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Trump Investigations from Michael_Novakhov (126 sites)
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) discusses how Trump’s second impeachment trial differs from the first. Aired on 02/12/2021.
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A lot is currently going on in Russia, with one of the most discussed topics being the detainment of Navalny and replacing his suspended sentence with an actual jail sentence. We will not discuss the legal peculiarities of Russia, nor will we talk about how the international community will most likely agree to impose new sanctions against Russia. We will talk about how Putin’s Russia is deliberately taking the path of self-isolation.
Yes, you read that correctly – Russia, i.e. Putin, is rapidly heading towards self-isolation. And it makes sense if you think about it. Essentially, Putin can only remain in power if Russia becomes isolated from the rest of the world. We could be witnesses to attempts to create a new version of North Korea.
Of course, there are no official documents or decrees issued by Putin that clearly state something like this, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening.
What is needed to ensure the existence of an isolated regime? Such regimes are based on three pillars – the army, internal forces (both law enforcement and legislative institutions) and propaganda/agitation.
We’ve talked plenty about Putin’s announcements regarding armaments. If weapons can be generally divided into defensive and offensive ones, Putin’s Russia is establishing its defense doctrine based on its offensive weapons. This means that currently one of Russia’s most important tasks is to ensure, or at least create an illusion, that the Russian Armed Forces are capable of engaging in combat on any level. Naturally, supplying the army significantly worsens the livelihoods of the regular people. Is Putin concerned about such trifles? I don’t think he is. We can compare the current situation with the arming of the USSR in the early 40-ies and during the Cold War when USSR citizens were drowning in poverty because all of the money was used for armaments and to ensure that no one can freely leave the happy USSR.
What concerns internal forces, these can be divided into two segments – internal law enforcement structures and legislative institutions. If we look at the eagerness of law enforcement to suppress protesters, it’s clear that neither Putin, nor Lukashenko have to worry about this aspect. Law enforcement remains loyal. However, Putin should remember history, i.e. that during all the important events of Russia, the army and the police have sided with the people.
What concerns legislative institutions, this is where Putin can feel the safest. Currently, there are 441 State Duma deputies, and 335 of them represent the party United Russia. For those who don’t know, Russia is one of the unique nations where someone first became president and only then a party was established. Moreover, parties are usually created to achieve particular goals or “ideals”, regardless of its leaders, and United Russia was purposely created to support Putin: the charter of the party states that it’s goal is to support the president. This means that Putin can be certain that the legislative system is working for him. In Russia, legislature is more intended to be an imitation of democracy, but in reality it accepts and obeys Putin’s wishes.
For instance, a draft law is being reviewed that would amend Russia’s Criminal Code to punish (with a jail sentence of up to five years) those that falsify facts about World War II. Naturally, falsification in the sense of Russian law means any opinion that doesn’t correspond with Putin’s views. Another example – Putin has asked the State Duma to pass a law that forbids comparisons between Nazi Germany and the USSR. Does anyone have any doubts that Putin’s wish will be fulfilled? Lastly, everyone is aware that due to Russia’s actions it’s officials are being subject to different sanctions. Do you think that Russian officials then try to understand what they did wrong and attempt to improve in order to live in harmony? No, of course not, instead the Russian State Duma is considering to pass a law that would intend criminal punishment for persons that discuss sanctions being imposed against Russia. This means that, for example, if a foreign official or a regular citizen expresses an opinion that sanctions should be imposed against Russia because of its actions, they can get punished in Russia. Great idea, isn’t it? There is no doubt that the law in Russia is intended to blindly serve Putin.
Let’s look at propaganda/agitation. In order for any propaganda to be effective, it needs to be spread as widely as possible and any other opinions must be simultaneously silenced. And it’s well-known fact that if you begin brainwashing people at an early age, it will only be a matter of time until they truly believe you.
This means that it’s crucial to begin explaining to people what is right and wrong as early as possible. In Soviet times, schools had political information classes where children were taught about the wishes of the leaders of the party. Putin has expressed numerous times that he wants to resurrect the USSR. This is impossible on the same geographical scale, but it can still be done in the current territory. There is no need to reinvent the wheel – just use the previously acquired experience. In response to the high participation of pupils and students in the recent protests against the jailing of Navalny, Russian schools will now have a special post, i.e. advisor to the teacher whose responsibility will be to suppress such sentiments. A source close to the Russian Presidential Administration revealed that the participation of young people in the protests was discussed on the “highest level” and that the administration decided to activate “all of the existing projects concerning this issue”. Well, we’ve covered propaganda and agitation – in Russia already since the first grade until the graduation of a university young people will be told that Putin is great, Russia is friendly and everything outside of Russia is rotten. Just like in the good old Soviet Union.
