Today is the day I was planning to reply to your *amazing* reaction to my appeal, but the likely terrorist attack in Saint Petersburg made me decide to begin with a short reminder which I feel is important. I will keep it short and to the point, and then turn to my main topic. One request: please don’t comment here about this attack, but do that in the café. Thank you.
Saint Petersburg bombing:
Russia is at war. With the Empire and with the Empire’s footsoldiers/cannon-fodder – the Takfiri crazies and Ukrainian Nazis. I usually say that this war is roughly 80% informational, 15% economic and 5% kinetic. The Saint Petersburg bombing falls into the last category. Horrible as this may be, this is sadly “normal” and to be expected. I have a friend from Moscow visiting right now and her reaction was “yes, that figures, we are used to this”. The bombing of the Russian airliner in Egypt, the murder of the Russian ambassador and other instances always remind us that there is a price in blood, innocent blood, to be paid for confronting evil. When something like this happen, it is crucial to remain cool-headed, even if the heart suffers in compassion for the victims, and understand that with a person like Putin at the helm of the Russian state this kind of attack will not achieve either one of its three goals: to terrify the Russian people, to trigger an over-reaction by the authorities or a change in Russian policies. Neither of them will happen. Sad as this fact is, but Russians are used to live with terrorism. I don’t mean to say that they are not hurt and horrified – they are – but that they understand that the only response to that kind of attack is to remain firm on the correct course. For whatever this is worth, I am pretty confident that those who planted this bomb will be found and killed. Alas, those who ordered this bombing will remain out of reach. Again, this is a sad reality we have to accept and learn to live with. Memory eternal to all those who died!
Saker’s open letter to the Saker community
Introduction: a confession and an apology
I was gone for the past 10 days and this is explains my long silence. Thanks to the amazing generosity of two friends (thanks F. and A.!!!) I was able to accept an invitation of Sheikh Imran Hosein to visit him on the beautiful island of Tobago in the southern Caribbean, just north of Venezuela. This trip was absolutely amazing and very productive (much more about that later in this post). Also participating in the meeting was Stefan Karganovic, the head of the Serbian Saker blog and a friend of his, a neurosurgeon known for his work on the forensic investigation of the Srebrenica. Not to be totally paranoid, but considering the long list of enemies the four of us have, considering the location, the very high level of violence (on Trinidad) and prevalent police corruption we decided to keep our meeting, well, maybe not quite a secret, but a low-profile event. Tobago is nothing shot of a gem, more about that later, but the Internet connection in my location was either terrible or totally absent. All I could do is use my smartphone’s data plan to kind of pretend I was still here so I apologize for not replying to so many emails. This is also why I could not post my latest article “Searching for Russia” until my return. However, I will say that leaving my appeal for support up for 10 days resulted in a huge response. Let’s turn to that now and I will return to the topic of my trip further below.
The community’s response to my appeal
Dear friends, your reaction was nothing short of *amazing*. Not only did I get a lot of donations (more about that later too), but I also got a lot of very useful advice and an immense outpouring of moral support. To say that I am deeply touched does not even begin to cover it. I also received a lot of traditional “snail-mail” letters and packages. One of the most precious benefits of my appeal was the 270 comments I got including many suggestions, a lot of them very good ones. So what I propose to do next, is to reply to what I think are the most important ones one by one. Here they are no no specific order:
Accept advertisements: that will not happen for both ethical and technological reasons. First, I am morally opposed to the capitalist logic which says that I can get money for advertisements I do not control. If we are a community, then this blog is our “common space” our commons, our collective meeting place in cyberspace. The last thing I want is to pollute it with “commercial forcefeed” most of which I find offensive anyway. So while I fully understand the logic of those who say “dude, relax, the pragmatic a logical thing to do is to play by these rules and do like so many others“, I would not be me if I accepted to play by these rules. There is also a pragmatic technological reason: ads use up bandwidth on both sides – server and client – and they penalize those with slow machines or slow connections. And don’t even get me started on pop-ups which I always take as an “attempted mental rape”. No, friends, I don’t care what the rest of the world does or does not do, ads will never happen here.
