Showing posts with label putin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label putin. Show all posts

Sunday, July 09, 2023

9: Putin

How Would Harvard Talk About My Kids? in order to maintain a vaguely defined notion of “diversity,” the schools’ admissions officials bumped up the chances primarily of Black and Hispanic applicants by undermining opportunities of another historically disadvantaged racial group — Asian Americans........ elite colleges’ affirmative action programs seemed “designed for a racially binary America” and “never got meaningfully updated for today’s multiracial democracy.” He argues that much of the public debate about the court’s decision seems stuck in that binary, too. ........ The Asian category could include applicants whose ancestors hailed from places as different as China, India, South Korea, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Japan. An applicant who identifies as Hispanic could be a white person whose family came from Madrid, a Cuban immigrant from Miami or a person of Guatemalan Mayan descent. ............ Where do these categories come from? Gorsuch puts it pithily: “Bureaucrats.” ......... the records suggests that Harvard also treated racial categories quite like stereotypes: Applicants of Asian descent were more likely than members of other racial categories to be labeled “standard strong,” meaning that admissions personnel determined they were academically qualified but otherwise unremarkable. ........... Harvard’s use of such subjective criteria to curb the number of Asian students admitted smacked of its efforts a century ago to keep out Jewish applicants it deemed unworthy of its “character and fitness” standards. ........... affirmative action mattered most for only a small group of the most selective colleges ......... “The ruling provides America with an opportunity to redirect the conversation from a relatively small number of schools and instead direct urgently needed attention to the vast middle and lower tiers of postsecondary education”

Making Them Laugh, and Swoon A year ago, Matt Rife was just another struggling road comedian. Then he blew up on TikTok. ....... Buoyed by his online success, Mr. Rife sold 600,000 tickets for his upcoming tour in 48 hours......... “Last July, I was in Montreal for a festival I was not invited to,” he said. “I had to fly myself out, put myself up for no pay. I was sitting there at dinner with my friend and my manager. I’m about to post this video of crowd work. I was watching it, and I was like, This is so stupid. Why am I even doing this?” ......... During the exchange, Mr. Rife learned that the woman’s ex was an emergency room worker. “Oh, I’m sorry — you broke up with a hero?” he said, to roars of laughter. Despite his reservations, Mr. Rife posted the two-and-a-half-minute video on TikTok, which he had joined a few months earlier. He titled the clip “The Lazy Hero.” ....... “That video did 20 million views in two or three days,” he said. “It became this massive chain reaction and an explosion of an audience. From then on, every video I posted went viral.” ......... Over the next few months, Mr. Rife, 27, racked up 15.6 million TikTok followers. The online success allowed him to leap ahead of his fellow club comics, making him a significant draw. ........ When he announced his “ProbleMATTic World Tour” last month, he sold out 260 dates in North America, Europe and Australia in 48 hours. The flurry of sales — 600,000 tickets in all, each ranging between about $50 to $95, according to Live Nation — crashed the Ticketmaster website. Some resale tickets cost more than $500. .......... Although Mr. Rife has developed an easy stage manner, thanks to the countless hours he has spent at the mic, his popularity may have as much to do with his cheekbones as his comedic chops. ....... Mr. Rife is something rare in the comedy world: a heartthrob. ........ “This time last year, I couldn’t sell out one show in a town,” Mr. Rife said. “It’s still so new and exciting that I’m, like, ‘OK, you need to do everything.’” ......... his fondness for smaller markets. “They’re so nice and they’re so there for the show.” .......... Mr. Rife said his sex appeal, like his career surge, is relatively new. He described himself as a late bloomer and, indeed, photos from a few years ago show a gangly-looking youth whose strong jaw, high cheekbones and Jagger-esque lips had yet to coalesce into a pleasing whole. ......... “I was so ugly for so long,” Mr. Rife said on his “Only Fans” special. As a result, he continued, “I spent the first 22 years of my life building a personality. For what? You think I need to be funny now?” ............ Mr. Rife missed his junior and senior proms — he was on the road, doing gigs. Then came a decade of grinding. ........... and riffed on how, despite his online fame, he hates social media. ............. “It’s garbage, dude,” he said. “I’m canceled three times a week, bro.”

@matt_rife Not all heros are overachievers. #comedy #standup #standupcomedy #funny #crowdwork #improv #breakup #relationship #americanairlines ♬ original sound - Matt Rife

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

28: Putin

Russian General Knew About Mercenary Chief’s Rebellion Plans, U.S. Officials Say Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner, may have believed he had support in Russia’s military. ........ The officials said they are trying to learn if Gen. Sergei Surovikin, the former top Russian commander in Ukraine, helped plan Mr. Prigozhin’s actions last weekend, which posed the most dramatic threat to President Vladimir V. Putin in his 23 years in power. ........ there are signs that other Russian generals may also have supported Mr. Prigozhin’s attempt to change the leadership of the Defense Ministry by force. ......... Mr. Putin must now decide, officials say, whether he believes that General Surovikin helped Mr. Prigozhin and how he should respond. .......... “Think of how easy it was to take Rostov,” Mr. McFaul said. “There are armed guards everywhere in Russia, and suddenly, there’s no one around to do anything?” ........ Prigozhin seemed to believe that large parts of Russia’s army would rally to his side as his convoy moved on Moscow. .......... Mr. Prigozhin had worked with General Surovikin during Russia’s military intervention in Syria, and had described him as the most capable commander in the Russian army. Former officials said General Surovikin did not support pushing Mr. Putin from power but appears to have agreed with Mr. Prigozhin that Mr. Shoigu and General Gerasimov needed to be relieved of duty. ......... General Surovikin and Mr. Prigozhin have both brushed up against Mr. Shoigu and General Gerasimov over tactics used in Ukraine. ......... a frustrated General Surovikin represented a hard-line faction of generals intent on using the toughest tactics against Ukrainians. ......... Russia’s entire military campaign in Ukraine has been characterized by a musical chairs of changing generals. .