What is the situation regarding the freedom of speech and media freedom in Russia? You’ve probably heard – the situation is prefect, i.e. these things simply do not exist.
What concerns the freedom of speech, in 2020 Russia was ranked 149th out of 180 countries. North Korea was ranked 180th.
The country is run by state propaganda and agitation, but there is one obstacle – the internet. Of course, the internet can be subject to control, but not completely. So, what is the solution here? The answer is – just turn off the internet. It may sound impossible, but Dmitry Medvedev has already talked about this, saying that if necessary Russia is legally and technologically ready to disconnect form the world wide web.
What can we conclude from all this? First, Putin has ensured that the army serves as an instrument of deterrence, and not because of its defensive potential, but because of its offensive capabilities. Even if these capabilities are non-existent, it’s important to make others believe in them.
Second, law enforcement authorities in Russia are vast and, at least for now, loyal to Putin. Moreover, legislators are ready to fulfill all of Putin’s wishes.
The media publishes only pro-Putin information, and if someone tries to express a different opinion, they are quickly silenced. An in order to ensure future stability, Russia has decided to brainwash children from a very young age. The only thing that could hinder this is the internet. However, the internet cannot be a problem if there is no internet.
You have to agree that such a situation cannot accidentally come together. This is the result of deliberate actions, and these actions are inevitably moving Russia closer to self-isolation. Nothing from the outside will be allowed in Russia. Can Putin truly benefit from such a situation? I would say yes, because he is fully aware of what could happen if the regime isn’t isolated. Putin’s Russia and North Korea already had numerous similarities, but it now seems Putin wants Russia to become indistinguishable from its ideological sister.
1. US Security from Michael_Novakhov (88 sites)
- Trump’s case of coronavirus was far worse than he admitted, report says
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- UK coronavirus – latest updates
Greece has extended the full lockdown imposed on metropolitan Athens earlier this week to more regions of the country in a bid to contain the spread of Covid-19 infections, the deputy civil protection minister said.
Effective on Saturday, the region of Achaia in the northwest of the Peloponnese peninsula as well as Euboea, Greece’s second-largest island after Crete, will be in lockdown until 22 February at least, authorities said. This means schools, hair salons and non-essential retail shops will close.
“The epidemiological picture countrywide shows a steady deterioration,” Vana Papaevangelou, a member of the committee of infectious disease experts advising the government, told a news briefing.
Italy reported 316 Covid-related deaths on Friday against 391 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 13,908 from 15,146 the previous day.
Some 305,619 tests for Covid-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 292,533, the health ministry added.
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1. Russia from Michael_Novakhov (114 sites)
On February 1, 2021, Myanmar’s military – known as the Tatmadaw – invoked Article 417 of the 2008 constitution, dismissed State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, and arrested her and other members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party, thus putting an end to the country’s ten-year experiment with democracy.
The coup followed weeks of unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud, first from the losing Tatmadaw’s proxy party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and then from the military itself. The allegation of electoral fraud used to justify the coup is a mere charade, all the more flimsy coming from the military that organized in 2008 a sham referendum to approve an undemocratic constitution and, two years later, a highly controlled election – boycotted by the NLD – in which the unpopular USDP obtained a dubious victory that marked the beginning of the transition.
Myanmar has a long history of being dominated by a ruthless military. When it achieved national independence in 1948, the numerous ethnic and religious divisions quickly posed a problem for the first Prime Minister U Nu. Civil war erupted across the country within the first year of Burmese independence.
Ultimately, the army would wrest political control in 1958 with promises of a “caretaker government” that soon gave way to decades of brutal military rule, with the army faced off against communist and ethnic insurgencies. In total, the country has experienced five decades of military dictatorship: the first one lasted from 1958 to 1960 and the second lasted from 1962 to 2011.
Myanmar underwent a transition from direct authoritarianism after the election in 2010 when power was transferred to a nominally civilian government in 2011. The transition was, however, only partial, as the new government of President Thein Sein and the USDP originated from the Tatmadaw, came into power through a flawed election, and governed on the basis of the military-designed 2008 constitution that curtailed the democratic capacities of the civilian administration.
