The Zombie Myth of Devastating Russian Depopulation

Uncle Volodya says, "Statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive - but what they conceal is vital"

Among the many ad hoc terms coined during the reign of the Bush Administration, by both the administration itself and through the media’s efforts to adequately describe the phenomenon, there is the “zombie lie”.  As described at Balloon Juice, a zombie lie is a story that just will not stay dead no matter how many times it is clubbed over the head and buried – it keeps coming back to eat our brains. Often such stories are simply recycled because that’s the construct of “conventional wisdom” – it’s true because nearly everybody comes to believe it is.

In this spirit, we’re going to look at the zombie myth that Russia is on the verge of fragmenting into tribal states, with Moscow brooding over its collapsed kingdom like Mordor, owing to massive depopulation and the gradual exodus of its remaining few inhabitants from the wasted countryside to major cities. The leader who has presided over this crippling failure is, of course, Vladimir Putin. The zombie trope that the decline in Russia’s population is a recent and terrifying phenomenon, not to mention that Putin has overseen this catastrophe, keeps pushing its way to the surface no matter how much dirt you shovel over it, no matter how many stakes you pound through its heart.

Look, I’m resigned now that there’s nothing – short of driving himself into a bridge abuttment at 160 kph – that Vladimir Putin can do to please the western press. He simply remains deeply unpopular with western journalists in spite of the demonstrable reality that his leadership in both major public-service positions he has occupied has been good for Russia. Dmitry Medvedev started out getting the rough side of the press corp’s tongue as well, and has been ridiculed on several occasions (most recently for his you-make-me-feel-like-dancin’, hip-flinging spasms on the fringe of the dance floor – which I snorted unsympathetic laughter at myself) but they appear to be mollified by his apparent willingness to take the west’s finger-wagging seriously, and he looks like the western favourite in 2012. If it must be United Russia’s candidate, of course; the west would much rather see one of its model “reformers” such as Boris Nemtsov or Garry Kasparov take the reins, but seems to reluctantly acknowledge that’s not going to happen.

Anyway: enter – or re-enter – the myth of Russia’s out-of-control death spiral.  Reintroduced with a spritz of crocodile tears by Miriam Elder at Global Post, it wouldn’t look out of place in one of Boris Nemtsov’s “Expert Reports”. The brief Elder piece is offered in support of a larger story, by Simon Shuster, in Time Magazine. The population of Russia, we are told, has shrunk 1.6% since 2002. Ms. Elder suggests that is “just a bland statistic…[n]ow we have a colorful story that illustrates just how tragic certain regions of Russia have become”. My, yes; a colorful story is always more fun to read than bland statistics; sometimes it’s better than reality.

Lopotova, a “dying village on Russia’s western edge” is portrayed by Shuster as – to use Elder’s words – a village where people have little to do but drink. For some reason, Lopotova is supposed to be symptomatic of Russia’s slow, agonized rotting away to nothing (if it’s possible for something to rot that is pickled in vodka). That Russia, demographically speaking, is on a brakeless bobsled bound for the seventh circle of hell is a treasured fantasy of western journalists, and they like to take it out periodically and look at it, caress its fuzzy little head, to be sure it’s still alive.

Let’s start with the hackneyed and dishonest implication that the wheels came off the state wagon in 2002. It’s quite true that was the date of the last full-scale census prior to the most recent one, but there are plenty of available statistics: it serves another purpose to begin there – it neatly brackets the tenure of Vladimir Vladimirovitch Putin. Boris Nemtsov is fond of this hand-jive as well, and likes to employ it in his scathing denunciations of the Kremlin; which less than a quarter of the population reads, and which bloggers such as Anatoly Karlin and Sean Guillory easily dismember without breaking a sweat, as they did here and here.

An old chestnut in the field of future forecasting is, “Statistics means never having to say you’re certain”. People paid to engage in crystal-ball-gazing naturally hedge toward a desirable endstate. Therefore the west tends to predict inevitable doom for the Russian state (because that is the hoped-for reality) while the state itself comes up with sunny projections that frequently prove to have a hole in them somewhere, sometimes big enough to drive a Kamaz through. The consequence that eventually obtains is usually somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.

There’s no arguing, however, with statistics that have already happened. With that in mind, let’s take a look at this graph. We can immediately see the zero threshold – that level at which attrition was proceeding at an equal rate with population replacement – was actually crossed around 1992, cozily nestled between the slobbering western love-fest inauguration of Boris “The Liquor Magnet” Yeltsin and the 1993 Constitutional Crisis (as a direct result of which Yeltsin temporarily banned opposition parties and media, but the west’s memory always goes a little foggy on that point). Where was Putin then – maybe we can still blame it on him!! Ah, dammit; too bad – he was working for the St. Petersburg Mayor’s Office, and fucking up the nation’s population growth was a little beyond his sphere of influence. However, it’d be unfair to blame it on Yeltsin, either: although he did nothing to arrest the slide, the trend had been inexorably downward since 1960, when Yeltsin was a sprightly lad of 29, and Vladimir Putin was only 8 years old. It was dead level from 1966 to 1975, but it’s important to remember that (a) that was still only a tenuous 1.5% above the zero threshold, and (b) the graph reflects gains from both births and from immigration. That’s the spike you see just before Putin took over the throttle; an influx of returning Russian expats which provided a steep and one-time gain, and which Anatoly Karlin discussed knowledgeably at the post I cited earlier. That brought population growth back (momentarily) to break-even status, and then it started to slide again, although nothing like the fall-off-a-cliff drop it took in the mid-60’s.