In Kremlin Stagecraft, Putin Tries to Rewrite the Mutiny in Russia President Vladimir V. Putin appeared only once during a mercenary’s daylong mutiny against the military. He was all over Russian TV on Tuesday, seeking to project an image of control. ........ Mr. Putin on Tuesday thanked the military for having “essentially stopped a civil war” .......... The speech finally showed Mr. Putin outside of a nondescript room, and in an identifiable place: Cathedral Square in the Kremlin, the historic seat of power. Mr. Putin has often used the palatial buildings and rooms of the Kremlin, a fortified complex in the heart of Moscow, to project the image of a singular Russian leader, flanked by loyal officers and resembling the generations of czars who ruled from inside the Kremlin’s walls. ......... The triumphant imagery and heroic rhetoric stood in contrast to the weekend’s photos and videos in which it seemed no one was in charge: Wagner fighters breezing into a major city with armored vehicles, Mr. Prigozhin chatting with military officers in a command center he had just seized. ........... A statue of Peter the Great, the 18th-century czar who Mr. Putin compared himself to last summer, stood behind him. ........ He also said that Wagner was entirely financed through the state. In doing so, he essentially asserted that the mercenary force was always just a tool of the Kremlin and never beyond his control, despite the fact that Mr. Prigozhin’s fighters took over a major city in hours and reached within 125 miles of Moscow. ........... He claimed that Ukraine’s counteroffensive was failing badly, and that Kyiv had lost dozens of tanks and more than 100 armored vehicles over the last seven days. .

Putin, Prigozhin and the Danger of Disorder They meet so little resistance that the internet is full of pictures of his mercenaries waiting patiently in line to buy coffee: “Hey, could you put a lid on that? I don’t want it to spill on my tank!” ........... But then, just as suddenly, as Prigozhin’s men got within 120 miles of Moscow, he apparently caught wind that his convoy on the open highway would be sitting ducks to a determined air attack. So Prigozhin opted for a plea bargain, arranged by the president of Belarus, and called off his revolution — sorry, didn’t mean it, I was just trying to point out some problems with the Russian Army — and everyone called it a day. ........... the Russian president told him that he wanted to kill his traitorous mercenary commander, to “squash him like a bug.” .......... a script that is still playing out, as the analog Putin tries to keep pace on state-run Russian TV while the digitally savvy Prigozhin continues to run circles around him on Telegram. .......... It was the broad and sustained coalition Biden assembled to confront Putin in Ukraine that ripped the facade off Putin’s Potemkin village. .......... Biden understood from the start that Putin “is the epicenter of an anti-American, antidemocratic, fascist constellation that needs to be defeated, not negotiated with.” ........ Putin has long ruled with two instruments: fear and money, covered with a cloak of nationalism. ........... fear has now left the building in Moscow. With Putin’s aura of invincibility having at least taken a hit, others could soon challenge him ......... the deep fears of Russians about any return to the early 1990s chaos after the fall of the Soviet Union and how grateful many still are for the order that Putin restored. ........... we in the West have as much to fear from Putin’s weakness as his strength.......... U.S. officials argue that Putin’s strategy is to exhaust the Ukrainian Army of its 155-millimeter howitzer artillery shells, the mainstay of its ground forces, as well as of its antiaircraft interceptors, so its ground forces would be naked to Russian airpower and then try to hold on until the Western allies are exhausted or Donald Trump gets re-elected and Putin can get a dirty deal where he saves face in Ukraine. .......... offense is harder and the Russians are now really dug in and have laid mines all across their defense lines, which is why the Ukrainian counteroffensive has been off to a slow start. .......... “In the first year of this war, when Russia was on the offensive, every day that it was not winning, it was losing. In the second year, every day that Ukraine is not winning it, it is losing.” ............ Putin’s army has gotten better at pushing authority down to the officers on the front lines and using drones extensively .............. “When Putin came in, he bulldozed or subverted all political and social structures outside the Kremlin.” .......... “Longer term, historically, successors to Russia’s reactionary rulers are often more liberal, especially early in their term: Alexander I after Paul I, Alexander II after Nicholas I, Khrushchev after Stalin, Gorbachev after Andropov. So if we can get through a transition from Putin, there is some hope.” ............ As much as I detest Putin, I detest disorder even more, because when a big state cracks apart, it is very hard to put it back together. The nuclear weapons and criminality that could spill out of a disintegrated Russia would change the world......... a ticking time bomb spread across 11 time zones. Putin has taken the whole world hostage. ........ If he wins, the Russian people lose. But if he loses and his successor is disorder, the whole world loses. .

Yesterday’s Putin Is Gone On the day of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s ill-fated uprising in Russia, Moscow fell silent. Traffic was sparse on Saturday, and there were few people on the streets. Events were canceled, and parks were closed as virtually everyone stayed inside, glued to the internet as Mr. Prigozhin’s private army convoy headed toward the Russian capital. ........... More than anything, modern Muscovites, like residents of Russia’s other major cities, fear a radical change to their comfortable way of life, particularly a change that might bring martial law or, worse, a widespread draft and border closures. .......... It poked a hole in the Kremlin’s campaign to assure Russians that everything is fine — that the economy is booming, that the war in Ukraine won’t come for them, that the military is focused on winning. .......... His statements about the war in Ukraine, for instance, have been wildly contradictory in recent weeks. First, he said that to defeat the enemy in Ukraine, Russians should tighten their belts and be ready to live like North Koreans. Not long after, he took an altogether different tack: There was no need for an invasion of Ukraine at all, he argued. ........... What did Mr. Prigozhin want to do? Replace Mr. Putin, his teacher in the profession of gaining power? Too ambitious. Unseat his recent nemesis, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu? Too petty and certainly not worth a civil war in Russia’s capital. .......... the revolt gave the world a rare window into the Russian state’s slow decline. No state with functioning institutions can thrive while in pursuit of senseless military expansionism that contradicts the meaning of democratic and civic values, the most important of which is human life .......... During Russia’s transition from democracy to authoritarianism to hybrid totalitarianism, Mr. Putin and his elite inner circle have colonized civil society and built a system of repression. This is not a sign of strength but of desperation. And the outsourcing of critical government functions, like the military role handed to Mr. Prigozhin and his Wagner force, is a glaring manifestation of that weakness. ........... showed Russians that the system could produce a different future — one without Mr. Putin. ......... Populism, finally. Mr. Prigozhin has embodied the voice of populism, sending an anti-elitist message despite being a product of the elite himself. .......... This is why he called the mutiny a “stab in the back.” It took the ultimate insider to show the cracks in the system. ......... Not once has he mentioned Mr. Prigozhin’s name in his speeches since the threat of the coup emerged. What’s the other name Mr. Putin never mentions? The opposition leader who posed such a threat, he threw him in jail: Aleksei Navalny. .

