Putin and “Nazis”

Putin and Russian media keep claiming that one of the reasons they attacked Ukraine is to de-Nazify it. Their rhetoric claims that the nazi forces were a direct threat to Russia and they had no choice but to attack in order to defend themselves. 

When you think of Nazis, what comes to mind? I think most Americans and West Europeans associate Nazis with a racist ideology wielded by a fascist, expansionist government in order to commit genocide. In short, really bad people with repugnant beliefs using violence to accomplish their goals. Nazis are most definitely a bad thing to have on your border. 

The thing is, all the stuff that we think of as being bad about nazis aren’t really on Putin’s radar. Let’s go through the list.

1) Racism. How can I put this delicately? Eastern Europe in general is not known as welcoming place for other races, religions, sexualities, etc. Antisemitism is still rife across all of eastern Europe (and far too common in the US sadly). You will never hear any Russian political or news media figure utter any concern over jews. Suffice it to say that Russia isn’t  invading Ukraine in order to protect Jews or any ethnicity. 

2) Fascism. Fascism is another thing that is generally considered to be a very bad thing. Fascist governments are typically headed by a strong leader buoyed by nationalism run amok, a strong centralized government, strict control over media, and largely concerned about self perpetuation instead of the process of governance. Ukraine doesn’t fit any of that. Russia on the other hand has become the epitome of a fascist state. 

3) Expansionist ideals. Hitler wasn’t happy with Germany’s then current borders. He dreamed of reclaiming past German glories and adding to the empire. He clearly had ambitions to have all of Europe. Ukraine has no such ambitions. It is already the largest country in Europe and its government never had any ambitions to expand. Russia? Wow. 

Putin has long lamented that the breakup of the Soviet Union was a historical mistake and disaster. He has frequently talked about Ukraine as being a made up country, an accident of Stalin’s making. No, what is referred to as Ukraine is actually a part of Russia according to not only Putin but many “hard liners” in Russian society. Not only that but media figures on state controlled Russian TV are openly calling for the Baltics and Moldova to be incorporated next after they are finished with Ukraine. Naturally Poland would be the next pan Slavic annexation after those had been controlled. 

I maintain that Russia is the only European empire not to have been corrected by modern political philosophies. The French were the first European power in “modern” history to feel the rejection of expansionist goals. Napoleon was determined to try to be Charlemagne, Europe wasn’t having it. Later, the Ottoman Empire and Austria/Prussia got broken up. We all know what happened to Germany when they tried again. Russia? They expanded dramatically after World War 2. Sure, in theory there were lots of separate countries but in reality the Soviet Bloc was really just an extension of the USSR. 

In many conservative Russian circles, the USSR ran into some unfortunate trouble in 1990 but in an ideal world all of the former colonies soviet bloc countries would still be under Russian control. It’s safe to say that Russia does not consider a nation’s ambitions to expand as being a bad thing. 

4) Genocide is a big and ugly word. It should not be used lightly. The nazis were explicit in their goals of wiping out not only the jews but also other “undesirables” like the Roma and many Slavs, especially Poles. As far as I know, the Soviets and now the Russians have never explicitly mentioned anything along the same lines. But, as they say, actions speak louder than words. 

While Russia may not have advanced a clear hatred of and desired the elimination of a particular group the military has showed no compunction in eliminating vast numbers of people to accomplish its goals. In the mid 90s Russia showed the world its military tactics in Grozny. It started with them bombing a maternity hospital and attacks on civilian infrastructure. It ended with the Russians agreeing to a ceasefire and allowing the defeated group to leave. The Russians mined the agreed upon evacuation route and ambushed the departing army. The shelling continued and the fighters were killed alongside countless civilians. In 2003 The UN called Grozny the most destroyed city on earth. 

Similar tactics are still being used by the Russians in Syria. The Red Cross has stopped providing Russians with the locations of hospitals because it became clear that they were being targeted instead of being avoided. Syria has seen widespread indiscriminate bombing and destruction. Much of it simply to show overwhelming force in order to cower people into surrendering. 