But in 2004, it began to edge upward once more toward positive territory, and it has never turned back since. It’s still negative gain, and the country is still struggling, but the trend is toward recovery. If population growth relied strictly upon the birth rate, recovery might be out of reach, and any faltering in the birth rate or uptick in mortality is pounced upon as evidence that Russia is resuming its descent into the inferno. Fortunately, immigration is also a positive driver. It has to be – demographers forecast Russia will need to admit 25 million immigrants to compensate for labour force decline over the next 20 years. For that to work to national benefit, immigration law will have to improve as well as incentives to register – some estimates put Russia’s undocumented economic immigrant population at 70% of the total. These immigrants are not captured in the census, and arouse the anger of “nationalist groups”; the government must cautiously walk a tightrope, because the “shadow economy” produces -directly and indirectly – nearly a quarter of GDP.

So, just to be clear; although the birth rate remains an unreliable way to dramatically increase the native population (and a falling birth rate is actually far more common than just Russia), the population continues to grow through immigration gains. At the same time, the net migration leaving Russia took a dive in 2006 – 2007, and remains much lower than in previous years. Meanwhile the natural birth rate continues to improve slowly, while mortality declines by about the same value. In the snapshot period discussed in this article (January – November 2009), over 333,000 new Russians received citizenship.

I’m sorry about Lopotova, but urbanization is simply a worldwide trend; Russia would likely stand out for ridicule if it were the only nation not to follow. People go where the work is, and as transportation becomes more expensive, long commutes look less and less viable. Small towns disappear altogether, while even large towns and smaller cities lose more and more of their inhabitants to larger cities. The United Nations has remarked on this long before now, and if it’s any comfort to Mr. Shuster, small towns are dropping off the map in the USA as well – in 2000, more than 80% of the American people lived in cities, and rural populations were shrinking fast.

Additionally Russia, with a nod to reality, went to a normative system in 2006 which linked to number of pupils as a criterion whether regional schools would be kept open or face closure and consolidation. Several schools in the Pskov region had less than 5 students, and teachers in such schools were sometimes those who couldn’t get a post anywhere else. While it’s an inconvenience to the families to no longer have a school a few doors down, it doesn’t mean those students have to join the line of ne’er-do-wells sitting on a log outside the general store drinking popskull vodka until their livers are as leathery as a dead armadillo. They still go to school, simply further away, and likely get a better education. Keeping the small rural schools going was a recipe for fiscal inefficiency that no developed country would allow to continue.

But just for fun, let’s pretend the alleged downward trend actually is irreversible, and Russia’s population is going to be reduced to half what it is now by 2014, around 70,500,000 people. That’d be quite the disaster, what? In fact, Russia in such dire straits might look quite a bit like….

Canada. Living in a large country that has a small population is something I know a little bit about, and I’m afraid I just don’t see the signs of decay and collapse around me that are supposed to attend the apocalyptic numbers the doomcriers keep dolefully croaking. If Russia’s population were cut in half tomorrow (I hope the first ones to vaporize are their hockey team), it would still be more than twice that of Canada. To be even more precise, there would still be about a half-million more than twice as many Russians in Russia than there are Canadians in Canada, in a country that is only 1.7 times the size of Canada. Is Canada in a panic to double its population overnight, rather than face extinction? Doesn’t look like it; our immigration target for this year is a maximum of only 265,000 people. And so far, the economy doesn’t look like it’s collapsing.

Rather than being gripped by an unresolvable crisis that can only end in national extermination, dreamy as that must be for some, what is far more likely is that Russia is simply adjusting to a population it can comfortably support after the artificialities of the Soviet period. This assessment is supported by the author of The Pentagon’s New Map; War and Peace in the 21st Century; Thomas Barnett.

“Russia’s population now heads toward a number it can sustain rather than one artificially manufactured by the state. That is not a tragedy. It is a reality Russia imposed on itself.”

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52 Responses to The Zombie Myth of Devastating Russian Depopulation

  1. Yalensis says:

    @mark, Thanks for excellent blog, everything well reasoned.

    And, in line with my proposed tit-for-tat propaganda strategy, I would retort to Miriam Elder: “Yeah, but American roads have potholes, too. Monstrously big ones!” [And that's a true statement.]

  2. Misha says:

    Makes some auto mechanics very happy.

    Kudos on another well written and thought out article Mark.

