Tag Archives: russia

Loyal Opposition

Donald Trump has appointed Rex Tillerson, the sitting CEO of ExxonMobil, as Secretary of State. Which is really weird. Why are Democrats focused on something relatively minor: his relationship with Russia?

Donald Trump has appointed Rex Tillerson, the sitting CEO of ExxonMobil, as Secretary of State. Which is really weird. Why are Democrats focused on something relatively minor: his relationship with Russia?

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on RedditDigg thisShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Russian Hacking: Where’s the Evidence?

Image result for media ted rall

At the smallest, crappiest newspaper in the world – even at a high school paper – no sane editor would publish a story that wasn’t backed by solid evidence. As the 20th century print journalism cliché goes, if your mother says she loves you check it out. So why are the nation’s most prestigious multi-Pulitzer-winning newsgathering organizations repeatedly claiming that hackers working for the Russian government stole emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, and gave them to WikiLeaks?

Because the CIA says so.

Well, not the actual CIA. Some unidentified people who claim to have seen some report say so.

The charge against Russia is explosive. “In a ‘closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill last week,’ intelligence officials told senators that it was now “quite clear’ that electing Trump was Russia’s goal,” according to Vox. Hothead Sarah Palin enabler and senior Arizona Senator John McCain called it “an act of war.”

Even Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman — historically a voice of reason and prescience — dove into the neo-Red-baiting morass of this weird month, writing that “bad guys hacked the election” thanks to “useful idiots” (a Cold War slur used against lefties like, um, Krugman, pinned here to Trump and his advisors).

(Hypocrisy alert! I’ll save my catalog of covert U.S. attacks against other nations’ democratic elections — Obama’s role in the recent coup in Honduras comes to mind — for some future book, a format where word counts aren’t as constricting.)

explainersmallAnyway, newspapers and magazines and radio and television and Internet news sites say that Russia was behind the hacks. So, as my editor at the Columbia Daily Spectator would surely have asked, what is the basis of this contention?

“The CIA.’s conclusion does not appear to be the product of specific new intelligence obtained since the election, several American officials, including some who had read the agency’s briefing, said on Sunday,” wrote the Times’ Mark Mazzetti and Eric Lichtblau. “Rather, it was an analysis of what many believe is overwhelming circumstantial evidence — evidence that others feel does not support firm judgments — that the Russians put a thumb on the scale for Mr. Trump, and got their desired outcome.”

The primary basis of this “overwhelming circumstantial evidence” appears to be that whoever hacked the DNC also hacked the RNC but only released the DNC stuff to WikiLeaks. “If the Russians were going to interfere, why on earth would they do it to the detriment of the candidate that was pro-Russian?” asked Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

My editor at the Spec would not have been impressed.

As Sam Biddle writes at The Intercept, “you can’t help but notice all of the qualifying words: Possibly, appears, connects, indicates.”

This is one of those awkward times when you have to admit that Donald Trump has a point: why should we take the CIA, whose BS Iraqi WMD intel led to the deaths of over a million people, at its word?

Why would the very same journalists who let themselves get duped 13 years ago dutifully transcribe what amounts to nothing more than unsubstantiated allegations?

I don’t know if Russia is innocent of hacking those emails — any more than the New York Times and the Washington Post and CBS News and so on know that they’re guilty.

No one knows.

Well, the CIA (and the hackers, if there indeed were hacks) might know. But if the spooks have any evidence, much less proof, they aren’t showing it to us or those idiotic media outlets. Which makes this an unsourced story — and one whose geopolitical implications, involving the world’s most heavily-armed nuclear states makes it incomprehensibly, irredeemably irresponsible to spread around.

If the government wants to warn us that a Russian puppet is about to move into the White House, they ought to take a cue from JFK, who went on television to show secret US spy photos of Soviet missiles in Cuba.

Show us the evidence or shut up.

As if this “Russia hacked the election” episode wasn’t enough to showcase the intellectual bankruptcy of America’s state-controlled news media, the stenographers are ignoring a far more credible explanation for how WikiLeaks got the Podesta/DNC emails: they were leaked, not hacked.

Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan and WikiLeaks associate, told The Daily Mail that a DNC insider motivated by “disgust at the corruption of the Clinton Foundation and the tilting of the primary election playing field against Bernie Sanders” personally gave it to him in Washington. “Neither of [the leaks] came from the Russians,” Murray says. “The source had legal access to the information. The documents came from inside leaks, not hacks.”

Murray is a paragon of integrity, having sacrificed his diplomatic career in order to call out Islam Karimov, the sadistic tyrant of Uzbekistan known for boiling political dissidents to death and his cozy ties to the U.S. (His account “Murder in Samarkand” is highly recommended for its brutal honesty.)

Regardless of your politics, Murray is infinitely more believable than the CIA.

WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange confirms that “the Russian government is not the source.” Assange too has an impeccable reputation.

As far as I can tell, only one U.S. outlet, the right-wing Washington Times, has covered the Murray angle.

Everyone “knows” that Russia hacked the election. But it may or may not be true. To the contrary! The facts point to a leak.

There is “overwhelming circumstantial evidence” that the moral midgets of American corporate media don’t have the slightest interest in uncovering the truth. How perfect as we enter the Age of Trump.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. Please consider supporting Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on RedditDigg thisShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Democratic Party’s Last Chance: Fight Trump or Die

Image result for democratic senators

Democrats need to stop grasping at straws.

Shocked by Trump’s win and dismayed at his half billionaire, half military junta cabinet, liberals are thrashing about in the stinking waters of dying American democracy, hoping against hope for something — anything — to stop Trump from becoming president on January 20th. That, or to send him packing as soon as possible afterward.

Some Dems point to the CIA allegation that the president-elect received an assist, via WikiLeaks, from Russian government hackers. If this could proved, they ask, especially if Trump knowingly colluded with Vladimir Putin’s tech-savvy underlings to deny Hillary Clinton her God-intended victory, wouldn’t that force him to step aside?

Sorry, my liberal friends: that deus won’t ex machina.

explainersmallFirst, the intelligence community hasn’t presented a shred of evidence, much less proof, that the Russians hacked the DNC or John Podesta’s emails. (Even Americans know that “overwhelming circumstantial evidence” doesn’t mean anything.) When Trump scoffed that the wise men of U.S. intelligence were the same geniuses who gave us the Iraq War, he had a point. The spooks are discredited. No proof, no scandal. Even if there were proof, who would force Trump back to his Tower? Not the Republican congressmen and senators wallowing in the surprise win they handed him. No GOP leaders behind it, no impeachment.

Then there’s the mother of all Hail Mary passes: trying to convince roughly 40 members of the Electoral College pledged to Trump to vote for Hillary instead. This, courtesy of Michael Moore et al., is much discussed in liberal circles. It is a Thing. But it is a Dumb Thing, one doomed to failure. Electors are hacks slavishly devoted to their parties. It’s much too much to ask them to turn “faithless” in support of a coup, to undermine democracy in support of a candidate whose approval ratings never climbed above (tied for) “most unpopular ever.”

There are only two realistic ways to get rid of President Trump: street protests and Democratic intransigence.

A sustained campaign of national street protests might make it so impossible for him to govern that he might lose support among influential Republican leaders, especially those from blue states. Pro tip: “sustained” means 24-7, 365 days a year. Not 20 or 200 people here and there, but thousands and tens of thousands, in every city — a great constellation of Tahrir Squares that brings traffic, consumerism, news, the economy, to a grinding halt.

Of course, Trump might order his cops and soldiers to shoot the protesters. That’s what China did to the students at Tiananmen Square, a crackdown of which Trump approved: “Then [the Chinese authorities] were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.”

Or, like Obama did to Occupy Wall Street, have his Homeland Security department coordinate systematic beatdowns, or “sweeps” as corporate media dutifully calls such things. Resistance is not a tea party.

