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On the Antifragile Political Campaigns of Sanders and Trump: 1

April 24, 2016 4 comments

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the nomination process for the 2016 presidential election has been most unusual- for both the democratic and republican party. Based on how things look right now, it is very likely that Donald Trump will be the republican candidate for the presidency. On the other side- the officially anointed candidate (aka Hillary Clinton) will not be able to get the democratic nomination through elected delegates alone, IF it comes to that. Some of you might think that this situation is not that big a deal or things like this have happened before. Well.. things like this have not occurred before- at least not in living memory. Let me explain.

Ask yourself- when was the last time republicans selected a presidential nominee who had not previously been elected to any public office? Here is a hint.. he won the 1952 and 1956 general election. On the other side- when was the last time an independent socialist non-observant Jew was a serious and extremely popular candidate for the democratic party nomination? What about- never! My point is that the immense popularity of traditionally shunned outsider candidates in both parties at the same time tells us that something pretty fundamental about the american political system has recently undergone a major change. The successful candidacy campaigns of both these outsider candidates does however raise another important question.

Why has the establishment of both parties, including their coteries of supposedly “apolitical” gatekeepers and subservient presstitutes been so spectacularly unsuccessful at derailing the candidacy campaigns of Sanders and Trump?

Why do Trump and Sanders keep on winning primaries inspite of constantly negative coverage by supposedly “mainstream” and “respectable” media outfits? Why does every attempt by the establishment and media to concoct a narrative about how those campaigns get rebuffed by the results of the next set of primaries? Why has the cacophony of opinion pieces against both candidates by supposed “experts” and “professionals” made no worthwhile dent in their popularity, ability to raise money or the enthusiasm of their supporters? Why do mainstream media attack on these candidates result in an increase in their popularity, donations to their campaigns and ever bigger rallies?

Clearly, something about the established way of doing politics in the USA is no longer working. But what is not working and why now? Well.. as I wrote in my previous post, there are many mutually reinforcing reasons for this change. A significant part of this change has to do with the rapid and terminal decline in trust of the “establishment”, its “institutions” and their “experts” and “professionals” among the general public. Basically, today only older adults (above 50 yrs?) have a significant amount of residual trust in the old order. The rest, especially the younger ones, have seen and experienced too much to have worthwhile amounts of belief in the old order.

I will address the issue of people losing trust in the “establishment”, its “institutions”, “experts” and “professionals” as it applies to the current political environment in future posts. This one is, however, about a smaller issue peripherally related to that topic.

How can Bernie and Donald treat their respective party establishments with a mixture of open contempt and disdain? How can they get away with not playing by the “establishment” rules? How can they get away with basically telling their party establishments to go fuck themselves? Why are they not submitting to the rules and opinions of their party establishments- like every other potential presidential candidate in living memory? What makes them immune to the pressures of their respective party establishments?

Well.. it comes down to the fact they have no real reason to play by the rules. In the case of Bernie Sanders, who has been an independent since he entered politics, pissing of the democratic establishment carries no real consequences for him. He is in his mid-70s and a very popular senator from a state that likes politicians like him. Perhaps more importantly, he is not doing this to make tons of money and therefore has no vested interest in playing nice with the party establishment in case he does not succeed. His plan B is to continue being the Senator from Vermont.

Donald Trump, too, is also not doing it for the money. While he may not be worth over 10 billion, as he claims, he is still a multi-billionaire. His failure to win, therefore, has no worthwhile effect on his financial situation. He will still be filthy rich and famous. He also has no reason to play by “establishment” rules. Furthermore he knows the political establishment is full of greedy spineless critters who will come back begging him for campaign contributions in the future. In other words- he knows who is the driver’s seat and why.

Contrast the situation of Bernie and Donald to “establishment” politicians whose entire careers, fortunes and legacies are dependent on how well they play with whichever asshole or group of assholes is driving their party at any given moment. Do you think Hillary or Bill Clinton would be anything without the support of the “establishment” in the democratic party. What about Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Jeb Bush or even George W Bush? Do you think they would be anything without unfailing loyalty to whichever asshole or group of assholes is dominating the republican party at any given moment?

