Saturday, June 1, 2019

[Russica] -- Dating back 200 years ago: The old PH-Russia ties

MANILA -- This week marks the 43rd year of establishment of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Russia.
It was on June 2, 1976, when the government of the Philippines forged formal diplomatic ties with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
In 1999, the Russian Federation assumed all the responsibilities and obligations arising from the Philippine bilateral relations with the USSR. And for more than four decades, the relationship continues to grow and prosper with the increasing number of high-level exchanges between the two states.
 A view of Manila in the 1810s. From the book "Voyage dans le Pacifique" by Louis Choris, painter of the expedition. 

First Russian Consulate in Manila
Some 202 years ago, Peter Dobell, the first Russian Consul in Manila, was appointed to the Philippines in 1817.
He was dispatched to Okhotsk in March of the same year. He resided in China from 1801-1808 before moving to Manila in 1808.
In 1812, he arrived in Petropavlovsk with a shipment of foodstuff and began his trans-Siberian journey from Kamchatka in 1812, Perm in 1813, and St. Petersburg in 1814 where he submitted his report to the Russian American Company.
His report noted that Manila was more than willing to trade with Russia because of shared objections to the presence of the East India Company.
He proposed to establish a permanent consul for the Okhotsk-Manila trade to learn more of the market in Guangzhou and to promote trade between Manila and Kamchatka with Manila supplying maintenance products needed in the Russian colony in the east.
Dobell, in effect, suggested a triangular trade between Kamchatka, Manila, and Canton.
He wrote: "as soon as this trade begins, the Chinese will bring to Manila everything that they can sell to the Russians so that Russia can make use of all the benefits of their trade."
When the first Russian brig, the Rurik, captained by Lieutenant Kotzebue arrived in Manila in December 1817, no mention was made of the Russian Consulate in Manila, nor Peter Dobell, during the 1817-18 visit.
It is understood that when the ship left Russia in 1815, Dobell had just completed his proposal to the Tsar a year earlier. It was not until early 1817 when the proponent of the plan was himself appointed.
As he was dispatched to Okhotsk, it was very likely that he was a non-resident Consul in Manila, or was traveling between Manila and Okhotsk considering he had two official secretaries assigned to watch him in Okhotsk and he owned a house in Kamchatka.
He did maintain his house in Manila which was eventually destroyed during the chaos in 1820. His nephew maintained the house while he was away.
Another reason why the Consulate was a non-resident was the Spanish government's position of not granting recognition to a formal Russian mission, reducing it to unofficial capacity.
In 1820, Dobell brought out a proposal for joining the Hawaiian archipelago by means of an armed expedition. This proposal, however, was not given serious attention. The Consulate was terminated de facto in 1820 and de jure in 1826.
Russian ships in 19th Century Philippines
Aside from the opening of the Consulate in 1817, the year also witnessed the first arrival of a Russian ship in Manila.
The Rurik was a Russian brig on a voyage of discovery into the Bering Straits for the purpose of exploring a north-east passage. The voyage was at the expense of the Grand Chancellor of the Russian Empire Count Romanzof.
Rurik. From the book "Vues et paysages des Regions Equinoxiales" by Louis Choris, painter of the expedition. 