Things may and probably will change. However, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for a mass uprising à la Paris May 1968. There’s no party or group capable of mass organizing in the United States, much less a radical leftist front — which is what such a militant mobilization would require.

Protests are boring. It rains and snows. Cops are scary.

This is why the anti-Trump protests following Election Day petered out in less than a week, and why January 21st‘s Million Women March is likely to impress for a day, then be forgotten January 22nd. (Example: men are welcome but don’t know it. Because: stupid title. Was the URL for Million Women Plus One March taken? Also: didn’t we learn from the election that Democrats get in trouble when they snub guys?)

Our best chance to stop or slow down Trump lies with Democratic legislators in the House and Senate.

Recent history doesn’t give reason to believe that Congressional Democrats will turn into a left-wing “party of no,” working as hard as Tea Party Republicans did to block President Obama’s judicial appointments and legislative initiatives. These are the same Democrats whose votes gave George W. Bush the fascist USA-Patriot Act and two aggressive wars of choice with no end in sight.

But what if the party of Pelosi and Reid were to grow a pair? There’s a lot they could do to take the wind out of The Donald’s authoritarian sails.

To a man, Trump’s cabinet picks are morally objectionable, ideologically unacceptable and objectively unqualified: a climate denialist to run the EPA, an idiot at HUD, a general (one of several) for the DOD who wants Congress to change a law mandating civilian rule, the CEO of ExxonMobil as Secretary of State.

Democrats should say “you’re fired!” to every last one of these turkeys.

And they can. Thanks to Harry Reid, the filibuster rule is no more, so Republicans can approve these guys with a simple majority. But any Democratic Senator — just one — may put a secret personal hold on a presidential appointee. That’s exactly what Democrats should do. And that’s what we ought to demand. Let Trump go back to LinkedIn to find better-qualified nominees.

Democrats should demand special prosecutors to look into Trump’s tax returns and the brazen conflicts of interest between his real estate business and his duties as president. Tie the bastard up with endless hearings, just like the GOP did with the Monica Lewinsky scandal and Benghazi.

Since payback is a bitch and Trumpism presents a grave and present danger to the republic, no Democratic legislator ought to negotiate with Republicans or vote for any Republican-sponsored bills. Yes, that counts the stuff Democrats might actually like, such as building new infrastructure. If the GOP wants it, the answer is no. Always. No matter what.

You don’t “find common ground with” or “cooperate with” or “reach out to” a tyrant-in-waiting. Which, after the next terrorist attack or other security threat, is exactly what Trump will expose himself as. Faced with incipient evil you stand firm, united in your conviction that everything that tyrant-in-waiting stands for is evil and un-American.

You block everything they want. You become the biggest Party of No parliamentary democracy has ever known. Because, even if you’re not sure it’s the right thing to do, it’s smart.

Disgusted and now dominant, the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party is ten seconds from bolting. Democrats have one last chance to act like Democrats — something they haven’t done in 50 years — or watch their party come apart at the seams.

Nonresistance is futile.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on RedditDigg thisShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

2003 All Over Again

Remember the run up to the Iraq war? The Bush Administration made the case to invade based on a bunch of what ifs. Now the Democratic Party and its standardbearer Hillary Clinton is theorizing that Russia may have been behind hacks of the Democratic National Committee and seems willing to provoke a possible new cold war with our former rival. The logic seems very familiar.

Remember the run up to the Iraq war? The Bush Administration made the case to invade based on a bunch of what ifs. Now the Democratic Party and its standardbearer Hillary Clinton is theorizing that Russia may have been behind hacks of the Democratic National Committee and seems willing to provoke a possible new cold war with our former rival. The logic seems very familiar.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on RedditDigg thisShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

6 Crazy Things Donald Trump Says That Are Absolutely Right

Originally published by SkewedNews.net:

Donald-Trump-9002Donald Trump has surged to the top of the Republican heap by saying outrageous things, issuing over-the-top insults, and making ridiculous proposals. Some of his utterances, like his sexist remarks about Carly Fiorina’s looks, are offensive. His nativist demagoguery, calling for mass arrests and deportations of Latinos and a visa ban to Muslim visitors, are outright fascist.