  3. Yalensis says:

    Dmitry Medvedev started out getting the rough side of the press corp’s tongue as well, and has been ridiculed on several occasions (most recently for his you-make-me-feel-like-dancin’, hip-flinging spasms on the fringe of the dance floor …
    I don’t criticize Medvedev for the quality of his dancing, which is no worse than mine. I criticize him for his choice of song: “American Boy.” That is simply too blatant. Can you imagine the U.S. president caught dancing to a song called “Russian Spy” ??

    • Misha says:

      Existing problems considered, the Cold War is behind us.

      Towards the end of the USSR, one measurement of the Cold War’s coming to an end was when numerous American eating establishments ended their boycott of Stoli.

      Since the post-Soviet period, a number of events could’ve really set back relations. Slowly but surely, I sense an ongoing scenario of a gradual coming together, which will periodically include differences of opinion. Besides, it’s not like the West is so monolithic. I don’t rule out a more confrontational trend getting the better of relations.

      Some influential Russians continue to be influenced by certain negative (IMO) trends in the West. In other instances, there appears that there could be more of an ignorance factor.

      For clarity sake, Medvedev and the often discussed “liberals” shouldn’t be a lone target on such matter. I remain reserved on the extent of Medvedev’s shortcomings. Meantime, there’re other instances to consider like:

      – A key RIA Novosti employee uncritically referring to openDemocracy as a respectable UK based internet magazine.

      – Same person writing a NYT op-ed suggesting a hero status, for his description of a discussion he had with a Russian official on a media point. I don’t get the impression that the individual in question (Andrei Zolotov) is under any great threat.

      – RT doing a half hour show on global anti-Jewish sentiment (a valid topic), while not having done likewise regarding anti-Russian biases.

      – RT covering Luke Harding’s denied entry into Russia (over an admin snafu on Harding, who was later granted clearance), while not covering the Canadian government’s heavy-handed political reasoning for denying Srdja Trifkovic entry into Canada. This has happened to some other law abiding citizens from western democracy.

      On the subject of RT, someone who I put in the pro-Russian, but constructively critical of Russia category, sent me a note that includes this excerpt:

      “Thomas P.M. Barnett likes to trash Russia Today as crazy anti-American propaganda but then appeared on The Alyona Show recently (!). Two facedness runs deep.”

      ****

      I know much of this is a rehash. Then again, much of the propped sources are rehashes as well.

      • marknesop says:

        The latter is most of the reason I couldn’t resist closing with Barnett’s quote – because looking at it in the very best possible light, Barnett is a hard realist about Russia, and at worst vaguely russophobic. He’d be unlikely to say anything that gives Russia a pass unless it were wrenched from him, so his take on “depopulation” is the more likely to be accurate. I poached the quote from Russia Blog.

    • grafomanka says:

      It’s an awesome song.
      The lyrics tho… the song is obviously old but I repeatedly come across Russian girls that tell me there are no men in Russia for them. No good partner/husband materials. Kind of sad.

      • kovane says:

        As famous Rabinovich said in the famous joke: “Не дождетесь”. :)

      • marknesop says:

        It reminds me a lot of Penthouse magazine. The centrefold always had a brief interview – if I recall correctly, it was called “turn-offs and turn-ons”, something like that. Ours were printed in the USA, so no matter where the centrefold girl was from, she could be counted on to say, “The best lover I ever had was an American from XXXX…” The issue that was printed in France would say the best lover ever was a Frenchman, even though it was the same girl in the same month. Similarly, if you check out some dating sites for Russian girls (which I used to do occasionally for fun even though I’d already found mine and wasn’t interested in any other, because what man can resist?), they may include a preamble which says something like, “Don’t worry if you are a little bit overweight; Russian girls don’t mind a man with a pot belly, because it is a sign of his success”. Statements like that stand in testemonial to the utter rubbish men will believe, because it fits their dreams. Russian women fantasize over the same kinds of men and the same movie-star hunks every other woman does, and their assessments of what constitutes male physical beauty are the same, broadly speaking, as those of women everywhere. There are plenty of Russian women who’d like to get out of the one-horse town they’re in and are looking for a husband, but if offered the choice between a slick-looking homegrown dreamboat from Moscow or a bristly-jowled, potbellied minor executive from Boston, both of whom made the same salary, she’d be sailing on the turn of the tide with the dreamboat from Moscow.

        Some young women want to move to the west for the economic opportunity it offers them personally, or because they are motivated to try moving their entire family, which is possible if you are patient (for example, a wife can apply through the “Family Class” to move parents and grandparents, although siblings do not qualify. However, if nieces or nephews can get in on economic or student visas and eventually win residence, they can apply to bring over their parents, one of whom is the sibling that didn’t qualify to be brought over by her sister or brother – that’s the way it works here, anyway). But no man in his right mind should imagine it’s because his fat stomach is an alluring sexual dinner-bell, or that men from his dream-girl’s own country who have the same economic standing are lousy husband material just because of their nationality.

