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Shady Ray

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  1. In case anyone is interested in a straight-forward, long-form, apolitical, objective set of interviews about the entire situation on the ground in Afghanistan, I highly recommend the Podcast series "Afghanistan After America" from Aussie photojournalist/freelance journalist Andrew Quilty. He has been on the ground living in Kabul for years now and has a series of interviews with really interesting people living there. He interviews an active Taliban commander, an ANA general, a pro-government media baron, various members of the Afghan intelligentsia, and a few more. I listened to the one with Taliban expert Rahmatullah Amiri and then binged the rest over the next few days. The interviews are from late 2020, so a bit dated, but all discussions occur under the shadow of the Doha negotiations between the Afghan Govt and the Taliban. And while Quilty is somewhat outspoken against the US and how the war was conducted in some of his published writings, the interviews themselves are really fascinating and it really gives the listener an insight into just how deeply unchangeable the place really is at every level and facet of society.
  2. Definitely not as viciously as the English media…more along the lines of “let’s all be realistic and accept that the boys just don’t have it this year and it’s time for the post-Jogi era…we must now look forward to more consistency and less booger-picking.”
  3. If judging by the measured cynicism of the national media here in Germany over the past couple of days, you may be right. General consensus here is that England is going to finally stare down their demons and pull out a victory over the less-than-consistent Germans. I hope all y’all are wrong, but I fear you aren’t.
  4. Daaamn. I live about 3 miles from Allianz Arena, and it’s fucking thundering and lightning Central Texas style at the moment, with hail on the way. This Hungary game might be delayed if shit doesn’t blow over.
  5. In my opinion, the answer to that is "hell no, they aren't reliable." Absent a clear act of unilateral aggression such as Russia rolling into the Baltics (as opposed to a buildup of tensions over some localized issue like a border dispute between Russia and a member-state that went hot, for example), you'd have a really hard time galvanizing the Germans and French populations to supporting military action against Russia. The governments would honor Article 5, but it would be grudgingly accepted as fulfilling a duty to NATO, and not out of any genuine empathy/camaraderie with another Nato member. The French, of course, have always been the most "NATO skeptical" of the bunch, and, well, the Germans IMO are simply still traumatized by even the idea of war in the East. Not that this is by any means conclusive, put purely anecdotally...on certain days of the year, Germans are expected to tend to the graves of deceased family members...so every Christmas Eve and Easter (yeah, they're a bunch of morbid fuckers) and a couple of other days here and there, we, along with my in-laws, head to the cemeteries of my wife's maternal and paternal sides here in Munich and tidy up family graves, including three which are inscribed with "Missing in Stalingrad" (and pass a dozen more of the same while walking through). I often wonder how much of those constant reminders impact the German view of potential confrontation in that part of the world, so I would guess that a lot of those survey results from Germany are not solely based on the new-found German pacifism, but also pant-shitting anxiety due to history.
  6. Local news in Munich saying Thomas MĂĽller out with a knee injury for the Hungary match on Wednesday...likely longer should they advance to the knock-outs.
  7. One of the things that was really interesting about the NATO summit last week was the inclusion of language strongly criticizing China in the final readout. This is the first that I recall NATO taking on China in such direct and confrontational language and it will be very interesting to see whether the electorates within Europe get on board with shifting (at least some of) the focus of the alliance towards a much more distant adversary. If conflict with China truly is in the cards, and the Europeans are expected to participate, being able to effectively convince Western Europeans to change their views will be one of Biden and his administration's biggest tasks. From a European Council on Foreign Relations poll from earlier this year (all of which is worth a read for an eye-opening wrt European views on the US): ECFR: The Crisis of American Power: How Europeans See Biden's America
  8. Finns ain't fucking around. Edit: What PittsburghTiger said
  9. Shady Ray

    Russia

    This is one of my favorite things about living here...no 24-hour news cycle whatsoever. No Fox News type shit and "no talking heads" outside of three or four long-serving evening chat show hosts that are along the lines of old school US political interview shows. A presenter and a politician or a few politicians, all asked questions about some random issues of the day. No split screens, no hucksters talking over each other. No name calling. Nothing. None of the tension that turns neighbors into dueling yard-sign vigilantes or causes people to see themselves entirely through the lens of their political team. We have two main TV stations, "Das Erste" and "Das Zweite". Literally, "The First" and "The Second". Creative Germans, I know. They are public media outlets somewhat along the lines of PBS and our TV news comes from here. There is hardly any advertising outside of sports programming and we all pay 17.50 euros a month to fund these stations via a license fee, and they don't fuck around when it comes to collecting this. Fail to pay it after six months, they'll send your file to court...fail to pay after a year, and they'll seize property of the amount owed with a knock on the door at 8 AM. No excuses. We get our TV news at 8:15 PM via a program on The First called Taggesschau (Daily Show) and almost all adults in the country watch it religiously. Every night, the Taggeschau bell comes on, and the country watches the news together. There is one presenter, out of a total of 15 possible presenters, who constantly