Merchandising: I tried that in the past. Not really to make any money, but actually to help a person in needed. Still, I was immediately accused of trying to make money by selling trinkets even though I made no money on that at all. Also, this would require time, energy, creativity – all things which I don’t have. However, I would be willing to try out what the Debian community did. If not me, but somebody else, wants to merchandise Saker-related items and if that person pledges to pay me a little something for each sold item (as this is the original purpose to begin with) I would place a post somewhere on the blog indicating where these items could be purchased. Frankly, I doubt that I would make more then a few bucks on that, but that could have a very nice side-effect of creating a visible, tangible, sign of our community. So I like the idea, but I can’t do it myself nor do I expect that to yield any real benefits for me. But, if somebody is interested, please email me and we can discuss it.
Recognizing sponsors: that seems to be a very good idea. If an individual or a corporation would decide to support my work in a substantial way I would be delighted to let the community know about this. Herb, our webmaster, and I had already done some thinking about a “Saker supporters” page, but the persons/entities we wanted to list were not really interested. However, I think that we can resurrect that idea. These are the figures Herb collected last year about the number of visitors and pages served last year:
Keep in mind that these figures really mis-represent our visibility since a lot of our articles are re-published by many other websites and blogs and that these do not include the articles translated into French, Spanish, Russian, Italian, Serbian, Portuguese, German and sometimes even in Polish and Hungarian. So our *real* visibility and reach is way bigger than what these figures, pretty good ones to begin with, suggest. So if somebody is interested in reaching the kind of public/audience/readership this blog attracts, I would be delighted to maybe not “advertise” them, but recognize them as dedicated members of our community.
I don’t have too big hopes here, to be honest, considering the political climate of the day, being a supporter of my work would definitely be considered as a liability for many, I understand that. But, if somebody is interested, I am not opposed to that idea.
Subscriptions, paywalls, 2-tiers, etc.: ain’t gonna happen :-) Let me explain why. First, any fixed system of payment penalizes the poor and favors the rich. Just read that 270 comments in reply to my appeal and count how many members of our community report that they are barely making ends meet, some are at minimal survival level. To tell them to pay a fixed figure for anything would be deeply immoral. These poor members of our community should not be treated as second-rate citizens here, quite to the contrary as they are already suffering difficult personal circumstances. The very *least* we all should be able to agree upon is that these members should at least be able to feel welcome here without having to pay for the privilege. So there is no way I am going to go down the subscription-only or paywall road. I have no problems with others doing that, I can understand the logic for it, but I, in my conscience cannot and will not do that. Just like with advertisements, I would simply not be me if I accepted any such fundraising methods. Having thought long and hard about this, I have come up with only *one* possible “kinda-exception” to this and this is what I have in mind:
I like what Peter Lavelle did at the Duran with his idea of a “Duran sponsor program” (check it out here). I won’t copy this model exactly, but I think that I could offer the following: a Skype/Hangouts/ call with me or a suggested topic for an article or podcast. Since the topic discussed in the Skype/Hangouts/ call would be whatever if of interest to this one the caller and since the article/podcast would be public, I don’t feel that this would penalize the poor. If, however, some person with little means would feel discriminated against on the basis of his/her low income, I would also offer to accept a Skype/Hangouts/ call or a topic suggestion free of charge if/when requested. I think that this is a civilized and ethical way to deal with that issue. Please let me know if you agree!
Reduce IT costs: here let me begin by clarifying that his is not my decision. For one thing, I don’t have the expertise. Second, I trust my webmaster Herb at 110%. Third, what he explained to me about why we do it this way and not another makes sense to me. Fourth, nobody has complained for a long long time. So, if you *really* feel that there is a better way and you also *really* believe that you know what you are talking about, please feel free to email Herb at email@example.com and submit your suggestions to him. But I am not the right person to make those suggestions to.
Quarterly fundraising reminders: okay, I hate them, I always am so embarrassed and mortified about having to ask for money, but yeah, this works. Intellectually, I understand that there is absolutely nothing wrong with reminding the community that I have costs and that I don’t just live from “love and fresh water” (as the French say), but in my gut I always am embarrassed. Still, this is the right thing to do and I will do it. Idea adopted. Also, while on the topic, I won’t do a quarterly blog “shut down” as some have suggested, but I will leave an appeal up for a full week in the most visible “analyses” section. If the reaction is flaccid, I might even decide to leave it up for two weeks. That would give me a much needed break and illustrate what happens when the usual flow of work stops.