My point is that the outsider candidates in both parties are just not in a situation where the “establishment” of those parties can exert any worthwhile influence on them. Consequently, Sanders is very likely to go all the way to the end of the primary nomination process for the democratic party. Trump is also going to go all the way to the republican convention and any attempt to deny him the nomination WILL fuck up the republican party for many years- if it can survive in its current form past the 2016 election.

What do you think? Comments?

How the Internet Killed the Efficacy and Careers of Political Strategists

April 21, 2016 3 comments

One of the more significant, but largely overlooked, change in the american political arena within the last decade concerns the obvious impotency and rapidly declining role of political strategists in wining party nominations and elections. It was not that long ago when names like Lee Atwater, Karl Rove and Roger Ailes evoked feared in those who ran against the politicians who employed them.

While a significant part of their fearsome reputations was based on myth and hearsay, it is also clear that their “dirty tricks” were somewhat effective in winning close elections. We all remember how George W Bush “won” the 2000 presidential election. But that was over a decade ago and the presidential elections of 2004 were the last major elections in USA where such political consultants were able to influence the final electoral results to any measurable degree.

Since then political consultants have been, by and large, unable to influence major elections at the national and increasingly the state and local level. Some of you might remember the very public humiliations and irrelevancy suffered by once feared political operatives like Karl Rove and Roger Ailes during the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. You might also be aware of how Donald Trump destroyed the presidential aspirations of his far better funded and establishment rivals in the still ongoing race for the republican nomination.

So what is going on? Why are all the old and new “machiavellian geniuses” unable to influence american elections like their predecessors? Why do they seem to spend more time as TV pundits, Authors and make most of their income from job descriptions that fit the definition of a Sinecure? Why is somebody like Donald Trump winning the republican primary? Why is Bernie Sanders still competitive in the democratic primary?

Well.. there are many reasons for this change ranging from the still ongoing impoverishment of the average american to the (also still ongoing) post-2008 loss of public trust in all credentialed professionals and institutions. However the most important, and central, reason for the terminal impotency of political strategists is linked to the rise of decentralized, fast and structurally uncontrollable spread of information over the internet. And it does not work the way most of you think…

The conventional narrative about the effects of information spreading over the internet is based on a pleasant-sounding fallacy. Most people believe political change over the internet is almost exclusively due to people using it the educate themselves about the “facts”. While that is sorta true for objective “facts” like the stuff found in textbooks on physics and chemistry- it is not the case for information about subjective issues such as politics.

The biggest, and most important, effect of the internet on politics is that it makes pretty much everyone extremely cynical of the whole political process. The sheer amount of opinions supporting or denouncing any given position on any issue almost guarantees that most people will stick to what they believed in the first place. It is this widespread cynicism which more than anything defeats attempts to sway opinions through sophistic rhetoric, “dirty tricks”, advertisements and appeals to morality.

This is why all attempts by MSM to attack Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump have had virtually no negative effects on those who support their campaigns. Indeed, the scorn of the MSM and its paid pundits has increased, rather than decreased, public support for both outsider candidates. This is why Bernie and Trump rallies can easily get tens of thousands of enthusiastic supporters while mainstream politicians like Hillary or Cruz struggle to get a tenth or twentieth of that number.

Another interesting effect of internet driven cynicism is that the physical appearance of politicians is far less important than it was even ten years ago. People have now come to associate a “professional” look and grooming with dishonesty. In other words, people are now far more likely to trust (or not distrust) somebody who looks like Bernie or Trump than somebody who looks like Hillary, Rubio, Cruz or Mitt Romney. I had predicted something along these lines in one of my older posts- How ‘Anodyne’ Communication Destroys Societal Trust.

What do you think? Comments?