In command of the expedition was Otto von Kotzebue, a Lieutenant in the Russian Imperial Navy who, as a cadet, made his first travel around the world with Commodore Adam Johann von Krusenstern on board Nadeshda in 1803-06 (the second ship of the same expedition, Neva, passed the Bashee Island 27th November 1805 from the Mariana on its way to Macao).
It was the Commodore who recommended him to Count Romanzoff as eminently qualified for the purpose.
Rurik has the distinction of being fitted for repairs in Cavite.
Since the 20th of December, some 100 men were tasked to do quick and extensive work on the Rurik. Her sails, tackling, boats, masts, pumps and even water-butts were found to be unserviceable. Her copper-sheathing, too, was in need of replacement with her bottom gnawed by worms.
With permission from the Governor, Rurik was fitted with a new copper cover. By 14th January, the ship was rigged and ready to continue her journey around the world.
Kotzebue came to the Philippines again during his new voyage around the world under the appointment of Emperor Alexander I in 1823-26. The Russian frigate Predpriatie and her crew of 145 arrived in Manila on 8th November 1825 and had the frigate repaired in Cavite. She left 10th of January 1826.
The third and final Russian visit was headed by Frederick Lutke (Fedor Petrovich), in his voyage around the world in 1826-1829 under the order of Emperor Nicholas I.
His main ship, the corvette Seniavin and its accompanying ship, the Moller under Captain Stanioukovich, dropped anchor on 13 January 1829, with Moller in Manila much earlier. Both ships left on the 30th of January.
It took more than two decades before another Russian vessel docked in the Philippines. By then, Russian expeditions in the Pacific have ended.
A new era in Asia was emerging with the forced opening of Japan and the Western domination of China.
Both the Philippines and Russia underwent revolutions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and were caught in two world wars and the ideological war after.
It was at that period when the two countries extended the hand of partnership and forged a relationship that endures until today. (Geronimo Suliguin)
(About the author: Geronimo Suliguin took his postgraduate course in historical studies at the Oxford University and is currently taking Diplomatic Studies at the Lincoln College, Oxford University. Suliguin served as the Acting Director of the Department of Foreign Affairs-Office of Public Diplomacy)

Image for the day: The Rough Riders

A 1898 cyanotype portrait of Rough Rider officers, including Theodore Roosevelt, left of center, under a tent in Montauk, on the eastern end of Long Island.Credit Frances Benjamin Johnston/Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. From The New York Times (May 31, 2019)

Friday, May 31, 2019

Sanctimonious, faux shrink, ex police reporter D. Brooks repeats the word "people" only eight times in his latest NYT column ... but he's doesn't fail to add a similar meaningless word! (See below)

The word is "person" (repeated four times) ...

David Brooks, "When Trolls and Crybullies Rule the Earth: How technology reshapes consciousness." The New York Times, May 30, 2019; see also, on Brooks's categorization of individual human beings as nameless "people": (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)

Image result for brooks people

image (not from article) from

Over the past several years, teenage suicide rates have spiked horrifically. Depression rates are surging and America’s mental health over all is deteriorating. What’s going on?

My answer starts with technology but is really about the sort of consciousness online life induces.

When communication styles change, so do people. In 1982, the scholar Walter Ong described the way, centuries ago, a shift from an oral to a printed culture transformed human consciousness. Once, storytelling was a shared experience, with emphasis on proverb, parable and myth. With the onset of the printing press it become a more private experience, the content of that storytelling more realistic and linear.

As L.M. Sacasas argues in the latest issue of The New Atlantis, the shift from printed to electronic communication is similarly consequential. I would say the big difference is this: Attention and affection have gone from being private bonds to being publicly traded goods.

That is, up until recently most of the attention a person received came from family and friends and was pretty stable. But now most of the attention a person receives can come from far and wide and is tremendously volatile.

Sometimes your online post can go viral and get massively admired or ridiculed, while other times your post can leave you alone and completely ignored. Communication itself, once mostly collaborative, is now often competitive, with bids for affection and attention. It is also more manipulative — gestures designed to generate a response.

People ensconced in social media are more likely to be on perpetual alert: How are my ratings this moment? They are also more likely to feel that the amount of attention they are receiving is inadequate.

As David Foster Wallace put it in that famous Kenyon commencement address, if you orient your life around money, you will never feel you have enough. Similarly, if you orient your life around attention, you will always feel slighted. You will always feel emotionally unsafe.

New social types emerge in such a communications regime. The most prominent new type is the troll, and in fact, Americans have elected a troll as the commander in chief.

Trolls bid for attention by trying to make others feel bad. Studies of people who troll find that they score high on measures of psychopathy, sadism and narcissism. Online media hasn’t made them vicious; they’re just vicious. Online has given them a platform to use viciousness to full effect.

Trolls also score high on cognitive empathy. Intellectually, they understand other people’s emotions and how to make them suffer. But they score low on affective empathy. They don’t feel others’ pain, so when they hurt you, they don’t care.