Patreon, Gofundme, Paysafecard, Payoneer, Current, etc. I will consider every one of them because
PayPal sucks. I hear you! And I agree. Quite a lot of you are even reporting that the PP system is buggy and rejects attempts to transfer money. Give me some time to investigate them all and I will offer as much of them as I can. Idea adopted.
Thermometer or deficit chart. This is tricky. Let me explain. I don’t want to give out that kind of information for two main reasons: it can be used against me in many ways and that kind of information is by nature and by necessity subjective. Why? Because in reality such figures are *always* rather subjective. Say I declare that I miss $200. But the reality is that we have a small IT budget from where I could take them. Not only that, but I could use some of my own money. Or ask a friend. Or I could decide to change the definition of the budget item needing funding (like government do for inflation or unemployment figures). The bottom line is this: I believe that all such figures are fudged (not out of dishonesty, but out of necessity) and that the only correct why to present financial info is by means of a public made audit. That, I am not willing to do either because, first, nobody ought to be subject to that kind of scrutiny and, second, because whatever I say will say will inevitably my misrepresented (in case you did not know, there are a lot of “Saker-haters” out there: some for ideological reasons, others because their are envious of the success of this blog, others because they are simply batshit crazy. By now I have developed a healthy respect for the kind of damage the mix of hate and stupidity can heap upon an unsuspecting person). What I am willing to do is to share some more info about myself. Think of it as a “full disclosure sidebar”.
[Full disclosure sidebar: First, and especially for newcomers: my real identity has been a pseudo-secret for a long while already (you can read about it here and here). My real name is Andrei Raevsky and while in the past I used “the Saker” is a way to remain anonymous, now I consider “The Saker” as my nom de plume, or pen name. I want to keep it for three reasons: that is a way to show that those who dishonorably betrayed my trust achieved nothing with their betrayal, that is still a way to keep the blog focused on issues rather than individuals and, frankly, I simply came to love that bird :-). So please, respect my wish and do not use my real name. Next, I do have a full-time job. My wife is a veterinarian and we have a mobile clinic where she is the brains and I am the dumb brute force: driver, boxes carrier, bodyguard (we carry controlled substances) and occasional pet handler. We have a decent house we love, 2 cars – one work one private – and we are making ends meet. But barely. We also have three kids (all young adults, two in college), plenty of medical costs, no pension fund to speak of, plenty of credit card debt and a lot of expenses. Since we home schooled all our three kids for the past 21 years we always had to live on one income, never two. That was a very deliberate sacrifice which we made with our eyes open and which we do not regret. The money I get from the blog just about plugs enough wholes to keep us “one nostril above water” as I say. So no, I am not making a lot of money from this blog, but it is crucial money for me: either I do that or I go back to work as a translator or the credit card debt goes further up. I do work very hard on this blog, often many long hours even before I begin to write something which will be posted, and I do feel that a minimal amount of compensation for that work is simply fair. I wanted to share all that with whose who might might have illusions about me becoming some millionaire blogger or something equally silly].
Writing individual thank you letters. The vast majority of donations are under ten dollars. And there is a lot of them. I simply don’t have time to write individual thank you letters to everybody. How about individual thank you letters for bigger donations? Here we run in the same problem as above: this penalizes the poor, who are already penalized, and this privileges the rich, who are already privileged. To some this will sound silly, but that I how I am: these ethical issues mean a lot to me. I am who I am. I rather thank everybody by a post, or reply only to some emails or donations for a unique reason, than to create a money-based multi-tier system.
Now, there two more issues which are not directly connected, but since they have been mentioned, I will react to the comments.