Trump also says stuff that other politicians, and the media are afraid to say and need to be said. Here is a sample of the top six.

  • Invading Iraq was stupid. The pundits say San Bernadino changed everything, at least the race for the Republican nomination, replacing pocketbook issues with foreign policy and terrorism as voters’ main concerns. If that’s true, if hawkishness is king, then why is the GOP frontrunner doing well despite his consistent opposition to invading Iraq — the most significant Republican-led foreign policy initiative of the last 30 years? “Right now we have ISIS, which is worse than Hussein. Hussein did one thing: he killed terrorists,” Trump said in May. “We are in worse shape than we ever were. It’s a mess.” Most American people agree — but even Democrats don’t come down as hard on Bush’s Iraq War as Trump. (Maybe that’s cuz Hillary voted for it and Bernie, supposedly the wild socialist of the campaign, voted to fund it.) Everything else aside, Trump deserves points for hammering away at this.
  • Interventionism in the Middle East is stupid. Bernie Sanders criticizes America’s penchant for “regime change,” but Trump uses a sledgehammer where Sanders is content with calm analysis. Trump is also more willing to say that a secular socialist dictator beats the after-me-the-deluge play-it-by-ear approach we’ve seen lately, creating power vacuums filled by radical Islamists. She is the one that caused all this problem with her stupid policies,” Trump said December 13, referring to Hillary’s tenure as secretary of state. “You look at what she did with Libya [assassinating Moammar Khaddafi and funding Benghazi-based rebels, including many radicals], what she did with Syria [supporting the Free Syrian Army, parts of which became ISIS]. Look at Egypt, what happened with Egypt, a total mess. [The Obama Administration secretly supported the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, then yielded to buyer’s remorse and backed the military coup that overthrew Mohamed Morsi, the nation’s first democratically elected president.] They don’t back — we don’t back any of our allies. You look, she was truly, if not ‘the,’ one of the worst secretary of states in the history of the country. She talks about me being dangerous. She’s killed hundreds of thousands of people with her stupidity.” “What do you mean, hundreds of thousands?” a TV host asked, clearly shocked at his candor. “She was secretary of state. Obama was president, the team,” Trump replied. “Two real geniuses.” Trump has it right — dead right.
  • Good relations with Russia would be a good thing. Reading and watching corporate media, you could easily forget that the Berlin Wall ever came down or that the Cold War ever ended. Never mind that post-Soviet Russia has never directly confronted the United States in its sphere of influence. To his credit, sees the wisdom of not picking fights with a nation with the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, a colossus that spans nine time zones and possesses vast natural resources. “I believe I’ll get along fine with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” Trump reiterated “I believe I’ll get along fine with other leaders. Obama doesn’t get along with Putin. Putin can’t stand our president and it’s causing us difficulty. And, frankly, and I said it a long time ago, if Russia wants to bomb the hell out of ISIS and join us in that effort, I am absolutely fine with it. I think that’s an asset, not a liability.”
  • Electoral politics in America are corrupt. I will tell you that our system is broken,” Trump said during one of the debates. “I give to many people. I give to everybody, when they call I give, and you know what? When I need something from them, two years, three years later, I call, they are there for me.” No one else, certainly not Hillary or his rival GOP contenders who are on the take, has the credibility of a guy who can personally attest to using his billions to buy Congressmen and Senators.
  • We need more legal immigration. As noted above, immigration policy is where Trumpism goes off the rails. Even so, Trump makes one reasonable point: we need less illegal immigration and — this next parts gets lost a lot in the furor over his calls for magical walls he’ll somehow get Mexico to pay for — more legal immigration. “Build a wall with a big beautiful door for legal immigration,” Trump said. Granted, he has flipflopped on the issue. But increasing legal immigration is still a conversation we need to be having — even though a lot of the new arrivals ought to be (sorry, Donald) Muslim refugees from places we screwed up, like Syria.
  • Common Core sucks. Like many of Trump’s stances, he’s on the right side of Common Core for the wrong reasons — he doesn’t like federal control of education. (Frankly, all the countries the U.S. is falling behind have centralized educational curricula.) But the Common Core standards enacted by the Obama Administration really have been a “disaster,” as Trump says. “I believe Common Core is a very bad thing,” he says. Last year, most students failed the way-too-difficult test in 49 states, destroying confidence and self-esteem among millions of American children. Meanwhile, teachers — who can be fired if their kids don’t do well — are spending scores of hours teaching to this stupid test as opposed to, you know, teaching actual knowledge. You won’t get this straight talk on Common Core from Hillary Clinton, or even Bernie Sanders.