The Terror of Threes in the Heavens and on Earth Physicists have long explored how phenomena in groups of three can sow chaos. A new three-body problem, they warn, could lead to not only global races for new armaments but also thermonuclear war. ......... Isaac Newton was baffled. He was already famous for discovering how gravity holds the universe together and for using that knowledge to predict the movements of celestial bodies, such as the moon’s path around the Earth. Now, by taking the sun’s gravitational tugs into account, he sought to improve his lunar predictions. Instead, it made them worse. ............. As Beijing rapidly expands its nuclear arsenal, they warn that the world of atomic superpowers is about to escalate to three from two. The outcome, they add, compared with the Moscow-Washington standoff, now 70 years old, could represent a dangerous new kind of unthinkable. ........... The looming era could encourage “states to resort to nuclear weapons in a crisis” ........ He cited the natural instabilities observed by physicists and astronomers as a portent. ......... The world’s nuclear thinkers are finding the knotty topic to be as intractable as it was for Newton. ......... the interval from two to three can produce a counterintuitive jump in complexity, as Newton found to his dismay. ........... “Threes are inherently problematic. Things get tricky.” ......... Atoms illustrate the complexity jump. Hydrogen, the simplest, has two main parts — a nucleus and a single circling electron. Physicists can predict with great accuracy the future states of the subatomic particle ............ But helium — the next larger atom — has two electrons. The interplay of those two particles with the element’s nucleus throws them into a complicated state beyond the comprehension of science. “There’s no exact solution,” Dr. Lubell said. “You can’t find out what’s happening to their behavior, their location or anything else. It doesn’t scale. Things get chaotic.” ......... Surprisingly, the jump in disorganization also shows up in the world’s oceans and atmosphere — in whirlpools and maelstroms, tornadoes and hurricanes. ......... Notably, the jump also shows up in human life as groups of three cause social complexities to soar — markedly in young families. Two siblings have one relationship. But a third child results in seven kinds of ties among the siblings — .............. In the cosmos, stars also come in chaotic threesomes. The celebrated science fiction novel “The Three-Body Problem,” by Liu Cixin, features three stars that whirl around one another in unruly orbits. As a result, the planet Trisolaris suffers cycles of blistering heat and icy cold that can reverse in minutes, producing an alien civilization obsessed with survival. ........... The Cold War — for all its terrors and crises — avoided nuclear war in part because its mature structures echoed the binary stability that astronomers see in the heavens and that young families see in the relatively simple play of two children. ........... The looming departure is Beijing’s plan to produce 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035, as the Pentagon estimates. If achieved, the rise would represent a fivefold increase from the “minimum deterrent” that Beijing possessed for more than a half-century and would make it a nuclear peer of Moscow and Washington. ........... Moscow could fade into economic and strategic insignificance, leaving a strong Beijing and Washington to “navigate their way to a new bipolar equilibrium.” ............. “I don’t see Russia and China getting together” on atomic strategies, he said. “I see it as two bipolars.” As the Ukraine war rages and Washington has little interaction with Moscow, Dr. Hecker added, now is a good time “to work with the Chinese” in building a two-body relationship. .......... The main worry of military planners is that Beijing will not only achieve weapons parity with Washington but also form a military pact with Moscow. ......... Rather than weapon equivalence, they see endless arms races whose moves and countermoves could raise the risk of miscalculation and war......... an object suspended over three magnets makes unpredictable moves. ...... keeping an uneasy peace among nuclear foes required them to talk, to share concerns and to take modest steps at confidence-building. “We have to keep the lines of communication open and interacting” ........ After all, he added, “None of these nations want to wipe each other off the face of the earth.” .

Monday, June 26, 2023

26: Prigozhin, Navalny, Putin

Putin looked into the abyss Saturday — and blinked . After vowing revenge for what he called an “armed mutiny,” he settled for a compromise. The speed with which Putin backed down suggests that his sense of vulnerability might be higher even than analysts believed. Putin might have saved his regime Saturday, but this day will be remembered as part of the unraveling of Russia as a great power — which will be Putin’s true legacy. ........ Putin’s deal with renegade militia leader Yevgeniy Prigozhin is likely to be a momentary truce, at best. The bombastic rebel will head for Belarus, in a deal brokered by his pal President Alexander Lukashenko, in exchange for Putin dropping charges against him and his mutinous soldiers .......... This was a real coup, until it wasn’t. For much of Saturday, Prigozhin was marching units of his 25,000-man Wagner militia toward the gates of Moscow, rolling through Russia’s Ukrainian command headquarters at Rostov-on-Don and north to Voronezh. Sources tell me the Russian FSB put up roadblocks along the way, to little effect. Putin called up the National Guard to defend Moscow. ........... As Putin said in a blood-curdling address Saturday, this was becoming a 1917 moment, when the nation was reeling from another misbegotten war and, in Putin’s words, “Russians were killing Russians, brothers killing brothers.” ........... as the Wagner forces moved north, the regular army neither followed nor hindered them. .......... This was like a game of chicken where both cars swerve in the end, or a duel where both fighters shoot in the air, to fight another day. ......... Putin had only bad choices, and he knew it. Chechen forces commanded by Ramzan Kadyrov would have been the vanguard of his attack on Wagner in Rostov; that would have been a savage mess. Putin couldn’t be sure whether regular army units would obey his orders. He was walking into a situation he couldn’t control. Putin doesn’t do that — with the exception of his insane miscalculation invading Ukraine. ........... With his ice-blue eyes, he embodies the phrase “never let them see you sweat.” He lets others feud beneath him, refusing to intervene over the past year as Prigozhin lobbed almost daily insults at Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Putin acts as if it’s beneath him to dirty his hands in such petty quarrels........... Now as then, he said, the enemy was external. “Against us, the whole military, economical and information machines of the West are turned,” he said. That toxic mixture of Russian insecurity and national pride continues to be Putin’s fuel as a leader........... What comes next, surely, is more trouble for Putin in Ukraine. Prigozhin told the truth flat out in the days before his march on Moscow. Ukraine didn’t threaten Russia, and Russia’s invasion was unnecessary — a mistake of epic proportions. Even Putin, the ice man, can’t freeze the burning truth of his Ukraine disaster.