Some Thoughts on Bernie Sander’s Likely ‘Plan B’

February 29, 2016 5 comments

I was going to complete and post this article a few days, but decided to wait for reasons that will be more obvious when you read it further. Well.. as many of you have read or heard in the last two weeks, many presstitutes and media personalities in the main-stream media have been busy peddling their allegedly original opinions about how Bernie Sanders cannot win the democratic presidential nomination. You might have also seen articles about how he should (or soon will) “gracefully” step aside and participate in the DNC-led anointing of Shrillary. I, for one, think that the course of events might take a rather unexpected turn- and it is not what most of you are thinking.

To be clear, Bernie’s Plan A is to win the democratic presidential nomination. However, I strongly suspect he has a Plan B- specifically, one that involves damaging the electability of Shrillary in a general election to a point where she will lose to most potential republican candidates. The beauty of this Plan B is that it runs in parallel with Plan A and does not make Bernie look bad or vindictive.

To understand what Bernie is trying to pull off, you have to first look at this from his viewpoint. First a little history and context. As some of you know, Bernie Sanders is no newcomer to electoral politics and has been involved in it at various levels for over three decades. Secondly, he always ran as an independent- even though he could have made far more money and wielded much more power if he had joined the democratic party. So, it is clear that the guy has a pretty good understanding of the political system and what he wants as a person. In other words, he knows what he is doing..

Some people think that he entered the 2016 race with the naive expectation that he would not face a very determined PR campaign against him by Shrillary, her legions of flying monkeys (media personalities and presstitutes) and the DNC. Some also think that he underestimated the support of the establishment for Shrillary. But is that really so? Do you really think a guy who has been successfully elected (and re-elected) to the house and senate is that naive? Do you really think he underestimated the support of the political and corporate establishment for Shrillary?

So why would a worldly 74-year Jewish senator from Vermont decide to seriously run for the democratic nomination against Shrillary? And why in 2016? And what does he intend to achieve in case he cannot get the democratic nomination? Why is he not taking corporate donation? Is it just out of principles or is he trying to achieve something that is not that obvious? why does he keep talking about the ‘revolution’? What is the ‘revolution’ really about? And why is he acting as if the DNC does not exist or matter?

The short answer to these and other questions lies in a peculiar convergence of electoral rules, demographic realities and the general mood of people in the country.

The somewhat longer answer is as follows: As some of you might remember from 2000, the president of USA is elected by a majority of votes by the electoral college rather than a simple majority of voters. For a large part of american history, it was possible for candidates of either party to win a significant number of states- irrespective of which candidate had won them in the previous election. To put it another way, there were many more ‘swing states‘ in the past than there are now. Starting in the 1990s, polarization of the electorate in most states reached levels that rendered most of them noncompetitive for one party or the other. Consequently, presidential candidates of each party can be fairly certain about which states they will win or not before a single vote is cast.

You might also have noticed that the swing states for the last few elections have a peculiar geographical distribution and demographic profiles. For the 2016 election- we can consider Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Florida to be definite ‘swing states’. Did you notice that the major swing states (except Virginia) are somewhat poor and full of working class whites with an increasing number of Hispanics? And what does any of this have to do with Bernie’s Plan ‘B’?

As it turns out.. a lot.

Bernie has figured a way to use Shrillary’s greatest weakness, her visceral unlikeability, against her in a way that does not make him look bad. The easiest way to pull that off is to drag Shrillary and her supporters through a series of contested democratic primaries in all 50 states, but especially in those ‘swing states’ where she desperately needs a high turnout of white democratic voters. He also knows that Shrillary and her backers will do all the things that a conventionally successful political campaign will do to win the democratic nomination. He also knows that all of those things will dramatically increase her unfavorability ratings among the white working class voters she so desperately needs later in the year.

Bernie is trying to reduce the potential democratic voter turnout for her in ‘swing states’ during the 2016 presidential election.