A similar pattern has been seen in Ukraine. Indiscriminate targeting of civilian areas, seemingly deliberate strikes on hospitals, schools, and shelters, it’s all looking very familiar. Now we are seeing the torture, rape, and widespread killing of civilians in occupied areas of Ukraine. The horrors of Bucha will unfortunately pale in comparison to what’s to come in places that Russia has occupied for longer. 

Official publicans of the Russian military of defense is calling for the elimination of Ukrainians. Many mass graves have been found. When it was reported that invading Russian forces were bringing portable crematoriums everyone snarked that Russia was trying to avoid bad press back home by not shipping home fallen soldiers. Thinking about it a little that doesn’t make any sense. What we have seen in Bucha makes clear is that the Russian military was/is planning on mass killings. We now have information that the Russians are using crematoriums in Maripul.

Russia is not concerned about genocide. 

So if Putin and hardliners aren’t offended by racism, expansionism, or genocide and Ukraine wasn’t going to do any of that anyway why do they keep talking about Nazis? You might think that it is just a propaganda talking point. It is certainly that but there is more to it. What Putin really objects to is a bordering country that is democratic and wants to join the EU. A Russian speaking country enjoying the fruits of European citizenship is a moral peril for Putin’s governance. So how do you sell the Russian public on war? You make Ukrainians into the Boogyman. 

Fear and hatred of Nazis is hard coded into the Russian psyche.  They fear Nazis not because they were racists but because they killed 20 million Russians. That’s over three times the number of Germans killed in the war. In Russian’s eyes, the nazis’ anti Russian tendencies are their biggest sin.

Putin can use the term nazi as shorthand for any western power that is against Russia. Indeed, you hear many Russian pundits referring to the battle in Ukraine as being against the West. Putin and his media have informed the Russian public that the sanctions were bound to happen eventually anyway. The us versus them narrative is simply reinforced as the western sanctions start to bite. 

culture music politics

My Facebook Feed (My War)

My last post was a reaction to my perusal of my Twitter timeline. Alas, it doesn’t seem to have gotten any traction which is too bad. Going through my Facebook feed all that came to mind was this:

I have never understood the west coast punk music that Black Flag came out of. New York punk seemed to be about rebellion and/or having fun. It reminded me of the way rock was originally. UK punk had a much more political/cultural rebellion vibe to it. West coast punk? Just anger if not outright rage. I never understood what they were so angry about.

My war! You’re one of THEM

You say that you’re my friend

But you’re one of them

Them Them Them THEM!

I’m starting to understand where this music came from now. My entire Facebook feed can be summarized as:

Tell me that I’m wrong

Try to sing me your ego song

You’re one of them

My War!

A few posts were about specific people but most were addressing the generic them. Of course most of those will never be seen by the people they are against. Like I mentioned in my last post, there is so much general anger out there and it is now feeding on itself. Think I’ll make some non-topical posts in the near future just to make sure I’m not throwing gas on the fire.

By the way, if you are one of the people that have asked me to write more, or you just want notification when I post, there is a way to get notifications when I post. At the bottom of each page here there is a form to enter your email. You’ll get notified every time I post.

culture politics

It’s anger all the way down

I’m trying to get a handle on what’s going on and getting lost in the emotions. Let me see if I’ve got this straight.

  1. A police officer shoots a man in the back a bunch of times. Lots of people assume that happened because the victim is black and so this is an example of, at a minimum, of institutional racism if not outright deliberate racism. Racism is a kind of hatred/anger.
  2. Many people in the town of the shooting protest, some go on to do really destructive things causing lots of damage. That damage is a direct result of the anger the people feel about the shooting.
  3. Other people are angry about the destructive reaction caused by anger. They bring guns to the situation, people get killed.
  4. Professional athletes decide to cancel/sit out of games in solidarity with the protesters and anger over the original shooting.
  5. Commenters on various social platforms get angry over the injection of “politics” into the sports they like and complain about it.
  6. People on social media get angry that other people are angry about athletes being angry about an angry/hateful police officer.

So we’re dealing with what, the third or fourth derivative of anger? It feels like a never ending cycle. I’m both sick of trying to trace its origins and amazed at the sheer amount of anger floating around. I’m exhausted.