Alexei Navalny: This is what a post-Putin Russia should look like The strategy should be to ensure that Russia and its government naturally, without coercion, do not want to start wars and do not find them attractive. This is undoubtedly possible. Right now the urge for aggression is coming from a minority in Russian society. ......... the problem with the West’s current tactics lies not just in the vagueness of their aim, but in the fact that they ignore the question: What does Russia look like after the tactical goals have been achieved? Even if success is achieved, where is the guarantee that the world will not find itself confronting an even more aggressive regime, tormented by resentment and imperial ideas that have little to do with reality? With a sanctions-stricken but still big economy in a state of permanent military mobilization? And with nuclear weapons that guarantee impunity for all manner of international provocations and adventures? ........ It is easy to predict that even in the case of a painful military defeat, Putin will still declare that he lost not to Ukraine but to the “collective West and NATO,” whose aggression was unleashed to destroy Russia. .......... he will vow to create an army so strong and weapons of such unprecedented power that the West will rue the day it defied us, and the honor of our great ancestors will be avenged. ......... And then we will see a fresh cycle of hybrid warfare and provocations, eventually escalating into new wars. ........... Russia must cease to be an instigator of aggression and instability. That is possible, and that is what should be seen as a strategic victory in this war.......... First, jealousy of Ukraine and its possible successes is an innate feature of post-Soviet power in Russia; it was also characteristic of the first Russian president, Boris Yeltsin. But since the beginning of Putin’s rule, and especially after the Orange Revolution that began in 2004, hatred of Ukraine’s European choice, and the desire to turn it into a failed state, have become a lasting obsession not only for Putin but also for all politicians of his generation. ........... Control over Ukraine is the most important article of faith for all Russians with imperial views, from officials to ordinary people. In their opinion, Russia combined with a subordinate Ukraine amounts to a “reborn U.S.S.R. and empire.” Without Ukraine, in this view, Russia is just a country with no chance of world domination. Everything that Ukraine acquires is something taken away from Russia............ Second, the view of war not as a catastrophe but as an amazing means of solving all problems is not just a philosophy of Putin’s top brass, but a practice confirmed by life and evolution. Since the Second Chechen War, which made the little-known Putin the country’s most popular politician, through the war in Georgia, the annexation of Crimea, the war in Donbas and the war in Syria, the Russian elite over the past 23 years has learned rules that have never failed: War is not that expensive, it solves all domestic political problems, it raises public approval sky-high, it does not particularly harm the economy, and — most importantly — winners face no accountability. Sooner or later, one of the constantly changing Western leaders will come to us to negotiate. It does not matter what motives will lead him — the will of the voters or the desire to receive the Nobel Peace Prize — but if you show proper persistence and determination, the West will come to make peace. ................ there are many in the United States, Britain and other Western countries in politics who have been defeated and lost ground due to their support for one war or another.

In Russia, there is simply no such thing.

Here, war is always about profit and success. ........... The elites simply know from experience that war works — better than anything else. ............ The war raises Putin’s approval rating by super-mobilizing the imperially minded part of society. The news agenda is fully consumed by the war; internal problems recede into the background: “Hurray, we’re back in the game, we are great, they’re reckoning with us!” Yet the aggressive imperialists do not have absolute dominance. They do not make up a solid majority of voters, and even they still require a steady supply of propaganda to sustain their beliefs....... (Several people were “drafted to the front” directly from the penal colony where I am.)........

(Several people were “drafted to the front” directly from the penal colony where I am.)

Wagner leader Prigozhin will move to Belarus following the mercenary group's uprising against Putin, Kremlin spokesman says The reported agreement comes after a paramilitary rebellion on Saturday in which the Wagner Group marched across Russia before suddenly turning around just 120 miles from Moscow. Prigozhin said he didn't want to shed Russian blood. ........ Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko, a close Putin ally who has also long known Prigozhin, spent all day Saturday negotiating with Prigozhin ........ "The war wasn't needed to return Russian citizens to our bosom, nor to demilitarize or denazify Ukraine," Prigozhin said. "The war was needed so that a bunch of animals could simply exult in glory."