But why take this somewhat circuitous route? And what is he really trying to achieve by making her lose the 2016 presidential election? Well.. for starters- attacking her directly at this stage might make her look more human and actually reduce her unfavorability ratings. Remember that most people felt sorry for Shrillary all through the 1990s- when she was a relative political unknown and under constant attack by republicans. The best way to defeat and degrade Hillary in a conventional political setting, as Obama demonstrated in 2008, is to get her (and her backers) to attack you.

But that still does not answer one question- why now (in 2016)?

Well.. for one major but non-obvious reason. Bernie knows that the corporate-owned DNC, not Hillary, is the biggest impediment for any real change. He also knows that the machinery of the DNC will not stop (or even slow down) as long as it is regularly fueled by its corporate backers. So how do you cut off or reduce the flow of corporate money to the DNC? The answer is.. make sure that democrats do not control the presidency, senate, house of representatives, most state legislatures, most governorships and the supreme court. Corporations do not pay political machines that lack political power. As it turns out the democrats have already achieved most of those goals- on their own.

Losing the presidency (and not regaining the senate) in 2016 will basically finish of the current incarnation of the democratic party. Of course, winning all of them might finish of the republicans via a different mechanism- but that is a discussion best left to a future post. In short, Bernie is trying to destroy the DNC by pushing it to make that one big final mistake.

What do you think? Comments?

Smartphones Exposed Police Killing Unarmed People, but not UFOs

February 28, 2016 7 comments

I have been trying to finish and post this somewhat odd blog post for the last few weeks, but was distracted by other posts and life in general. The idea for this article comes from some blog post (or discussion thread?) I came across a few months ago. The post (or discussion thread?) was about how smartphones with cameras have exposed many hitherto hidden events and facts- from “normal” women being narcissistic and slutty to police routinely killing unarmed black men. One of the commentators in that thread also talked about how trail cameras have been able to catch images of unknown or seldom seen species of animals.

All of this got me thinking- Why has the global proliferation of cheap and ubiquitous smartphones in the previous few years not provided us much more visual evidence (photos or videos) of UFOs?

Here is why I find this odd.. Reports and accounts of unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) are not exactly new. Accounts of unidentified flying objects under apparently intelligent control can be found in literature from classical antiquity. Similarly multiple written accounts from the 16th-17th century also talk about mass sightings of flying objects what we would today call UFOs. Even more oddly, more than a few of these accounts are from east-asian cultures. Perhaps most significantly, almost all these older sightings occurred in the era before humans started building lighter-than-air or heavier-than-air flying machines.

As many of you know- accounts of UFO sightings exploded in the 20th century. While a significant part of this increase in number of alleged sightings can be accounted by the human desire to “see” more than what they actually saw- it is also clear that more than a few sightings of UFOs (especially by experienced pilots and amateur astronomers) are based in reality. Perhaps most tellingly, sightings of UFOs by pilots and astronomers almost always describe objects that are so different from existing aircraft (and balloons) that we have to consider the possibility that they were seeing real physical objects matching the description.

The worldwide proliferation of film cameras in the mid-1900s resulted in a wave of photos of objects alleged to be UFOs. While many have since been exposed as hoaxes or misidentification, a few have always remained explainable. We saw another mini-wave of recorded visual evidence for alleged UFOs after the proliferation of camcorders in the 1980s and 1990s. But then something curious happened. The introduction and even wider and global proliferation of digital cameras (standalone or in smartphones) has not resulted in an even larger wave of photographic evidence for UFOs. The question is- why not?

FYI- here is where I stand on the whole UFO issue. In my opinion, there is no reason for sentient life-forms to be unique to our planet. Furthermore, it is very likely that sentient and technologically capable life-forms in other planetary systems would explore other stellar systems using autonomous (and artificially intelligent) space probes.

What do you think? Comments?

Hillary Clinton Will Lose Against the Republican Nominee in Nov 2016

February 20, 2016 23 comments

As many of you have heard by now- Hillary Clinton has “won” the democratic caucuses in Nevada by 5% of the vote. The results seem to largely validate most pre-election polls which showed that Hillary Clinton had about 2-3 % more supporters than Sanders. However many aspects of this supposed “victory” and previous democratic primaries have convinced me that Hillary Clinton has little, to no, chance of winning against a populist (or even moderately competent) republican opponent in the presidential election of Nov 2016.