Three key provisions of the constitution guaranteed the army’s continuing sway. First, the constitution gave the military control over the three key security ministries – Defense, Home Affairs, and Border Affairs. Second, it reserved 25% of parliamentary seats – one in four – to soldiers handpicked by the commander in chief.
Third, it granted the Tatmadaw total power over its own affairs, as well as blanket immunity against any prosecution for the crimes routinely committed in the several wars against ethnic armed groups in the periphery of the country. Fourth, all constitutional amendments must garner the support of at least 75% of sitting MPs, virtually impossible, given the army’s strategic chunk of assembly seats.
The 2008 constitution was seen as heralding a new age of democracy since the absence of a constitution has been a defining feature of Myanmar’s governance framework. The country was ruled for 36 years – first from 1962 to 1974 and then from 1988 to 2010 – without a constitution. The latter period was an era of direct military rule by decree, although the military claimed to be a transitional government.
Myanmar has a system of military-dominated capitalism, earning the label of “khaki capitalism”. Military enterprises, established in the 1950s, have been some of the earliest and largest Burmese commercial conglomerates. Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) are military enterprises which continue to remain central players in Myanmar’s post-2011 economy.
Military conglomerates are a major source of off-budget revenue for the military and a main employer of retired soldiers. Yet, few veterans receive more than a small piece of the profits from MEHL. The vast bulk of dividends instead disproportionately benefit higher ranking officers and institutions within the Tatmadaw.
Obligatory or semi-coerced contributions from active-duty soldiers are a source of cash flow for MEHL, effectively constituting a transfer from the government budget to the military’s off-budget entities. Despite receiving 14% of the government budget in 2017 – 18, the military claims that MEHL and MEC are necessary as they deliver off-budget revenues that reduce the military’s demand on the government budget.
The Myanmar military also maintains murky links to the jade industry through subsidiaries and front companies – all this making up a lucrative trade for the top generals. MEHL is heavily involved in jade through their subsidiary Myanmar Imperial Jade (MIJ). MIJ is at the apex of additional subsidiaries with profits flowing back to military regiments, battalions and generals. Tatmadaw outsources mining licenses to their cronies – such as KBZ Group, who mine jade for the military and reap the jade profits through commercial bank.
The immediate trigger behind the coup has been the landslide victory registered by the NLD in the November 2020 general elections. Despite many barriers and with voting banned in many ethnic areas, the NLD won a second term very convincingly. While the NLD is not inclined toward enacting structural reforms against the military, the latter may have felt threatened by the “excesses” of democratization, namely the ability of a party to construct a complete hegemony on the electoral arena.
Since November 2010, when she was released from house arrest, Suu Kyi has been the dominating presence in Myanmar’s struggle to free itself from military rule. On the basis of her political ancestry (Aung San, her father, played a key role in the country’s fight for freedom from British rule) and the immense public support she commands, Suu Kyi has come to create a strong political pole in the country.
Confident of popular support, Suu Kyi has sometimes crossed the barriers set by the military. To take one example, when she was barred from the presidency by a clause in the constitution that prevents those with close foreign relatives from reaching the highest position – her two sons are British citizens – she created the position of “state counselor” and reserved for herself the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In March 2020, Suu Kyi’s party proposed a constitutional amendment to allow her to become President, something the military clearly could not accept since they designed the constitution specifically so that she could never be president. As Suu Kyi was growing more powerful, the military decided to put a stop to this before it was too late.
Charting a New Path
In response to the coup, tens of thousands of protesters have marched daily in Yangon and Mandalay, the country’s biggest cities and the demonstrations have spread throughout the country – including the capital city of Naypyitaw. These demonstrations are the inevitable result of Suu Kyi’s popularity. To ensure that these protests succeed, a new path needs to be charted – one that does not emulate the submissive politics of NLD.
Instead of confronting the Tatmadaw, the NLD thinks that by doing the junta a favour, they will hopefully grant them the minimal democratic reforms it wants. But it is crystal clear that they will never grant democratic reforms that truly threaten their power and privilege, thus this liberal path reveals itself as nothing but complicity in the efforts of the ruling class to deceive the masses. The only way to remove the junta from power is through revolutionary praxis that defends the oppressed masses from the authoritarian capitalist system under which they live.
Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (51 sites)