Moderation. Moderation stays. First, all the mods are volunteers. Second, I feel that they provide an absolutely crucial service. When I see what the non-moderated comment threads look like I get horrified and I never, ever, post on them on principle. Oh yes, I know, moderators make mistakes, they have their own biases, prejudices and weaknesses. Guess what? That means that they are just like the rest of us: human. And it is naive to expect perfection from any human being (except maybe my wife). But these moderators are the “thin line” standing between us and a torrent of insults, stupidity, trolling, ad hominens and all the other filth that you see in the mental sewer which non-moderated comments section are. Initially, when my blog was tiny, I never ever banned a comment on the basis of my strong libertarian leanings and out of respect for freedom of speech. But now that we serve well over a million of pages each month this is not an option. Shutting down all comments is an option, but a bad one which I will not accept either: what kind of community are we if we can’t even talk to each other somewhere? Yes, there will always be problems with moderation, but I do believe that with time a specific kind of person stays while others leave. For one thing, all the “pure” ideologues who come here on a basis of one article mostly run in disgust when they see an apparently opposite point of view posted. Then the trolls who eventually are always spotted, banned, fight the ban and then give up. What is left is a unique and diverse mix of high-IQ adults with a strong appreciation for free, intelligent and non-ideological discourse. That is exactly whom I feel that I write for. So moderation stays.
Facebook/Twitter: Scott, who is a real person in spite of what some dummies have suggested, is currently running the official Saker FB account. I personally absolutely loathe the social media, especially “tweets” and “hashtags” so I ain’t touching this stuff. Besides, I have no time for that either.
Here is our official Facebook page Scott runs for me: https://www.facebook.com/thevineyardsaker/.
This is our official Twitter account https://twitter.com/VineyardofSaker, also run by Scott.
(There is another Saker account on Twitter, https://twitter.com/VineyardSaker, but we don’t control it)
If you want to contact Scott, you can write to him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
My articles for the Unz Review. Ron Unz has been a terrific supporter and he has offered me a wonderful deal: I would write a weekly column for his review and I would be able to post it on the blog. The very least I could do was to indicate that the article in question was written for the Unz Review. Why that bothers somebody is beyond me. Also, I consider Ramin Mazaheri an absolutely brilliant analyst and I personally recommended him to Ron. I sure hope that Ramin’s brilliant analyses will get posted on my blog and on the Unz Review. Why that would bother anybody is also beyond me. Is it not the single most important thing of all to get the Truth out there? I am personally absolutely delighted with my collaboration with Ron and with the fact that Ramin has had an article of his posted on the Unz Review. Let me add a very important thing here, please pay close attention:
There are those out there, I shall not name them but you can easily guess who they are, who seek a monopoly on the ‘alternative news market’. These are the folks who see everybody else in their own camp not as allies, but as competitors. Let me be blunt here: these guys are only in this business for the money. Period. All their so-called “values” are crap. Money is all they want and that is why thy badmouth everybody else and see every “ally” as a competitor which has to be shut down or otherwise pushed aside. I loathe this crowd. In total contrast, I see everybody out there who is fighting for truth, justice, freedom and against Empire as an ally and I rejoice when an ally does well or has a success. The perfect example of such allies are Ron Unz and Ramin Mazaheri. Ron is most definitely an ally of freedom as for Ramin, he is not a resource I am going to hoard and try to keep just for myself! Not only that, but even those whom I might have disagreements with but who are on the right side of the barricade I see as precious allies too. This is one reason I strenuously avoid getting involved in exchanges of insults, ideological fights or why I don’t rejoice is somebody else’s failures. Augustin of Hippo wrote “in necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas” which I like to freely translate as “unity in the essential, freedom in the debatable and love in everything”. This is the principle which I see at the center of my collaboration with others and not some kind of competition for clicks or dollars. As for those “professional revolutionaries”, I want nothing to do with them, that was already the case when I started the blog in 2007 and that still is the case today: let them stew in their petty universe of copyright protections, DMCA complaints and avarice. Eventually everybody will recognize them for the fakes they are.
Results from the appeal for support
I am fully funded for at least the next quarter, possibly further!!! Not only that, by one person has offered to cover my IT costs! To say that I am deeply grateful would be an understatement. After the (frankly) completely failed previous two attempts, this time around the response was much stronger. I explain that by my failure to previously present the real costs underlying such a community of websites. Now that I gave you all the numbers, your response was nothing short of “explosive”. Thanks, friends, consider that your “dues” have been paid in full: I will now pay the bills and the blog will run at full capacity with no service reduction of any kind.
