Putin and The Destruction of A Worker’s State

Below is an exclusive video from Russia, with English subtitles, exposing the existence of a palace owned by Russian premiere Vladimir Putin on the coast of the Black Sea. According to the New York Times, this opulent, crime-as-substance cost somewhere around $1 billion dollars. What does this all include?

The ground floor includes a spa, a movie theater, a wine cellar and an outdoor area with fountains described as an “aqua disco.” The next floor up, according to the report, has a larger theater, a casino hall and a windowless hookah lounge with a pole-dancing stage. The report also describes an underground hockey rink, a church, a tunnel to the seaside and a 260-foot-long bridge leading to a teahouse.

And in the text version of the investigation, which you can translate from Russian, you can take a virtual look-around Putin’s classy hookah lounge/private strip club which is beyond sleazy.

This ostentatious temple built to one mans avarice and megalomania is maybe one of the sickest shows that can be conceived by the radical left.

This work of investigative journalism is hosted, and produced by top Russian dissident Alexei Navalny and his associates. The AP describes Mr. Nalvany as…

Navalny, 44, is an anti-corruption campaigner and the Kremlin’s fiercest critic. He has outlasted many opposition figures and is undeterred by incessant attempts to stop his work.

He has released scores of damning reports exposing corruption in Putin’s Russia. He has been a galvanizing figure in mass protests, including unprecedented 2011-12 demonstrations sparked by reports of widespread rigging of a parliamentary election.

And there is another great profile of Mr. Navalny here in the NYT here.

Today, as further reported by the AP, an estimated 15,000 demonstrators gathered in and around Pushkin Square in Moscow to protest the unjust incarceration of Mr. Navalny. They were joined by other protesters across the country standing outside in sometimes -58 F weather. Navalny’s being held on trumped up charges of financial crimes clearly levelled against him as a political hit and and an excuse to imprison him. (The charges brought against him and his brother the European Court of Human Rights have declared unwarranted.) Further, these protests have led to the arrests of more than 3,000 peaceful protesters, many more beaten, by the Russian authorities.

Watch the beatings here:

The breadth and depth of the above investigation is unbelievably expansive. Just scroll through the text, as I did, if you can stomach it, and observe the images , 3-D models, and linked .pdf files of floor plans. Remarkable. This video/text also shows one of the many cases of theft (by the “believed” richest man in the world, according to a Fortune report) from the Russian people by Putin, his cronies, and fellow oligarchs.

Why do I find this so upsetting? Because from the momentous days of the October Revolution of 1917, to the fall of the U.S.S.R. in 1989-1991, there was so much work, sacrifice, and eventual loss of dreams for the creation of a true workers’ state. Now look what it has turned into. A plutocracy where the man with more money than Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates has the people beaten in the streets when peacefully protesting. And just over false charges against a rival who wants the best for everyone.

If I were not Kentucky White Trash, I would like to have the money to visit Russia some day and see all of the great sites: St. Basil’s Cathedral, the Winter Palace, Lenin’s Mausoleum. But I swear to you now and to the day of my death, I would never spend a single kopek in the Russian state because, more than likely, it would end up in one of the chests belonging to Vladimir Putin.

Wednesday’s 5 STL Propaganda Image Post!

Here we go!

Cuban International Terrorism? What!?

On Jan. 11th, the New York Times and the AP reported that Trump’s State Department lead by his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated Cuba as a U.S. deemed state sponsor of terror. The label was applied to the nation from 1959 to 2015; the time between the Socialist Revolution of the Castro Brothers, Che Guevara, and the countless members of the People’s Socialist Party, and the détente under Barack Obama. In 2015, Pres. Obama took Cuba off the list and renewed diplomatic relations with the Socialist experiment that is Cuba, and Joe Biden is expected to thaw relations even further.

