, used similar unverified accusations of a Syrian chemical weapons attack to ineffectually bomb a Syrian airbase using Tomahawk missiles.
2. In February 2014 the Obama administration organized and carried out a bloody coup in Kiev, staging a massacre using foreign mercenaries, falsely accusing the Ukraine’s constitutional government of carrying it out, overthrowing it, and installing a puppet regime managed by the CIA and the US State Department. The nature of this regime, which is comprised of oligarchs and criminals allied with neo-Nazi groups, and which has elevated to the status of national heroes certain perpetrators of genocide against Jews, Poles and others during World War II, has been kept hidden from the public in the US. But because Russia and the Ukraine are not ethnically, linguistically, culturally or religiously distinct, and have existed as a single entity through most of their history, most Russians understood what had happened. The chaos and mayhem that followed the putsch gave the Russian government an opening to hold a referendum in Crimea, which was briefly joined to the Ukraine, but which had been part of Russia since 1783, and to re-annex the territory. It also led to armed rebellion in eastern Ukraine and the formation of two de facto independent republics there, making the Ukraine into a semi-defunct state that does not control its own territory. All of these developments led to a tremendous surge of patriotic feeling among Russians, who felt proud of being able to reclaim what they saw as rightfully theirs and felt threatened by seeing the Ukraine once again fall to the fascists. True to form, the Trump administration has continued Obama’s this policy of Making Russia Great Again by providing the Ukrainian military with lethal weapons and advice.
3. Although the Russian annexation of Crimea, based on an overwhelming victory in a popular referendum and a great showing of public support, was impeccably legal in upholding the Crimea’s right to self-determination (unlike NATO previous annexation of Kosovo), the Obama administration saw it fit to impose economic sanctions on Russia in retribution. These sanctions, together with Russia’s counter-sanctions on food exports from the EU, have finally provided the impetus for Russia to break with the past pattern of exporting gas and oil and importing just about everything else, and to embrace the strategy of import replacement. This has allowed Russia to become self-sufficient in many areas, such as oil and gas exploration and production technology, agriculture and many other areas. Although Russia experienced a period of considerable economic difficulty which saw the purchasing power of the population dwindle substantially, Russia’s economy has survived. The popularity of the national leadership did not suffer because most Russians now understand what they are fighting for and, given the barrage of negative news from the Ukraine, who their enemy is, and what would happen to them if they were to show weakness.
4. Although the Trump administration has mostly followed in Obama’s footsteps in Making Russia Great Again, the most recent round of anti-Russian sanctions, which the Trump administration did not impose but only announced, as required by an act of Congress, was inadvertently an act of pure genius. What Trump’s flunkies did was take the Kremlin directory and the Forbes list of Russia’s wealthiest individuals, and put them together into a single list of people. If these sanctions were actually imposed rather than merely threatened, those having any dealings with the individuals on this list would suffer legal repercussions. The brilliance of this plan is in two parts. First, there have been some differences of orientation among the members of the Kremlin administration: some were more US-oriented than others. What this list did was make them look foolish in their hopes of ever appeasing the US. Before, the US had a few lukewarm champions inside the Kremlin; now it has zero. Second, Russia has had a problem with wealthy individuals moving their capital abroad, to Switzerland, to various offshore tax havens, and most notably to the United States, which is the money laundering capital of the world. But now Trump has threatened them with wealth confiscation. At the same time, the Russian government has extended a tax amnesty for those wishing to repatriate their capital. As a result, a flood of money is now reentering the Russian economy, giving it a major boost.
Once you put it all together, the charge against the last two US administrations for Making Russia Great Again by aiding and abetting it, unwittingly and through gross negligence, becomes compelling. There is, of course, no chance at all that anybody will be put on trial for it, but that may not be necessary. As shown by the #MeToo movement, it is no longer necessary in contemporary America to prove a crime; a mere allegation is now sufficient to end careers and to ruin reputations. You can play this game too: of each US policy or initiative announced against Russia, ask yourself: How is it going to help Make Russia Great Again? Because it probably will.