Narendra Modi Is Not Who America Thinks He Is Of the 180 nations surveyed in the 2023 World Press Freedom Index, India sits at 161, a scant three places above Russia. Its position on the Academic Freedom Index has nose-dived since Mr. Modi took office, putting it on a course that sharply resembles those of other electoral autocracies. The Freedom in the World index has tracked a steady erosion of Indian citizens’ political rights and civil liberties. On the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, India has tumbled squarely into the ranks of “flawed democracies.” ........ the government systematically harasses its critics by raiding the offices of think tanks, NGOs and media organizations, restricting freedom of entry and exit, and pressing nuisance lawsuits — most conspicuously against the opposition leader Rahul Gandhi, who was recently ejected from Parliament after his conviction on a ludicrous charge of having defamed everybody named “Modi.” It is no “perception” that Muslim history has been torn from national textbooks, cities with Islamic eponyms renamed and India’s only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir, stripped of its autonomy. ........... The share of women in the formal work force stands at around a paltry 20 percent and has shrunk during Mr. Modi’s tenure. The share of wealth held by the top 1 percent has grown since he took office and is now 40.5 percent, thanks to crony capitalism resembling the Russian oligarchy’s. ........ In Edison, N.J., marchers in the annual India Day parade last August drove a wheel loader, which resembles a bulldozer, bedecked with images of Mr. Modi and a far-right Indian government minister who has ordered the razing of Muslims’ homes and businesses, rendering such vehicles symbols of hate as provocative as a noose or a burning cross at a Klan rally. ........... Across America there are now more than 200 chapters of the overseas arm of India’s fascist-inspired Hindu nationalist paramilitary organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or R.S.S., of which Mr. Modi is a longtime associate. .......... Healthier ways to engage with India begin with understanding that Mr. Modi’s version of India is no less skewed than Donald Trump’s of the United States

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Inside Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Money-Making Machine The man who led a rebellion against President Vladimir Putin built a multinational commercial enterprise that helped fund his military operations. ...... experts expect the Kremlin to squeeze the man who launched the biggest challenge to Mr. Putin’s authority in his 23 years in power ....... Europe and the United States have been trying to shut down Prigozhin’s sprawling business operations for years. On the F.B.I.’s most wanted list, Mr. Prigozhin rose quickly in Putin’s Russia — from being the president’s favored caterer to winning major contracts that bankrolled Wagner Group, his private mercenary operation. Founded in 2014, Wagner fights wars and trains militias in politically restive countries, and it has been Mr. Putin’s go-to force when military campaigns go awry, such as in Syria and Ukraine. And Wagner’s internet troll farms target Western democracies and elections, including the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. ....... Wagner is a “brutal” transnational criminal organization, according to the Treasury Department. Evro Polis, a Prigozhin-linked company, that won energy concessions in Syria in return for military support. In Sudan and the Central African Republic, Wagner has muscled in on mining operations to help bankroll its operations. ......... To avoid sanctions and conceal its finances, Wagner often demands payment in gold, diamonds and shipments of oil and gas. The Financial Times estimated that between 2018 and 2021, revenues from Wagner’s holdings in natural resources were roughly $250 million. ............

Mr. Prigozhin also relies on a global network of corporate lawyers to fend off Western authorities

.......... “Unless he can show he’s so brutal that everyone needs to deal with him, this is the beginning of the end. Recovery will require a huge crackdown” ......... “This might be another demonstration of dysfunctionality, but he’s very good at finding a way to adapt and survive. His major talent is staying in power.”

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Saturday, June 24, 2023

Putin's Breaking Point Was Always Going To Come

A dictator needs that internal tension. Saddam necessarily needed to invade Kuwait. To stay relevant inside Iraq. Inside a country the dictator is supreme. But then, by definition, he necessarily will project that outside. He has to. The facade has to be maintained. A dictatorship at its core is fundamentally dysfunctional. Russia is Nigeria with the snow, as Sergey Brin, a Russian, observed. I think the Russian people are capable of immense prosperity. But today that is not there. Putin's grip is why. Oppression leads to poverty too, among other things.

Putin wants respect. NATO expansion was a lot of Eastern European countries clamoring for it. Personally I want a NATO contraction and eventual elimination. And that is what will happen when Russia becomes a democratic country. When the security threat vanishes, security arrangements go into dystrophy.

Putin could not keep escalating the tension and expect people inside Russia to not react. Recently he moved nuclear weapons into Belarus. Nobody mistakes that for anything but what it is. I moved my troops into Belarus. I used them. I moved nuclear weapons. Why do you think that is? That is him saying his threat is credible.

What would happen if he were to use nuclear weapons? He would have to lose China and India. That trade would need to vanish. So far it is just a war. And countries in the Global South are acutely aware that when millions of refugees streamed into Poland, the non-whites were singled out and sent away. If you have nowhere to go, we will send you to Rwanda. That was racism. A lot of countries seem to think, this war is not just for liberty. Liberty and racism are opposite things. Racism is a virus. It is the same strain as fascism.

But use of nuclear weapons would change that. It is going to become morally very hard for any country to think Putin has any kind of legitimacy, any kind of currency.

There will be no victory. The US has committed itself to wiping out the Russian Black Sea Fleet should Putin use nuclear weapons.

After that Putin backs down, or unleashes the unthinkable. Armageddon.

All that logic is tic tac toe levels of intelligence. That is world leaders choosing to become chimps.

But the nuclear threat goes both ways. That is also a scenario of Moscow getting wiped out. Too many Muscovites have become used to the easy life. Russia might be Nigeria, but Moscow is Paris. There is immense inequality. Putin is Elon Musk. In fact, Musk is on record saying Putin is above his pay grade. He has more money.

Prigozhin has the same problem Putin has. Inside the Wagner group Prigozhin needs that internal tension of bravado. What Putin needs on a big scale at the national level, Prigozhin needs inside the Wagner group. Except now Prigozhin has been threatened with capture and elimination. That is a do or die situation.

A lot of Russian soldiers are now thinking, do you want certain death in a nuclea war or do you want to revolt?

Something like this was bound to happen sooner or later. Nuclear saber rattling was always going to have consequences for Putin internally.

Ukraine has not recaptured its territory. But projecting strength is already working.

But chaos inside Russia is not victory for the world. Preparations have to be made for a democratic transition. There has to be an interim government that will take the country to elections to a constituent assembly.

A lot of hardliners in the West fantasize about a breakup of Russia. They see it as an imperial setup. Russia might collapse like the Soviet Union did. That might as well happen. That might be the price Russians might have to pay for their own liberty. But maximum effort has to be made for a smooth transition when the time comes. For one, there are too many nuclear weapons inside of Russia.

Somebody other than Prigozhin might attempt to pull a coup in Moscow. Moscow stands rattled.