For Skewed News, I’m Ted Rall.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on RedditDigg thisShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

NSA Bombshell: US Is Selling Americans’ Personal Data to Iran, Russia [exclusive]

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

aNewDomain, Moscow, 01.04.2015 — The National Security Agency is selling Americans’ personal data to private corporations in order to raise revenues for stretched federal coffers, according to a blockbuster report to be released by Second Look Media.

It turns out that Second Look, which is 50-percent owned by billionaire eBay founder Iranian-American Pierre Omidyar, is a 25-percent spinoff of First Look Media, known for transcribing NSA documents leaked by former NSA/CIA contractor Edward Snowden.

Second Look is scheduled to publish the details on April 1.

NSA bombshellThe program began during Barack Obama’s first term in office, when congressional Republicans began “cockblocking” Obama’s every move and denying even routine budget appropriations. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is reported to have suggested to the frustrated president that the government should consider “rolling big-data style, like they do in Silicon Valley” i.e., monetizing valuable personal information that is in the hands of its agencies and federal departments.

Attention naturally turned to the NSA, which methodically intercepts, stores and indexes every digital communication on earth, including those between American citizens. The communications include, but are not limited to, email, text messages, voice phone calls, cell phone metadata, faxes, bank wire transfers, and even telegraph, which is still used by remote train stations in Nevada and Utah. “If someone figures out a way to bring back the passenger pigeon, we’ll snag the sucker, Xerox its ass, and implant a chip in his brain just in case someone wants to use him to say something,” said former NSA director Michael Hayden in 2009, prior to his resignation.

According to sources, the NSA held secret online auctions on the so-called “darknet” to offer transcriptions, recordings, bank account numbers and even the sexual habits of Americans to the highest bidder, regardless of whether its country of origin has good relations with the United States.

Most of the gigantic data files ended up in relatively benign hands, such as an affiliate of the Brazilian social network Bazoo, which ran searches on Portuguese-sounding names in order to market spam email offering 35-percent discounts on Brazilian waxes.

However, the Russian energy giant Gazprom, which is closely affiliated with President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, allegedly purchased voice recordings of every phone call in the upper Midwest between February 2012 and January 2013. Although their intent can’t be known positively, analysts believe the Russians wanted to learn more about the fracking industry, both as a form of industrial espionage, and also in order to use shell companies to acquire drilling rights under the homes of registered Republicans.”

Obama administration officials speaking under condition of anonymity confirmed the basic details of this account, but deny that they did anything wrong. “First and foremost, we ran this past the lawyers. There’s a reason that they call people who live in the United States ‘Americans.’ That’s because they live in America. Anything that is in America belongs to America. In other words, people are just like dogs, cats, wild turkeys, worms, what have you – that’s the government’s property. That’s pretty much been the case ever since the Emancipation Proclamation.”

Bob Jenkins of the American Civil Liberties Union expressed concern about what he called a “novel” interpretation of constitutional law that he said “seems to contradict two centuries of legal precedent and 800 years of Anglo-American common law dating back to the Magna Carta.”