Trolling is a very effective way to generate attention in a competitive, volatile attention economy. It’s a way to feel righteous and important, especially if you claim to be trolling on behalf of some marginalized group.

Another prominent personality type in this economy is the crybully. This is the person who takes his or her own pain and victimization and uses it to make sure every conversation revolves around himself or herself. “This is the age of the Cry-Bully, a hideous hybrid of victim and victor, weeper and walloper,” Julie Burchill wrote in The Spectator a few years ago.

The crybully starts with a genuine trauma. The terrible thing that happened naturally makes the crybully feel unsafe, self-protective and self-conscious to the point of self-absorption. The trauma makes that person intensely concerned about self-image.

The problem comes from the subsequent need to control any situation, the failure to see the big picture, the tendency to lash out in fear and anger as a way to fixate attention on oneself and obliterate others. Crybullying is at the heart of many of our campus de-platforming and censorship outrages.

Trolling, crybullying and other attention-grabbing tactics emerge out of a feeling of weakness, and create a climate that causes more pain, in which it is not safe to lead with vulnerability, not safe to test out ideas or do the things that create genuine companionship.

The internet has become a place where people communicate out of their competitive ego: I’m more fabulous than you (a lot of Instagram). You’re dumber than me (much of Twitter). It’s not a place where people share from their hearts and souls.

Of course, people enmeshed in such a climate are more likely to feel depressed, to suffer from mental health problems. Of course, they are more likely to see human relationship through the abuser/victim frame, and to be acutely sensitive to any power imbalance. Imagine you’re 17 and people you barely know are saying nice or nasty things about your unformed self. It creates existential anxiety and hence fanaticism.

Two words loom large in this moment: trauma and equity. Trauma is living with the aftershocks of a bad event — or, more important, it is having no place to go where the aftershocks can be healed because the public conversation is unsafe. Equity is the dream of a world in which all are given equal attention and dignity. The dream is still out there, but it’s receding with every vicious attack done in its name.

An electric scooter caught fire in downtown D.C. [or, "Come on Baby, light my fire."]

It’s unclear what caused the Skip device to burst into flames, but the fire appeared to be concentrated around the battery.

The fire appears to have started at the battery pack on the scooter. (Teddy Amenabar/The Washington Post)
A Skip e-scooter burst into flames near Franklin Square in downtown Washington on Thursday morning.
The scooter caught fire near the corner of 14th and I streets NW in front of a Compass Coffee shop. Employees at the shop said that a woman came in to tell them the scooter was on fire but that they did not see how it started.
The cause of the fire is not clear, though it appears to have started around the battery pack while the scooter was parked. A Washington Post reporter saw four other Skip scooters parked at the same corner an hour after the incident.
Skip Scooters said that the company is investigating the incident and that it is not ruling out the possibility of foul play. The company said that it thinks this was an isolated case and that its other scooters are safe to ride.
“We take these issues seriously,” the company said in a statement. “We are happy that there were no injuries. The incident was limited to the external battery and only caused minor damage to a nearby wall. We currently have no reason to believe that this affects any other vehicles in our fleet. We are investigating all potential causes of the incident, including foul play.”
Terry Owens, a spokesman for the District Department of Transportation, which regulates the scooter services, said that the agency has been in contact with Skip and that the incident is under review.
“We are not aware of any other fire incidents on scooters operated within the District,” Owens said, noting that Lime issued a recall of some of its devices across the country last year because of battery-safety concerns.
The operating permit issued by the city requires that all scooters meet a standard for electrical systems for personal e-mobility devices or equivalent safety protections, Owens said.
“Vendors are responsible for the safety and safe operation of their vehicles,” Owens said.
Marc Barnes, the owner of the Park at Fourteenth, which is nearby, put the fire out with a fire extinguisher.
“It’s one of the first hot days. I don’t know whether these batteries are going to do well in the sun,” Barnes said.
The D.C.-area forecast for Thursday from The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang called for temperatures to climb from the mid-80s to near 90.
Barnes added that he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the scooters’ batteries. He said he sees people “abusing those scooters” all the time and suggested that misuse might have led to the scooter fire.
One person tweeted in response to photos of the fire on social media: “instant album cover.”
A fire engine responding to the 11:30 a.m. calls about the burning scooter arrived two minutes later to find the small electric battery on fire, D.C. fire department spokesman Doug Buchanan said. No one was injured and the fire was extinguished within minutes, he said.
Buchanan said he could not recall other reports of scooter fires in the city.
Scooters can be found all over downtown Washington and are also available in Alexandria and Arlington. Montgomery County is planning to allow their use in that jurisdiction starting Saturday. The District this month announced the expansion of its program, which allows nearly 5,000 dockless devices, including bicycles and scooters, to be in operation.
Six scooter companies operate in the District: Bird, Jump, Lime, Lyft, Skip and Spin.
The ubiquitous devices have made other headlines in the city recently, having been used as getaway vehicles and causing delays after being abandoned on Metro tracks.
Reports of rental scooters being used to flee from or arrive at crime scenes are becoming more frequent. On May 18, two people on scooters in Northeast demanded property from a person and fled with her purse. In late April, a person carried out two armed robberies on Capitol Hill, according to D.C. police, and used a scooter to flee.
On Wednesday, Metro said a scooter abandoned on the Red Line tracks slowed the homeward journeys of thousands of commuters. Metro had to single-track trains while the scooter was removed.
There also are increasing reports of injuries — and some deaths — related to scooter use in cities including the District, Los Angeles and Dallas.
Lime, one of the world’s largest scooter companies, urged riders in February to take precautions while operating its scooters, citing a technical “bug” that can cause “sudden excessive braking during use.” Last year, the company also pulled scooters out of California after discovering that a number of them may have been carrying batteries with the potential to catch fire.
It is unclear whether Skip has experienced similar problems.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