Teenage girl travelling on scooter seriously injured in collision
A teenage girl was seriously injured after she was struck by a van while she was travelling on a push scooter in Dublin, gardaí have said.
The collision happened on Walkinstown Avenue in Dublin 12 shortly after 6pm on Wednesday.
The scene was preserved for technical examination, and investigations are continuing.
Gardaí are appealing to anyone with information on the incident to contact them at Crumlin Garda station on 01-666-6200, the Garda confidential line on 1800-666-111 or any Garda station.
Any person, whether a motorist or pedestrian, who was travelling along Walkinstown Avenue on Wednesday between 5.45pm and 6.30pm is also asked to come forward.
Gardaí have asked that any camera footage is made available to them.
Preparation for next winter’s wave of pandemic already under way, says Tánaiste
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has suggested that the Covid-19 pandemic could continue into next winter saying we need to “seize the summer” while preparing for a possible resurgence.
It comes as the Government announced new restrictions in response to the continued high level of cases of the virus and the threat of the new Omicron variant.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin listed the new restrictions on the hospitality and entertainment sectors in a televised address where he told the country he shares “the disappointment and frustration that this will cause”.
Mr Martin said it is “not about going back to the days of lockdowns” but about adjusting the guidelines to the current threat from the virus.
The Government has accepted recommendations made by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) which will be in place from next Tuesday, December 7th until January 9th.
Under the new measures nightclubs will closed and there will be tighter measures adopted again in bars, restaurants and hotels.
Tables will be limited to six individuals and no multiple bookings will be allowed though closing time remains at midnight.
There is to be a maximum of 50 per cent capacity at indoor entertainment and sporting events.
Covid passes will be required for gyms, leisure centres, and hotel bars and restaurants.
Mr Martin confirmed the Government has adopted Nphet’s advice on household visits and limiting them to three other households, while acknowledging the need for flexibility.
Mr Varadkar said this will be advice and it won’t be enforced by gardaí. The Government is not telling people what they can and can’t do in their own homes, he said.
The current rules for weddings remain unchanged.
At a press conference on Friday evening it was put to Mr Martin that he had previously said that once a sector was opened it would not close again and the new measures amounted to an admission of failure.
He replied: “Not at all. I don’t think that’s a fair assessment… the threats with the virus change and I think the vast bulk of society is open and remains open.”
Strong seasonal component
Mr Varadkar conceded that the pandemic could still be around next winter.
He said some experts have suggested the pandemic could last five years adding: “I certainly hope that’s not the case.”
Mr Varadkar said it is clear there is a strong seasonal component and that means two things have to be done.
Firstly he said “we need to seize the summer”.
“The last two summers we had the toughest restrictions in Europe… I’m determined that will not be the case next summer. We should open safely if we can”.
Secondly, he said: “We also need to prepare for next winter while dealing with this winter because there will be new variants”.
That includes building up the capacity of our health service and in the test, trace and isolate system, which he said the Government has been doing.
Mr Varadkar did say that scientists believe they can tweak vaccines for new variants within three months and there will new anti-viral tablets available next year and “that will help too”.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said one thing that gives him confidence is the booster vaccine campaign and indications that the jabs will still provide protection from the Omicron variant.
The Government announced a series of expanded financial supports for the hospitality and entertainment sectors and workers who may lose their jobs.
The Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) will be temporarily reopened to new entrants in order to cater for people who lose their jobs as a result of the restrictions. Further details are to be announced in the coming days.
There is to be an extra €25 million to support the live entertainment sector.
Mr Varadkar said that the Covid Response Support Scheme (CRSS) will be reformed to help more businesses.
Up until now it was only paid to businesses that had to close or saw a 75 per cent reduction in turnover. It will now apply to businesses like restaurants, pubs, theatres and nightclubs who are impacted by the restrictions though there will be terms and conditions involved. Minister Paschal Donohoe is looking at raising the weekly €5,000 cap.
The Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) – the rates of which were cut this week – will stay at the new reduced rates.
Mr Varadkar said this is because the majority of businesses and jobs supported by the EWSS are not in sectors affected by the new restrictions.