Putin Vows ‘Decisive Actions’ as Wagner Chief Claims Part of Key Military Complex Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner paramilitary group, entered the courtyard of Russia’s southern military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don, seen in video verified by The Times. ........ Prigozhin, whose forces had claimed control of the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and were moving north toward Moscow. ........ some success by Mr. Prigozhin, who on Saturday morning said his forces had taken over the southern military headquarters of the Russian Armed Forces in the city. .......... a “counterterrorist operation regime” was declared in Moscow, giving the authorities expanded legal powers. The confrontation marked the most dramatic threat to the Russian president’s power since he took over leadership in 1999 ......... Wagner fighters had entered the Voronezh region. The region is halfway between Moscow and Rostov. .............

“We’re blockading the city of Rostov and going to Moscow,” Mr. Prigozhin says in a video that surfaced early Saturday

............. On Friday, he directly challenged the Kremlin’s position that invading Ukraine was necessary for the Russian nation, appearing to publicly push back against one of Mr. Putin’s main justifications for the war.

Kyiv taunts Moscow over the rebellion in Russia.
Putin embraced turmoil, and now it is rattling his leadership.
Russian officials proclaim loyalty to Putin and predict victory for him.
Prigozhin’s continued Telegram posts show limits of the Kremlin’s information controls.
Russia’s pro-military activists express alarm over Wagner’s rebellion.
Prigozhin flaunts control at a critical Russian military headquarters.
Why Rostov-on-Don? It is a logistical hub for the war in Ukraine, and headquarters for a Russian military district.
A tense Europe closely monitors the developments in Russia.
Putin strikes a tough tone in his first address since the uprising started.
Prigozhin appears in videos at southern military headquarters.

Putin embraced turmoil, and now it is rattling his leadership. For more than two decades, the system helped President Vladimir V. Putin secure his unrivaled authority, ensuring that he personally held the keys to wealth and influence in modern Russia. ....... President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia always seemed to thrive on chaos. Now it threatens to consume him. ......... a trademark of Mr. Putin’s rule: a management style in which he appeared comfortable with conflicts among the elite because they kept potential rivals in check, while underscoring that ultimate authority always rested with the president himself. ......... a striking consequence of the informal power structure that Mr. Putin built up in his 23 years at Russia’s helm. For more than two decades, the system helped Mr. Putin secure his unrivaled authority, ensuring that he personally held the keys to wealth and influence in modern Russia. ........ Putin’s approach to his rule was always “divide and conquer.” As another put it, referring to Russia’s rival law enforcement authorities: “You never know who will arrest you.” ............ A judo sparring partner from Mr. Putin’s youth became a construction billionaire and built Mr. Putin’s landmark bridge to Crimea. Buddies from Mr. Putin’s K.G.B. days now oversee Russia’s military industrial complex and its oil sector. A friend from 1990s St. Petersburg is entrusted with control of Russia’s most important private media assets and of the bank said to be at the nexus of Mr. Putin’s own financial dealings. .......... And then there was Mr. Prigozhin, who met Mr. Putin more than 20 years ago as a St. Petersburg restaurateur. He parlayed those personal ties into lucrative government contracts and styled himself as a ruthless, multipurpose problem solver on the Kremlin’s behalf. ............ In 2016, as the Kremlin sought to swing the American presidential election to Donald J. Trump, Mr. Prigozhin jumped into the fray with an internet “troll factory,” waging “information warfare against the United States.” As Russia worked to expand its reach in Syria and Africa, Mr. Prigozhin deployed his growing Wagner mercenary force to those regions — allowing the Kremlin to project power while minimizing Russian military boots on the ground. ................ In Ukraine, as Mr. Prigozhin tells it, Wagner troops were only called in after Mr. Putin’s initial invasion plan failed. ............. In May, he congratulated Wagner mercenaries for their role in the capture of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, in a statement posted on the Kremlin’s website. Weeks later, he backed the Defense Ministry’s push for mercenaries to sign service contracts with the Russian military by July 1, a demand that infuriated Mr. Prigozhin. .

What’s happening in Russia? Here’s what we know. The Wagner chief’s broadside against the Russian military establishment has escalated tensions drastically, but it isn’t yet clear how much of a threat the situation poses to the Kremlin. ........ Russian generals on Friday accused a Russian mercenary tycoon of trying to mount a coup against President Vladimir V. Putin. It signaled an extraordinary open confrontation between the Wagner chief and the military, who have feuded for months over Russia’s war tactics in Ukraine. .......... He also described the invasion of Ukraine as a “racket” perpetrated by a corrupt Russian elite. ........... The St. Petersburg tycoon has for years been part of a charmed circle of Russian oligarchs with close ties to President Putin. In 2018, he was one of 13 Russians indicted by a federal grand jury in the United States for interfering in the 2016 American election. ........... Mr. Prigozhin’s Wagner mercenary force, a shadowy private military company, first emerged during Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. It has since exerted influence on behalf of Moscow in Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Mali and Mozambique. ........... Prigozhin, who has recruited fighters from prisons, has been widely seen as a symbol of wartime Russia: ruthless, shameless and lawless. ............. official patience had clearly evaporated by Saturday morning, when the country’s prosecutor general announced that Mr. Prigozhin was being investigated on charges that carried a maximum prison term of 20 years. TASS, a Russian state news agency, reported that he had been charged. .

Who is Yevgeny Prigozhin, the mercenary leader Russia accused of mounting a coup? Mr. Prigozhin has risen from a businessman known as President Vladimir V. Putin’s “chef” to a symbol of wartime Russia, controlling a private army operating from Ukraine to Central African Republic. ........ Yevgeny V. Prigozhin became rich through his personal ties to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, winning lucrative catering and construction contracts with the Russian government while building a mercenary force known as Wagner............. Prigozhin (pronounced pree-GOH-zhin) .......... has also emerged as a public power player, using social media to turn tough talk and brutality into his personal brand. .............. In February 2018, Mr. Prigozhin was one of 13 Russians indicted by a federal grand jury for interfering in the American election through the Internet Research Agency, a troll factory that spread falsehoods and waged information warfare against the United States, in support of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump. ............ Born in 1961 when St. Petersburg was called Leningrad, Mr. Prigozhin was sent to prison in 1981 for robbery and other crimes .......... After serving his nine-year sentence, he opened a hot-dog stand, eventually leading to an entrepreneurial career starting restaurants and convenience stores. .