I think that noticing the anger cycle is the first step of realizing how wasteful it is. It also makes it that much easier to get out of it. Being angry about a specific thing can be used to effect change. Being angry about everything is paralyzing. It’s also dangerous. Since official leadership doesn’t seem to be interested in dissipating the anger it’s up to us as individuals to deescalate. Let’s try to stop both the literal and virtual mobs from forming so we can concentrate on making a real difference.

culture freedom politics

I didn’t notice white privilege*until I was in the back of a police car.


I sold high end audio and home theater equipment for my first job out of college. I loved music and was a true gear head, the equipment itself was fascinating to me. By 1998 I had moved up to Northern Virginia and was working selling camera gear. Again, I loved photography and the gear so it was a good fit for me. I still loved audio equipment though.

I spent a lot of time at a high end audio store in McLean, a super posh suburb of DC in northern Virginia. The equipment they sold was on a level I could only dream of owning. Sublime sound, gorgeous equipment, and stratospheric prices were the hallmarks of the store. Vu, the owner, let me hang around and listen to my heart’s content. We got along really well and he wanted me to work there. I was tempted but I liked the job I had. I did take advantage of his courting though and spent a lot of time at his shop when I could.

The store had two levels. The basement had the really good stuff and that’s usually where I would hang out. One particular Sunday I went to the store. Vu was busy with a customer. He acknowledged me as I came in but I didn’t want to disturb him so I went downstairs. That night I was listening to an especially wonderful system. It was in the neighborhood of 40k worth of equipment. I had been listening for a long time by myself and realized he was bound to be closing soon. I went upstairs and found all the lights off and nobody home.

I had stayed late at my first audio job a few times to help with inventory and whatnot. What we would do is lock up the store without setting the alarm and walk across the street to eat dinner. After that we would come back, do what we needed to do, and then set the alarm when we left. When I found myself locked in the store in 98 I tried to remember the ins and outs of the alarm system. I realized that I hadn’t set off the alarm as I was walking around so I figured he hadn’t armed it. He must be coming right back, I’ll just let myself out and give him a hard time about it later on. As soon as I touched the doorknob the alarm went off.

Now my mind was racing. I could just leave but if anyone saw me it would look really bad. The phone rang. I knew it was the alarm company calling to see if the alarm had been set off by accident. Vu would have a code word to assure them things were fine. I decided to tell them what was happening. “He locked me in!” I said, “Hang on, we’ll send someone right over,” they responded. I had hoped that meant Vu but I knew better.

The police show up and I greet them through the main window at the front. I tell them that I was locked in and they motion for me to come out. Both officers were white. I only remember the one that stayed with me, he was young, maybe younger than my 27 years. As I explained the situation (downstairs, the owner knows me, etc.) my officer tells me he is now going to cuff me. “You’re going to cuff me?” He responded, “Well, we could do them behind your back if you want instead.” I nodded that I understood my situation. He patted me down and then put his cuffs on my wrists. Once I was in the back of the Crown Vic (there isn’t any leg room at all in those things!) his partner went in and looked around.

As I sat in the back of the cruiser a series of thoughts raced through my head. I knew things would eventually be OK but it wasn’t looking good in the meantime. I thought to myself, “Man, I’m glad I’m in McLean and not DC. I’m glad I don’t have a record.”

“I’m glad I’m not black.”


If you had asked me about Harvey Weinstein 5 years ago I would have said, “Who?” If you had instead told me that a super powerful Hollywood producer was systematically assaulting and possibly raping women that wanted to work for him I would have said, “Duh.” Everyone knew about the casting couch. It was widely understood that was how Hollywood worked. It was also understood that being able to do that sort of thing was a big reason why those men wanted that position. It was a perk of the job.

So in 1998 when I thought to myself, “I’m glad I’m not black.” I wasn’t filled with a seething anger about systematic racism or the disproportionate rate of violence and arrests that black people were subjected to by the police. No, it was a plain statement of fact. Everyone knew the police didn’t like black people. Everyone knew that black folks got carted off to jail for any reason at all. And so I was happy I wasn’t black. That was as far as my thought process went at the time.

The officer’s buddy came out of the shop. They had been in contact with the alarm company and had the alarm shut off but they couldn’t get a hold of Vu. He also said it doesn’t look like anything was amiss. I have no idea how he could know that, the place wasn’t exactly neat and there was, unbeknownst to him, a lot of small, crazy expensive stuff laying around. In any case, they decided to let me go. I don’t even think they checked my car. At the time I figured that they thought I was either telling the truth or I was the world’s worst burglar.