How ‘Reset’ Man McFaul Helped Torpedo U.S.-Russia Relations

To get a sense of why Putin meddled in our elections one need go no further than the Obama administration's hijinks.

Scott Ridder, The American Conservative, May 28, 2019; see also, for a "left"/so-called "loony" left on McFaul); on Ritter, see

President Obama is briefed by U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul during a flight to Moscow, Russia, July 5, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Post-Mueller report insanity has gripped the nation. In between Presidential proclamations that the report provides proof of his exoneration, and Democratic declarations that the report contains evidence of crimes deserving of impeachment, lies the reality of U.S.-Russian relations, and the fact that these two nations live in a world where their combined nuclear arsenals can eliminate humanity as we know it.
While President Trump struggles to gain traction for his campaign promise to better relations, his political opponents are stuck in a time warp that has them reliving the 2016 Presidential election and its allegations of Russian interference.
Americans have every right to be concerned about the prospects of Russian interference in elections which serve as the foundation of American democracy. However, in seeking to find a solution to the problems that plague the relationship, it is imperative that the American people understand how we got to where we are today. You can’t solve a problem without first accurately defining the problem, and as such any examination of the Genesis of the he-said/she-said aspects of alleged Russian interference in 2016 must take into account the fact that, if anything, the Russians were reacting to a lengthy history of U.S. interference in their internal affairs since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991.
One of the key players in this interference was Michael McFaul, a Stanford professor who, while serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014, oversaw a policy of engagement with Moscow on behalf of the Obama administration and, when that policy failed, facilitated U.S. interference in the 2012 Russian Presidential election in an effort to keep Vladimir Putin out of office.
In October 2006 Michael McFaul was approached by people close to Barack Obama to join a circle of experts who were advising the Illinois Senator on foreign policy issues in preparation for an anticipated presidential bid in 2008.
McFaul, who at that time was working as a professor in political science at Stanford University, agreed, and quickly became Obama’s go-to expert on Russian issues. Following the 2008 U.S. presidential election, Obama picked McFaul as the special assistant to the president and senior director of Russia and Eurasia affairs at the National Security Council.
One of McFaul’s first tasks was to formulate and implement a “reset” in U.S.-Russian relations. There was widespread acknowledgement among Russia observers that, as of 2008, relations between Washington, D.C. and Moscow were at an all-time post-Cold War low. The goal of a “reset”, McFaul believed, was to “find cooperation with Russia on common interests” and “develop a multi-dimensional relationship with Russia” inclusive of “societal contacts” that would be pursued through a policy of “active engagement.”
For McFaul, however, the Russian “reset” wasn’t about U.S.-Russian relations as much as it was about building strong ties between the Obama administration and Dmitry Medvedev, the former prime minister who had assumed the Russian presidency in 2008 from Vladimir Putin. Putin, who had succeeded Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 2000, had finished out his second term (the Russian Constitution forbade a president from serving more than two successive terms.) Putin became the prime minister, effectively trading places with Medvedev.
Obama’s secretary of state at the time, Hillary Clinton, was scheduled to meet with her Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in Geneva in March 2009. McFaul advised that it would be a good idea to publicly draw attention to the “reset,” and a State Department staffer came up with the idea of presenting a symbolic “button” that would be symbolic of the occasion. The staffer approached McFaul who, as the resident Russian expert in the NSC, provided the translation for the word “reset” (peregruzka) and the correct spelling. When Clinton presented the “reset button” to Lavrov, however, he pointed out that peregruzka did not mean “reset”, but rather “overload”, referring to putting too much power through an electrical system, leading to blown fuses, or even a fire.
