Category Archives: News & Views

In case you missed it: Russia launched another gas-war against Ukraine and was quickly defeated

Russia launched a gas war against Ukraine and the rest of Europe on Friday. The opening salvoes looked like Russia’s use of gas supply blackmail in the past, with “let them freeze in the dark” threats looming over Ukrainian gas consumers and westward, down-the-pipeline victims of Putin’s so-called gas weapon. But four years since the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine and four years of fighting Russia’s invasion of Crimea and Donbas have forged Ukraine into a formidable adversary for Muscovy’s imperialist aggression. By the end of the day on March 2, Russia had backed down and failed in its blitzkrieg attack against Europe’s energy security.

On February 28, Russia suffered a major defeat in a tribunal of the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce. The Stockholm Arbitration Tribunal decided in favour of Ukraine’s Naftogaz and against Russia’s Gazprom in a dispute about transit of Russian gas through pipelines across Ukraine. Gazprom was ordered to pay Naftogaz $2.56 billion, and faces half a million dollars in fines for every day that it doesn’t pay the arbitration award.

Russia never abides by international agreements and is at war with Ukraine. On March 1, Ukraine’s Naftogaz detected that Russia’s Gazprom was failing to supply the contractually obligated pressure to the pipeline transiting Ukraine. Naftogaz and the Ukrainian government sprang into action. First, they called out Gazprom on its breach of contract. Then the Ukrainians took steps to maintain pressure to down-the-pipeline customers in the European Union. The Ukrainian government and Naftogaz decided that even though Russia and Gazprom was in breach of contract to supply gas to Ukraine, Ukraine was not going to be in breach of contract to supply gas to the European Union. On March 2, it was announced that all kindergartens, schools, colleges, universities in Ukraine will be closed until March 6 to prevent an energy crisis. Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko, appealed publicly for all Ukrainians to turn down their thermostats and to reduce demand for natural gas.

On March 2, around noon, Gazprom declared war and announced that it would intentionally fail to meet its obligations under all its contracts with Naftogaz. It is clear that Putin thought Naftogaz would then pass on the effect this breach of contract to its down-the-pipeline customers in central and western Europe and cut their supply – rather than have Ukrainians “freeze in the dark” during a wintry cold spell that is affecting Ukraine and much of Europe besides. Instead, the Ukrainian government announced an intensification of conservation efforts and maintained pressure in the transit pipelines. Right in the afternoon, Naftogaz announced a new contract, with Poland’s PGNiG, for “reverse flow” supply of gas to Ukraine for Ukrainian domestic consumers. A bit later, Ukraine’s Ukrtransgaz warned its partners in the European Union about potential problems with gas transit because of unreliable sourcing from Russia, while reassuring them of the steps Ukraine was taking to meet its obligations for delivery of natural gas.

Having badly underestimated the resilience, business acumen, and moral integrity of the Ukrainians, by the evening on March 2 Gazprom admitted defeat in this phase of Russia’s gas war against Europe, and announced the resumption of its contracts with Ukraine’s Naftogaz.

In Ukraine, Corruption Is Now Undermining the Military

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry proudly announced last month that it had improved its previously meager medical services for its wounded troops with the purchase and delivery of 100 new military ambulances.

Not mentioned, however, was that many of the ambulances had already broken down. Or that they had been sold to the military under a no-bid contract by an auto company owned by a senior official in charge of procurement for Ukraine’s armed forces. Or that the official, Oleg Gladkovskyi, is an old friend and business partner of Ukraine’s president, Petro O. Poroshenko.

Ukraine’s spending on defense and security has soared since the conflict in the east started in 2014, rising from around 2.5 percent of its gross domestic product in 2013 to more than 5 percent this year, when it will total around $6 billion.

This bonanza, which will push procurement spending in 2018 to more than $700 million, has enabled Ukraine to rebuild its dilapidated military and fight to a standstill pro-Russian rebels and their heavily armed Russian backers.

But by pumping so much money through the hands of Ukrainian officials and businessmen — often the same people — the surge in military spending has also held back efforts to defeat the corruption and self-dealing that many see as Ukraine’s most dangerous enemy. . . .

He recounted how a small screwlike piece of metal purchased by Ukroboronprom for an aircraft repair factory in Lviv had skyrocketed from $50 in early 2014 to nearly $4,000 a year later, after Ukroboronprom mysteriously shifted its business to an outside supplier.

Mr. Maksimov said he had raised this and other inexplicably high prices with his superiors, but was told to drop the matter and was later fired, a dismissal he is challenging in court. . . .

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn on the need for guns

“And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?… The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If…if…We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation…. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.”

― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956

Tech Workers fleeing the Bay Area over political echo chamber

Like when you try to grasp sand, utopia is always slipping through the fingers of communists. Maybe they’ll put up a wall to keep delusional counter-revolutionaries from fleeing their paradise?