Fast forward about 15 years and I have had several black housemates, one of which had done time for selling drugs. Talking with them I got a better feel of what their experiences with law enforcement were like. A very troubling series of alternative scenarios came to me as I thought about what happened on that night in 98.


Normally you consider how you talk to be normal and other people have accents. I remember the first time I ever noticed an American accent. Jean Luc Goddard’s film “Breathless” is a classic French New Wave film. Unsurprisingly the entire cast is French. The lone exception played an American expat. Hearing Jean Seberg yelling, “New York Herald Tribune!” grated on the ears after hearing nothing but French native speakers. Is that what I sound like? Yikes.

As I thought about that night in 1998 I realized my whiteness was yelling “New York Herald Tribune!” How? We’ll start with the fact that the police let me go. I was a little surprised even when it happened. It was a ridiculous situation and I had nothing to offer the police as way of proof of what I said. If I were black I’m pretty sure I would have been booked.

But going a little deeper I realized that my reactions would have been completely different if I were black. When I answered the phone and talked to the alarm company I did so under the belief that since it was all a silly mistake everything would work out in the end. There isn’t any way I would have thought that if I were black. At best I would expect to be face down on the ground being read my rights and then spending a night in jail. At worst? Well…. No, if I were black and the alarm went off I would have gotten the hell out of there as quickly as I could. Of course if someone saw me leave I’m sure the police would have tracked down my car and greeted me with guns drawn when they found me.


So I had a glimmer of what white privilege was in 1998 but it was a shallow and entitled view. It took 15 years and living with people that had experienced being black while dealing with police for me to really comprehend how privileged I was. It isn’t enough to know that you have it better with the police because you are white. You need to understand that you have options when it comes to actions to take and the assumptions you make when it comes to the police that black folks do not. And with just a little bit more thought (just a little) you’ll start to comprehend that goes well beyond just dealing with the police. If you are black there is another level of stuff that you will have to deal with all the time that whites can’t understand because it doesn’t exist for us. That stuff complicates everything, no matter who or what you are dealing with. It is a reactive force thrust upon you and impacts every thought you have and therefore every action you take. White privilege is living without that extra layer of history and personal experiences complicating everything including what you think of yourself and what a lot of people expect out of you just because of The color of your skin. I can point to a singular moment in 1998 when I undoubtedly benefitted because of my race. What I can’t point to is the vague complexity of all of the things in my life that would have been different if I were black. Most white people don’t have the former but all have the latter and are oblivious.

I’m thankful to have had not only that moment in 1998 but also the exposure to black experiences needed to put it into perspective. While I don’t think it’s a good idea for everyone to be suspected of robbery I think that being exposed to the black experience is something we should all be expected to do. Sit down and talk with black folks, it’s literally the least you can do.

*While I am completely on board with the concept, I find the term white privilege can be counterproductive at times. I think it works in this context but I hope to write more about that in the future.


The only pertinent facts in the impeachment trial

Imagine you are a Republican senator and you believe that Trump should be removed from office. If you had any integrity you’d vote to do that right? After all, remove Trump and you get Pence as President. He’s as red blooded a conservative as you can find these days. The problem facing thoughtful Republican senators (I know, I know, just go with me here) is this isn’t about maintaining a conservative president, it’s about the senators staying in office.

Trump’s popularity really is a cult of personality. Neither Trump nor his supporters have shown any loyalty to Republican rank and file members. In fact, Trump has managed to convince all Republicans that their continued support from his base is vital to their continuing political lives. His supporters would be very upset if he were replaced by Pence. The problem facing Republican senators is that supporting, let alone voting for, Trump’s removal would most likely mean they would be summarily kicked out of office next election. Politicians’ lives revolve around staying in office so they can accomplish whatever it is that they think is important. After all, you won’t get anything done if you’re not in office so everything you do has to support that goal first.

Voting your conscience is a luxury afforded only to politicians that don’t care if they get re-elected. This is why Trump will not be removed from office through this impeachment trial. The result of this trial will be determined by the beliefs of the senators’ constituents not the facts in the trial. Politics, and political life in general, is no place for idealists.