The Socialist Caribbean island-state is designated by Pompeo as a terror-supporting state for three reasons:

  • Cuba has taken in several members of the Colombian National Liberation Army (ELN) and defied extradition requests from the leaders’ home country. Peace talks between the ELN and the Colombian government took place in Havana beginning in December 2015 and lead to the ELN leaders never leaving. The Colombian government wants them to pay for an ELN bombing of a police station in Bogota that took place in 2019. Cuba refuses to send them back because it would violate protocols established between the two groups during peace efforts that were broken off after the bombing.
  • Cuba is the protective home of Joanne D. Chesimard, a.k.a. Assata Shakur. Shakur is a former member of the Black Liberation Army and is still wanted for a killing of a New Jersey state trooper in the 1970’s. Two other fugitives now call Cuba home along with Shakur, and they have never been extradited back to the U.S. for over some 50 years now.
  • Cuba is a strong ally of Venezuela and Nicolas Maduro; the U.S.’s biggest Latin-American boogey man right now (probably the biggest since Fidel Castro.) Despite crippling sanctions on this oil-rich nation of South America, the U.S. government, and most of the media, blame socialist reforms implemented during the time of Pres. Hugo Chavez as the source of every Venezuelan ill. It’s never the sanctions, always the radical left ideology.

The State Department says Cuba has, “…provided support for acts of international terror.” Therefore they join only three other countries on the list: Iran, Syria, and North Korea. (Cuba’s a little out of place, don’t ya think?)

According to a Reuters report, Cuba has already got a cash-strapped economy that shrank 11% in 2020 due to the pandemic, tougher U.S. sanctions, and domestic inefficiencies, according to Economy Minister Alejandro Gil. And the NYT reports, Cuba has began having shortages of both medicine and food, as the article describes,

“…Cubans have been forced to stand in line for hours in the hope of getting their hands on the meager stocks that exist.”

If you go back into the past posts of STL. you will see my obvious sympathy for the nation of Cuba. There are terrible, terrible lies that are spread about Socialist Cuba all over regarding accusations of large executions, brutal forced labor camps, and any and everything Che Guevara related (If you can stomach it, check out this short YouTube clip of Joe Rogan stating on his popular podcast that Guevara was a “mass murderer.”) And most of these lies come from former rich Cubans who were not interested in showing any humanity towards the country’s poor after the Revolution. They all packed their bags, headed north for Florida, and they still cry for their exploitative businesses, like their sugarcane plantations where the peasants did all the work, living in ignorance and filth. This is why Trump won Florida in 2020. “Little Havanna” knew that both Trump’s and Pompeo’s massive egos cannot handle this little island shaking it’s fist at the monolithic United States.

My point, finally, is that it is ridiculous for Cuba to be designated as state sponsor of terror. And second, these sanctions only hurt the people there. The long lines, lack of food, and absence of electricity and cooking fuel in Cuba (and in Venezuela) are a result of sanctions. And now there are new one’s levied by our ruler on his last days in office.

Tell me, have sanctions worked in North Korea, Iran, Iraq under Saddam, Venezuela, or Cuba? No, they have not. They have just hurt the people.

And on a lighter note, check out this comedy sketch about Cuba’s designation as a terror-supporter at the State Dept. from Breakthrough News:

5 More STL Propaganda Images!

The gallery keeps getting larger and larger…added are five more new rad-left propaganda images. Use as one revolutionary sees fit.

Here ya go!!!