Like Peter Thiel, Tech Workers Feel Alienated by Silicon Valley ‘Echo Chamber’

Billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel has said he plans to leave Silicon Valley in part because of its perceived cultural uniformity. He isn’t the only one.

Several tech workers and entrepreneurs also have said they left or plan to leave the San Francisco Bay Area because they feel people there are resistant to different social values and political ideologies. Groupthink and homogeneity are making it a worse place to live and work, these workers said.

“I think the politics of San Francisco have gotten a little bit crazy,” said Tom McInerney, an angel investor who moved a decade ago to Los Angeles from the Bay Area.

“The Trump election was super polarizing and it definitely illustrated—and Peter [Thiel] said this—how out of touch Silicon Valley was,” said Mr. McInerney, who describes himself as fiscally conservative, but socially liberal.

Tim Ferriss, the tech investor and best-selling author of the “4 Hour Workweek,” moved to Austin, Texas, in December, after living in the Bay Area for 17 years, partly because he felt people there penalized anyone who didn’t conform to a hyper liberal credo.

People in Silicon Valley “openly lie to one another out of fear of losing their jobs or being publicly crucified,” said Mr. Ferriss in a recent discussion on Reddit.

Russian toll in Syria battle was 300 killed and wounded: sources

A Russian military doctor said around 100 had been killed, and a source who knows several of the fighters said the death toll was in excess of 80 men.

The timing of the casualties coincided with a battle on Feb. 7 near the Syrian city of Deir al-Zor where, according to U.S. officials and associates of the fighters involved, U.S.-led coalition forces attacked forces aligned with Moscow’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russian officials said five citizens may have been killed but they had no relation to Russia’s armed forces.

The clashes show Moscow is more deeply involved in Syria militarily than it has said, and risks being drawn into direct confrontation with the United States in Syria.

The casualties are the highest that Russia has suffered in a single battle since fierce clashes in Ukraine in 2014 claimed more than 100 fighters’ lives. Moscow denies sending soldiers and volunteers to Ukraine and has never confirmed that figure.

The wounded, who have been medically evacuated from Syria in the past few days, have been sent to four Russian military hospitals, according to five sources familiar with the matter.

The military doctor, who works in a Moscow military hospital and was directly involved in the treatment of wounded men evacuated from Syria, said that as of Saturday evening there were more than 50 such patients in his hospital, of which around 30 percent were seriously wounded.

The doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to disclose information about casualties, said at least three planeloads of injured fighters were flown to Moscow between last Friday and Monday morning.

He said they were flown back on specially equipped military cargo planes which can each accommodate two or three intensive care cases and several dozen less severely wounded patients.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, said initial information was that five Russian citizens in the area of the battle may have been killed, but they were not Russian troops. She said reports of tens or hundreds of Russian casualties were disinformation inspired by Russia’s opponents.

Can Ukraine Survive Without the IMF?

Tension is rising between Ukraine’s administration and the IMF over Ukraine’s anti-corruption failure.

Here’s an argument in the UBJ against the perception by some that Ukraine doesn’t need the IMF.

Me? I’m torn. Ukraine definitely needs help fighting corruption, but I’m deeply suspicious of organizations like the IMF. There’s an argument to be made that international help stabilizes Ukraine’s existing regime that the corruption rackets they run.

US strike in Syria kills Russian fighters in first such clash

On 10 February, a US drone destroyed an advancing Russian-made T-72 tank from the “same hostile force,” the US military said on Tuesday.

While reports have varied widely, claiming anywhere from a handful to more than a hundred Russians were killed and describing them alternately as military troops or private contractors, the 7 February clash nonetheless appears to have been the deadliest between US and Russian citizens since the Cold War.

Privatbank fraud cost Ukrain $5.5 B

The investigation was part of Ukraine’s commitment to the IMF “to perform a forensic audit of Privatbank’s operations to identify whether wrongdoing or bad banking practices took place prior to the bank’s nationalization,“ the NBU reported. Recall, Privatbank was declared insolvent and nationalized in December 2016, with total funds spent for its bailout having reached UAH 185 bln (over USD 6.8 bln), including a UAH 155 bln (USD 4.2 bln) contribution from the state and the rest from the bank’s bailed-in creditors.

The results of the Kroll investigation have already been sent to Ukrainian law enforcement bodies and Ukraine’s international partners, Deputy NBU Head Kateryna Rozhkova said during the report’s Jan. 16 presentation. “We are sure that the investigation’s conclusions will help bring the Privatbank case to an end,” she said. In response, former shareholder Ihor Kolomoyskyi called the report “a rant that makes no sense in commenting on.” In his comments to the news site, he stressed that the alleged “fraud” has yet to be proven, calling the presentation just part of the NBU’s attempts to distract public attention from other scandals.