What Northam should have said

“I am here to apologize for appearing in blackface during my collage days. Not realizing how offensive it was at the time was part and parcel of the racist culture that I grew up in and was a part of. It has taken me decades (decades!) to appreciate just how offensive that activity is.

Social justice is one of the primary reasons I joined the Democratic Party. Looking back on my past pains and embarrasses me but it is a necessary step in righting wrongs. Reckoning with our past sins is part of growing and becoming a better person. With education and exposure to different viewpoints people can change. And if people can change, societies can change. As your governor, as a member of the Democratic Party, I strive to be part of that change. Thank you.”

That took me all of A few minutes to type up and I’m incredibly rusty at writing. Keep in mind that even if he doesn’t believe this (and he clearly does not) he should have said it anyway. I’m only sort of joking when I ask if you can’t even count on your politician to lie, what kind of politician are they?

There are times that a political figure will have to, if not lie outright, say things they don’t completely agree with in order to advance party priorities. In this case, he should have said something along the lines I spelled out just to keep the morale and political capital of his party up. As it stands this incident is not only a personal setback but it has done a lot of damage to his party. A lot of that could have been mitigated by being contrite, asking for forgiveness, and then using it as a rallying point to motive forward. Would that have really been so hard?


Talking to political opponents Pt. 1: Fear

If we want to advance our political viewpoint we will have to start convincing people that we don’t agree with. Even if you don’t win them over to your side you can at least establish a sensible basis of communication. That could come in handy when you need to work with them on a goal you can both agree on. In the shorter term I would just like to see less screaming at each other.

Arnold Kling is my inspiration when it comes to talking about politics. The tag line of his blog is “Take the most charitable view of those that disagree.” I think that is the key when it comes to talking to political opponents. I’ll talk about how to do that in another post but I will talk about why in this one.

So why take the most charitable view of political opponents? Because they are worried if not scared outright. The more strident the objection the more fear I hear. Unfortunately, the typical reaction to that fear is to become fearful in kind. That leads to harsh responses and the fear spiral is well on its way. Welcome to the current political climate!

I really think that recognizing fear is the key to starting actual discussions as opposed to yelling at each other. You can’t help but temper your response once you see fear in the other person. Only a psychopath would egg on fear once they detect it.

My suggestion for engaging with political opponents is to recognize and address their worry/fear. And no, calmly informing them how wrong they are is not going to accomplish that. There have been plenty of studies showing that people that have their views challenged with “facts” only makes them entrench further. I think this is because the underlying fear that motivated the outburst has gone unnoticed. If it is brought up they are told that their worry/fear is evil, wrong, or just stupid. Having what motivates you dismissed only reinforces the fear. Hence, the person giving out “facts” just doesn’t get it and is clearly an opponent to what is true and right.

If you really want to talk with your opponents, and I think this is a very good idea, you will need to do it in a way they understand. That means you will have to actually understand where they are coming from. You will have to know and understand them to the point that you could pass for someone in the same political camp as your opponent. Stay tuned for my next posts about the Three Languages of Politics and Political Turing Tests for some ideas of how to do that.


Preemptive Supreme Court ruling post

I have already heard some preemptive wailing and gnashing of teeth over the possibility that the Supreme Court will strike down parts of the ACA as it is being implemented today. As always, when a ruling goes against a group’s beliefs, political motives are blamed. Of course if the ruling goes in favor of your beliefs, the court is held up as being wise and truly understanding the law. This really doesn’t seem like an overly political issue though. Everything I’ve read makes me think this case is about implementing the law as it was written. Sure, political motivations are what brought to the case to court but that’s beside the point.

If the court does rule against the status quo, I hope there are some lessons learned. One, you actually have to implement the law that is passed, not what a lot of people think it means. Two, super complicated bills make it difficult to understand what you’re actually passing into law. And finally three, if you have to make the bill super complicated in order to get it passed at all you aren’t doing yourself any favors and the bill probably shouldn’t be passed.

I’m fully anticipating the court ruling against the Democratic (with a capital D, the party) way of thinking. I’m also anticipating a public backlash blaming conservative judges for striking down a law they don’t like. The irony of course is that they won’t be striking down a law, they will be ordering it to be implemented correctly. That is not a political decision, it is a legal one.

culture freedom politics

It’s all too much… (NSA, Syria, etc.)