(January 2023) The Man Challenging Putin for Power . President Vladimir Putin of Russia, it seems, has finally noticed that the war in Ukraine created a dangerous competitor to his power: Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the private military company, the Wagner group, whose troops fight alongside the Russian Army. ......... In the summer of 2022, for instance, the ambitious Gen. Alexander Lapin was the recipient of a small online public relations campaign glorifying him. This immediately cost him his job — and a brief but powerful media war against him was launched by Mr. Prigozhin, who controls a series of online troll factories. ............ The Russian president saw Mr. Prigozhin as his man, an obedient tool and easy to use. ........... At first, he was known as Putin’s chef, who managed to become a state contractor of school lunches for Russian children all across the country. Then he created the troll factory, the Internet Research Agency, and he was singled out in Robert Mueller’s investigation into interference in the 2016 election. Finally, Mr. Prigozhin became famous as the founder of the Wagner group, whose contractors fought in Africa, Syria and now Ukraine. ............ But this year, Mr. Prigozhin moved into another league, surpassing all of Mr. Putin’s other friends in power. ........... But then the situation changed — a joker appeared, who can beat all the aces at the same time. If Mr. Prigozhin can free any prisoner, his powers are unlimited. ........... When the invasion started, Mr. Putin was obsessed with the war. It’s his only interest, sources claim. Only those people who are on the front lines have direct access to Mr. Putin and former members of the inner circle who ended up in the rear became less significant. ............ Mr. Prigozhin managed to create for himself the image of the most effective warrior. He is not subordinate to the Ministry of Defense, he is not included in the system of military bureaucracy, and he determines his own tasks, goals and time frames. According to my sources, Mr. Putin was fine with this arrangement. And he allowed Mr. Prigozhin to rudely and publicly criticize other generals. Mr. Putin has a low opinion of them, so he didn’t scold the Wagner founder. ............. Last fall, Yevgeny Nuzhin, a former Russian prisoner who defected to Ukraine after being recruited by the Wagner group and ended up back in Russia after a prisoner swap, was killed with a sledgehammer. A video of this massacre emerged in November and was most likely intended as a warning to all future deserters. ............. Surprisingly, this barbarity has a lot of fans. Stores in Russia began to sell “Wagner Sledgehammers,” as well as souvenirs and car stickers with Wagner symbols. Mr. Prigozhin, who put out a statement supporting Mr. Nuzhin’s killing, became somewhat of a folk hero. ............. By the end of 2022, many Moscow businessmen and officials strongly believed that Mr. Prigozhin was a real threat. “The sledgehammer is a message to all of us,” one oligarch told me. ........... On Jan. 10, Mr. Prigozhin reported on his company’s Telegram channel that Wagner militants had taken the Ukrainian city of Soledar. This was his most powerful propaganda victory and convincing proof that Wagner is one of the most combat-ready Russian units. My sources in Moscow say some high-ranking officials started discussing — supposedly half-jokingly — if it was the right time to swear allegiance to Mr. Prigozhin before it was too late. ................. Many Russians, zombified by propaganda, are frustrated that the army is not winning. Kyiv was not taken in a few days as promised. By appointing General Gerasimov supreme commander, Mr. Putin assumes responsibility for all subsequent defeats. ........ in the near future, Mr. Prigozhin may challenge the president, and Mr. Putin may no longer be able to oppose his former chef. .

Saturday, April 08, 2023

The Hammer Of Peaceful Activism

Putin, in his speeches, falls to the gender topic as a reflex action. I need to stay in power or they will come and turn your children into transvestites! I needed to go to war or they might have come and dressed your children into drag queen attires! Send 300,000 men to the front or they might come and turn men into women, and women into men! It is bizarre logic.

Alexei Navalny was safe. He did not have to go back to Russia. It was certain they would jail him and worse. But still he went. And he has indeed been subjected to jail and worse.

Zelensky fights for Navalny.

One man suffers so his country might not have to suffer indefinitely. Navalny chose to go. He was safe abroad.

But the thing about the moral fiber of someone like Alexei Navalny is it is a rope. It ties him to you, and it ties him to me. There is no escape route. You don't have the option to be quiet. You don't have the luxury of inaction. This is the spiritual reality. Just like your soul is a spiritual reality. It is true. It exists. It is indestructible. It is not the pancreas that a surgeon might dig out. But it is much more real. Your soul is more real than heaven and earth.

By choosing to go to jail and suffer Alexei Navalny communicates with the rest of us at the level that souls talk to each other. You can not look the other way. This man speaks for a nation.

Russians are not a different species. Or they might not have been able to produce the world class literature they have. Russians are long accustomed to the life of the mind. They are one of the best suited for this knowledge economy.

I am a friend of Russia. I want the best for Russia. I want a Russia that is richer, more secure, and yes, I want a Russia that is a power. Major powers like the United States and even China need other power centers. The global system needs a strong Russia to provide a counterbalance. How can there be freedom of thought and freedom of speech and freedom of conscience if truth can not be told to power? Be that to powerful America or to a powerful China?

The fight is inside Russia. The fight is in Moscow. All it will take is for one million Russians to take over the streets and not leave until Putin resigns.

I am not liking the war in Ukraine. I want peace. The path to peace is not this talk or that talk. The path to peace is a mass movement for democracy inside Russia that installs Navalny as the country's interim president who steers the country to elections to a constituent assembly. A democratic, federal Russia will make NATO irrelevant, keep Russia one, and shift the center of gravity in Europe to Kyiv.