Alexander Paraschiy: According to the NBU, Privatbank was using a scheme to collect deposits to finance the businesses of the bank’s shareholders. This “business model,” in our view, was typical for some other failed banks, including Oleg Bakhmatyuk’s VAB Bank and Finansova Initsiatyva; Kostiantyn Zhevago’s Finance & Credit Bank; and even Platinum Bank, which was headed by Rozhkova herself. In its activities, Privatbank was much bigger and possibly much more creative than the mentioned banks. Therefore, it generated much bigger losses for the state and it will be much harder to prove the bank did something unlawful.

Kolomoiski needs to go to jail. Ukraine can’t let this slide.

Yet More Evidence of high level Russian Military coordination in Donbas

SBU releases intercepted comms between PMC Wagner chief, Russian army General on Donbas incursion

The Security Service of Ukraine, the SBU, has uploaded on its YouTube channel audio files of intercepted communications between Dmitry Utkin, head of the private military company (PMC) Wagner, the Kremlin’s major tool in hybrid warfare worldwide, and General of the Russian Armed Forces, Yevgeny Nikiforov (call sign “Tambov”).

Ukrainian authorities collect soldiers’ photos of Russian dead and sell them to Russia

I had beers today with a few Ukrainian warriors.

The conversation turned to propaganda, and how effectively Russia advertised photos and videos of Ukrainian casualties.

One of them told me a story of a Russian column of military vehicles getting obliterated by Ukrainian artillery. He said it was a massacre. Easily a hundred dead, and dozens of vehicles. Guys took pictures.

He told me that later the SBU (Ukraine’s FBI) came to the unit to collect all electronic personal devices. He is certain that someone in the SBU made a lot of money by “selling” the pictures to Russia and guaranteeing their censorship.

He says this was a common practice.


The story rings true — both the self-serving corruption on the Ukrainian side, and Russia’s willing to hide at any cost signs of their own weakness. In my essays about Russian propaganda, I’ve repeatedly pointed out that Russia absolutely cannot countenance sign of their own weakness. It’s a recurring theme in history. Russian journalists reporting casualties and investigating rapidly expanding cemeteries have been violently assaulted, or vanished (here, here). There have been stories about mobile crematoriums burning Russia’s dead.

Tablet Mag: Why Do American Jews Idealize Soviet Communism?

[In] this country there was a time when virtually all intellectual vitality was derived in one way or another from the Communist Party. If you were not somewhere within the party’s wide orbit, then you were likely to be in the opposition, which meant that much of your thought and energy had to be devoted to maintaining yourself in opposition. In either case, it was the Communist Party that ultimately determined what you were to think about and in what terms.

This was written not in the Soviet Union or one of its satellites, but in New York in 1947 by Robert Warshow in Commentary magazine about the American culture of the previous decade. While slightly hyperbolic (the Southern Agrarians, the American Scholar, etc.?) it faithfully describes American Jewish culture of the time, emphatically including its Yiddish branch. At the extreme of this movement were people like Julius Rosenberg, George Koval, and Mark Zborowski, who actively spied for the Soviet Union. At the same time, editors of Communist publications, Hollywood and union activists, party writers and institutional leaders were all directed by Moscow and were joined by rank-and-file members in promoting the virtues of Stalinism over the evils of American constitutional democracy.

A more current source, the Jewish Women’s Archive Encyclopedia, assures us that of about 83,000 Communist Party members in 1943, women formed about 46 percent:

CP historians estimate, moreover, that almost half of the party’s membership was Jewish in the 1930s and 1940s, and that approximately 100,000 Jews passed through the party in those decades of high member turnover. It seems safe to say, then, that Jewish women were one of the CP’s largest sectors during the Depression and war years; and for each who was a “card-carrying” Communist, there were several who took part in party-led mass organizations but did not belong to the party itself. (Entry on Communism in the United States)

The tone here is celebratory, taking pride in Jewish prominence in Communist activities. Like Barbra Streisand’s character in The Way We Were, who enchants the WASPy American Robert Redford, these Communist women are introduced as champions of a noble cause. Vivian Gornick recently gushed in the New York Times over the Communists who prodded the United States “into becoming the democracy it always said it was.”

This is Soviet Communism we are talking about—that killed an estimated 30 million of its own citizens, including through a government-enforced famine in Ukraine, the details of which even people hardened by Holocaust literature have trouble reading. Hitler killed a million Jewish children; Stalin killed more than twice as many children of the Ukraine alone. This is the movement that struck a pact with Hitler precipitating the war against Poland, and built the Gulag, which far surpassed Hitler’s concentration-camp network in the number of victims. This was the totalitarian regime that perfected Orwellian language in a culture of lying that not only camouflaged its evil through innocuous terminology as the Nazis did with terms like resettlement for extermination and cleansing for murder, but justified a culture of spying, expropriation, mass murder, and tyrannical rule in the name of “egalitarianism” and “international peace.” . . .