        And both are aware of risks. There have been young women who moved to the west who were horribly abused or even killed by their new partners. On the flip side, there was a well-publicized case in the USA in which the new bride applied to bring over a brother or cousin or something, who was actually her lover. The two of them fabricated all kinds of financial emergencies such as a sick mother who needed money for medicine and so on until they drained him of every penny, and then they killed him. Somebody whose family and background you know is always a better bet than somebody you met on an international dating site.

      • Yalensis says:

        I admit I am not even familiar with the song, is this the one?

    • marknesop says:

      Actually, he dances just like me; but I would never be foolish enough to be caught on camera doing it. But, yes; dancing to “American Boy” just makes it look like Medvedev is desperately trying to be western, which is a popular theme. I guess it all averages out, since it’s just as popular with his followers as with his detractors. White men mostly just can’t dance, I’m afraid, and they always look self-conscious, as if they got caught doing something they should be ashamed of.

  4. The population chart you linked to is useful for comparing Russia with other states such as Germany (itself in negative territory) and Ireland (with a trend-line suddenly in steep decline). There is always more than meets the eye; forecasting Russia’s demise on the basis of one demographic statistic is not good science.

    • marknesop says:

      Uncle Volodya would agree with you that there is always more than meets the eye. I imagine many russophobic sites that forecast Russia’s demise do so on the basis of sound science, and only the clownlike amateurs like La Russophobe bark like seals every time there’s a blip on the graph. But even the scientifically-supported pessimists have one thing in common – they make a forecast based on the circumstances which prevail at the moment the statistic was captured, and with the assumption they will not change. As I mentioned earlier, the government recognizes that improvements must be made in the medical system to reduce the mortality rate. This is already showing a positive result, quoted in comments attributed to the Minister for Health and Social Development; mortality declined about 3% in 2009 year-over-year, while the birth rate improved by approximately the same percentage. It’s like forecasting the impact of programs like Social Security in the USA – after awhile the influences which alter projections push your forecast horizon date so far out that flipping a coin would probably be just as accurate. Russia might well collapse at some future time – but there’s nothing in the current predictions that convincingly argues it will, while there are several factors which argue it will not, absent negative changes.

  5. Misha says:

    Latest buzz about a newly planned Russian political party:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13416581

    For now, a definitive judgment is perhaps best reserved. Can see where MP’s giving up ownership of the CSKA Moscow basketball team and current NBA NJ Nets ownership might rub some the wrong way, along with his ownership stake in the Masha Gessen edited Snob.

    On the other hand, owning an NBA franchise can be arguably spun as a kind of modern day Peter the Great, who spent time in Holland and England to learn more about maritime issues. The Snob ownership might not be so pointedly intended to be against the more financially challenged among us.

    Russian oligarchs aren’t be default anti-Russian patriot, thereby not making it seem so unreasonable to expect quality funded backing for better media and think tank options of worldwide significance.

  6. sinotibetan says:

    Sorry to go off-topic but as usual, I’m interested in the unfolding of the ‘tandem’.
    Is the ‘tandem split’ for real now? Or is the good cop bad cop hypothesis still possible?
    http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5h66ONuL3qskXkHhEcspedJw0-tHg?docId=CNG.4232f6ae19eb54c58c9d35b7f0b4995b.821
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/16/russia-politics-idUSLDE74F0U720110516
    http://en.rian.ru/russia/20110517/164074907.html
    @Misha:
    “Russian oligarchs aren’t by default anti-Russian patriot”
    Sure. But the problem is that Medvedev dances to American tunes(forgive the pun!) and Russian oligarchs while maybe not anti-Russian are often not patriotic – favouring profit over any love for country! Sorry for this general dislike for businessman wanting to be even more powerful via politics….

    Comments anyone?

    sinotibetan

    • Misha says:

      ST,

      Not disagreeable with your lean, while noting that there’re folks along our lines, who succeed in making a lot money by doing things away from their greater preferences.

      I respectfully caution about criticizing the US. Using reason, a good case can be made that some changes in American government foreign policy stances can lead to a better America and world at large.

    • marknesop says:

      There were a few items in your links that sent my eyebrows up. In the first, it seemed fairly sensible until an old nemesis popped up near the bottom of the item. Yulya Latynina has proven as inept at reading Putin’s mind as she is eager to keep trying. A Latynina insistence that Putin is saying “I intend to run virtually unopposed” is the most likely sign I’ve seen yet that Putin is not running.

      In the second, I’m beginning to get a feeling that Putin’s “arrangement” with the oligarchs to “stay out of politics” is misunderstood. I interpreted it to mean that he would not accept an oligarch’s interference in politics from the sidelines – to wit, supplying an opposition party with money and advertising to enable it to challenge the Kremlin. That’s what Khodorkovsky was all about, and although some of his supporters insist he intended to run for President himself, I’ve never seen any evidence he was seriously considering anything of the sort. Moreover, it would likely get in the way of him making money, and I also saw no evidence he had grown tired of that. An oligarch, by contrast, who himself or herself stands for election is fair game for discrediting by all the tools and devices available to a practiced political machine, and is nowhere near the threat that an oligarch who merely acts as war-chest manager and moneyman from behind a cloak of anonymity would be, while he tries to get some fresh new face elected who has no baggage, but might be malleable in future.