While the embarrassing gaffe did not sink U.S.-Russian relations (this would happen on its own volition), it did underscore a level of amateurishness at the highest levels of American policy making by someone who was purported to be an expert on all things Russian.
McFaul’s academic credentials and training as a Russian specialist are impressive. McFaul graduated from Stanford in 1986 with a B.A. in International Relations and Slavic Languages, and went on to get his master’s degree, also from Stanford, in Russian and East European Studies, before heading off to Oxford, England, where he pursued his Doctorate in International Relations as a Rhodes Scholar. McFaul returned to the Soviet Union in 1990 as a visiting scholar at Moscow State University, where he finished up his doctoral dissertation (he was awarded his Ph.D. the next year.)
It was during his time as a visiting scholar that McFaul began to blur the line between pure academia and policy activist. In 1990, McFaul signed on as a consultant with the National Democratic Institute (NDI), self-described as “a nonprofit, nonpartisan, nongovernmental organization that has supported democratic institutions and practices in every region of the world.”
The NDI was founded in 1983 as an action arm of the National Endowment for Democracy (NEC), created by Congress under the eponymously named National Endowment for Democracy Act. The congressional action was in response to an executive decision on the part of President Ronald Reagan, promulgated under National Security Decision Directive-77, to promote so-called “public diplomacy” operations in furtherance of U.S. national security interests. McFaul dual-hatted as a visiting scholar and as NDI’s official Field Representative in Moscow.
As the NDI’s representative in Moscow, McFaul actively supported “Democratic Russia,” a coalition of Russian politicians led by Boris Yeltsin, the president of the Russian Federation, even though the official U.S. policy at the time was to support Mikhail Gorbachev, the president of the Soviet Union. McFaul likened Yeltsin to the “catalyst for the Cold War’s end.” While recognizing Yeltsin as “the unquestioned leader of Russia’s anti-Communist movement,” McFaul noted that Yeltsin’s embrace of Democratic Russia was more a byproduct of the realization that such an alliance was needed to defeat the Soviet regime, rather than a genuine embrace of liberal ideas.
This realization seems absent, however, from McFaul’s later apologia about the decade of corrupt, ineffective governance that defined Yeltsin’s time as the president of Russia.
McFaul had become enamored with the concept of Russian “democracy” but he could not define it with any precision. In his 2001 book, Russia’s Unfinished Revolution: Political Change from Gorbachev to Putin, McFaul throws the term “democracy” around freely, only acknowledging (in a footnote) that, in the context of Russia, it may not exist. The reality was that Yeltsin, far from an idealistic paragon of democratic virtue, was little more than the hand-picked puppet of the United States.
In 1999, Yeltsin, his health ravaged by alcohol and his legacy haunted by a decade of corruption and mismanagement, stepped aside (“peacefully and constitutionally,” according to McFaul) in favor of his hand-picked successor, Vladimir Putin. Within a period of less than two years (Putin assumed power on New Year’s Eve in 2000, and Russia’s Unfinished Revolution was released in 2001), McFaul declared that the former KGB officer had “inflicted considerable damage to democratic institutions” in Russia. There were, however, no genuine democratic institutions in Russia to inflict damage upon when Yeltsin stepped aside—Russia’s first president had seen to that by destroying the Russian Parliament in 1993 and rigging an election (with extensive American support) in 1996. It was everything Putin could do upon his accession to the presidency right the Russian ship of state, let alone reinvent something (Russian democracy) that had never existed to begin with.