Stop The Wicked Fascists at The Capitol

A year or so ago I read an article that I cannot seem to track down now but it was written by a New York reporter who was originally from one of the Plain States; Iowa, Kansas, maybe Nebraska. And the story revolved around what he realized when visiting his hometown on one occasion. He observed that the Right-wing, God-fearing, “wholesome” people of his home state had something in common that the Left did not: They all believed that people are born inherently bad. But, on the other side, we know the Left believes every human is born good. To illustrate, have ever you noticed how we on the Left try to diagnose people psychologically, or diagnose a culture sociologically, when they go wrong, e.g., when we try to take apart the pasts of young school shooters? What did their parents do to them? What did their classmates do to them? What went wrong? Well, the Right does not think that way. They do not think about it because people are inherently bad and that’s why they do bad things. That’s why religion is so important to conservatives. If we further the above example, these school shooters were born bad, like everyone else, and something like a religious upbringing would have kept them on a better path. Observing a faith’s tenets keeps you in line. This is where the Right gets their criticism of what they call “moral relativism,” i.e., the concept professing that there is no objective right or wrong but just a myriad of social and philosophical variables. It is also such as social scientists, in their studies, portray so-called sacred things: Marriage? social construct. The Law? social construct. General ideas of right and wrong? Social constructs. But this issue of right and wrong is not as complicated as we leftists make it out to be. Sure, there is no God, and there are no objective morals or cultural practices which are inherently “good” out there But as true leftists we do agree that we know how society should work. We do not need to be conflicted about 1 in 8 kids combatting hunger here in my home state of Kentucky. We do not need some “Good Book” to tell us that it is unfair for some to have so much while others have so little. We know how a better society could, and should, be constructed.

My point is that we leftists are milling around questions of right or wrong too much. The invasion of the Capitol Building a few days ago by Trump-ist fascists was an act performed by those who are WRONG. Their so-called “values” of exclusion and oppression, their existence as bootlickers for the 1%, their exclusive religious morals, are WRONG. Not because of some objective truth out there in the universe but because we agree that they are wrong. Our leftist values are simply better. And, therefore, we cannot idly stand by as the fascists invade the Capitol building. We need to make sure that this never happens again. WE ARE THE PEOPLE, not those right-wing extremists who climbed through those shattered windows and up those concrete walls. There IS a right and wrong because we know what is for the best, and those jackasses who mugged for those selfies inside the Rotunda do not.

I’ve read Stalin make this argument before in some interview with a prominent Western journalist. Stalin, although not the most morally inclined person in history, insisted that there are “wicked” people in the world. And, of course, the Western journalist made excuses for these “wicked” people. He gave this excuse or that excuse, or this philosophical thought or that philosophical thought. But Stalin was right. There are wicked people in this world. The men and women who stormed the Capitol building the other day are wicked in their beliefs and I’m tired of the excuses the Left give them. A line must be drawn: The Right or the Left. That symbol of power in D.C. belongs to the socialists, communists, anarchists, the People. We cannot allow Right-wing radicals that kind of power ever again. We must stop them as a movement for they are simply wicked.

5 New STL Propaganda Images!

As promised, the return of the STL Propaganda Image Post of the week! This week has an ACAB theme with these five new ones.

Be back same day next week for more!

Click here!

The Arab Spring,10 Years On…

I believe that one of the most important political/cultural/social movements of the last ten years was the Arab Spring. Therefore, I thought it deserved the initial post here at the relaunch of STL. But as I tried to put something together as a coherent argument on something about it, I realized that I am at a loss. The way in which it did not substantially work for the better leaves me lost even after ten years. I have no sure feelings, beliefs, or convictions on the period, or what is now called the “Arab Winter.” I can say I was so hopeful at the time that it almost lent itself to elation, but now I feel nothing but such dense disappointment; almost hopelessness. I have read books, articles, and saw many documentaries and news pieces on this most important set of events, yet I cannot put my finger on any argument to be made. Maybe it’s because I am a Westerner; a Roman Catholic. Maybe it’s because I was not there on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, or the destroyed streets of Aleppo, or at the Libyan storm drain where Qaddafi was found and killed. Maybe it is because I do not want to believe something negative. I don’t know. But below is a strategy, something I hope that can salvage the movement using the stories of the those times. Maybe something to look to inspire the future.

Simply put, What happened between the end of 2010 and the end of 2020? My thoughts are scattered below: 

Up until December 2010, the North African country of Tunisia was as typical of an Arab state as it gets: a history of empire and colonialism; a hopeful independence; a state-centered, socialist economy; a slide into dictatorship implemented through secret police (Feldman, 2020). This small, coastal nation on the Mediterranean Sea did not seem out of the ordinary in any way compared to its’ neighbors..