Good stuff planned for this year.
First, there will soon be a Saker Android app. I have seen the beta version and it look great. It basically pumps 50 or 100 latest articles, including media, and stores them for convenient offline reading. Not the comments (at least so far). The developer wants no money for it, but I disagree. So I need some way to get him paid. My solution? Make the app available on the Google Android Market in two versions, one free and one for a couple of bucks. The developer promised me that the code will be fully free and open source software (FOSS) and “copylefted” so I will *beg* everybody to get the paid version. I need to contact the FSF lawyers for a few technical details and then talk some more with the developer before we release. I will keep you posted.
Second, a Saker audiobook. I am not sure yet exactly if that will happen and when that will happen. But things look good. I was contacted by a professional book reader/recorder and the samples he sent me look excellent.
Third, Sheikh Imran and myself have agreed on the outline of a book we will write together. It will center on the comparison on Orthodox Christian and Islamic eschatology and on the issue of Russia and Islam.
Fourth, speaking of Islam, I plan to record of full podcast on the topic “my views on Islam” since I get a lot of questions about this and even a lot of silly accusations.
Next, I think that the proper title for the next section ought to be
A few possibly goofy ideas
First, what do you think of organizing a Saker community get together/conference? Of course, this begs the question where. I can think of three locations: southern Virginia (because I know an ideal hotel for that there), Tobago (more about that later) or on the Playa Girón (aka “Bay of Pigs”) in Cuba (the symbolism here would be just sweet!). Of course, if we do that we would have to create a travel fund for those who could not afford the trip. The goal? To spend a couple of days together, get to know each other, listen to a few interesting presentations (I can invite some interesting friends) and just celebrate our community. I have to tell you that I met so many wonderful people through this blog that I want to share that wealth with the rest of you. Another way to maybe make that happen is my 2nd idea:
What about creating a Saker community member contact service? I know, some of you want (or even need!) to remain anonymous. For some this is even crucial. But others don’t care. So what about offering to create some kind of way for you all to meet each other. Only for those who don’t care about anonymity, of course, and who would ask for such a service. Say somebody travels to location X where there happens to be another member of our community. If they both want that, I could link them up? I used to be a member of the IISS (The International Institute for Strategic Studies in London) before resigning in disgust over their dumb knee-jerk support for anything NATO. Well, the IISS offers each member a little booklet with the info about all the other members, individuals, corporate or government representatives. That is, I think, I neat idea. Anywhere you go, any region or topic you want to look into, you get somebody who can help. Now, the IISS is your typical pompous think tank with a lot of “world elite” names. My idea would be far more modest: to introduce good people to each other as a way to fight the feeling of being alone, a “submarine in the desert” on a world gone crazy. The truth is that there is A LOT of us out there. Why should I be the only one benefiting from our amazing community?
Okay, I think I have covered it all. Now, for those interested,
A short report about my trip to Tobago
Sheikh Imran Hosein and I have been corresponding for a long time already and I introduced him to some members of our community. Eventually the Sheikh decided that we had to meet face to face to first, spend some time together and, second, to prepare a book on a topic which is dear to both of us: Orthodoxy, Russia. eschatology and Islam. He invited me last year, but I had to decline simply because I could not pay for the trip (locally, thanks to the Sheikh’s amazing hospitality, I had no costs). However, two dear friends insisted to pay for the flight so two weeks ago I boarded a Jet Blue flight to Trinidad and then a small island hopper aircraft from Caribbean Airways which brought me to the small airfield on the south end of Tobago.
Pretty soon, I realized that I was in heaven. For one thing, the kindness and hospitality of Shiekh Imran was amazing. Second, Tobago is really a pearl. Now I understand why he always writes about “my enchanting Tobago” or “my beloved Tobago”. The place is simply beautiful. Not only that, but the people there are wonderful, amongst the kindest and friendliest people I have ever met. Make no mistake, the island of Tobago is rather poor. Not abject poverty, no, but still pretty poor. While Trinidad lives of its oil sales, Tobago lives mainly of tourism but the amazing levels of violence and general criminality on Trinidad (mostly due to drugs and gang warfare) seem to deter a lot of tourists from visiting Tobago even though Tobago is much safer. For me, however, this was a blessing since I don’t really like the presence of (frankly often dumb) tourists anywhere. On Tobago about 99% of the people I met were either locals or people from Trinidad who seek the peace and beauty of Tobago.