Here is why..

Let us start with some history. As, once again, many of you know- Hillary Clinton (henceforward referred to as Shrillary) was the unopposed candidate of the democratic party establishment. It is also widely known that the democratic party establishment actively discouraged other viable democratic candidates from running against her in the primaries. They did so because they, rightly, felt that Shrillary could not win the democratic nomination against an even moderately competent competitor. Now.. there are many reasons for her innate lack of appeal to democratic and general voters. While she is widely seen as an extremely corrupt and untrustworthy corporate stooge, those attributes by themselves are not the real deal-breaker.

The biggest roadblock in Shrillary’s path to winning the general election is first and foremost- her “personality” (if you can call it that). I am sure that many of you have also noticed that there is something about her persona that just feels highly unnatural, artificial, deceptive and unrelatable. It does not help that every attempt made by her to appear more ‘human’ always ends up making her look more artificial and deceptive. While this would not be a big issue if we still lived in an era before the internet and when part bosses controlled who got the presidential nomination- we don’t. The reality is that people with Shrillary’s “personality” are just not viable presidential candidates in the post-1980 world.

However the democratic party establishment is desperately in need of a presidential candidate who can bring them tens of billions of dollars and other favors from wall street and other corporations. To make a long story short, Shrillary was and is the best bet for funneling all that money and corporate favors into the democratic party establishment. It is also therefore not surprising that the party establishment has invested so heavily in her candidacy. Under “normal” conditions, they might have even succeeded in pulling off that crap- but then a series of events in the real world upset their calculations.

The first two (or three) events that upset their calculations first manifested themselves about 7-8 years ago. The candidacy and eventual victory of Barack Obama was a disaster for Shrillary in many ways that were not fully appreciated in 2008 or even 2012. You see, Obama ran as a more relatable and eloquent version of Shrillary. While the immediate consequence (loss of the 2008 democratic nomination) was a big downer for Shrillary- the second and third order consequences were even worse. The inability and unwillingness of Obama to keep even a fraction of the promises he made to ordinary voters during his campaign have made it much harder for any further democratic candidate to make the case that acceptability by the establishment matters.

To put it another way, very few democratic voters now believe that a presidential candidate who accepts billions from corporations and wall street will keep any of the promises made to them. While this would not have been a major liability as late as the mid-2000s when the general mood in USA was still upbeat- events since 2008 have made it very clear to many voters that the old way of doing things is just not workable. It is therefore amusing to watch Shrillary trying to wrap herself in Obama’s legacy to win black votes in the democratic primaries. My point is that the black votes she might win in the primaries with her embrace of his legacy pale in comparison to the numbers she will lose for doing so in the presidential election.

Another big problem for Shrillary is that her potential republican opponent in 2016 is unlikely to be an establishment politician- at least nobody with as awful a “personality” as hers (except Ted Cruz). Donald Trump, for his many faults and shortcomings, is a far more relatable person than Shrillary. His willingness to play the nativist-populist cards and constantly attack his opponents make him a far more formidable candidate than most greedy and effeminate public “intellectuals” and talking/blogging heads are willing to acknowledge. Look.. Trump handily won the republican primary in South Carolina after calling Bush43 an idiot and liar. In other words, Shrillary can win the general election in 2016 only if her republican opponent was either Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz.

And this brings us to the issue of Bernie Sanders, or more specifically why he has been so successful against Hillary Clinton in the democratic primaries.