      The final one made me laugh – Putin is trying to boost support for United Russia, which is flagging? Really? What polls is the author reading? Even the Kremlin’s bitterest enemies in the western press acknowledge it will be a no-contest contest.

      • Misha says:

        With credibility, it has been said that before his arrest, Khodor was planning to sell his dubiously acquired wealth to foreign interests and proceed to actively enter the political ring.

        Several points regarding this aspect:

        – Russia not as settled at the time (recall Stephen Cohen suggesting the possibility of starvation and a nationwide civil war in that country)

        – During this period, Putin likely felt more of a need to curtail the influence of the oligarchs in government – particularly those with a noticeably suspect manner

        – Politically, Khodor hung out with some influential folks in the West, not known for being particularly supportive of Russia (BTW, Latynina has been a favorite of the pro-Khodor crowd)

        – Khodor’s dubiously acquired wealth involved a valuable natural resource on Russia’s territory, which had been essentially owned by the government

        – Credible claims of inappropriate business manner could be easily applied to Khodor.

        All of these combined factors made Khodor quite vulnerable. It’s no small wonder why he was arrested. In the West, mobsters who make waves are more prone to getting investigated and arrested, when compared to others who do things in a lower key way, inclusive of a periodic throwing of a bone to causes preferred by government. On that last point, I remember a BBC segment on how Putin’s presidency encouraged a greater social responsibility on the part of the oligarchs. For accuracy sake, I agree that such an observation should note ongoing negative issues related to the oligarchs.

        The present circumstances appear to have the conditions for something along the lines of what was announced with Prokhorov. I’m suddenly reminded of Trump making a good deal of political noise in the US.

        • marknesop says:

          Maybe, although I never saw anything like a statement from him that he might seek political office, and an irresponsible Fourth Estate in virtually every country likes to start rumors that any public figure who’s in the news is thinking about running for President – Scott Brown springs to mind, in the dizzy days after he won what had been an ancestral Democratic seat, and what about General David Petraeus? The press wouldn’t take “No” for an answer. But his seeking political office himself is certainly not what scuppered him; some of it might have been his questionable business dealings, some might have been the rumor that he was selling up to foreign interests who might cause problems for the state’s controlling interest – but a good part of it was his buying seats in the Duma, and support of opposition parties. Running for office himself would have held him up to the exposure of all these things that moving behind the scenes never would.

          Besides that, if Khodorkovsky actually thought he had a realistic chance of being elected President of Russia, then he’s nowhere near as smart as he’s reputed to be.

          • Misha says:

            The other option for him was to back a front man.

            Then again, the Lozansky coined KGB (Khodorkovsky, Gusinsky and Berezovsky) apparently thought that Putin would be that person.

            Over the course of time, things can develop in a way that can change the stance of a given person.

  7. Yalensis says:

    I saw this yesterday in INOSMI, it’s Kimmie Zigfeld’s latest intellectual foray , her basic argument: evil dictator Putin is HOARDING gold for Russia. How dare he? Note: I believe this particular “journal” is associated with the Sarah Palin wing of the Republican Party. A couple of days ago Misha and I were speculating that LR might be associated with Soros, but maybe not, because Soros is a Democrat, I believe?
    Some underpaid, under-appreciated translator had to render this nonsense into Russian for amusement of Russian forumchane, who get a kick out of mocking this type of propaganda. It’s like taking candy from a baby.
    Here are my favorite comments, one from the English side, one from the Russian side:
    English comment but, admittedly, by a Russian and not representative; all the other comments (16 out of 17) are supportive of LR’s position:
    Posted by: nosfib
    May 17, 02:16 PM
    ________________________________________
    Hi from Russia!
    Read this article and laugh. : )
    Americans so fun!!!
    In any case, do you have brain or what?

    My favorite Russian comment:

    • Juan:Путин правильно делает
    17/05/2011, 20:18
    Нельзя еще раз не подивиться наглости и цинизму америкосов. Если Путин, предвидя повышение цен на золото, скупает его заблаговременно, это ужасно плохо, это КГБ, это недемократично и т.п. А если США проводят выгодную сделку на внешней арене – это, конечно, победа демократии, это делается в интересах не США, а мирового сообщества и прочая тошнотворная болтовня. Поэтому русские будут поддерживать Путина, а не вашингтонский обком и его лакеев (Немцов, Гозман, Прохоров,Каспаров и пр. сволочь).

    • Misha says:

      I saw that as well at InoSMI.

      Along with that venue, maybe American Thinker will post something different.

      ;

      If not, there’re other options which get around.

