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The Death of Alexei Navalny and His Russia of Choice



The Death of Alexei Navalny and His Russia of Choice
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The demise of Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader imprisoned at the age of forty-seven, is a narrative that impacts us all. It reflects an unresponsive society, heartless brutality, dwindling hope, and personal familial sorrow. Additionally, it sheds light on the Russian government, exposing its intolerance for competition within its structure and tarnishing its reputation. The news of Navalny’s sudden death, as shocking as the events of February 24, 2022, has led many to share identical thoughts about its underlying cause.

Russian society, specifically the majority, will endure this upheaval, much like it weathered and assimilated the two prior upheavals: the commencement of the “special operation” against Ukraine and the partial mobilization in the same year. The prevailing sentiment seems to be, “We were under attack, and in times of crisis, one must defend their homeland.” Justifications can be conjured for any situation; the key is to remain composed and absolve oneself of any accountability. Russia’s passive conformists, the true support of the semi-totalitarian regime, are likely to navigate through this situation with the same approach.

Navalny’s death occurring during the presidential election campaign carries significant weight. While it may appear that Putin faces no electoral challengers, there exists a rival, not so much in the formal electoral context, but in what those in power term as an “existential” sense. Navalny, a well-known figure, was initially sent to the Arctic Circle in December, at the outset of this quasi-electoral maneuver, where he continued to serve multiple jail terms widely seen as retribution for his political activism. With his rival now deceased, Putin stands unrivaled in the role of the supreme commander. He has become, henceforth, a solus rex: a lone king.

Navalny and the late Yevgeny Prigozhin, a mercenary turned mutineer, may have had no similarities, but their absence only intensifies the autocrat’s solitude atop his metaphorical Mount Olympus. The objectives outlined by the 2020 summer referendum, which sought to amend the constitution and grant Putin the ability to rule virtually indefinitely, have all been realized. Power has not merely been upheld; it is now absolute.

Navalny’s demise was simply delayed; he was initially intended to pass away following the 2020 vote when he was poisoned with the lethal nerve agent Novichok. The referendum essentially presented a binary choice: either enthrone an autocrat or leave the room, even in theory, for the potential rotation of power. The apathetic majority, comprised of passive conformists, ultimately settled the matter for everyone.

Navalny’s death is jolting, yet, akin to the events of February 2022, it carries a certain expectation, as there was still a glimmer of hope that the worst might be averted. Now, February 16, 2024, will be etched in history alongside February 24, 2022—a day that not only altered the lives of people in two nations but also reshaped the world order, transforming it into a state of disarray. Both days stand as ominous signs of a deteriorating disaster.

The political aftermath of these events will only amplify the sense of complete omnipotence and lack of accountability within the ruling class and its apparatus of repression. Consequently, the silent segment of society, inclined to applaud any autocratic initiative rather than advocate for free speech, will likely retreat even further into itself. Some passive conformists may recognize that, for the sake of personal peace of mind, they must transition into active conformists and may even begin to display enthusiasm in supporting the authorities.

The authorities do not perceive any threat; those who refuse to remain silent will only further solidify their reputation as adversaries. A comprehensive apparatus of oppression, coupled with an extensive array of repressive legislation, awaits those who speak out. Those who opt for silence will tightly shut their mouths, while those in support of the regime will likely express their allegiance even more vociferously and aggressively.

In January 2021, Alexei Navalny returned to Russia from Germany, where he had undergone treatment after an attempt on his life, with the intention of continuing his political struggle within the country. His immediate arrest upon arrival at a Moscow airport sparked the last truly significant protests witnessed in the country. The authorities are optimistic that there won’t be similar protests following his death. They rely on the expectation that people will overcome the initial shock and gradually move on, eventually forgetting about Navalny.

Even in 2021, Navalny was returning to a transformed Russia. It was no longer a country where he could engage in political activities, participate in elections (as he did when running for Moscow mayor in 2013), lead mass protests, and conduct the hard-hitting investigations that exposed the profound cynicism and corruption among the country’s rulers. One such exposé, titled “A Palace for Putin,” reached a quarter of all Russians online. By 2021, it had become a slightly different regime, characterized by the prospect of perpetual rule as solidified by the 2020 constitutional amendments. Despite a previous attempt on his life, he still chose to return.