In the three democratic primaries hat have taken place so far- Bernie has won one with a large margin (around 20% in New Hampshire) and lost two by very narrow margins (0.2% in Iowa and 5% in Nevada). Perhaps more worryingly, Shrillary is losing to Bernie in demographic categories that she was expected to utterly dominate. It is no secret that she is losing to Bernie among white women (especially those younger than 40-45) and the younger voters (18-40). More problematically, she is now losing to Bernie in the Hispanic voter category. While some of this might be due to the fact the Hispanic voters are younger than the median- it does not bode well for Shrillary’s presidential aspirations.

But there is a much bigger problem.. she is losing all those categories to a guy who is openly socialist secular jew- a grouping of characteristics that is supposedly to make you unelectable in the presidential election. Even more humiliatingly- he was almost unknown on the national stage until a few months ago. So how did a guy who was almost unknown on the national stage 6-8 months ago suck way so many voters from her. I am not sure if you remember that even 3 months ago- Shrillary was leading Bernie in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada by 30-40% in opinion polls. The fact that he could close and reverse those odds tells you two things. Firstly, Bernie is a pretty good candidate. Secondly, Shrillary is a piss poor candidate who could not win unless the electoral process was heavily rigged in her favor.

I think we have to accept that there are far fervent Shrillary supporters than the media and “experts” want us to believe. While this might not have been an issue if she was running against equally or more unlikable candidates such as Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz- the lack of enthusiasm for her candidacy among democratic and democratic-leaning voters will be a big problem if she runs against a populist like Trump or a non-repulsive empty suit like Rubio. This will be especially problematic if she gets nominated through overwhelming support by unelected ‘super-delegates’ at the democratic convention in mid-2016.

To summarize- Shrillary will very likely lose the 2016 presidential election even if she gets the democratic nomination because her nomination will result in low turnout of democratic and democratic-leaning voters. Additionally, some potential democratic voters might just end up voting for Trump. Also, Trump or Rubio might increase turnout among republican or republican-leaning voters. The net result of these voting patterns is that democrats will end up losing one or more of the so-called ‘swing’ states, and thereby the presidency, to republicans. Since the biggest deal-breaker about Shrillary, namely her “personality”, cannot be fixed- it might be better to nominate Bernie Sanders. Alternatively they can Hubert Humphrey themselves into electoral oblivion.

What do you think? Comments?

On Hillary Clinton’s Past Views and the Black Vote in 2016

February 11, 2016 2 comments

As almost every one of you knows by now, Bernie Sanders resounding victory in the New Hampshire democratic primary has left Hillary Clinton and her cronies shaken, if not overtly panicking.. at least yet. The fact that this overwhelming victory comes on the heels of a technical and shady tie in the Iowa democratic caucus has suddenly made Hillary look far more vulnerable than she would have preferred. Most of you might have also heard all those noises coming from Clinton supporters and protegees about how Hillary will still win the democratic because of her alleged popularity among “Black” and “Hispanic” democratic voters.

But what if the course of events don’t work out that way in 2016? What if her professional supporters and protegees are lying to others or being self-delusional? What if her public viewpoints from the 1990s come back to wreck her quest for the “Black” and “Hispanic” vote in 2016? In other words, could her campaign to win non-white voters in 2016 be sunk by widespread public dissemination of her public views about those groups in the 1990s?

Let us look at the facts..

It is a matter of public record that her husband, Bill Clinton, actively supported laws that caused disproportionate damage to the Black and Hispanic community when he was president. He also promoted laws that caused a lot of damage to the black community as a whole. While he has recently acknowledged many of the racially biased laws passed during his presidency were a “mistake“, it means little to the millions of non-whites who life has been irreversibly damaged by these inherently racist laws.

Now some of you might say that a wife cannot be held accountable for the actions of her husband. Well.. that would be a reasonable line of argument if Hillary was a politically uninvolved 1950s-era housewife- but as you all know, she was anything but apolitical. In fact, there are tons of video clips of her actively defending her husband’s policies- whether they were about increasing levels of racially targeted incarceration or supporting welfare “reform” policies that targeted non-whites. To put it another way, she was a willing and enthusiastic collaborator in the design and support of policies that destroyed the lives of millions of black citizens.