rotate, and no one really even knows their names or who will be presenting on a given night. They are plain, well-kept, pleasant. etc. but otherwise, they have no personality and, as such, no cult of personality. They have no following, and thus, no power to influence. They present no opinions and they use standard, non-loaded wording in high German. They simply read the news starting with international, then domestic, then national weather. Done. No culture war shit. Nothing designed to rile up the viewers. They are highly regulated and expected to remain completely neutral when they cover politics. Here is a link to last night's Taggeschau. In German, of course, but you can get the idea. This is essentially the extent of our TV news media. https://www.tagesschau.de/multimedia/sendung/ts-43359.html Local news is done purely by state, so there is for example Bavarian Rundfunk, or Southwest Rundfunk, or Berlin Rundfunk that covers state and local topics and they have their own channels, also with an evening show that is the same way. No personalities, highly regulated, etc. There is an ombudsman for the two stations who occasionally critiques the news formally, the most recent being findings of being too one-sided in the 2008 financial crisis and re the 2014 Russian-Ukraine war. And you are right, given the history here, government involvement with the press is very, very sensitive. I would say that there is a slight bend towards Merkel-style-centrism with occasional hostility towards the Alternative fur Deutschland, as they are seen as too far to the right for polite company, but otherwise it is pretty neutral. A communist Chancellor candidate from Die Linke party is going to be treated just as fairly/aggressively/probingly as someone from the Center parties, both in the Taggeschau or in one of the interview programs. Merkel has gotten some softballs as of late, but I think it is because it is a seismic shift coming with her departure and no one wants to see her battered on the way out. But they are pretty tough on all pols, for the most part. I don't know if it is a chicken and egg situation when compared to the US, but the population genuinely doesn't like seeing their politicians railroaded with gotchas or sleazy edits, and they don't like seeing the media targeted for criticism by politicians. They just want to hear a conversation and they want it done quietly. Radio media is also subject to this system of oversight and license fees. Print news isn't regulated and it is still very big here (as in "paper delivered to your newspaper box" print news), and there is more variety here across partisan perspectives. The two German Papers of Record, the SĂĽddeutsche Zeitung here in Munich, and Frankfurt Allegemeine Zeitung in Frankfurt, are center-right and center-left, respectively, and everyone knows the slight bent and filters accordingly. The other three big ones, Die Zeit, Die Welt, and Der Spiegel are all center right and left, also. But there is absolutely nothing like a hyper-partisan widely-viewed news outlet here. We have tabloids like "Bild", which is actually the most read paper in Germany, but when page 1 has some big political gossip and page 6 has an article asking Germans who should be Mrs. November with an image of a bunch of German women flashing their tits, it isn't really an outlet people turn to for actual news.
  10. Shady Ray

    Russia

    Biden really doesn’t have another option at the moment but to shift the US position on NS2. Germany has refused to abandon the project despite massive U.S. pressure both behind-the-scenes and in public for years under Trump and continuing early on in the Biden Administration by Blinken. Continuing to escalate the issue via rhetorical threats, or by pushing Germany to buy US LNG as an alternative, or by increasing sanctions on companies working on NS2, etc. was not going to succeed and was only going to increase the likelihood of an even higher-profile falling-out between the U.S. and Europe’s most economically powerful member-state, which ultimately only benefits Putin in the long-run. Plus, you now have Macron openly stating that sanctions aren’t working against Russia, which supports the premise that a unified front on Russia is at risk of crumbling if things aren't recalibrated to accept domestic political realities on the ground here. And it is very much political, given that both France and Germany have huge federal elections over the next 10 months in which energy policy and Russian relations are extremely important. The modus operandi of center-left to center-right German politicians is to pay lip-service to the US...but only so long as it doesn’t cost them electorally by allowing them to be portrayed by opponents as deferring to the US at the expense of Germany, or by allowing Germany to blatantly appear as an American vassal state. There is a sensitivity here to being used as a US puppet that multiple ex-administrations have failed to grasp. See Bush Jr re Iraq and Trump re, well, everything he ever said. By giving in to such overt pressure from Washington, both of these narratives would absolutely take hold and could prove costly for a whole bunch of ambitious (yet ultimately talentless) politicians across the spectrum. Recent polls have shown over 75% of the German people want the pipeline finished, with 17% against, so it is a political loser and there are Bundestag elections which will determine Merkel's successor in the Fall. While I think support could theoretically be as low as 65% approval in actuality, it isn't less than that. No politician is going to play games politically with energy policy initiative with 2/3rds-plus popular support during election season. "Three-Quarters Majority for Nord Stream 2" "Are you for completing NS2 in spite of USA opposition?" Roughly that same number extrapolates to the corresponding political parties in the most recent electoral polling for the upcoming Bundestag elections. And even within those parties who do officially oppose completing NS2 on paper (the Greens and the Free Democratic Party), the rank-and-file of those parties still overwhelmingly support the completion of the pipeline. "Greens Also Strongly Support the Pipeline" "Are you for completing NS2 in spite of USA opposition? According to Party Preference in Percent" Night after night on German