      For clarity sake, the aforementioned Soros reference on my part concerns the background of someone who some believe might be LR. Both are based in the same area, while having an often times similar slant. Keep in mind that creative writers can be good at making some alterations to their prose. LR has blasted Palin (not a fan of myself) and the Russian Whites, which is line with a Sorosian leaning bent. LR will criticize some Repubs and Dems alike when she/he/it sees them as being soft on Russia.

      On former Communist bloc issues, there’s not much a difference (in overall terms) between neolibs and neocons. Awhile back, the anti-Serb/anti-Russian/comparatively soft on Croatia/pro-Bosnian Muslim nationalist Stephen Schwartz said that he’s a registered Republican, who accepted an over $7,000K (US) payment from Soros.

    • Thanks for this, yalensis. Had a good laugh.

      My favorite comment:

      Грешник:казалось бы, при чём здесь царь Мидас?
      17/05/2011, 14:03
      а вот: “От одного прикосновения Мидаса все обращалось в золото. Золотыми становились у него во рту и хлеб, и все яства, и вино. Тогда-то понял царь Мидас, что придется ему погибнуть от голода…”

      пока ВВП не помер от истощения, срочно пусть облапает для народа Уральские горы, ну, и мою жигу (личная просьба).

      Good point, wtf does Midas have to do with anything here? The article is especially disjointed, illogical, and a patent failure at subtlety or wit, even by LR’s dismal standards.

      • marknesop says:

        Wow! that’s pretty funny. My respect for Putin went up a notch when I realized how cleverly he had manipulated NATO into attacking Libya and driving the price of oil up overnight, while Russia herself abstained from the vote. Unbreakable cover; well done. It might have been just a fluke if we didn’t have to consider how Putin manipulated the west into war after war in the Middle East as well. Diabolically brilliant. And now gold, of which (ding, ding, ding!!!) Russia is also a major producer.

        Now that “Kimmie” has blown the cover on a beautiful plan, the whole thing will come crashing down as the world stops buying gold and oil. Damn you, Zigfeld!!!

      • Yalensis says:

        Anatoly: I liked that comment too, but I don’t understand the word жига. Is that some regional slang? Can you help with translation?? Thanks!

        • I think it means Zhiguli, the car.

          • marknesop says:

            Perhaps it’s a corruption of the non-word introduced in, “Moy Marmeladniy” by Katya Lel (“Jagga Jagga”). Of course, that was completely meaningless, so I’ve put us no closer to solving the mystery. Forget I mentioned it. And no, I don’t have any Katya Lel recordings; the song was popular (don’t ask me why) when I visited Russia one summer.

          • Yalensis says:

            From the context (the commenter wants Putin/Midas to gold-plate the Ural Mountains, and then ends with a personal request for gold plating), I am wondering if жига is some regional slang for “town” or “village”, specific to people living in the Ural region? I suppose it could mean his Zhiguli, but who would want to drive a gold Zhiguli? Isn’t gold a fairly soft metal??

            • marknesop says:

              Not to mention heavy – to the best of my understanding the Zhiguli was never a particularly powerful car. I remember a hilarious article a few years ago in the Vladivostok News, regarding the increased demand (at the time) for armoured vehicles owing to a spike in recent (again, at the time) assassination attempts on businessmen and some minor political figures. In response to the demand, Lada announced plans to produce an armoured version of the Bronto (known as the Niva in some countries). I don’t know if it achieved any degree of commercial success, but the article pointed out that carmakers such as Mercedes who offered “security” versions of their sedans had to significantly boost engine output and augment structural rigidity to compensate for the extra weight. Lada apparently had no such plans, and was offering the prototype armoured Bronto with the stock small-block six-cylinder engine and only slightly stiffer shocks. When asked how fast it would go, the hapless Lada engineer being interviewed replied that he didn’t know, but that once you got it up to its top speed, nothing was likely to stop it. I’m guessing from that statement that Lada didn’t plan to change the braking system, either.

              Ahhh.. I found it. My mistake, it was in the Moscow Times, from 28 January 2000. I don’t have a subscription, so I can’t give you a story link, but the quotes match and “Cheap But Tough, the Armoured Lada” is the story I was talking about. If you have a subscription, the story is pretty funny.

      • Misha says:

        Promoting stupidity over intelligence contradicts the effort to improve things.

        Debunking dreck is not such a great achievement.

        Qualitatively speaking, an anonymous gutless wonder who punked out of a high profile worldwide discourse shouldn’t be propped over some others.

  8. Yalensis says:

    When I say “white men can’t dance”, I have to make an exception for this guy. His name is Ivan Vasiliev. He is the new (male) star of the Bolshoi Ballet, and the pride of Mother Russia. This is a clip from their new production of “Spartacus” last year. Who knew gladiators could be so graceful?