But the administration official says that the data is the president’s to sell, and he will do so as long as there is a huge federal deficit to pay off to China. Says the source, ‘Anyway, section 215(b) of the USA Patriot Act authorizes the president to do anything it takes in order to defeat Al Qaeda, and we won’t be able to take on the terrorists if we are too broke to buy any weapons.’ “

Speaking under condition of anonymity based on threats of this reporter, a representative of the NSA who may or may not work there said that the government takes care to sell American data only to private companies who “we know can pretty much be trusted.”

But that seems to be belied by a $14-million sale of DNA records belonging to Millennials and Generation Xers who make $38,000 to $54,000 a year to FarsiNet. After the sale was complete, the NSA was surprised to learn via Twitter that FarsiNet was, in fact, affiliated with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Still, the NSA has no plans to change the program as long as there is no reaction from the public. “We desperately need that extra spending money,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. “For example, you know the $14 million everyone’s making such a fuss about? We used that to add a new wing to the NSA’s new data farm in Utah. And will use the data we store there to make another $140 million, and so on and so forth, until we can finance maybe a quarter of our next war.”

For aNewDomain, I’m Red Tall.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on RedditDigg thisShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

Archival War

Archival Warfare

FDR asked Congress for a formal Declaration of War against Germany and Japan. Subsequent presidents asked Congress for various forms of legal justifications to attack other nation-states. Now Obama is further eroding Congress’ right to declare war by relying on obselete and irrelevant authorizations for old conflicts.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on RedditDigg thisShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

Sovereignty

Sovereignty Isn't For Everybody

President Obama has warned Russia that invading a sovereign nation is a violation of international law that will not be tolerated. He has announced various economic and other sanctions. Clearly the United States would never have anything to do with anything like that.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on RedditDigg thisShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Four Horsemen of the American Apocalypse

http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.1707148.1393683215!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_635/527604029.jpg

 

What the Media Can’t/Won’t Tell You About Why Russia Invaded Ukraine

As usual, America’s foreign correspondents are falling down on the job.

Stories devoid of historical context cast Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a naked act of neo-Soviet aggression. Considering that the relevant history begins a mere two decades ago, its omission is inexcusable.

The spark that led to the takeover of Crimea was not the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovich. It is what happened the day after.

A 2012 law gave the Russian language official status in regions where Russians comprise more than 10% of the population. This is the case in most of eastern Ukraine and particularly in Crimea, where 59% are ethnic Russians.

One week ago, Ukraine’s rump parliament (members of Yanukovich’s party, hiding from opposition forces and in fear for their lives, didn’t show up) took advantage of Yanukovich’s downfall to overturn the language law. Americans didn’t notice, but Russians did.

            Attack on the Russian language in Ukraine is a brutal violation of ethnic minority rights,” Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights, tweeted that day.

Seems a little over-the-top, right?

Sure, but only if you don’t know that millions of ethnic Russians in former Soviet Republics have suffered widespread discrimination and harassment since the 1991 collapse — and that their troubles began with laws eliminating Russian as an official language.

Laws like the one passed last week in Ukraine.

The demise of the Soviet Union left 25 million Russians stranded in 14 newly independent states, in such countries as Belarus, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Ukraine. These new countries had to scramble in order to create the trappings of national identity virtually overnight. They designed new flags, composed national anthems and printed new currency.

To instill a sense of loyalty and patriotism, the governments of many of the freshly-minted republics resorted to rank nationalism.

Nationalism isn’t just about what your country is. It’s also about what it isn’t. This requires defining some things — some people — as outsiders. Unwanted. Scapegoats. Enemies of the state.

Turkmenistan, a Central Asian dictatorship and former Soviet republic in Central Asia, is one example. It instituted a policy of “Turkmenization” after 1991. Russians, a privileged group before independence, were now refused work permits. A 2000 decree banned the use of the Russian language in official business; since Turkmenistan is a totalitarian state and all business is legally governmental, this reduced Russians who didn’t speak Turkmen to poverty and low-status jobs.