Most Tobagonians are of African extraction, descendants of slaves. But you also meet a lot of Indians, mostly Muslims, and Arabs. There are also Chinese, Hispanics and a few White expats. All in all, a very nice mix which produces some very nice local dishes including my favorite the “Roti“, an Indian dish adapted to local spices (basically a mix of curries wrapped in Indian bread). Great stuff, mouth watering and very healthy too. As I said, Tobagonians are extremely friendly, joyful and kind and many times a day I was greeting with big, kindness-beaming smiles.
Nature on Tobago is amazing too. Beautiful beaches, crystal clear water, hills covered with a dense rain forest. And some totally unique locations like the amazing Nylon Pool.
Do I need to say that I enthusiastically recommend Tobago (but not Trinidad!) for anybody wanting to visit a little peace of paradise on earth?
I had to admit that before leaving for Tobago I was pretty close to a burnout. After this trip, I feel like I am 10 years younger and my batteries are full again. I will be forever in debt to Sheikh Imran and my friends for making this trip possible for me!
The main purpose of the trip was still work. As I said, I worked on the structure of our upcoming book with Sheikh Imran while I also worked with Stefan on issues related to the History of the Orthodox People project. I am very satisfied with the results of this trip and I feel like now I can go back to work with renewed enthusiasm and energy.
*YOUR* turn now!
I want to hear your reactions to my replies today. I think that I have really tried to go out of my way to be as candid as possible with you and I would like to keep this an ongoing dialog between us. My personal preference would be if you could post your comments/reactions here, in the comments section, but if you prefer, you can, of course, email me. But please keep in mind that right now I have 80 unanswered emails in my inbox :-((
So, please let me know what you think.
In conclusion, I will add a cautionary note: 2018 will be a tough year. First, all he hopes we might have had for Trump are now pretty much gone. At best, he will do very little or nothing at all, at worst the Neocons and the ‘deep state’ will force him to comply with their all their demented demands. He sure looks pretty beat to me and when I hear that Flynn is now offering to testify against immunity I fear that Flynn will now make Trump pay for having betrayed him. What is sure is that the Trump plan to create some kind of Kurdistan is totally idiotic and will end in abject failure (my next analysis will probably be about that). As for Russia, the Russians are pretty much fed up with waiting for some sign from Trump, they are now basically pursuing their own policies and have unofficially given up any hopes of actually getting a real partnership going between the USA and Russia. I cannot blame them. How long can they continue to pretend that Nikki Haley does not exist or that NATO is not hiring Russian-speakers to play the role of civilians in military exercises where NATO soldiers will practice the occupation of “Russian villages” (in the Baltic or the Ukraine?). The Ukraine is breaking apart on all her seams, even if Poroshenko might hold on to power for quite a while longer. Serbia and Montenegro are under tremendous pressure to accept US demands ranging from homosexual parades to the recognition of Kosovo as an independent state. A civil war is now a real possibility. While the war in Syria is slowly winding down, Trump is now considering triggering a civil war in Turkey. Iraq is a total mess and Iran is in the USA’s crosshairs. Israel might be arrogant enough to force Russia to shoot down an Israeli aircraft over Syria while the Saudi Wahabis are planning a further escalation of violence in Yemen. Last but not least, I think that there is a very real risk of violent civil unrest inside the USA (expect an analysis combined with a book review on that topic in the near future). So all in all, tough times. Maybe not nuclear WWIII as would have been the case with Hillary, but most definitely not a period of peace thanks to a draining of a swamp in Washington, DC.
So when the bovine excreta hits the fan (it will) and things get ugly (they will), don’t get discouraged, don’t lose heart, remain focused and calm and, most importantly, don’t listen to the naysayers! We are winning. The struggle is far from over. But we are most definitely winning!!
Thanks, hugs and cheers to all,