political shows like Annie Will and Maybrit Illner, guests from the far right to the far left, and the SPD and CDU in the middle, harp on the fact that (at least as of a few months ago) the US still imports over 550k barrels of Russian oil every day, providing billions to Putin’s government annually, which makes it really easy to hang the label of "self-interested hypocrites" on the US govt and their arguments. Voters are regularly referred to the dumpster fire known as Ukrainian domestic politics, as well as the legitimate energy challenges that a non-coal-fueled/non-nuclear-fueled Germany is going to face in the very near future. With those arguments taken together -rightly or wrongly - allowing construction of NS2 to be squashed by external US pressure is a losing political argument domestically and no amount of U.S. pressure was going to change that at the voter level. I think the Biden Administration rightly realized the realpolitik of the situation and has now opted to find a way to preserve at least a public image of Transatlantic unity in pursuit of greater issues down the road, while trying to now contain the negative economic fallout to Ukraine, which Germany seems willing to assist with to some degree. Just last week the German govt floated the idea of contributing euros/environmental infrastructure upgrades to make Ukraine whole with respect to the amount of lost transit fees and (at least nominally) suggested that Russia must continue to use Ukrainian pipelines for gas transport as per the current Russian-Ukraine transit agreement. Now, I highly doubt that Germany is going to insist on the renewal of that provision come the agreement’s expiration in 2024, as part of the domestic appeal of NS2 (albeit unspoken) is to limit Germany's exposure to the continued instability of Ukraine and the unreliability of its leadership. However, I do think they will at least contribute somewhat in order to keep Ukraine’s economy from cratering even deeper than its abysmal state until things settle down, albeit solely in effort to throw a bone to the US for backing off.
  11. I don't think (particularly after 2020) Lukashenko shits without Putin's permission.
  12. I think you hit the nail on the head with respect to the situation needn't being overshadowed with Belarus and Russia. Unfortunately, in retrospect, my posts detracted from that, and to be honest, in the time since I have posted about it I have actually felt quite bad about it. To the degree that I wanted to hop back on and acknowledge it. It truly is irrelevant what his attachment to Azov was, and I genuinely do not want to come across as someone who linked the criminal treatment of him by Lukashenko to his past connections. In my mind I wasn't doing that, and while I know that I stated that multiple times in my threads, in retrospect it definitely came across that way. While I do link all of these things together in my mind as part of the continuing Russia/West tensions, it was not the place to do so here. Now, for background as to why I often get involved with the Ukraine-Russia topic, (and have for years, going back to TOS) my honest position is that I am very concerned on this particular conflict. I know it well. I deal with it to some degree professionally and I have had many discussions as of late on it within my profession (government relations attorney) on the topic of "things here in Europe are not trending in the right direction". We are heading for a major realignment geopolitically, IMO, and I pray we get there with as minimal pain as possible. As I have posted in other threads, it is precisely something like this Ukraine-Russia tension that start big wars, as they are both unreliable in their own ways, and in my opinion, in the current environment it is a powder keg waiting to happen. And if you are like me, sometimes you feel like the only thing that you can do in this world is to type shit out, as insignificant as it is, to the few places where you think someone will listen. It is silly, but it is human. And I am in a period of frustration on this subject and to be very honest, this board is about the only place in my life where I can do that freely. In my mind, this Russia/Belarus/Ukraine trifecta of disaster has the potential to rupture the transatlantic alliance like no other, and I think that is an inevitability unless the powers of Europe, the US and Russia come to some type of arrangement on it. I see things like what happened in Ukraine last month, and this hijacking, all as part of the positioning here and it is not a simple situation. There is absolutely no military solution here and playing games with guns here is going to be disastrous. In my opinion, mistakes made here could easily have consequences for the world far, far more devastating than Iraq did and I feel that the US leadership is deliberately down-playing the degree in which Ukraine is crumbling under the current leadership and under the weight of vigilante lawlessness that is all over the country. There are a variety of reasons for that, none of them good. As is clear from my posts, I despise Azov with a passion. While perhaps they played a justified role at the outset, they are a boil that should have been lanced long ago and now they have only increased their influence. I have watched as they have become increasingly oppressive in Ukrainian life, actively recruiting Neo-Nazis from across Europe, re-injecting a very dangerous ideology into a continent that quite frankly, isn't immune to such things taking hold. I think they need to be reigned in and I think our leadership is in a position to greatly influence just that. But I fear that our pathetic politicians won't. I do not see them as something that American taxpayers should be funding, or justifying; I do not see them as harmless, and I do not see them as insignificant. I see them as the latest iteration of US-funded fascism/extremism and I believe that our approach to the Ukrainian situation is foolish and will not end well. But that is for another time. But, to illustrate my point re Azov, this article in The Nation is - in my opinion - is the best summary of what is actually going on over there. It is highly sourced, verified and accurate. It is two years old, but nothing has changed for the better. So that said, again, apologies for being seen as muddying the waters.