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The regime’s anticipation that memories of Navalny will diminish is partly justified. In February 2022, 14 percent of respondents claimed they “did not know” who Navalny was, and by February 2023, that figure had increased to 23 percent, as per a Levada Center survey from a year ago. This raises the question of whether this “ignorance” is a learned response, possibly an artificial outcome of caution. Attitudes towards Navalny also deteriorated during the same period, with more individuals inclined to believe that he had been imprisoned for an actual crime rather than seeing it as a settling of scores.

As the political regime grew more stringent, Navalny’s presence in the realm of public information diminished, leading passive conformists to formulate their own conclusions. However, in 2021, Navalny ranked among Russia’s top four most popular politicians—remarkable in a hardened, cynical, and conservative country that had largely lost faith in various institutions. During that same year, Navalny held the distinction of being the most popular politician among Muscovites, albeit with a concurrently high disapproval rating, alongside fellow opposition figures Lyubov Sobol and Ilya Yashin.

“See no evil, hear no evil, distance yourself from the latest bad news, only believe the official version”: this was the modus operandi of the conformist majority, consistently observed in similar situations, including when Navalny was poisoned. In a Levada Center poll conducted in December 2020, a few months after the poisoning, 30 percent of respondents asserted, “There was no poisoning, it’s all been staged,” 19 percent believed it was “a provocation by Western intelligence services,” and only 15 percent acknowledged it as “an attempt by the authorities to eliminate a political opponent.” Living or rather, not thinking at all, became an easier approach for this majority. They were prepared to accept anything the authorities might put forth, including both the “special operation” itself and all the justifications for its execution.

The response to Navalny’s arrest among the thoughtful segment of society, as per the Levada Center, included feelings of shame for the Russian people, fatigue, bewilderment, and despair. Shame and despair may be the prevailing emotions for many individuals with a conscience and the capacity for reflection, sentiments that have persisted over the past few years, starting with the constitutional amendments resetting presidential terms in 2020. Nevertheless, the sense of shame is not a new experience; it was evident in 2000 when a KGB man was invited to lead the country, in 2004 when democracy yielded to oil rent, in 2012 when Putin returned to the presidency and tightened control, and in 2018 when he secured re-election with a resounding victory. However, in all these instances, those who should feel shame are often not the ones who experience it.

Alexei Navalny will leave an enduring legacy. He was a rare example of a fearless politician in a country where engaging in traditional politics is outright forbidden under the threat of reprisals. In a normal political landscape, he might have had a chance of ascending to the position of head of state. Moreover, unlike the stagnant regime currently grappling with an extended goal-setting crisis, Navalny had a well-defined vision for the future of Russia. Even in the midst of severely restricted competition, Russian politics, at one point, could be summarized as the confrontation between Putin and Navalny.

Navalny will not fade from memory within the Kremlin, the FSB headquarters, or other official circles. He represented an alternative to them and provided an alternative vision to a vast nation. Over the last half-century, only Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin have played a similar role, each in their unique way, with differing levels of popularity among the masses seeking change in their country.

In contrast to those who stumbled into history, Alexei Navalny strode into it with dignity. History has its distinct timelines and criteria for gauging the significance of an individual, and holding a position as head of state is not the sole determinant. Navalny was a rare leader in Russian history who aspired for the well-being of the entire nation rather than personal gain. He made his mark, and he will rightfully be acknowledged. His endeavors have not gone unnoticed and are sure to be remembered.

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Google CEO Pichai Calls for Reset After Activist Fires



Google CEO Pichai Calls for Reset After Activist Fires
Pressure mounts on Sundar Pichai to resign as Google CEO

Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet, terminated 28 employees this week who were demonstrating against the company’s cloud computing agreement with the Israeli government. This action underscores the intensifying disputes surrounding the Gaza conflict and its impact on corporate environments.

In a recent companywide email, Google’s Vice President of Global Security, Chris Rackow, disclosed that these employees were dismissed following an investigation that linked them to protests at Google’s facilities in New York and Sunnyvale, California.

Rackow elaborated in his Wednesday email that the terminated employees had taken control of company premises, vandalized property, and obstructed the work activities of their fellow employees, thereby breaching the company’s policies.

He highlighted that these incidents stemmed from objections to Google’s $2 billion contract with what the protesters described as Israel’s genocidal government and military, which they argue serves the interests of managers and shareholders more than those of the employees who generate actual value for the company.