McFaul’s problem with Putin centered not on what he had done as president as much as the fact that he was president. There was an inherent inconsistency between McFaul’s theory of Russian “democracy” and the reality of Putin. Putin viewed the collapse of the Soviet Union as “a major geopolitical disaster of the century.” He had stood next to Yeltsin as he debased himself and Russia in conversations with President Bill Clinton. If one thing was for certain, Putin would never allow himself to behave in a similar manner.
McFaul’s “reset” policy was intended to reassert American influence into the Russian body politic in a post-Putin Russia. As such, when Putin announced in 2011 that he would again run for president, McFaul’s “reset” policy collapsed. Under the “reset,” the Obama administration, at McFaul’s urging, provided funding through the auspices of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the NED, NDI, and other non-governmental organizations to Russian civil groups that had coalesced into a political opposition to Putin’s 2012 presidential ambition. McFaul also encouraged Secretary of State Clinton to speak out in support of the Russian opposition. “We are supportive of the rights and aspirations of the Russian people,” Clinton stated in December 2011, “to be able to make progress and realize a better future for themselves.”
Putin and the Russian government responded by accusing Clinton of interfering in the domestic political affairs of Russia. When McFaul was appointed by Obama to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Russia in late 2011, one of his first actions was to invite the leaders of the various Russian opposition groups to the U.S. embassy to meet with him. After Putin won his bid for election in March 2012, he immediately set about to ban foreign funding for Russian non-governmental organizations. USAID, the NED, NDI, and other organizations used to channelling U.S. money to Russian political entities were evicted from Russia.
McFaul, whose entire ambassadorial persona was built around the kind of societal engagement produced by these NGOs, never recovered. In February 2014, McFaul announced his resignation as U.S. ambassador, declaring that it was time for him to return to Stanford and resume his previous life of academia.
Since leaving Moscow, McFaul has become one of the leading critics of Putin, writing prolifically on the topic, and frequently appearing as a talking head on television. Putin’s Russia has provided McFaul with plenty of material to work with, including the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the military intervention in Syria in 2015, and the alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
A staunch supporter of Clinton, McFaul has turned his sights on Trump, strongly criticizing Trump’s own efforts for a new “reset” with Russia as misguided. By McFaul’s telling, the abysmal state of U.S.-Russian relations is the fault of Putin and Putin alone, and Trump’s efforts at normalizing relations only plays into Putin’s hands.
But it was McFaul’s role in the U.S. interference in the Russian 2012 election that put in motion everything that followed. Perception makes its own reality, and the Russian perception is that McFaul and the Obama administration purposefully put their thumb on the scale of Russia’s presidential election to keep Putin from winning. McFaul has been banned from traveling to Russia, and in 2018 Putin approached Trump for permission to have Russian intelligence officers question McFaul about alleged illegal activities conducted while he was ambassador. While the Russian claims are unsubstantiated allegations, and their request facially absurd, the fact remains that when it comes to apportioning blame for the sorry state of U.S.-Russian relations today, one need look no further than Michael McFaul and his decades-long effort to create Russian “democracy” from whole cloth as laying the foundation for failure. 
For McFaul to today condemn the Russians for their alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election is like an arsonist seeking to assign blame for a blaze sparked by the embers of his own handiwork.  
Scott Ritter is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD. He is the author of Dealbreaker: Donald Trump and the Unmaking of the Iran Nuclear Deal (2018).

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Image for the Day: Mails of the World, Unite!

image from

What is hell?

Image result for hell
image from

Hell is looking at oneself in the mirror first thing in the morning [anon]