  13. Yes, I do view them as a full-blown Neo-Nazi group. And, no, I am not trying to stir up sediment. And no, Azov's affiliation/wholesale embrace/acceptance/proliferation of nazi ideology is not arguable. It is factual. And it is only your apparent binary view of the world of Russia vs. USA that allows you to consider anything to the contrary. What do you need beyond the Wolfsangel and annual SS glorification? Do you need the UN to condemn them as Extreme Right? Do you need the ADL to do so? How about members of the EU Parliament? How about the Simon Wiesenthal Center? Am I leaving any out? Or is it still arguable? Are going to just say "Neo-nazi" affiliated isn't the same as actual "Neo-Nazis"? OK, we can agree to disagree. Perhaps Andriy Biletsky, the head of Azov's military and political wings, who I quoted earlier supporting Roman Protasevich's claim of being a journalist with no work-product, was just confused as to Fascism when he said ON THE FUCKING RECORD: "It is the Ukrainian nation's mission to lead the white races of the world in a final crusade against semite-led untermenschen". Oh, I guess because he publicly made the statement 2010, it was worthwhile to continue to fund and arm him for four years after Minsk was signed and defend his unit's Neo-Nazism as "arguable". Here is Bellingcat on this group of "arguable" Nazis: Believe me, I can go on and on proving this groups filth. And it is not arguable. With respect to your question regarding the selfie and his FB page, you raise a very good point that I will admit that I took for granted. I have seen posts on this on various sites, including journos that I very much trust, but I admit that is something that I may have overlooked. I absolutely stand by the link to the V-Kontakte page. It is absolutely consistent with the other images published in the Belsat article that I linked to, and I am not going to discount it simply because it is VKontakte. But I definitely need to look into the selfie. Sincere appreciation for pointing that out. That doesn't change the fact that his own father in 2020, his commander yesterday, and other comrades acknowledge his affiliation with Azov...regardless of whether that was fighting or a non-publishing journalist - and in my opinion, his affiliation with them is news. I cite once again to one of the highest rated think-tanks on the area, Jamestown...https://jamestown.org/program/belarus-stages-what-it-sees-as-major-security-operations/ Again - and I know I am like a broken record - but I am not defending Lukashenko or Putin. In fact, I would love for them to be toppled. And my point goes much more to our support of Azov than it does demanding the fair treatment and release of this kid. And I have gone out of my way to reiterate that. I am very, very, adamant about the Ukraine issue personally. I am very concerned about it and I see it as a situation where the US is blindly sleepwalking into a conflict that will have profound, profound implications on the place where I live. And unfortunately, for myself, as a resident of Europe, if the US decides to shit-fart its way into yet another armed conflict like it has continually done in Iraq, Syria, Libya, etc., it isn't going to be an "oops, my bad" for me like it is for a bunch of know-nothings who rely on a deficient and pathetic media to provide our continual support for war. But my initial gripe is exactly as @Mrs Whiggins stated above...this is not about whataboutism...this is about bringing attention to very, very complicated issues that are not nearly as cut-and-dry as they are made out to be, and they are issues that should be covered. I have legitimate and severe concerns about steps the US is taking in Ukraine...both from a transatlantic alliance position and that of an American. And as long as we sit there and say that Azov's extremism is "arguable", and allow for their funding - whether direct or indirect, and not listen to what they themselves claim to be, we are running the risk of waltzing into very terrible situations because the topic of Russia has become hyper-politicized in the US. Now, I have spent far too much time on this debate for today (albeit an enjoyable one), and I have a nice new bottle of Lagavulin 16 waiting on me which I am going to break into on the back porch, but I will check back in early tomorrow and respond when I can.
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