Jews accepted the Torah at Sinai to save them from the evil consequences of good intentions. The Torah’s prohibitions against idolatry were intended to protect us from precisely the horrors that Communism’s “good intentions” imposed in its place. Idealism is no justification for moral shortcuts, and revolution no substitute for civilization.


THE REMARKABLE CANDIDACY of Bernie Sanders, an unapologetic socialist, inspired tens of thousands of mostly young supporters to join the Democratic Socialists of America over the last year. This renewed energy in the nation’s largest socialist institution has been a reaction to an assault on the civil liberties, human rights, and economic security on ordinary people by right wing and neoliberal politicians and economic elites. This socialist turn in American politics has strong echoes in the revolutionary movements that emerged in Russia among Jews and other marginalized groups, just as they were beginning to emigrate to the United States in the late 19th century. The peculiar philosophy of Yiddish Socialism, or Yiddishism, that Jews carried with them and refined in the American industrial and political contexts, gave rise to a powerful force of labor and socialist movement activists who were essential to the construction of New Deal, Civil Rights, and Great Society reforms in the middle of the twentieth century. Looking at the conditions under which Yiddish Socialism developed, and how its principles served activists so well as they sought to build radical power among workers of many races and ethnicities, reveals lost lessons that can be applied today as a new movement emerges in the early 21st Century. . . .

WHEN WORKERS OF OTHER RACIAL-ETHNIC GROUPS entered the workforce, Yiddish Socialists were ready to appeal to them not just individually, but through their cultures. The presence of a large minority of Italian garment workers was encouraged by factory owners in the hopes of dividing the workforce through suspicion. Solidarity among Jews and Italians was cultivated by Jewish organizers and their Italian allies. Rose Schneiderman, one of the few paid female organizers in any union, began to reach out to Italian community leaders, including Catholic priests, to build support for the union among Italian garment workers who began to enter the industry even before the Uprising of 20,000. Through education and eventually facilities of their own, the ILGWU created spaces for Italians to explore their ethnic heritage in the union context. In 1916 mostly male cloakmakers formed the all Italian Local 48. Three years later, most Italian women could join the Dressmakers Local 89.

By the end of the First World War, the ILGWU had become the 3rd largest union in the American Federation of Labor. But the post-war Red Scare, new aggressive anti-union tactics by garment manufacturers, and bitter conflicts among the fractured left — Socialists, Communists, and Anarchists — throughout the 1920s and into the early 1930s weakened the union significantly. Workers were being left behind in the great economic surge of the decade. But Jewish unions began to build their own banks and insurance companies to help themselves and their members. And they built cooperative housing their members could not otherwise afford.

During this period manufacturers began to hire thousands of black and Puerto Rican workers as strikebreakers, hoping to foment interracial and interethnic discord. In a truly exceptional moment in American labor history, rather than blame and combat the interlopers, the ILGWU developed strategies to turn the strikebreakers into union loyalists. Moreso, at times when Communist Jews had formed parallel unions in the garment industry, they similarly appealed to black workers in particular.

Through a permanent Unity House in the Poconos, the Workmen’s Circle Camp Kinderland, both built in the early 1920s, and the Socialist Party Rand School of Social Science, among other institutions, Yiddish Socialists invited Black and Spanish-speaking workers to multicultural events, such as plays, concerts and social dances, where they also trained in union building. They also supported A. Philip Randolph, who attended the Rand School in the 1910s with garment workers, as he built the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Despite their efforts, the Depression that began in late 1929 devastated the ILGWU, which was nearly bankrupt at the beginning of 1933.

In the fall of 1933, over 100,000 dressmakers in New York City, working for mostly mostly Jewish and some Italian manufacturers, responded to a strike call by the ILGWU which numbered less than 30,000 throughout the country. Within weeks over 4,000 black and 2,500 Spanish-speaking members joined the union, most of whom were concentrated in the Local 22 Dressmakers and the smaller Local 91 Children’s Dressmakers unions. For 15 years or more, Fannia Cohn had worked tirelessly on the international level, sometimes alone and sometimes with her own money to design and promote education programs and propagate the Yiddishist theory of constructing a militant multicultural labor movement built on a foundation of class-based racial-ethnic identities. Education was the vehicle, and every activity was geared toward preparing workers to take direct action. Dance and sports, for example, were meant for social bonding, but also to train workers to be physical with one another in public and to build trust, qualities essential for picket line battles. Local 22 manager, Charles “Sasha” Zimmerman, a Russian-born revolutionary who had been active in the IWW and the Communist Party before being expelled, enacted Fannia Cohn’s program to the greatest effect.