The recent protests were sparked by a Time magazine report that referenced company documents indicating Google supplied cloud services to the Israeli Defense Ministry.

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In 2021, Google and Amazon entered into an agreement known as Nimbus, under which they agreed to provide cloud services to the Israeli government. On Tuesday, police in New York and California arrested nine Google employees following a 10-hour sit-in. According to the group No Tech for Apartheid, protesters in Sunnyvale took over an office used by Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian.

Protesters at both sites stated their intention to remain in Google’s offices until they were forcibly removed or until Google terminated its contract with Israel.

In New York, employees occupied a common area and displayed a banner that read “No Technocide.” Although Google stated earlier in the week that the contract was not meant for use in weaponry or intelligence operations, some employees remain worried that the company might still contribute to Israel’s military actions. Protesters argue that Google has minimal influence over the ways in which Israel utilizes its technology. Historically, Google has allowed open internal discussions regarding political and professional matters.

Following Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election, Google executives, including co-founder Sergey Brin, expressed disappointment during a company-wide meeting and discussed the potential influence of the company’s services on the election outcome. In 2018, after significant internal controversy, Google chose not to renew its Pentagon contract known as “Project Maven.”

The company has committed to not developing artificial intelligence technology for military weapons and has established a set of AI principles to guide its projects. Additionally, some Amazon employees have protested against the company’s contract with Israel. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, a group critical of Amazon’s environmental practices, urged the company in February to terminate its Nimbus contract. The group expressed on the social platform X, “Just as we don’t want our work used to help fossil fuel companies accelerate extraction and destruction, we also don’t want our work used to support military and surveillance projects like Project Nimbus, which perpetuate genocide.” An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on the Nimbus project.

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Trump Media 18% Stock closed down more after filing plans to issue more DJT stock



Trump Media 18% Stock closed down more after filing plans to issue more DJT stock

Trump Media’s share price experienced a significant decline of over 18% during Monday’s trading session following the revelation of plans enabling current investors to utilize stock warrants. DJT shares concluded the day at $26.61. Trump Media, known for its creation of the Truth Social app and listed on the Nasdaq, suffered a nearly 20% drop in the previous week. This sharp downturn coincided with Donald Trump’s presence in a Manhattan courtroom for the commencement of his criminal trial concerning charges related to hush money. Trump maintains a majority stake in the company.

Since its initial public offering on March 26, Trump Media has witnessed a staggering decline in its share price, plummeting over 62% from the opening price of $70.90 to approximately $27 by Monday. Consequently, its market value has been severely diminished by nearly $6 billion, dwindling to around $3.7 billion as of Monday. The company’s plan to issue additional common stock was revealed in a preliminary prospectus submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission. However, these shares cannot be distributed until a registration statement with the SEC becomes effective.

According to the filing, Trump Media outlined a proposal to offer over 21.4 million shares of common stock, which would be available “upon the exercise of warrants.” These warrants grant the holder the right to purchase shares at a predetermined price within a specified period. Trump Media estimated in the filing that it could generate “up to an aggregate of approximately $247.1 million from the exercise of the Warrants.” As per the filing, the closing price of Trump Media’s warrants stood at $13.69 on Friday. These warrants are traded on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “DJTWW,” which experienced a decline of more than 15% on Monday.

The company also intends to facilitate the resale of up to 146.1 million shares of stock held by “selling security holders,” with 114.8 million of these shares attributed to Trump himself. Trump’s ownership encompasses 78.8 million shares of the company, and he stands to gain an additional 36 million “earnout shares” if the stock maintains a value above $17.50 for a sufficient number of trading days. As of Monday morning’s share price, Trump’s current ownership stake in the company, amounting to nearly 60% of its shares, was valued at over $2.2 billion. However, Trump is prohibited from selling his shares until the expiration of a six-month lockup period. This lockup period was mandated as part of Trump Media’s protracted merger with the shell company Digital World Acquisition Corp., which was formally completed on March 25.

Trump, whose social media presence significantly dwindled after transitioning to Truth Social following his suspension from Twitter and Facebook in 2021, has been attempting to rally his followers to embrace the new platform. However, it remains uncertain if they have responded to Trump’s urging, as the company has not publicly disclosed crucial performance metrics, including the number of active Truth Social users. Despite this lack of transparency, Trump Media reported a substantial net loss of $58.2 million in 2023, despite generating just $4.1 million in revenue.

