Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Migration almost completed

I've moved most of this blog to The Dilettante's Winterings but this blog should remain here just in case.

I like the integrated Google platform and the improvements in Blogspot that followed Google's taking over, but I always wanted something special and can afford the hosting for now. I'm going to add a blogroll and tinker with the new blog's design.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Russian net censors get down to business

... their business being, as elsewhere, to make things harder for net users.

Hundreds of sites were reported as blocked last night, including, in one of the regions, all the WordPress-hosted blogs.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Russian opposition activist kidnapped in Ukraine...

... flown to Moscow, tortured and forced to "confess".

A BBC news report on Leonid Razvozzhaev (in Russian).

Ukraine's president Yanukovich is perfectly happy about that, apparently and predictably, since he needs cheaper Russian gas.

Posted via BlogPost


I'm going to move over to a self-hosted WordPress blog. Hope the transition goes smoothly. A good excuse to revise some of the old posts, expunging the inexcusable among them.

Posted via BlogPost

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Russia to outlaw anonymizing software! I'm not joking

As you may have heard, the Russian Duma has passed a law which lets a government agency to arbitrarily block internet sites for "extremism", "information harmful to minors" and so on - basically for anything they don't like. This piece of legislation (if it may be called so - passed by an unelectd bunch of corrupt toadies) goes into full effect on 1 November.

But it's getting worse now - the Duma is going to discuss amendments to the bill outlawing all anonymizing software!

Smart people will find ways around it, no doubt, but the combination of evilness and meanness of those people never fails to amaze.

Saturday, August 04, 2012


P. R.

"Pussy Riot trial 'worse than Soviet era'," according to one of the group's lawyers. Indeed, I have read Russian bloggers compare this "trial" to Soviet-era trials of Joseph Brodsky (1964, for "social parasitism") and of Andrey Sinyavsky and Yuly Daniel (1965-6, for publishing their work abroad).

Worse, because it's a complete circus and the defendants are being mildly tortured, as John Yoo might have put it in a slightly different context. While Russia's economy, although still very unsophisticated, is at least growing, its legal system seems to be merging itself disgracefully into the executive.

There's simply no comparison between country's criminal justice now and a hundred years ago, when there were real trials with real juries and vigorous defense-prosecution duels. Think of the great acquittals of the 1870s-80s, of the great defense lawyers, of Dostoyevsky discussing criminal cases in his brother's publication, etc.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Internet censorship in Russia: towards China via Oz

Internet censorship in Russia: towards China via Oz

The Duma has passed the first reading of a bill that would allow for nationwide filtering of blacklisted sites. The black list would be maintain by not-for-profit organization and include sites with underage pornography, "extremism," and - oddly - pro-suicide propaganda aimed at children.

In addition, that not-for-profit watchdog would also maintain an ever-changing list of "18+", "16+", "14+" and such sites. Public access providers would have to block sites from that second list if they allow underage users.

Now, this all wouldn't be too bad if implemented in a country with a vigorous and influential pro-free speech movement. Recall that in Australia, the infamous nationwide filter first conceived in the 1990s, has caused unending outrage. Although eventually implemented, it continues to be an embarrassment to many Australians but, fortunately enough, can be bypassed with relatively little effort - unlike the obnoxious and near-impossible to circumvent Chinese net wall.

But this being Russia, the potential for abuse is enormous. "Extremist" is a universal label attachable to anything in the world, even The Reader's Digest -- all it takes is a ruling from a provincial Russian court. In fact, a court in the Tomsk Region (in the eastern part of Western Siberia) tried to ban the Bhagavad Gita last year as "extremist." That attempt caused a veritable uproar in India, where nationalists in the parliament threatened a trade boycott of Russia.

The same applies to underage porn - since Kremlin keeps a host of paid hackers, one of them can upload some illegal stuff to Facebook or some such, make a few screenshots before the service blocks him and takes down the page, and send the screenshots to the police.

Oh, and the wonderful not-for-profit maintainer of the black lists - I'm going to talk about them in the next post.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

A misconception?

According to Mark Adomanis at Forbes,

"While the idea of Russians as obsequious supporters of a “strong hand” is cliched, I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that most Russians will not react very positively to a movement that is seen throwing empty bottles, rocks, and asphalt at the police."

Mark Adomanis seems to greatly underestimate the visceral dislike - even hatred - and contempt for police shared by the widest thinkable cross-section of the Russian populace. Once the protesters are seen as occasionally overcoming the riot police, popular support is only likely to strengthen. That kind of hatred-driven support would require a strong populist leader to harness.

The protesters' problem is a lack of a clear political agenda, and of leaders capable of governing later, besides Navalny perhaps.

Fighting in Moscow

What we saw in Moscow today was a legal, peaceful demonstration that ended in police violence. But something tells me the fight will do more to end the rule of the twin dwarf usurpers than the earlier, peaceful rallies.