And that is a big problem for her, especially in an era where media is no longer centralized and under the control of a few people and corporations. A recent and widely shared article by Michelle Alexander openly points out that the Clintons have done nothing to deserve the votes of black people. Even a borderline Clinton shill like Ta-Nehisi Coates has now found it hard to openly support Hillary Clinton. It does not take a genius to figure out that we will be soon seeing tons of official and unofficial attacks ads and articles which use public positions taken by the Clinton’s in the 1990s against them in 2016.

The continuation of Black and Hispanic support for Hillary is therefore heavily dependent on suppression of their public positions from the 1990s. While doing so was trivial in an era with three TV networks, a few cable channels and a handful of national newspapers- doing that today is impossible. In fact any attempt to suppress such facts today would achieve the reverse- a phenomenon known as the Streisand effect.

It is also worth mentioning that Blacks and Hispanics in 2016, unlike many of their counterparts from the 1990s, are no longer naive enough to strive for respectability and acceptability by an aging and declining white population. Furthermore, the growth and ubiquity of the internet (and smartphones) have exposed the gross and systemic racial inequalities in the treatment of Blacks and Hispanics in the USA. It is no exaggeration to say that Blacks and Hispanics born after 1970 have a very different view of the 1980s and 1990s than their parents.

To summarize, any serious public exposure of Hillary and Bill Clinton’s views and actions during the 1990s would make Hillary repulsive to non-white voters- especially those born after 1970.

What do you think? Comments?

On the Reasons Behind Putin’s Continued Popularity in Russia

February 4, 2016 14 comments

The previous 2-3 years have seen an interesting, but largely ignored, trend in the western media’s reporting about Russia. You might have noticed that almost every week, we keep seeing shoddily recycled “news” stories about socio-economic problems in Russia, musings about how Putin’s underlings are unhappy with him or how the Russian military intervention in Syria and Ukraine is “not working”. Such “news” stories are usually followed with jingoistic chest thumping by keyboard jockeys in the comment sections of said articles and wild speculation about how the USA would “win” against Russia.

Meanwhile in the real world- Putin’s popularity and approval rating in Russia remains extraordinarily high. Even more oddly for many in the west, he seems to be able to achieve all his stated objectives – whether it is destabilizing the west-backed leadership in Ukraine or helping the Alawites win the Syrian civil war with impunity. So what is going on? Why is Putin’s popularity so high? Why is his grasp on power so firm? And why is he able to achieve his objectives with far more success than his western counterparts?

Well.. it comes down to a few reasons.

Reason 1: Russians in 2016 have no illusions about life in the west, especially the USA.

In the pre-1991 era, very few Russians (as a percentage of the population) had ever interacted with people in the west (especially the USA) outside of settings that did not somehow involve diplomacy, trade or propaganda. Few in that country had personal experience with or insight into the worldview of people in the west. The repressive political climate, ugly architecture, sclerotic institutions and general lack of consumer culture that characterized day-to-day life in Russia in the 1970s and 1980s made them susceptible to western propaganda that life in the west was intrinsically better than in Russia. While it is certainly true that the mindset of sclerotic leader and institutions in Russia during those two decades made it an unpleasant place to live in, the appearance of general prosperity in the west during that period had more to do with prevailing socio-economic trends than anything fundamentally better about the western way.

Post-1991, many Russians were able to travel and live abroad for extended lengths of time. Consequently they were able to observe, first-hand, how things in the west (especially the USA) really worked. It is no secret that many were less than happy with what they saw and experienced. The mental image of the west as created by the minds of Russians in the pre-1991 era had little or no similarity to what they actually saw and experienced. The actual product was a shadow of what was promised in all those colorful advertisements. Living in the west also allowed them see and experience the less savory, and previously hidden, aspects of capitalist societies- such as poverty, economic insecurity, homelessness, high healthcare costs etc. In other words- the posed, lighted and photo-shopped images of the heavily madeup woman had little resemblance to what she looked like in real life.