The idea was that once I had my shiny new blog(s) I would commence blogging again. Aside from a few silly posts I haven’t done much really. iPhone, stereo, Doctor Who, not much of substance. It’s not as though there isn’t anything to talk about but rather that there’s too much. There are so many big things going on that make me crazy I’m overwhelmed. In addition to the ongoing drone strikes there is now:

1) The NSA scandal that won’t stop depressing me. First we found out that they are scooping up phone records of everyone, then we learn that they are collecting seemingly every interaction on the internet, we are just starting to feel the international response to revelations that the NSA spied on foreign leaders and even the UN and EU, and now we have learned that the NSA has been active in making sure it has backdoors to get around most encryption used on the internet. That last bit is worrying since if the NSA has a backdoor, others could use it as well if it is found. The idea that the NSA has weakened our protection online in order to protect us against the boogyman is galling to say the least. More and more I’m coming around to thinking that Snowden may have done the right thing…

2) Turns out the DEA is also collecting vast swathes of information about people in general. There was also talk of the DEA getting info from the NSA and then reverse engineering investigations to hide their info source. 

3) The whole Syria thing. Who exactly would we be helping if we bombed Syria? How many civilians would be killed if we bombed them? How do you determine who is a civilian in a war like that anyway? Is the desire to oust Assad really a desire to help Qatar and Saudi build a pipeline and stick it to the Russians? Three months ago I would have said that is crazy but what little trust I had in the machinations of the feds has all but evaporated. Plus, now Kerry says that “Arab” nations are offering to pay for an invasion of Syria? Ugh…

Add to that the ongoing drone strikes, various blog and publication attacks of “libertarians”, and, oh yeah, my health and I just can’t keep up with what to be outraged over.

If I force myself, I can see a bit of a glimmer of hope. There does seem to be widespread opposition to bombing Syria among the US populace. We’ll see if that’s enough to sway the representatives. And if it is enough, we’ll see if that’s enough to reign in Obama. It’s nice to see some anti-war sentiment coming back finally. I’m also sensing a building backlash over what the NSA has been up to, at least online. I do wonder how much the regular guy cares or knows about it but things do seem to be piecing up steam.

Anyway, if I can work up the energy I’ll blog in more depth on these things, but man… where do I start?


I’m going to scream…

So many of my FaceBook friends are telling me that they are voting for Obama because of Rommney’s stance on abortion or Obama’s stance on gay marriage. Most of the advertising for the candidates has been about the economy or social outlook/issues. Was no one paying attention in civics class? Big rant ahead…


It’s important to vote for the president for what the president actually can do. He does nominate Supreme court justices, but doesn’t confirm them. The reproductive rights stuff confuses me as it isn’t clear to me what the President’s stance on abortion has to do with what he can do. The same with marriage stuff.

Drone strikes on the other hand, he has total control over. It frustrates me to no end that the president actually killing people, sometimes Americans, is ignored but stuff that congress is responsible for is what is promoted for electing the president. Laws that affect social and economic issues are all on congress yet that’s all we’ve heard about this election. Kill lists? Fighting the courts for indefinite detention ? Ramped up warrentless wire tapping and expanding domestic surveillance? Record numbers of deportations? Cracking down on medical marijuana dispensaries that comply with state law? Unilateral action in Libya? Messing with the bankruptcy process to help out friends of the administration? All directly under the president’s control. Apparently everyone is OK not only with Obama doing that stuff but is also OK with a Republican getting those powers some day.

In an ideal world, we would hold an administration accountable for those actions and vote them out. Instead, we are told to hold our nose and vote for someone that has already done these things because of the fear that his opponent might do some bad things in the future. All the while being bombarded with causes that the president only has indirect influence on as the primary reason to vote for them. Mood affiliation rules the day, “Don’t vote for that asshole” is the sum of the campaigns’ and supporters’ efforts.

Sorry for ranting, but I’ve had it. I’m sick of being held hostage to the two main parties that not only embrace the executive branch power grab, but actively promote it being the determining factor across a wide range of things that the president does not control. We are not electing a king.