Then on December 17, 2010, a young Tunisian named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself afire to protest against police harassment. He died on January 4, 2011, but not before his gesture went viral, sparking protests against the country’s authoritarian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the people’s poor economic situation. Ben Ali’s 23-year-rule ended 10 days later when he fled to Saudi Arabia, becoming the first leader of an Arab nation to be pushed out by popular protests. What happened next across the Arab world, what we now refer to the as the “Arab Spring,” followed something like this:

On January 25, 2011, thousands of Egyptians marched in Cairo, Alexandria, and other cities, demanding the departure of President Hosni Mubarak, who had been in power for 30 years.  Then on February 11, as more than a million took to the streets, Mubarak resigned and handed control to the military.

The Muslim Brotherhood-linked government of Mohammed Morsi was then elected in 2012, but was overthrown the following year by the military led by the general, now president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

On February 15, in Bahrain, protesters took over the Pearl Square roundabout in the capital which they renamed “Tahrir Square”, and demanded a constitutional monarchy among other reforms. But their camp was stormed by riot police three days later, killing three people and injuring many.

The same day the Bahrain protests started, the Libyan police used force to break up a sit-in against the government in the second city, Benghazi. The country’s leader Muammar Gaddafi pledged to hunt down the “rats” opposing him. The uprising turned into a civil war with French, British and American air forces intervening against Gaddafi. On October 20, 2011, Gaddafi was captured and killed in his home region of Sirte by rebels who found him hiding in a storm drain. The country is now split between rival eastern and western-based administrations.

On March 6, a dozen teenagers tagged the wall of their school in southern Syria with “Your turn, doctor”, referring to President Bashar al-Assad, a trained ophthalmologist. The torture of the youths sparked mainly peaceful protests at first, and calls for democratic reform. But with violent repression by the government, the revolt turned into civil war. Syria’s war also contributed to the rise of the ISIL (ISIS) group and renewed conflict in neighboring Iraq, culminating in a genocidal attack on minorities in the north of the country.

On October 23, 2011, Tunisians streamed to the polls for their first free election, in which members of the Ennahdha movement triumph.

On February 27, 2012, Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had ruled for 33 years, handed power to his deputy Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, after a year of protests. The Arab world’s poorest country, Yemen also descended into violence following initial protests.

Russia, who with Iran is al-Assad’s biggest ally, started air attacks against Syrian rebels on September 30, 2015, changing the course of the war. After 10 years of fighting, which left 380,000 dead, al-Assad was able to claim significant victories.

Ten years after Tunisia, It all seems for nothing when put together like that, does it not? All those aspirations for a more liberal-democratic pan-Arab region. A Guardian-YouGov poll published on December 17 even finds that a majority of populations of nine countries across the Arab world feel they are living in significantly more unequal society today than before the Arab Spring. And read here about Bouazizi’s legacy in his own country.

But maybe not all is lost. Let’s look at some social movement theory from Han and Wuk Ahn (2020) that may pick up the Arab Spring up from the canvas someday:

“Studies of social movements have benefited from the examination of narratives. Social movements are defined as networks of informal interactions between a plurality of individual, groups, and/or organizations engaged in political or cultural conflicts, on the basis of shared collective identities. Activists use stories to make sense of the reality surrounding them, motivate collective action by forging collective policymaking. Narratives unite participants in social movements and are utilized as tools. To be effective…social movements should not just mobilize financial and human resources, utilize political opportunities, and present solid transition plans but should also adopt effective frames. Narratives provide actors with tools to turn themselves into heroes with a powerfully mobilizing identity when they lack established organizations or coherent ideologies [38]. Narratives translate feelings of shame and individual responsibility into feelings of empowerment, efficacy, and entitlement.”

So maybe the people of the Mid-East will someday be able to launch a new uprising, one taken from the stories of the those contentious politics that have occurred over the last decade. At this point, I admit I really do not know. I feel as if I’m just clinching at straws to pull something positive out of it all, something positive in this Arab Winter.

What do you think? Leave comments below. 

Here is a good video piece from Al-Jazeera I find particularly moving that centers on the professional and amateur reporters who documented the movement. Maybe those reports and films will serve to inspire those of the next Arab Spring, if it ever occurs.