Putin is a blight on the Russian conscience. Navalny is Russia's Mandela.

The Kremlin throws cold water on China mediating peace in Ukraine as Macron urges Xi to 'bring Russia to its senses' "So far there are no prospects for a political settlement," the Kremlin said. ....... The Kremlin on Thursday said there were "no prospects" for China to play the role of mediator in Moscow's unprovoked war against Ukraine at present, as French President Emmanuel Macron met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and urged him to "bring Russia to its senses." .......... Peskov said there were "no other ways" forward for Russia aside from continuing its offensive in Ukraine, signaling that Moscow has no interest in negotiations in the foreseeable future. ....... This came after Macron in Beijing said that Russia had dealt a blow to international stability by invading Ukraine, and called on Xi to push Russia to see reason and "bring everyone back to the negotiating table." ......... Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has invited Xi to visit Ukraine and repeatedly expressed a desire to speak with him. The two leaders have not spoken since Russia invaded over a year ago. ........ China has claimed that it's neutral in the Ukraine war and unveiled a peace plan in February on the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion. ........ The war in Ukraine has made Putin a global pariah and isolated Russia economically and politically, but the Russian leader on Wednesday insisted that his country remains a "respected center of world politics." .

China’s Ambassador to the E.U. Tries to Distance Beijing From Moscow The ambassador, Fu Cong, said China was not on Russia’s side in the war in Ukraine. “‘No limit’ is nothing but rhetoric,” he said, referring to a statement from last year about the countries’ relationship......... China tries to present itself as a mediator, insisting that it respects the territorial integrity of Ukraine while endorsing some of Moscow’s narrative about the war. ...... China had not provided military assistance to Russia, nor recognized its efforts to annex Ukrainian territories, including Crimea and the Donbas. ........... Beijing has not condemned the invasion, he said, because it understood Russia’s claims about a defensive war against NATO encroachment, and because his government believes “the root causes are more complicated” than Western leaders say. ......... In her speech, Ms. von der Leyen described the E.U.-China relationship as having become “more distant and more difficult,” and endorsed the view of China as an assertive global player seeking to become “the world’s most powerful nation.” ............. the bloc should “de-risk” its relationship with China by setting new ground rules rather than “decoupling” or withdrawing. ........... China was the third-largest destination of E.U. exported goods in 2022, and the largest exporter of goods to the bloc ......... He said Europe should carve out its own policies and develop more “strategic autonomy,” instead of following Washington’s lead. ......... the backdrop to Mr. Macron’s visit, as it was to the visit of Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, in November, with both accompanied by businessmen eager to continue to do deals with China. ...... “E.U. claims to be a big center, a power center in the world, an independent power center in the world, as much as the United States, as much as China,” Mr. Fu said. “So why does it have to listen to the United States all the time?” .

Brooke Shields and the Curse of Great Beauty “Pretty Baby,” a new documentary on Hulu, explores the toll that sexual and commercial objectification takes on women....... Ms. Shields was a generational touchstone of the 1970s and ’80s, an omnipresent vision — in magazines, television ads and films — of astonishing natural beauty. Luminous deep-blue eyes under those famous dark brows, delicate features, dimpled smile and a glossy brunette mane. By the time she was a preteen, her look had developed — or rather, been groomed into — an improbable blend of Renaissance angel and vamp. ....... We use beautiful young women’s sexuality to sell products (including films); we conflate the women with the products; we imagine women need to be ever newer, younger and shinier — like products. As a result, we grow inured to seeing barely pubescent girls presented as “things,” as erotic commodities. (Driving the point home, the film features an old television ad for toys made in Ms. Shields’s likeness, with the tagline “Brooke Shields: She’s a real living doll.”) ....... The film offers many examples of the exploitation and abuse (including one outright sexual assault) suffered by Ms. Shields ........ a loving but troubled (and alcoholic) single mother, Teri Shields, who also served as her manager, and Ms. Shields understood early that her career provided the family’s sole income. ........ Ms. Shields’s uncannily adult persona remained as impeccable and serene as her appearance. But there is a static quality to her in these clips, a blankness suggesting the practiced deflection of disturbing emotion, as if being treated constantly as an object had nearly turned her into one. ......... Recounting the director Franco Zeffirelli’s attempts to extract from her, 16 and a virgin, a scene of erotic “ecstasy” in the film “Endless Love,” Ms. Shields recalls: “I just dissociated.” (Off camera, to try to simulate passion, Mr. Zeffirelli repeatedly twisted Ms. Shields’s toe, causing her to cry out and contort her face in pain.) In such moments, she says she was “zooming out, seeing a situation but you are not connected to it. You instantly become a vapor of yourself.” ......... Eventually Ms. Shields overcame this vaporous existence, largely through the saving grace of a college education. Encouraged by her professors at Princeton to voice her own opinions, Ms. Shields says she “learned I could think for myself,” which “morphed into this big rebellion.” ........... She set boundaries with her controlling mother, discovered her untapped talents for comedy and dance (with which she could break free of those beautiful blank-slate roles) and, for the first time, found a boyfriend. .........

the story of the terrible toll that sexual and commercial objectification takes on women

....... When Ms. Shields’s image is on the screen, it’s almost impossible to look away. It’s that magnetism that everyone wants to bottle and sell. It’s what launched her career.

‘It Was Not Love at First Sight’ It took Samantha Weinstein and Philip Della Noce a few years to form a friendship, and another few more to become romantic......... “I got to Toronto, and the first person I called was Samantha,” Mr. Della Noce said. “We FaceTimed every single day.” .

U.S. Economy May Be Heading to a Place That Must Not Be Named A hard landing? A banana? Euphemisms for recession have a long history in Washington. Whatever the Fed is stating, it seems to be expecting something ugly, our columnist says. .

@dasha_navalnaya Пошли на аквадискотеку (?) #дашанавальная #навальный #navalny #dashanavalnaya #навальная #partygirl #parents ♬ how would they know bad girls club - Chris Gleason