Ben Silverman, head of Verity Research, remarked, “The stock valuation is disconnected from the financial reality.” However, if the stock price remains sufficiently high for the issuance of earnout shares, Trump and other insiders could potentially reap a windfall exceeding $1 billion based on current trading prices.

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Texas has installed a new anti-climb fence at the US-Mexico border



Texas has installed a new anti-climb fence at the US-Mexico border

Texas has erected a fresh “anti-climb” razor fence along the US-Mexico border amidst legal disputes with the Biden Administration. This action coincides with ongoing Republican criticisms of President Joe Biden’s border strategies in this election year.

Fox News reporter Matt Finn posted a video showcasing Texas troops, clad in camouflage, setting up the barrier near El Paso. In a social media update on X, Finn likened the anti-climb fence to a “wall” previously erected at Eagle Pass. Notably, Governor Greg Abbott dispatched the Texas National Guard to Eagle Pass during the migrant crisis.

“Exclusive: first up-close look at Texas’ new wire fence and barrier going up in El Paso,” Finn stated. The brief seven-second clip displays the installation of a standard wire fence reinforced with multiple layers of razor wire. Additionally, the reporter remarked, “Miles of it. Similar to the effective ‘wall’ in Shelby Park, Eagle Pass.”

Following the circulation of the video on X, Republicans lauded the evident act of defiance. They viewed the development as a direct challenge to the Biden administration and a triumph for Abbott. It’s worth noting that Biden and Abbott have been in disagreement over the migrant crisis, adding context to the celebration.

Abbott has vehemently criticized Biden, advocating for the return of former President Donald Trump to the White House. With the legal dispute reaching a climax in March, the installation of the new razor fence sends a clear message of defiance. Conservative commentator and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk also weighed in on the anti-climb fence.

Kirk contended that Abbott installed the fence in defiance of “the Biden Regime.” Following this assertion, Kirk highlighted that a significant number of undocumented migrants toppled a fence and overwhelmed the Texas National Guard.

“Texas has once again DEFIED the Biden Regime by taking back control of the El Paso border,” Kirk expressed. “Texas National Guard installed concertina wire and a new anti-climb fence this morning.” He further elaborated, “On March 21st, a mob of illegals pushed through border personnel.”

“Rioting, and then tearing apart the previous razor wire barrier,” Kirk added to the narrative. Similarly, right-wing political cartoonist Ben Garrison joined the discussion, sharing a drawing of Biden wrapped inside the fence with razor wire spelling “MAGA.” In the illustration, an armadillo carrying a Texas flag looks at the President and says, “Don’t mess with Texas.”

Garrison’s commentary, shared alongside the cartoon, echoed Kirk’s sentiments. “Don’t mess with Texas!” Garrison wrote. “Today, the Texas National Guard defied the Biden regime and again took control of the El Paso border, installing concertina wire (razor wire) and a new anti-climb fence.”

Additionally, The Conservative Read, an account aiming to “combat the biased mainstream media,” criticized the Biden administration. They argued that the fence was a response to Biden “prioritizing illegals.” “While the Biden admin refuses to close the border, prioritizing illegals,” the account remarked while sharing Finn’s video.

“Texas continues to take matters into their own hands to protect our nation’s sovereignty & security,” the account added. “Texas National Guard installing new wire fence and barriers in El Paso.” This isn’t the first instance of Texas asserting its own border policies.

Abbott has implemented stringent border policies in defiance of the federal government, including the practice of busing migrants to sanctuary cities. Consequently, the Biden administration and many on the political left have criticized these actions, labeling Abbott’s tactics as heavy-handed and “cruel.” These policies have encountered numerous legal challenges.

Furthermore, Biden has accused Republicans of deliberately exacerbating the migrant situation for political gain. The President alleges that they are enhancing their chances of winning the upcoming presidential election in November by worsening the problem.

Biden claimed that Trump urged GOP lawmakers to obstruct a bipartisan bill containing $20 billion to enhance border security. However, the installation of the anti-climb fence in El Paso follows the incident on March 21, which some have characterized as a “riot.” Over 100 asylum seekers reportedly overwhelmed troops in an attempt to unlawfully enter the US.

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