He said the Government want to make sure EWSS is targeted at those that need it the most.
There will be a €62.3 million targeted commercial rates waiver for the first three months of 2022 for businesses in the hospitality and entertainment sector that are impacted by the restrictions.
Nphet proposes cap on households mixing over Christmas period
The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has recommended that no more than four households should mix over the Christmas period.
Nphet met on Thursday to consider advice for the Government on the latest pandemic situation, at a time when Covid-19 case numbers have stabilised at a high level and further information on the Omicron variant is being awaited.
It last night sent a letter to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly which recommends a maximum of six people at a table in bars and restaurants, the closure of nightclubs and limits on households mixing.
The contents of the letter are expected to be discussed by Ministers and senior officials at a Cabinet sub-committee meeting on Friday.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the Government would move “as quickly as it can” to examine the latest recommendations from Nphet and to decide if further restrictions will be introduced. She said the Cabinet would need to be given time to “look at this advice and take it on board”.
During an interview on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Ms McEntee said the Government had to ensure it was clear about about what it would do in terms of restrictions and why before anything was announced.
“Of course if there are impacts on businesses at any stage of this…I hope people would agree that we haven’t left people wanting,” she said. “We have always responded where business has needed additional income. Where individuals have lost their jobs. We have always provided that support. This won’t be any different.”
Tests for travellers
Separately, the Government has notified airlines that the introduction of a system of PCR and antigen testing for passengers arriving into Ireland has been delayed by 48 hours.
|Confirmed cases in hospital||Confirmed cases in ICU|
The measure was due to come into force on Friday, but Aer Lingus said airlines had been informed on Thursday night that the regulations would now begin on Sunday. All arrivals into the State – whether vaccinated or not – will need a negative Covid-19 test result from then onwards.
Those travelling with an antigen test result will need to have obtained it within 48 hours of arrival into Ireland, and it will have to be a professionally administered test.
No self-administered tests will be accepted under rules approved by Cabinet. Those with a PCR test result will have a longer pre-travel window of 72 hours before arrival. Persons arriving into the State from overseas who have been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 will be required also to have a certified negative test.
Hospitality sector meeting
Meanwhile, Government members are due to meet representatives of the hospitality industry on Friday. Ministers have said there will be supports for the sector if new pandemic measures will impact on their ability to trade.
Ms McEntee said she was particularly conscious that people had been asked to pull back and to reduce their social contacts.
“I am talking to businesses particularly in the hospitality sector and I know the impact that is having on them. This should be their busiest time and it’s not. We are taking this on board. We are going to support all of these businesses as we have always done during the pandemic,” she said.
The Minister dismissed suggestions that the Government was flip flopping or that there was confusion behind the scenes, saying the State is in a “fluid situation” because of the nature of Covid-19.
“What we have seen with the antigen test is that the market has corrected itself. That wasn’t a matter of flip flops or changing. We simply saw the market adjust itself. It is not about Government changing direction. We have to change direction sometimes because of the nature of this pandemic. Everybody is doing their best here,” she said.
‘Random and arbitrary’
Earlier, Maynooth University professor of immunology Paul Moynagh said the latest restrictions reportedly proposed by Nphet could lead to some benefits but seem ed “random and arbitrary”.
He told Newstalk Breakfast that “big mistakes” have been made with regard to messaging to the public.
“Back in September contact tracing was stood down the reason being that children were missing too much school. But we had the option of keeping contact tracing and using antigen testing. And there has been a resistance over the last year from Nphet in terms of using antigen testing,” he said.
“We saw over the last number of days the reluctance of Nphet again to impress advice from experts in the area of ventilation and air filtration. There seems to be this reluctance to accept scientific advice from outside.”
Prof Moynagh said there was a need to look at this reluctance and “learn from our mistakes”.
“Whereas at the moment it seems that mistakes are made and that narrative is defended. And again we end up now with new restrictions that I am not convinced are going to be very impactful,” he said.
“We know they are going to be highly impactful in terms of the sectors for example. I am not convinced by the strategy that is being used at the moment.”
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