    P.S. There is an interesting interview with Vasiliev in
    http://www.izvestia.ru/person/article3155343/

  9. Yalensis says:

    Here’s something interesting, another conspiracy theory involving Putin: this is a finance blog out of France claiming an elaborate 3-way conspiracy to bring down IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Khan (DSK). The “conspiracy” involves 3 players each with their own motive and was summed up best by blog commenter Elisabeth Studer:


    tout est dans le titre : Sarkozy , Poutine et Obama ont interet à ce que DSK saute
    Sarkozy pour eviter candidature de DSK en 2012
    Poutine, pour placer son pion
    et Obama pour defendre le dollar

    Everything is in the title : Sarkozy, Putin and Obama each have an interest in the fall of DSK :
    Sarkozy to eliminate him as candidate [for French president] in 2012 ;
    Putin, in order to place his own [chosen peon, Czech banker Josef Tosovsky as the head of the IMF]
    And Obama in order to defend the [American] dollar. [Because DSK had hinted that he wanted to devalue American dollar or maybe not have it as default world currency…]

    So, these conspiracy theorists are saying that DSK didn’t actually rape the hotel maid in New York, it was all just a big setup… Hmm…. Initially the story was that the maid just came in to clean his room, and DSK bounded out of the shower naked, shocking her (and probably disgusting her as well, if you look at photos of him)… Then the story changed, that he actually overpowered the maid and raped her. In the photos DSK looks kind of old and feeble, you would think the maid could just kick him in the nuts and run away ??

    • Misha says:

      Comes across as an individual used to having his way.

      Someone on the left who I respect wrote this about him:

      http://counterpunch.org/johnstone05172011.html

      Without meaning to belittle what he’s accused of, I can envisage an upcoming Law & Order SVU episode, when the expert testimony at a trial stresses the notion that being DSK’s age and horny can lead to an unintended combustible outburst.

      • Misha says:

        BTW, immediately after this past Saturday’s Law & Order SVU, the news about DSK was featured on the NY NBC affiliate (and likely other NBC affiliates) airing that show.

      • Yalensis says:

        That article makes a good point that if this incident had occurred in France, DSK would NOT have been arrested, given his high status, and the relatively low status of the chambermaid; and given that French people, being a Mediterranean type culture, are overly tolerant of sexual misconduct by men. Hence, assuming this is NOT a joint KGB-CIA conspiracy-type setup (like in James Bond movie, with voluptuous female secret agent dressed in sexy maid costume to set honey-trap for poor old horny Dominique…), then one has to give grudging kudos to American legal system for defending the rights of an ordinary chambermaid against one of the most powerful men on the planet.

        • Misha says:

          Some years back, Frank Serpico did a good deal for bringing awareness to the need for an all around improvement of NYC law enforcement

          At the same time, I suspect that it’s possible for a well known local NYC politico to get kid gloves treatment unlike some others in certain instances. Countering that thought are instances like a NYC Congressman getting busted for a DWI.

          Mark,

          Heard that Winnipeg might get the Thrashers unlike the Coyotes. I like the idea of the Coyotes returning back to Winnipeg better.

        • Yalensis says:

          I heard a new theory which makes a lot of sense. This is the so-called “Client 10 Theory”. Per this version: Whenever he travels, DSK always orders a hooker up to his room. He had just ordered the hooker and was in the shower waiting for her, when the chambermaid (=unluckiest maid in the world) arrived to clean his room. DSK thought the maid was the hooker and came bounding out of the shower stark naked to greet her. Due to language barriers, the maid was not able to clear up the misunderstanding, and hence the unfortunate incident ensued.

          • marknesop says:

            Sounds shaky to me. Even guys who order up hookers like pizza don’t leap out naked to greet them when they show up at the door. I still think he’s being set up – there are always interests watching the powerful for a chance to knock them off their pedestal, for a variety of reasons – but that version sounds more like DSK-side damage control. He must be desperate if he’ll implicate himself in ordering up hookers wherever he goes in order to put a shiny spin on this.

            • Yalensis says:

              Well, I forgot to mention the second part of the theory, which is that DSK had taken some Viagra in preparation for the hooker. However, the hooker’s arrival was delayed, and the Viagra was starting to wear off, so there was some urgency on his part, which is why he was already naked when he opened the door. (No time for the usual polite preliminaries…)

              • marknesop says:

                Now you’re just grasping at straws. I’m glad for DSK’s sake you’re not involved with the investigation, because it always costs more to bribe those who can envision a wide variety of possible explanations. Better hope neither the press or Viagra’s makers picks up on your alternative ending; the press would quote you, and Viagra would sue you.

          • marknesop says:

            For a refreshing take on the ongoing silliness associated with the DSK matter, check this out. I love this guy, his wit cracks me up. I’d read him every day, except he doesn’t seem to confine himself to any particular subject and his postings are infrequent. They’re all worth a look, though, and the comments are often nearly as funny as the original post. Great British humour.

    • marknesop says:

      It does have the smell of a manufactured scandal, although those old Frenchmen often fail to realize they’re too old for sexual activity until it’s too late and they’re dead. Why is it, I wonder, that when Putin (“Poutine” always cracks me up, because that’s also the name of an absurdly popular and artery-clogging Quebec dish consisting of French Fries sprinkled with cheese curds – AKA “squeaky cheese” – and doused in beef gravy) has somebody in mind to head the IMF, he’s a “peon”. Was Paul Wolfowitz advertised as a “peon”, even though he was one of the worst leaders the organization ever had and his appointment was plainly political? I mean, he was named to head an organization that basically regulates the global flow of cash, and wields tremendous influence in that endeavor. Wolfowitz had already showcased his economic chops when he claimed nobody in the Pentagon provided early estimates of the cost of the Iraq war, and that they had said only that it would be “expensive”. In fact, Lawrence Lindsey had accurately forecast it would cost at least $100,000,000,000.00, and was fired.

      If I were Sarkozy, I’d be worried about getting my own popularity ratings up before 2012, since I probably stand just as much chance as he does of being elected President of France. Eliminating other candidates will only be an effective exercise for him if he manages to eliminate them all. Before he became President of France, that used to be called “a dictatorship”. Mind you, a lot of things have changed in the last few years – before Libya, if you had the support of the majority of your people, it used to be called “a democracy”. Now, evidently, if you have a rebel element among the electorate, that element must be encouraged and bankrolled by outside interests until it’s able to overthrow the government that a majority supports. Early (what used to be called “premature” or “reckless”) recognition of the rebels as the legitimate government is also encouraged, to get things moving and legitimize military intervention.

      The times, they are a’changin’.

      • marknesop says:

        Oops: my mistake – Wolfowitz ran the World Bank, not the IMF. I regularly get that and the IMF mixed up, even though their roles are very different. Still, both involve huge amounts of cash and responsibility, and Wolfowitz’s appointment – while clearly political – came after his disastrous and loony financial predictions regarding the Iraq war costs. He was nonetheless not referred to as a “peon”.

        • Yalensis says:

          What exactly IS the difference between IMF and World Bank? I never could figure that out… I remember that Wolfowitz also left in a scandal involving a woman. In his case, not rape, but corruption (giving his girlfriend a job). One difference between Wolfowitz and DSK is that the former is incompetent idiot, and the latter said to be good at his job. But both men very sleazy, and both with huge egos.

          • marknesop says:

            Both the IMF and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, a part of the World Bank) were created through the Bretton Woods agreements, so called for the meeting place in New Hampshire where delegates from 44 Allied nations signed the Bretton Woods agreements for creation of international financial standards and services, in 1944.

            The role of the World Bank, at least according to the Carnegie Endowment, is arguable in view of the ways in which the world has changed. In 1994 (the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Bretton Woods agreements), the Carnegie Endowment thus described the potential roles; “While there are many expectations and definitions of the fundamental role of the Bank, four different models or perspectives are the most common. The first is the view that the World Bank is a financial intermediary, the Bank-as-a-bank model. A second perspective or model is the view of the Bank as an evangelical agent in charge of changing the behavior of governments in developing countries. The fourth is the view that the World Bank is a mechanism to transfer financial resources from richer to poorer countries.” Although the authors apparently couldn’t count – since they outlined three models and not four – the role of “evangelical agent in charge of changing the behavior of governments in developing countries” best fits my impression of the World Bank’s primary mandate, and it fits well also with the tradition that the USA gets to choose its leader. Europe traditionally chooses the leader of the IMF.

            According to the IMF itself, it’s all about “encouraging countries to correct macroeconomic imbalances, reduce inflation, and undertake key trade, exchange, and other market reforms needed to improve efficiency and support sustained economic growth.” So, while both agencies are in the business of promoting good governance on a national scale, the IMF is focused more on smooth operation of the global machine, while the World Bank is better positioned to apply leverage – in the form of loans granted or withheld – to effect regime change or modification in support of getting a struggling country on its feet. The IMF, you’ll recall, was heavily involved in the devaluation of the ruble back when Nemtsov was the Deputy Prime Minister who had nothing to do with finance and was taken completely by surprise.

            • Yalensis says:

              @mark: Thanks for explanation and documents. Scary that World bank is led by men who cannot count to 4. In any case, I skimmed both documents, but I did not see a simple “mission statement”. I did not go to business school, but even I know that every organization is supposed to be able to state its “mission” in one or two simple sentences. So I will supply “mission statement” for them, with my best guess:
              The mission of the World Bank is to be a bank with lots of $$$ to lend to nations when they are broke.
              The mission of the IMF is to tell those nations which hoops they have to jump through to get the $$.

  10. Misha says:

    From the venue that has been carried at InoSMI.

    http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2011/05/wheres_reverend_sharpton.html

    Al is a trip. A few years ago, he argued against paying for his Empire State Building rent on the premise that he was rarely there.

    Reminds me of the “only in America” saying.

  11. Misha says:

    Yalensis,

    Regarding some recent discussion at this blog on Elie Wiesel:

    http://counterpunch.org/chmiel05202011.html

  12. Pingback: Hit the Road, Jack; the L.A. Times Knows You Ain’t Comin’ Back No More | The Kremlin Stooge

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