Reason 2: Russians finally saw, for themselves, that the USA always wanted to marginalize them.

In the pre-1991 era, many Russians believed the hostility of USA towards them was based in ideology as opposed to a simple desire to marginalize, impoverish and destroy them as a people. However actions by the USA after 1991 such as the first Iraq war, expansion of NATO to include former eastern-bloc countries, support of Islamic terrorism in Russia and economic policies that caused the impoverishment of Russians in the 1990s have made most of them realize that the hostility of USA towards the USSR was based less in ideology that the simple desire to marginalize, impoverish and destroy Russians as a people. It is therefore not surprising that they would stand behind and support leaders who demonstrated their nationalistic credentials. A large part of Putin’s popularity is due to the fact that most Russians in 2016 know something that their counterparts in 1991 did not- namely that the USA will not stop until it has marginalized, impoverished and destroyed them.

Russians have also seen the USA has little or no interest in actually cooperating with Russia on solving any problems that affect both countries. For example- Russia had its own problems with Saudi-financed Islamic terrorism in Russia in the 1990s. After September 2001, many Russians thought that the USA might finally decide to work together with them against a common adversary. Well.. after what appeared to a promising start, the USA went back to its old ways and turned a blind eye to Saudi-funded Islamic terrorism in other countries- while simultaneously pursuing the doomed strategy of regime change and military invasions of countries in the middle-east. Perhaps more importantly, they kept trying to destabilize neighboring east-european countries and install puppet pro-USA regimes in them. In other words, most Russians have now come to the conclusion that the USA will always be a hostile country.

Reason 3: Russians can now see that the USA is not omnipotent or invincible.

As I have previously mentioned, many Russians in the pre-1991 era admired and envied the USA. They used to see the USA as a place where even the average person had an existence that was materially comfortable and relatively free from ideological conformity. While that was never more than partially true, the general belief that things in the USA were better created a halo of “competence” around all things from that country- from the military and institutions to its economy. Events in the first few years after 1991 such as the outcome of the first gulf war and rapid development of the internet appeared to support this generally favorable image of the abilities and capabilities of the USA. The inability of Russian leaders in the 1991-1999 era to stand up against economic abuse by the USA also helped prop up the idea that the USA was almost omnipotent and invincible.

Then reality intervened..

Sometime between 2000-2002, it slowly started becoming obvious to people in the rest of the world that the USA was not omnipotent nor invincible. The events of September 2001 and their aftermath- especially the reaction of american government and populace, was the beginning for the exposure of its actual abilities and capabilities. As it turned out- both were substantially inferior to what everyone, including people in the USA, had hitherto believed. The disastrous invasions and subsequent occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan did not make things any better- to put it mildly. By 2005 it became obvious that the USA was incapable of winning against diffuse groups of poorly organised insurgencies in countries they had occupied for a few years- even after it spend trillions of dollars trying to do so. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina also exposed the inability of USA to competently address large problems in inside its own territory.

The economic crisis which began in 2008-2009 also exposed the complex and hitherto hidden masquerades that had allowed the USA to prop up its economic system. It is possible to make the argument that by 2010 many of the younger educated people in the rest of the world (including Russia) had come to the realization that the primacy of the USA in technology and economics was largely a good smoke-and-mirror show. Developments in the subsequent years have provided even more evidence that a lot of the supposed competencies of the USA- from civic institutions, higher education, scientific research, health care etc are based in complex scams which use proxy markers of function, progress and competence to cover up the appalling reality. Furthermore, almost every product associated with a materially comfortable and modern existence is now manufactured in countries such as Mexico and China.

To make a long story short- Russians now see the USA as a serial scam artist who does not actually posses most of the abilities or capabilities it pretends to possess.

To summarize, the continued high levels of public support for Putin in Russia are the result of a combination of factors including a much wider understanding of the reality of life in the west and the long-term agenda of USA towards Russia in combination with a much more objective assessment of the actual capabilities of that country.

What do you think? Comments?

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