The Turkmen government abolished dual Turkmen-Russian citizenship, leading to the mass exodus of panicked Russians in 2003. Denaturalization — the stripping away of citizenship — followed. “Many people…were having to sell houses and apartments at far below market values in order to leave by the deadline,” reported the UN. Hundreds of thousands of people lost everything they owned.

“Over the past decade Russians have been systematically discriminated against, and currently hold no positions in Turkmenistan’s government or state institutions,” says the report.

Russians who remained behind after 2003 fared poorly. “On the streets of the eastern city of Turkmenabat, Russians appear to be rapidly becoming an underclass in a nation mired in poverty. Many scrape a living as taxi drivers, waitresses or in other low paying, insecure jobs.”

Harassment of Russians is rife throughout the former USSR. Every other Commonwealth of Independent States nation has abolished dual citizenship.

In the former Soviet Union, everyone knows that the road to statelessness, unpersonhood and poverty begins with the official elimination of Russian as an official language.

National language statutes targeted against Russian speakers are analogous to Nazi Germany’s Nuremberg Laws, which prevented Jews from holding jobs or even owning a radio: the beginning of the end. At the end of the Soviet period in 1989, the Tajik SSR passed a law establishing Tajik as the sole official language. Less than two decades later, 85% of ethnic Russians had left the country.

“The linguistic nationalization carried out in each republic provided a strong impetus to emigrate…Even if schools systematically introduce children to the official language today, the [former Soviet] states have established no programs to train adults,” Seymour Peyrouse noted in a 2008 report for the Woodrow Wilson Institute about the Central Asian republics. “It seems that the principal cause of emigration remains the absence of a future, or the perception of such, for the younger generations.”

Given recent history, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that ethnic Russians freaked out when one of the first official acts of Ukraine’s parliament was a linguistic nationalization law.

As for Russia’s response, you need to know two facts. First, Ukraine isn’t as independent of Russia as, say, Poland. None of the former Soviet republics are. “Kiev is an ancient Russian city,” Masha Gessen writes in Vanity Fair. “It is an overnight train ride from Moscow — closer than 90% of Russia is to the Russian capital. Russian citizens haven’t needed visas or even foreign-travel passports to go to Ukraine — the way U.S. citizens can enter Canada with only a driver’s license. Every store clerk, waiter, and taxi driver in Kiev speaks Russian.” And of course there’s the Black Sea Fleet. Really really independent countries don’t have 11,000 foreign troops stationed on their soil.

Had it been possible for rational diplomats and demographers to manage the Soviet collapse, Crimea probably would have wound up in Russia.

Until half a century ago, after all, Crimea was Russian. Nikita Khrushchev “gifted Crimea to Ukraine as a gesture of goodwill to mark the 300th anniversary of Ukraine’s merger with tsarist Russia. Not surprisingly, at the time, it did not occur to anyone that one day the Soviet Union might collapse and that Ukraine would again be an independent country,” writes The Moscow Times.

It’s easy to see why Vladimir Putin would invade, why Russian public opinion would support him, and why neither cares what America thinks. Back in September, after all, most Russians told pollsters Crimea is part of Russia.

Why are American reporters covering Crimea ignoring the big picture, and instead so focused on secondary distractions like how it makes Obama look and whether there’s a chance of a new Cold War?

Four horsemen of the journalism apocalypse afflict overseas reporting:

Journalistic stenography, in which attending a government press conference constitutes research.

Kneejerk patriotism, where reporters identify with their government and are therefore less likely to question its actions, while reflexively assuming that rivals of the U.S. are ill-intentioned.

Jack-of-all-trades journalism, in which the same writers cover too many different beats. A few decades ago, there would have been a bureau chief, or at least a stringer, who knew Ukraine and/or the former Soviet Union because he or she lived there.

American ahistoricism, the widespread and widely acceptable ignorance of politics and history — especially those of other countries.

All four horsemen are pulling the Crimea story, but the fourth — not being aware of stuff that happened just one generation ago — is the most embarrassing.

(Support independent journalism and political commentary. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on RedditDigg thisShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone