A Dark Side of Alexei Navalny

Uncle Volodya says, "...and in international news today, out of Washington, there was a reported sighting of an Unbiased Journalist. Witnesses said he was riding a unicorn..."

It’s been a long time since we heard anything from kovane, and you might have been wondering if he was doing a little volunteer work with renovations in the basement of the Lubyanka. I’m happy to say that’s not the case, and that it was nothing more serious than good old-fashioned indolence. Since he doesn’t get paid, you can’t even really call it indolence.

Anyway, whatever one chooses to call the motivation for his lengthy sabbatical from publishing, I’m delighted he’s broken it. His most recent feature is on perhaps the most red-hot and polarizing figure in Russian politics today – Alexei Navalny. AGT had an excellent story on him recently (cited below), which was itself piggybacked on Julia Ioffe’s much longer and considerably more worshipful piece for the New Yorker. Everybody’s talking about this guy.

While I’m on that subject, it reminds me that I have lately been regularly visited with epiphanies, and one was motivated by a comment attached to another recent AGT post, on Navalny supporter Yulia Dikhtiar. The commenter tuned up on Putin’s ““народный фронт”, referring to it as “idiotic”.

“Suppose”, whispered the epiphany in my left ear, “Suppose that idea had been proposed by Navalvy! Then, then… well, then the theme from “The Love Boat” would begin to play softly, and on cue massed singers (perhaps the Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus) led by Yury Shevchuk, his voice like the sound of large and very stubborn rusty nails being pulled from a wet 8 x 10 timber, would warble “Loovve…exciting and new….come aboard….we’re expecting YEEEWWWW!!” while a voice-over by some political activist or other would convey, in a voice quivering with emotion, that this was, well, exciting and new, and just possibly the bravest and most selfless political initiative in the history of politics.” And I thought, testify, epiphany – it’s only when the party in power (that you, incidentally, hate) does it that it’s a “cynical, shameless vote-grab”.

Anyway, born cynic that he evidently is, kovane appears less swept away by the Jamboree Bag of Wonderfulness that is Alexei Navalny, and more curious about the possibility he might be the thin edge of the wedge whereby interested outside parties hope to inspire another “Colour Revolution”, this time in Russia itself – a curiosity born of statements made by Navalny. Intrigued? Me, too. Let’s read on….

A DARK SIDE OF ALEXEI NAVALNY           by kovane

It’s true that currently there’s no more intriguing person on the Russian political scene than Alexei Navalny. Not that he is the most popular – recent polls showed that only 6% of Russians know about his existence; an additional reminder that we’re not there yet when retwits and likes alone will topple the bloody Putin regime. But for those who call themselves “a thinking part of society” or whatever self-aggrandizing label they can come up with, Navalny is a well-known figure despite the fact that national television – the main source of information for the majority – doesn’t confer much attention on him. And he certainly stands out against the tedious background of political life in Russia.

Navalny’s undisputed fief is the Russian sector of the Internet, Runet. It is there his blog ranks high in all rating systems, and his posts gather thousands of comments. He commands a vast army of zealously loyal Internet users who pounce on anyone who is even slightly critical of him. At times it goes so far that when some poor clueless Internet dweller very remote from any politics merely states that all the fuss about Navalny is tiresome, his blog is immediately invaded by dozens of angry commenters who make clear that such indifference is inadmissible. And more importantly, all results of Navalny’s activity are posted on the Internet; it’s the main means of communication, PR and defence for him, and he owes his current fame solely to Runet.

So far the battlefield that distinguishes Navalny is his relentless struggle against corruption. Although he began as a politician – earlier, he was a Yabloko member, but quit, unsatisfied with the party course – now Navalny positions himself as a people’s tribune, unassociated with any party. One specific case that propelled him to the attention of the public was his revelations of alleged shady dealings in Transneft. Encouraged by this success, he started a new Internet project, RosPil, designed to bring to light financial abuses by the authorities. But is there more to Navalny than just a mere fighter against corruption?

Oh, the kneebone connected to the...thighbone...

Navalny’s critics often state that the recipe for his exposures is a modicum of solid fact from open sources plus a pinch of rumors, and a great deal of meaningless foam. There’s certainly a share of truth to these words, but they forget one important issue. Navalny shouldn’t step in for law-enforcing agencies, and he himself stated more than one time that this wasn’t his intention. He is more of an activist than an immediate fighter against corruption. His goal is to draw public attention to alleged corruption and lead by example, rather than to prepare a complete criminal case. So, if he errs on the side of excessive suspicion, the wronged party should be able to explain away any irregularities: it’s part of their responsibilities, after all. And knowing how abysmally Russian corporations and government officials perform PR functions, such pressure is only for their own good. Learning to deal with defamation is important, since it’s in the standard arsenal of raiders and various swindlers. But if Navalny’s accusations turn out to have grounds, then the police are under close scrutiny and can’t just shrug the case off.

Despite his presently assumed political indifference, Navalny’s roots certainly lie with the liberal movement. It can be seen in his origins, in the company of people he associates with now and, of course, in his views. But nevertheless, he is at a great remove from the former image of the liberals that were often characterized by the word ‘demschiza’. Instead of the blatant Russophobia of  predecessors, Navalny avows himself a moderate nationalist; this issue was explored well by blogger A Good Treaty. The ability and desire to work within the current legal framework replaced a former petulance and sullenness. In general, people like Navalny give hope to the idea of sensible, united and strong liberal opposition, something that can benefit Russia greatly.

Still, he is not without fault, and often could be more effective if he paid more attention to the issue at hand, rather than the PR side of it. For example, here Navalny considered all tenders with unrealistically short-term contracts inherently fraudulent. Other users pointed out (1,2) that such “suspicious” tenders are due to the specifics of the state budget code, when money allocated in one year doesn’t carry forward to the next year. So these tenders are held to pay for already fulfilled contracts. Interestingly enough, Navalny didn’t acknowledge these corrections. Such a lack of legal knowledge doesn’t become any lawyer, but for a man who pretends to fight against financial abuses in the state budget, it’s unforgivable.

There’s another aspect of the struggle against corruption in Russia that eludes some of Navalny’s followers. The idea that he is some lonely champion is better left to future legends and movies. If it were true he would be long gone; serving a couple of years in prison for, say, stealing a cart from a supermarket. It’s not a big secret that there are no white knights among Russian elite groups, and all are complicit in financial crimes to differing extent. A man such as Navalny is could be an effective tool in the quite practical dynamics of power struggle. On the one hand, nothing stops the said groups from cleaning up their act, unprompted (maybe the improbable scenario of Hell freezing over does), or at least employing their own Navalnys to fight back. Needless to say, if every group began to expose each other’s crimes in a strictly legal way, society would benefit. On the other hand, the unlikelihood of such developments is evident, so there’s no need to expect much from Navalny. The basic idea is that whoever stands behind him – Batman, the CIA or even Satan himself, Navalny’s current activity can’t do much harm and may have some positive potential.

Identifying the groups which patronize him is not that difficult, by the way. For example, in 2010 Navalny won the right to participate in the Yale World Fellows Program. Winners are eligible for a stipend of $32,500 and the right to bring the family. By some remarkable circumstance, Yale overlooked the implicit demand of the program that all participants should speak English fluently (Although now, after half of a year in the US, his English is better).  I mean how lucky is this guy? Looks, fame AND Yale? Within the list of the referees, two names stand out – those of Sergey Guriev and Aleh Tsyvinski (he couldn’t think of a better transliteration of the name Oleg?). The former is a Rector at the Russian Economic School, the latter a professor at Yale. Together they published some works and they evidently have a good relationship. Russian Economic School is reknowned for its close ties with the liberal wing of Russian politics (Dvorkovich, Aven) and President Medvedev himself. Another clue comes from the only political statement Navalny constantly makes, i.e. his branding of United Russia as “a party of thieves and swindlers”. It’s worth recollecting that UR is Putin’s sole counterweight to Medvedev’s presidency, so eating away at its reputation is clearly playing into certain hands.

Yet another interesting story is Navalny’s fund-raising efforts for his RosPil project. Intending to gain even more perceived affinity with common people, he decided that the enterprise should be funded by citizens’ donations through the Yandex money system. The undertaking turned out to be a tremendous success – in just one day, more than $30,000.00 were gathered. This elicited jubilation on the part of Navalny’s supporters, and wry smiles from anyone who is familiar with fund-raising on the Internet. The institution of charity is fundamentally weak in Russia; common Russians have been burned too many times by various scammers, which turns them into the stingiest of misers. Even the noblest of causes, such as fund-raising for children with cancer, usually progresses slowly. Alas, not the best trait of Russians. So Navalny’s quick triumph and the quite unusual characteristics of the donations – most of them were made on the first day, while usually the distribution of donations is different – justly raised many suspicions. The answer lies in the specifics of Yandex-money – money on its accounts can be transferred from other accounts OR from street terminals. Knowing the ease of obtaining unaccounted cash in Russia, any money can be whitewashed in this way. For all we know, all donations could have originated with bin Laden himself, and there’s no way to tie this to Navalny. Once again, that doesn’t change the big picture; even if he cheated, so what? That only cemented his credibility as a people’s tribune, no harm done.

They say that all praise and good words are immediately invalidated if followed by the word “but”. Well, but. It’s only recently that Navalny has started to reap the fruits of his stardom, giving interviews left and right. The New Yorker featured him in a long-winded piece, commending his efforts, naturally. Answering questions later, the article’s author – Julia Ioffe, a well-known Russian patriot and an expert on Russia with a world name – expressed her views that Navalny is “Russia’s best hope”. Aww… should we take better care of Russia’s best hope? Maybe give him some free milk? By the way, Navalny’s success at collecting donations is explained in the piece as “tapping into a huge demand for a grassroots movement”. Double aww… in another amusing moment, Navalny later confessed that the magazine fact-checked such small details as if it were true that the table in Navalny’s office was half-round. Truly, they can’t be wrong about anything, then!

But the following interview was much more interesting. It’s with The New Times, a Russian magazine. Its editor-in-chief is Evgenia Albats, a quite famous member of the liberal opposition (and one of the people who helped Navalny get in to Yale); the magazine often publishes articles by Kasparov, Nemtsov and Sergei Guriev, among others. But back to the interview. Navalny goes large right off the bat and says “I think that the power in Russia will change not by an election process; they can elect whoever they like in March of 2012, but everything will be finished by April”, and then clarifies – “by something like a Tunis scenario”. Answering the question “Do you expect the wave from the bottom”, he says – “No, I don’t wait for it, I’m organizing it. We don’t know when it will happen, but it’s within our power to bring it closer. The current Russian authorities are thieves and swindlers. We must fight against them, exert pressure on them, create problems for them, and involve more and more people in creating problems. This pressure can be of different kinds – from simple negotiations to mobs on the streets that drag civil servants from their cabinets and hang them. And the faster authorities realize that and start negotiating, the less plausible the violent scenario becomes. I don’t think that any political technologies or twitter can make people come out on the streets and chase away thieves and swindlers, so normal people could take over.” (emphasis mine) . He goes on and on vilifying the current Russian power, MVD and FSB in particular. And later makes another interesting remark – “Medvedev knows that there’s a grey system of money bonuses for high-ranking officials in our state, which was created during the time of struggle against YUKOS, ostensibly so evil Khodorkovites weren’t able to bribe anyone. All these people receive cash monthly in one of the state-owned banks.”

Well… first of all, let’s just recall that every state has the right to defend its constitutional system by force, and such citadels of democracy as the UK and the US have no qualms about invoking it. Secondly, the Russian criminal code has the article “Violent takeover of power or violent retention of power”, punishable by from 12 to 20 years in prison. And I don’t remember anything in the Constitution that says that hanging of government officials is a legitimized feature of a democratic process. The code also has the article “Calls to extremist actions”. But let’s leave that aside for a moment.

On the whole, the interview create an obnoxious aftertaste and the impression that it was given by an extremely naïve or, alternatively, a very devious person. Navalny clearly states that he’s working towards a typical colour revolution. First, I don’t know what can be more undemocratic than a handful of raucous people changing power by riots and violence, simply because they don’t like the government, the outcome of some election or any other quality. The opinion of the rest of the people is commonly ignored. It’s also usually accompanied by tens or hundreds of corpses. Second, a common misconception is that power is transferred from bad authoritarian groups to “the people”. That’s a brazen lie; power simply gets transferred from one group to another, and the benefactor is well-known beforehand. Did anyone doubt that Yuschenko would become president when the Orange revolution succeeded? Or Saakashvili in Georgia? Third, and this is the most important point – there have been plenty of such revolutions. Has a single country benefited from it? Saakashvili’s more and more authoritarian rule and the unleashed war are something that the Georgians dreamed of in 2003? Yuschenko’s rating lying in the gutter is what the Ukranians stood in  Maidan Square for? The deposing of Bakiev in 2010 by yet another revolution was worth launching the first one in 2005? Navalny suggests that “normal people will take over”. Needless to say, that one statement will inspire laughter in any politologist worth his salt. Will these “normal people” spontaneously inherit another law framework and its institutions? Obviously, no. Then we have to take their word that after they come into power, these mysteriously benevolent “normal people” will start to limit their own authoritiy in favour of common people. Please remind me; how often has that happened in history? But OK, let’s be believers for a while, so let’s assume that they really are that incorruptible. In order to improve governance, the state should have better institutions and laws, so after the coup someone will have to write them. But what’s stopping “normal people” from drafting them now, even promoting them? Maybe the current power will adopt them, so there will be no need for a revolution! And finally, who will determine the suitability of these people? Navalny? Boy, I hope he is a better judge of character than he presently appears.

Navalny’s vilification of the present power structure is also disturbing. Apart from hackneyed accusations of corruption, he comes up with new ones. Allegedly, they get additional money behind everyone’s backs from a special bank. What’s next? Allegation that they gather at the top of the Bald Mountain, dance naked under the moon and eat Christian babies? Navalny says that this system was introduced in order to fight off YUKOS’s harmful influence. That means that the system must have been up and running at least for 7 years. Admittedly, I’ve never been a minister or even a deputy minister, but how many of them resigned during these years? How many people are involved in it? And this information surfaced only now, dug up by Navalny? I liked folktales only while I was very young… all these words look like an attempt to drive a wedge ever deeper between the authorities and the rest of the people. Something that sure does come in handy for a colour revolution.

I sincerely hope that this whole interview is just idle thoughts, and Navalny doesn’t vest any serious meaning in them. But alas, evidence suggests the contrary. All the traditional components are present – branding authorities as hopelessly corrupt and despotic, the government’s consummate demonization and alienation; praise from abroad of one group, presenting them as progressives; the preparing of key people in the West. It’s also useful to attach to the big picture the recent interview of Kasparov, in which he repeats Vice-President Joe Biden’s threat that if Putin should be reelected in 2012, the US will topple him with a colour revolution.

Even today, Putin and United Russia enjoy wide popularity, much more that any leader or party in the West. It could be fairly disputed whether the opposition has adequate access to the media, or if the elections are completely fair, but the ratings are proven by both state and independent agencies. And of course there are plenty of those who are not so enthusiastic about them, myself included. But no matter how much I can’t stand Putin, Nashi or United Russia, I would choose them over any colour revolution any day of the week. Russia has had too many great revolutions, military coups and small palace overthrows. And they’ve never brought any good; only tremendous suffering, giant losses and lost years. And if some yappy thinks that he can take a shortcut to power and skip all the tedious process of consolidating different forces, creating a cogent strategy and managing a party just because it’s hard to compete with Putin, then I will support any measures to point out to him how wrong he is. I’m sure that this sentiment is shared by the majority of Communists, Nationalists and those who vote for United Russia. Other than that, Navalny is my hero, and more power to RosPil.

Sages in the Kremlin are no fools, and I doubt that they are inclined to take chances. It will be interesting to see what measures they will take to hedge risk in the most unobtrusive way. Russia has a damned interesting year ahead of it.

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247 Responses to A Dark Side of Alexei Navalny

  1. Yalensis says:

    @kovane: Thanks for amazingly good blog. Very informative. On the Yale connection, I found this listing of Navalny’s peers with whom he is studying in New Haven, Connecticut. Admittedly, I haven’t heard of any of these people, but a couple of biographies spring out:
    May Tony Akl (Lebanon)
    Foreign Press Secretary, Office of MP Michel Aoun
    Akl advises former Prime Minister Aoun, who heads the Free Patriotic Movement and the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc. She is a founding member of the Free Patriotic Movement.

    [Color-coded Revolution in Lebanon?]
    Fares Mabrouk (Tunisia)
    Founder and CEO, Viamobile
    A successful business entrepreneur in mobile banking and oil logistics, Mabrouk is also founder of the Arab Policy Institute, the first “think and action tank” dedicated to nurturing democracy in Tunisia.

    [Has experience with popular Revolution in Tunisia which, by the way, really WAS spontaneous, IMHO]
    Azizullah Royesh (Afghanistan)
    Founder & Director, Marefat High School
    Royesh, a former mujahideen resistance fighter, is now a leading advocate for equal access to primary and secondary education, directing a school for 3,500 Hazara minority students in Afghanistan..

    [former Al Qaeda “freedom fighter” against Soviet Union?]
    The other fellows at the program appear to be involved in benign projects and NGO’s, at least based on their biographies.
    Again, excellent blog and research, @kovane, well worth the wait!

    • kovane says:

      Ha, ha! Thanks, yalensis, this speaks volumes about what Navalny studied. Well, he is welcome to try whatever he learned, Khodorkovky is keeping a warm cell for him.

      • Yalensis says:

        @kovane: Here is more information about the actual curriculum which Navalny is presumed to have completed with flying colors:
        Fellows only meet on campus 2 afternoons per week for the actual seminar. That leaves a lot of time for the fellows to “audit” other courses (audit=no term paper or final exam). Sounds like a fun, stress-free academic life!
        Suggested courses to audit are:

        Competitive Strategy School of Management
        Human Rights Workshop Law School
        Enhancing Negotiation Skills School of Management
        Nationalism, Ethnicity, and War Political Science
        Issues in Democratic Theory Political Science
        Negotiations School of Management
        Behavioral & Institutional Economics Economics, School of Management
        International Finance School of Management
        Developing Winning Strategies School of Management
        Strategy, Technology, and War School of Management

        (That last one sounds pretty interesting.)
        You can call me paranoid, but I wonder at which point in the so-called seminar, CIA handler walks into room, looks everyone in the eye, and remarks: “Okay, folks, now let’s all get down to business… I take it, y’all know why you’re REALLY here!” [I give CIA handler a southern accent…]

    • Misha says:

      Another article on Navalny:

      http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-loginov/navalny-effect

      It’s a nice thought to have a good independent political talent who:

      – articulates Russia’s legitimate interests

      – isn’t xenophobic

      – not overly PC, in a way that downplays some valid gripes.

      • Josip Christian says:

        Being xenophobic is certainly a bad thing… However, the coalition than runs the world for last half a century is quite uniform with regards to their religion and wealth. Therefore, if you are wealthy and you are either English or Jewish, you rund the world. You will sell your services though to others who have money and in America that is called lobbying (some like to call it political prostitution). Now…who is xenophobic here? I think anybody (i.e. Putin) who does not allow this “american coalition” to own Russian oil reserves. For a moment, as we all know, this coalition did acquire most of it using their brother Khodorowski. Again…why are we talking about xenophobia here? The problem is simpler and bigger. Shall we sell Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, ………… to those who CAN BUY EVERYTHING?

  2. sinotibetan says:

    Wow….kovane, great article!
    Nowadays I am too busy to write much. But you said….
    “Russia has a damned interesting year ahead of it.”
    Any comments on these links?
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/may/20/alexander-lebedev-joins-vladimir-putin
    http://www.rferl.org/content/party_lines_being_drawn/24180376.html
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13444792
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-21/prokhorov-may-be-pro-business-candidate-for-president-correct-.html
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/dmitry–medvedev-is-an-alsoran-at-the-launch-of-his-reelection-bid-2286079.html
    http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2072675,00.html
    I agree with kovane that Russia had too many ‘experiments’ and ‘revolutions’. Stability and quiet development should be sought for.
    @Mark
    If my previous links include authors of qustionable repute, I do apologize as I merely attached those links for the purpose of starting discussion. Similarly with the links this time.

    sinotibetan

    • Yalensis says:

      @sinotibetan: Thanks for interesting links. Russian politics is definitely heating up, and the Putin/Lebedev vs. Medvedev/Prokhorov match-off is a case of “strange bedfellows”, indeed. It is looking very likely that Putin, with his shiny new “popular front” will run for prez and I am guessing would win the contest with a comfortable margin. Even Simon Shuster has given up on Medvedev!
      Agree with you that Russia needs many more years of stability to recover from the trauma of the Gorbachev-Yeltsin years. However, unfortunately, I do NOT believe Russia will be granted this blessed tranquility by the West. The Americans (aka Joseph Biden) have already made it crystal clear that they intend to intervene in Russian politics if Putin decides to run for prez. Probably they would have given Medvedev a pass, but they cannot tolerate Putin back in power. Therefore, I believe they (the Americans) will carry through on their threat to launch a color revolution in Russia if Putin wins the presidency. I am guessing their “revolution” will consist of violent street protests, OMON beating protesters, opposition whining on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc. The usual bullshit. Then USA will declare Mr. Putin “demon non grata” and freeze his assets in West (advice to Putin: immediately sell any assets you may have in Europe and move all your personal money to Russian banks). However, the Russian opposition will NOT be able to get NATO involved in bombing runs, what with Russia having nukes and all. Whether the pro-American “messiah” leading these protests will be Navalny or some other figure is not yet clear, although Navalny does seem like a better candidate than Nemtsov. Nemtsov is better looking and has superior 6-pack abs, but Navalny is blonde and beautiful and has the advantage of not being Jewish.

    • kovane says:

      Thanks, sinotibetan! I don’t know what’s there to comment – it just looks like assorted links to me. In general, different groups are vying for a place under the sun, usual politics.

  3. Yalensis says:

    @kovane: Okay, now this getting extremely interesting (and complicated!). I don’t know all that much about the Egyptian opposition movement, but these links seem to confirm my hunch that the Egyptian revolution was NOT an American project. I am still trying to figure this out, but my working theory is this: Tunisia was a spontaneous revolt (what we Russians call a “бунт”). The Egyptian “revolution” that followed was a movement (led by a motley coalition of Muslim Brotherhood and revolutionary communists/Trotskyists) against an American-supported dictator. This revolution came as a shock to both Americans and Israelis; but Americans, to their credit (due to intelligence and sophistication of their leader, Barack Obama) quickly rebounded, adapted to the new Middle Eastern reality (of upheavals and revolts), and then craftily used this situation as a cover to try to get rid of their pet enemies, Gaddafi (Libya) and Bashar Al-Assad (Syria).
    The links you provided show that Egyptian revolutionaries Gigi Ibrahim and her mentor Hossam el-Hamalawy are revolutionary communists/Trotskyists, and definitely NOT the kind of people normally supported by Americans. Some might find it suspicious that they studied and/or taught at American University, but I think that can be explained away. These universities might well be recruiting centers for the CIA, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone who studies there is a CIA agent. I believe these people are very cleverly trying to get an education by whatever means necessary.
    Hamalawy’s Wikipedia page mentions that the American University was complicit with Hamalawy’s own arrest and torture at the hands of Mubarak’s security forces, even though he was a faculty member there:

    He is a graduate of the American University in Cairo where he was detained and tortured by the State Security Investigations Service (SSI) in 2000, allegedly with the institution’s complicity.[3]
    After the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, el-Hamalawy was among many protesters who stormed and seized offices of the SSI in the 6th of October City and was able to visit the cell where he had been imprisoned, later writing on his Twitter feed that he could not stop crying.[4] “Entered the small compound where I was locked. Man, I can’t believe it still… Many are literally crying. We can’t find the interrogation rooms. This is a citadel.”[5]

    Given the political leanings of these particular people (=revolutionary communists and anti-imperialists), it seems unlikely that they are American agents, even though they studied and taught in an American-funded institution. The fact that they were able to take courses such as “How to use Twitter to overthrow your own dictator” and then use it against an American puppet only proves that once a new technology is out there, it can be used by ANYONE.
    Once upon a time, a handsome prince invented the longbow and used it to conquer many foreign lands. And then those foreign lands realized that they too could use that same longbow to drive out the handsome prince. And so it goes…

    • marknesop says:

      “… these links seem to confirm my hunch that the Egyptian revolution was NOT an American project.”

      Well, there are others that suggest it was. For instance, this piece in the Telegraph (British newspapers seem to have a positive appetite for conspiracy, but they print a lot of material the U.S. media won’t touch) reports that Margaret Scobey, the U.S. Ambassador to Cairo, sent a diplomatic dispatch to the Secretary of State in late December 2008 which suggested that opposition groups had allegedly drawn up secret plans for “regime change” to take place before elections, scheduled for September 2011. An unidentified activist received direct assistance from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to attend a summit for Youth Activists in New York, which was organized by the U.S. State Department, and the Embassy also worked to actively prevent his identity being discovered by the Egyptian police. This activist belonged to the “April 6th” organization; a group formed in 2008. Then, too, there were the slick leaflets and pre-made posters and flags that appeared from nowhere – afterward, nobody was really sure where they came from.

      Perhaps it can all be, as you say, “explained away”. But it appears according to documentary evidence to have been an established and discussed plan that originated nearly 3 years prior to the uprising in Tunisia; a plan that the government took pains to keep confidential and under the radar. If democracy and reform are so readily embraced and heal all wounds, why keep such a plan a secret? Why not trumpet it from every rooftop and throw one’s unqualified support behind it immediately?

      More to the point, why keep Hosni Mubarek on for 3 more years, during which you keep talking him up as a friend and trusted ally, all the while plotting his destruction? How can you ever really trust an ally who is so two-faced? You might ask yourself also; is the Egypt that emerges from this going to be weaker, or stronger? Which would better suit established U.S. objectives in the region?

      • Yalensis says:

        @mark: Hmm… WTF! Well, this violates my sense of reality itself. Why, in the name of God, would USA work to overthrow their own ally (=Mubarak)? I could explain away the fact that Americans were fully aware of various underground movements and conspiracies against Egyptian government. CIA is very sneaky and I am sure would have recruited local agents and infiltrated every revolutionary cell – I would not expect anything less from them. But usually the story ends with CIA letting their friendly government know what is going on, and then everybody captured and tortured. This is how they traditionally operated in Latin America and Central America. So, makes no sense to me. For the first time in my life, I am left speechless….

    • kovane says:

      yalensis, I think it’s a gross oversimplification trying to present the whole spectrum of US politics as something monolithic. Sure, Israel and the pro-Israeli wing in the US are not the ultimate benefactors of Arabian revolutions – they liked Mubarak just fine. But listen, for example, what Soros has to say about Israel and the revolutions. He doesn’t look very surprised or angry.

  4. kovane says:

    Regarding the immediate consequences of the Egyptian revolution, here’s a very interesting interview of one of its prominent activists, Mohamed ElBaradei. But can such unimportant details interest Navalny or other revolution cheerleaders?

    • Yalensis says:

      @kovane: I don’t see the Soros link you mentioned?? I would be interested to read what Soros has to say about Egyptian situation. Maybe it will give me some insight what imperialist elites are thinking, since I seem to be out of touch. :(
      Yes, you make good point that American foreign policy is not monolithic, and Obama, in particular, does not seem as rabidly pro-Israeli as former U.S. presidents. In fact, were it not for Jewish lobby in U.S. politics, I am betting Obama would throw Israel under the bus in a heartbeat in order to make deal with Palestinians.
      On Navalny: to my view, he clearly fits the pattern of a paid American agent. In the case of Russia (unlike Egypt) color revolution DOES make sense to me, because Americans regard Putin as strategic enemy and do not want to see him back in power. So, I do expect to see Navalny and his friends causing many disturbances in the future months, in futile attempt to keep Putin out of Kremlin, and I do expect to see American propagandists cheering them on and declaring them to be legitimate representatives of Russian people.

      • Misha says:

        Navalny, Kozlovsky…..

      • marknesop says:

        I doubt Navalny is a paid American agent of any sort – people in the position he appears chosen to occupy are often convinced they are patriots, and blessed to have the help of a rich and powerful country to overthrow a fundamentally rotten government so that their countrymen – too ignorant though they might be to see clearly – may experience the wonders of western-style democracy. Alexei Navalny likely believes he is doing Russians a favour by leading a colour revolution (if indeed that’s the plan, which is only speculation at this point). Convincing activists that they are really helping their country by betraying its government is the oldest trick in the book, and like all good tricks, the mark convinces himself.

        What gives me a little chuckle is how annoyed Boris Nemtsov will be when it sinks in that he has been displaced as both instrument of revolution and flavour of the month.

        • Yalensis says:

          @mark: As to whether Navalny is a paid agent or just a volunteer, well, of course, that is a mystery and cannot be known by mortal man. It all depends on whether or not there was that fatal moment when he was face to face with CIA handler and knowingly signed up, or is he just running without guidance and acting like an asshole?
          I was being somewhat flippant above when I postulated CIA agent walking into the middle of the Yale University seminar and addressing the students directly. I do not believe that is how it actually happens. Like lions gathering a herd of gazelles they wish to cull, the CIA gather a group of interesting people together in one place (in this case, the bi-weekly seminar), and then observe their behavior (maybe through hidden video), see how they respond to pointed political questions, how they comport themselves with professor and other students. They do a lot of background checking to make sure the prospect is not counter-espionage plant. And then decide whether or not to make an overture to a particular person; in which case, that overture and recruiting would be done in a private place, maybe a hotel room or secluded office. The CIA agent would treat the prospect to drinks and meals, etc., and have many conversations with them before any money changed hands. I have read many books about real-life spies, and they say that at a certain key moment in the relationship the CIA handler would give the prospect a lie-detector test before trusting them with any money. Also, unlike in James Bond movies, there is usually NOT a beautiful voluptuous woman involved, instead it would be a balding middle-aged CIA guy.

          • marknesop says:

            I can’t claim any real familiarity with CIA recruitment, but I doubt it’s much like you describe (except for the background check). Frankly, I don’t think the CIA is much involved in situations such as Navalny’s surge in popularity at all. That’s usually just the State Department, and much of their support is confined to money and publicity. It wouldn’t do Navalny any favours to be seen as another made-in-the-USA liberal, and to be perceived as a CIA plant would be the kiss of death. Likely the State Department draws on CIA information to form conclusions regarding the subject’s popularity and how long it might be expected to last, what particular facets of his personality or style cause him to be admired, that sort of thing – but it’s not really anything you couldn’t put together yourself using open-source information, and it’s mostly to build a press kit and see what angle they want to hype to help him achieve his goals. Same with Nemtsov, really, except Navalny is probably a lot cheaper. I could see other agencies maybe being involved if the goal were usurpation of the government’s powers and behind-the-scenes capability to run it, but in this case it is likely just destabilization and chaos. They don’t seriously see Navalny as a possible leader of Russia, in the short or long term; he simply doesn’t have the pedigree and background, not to mention the following. He’s just a destabilizer and provocateur, and they know that even while they’re inflating his impact out of all proportion to reality.

        • Yalensis says:

          @mark: On Nemtsov: Yeah, poor guy spent all those hours in the gym building up his six-pack abs to take on Putin, and now to be displaced by pale blonde guy with weak arms. On the other hand, Navalny has a better-looking wife. Have you seen photos of her? She is very beautiful and looks like she takes care of herself, probably works out in a home gym (slim waist and nicely muscled arms). And that’s after bearing two children, so very impressive. I’d vote for HER, but I wouldn’t vote for Navalny himself!

          • marknesop says:

            I’ve never seen photos of the wife of either man. For some reason, I’d expect Mrs. Nemtsov to be a looker; he seems fairly conscious of his personal appearance, and I imagine he’d consider a very attractive woman to be part of the attention-getting process. Then again, he may have married his childhood sweetheart. The odds of him waiting until wife number three to do that are slim, I grant you, but it’s possible. I don’t want to be unjustifiably hard on him.

            Nemtsov photographs reliably well – he’s a handsome man, there’s no denying him that. Navalny, by way of contrast, is all over the place; he just seems to have that kind of face. In the photo that accompanied AGT’s post on him, he looks like a brooding thug who would be as likely to punch you in the face and take your watch as he would be to ask you what time it is. In some photos he looks charismatic, youthful and handsome. In photos like the one that accompanies this article – and in most where he wears that fashion-victim vest – he looks like an honours graduate from International Dweeb School in Scotland.

            I’m sure you were joking when you suggested you’d vote for Mrs. Navalny based purely on her appearance, but that’s the sort of image-marketing that gets totally unqualified people elected to positions of terrifying responsibility. A few years ago, prior to one of our elections in which our current Prime Minister was a candidate (but which he did not win), the wife of a friend of mine confided to me that she intended to vote for him because he “has a nice smile, and he looks honest”.

            God, give me strength.

            • Yalensis says:

              @mark: I saw the photo of Navalny’s wife in one of the links in kovane’s blog.
              I cannot find any pictures of Nemtsov’s wife. His wiki-biography just says he is married and has four children, but no photos. So, probably she is his childhood sweetheart, rather than super-model trophy wife, otherwise there would be lots of photos.

              In the “is he for real” category: there is a Navalny quote here that made me slap my forehead:

              Navalny took classes at the Yale business school, worked with law professors, and learned about the American political system. “I didn’t completely decipher it, but it’s still really interesting to see how these small groups are created and then begin to influence politics,” he said. “The Tea Party, for example. It’s an incredible thing: some old ladies got together and are now hammering at Obama from all sides.” He wanted to organize a similar movement in Russia.

              He’s kidding, right? Everybody knows that the American “Tea Party” was organized by a motley coalition of insurance companies, bankers, oil companies, Republican politicians, and far-right Ayn Randite ideologists. Now Navalny wants a Tea Party in Russia? Oi veh!
              P.S. I am confused about this article, because it looks identical to the Julia Ioffe article in the New Yorker, and yet the author is shown as Jeff Pruett ??

              • marknesop says:

                Mmmm, hmmm – Mrs. Navalny is eye-candy, indeed. A very strong nose, but I like that and in that respect she’s rather like a lot of our own French girls from Montreal and Quebec City, who are the best-looking girls Canada has to offer.

                The current Mrs. Nemtsov is actually wife number 3 – that’s why I say she’s unlikely to be his childhood sweetheart. Peter ran down that info for us, quite a few posts ago: it would have been one of the ones on Nemtsov. The reference Peter supplied says he has 4 children by 3 wives. Perhaps wife #1 was his childhood sweetheart, but marriage is sometimes like politics – alliances (not to mention dalliances) shift with the perception of advantage.

    • marknesop says:

      Hmmm… tourist traffic down by 60%, the economy in ruins, a political black hole….. I wonder if this is what the protesters thought they wanted when they were joyously gang-raping American journalists in an orgy of freedom. Americans have a catchy saying; “Freedom isn’t free”. They like to use it as a rallying cry when they’re going to war somewhere, but it might be a good idea to send a couple of thousand posters that say “Freedom isn’t free” before the big “Arab Spring” demonstrations. Because those encouraged to agitate against their governments are most certainly also encouraged to believe everything will just click into place after the great dictator is gone, and not a lot of emphasis at all is placed on post-revolutionary planning. Have a look at Navalny’s Yale curriculum. How many of those educational objectives sound like post–crisis planning? International finance, maybe ; so you can open up your industries to foreign competition and ask for a big bank loan. The purging of the government is made out to be an end in itself.

      That’s because it is. Just not for the country in which it takes place. But people never learn.

      • Yalensis says:

        If Egypt loses tourism, they lose one of their major assets. Everybody wants to come and see the pyramids, but nobody wants to be stabbed or raped during the trip. Unfortunately for Egypt, they have a history of terrorists attacking tourists. The recent gang-raping of the American journalist in Tahrir Square is also part of this pattern (because was committed by Islamists). [It is also noteworthy that American press itself swept this incident under the rug, because it didn’t fit their narrative of “nice, wholesome people seeking democracy”]. Muslim Brotherhood (the guys doing the stabbing and raping) look to be the ultimate beneficiaries of Egyptian revolution. If Americans are indeed behind the “color” revolution in Egypt, then this would be one more example, in a long list of examples, of Americans overthrowing secular rulers in favor of Islamists. What’s up with that?

        • Misha says:

          A point referring to some particulars later on down at this thread.

          Some recent news that touches on such matter –

          Muslim extremism in Crimea:
          http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1392454/Muslim-girl-Katya-Koren-19-stoned-death-beauty-contest-Ukraine.html

          In certain circles, Muslim extremism in Crimea appears to have been downplayed on account of how some view the Crimean Tatars as a counterweight to pro-Russian influence in Crimea. Comparatively speaking, a recent National Geographic article places greater emphasis in portraying a Russian nationalist threat in that region:

          http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/04/crimea/newman-text

          Nevertheless, there’s some Western based acknowledgement of a Muslim fundamentalist problem in that region:

          http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:wx_eIRm6HbAJ:www.taraskuzio.net/media21_files/71.pdf+Taras+Kuzio+Eurasia+Daily+Monitor+Crimea+Uzbekistan&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjp-Ivtf_WBuhx9tnU-xd48jVO2MIL4v7f98IKWBmgmgaxAupHJUf5MQFNtJvboY5fSQ3B2ke6sCkmgtWTHPYmlKf2V_thaKa-0q3wVEtV32RfSmCz50pnJ0Vl_bCrsvDVtEIAt&sig=AHIEtbRfgsZPjqEDqRy1HYxOCTvtP038Sw

          As previously noted:

          http://www.eurasiareview.com/beyond-the-edward-lucas-peter-hitchens-exchange-on-russia-and-ukraine-13102010/

          Excerpt –

          Lucas pointedly brings up the World War II era deportation of the Crimean Tatars. There are a number of other particulars concerning the Crimean Tatars.

          Part of Crimean territory became affiliated with the medieval state of Rus, which modern day Russia, Ukraine and Belarus trace their origin to. Later on, the Tatars settled in Crimea. The Tatar Khanate in Crimea established a slave trade against Slavs and some others. Crimea became part of the Russian Empire in 1783. During World War II, the Crimean Tatars were exiled and interned by the Soviet government, under very harsh conditions. The reason for this treatment (having to do with an ethically challenged notion of collective disloyalty during war) is akin to what Japanese North-Americans faced at the same time. (The latter had much better conditions, due to the more desirable wartime socioeconomic circumstances in North America and the different political situation between the Soviet Union and North America.)

          Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s 1954 transfer of Crimea from Russia to Ukraine was implemented to honor the 300th anniversary of a treaty uniting the post-Rus era Russian state with the Cossacks, who governed much of the territory of what is now contemporary Ukraine. The Cossacks have been portrayed as a sort of national symbol of Ukraine. Within present day Ukraine, the Cossacks are not (for the most part) among the Russia unfriendly grouping.

          In the last years of the Soviet Union and thereafter, a number of the exiled Crimean Tatars sought to live in Crimea. Upon arriving to that region, many of them face socioeconomically challenged conditions. A good portion of Crimea’s non-Tatar population experience difficult socioeconomic conditions as well. The region’s Russian and Ukrainian residents generally get along with each other. Based on the last Ukrainian census of 2001, Crimea’s ethnic demography is 58.32% Russian, 24.32% Ukrainian, 12.1% Tatar, with the balance comprising others.

          Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Cemilev (whose last name is also spelled as Jemilev and Dzhemilev) is known for opposing politically mainstream Russian views, which include issues like the 2008 war in the former Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic and the Russian navy’s continued stay in Crimea past 2017. (Earlier this year, the Russian and Ukrainian governments agreed on a new lease for the Russian naval presence in Crimea.) There are some other Crimean Tatars who are considered politically extreme in comparison to Cemilev. Anti-Russian/Ukrainian nationalists (typically from outside Crimea) see the Crimean Tatars as an offset to pro-Russian sentiment in that region.

          In actuality, the tension in Crimea between some Tatars and Slavs (Russians and Ukrainians) is not an issue of total or near total provocation of the latter, as suggested in some circles. When compared to the most intense of former Communist bloc ethnic disputes, Crimea’s predicament has been limited.

      • cartman says:

        I would be skeptical of any Orange-style revolution ever happening in Russia. War and revolution have always gone hand-in-hand (and the latter is not guaranteed since Russia has been a counter-revolutionary force at times). The country is naturally very conservative, and it is time to recognize that.

        • kovane says:

          I completely agree with you here, but there’s still a very important point at work. Even a failed colour revolution is a tremendous PR win, as it can be used to spin further the idea that the Russian government is oppressive and authoritarian, no matter how few people would participate in it. So, if the authorities are any good, they had better to nip these processes in the bud.

          • marknesop says:

            Against the possibility it will be attempted, I am copyrighting in advance the phrase “the Brown Revolution”. The rationale for that choice is that it would be pure Bullshit from start to finish. Feel free to use the title (if it happens), but don’t forget my royalty cheque.

            • kovane says:

              Looking at your heinous attempt to earn money on people’s aspiration to freedom, I’m launching a competing brand – “The soiled pants revolution”. It will be distributed under the GNU GPL license. We’ll see whose creative effort will triumph in the end, but I’m prepared to fight till my well -deserved victory!

              • marknesop says:

                I am way ahead of you – Russians have no talent for marketing, and that’s why you will always have to play second fiddle to Canadian entrepreneurial leadership. I already have a T-Shirt distributor lined up, and I know where I can get my hands on a warehouse-full of informative flyers on “How to Subvert Your Government” with those trendy raised fists on the front cover. Unfortunately, they’re in red – but I bet if I re-screened them I could make the colour more of a greenish brown, just like Bullshit. Show me watcha got, Slav-Boy; bring it.

  5. Yalensis says:

    @mark and @kovane: I commend your efforts to be pro-active in organizing the future “Brown Revolution” in Russia. Preparing T-shirts in advance is a nice touch. But must not forget also the pre-burnable flags and dumpster.
    Like this example where the masses in Syria (all 15 of them) burned Russian, Iranian and Chinese flags then tossed flaming debris into conveniently placed dumpster.
    The wise-ass commenters on INOSMI had a field day with this one. My favorite comment makes what seems to be a pertinent allusion to the same Yale University seminar that we were discussing here on your blog:

    • SynVelesa:протестующие жгут российский, иранский и китайские флаги
    25/05/2011, 11:51
    • Какие то бракованные флаги выпустил госдеп – все никак не загорятся. Заодно и видно количество “народных волнений” в Сирии – 15 человек, непонятно вообще, кто они такие и откуда. Может, сессия в Йельском университете закончилась. студенты приехали, будущие реформаторы и демократизаторы.


    Translation into English:

    Some defective flags were issued by the [American] State Department – they don’t catch fire. One can clearly see the quantity of “revolting masses” in Syria – 15 people. One wonders who they are and where they came from. Maybe the Yale University seminar finished, the students have come home, these future reformers and democratizers…?

    In the case of “Brown Revolution” in Russia, whose flags should be burned by the protesting mobs (need to know in advance so pre-burnable flags can be issued)? Well, obviously, not Russian flags in this case. But Iranian and Chinese flags, most certainly. Libyan, Venezuelan flags too… Obviously…

  6. Misha says:

    Recall the Kiev streetfest during the so-called “Orange Revolution,” with the flags of the EU, Georgia, Poland, Serbia & Montenegro and no Russian flags – but plenty of signs in Russian. Also featured was the first post-Soviet Belarusian flag.

    Regarding Navalny, it has been said that he has a nationalist side, with reference made to his supporting closer Russian-Ukrainian ties. I’m interested in these aspects about him. Regarding his former YABLOKO ties, Yavlinsky in the 1990s openly supported closer Russo-Ukrainian ties, with economics as a prime factor.

    Sorosian ops made a temporary alliance with responsible patriots like Kostunica to unseat Milosevic. Once the latter left office, the differences between Kostunica and the Sorosians became more evident. Someone I know with ties and sentiment to the latter privately acknowledges that Soros funded orgs have definite limits and strings attached.

    Not to be overlooked are the more opportunistic among us, who can be bought for the right price.

    • marknesop says:

      I’m also in favour of closer economic ties between Russia and Ukraine, to their mutual benefit, and fairly strong cultural alliances already exist. In that respect, “nationalist” doesn’t have to be a dirty word. I believe there is also considerable support in the west for such improved ties; the west simply wants such an agreement to be on its terms – a fundamental requirement being that Putin cannot be the leader of Russia in such an arrangement – and opposes it so long as that doesn’t look like a possibility.

      Here’s a quote that summarizes, as well as I’ve ever seen, the western desire to interfere – to manipulate, to control. And when I say “western” in this context, I mean mostly the United States, although Britain had similar aspirations once and some of its political figures still do.

      ” We have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population….In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity….To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives….We should cease to talk about vague and…unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.”

      George Kennan, Director of Policy Planning. U.S. State Department. 1948

      That’s really what it’s all about, folks; it isn’t any more complicated than that.. Devising a pattern of relationships which will permit the maintaining of a disparate advantage on the part of the west. Achieved by means of straight power concepts, and idealistic slogans be damned. Immediate national objectives, baby. Anyone think that position has mellowed somewhat, with the passage of time? Anyone?

      If anything, it has become more obdurate even as it becomes more difficult to achieve.

    • Yalensis says:

      I am thinking, suppose I decided to go to some demonstration today and spontaneously wave a flag of some country or other? I would not even have a clue where I could buy a flag. Somewhere in the world there must exist some big “flag outlet” store containing flags of various countries. U.S. state Department can buy in bulk and supply to demonstrations, either for waving, or for burning, depending on the context.

      • marknesop says:

        Both miniature flags and trendy signs are available from Movements.org . Yes, they deliver. As you can see here, they appear to have provided much of the backing for the “spontaneous” revolution in Libya, and they are in turn supported and encouraged by the U.S. State Department. That all came up in a previous post – however, since then, another potential motive for the vehement insistence that Gaddafi “must go” has emerged. Note this is a possibility only – food for thought, in a direction of which I was unaware – and that the originating source is RT, which typically does not enjoy much credibility with western media. But it’s worth looking into; if for no other reason, because the claimed reasons for Gaddafi’s removal are so fundamentally silly.

        I was pleased to see you have adopted the correct title, “Brown Revolution”, rather than kovane’s obviously opportunistic and decidedly lame “Soiled Pants Revolution” – when I mentioned that one to my buddies at the State Department, we just laughed and laughed at kovane. He probably should take a few lessons in self-marketing from Sarah Palin – hey, did you hear she has a feature film coming out this year?

        • kovane says:

          That does it! What can you military men do besides walking in formation and digging trenches from the fence to lunchtime? The hardest creative tasks you face is coming up with names for operations, and even there you manage to fail spectacularly. “Iraqi Freedom”? Who hasn’t laughed at that?

          And your fresh misnomer, “Brown Revolution” – a banal, trite and shallow label, giving away the imagination of a troglodyte. Although your desire to compensate its deficiency with shameless and brazen promotion is quite understandable – it doesn’t stand a chance on its own.

          That explains why yalensis strayed from the true path and used it. The only correct and creative term, “Soiled Pants Revolution” surely started out as an underdog, but due to its ingenuity and brilliance, it’s destined to to close the initial popularity gap and get into history books. I’m positive that yalensis realises all the advantages of the GPL license and will use only the true brand from now on.

          • marknesop says:

            What was way more funny than “Operation Iraqi Freedom” was the original favourite – Operation Iraqi Liberation. Until, of course, someone pointed out that the acronym was OIL. In fact, except for military events which have a unique national significance (such as our security assistance to the 2010 Olympics, which was called Operation Podium), most operations titles are chosen by a random computer generator, so that you get Operation Banjo even though the mission itself has nothing whatever to do with music or weird sex habits in small closed American mountain communities. In any case, I didn’t come up with “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, nor did anyone in the Canadian military (although it was supposedly Canadian-born David Frum who coined the “Axis of Evil” phrase Bush loved so much), so I join in your derisive laughter.

            Digging trenches is Army stuff, and the only acquaintance Navy personnel have with Army stuff is during Basic Training, which is taught to a common standard regardless of element. After that, situations at sea which require the digging of trenches would be dangerous work indeed.

            Make fun of my revolution title if you will, but the “Soiled Pants Revolution” sounds like it is meant to be carried out by babies. Which reminds me – we have Brown Revolution T-Shirts in kids sizes, too.

            Anyone who didn’t see the transcript of Anatoly’s “interview” with La Russophobe should go over to Sublime Oblivion for a look; it’s pretty funny. It’s beyond me why anyone agrees to be interviewed by her , because she alters her questions after she’s asked them to make it look like she totally owned you, even if you made her look like a fool. She wouldn’t last 5 minutes in a face-to-face televised interview, which is probably one among several reasons she won’t do them.

          • Yalensis says:

            @mark and @kovane: I better stay neutral and let you guys duke it out until you agree on the name of upcoming Color Revolution in Russia. (It’s so true what authoritarian dictators say about us “oppositionists” – we just can’t agree on anything, what with the endless bickering within our own ranks…)
            Just let me know what you finally decide so I can hop over to movements.org website and order the T-shirts!

        • Yalensis says:

          Okay, on the “gold dinar” theory of why U.S. is trying to overthrow Gaddafi – (according to this theory, Gaddafi wanted to get oil-producing countries to agree to sell oil only for real gold bars rather than dollars), not only does that make sense, but I would say is more “fact” than “theory”.
          The article mentions the fact that a similar fate befell Saddam Hussein when he made blunder of trying to get out from under the yoke of American dollar (in Saddam’s case, he wanted to switch to trading in euros; recall that back in 2000 the euro looked to be a strong currency, not so much nowadays…)

          In 2000, Saddam Hussein announced Iraqi oil would be traded in euros, not dollars. Some say sanctions and an invasion followed because the Americans were desperate to prevent OPEC from transferring oil trading in all its member countries to the euro.

          And I just remembered something we also discussed earlier on this blog, the “Putin/Midas” LaRussophobe “expose” of how Putin had been frantically buying up gold bars for Russia. So maybe Russians were getting ready for the new world order proposed by Gaddafi in which world turns to gold standard for selling energy.
          But as article points out, if oil was sold for gold and not dollars, that would literally destroy American economy overnight. Americans don’t have much gold, but they can print dollars at will. Therefore, Americans see “gold standard” as existential threat and cannot let that happen. Therefore their actions in organizing Gaddafi’s overthrow are rational, from the point of view of their own interests. Also, this theory is more sophisticated than the simplistic “they’re invading for the oil” conspiracy theories. That is to say, it really IS about oil, but even more so, it is about the fate of the world currency, the Dollar.

          • marknesop says:

            Gee….I don’t know. Ron Paul announced his candidacy on a platform of returning the USA to the gold standard, and although he pulled in so many donations the first couple of days that everybody started chattering about how he could no longer be ignored (this was for the 2004 election, if I recall correctly), all too soon he surely was ignored, and the momentum just fizzled out. You might say that merely demonstrates that the USA has no appetite for a return to the gold standard (which I don’t think would be practical now, although it was once), and that would still support this theory. But some time back Iran announced plans to start their own stock exchange (they called it a bourse, which is just French for stock market) and sell oil for a basket of international currencies which would be denominated in the Euro. There was a great wailing and gnashing of teeth, and people said the USA would absolutely not let it happen….but then, nothing. I don’t know if they ever did it, or not. In fact, I think I’ll look into it.

  7. sinotibetan says:

    @Mark
    With regards to you ‘quote’ by George Kennan, I think the following ‘edited’ version better potrays American ways of projecting power and manipulating other nations:-
    ” We have about 50% of the world’s wealth(and a lot more debt!), but only 6.3% of its population….In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment – and we hope it remains perpetually so! Our real task in the coming period is to devise a viable and prolonged pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity indefinitely….To do so, we, the political elites of USA, will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate elitist bjectives….We should continue to preach more and more about vague and…unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization of other (especially rival) nations because that would illustrate to the whole world not only of our wealth, prestige and power but a seemingly globally acknowledgement of our moral superiority. Whether we ourselves practice what we preach is another matter – what matters most is that by the use of military might, political polemics, our international business and financial institutions, covert operations via spy agencies and our influential mass media infiltration, we project ourselves as defenders of freedom and democracy while declare our rivals as ‘unfree’ and ‘undemocratic’. We always knew that to maintain a lone superpower status that brooks no rivals is to deal in straight power concepts. We should deceive our fellow American herds with idealistic slogans – and best if these herds really believe they are living in the freest and most democratic country in the whole world. This deception with idealistic, utopian slogans should be exported implicitly through our mass media potrayal of heroes and villains to the youths of our rival nations so that these restless pawns can be used to overthrow rival governments that may challenge us. ”

    What do you think?

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      I think that if George Kennan had known in 1948 what we know now – and been as willing to be candid about it as he evidently was – he might well have said it exactly like that. He would have to mention the debt today, as you did, but that’s a recent phenomenon and was entirely avoidable. However, all the rest about wrapping onesself in a cloak of righteousness so as to delude one’s popular supporters is right on target. Americans become justifiably enraged at criticism of their efforts in, say, Libya, because they believe the hype that they are there to do good just as America has always done, and previous national positions on Gadaffi, the lack of actual grassroots popular support for the rebel cause and the probable effects of enabling yet another radical Islamic government to replace a secular leader become irrelevant. If you disagree with stated American objectives as inferred in the mainstream press, it’s because you hate America, not because the policy positions don’t make sense without other motives emerging.

  8. sinotibetan says:

    @Mark
    Yikes….sorry for the grammatical errors. But I think you get my drift…. ;)

    sinotibetan

  9. sinotibetan says:

    @yalensis
    1. Regarding the rape of a foreign journalist by the mob in Egypt – I was so reclusive these days that I didn’t know about it.
    Anyway, some websites:-
    http://blogs.laweekly.com/informer/2011/04/lara_logan_rape_vs_sexual_assa.php
    http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/international/details-of-lara-logan-sex-assault-in-egypt-revealed
    2. “If Americans are indeed behind the “color” revolution in Egypt, then this would be one more example, in a long list of examples, of Americans overthrowing secular rulers in favor of Islamists. What’s up with that?”
    I don’t think the USA wanted this ‘colour revolution’ or indeed any ‘colour revolutions’ in the Middle East. As I’ve said or alluded to in past comments, the US has no effective policy in dealing with the rise of Islamism in the Muslim world – partly because their political elites have ‘tamed’ the general populace to a form of self-censorship(via ‘political correctness’) – hence ‘talking negative about Islam’ is a taboo and a no-no and partly because I suspect, they know nothing much about Islam or are wilfully ignorant of it(or like some whom I’ve ‘sparred’ in the past, think it totally irrelevant). Western secularism is predominantly anti-Christian – which is understandable as embryonic Western secularism was a reaction against ‘Cultural Christianity’ hegemony of the past which has now matured to become the defining Western culture. What was ostrasized and fringe(or at least ‘believed and practiced’ clandestinely) in the West is now mainstream and ‘out in the open’. Hinduism and to a lesser extend, Buddhism would not get any ‘scathing’ opposition from Western secularism as Hinduism tends to be flexible and non-dogmatic(not to mention syncretic) while Buddhism preaches tolerance and although that religion has very high moral ideals, its underlying atheism and humanism is not so antagonistic to current (prevailing) Western humanism and secularism. Why then is Islam – a religion as dogmatic as Judaism or Christianity – and I think more ‘rigid’ in its dogmatic positions – not as ‘damned’, ‘ridiculed’ or subject to objective criticism in the West? I offer some ‘reasons':-
    a.) Ignorance about Islam and the Muslim world in the West.
    b.) Those who profess Christianity are generally(exceptions exist , of course) non-physically violent when they are faced with ridicule or contempt.
    c.)For those who know better, fear that some Muslims might become physically violent if negative remarks on Islam are made by non-Muslims. So, self-censorship and ‘wisely keeping to themselves’.
    d.) It’s ‘cool’ to say any dirty word with “Jesus” on it – and you can get away with it and the Western media love it, but there’s no ‘culture’ in the West to say negative things(and I mean not rude/lewd adjectives, just negative remarks) about Islam – and you might not get away with it, because you are immediately considered an “Islamophobe” and will get a quadrillion thumbs down from the average ‘politically-correct’ populace. Worse still if many closet Islamists are nearby as there is a real danger of physical harm. The former is ‘cool'; the latter is considered ‘uncouth’ /’insensitive’/’offensive’.
    e.) ‘Propaganda’ by mainstream Western media to say only positive things(which I do NOT deny, exist) about the Muslim world or Islam. It’s OK to expose every dirt what some crooked pastor is doing and demonstrate obvious Christian hypocrisy- that’s ‘news-worthy’ and ‘cool’ – and better still generalize that ALL Christians are warped evil-minded ‘goody two shoes’ hypocrites. But it’s NO-NO to report true events perpetrated by Muslims in the same ‘newsworthy’ and ‘blown out of proportion’ way if these events ‘would give a negative image of Islam/Muslims’.
    f.) Why #e.) happens? Our greedy free-marketeering international business tycoons want a free flow of cheap labour – Muslims included – to be exploited at minimal costs – hence these people(i.e. the tycoons) PROMOTE multiculturalism, not because they believe that works, but all for their love of mammon. Since these same people control Western governments, have great influence in Western Centres of Higher Learning and basically control the mass media, it is in their interest to ‘help integrate’ any tom-dick-and harry into ‘Western host nations’ to be exploited as (relatively ‘cheap’)workers. Hence, all ‘negativity’ should be ‘covered up’. Negative potrayal of host national ‘culture’ is fine, though – host population that thinks lowly of their own culture will better ‘accept’ foreign cultures.
    g.)Islamists , by appearing as ‘moderates’ have infiltrated into the West due to the above ‘reasons’. Many of the strategists and leaders in the cloak of ‘moderates’ have the material and financial means to lobby and influence mainstream Western media for the ‘propaganda’ in #e.)
    Thus the main problem with Western secularism is that it keeps on tearing apart weakened and unlikely to challenge secularism ‘Christian’ sects but remains indifferent towards the threats of Islamists. I’m not saying that atheists and secularists who are so sure of their dogmas and are convinced of them should not continue with their anti-Christian arguments, if they believe them to be true. By all means – say anything they want about Christianity- even the most blasphemous. What I don’t agree is a sense of bias and selectivism in their criticisms and the ‘political correctness’. I think it is this self-censorship and ‘continue to trample the already dying ant and don’t see the dinosaur in front’ attitude of Western secularism which seem to look like a West that favours Islamists over ‘secularists’ in the Middle East.
    Finally, I think the West would even support ‘Islamists’ so as to retain their ‘clout’ in the Arab states – they might see that would be a better policy to support popular Islamists than unpopular ‘seculars’. The West has no viable policy to deal with Islamism. If the Islamist movement DOES become prevailing and predominant – than the West is bracing a very powerful enemy. As I’ve said in past comments, the West is adept in dealing with ‘concrete’ rivals like China or Russia. It has inherent systematic and psychological weakness in dealing with the Islamist movement and I predict, the West will fail.

    sinotibetan

    • Yalensis says:

      @sinotibetan: Wow, you made a lot of points. A lot for me to think about, but I just wanted to make a couple of comments, for starters:
      1.) On whether or not the USA is behind the “color revolution” in Egypt, I doubted it too, but Mark provided some documentation to the contrary, including some stuff from Wikileaks. I am still confused by this, because Mubarak was an ally of the U.S., so I cannot imagine why they would want to overthrow him; but facts are facts, I guess.
      2.) On the gang rape of CBS reporter Lara Logan in Tahrir Square, I myself made the connection between the Muslim Brotherhood and this act of rape during the Egyptian “color” revolution. But fairness compels me to add that maybe it is not fair to blame a particular political or religious faction. Such a crime could have easily been committed by either side in the conflict; it was just Logan’s misfortune that the men she happened to be surrounded by in Tahrir Square were “oppositionists”. In these cultures men will generally punish women who dare to appear in public, even when carrying out official functions (like being a reporter), and especially women with uncovered heads. This practice of group violence is a favored way within these cultures to intimidate women and force them to cower at home rather than go out in public. Very effective intimdation too – what person in their right mind would choose to go out in public if the consequence was having your scalp ripped off and people shoving things up your anus and vagina? Only the very bravest heroes would stand up to this kind of intimidation. I add that this type of violence occurs in all Arab cultures, and in general in all Mediterraean cultures, even in a civilized country like Italy, if I am not mistaken. (Which is a Catholic, not Muslim country.)
      3.) On Muslim vs. Christian, I think you have a fair beef that secularists (like me) poke fun of Christians and totally get away with it; but we are more circumspect in poking fun of Muslims. And I think you can understand why: I can mock Christians with impunity, they might be upset, but they are not going to kill me in retaliation. If I mocked believing Muslims, they might actually kill me, or worse. Look how they went apeshit when some cartoonist simply drew a picture of Muhammed? And one of the most horrific stories I saw was what they did to Theo Van Gogh in Netherlands? For his criticism of the way Muslims treated women, he was punished by being brutally stabbed and beaten to death in broad daylight, right in the middle of a civilized European city. So, you are right, there is a double standard, and it isn’t fair. But there you have it. intimidation works.

      • Misha says:

        Consider how some within neolib to necon leaning ranks say that going against the Serbs should be done in part to win over Muslims the world over.

        That mindset serves to partly explain why EU support for Kosovo’s independence has been greater than what’s evident within the larger (in membership) Organization of the Islamic Conference. The latter sees the issue of the territory of a nation getting dissed, whereas the former is carrying on in a bizarre Crusades like manner, in wrongly interpreting world Islam at large.

        Orthodox-Christian extremists don’t fly planes into buildings – a thought that leads to this article:

        http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/01/the-condescension-of-the-christian-west-40

        In a certain sense, a law of the jungle is being encouraged.

        As a preemptive strike on the whataboutism on South Ossetia and Abkahzia relative to Kosovo, note that since UNSCR 1244 (recognizing Kosovo as part of Serbia), Serbia has refrained from initiating military action in its south Serb province. In contrast, the Georgian government launched a noticeable military strike into South Ossetia in 2008.

        Since the 1990s disputed former Commuinist bloc territorial warfare, the Georgian government is the lone nation to have acted in such a brazen manner. (For now, Azerbaijan has made rumblings, running short of such activity.)

  10. Yalensis says:

    Another example of Muslim intimidation and violence against artists, in this case the recent murder of a poet near the Russian town of Vladikavkaz. Here is summary of story:
    Shamil Zhigkaev, age 71, was an Ossetian literary scholar and poet, also Dean of faculty (Department of Philology and Literature) in North Ossetian University. He was recently abducted and beheaded apparently as retaliation for writing a poem about an incident occuring in 2007.
    2007 incident occurred when a group of Chechen tourists (the article calls them “pilgrims”, but it is unclear exactly where they were headed on their pilgrimage – is Beslan on the way to Mecca??) arrived in the town of Beslan on a tour bus. Recall that the Ossetian town of Beslan is the site of the 2004 terrorist siege , in which hundreds of schoolchildren had been kept prisoner for days, starved and tortured by the (Islamist) terrorists, and resulted in the death of almost 400 people.
    Anyhow, in 2007 incident, Chechen tour bus halted at a memorial that had been erected to the victims of this 2004 terrorist act. Now there is dispute about what happened. Local Ossetians say the Chechen tourists got out of the bus and started to use the memorial site like a public toilet. The Chechens themselves deny this and claim they had gotten out to pray. In any case, local Ossetian youths/hooligans drove the Chechens back into their bus and began to pelt the bus with stones, broke several windows on the bus, and drove them away.
    Shamil Zhigkaev was inspired by this incident to write a philosophical poem called “Young wolves set out to complete their hadj [pilgrimage].” Zhigkaev’s analysis of his own poem was that it was about the persistence of human sin and vice. [I haven’t the read the poem myself, so I don’t have any opinion…] The poem was composed in the Ossetian language, and then translated into Russian. Muslim spiritual leaders of North Ossetia filed a suit with the government trying to get the poem banned, on the grounds that it “incited religious hatred”. [Note: The idea of censoring a poem goes against the grain of Western concepts, but is a valid legal concept in Russia; since religion is such a touchy issue, there are many laws, and sometimes censorship is necessary, so the Muslim spiritual leaders did have every right to pursue this in court.] However the FSB examined the poem and found nothing in it that could be considered criminal, and in March 2009 the lawsuit was dismissed by the prosecutor, hence the poem continued to be published and read.
    Not succeeding in court, Islamists apparently took the law into their own hands. Zhigkaev was abducted and has his head hacked off, then his body tossed out into the street.
    [Note: When I was in college I took several classes in “literary criticism”, we learned how to scan a poem for meter and how to interpret metaphors; somehow I must have missed the lecture where they teach you to chop the head off a poet whose works you do not agree with.]

  11. sinotibetan says:

    @yalensis
    Thank you for your interesting comments.
    1.) On the ‘colour revolution’ in Egypt and the Middle East.
    a.) I take the report by telegraph and wikileaks with a pinch of salt. Maybe true, maybe not.
    b.) As for Mubarak, perhaps American secret agents realised that Islamists are gaining popularity in Egypt and most part of the Middle East. I suspect that American political elites play ‘double’ – dealing with BOTH Mubarak(so-called ‘ally’) and Islamist oppositionists(‘secret support’). Should Mubarak remain in power – hey he’s still an ‘ally and friend’. Should Islamists win(as it seems WILL come to pass), hey America has a ‘secret agreement’ with them – so ‘you should be allies of the USA’. You get my drift? It may sound cliche but , ‘win-win’ for American geopolitical hegemony?
    Hence, I think the USA doesn’t want ‘colour revolutions’ in the Middle East. But America has a ‘back up plan’ of secret dealings with ‘Islamist oppositionists’ should revolutions actually occur. Islamists had always resented the more ‘secular’ stooges set up by the USA. Now that they had ‘secret American backing’ plus popular backing from the majority of the population, why not rebel and topple the status quo? America wants to maintain influence in the Middle East at all cost, so dealings even with Islamists is OK. Remember that the late Osama bin Laden was trained by the USA. So, America is dirty enough to deal with the most murderous of terrorists even as long as American hegemony is maintained and at the same time America claims itself a beacon of freedom and democracy with all those moral-sounding undertones! I don’t see America as a moral beacon. I consider it a morally bankrupt nation and a very dirty bully. Sorry for being blunt in my assessment. Strange to say, this maybe America’s weakness. Islamists are as diabolical as your regime-toppling American strategists. I suspect that once and IF Islamists can unite the Middle East into a confederacy of theocratic, Islamic states and feel itself capable of challenging the West, they will do so. Hampering this ‘unity’ is the dusunity of Shiites and Sunnis and also sects within these two main groups. If these two can ‘put away their differences’ and temporarily ‘unite’ against the ‘Great Satans’ USA and Israel – well we are bracing for a possible WW3. Even in secular Muslim states in my region(South East Asia), Islamism is gaining ground. It’s a phenomenon that’s interetsing to talk about but maybe that’s for another comment on another day.
    2.)”But fairness compels me to add that maybe it is not fair to blame a particular political or religious faction.”
    Perhaps not. But it’s a fact that the oppositionist mob raped her. The oppositionists are generally Islamists. So, yes , those 200 are most like Islamists and they raped her. It’s perhaps unfair to say ALL Islamists would rape if such a situation occur at another time or that ALl Islamists are a rapacious lot. But Islamists did rape her. So, that’s just a statement of fact. No blame at all.
    3.)”I add that this type of violence occurs in all Arab cultures, and in general in all Mediterraean cultures, even in a civilized country like Italy, if I am not mistaken. (Which is a Catholic, not Muslim country.)”
    Well, I think there were protests in Italy in the past and I doubt the type of rapacious violence occured. I might be wrong, but I’ve not known of any. But in the Middle East, from the reports of friends who have been there, even a modest-dressed lady without headscarf can incite men to sexual frenzy and many are the reports of migrant female workers presumably sexually abused and murdered as they never returned to tell the tale of their ‘experiences’. I think you are trying to allude that religion does not play a role in this behaviour(as your allusion of Italy being Catholic and Arabs being generally Muslims) and that perhaps ‘Mediterranean’ cultures/psyches play a role. I beg to differ. I doubt that Spaniards, Portugese and Italians have that psyche to ‘behave’ this way nor do I think that Arabs are ‘in their psyche’ of that type. I blame it solely on Islamism and in fact(I’m sure to the displeasure of Giussepe and Mark) to Islam itself! Even if you disagree with the latter, at least one can agree that the Islamist interpretation of Islam is that of ‘moral duality’… i.e. of highest moral levels in Muslim-Muslim interaction but in Muslim-Kaffir relations, a kaffir can either be decieved or subjugated as basically we are under damnation and a ‘jahil’ people. Lara Logan – it’s ‘not immoral’ to do those sexual things because she’s ‘kaffir’. I’m sure Muslim readers of this blog may disagree with me and say I misrepresent Islamic teachings, If I ever create a blog discussing about Islam(which is very unlikely) – we can debate about this, but not here. Let’s assume that Islamists misrepresent Islam for those who cannot accept my allegation, then that misrepresentation ‘allows’ kaffirs to be deceived and dealt ‘violently’ all for the sake of furthering the cause of Allah and his prophet. I want to say(so as not to be rendered a Muslim-hater) again that there are many Muslims who do good and in their daily life do not do these violent things. But perhaps have they thought WHY many of their supposedly ‘pious’ clerics or laity resort to terrorism and think it’s OK to be sensual with kaffir girls, just NOT Muslim girls? Could it be that there’s something within Muhammad’s teachings and life that may contribute to this phenomenon? Maybe I have bigotry towards Islam or maybe there’s some truth in what I say. Up to the readersto decide for themselves. And I don’t want to hear of the tired excuses regarding Muslims are oppressed or that Zionists oppress Palestinians and ‘out of desperation’ Islamists do terror acts. Hey – non-Muslim minorities are oppressed too – eg Hindus in Bangladesh or non-Muslims in Pakistan – but we don’t hear them bombing mosques or resorting to terror. Please come up with better excuses than ‘they are desperate/oppressed’. Most of these terrorists are /were highly intellectual people and ceratinly they are not the poor down and out!
    4.)”So, you are right, there is a double standard, and it isn’t fair. ”
    Fair or not fair is least important compared to a self-censorship that does not allow us to discuss RATIONALLY about Islam. We can condemn and ridicule so many things but Islam is singled out from any negative comment – whether true or false. That’s emotionalism and not rationalism. Imagine we are so fearful of Nazism that we single out Nazism from ANY negative comment – what would have happened in WW2? Maybe critics of Islam are all liars and talk crap. Maybe there’s SOME truth in what they say. But if we cannot even discuss negatively and in a critical way about Islam, how can we ever know? Some commentors have said it’s irrelevant. But imagine discussing the history of Europe while considering Catholism irrelevant. Not possible. Yet, some commentors say discussing Islam is irrelevant when so much violence is done these days ‘in the name of Islam’. For Muslims to redeem themselves, they must allow us to objectively discuss about their faith- both positive and negative aspects – and with no holds barred. Acts of violence against critics of Islam, a fatwa on them, or even killing someone for so-called alleged ‘blasphemy’ like the Ossetian poet only favour the arguments of Islam critics like me. To prove people like me wrong, allow a no-holds-barred discussion. Islam should not be shielded from criticism and should be no exception.
    5.)In spite of me being very critical of Islam, I actually disagree that Muhammad should be mocked in caricatures or whatever. Intelligent, rational and critical discussion is the way, not mockery.

    sinotibetan

    • Yalensis says:

      @sinotibetan: I agree with most of what you say about Islam. However, I would point out that gang rape, like what happened to Lara Logan in Tahrir Square, is not a characteristic ONLY of Islamic cultures. Within this particular society, no doubt, the men involved probably regarded this attractive woman as what you call a “kaffir” and hence they despised her and considered her fair game. (I disagree with your characterization of “sexual frenzy” and “sensuality” – these monsters tried to rip pieces of her scalp off, I don’t see anything sensual in that!)
      Within a different context, a victim could be hated and punished by a mob for a different reason, e.g., ethnicity. It is a well known fact that during wars and ethnic cleansings, gang rapes occur. This doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with religion, but is often a calculated attempt to destroy the family structures of the opposing ethnicity by compromising the sexual status of their women.
      The “cultural” factor is that even if Lara Logan were herself a Muslim woman, and even had she been a local Egyptian lady, she still could have been attacked by the mob simply for appearing in public. Mediterranean cultures traditionally do not want to see women in public places like streets and cafes. I remember visiting Bulgaria as a tourist, it is a Christian Orthodox country, but also a Mediterranean culture, with many Turkish (and Greece) influences. When I would sit in a coffee shop with friends drinking espressos, I was struck by the fact that there were no Bulgarian women in the cafes. (On the other hand, you did see women walking down the streets, they were not exactly holed up in harems…)
      The reason I mentioned Italy as a culture where gang rape occurs (and I hope I am not being unfair, and I hope Giuseppe is not upset with me) is because I once saw an Italian film of the neo-realist genre (I don’t remember the name of the film or who was in it, and I have searched all over the internet to no avail), and even though I don’t remember the name of the film, I distinctly remember this one scene: a very glamorous Italian lady wearing a sexy dress is walking down a street in some Italian town. She is alone, and as she walks, a growing gang of men and boys starts to follow her, initially just whistling and calling out to her, but then getting increasingly aggressive; she tries to get away, but eventually they herd her into a corner, and it is pretty clear what they want to do to her; and there are no Muslims involved in this scenario.

      • Giuseppe Flavio says:

        Hi Yalensis,
        I took a lengthy sabbatical from comments, like Kovane from posting, but you have summoned me with this comment of yours.
        I somewhat agree with your assessment of women in Mediterranean cultures. 50 or so years ago it “worked” that way in Sicily and to these days there are still places where it is considered inappropriate for a respectable woman to enter a coffee shop alone. Strangely enough, to my knowledge most of these places are in the Catania’s province which is one of the most economically developed, while I’ve never heard of similar things in any town of the depressed Messina province.
        I suppose it is a remnant of ancient Romans culture, where sex was mostly viewed as rape (not only against women, toward men as well).
        Unfortunately, I don’t remember the movie you mention. Was it in B&W or in color?

        • Yalensis says:

          Hi, Giuseppe, nice to hear from you again! I have missed you. The Italian movie in question was in Black and White. It was considered an important film, as I saw it during an art-film festival (which also included other Italian classics like “The Bicycle Thief”) that my dad took me to when I was only 14, that is probably why the movie had such an effect on my then-youthful brain. I remembered watching that scene and being terrified that the nice pretty lady was going to be hurt by the mob! I do not believe it was “La dolce vita”, although it was something in that genre.

  12. sinotibetan says:

    @Misha:
    “Consider how some within neolib to neocon leaning ranks say that going against the Serbs should be done in part to win over Muslims the world over.”
    1.) I think this is the prevailing Western ‘thinking’.
    2.)Concessions to the Islamic world/’exclusivity’ of Islam from any criticism etc. are also part of this strategy.
    3.)This strategy is a failure and will continue to fail because:-
    a.) No amount of ‘concessions’ will satisy the people that count – Islamists. For the final aim of Islamists is GLOBAL Islamization – peacefully if possible(by ‘infiltration’) or forcefully if need be.
    b.)To the Islamists it is a psychological vicory and it is a WEAKNESS of the West rather than a strength.
    In order to come up with a viable strategy is for Westerners to get out of their self-censorship and political-correctness. Or else, no strategy will work.

    sinotibetan

    • Misha says:

      On the point you note of mine, it’s especially ironic when the neocons (as well as many neolibs) do this, when they’d never consider sacrificing Israel in such a manner.

      Besides not having lobbying clout on Capitol Hill, membership in an American club (NATO), the Serbs’ upside down Russian flag (if you may), two headed eagle, Orthodox-Christian faith, Cyrllic alphabet and historically good ties with Russia don’t serve to make them so well received in some influential circles.

  13. sinotibetan says:

    Dear Misha:
    “On the point you note of mine, it’s especially ironic when the neocons (as well as many neolibs) do this, when they’d never consider sacrificing Israel in such a manner.”
    1.) Not sure about neolibs, but neocons rely on deceiving/support of conservative , Prostestant Christian sects in America as their electorate. 2 things drive conservative Christians towards supporting neocons(which tend to be in the Republican party) – their dismay of the gaining influence of social liberalism in society which ‘conservative/(ie neocon) Republicans claim to be against and in which Democrats seem to favour and a religious aspect – many conservative evangelicals consider the return of the Jews to their homeland as a fulfilment of Biblical prophecy and that any nation that supports Israel would recieve God’s blessing. Honestly, I am for Israel to exist as a state , although I recognize that Israeli regimes have committed atrocities as well. It’s not black and white there – the Palestinians and Arabs are no saints either. For religious reasons, I cannot be anti-Israel although I agree that Israel should not be shileded from criticism. I consider this as the problem with conservative evangelicals – using political means(by voting candidates who claim to support their conservative views but are not actually doing so and most of the candidates being irrationally anti-Russian, anti-Chinese etc etc.)to reclaim a ‘Christian America’. I think America can never ever be a Christian nation, presuming it ever was one in the first place. Neither should Christians be using political means to ‘force their values’ down the throats of people who reject these values. If we believe in these values, we try to live these values- not force down the throats of others. Although I believe that good, sound, conservative social values will uphold a nation and the converse is true, if the majority wants to live conversely, then we have to let them be. What happens in future, to the nation, will prove us wrong or right.
    2.) I think as the voice of conservatism in America becomes confused convoluted and tainted by neoconservatism and as secularism and Christianity die out in that nation, I believe support for Israel will end and in fact, I believe Israel in future will be sold out.
    Part of my belief that this will occur is because I believe that Israel WILL be sold out as predicted in Revelation.
    3.)Israel is also not sold out at the moment because there are many powerful and rich Jewish people lobbying for Israel’s cause in the USA. I suspect two things will occur in future – as USA dies as a superpower(and the whole world goes into political and economic chaos), many of the wealthy Jews will see their wealth as well. And the Jewish people have many instances of Judases amongst their ranks – and I suspect for these Jewish quislings, money and personal greed is more important than their own ‘motherland’ – these quislings will also sell their homeland in future.

    my two cents.

    sinotibetan

  14. sinotibetan says:

    Misha:
    Sorry…correct an error…
    …’as secularism triumphs as mainstream and Christianity die out…’

    sinotibetan

    • Misha says:

      ST,

      It’s a fine line between neolibs and neocons.

      By default, neocons are all pro-Israeli. In contrast, some neolibs can be comparatively more critical of Israel.

      On former Communist bloc issues, neolibs and neocons are pretty much in agreement with each other.

      No surprise that Soros has backed John McCain as well as the likes of Stephen Schwartz.

  15. Misha says:

    Shifting gears, some different takes on Medvedev:

    http://russiaprofile.org/experts_panel/37457.html

  16. Yalensis says:

    @misha: Very interesting panel discussion, thanks for providing. 3 comments:
    1.) On the overall issue of whether or not Medvedev is a “lame duck”, I vote on the side of those who say “yes”. It seems pretty clear to me, and has been obvious for a couple of months now, that Putin will run for prez on United Russia ticket. Medvedev will be given some kind of consolation prize, maybe a position in the government, or running Skolkovo, or something.
    2.) Belaeff is way too kind to Medvedev, giving him credit for victory against Saakashvili in 2008. That war occurred back in the days when M still listened to Putin. French perz Sarkozy himself remarked that every meeting he attended with M (trying to find solution to crisis), Putin was also there. It was at one of these meetings when Putin declared that he wanted to capture Saakashvili and hang him by the balls. Sarkozy has bragged about talking Putin out of this wonderful idea. He does not remark whether M had any comment or opinion on the matter.
    3.) On the contrary, it was only when M “went off the reservation”, as the Americans say, and stopped listening to Putin, that he began to get into trouble. Analysts say that everybody, from Sergei Lavrov on down, begged M to veto the Libya resolution in the UN (the one that started the NATO war against Gaddafi). Putin was also against the resolution. But M wouldn’t listen to Putin. It is heartbreaking to think that M could have avoided all this Libyan bloodshed with one single vote. (On the other hand, the Chinese were just as guilty…) In fact, I think it was this very UN vote that sealed M’s doom. (Frolov points out that Levada poll shows only 13% of Russians supporting M’s stance on Libya, whereas 53% supported Putin on this issue.)

    • Misha says:

      Yalensis, I had you in mind upon reading B’s comments.

      On recognizing South Ossetian and Abkhaz independence, I heard that M very much went with that idea – supposedly (according to one source) more than Putin.

      What happened to Yugoslavia in 1999, shows that “humanitarian” military action will occur with or without UN resolutions. For that matter, the 2003 attack on Iraq arguably went against UNSCR 1441. The highlighted thought of Saddam creating delays on the WMD inspection process should (for accuracy sake) note that there’s reason to believe that some of the inspectors were carrying on in an extra curricular way, which he took as a regime threat change to him.

      As you note, Russia wasn’t alone in not actively opposing the UN resolution on Libya. Someone sent me an email saying that the Russian government lacked yarbels for not raising much if any of a stink about the situation in Libya at a the most recent summit including the lead Western nations. In some circles, Russia can’t win no matter what. If it takes a passive approach, “weakness” will be stated as a reason. Should a more assertive approach occur, an unnecessarily overbearing image will come into play.

      All this leads me to conclude that Russia needs to develop a stronger military which doesn’t create havoc on its civilian economy. Behind the “humanitarian intervention” facade, the politically incorrect mindset of “might making right” is evident.

      On another matter and of possible interest:

      http://www.electricpolitics.com/2011/05/a_bosnian_war_story.html#more

      The author of the above linked piece was initially part of the crew which only viewed the Bosnian Civil War from the side of the Serb adversaries. Some politically motivated institutions in government, media and academia exhibit overly inaccurate slants.

      On Bahrain and Syria:

      http://counterpunch.org/lee05272011.html

      http://www.counterpunch.org

      Second link to C’s home page will pick up Cockburn’s latest. For whatever reason, a click into the article’s link is giving a 404 message.

    • Alexei Cemirtan says:

      Interesting points on Medvedev. Its seems to be a trend for him to take unpopular positions, which to me is the best indicator that he will not run for reelection. The current system is essentially populist and just cannot afford to have at the top someone who does not have the populist instincts, which Putin, its creator, seems to have in abundance.

  17. Futility says:

    “It is heartbreaking to think that M could have avoided all this Libyan bloodshed with one single vote.”

    There’s no way in hell you should be able to say this with a straight face. I presume that you do not believe the intervention was humanitarian and done out of the goodness of western powers’ hearts. Tell me then, when was the last time a UN vote stopped a military intervention when western powers were clearly raring to go?

    There had been significant bloodshed prior to the NATO intervention, and so far, NATO has done a good job of keeping civilian casualties of the intervention low. There’s absolutely nothing Gaddafi would love more than to be able to parade dead civvies around for all to see, and NATO knows it.

    Arab opinions on the intervention are divided. However, Libya is unambiguously seen as being part of the Arab spring (whether you agree with this or not), and Gaddafi is largely viewed as illegitimate. There is an obvious (and legitimate) distrust of NATO (same as in Russia), but the intervention is not invariably seen as an attack on the Muslim world. Much still depends on the outcome.

    What could Russia have done? They could have voted against the no-fly zone, and stopped absolutely nothing from happening. They would have gained no friends (besides Gaddafi maybe, and he’s not going to matter for v. long) and made several enemies. Russia at the moment is largely seen as neutral, as evidenced by the recent whispers of Russia’s possible role as mediators. Abstaining from the vote was by far the smartest thing to have done.

    • marknesop says:

      I agree Russia’s abstention was the pragmatic thing to do, although Russia does indeed have a veto. There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of discussion when the USA uses its veto to halt any resolution that is critical of Israel, even when it is the sole dissenting vote, and it always shuts the resolution right down. But you’re right that NATO would likely just have found some other way to do it; it would just have been more difficult. And Russia would have been demonized in the press as being a sympathetic enabler of “terrorist objectives” or some such hogwash, people believe what they want to believe. So abstaining was the closest Russia could come to disapproval without exercising a veto.

      I can’t speak for Yalensis, but I certainly don’t believe humanitarianism or an overabundance of good in the hearts of its western planners (Sarkozy??? Are you kidding me??) had anything at all to do with the Libyan intervention. And casualty figures prior to NATO’s intervention are impossible to verify, because reporters were taking all their information from the rebels; none of it has ever been substantiated, and the more heated charges – such as Gaddafi’s forces indiscriminately firing heavy antiaircraft guns into crowds – are unsupported by photographs or video. However, if you’re curious what firing on civilians with a 30mm gatling gun looks like, you can see a clip of it here. It leaves quite a mess, and you’d think somebody would have thought to take a picture or a video, even if it was only a cellphone.

      I don’t disagree Gadaffi is “largely viewed as illegitimate” outside Libya – thanks largely to the diligent pick-and-shovel work of the western press – but what do Libyans think? Do you know? Seen any polls? Do you really think the Libyan military is so powerful that it would still be holding up in the face of daily NATO air strikes and the will of all Libya’s angry population except Gaddafi and his family? Well, it couldn’t. The rebels are estimated to number less than two thousand fighters: if they really had popular support there would be a lot more of them than that, and this would have been over long ago. Libya is unambiguously seen as part of the “Arab Spring” because that is the narrative that is being pushed day after day; there’s considerable suspicion that only Tunisia was a genuine grass-roots rebellion, and Egypt is already calling for a second revolution. It’s very easy to imagine this country collapsing into chaos and anarchy, and becoming a failed state. Isn’t that just what the region needs? Western interest in in now that the goal of overthrowing Mubarak is achieved? Zip. Nada.

      Cast your mind back to the discussion over establishing a no-fly zone. Back then, it was absolutely not about regime change. No indeed, according to the departing secretary-general of the unbelievably gutless Arab League, who invited NATO in to bomb Libya in the first place, and who left his position to run for President of Egypt. It was all about “protecting civilians”. According to him, “all civilian casualties and attacks that would affect the civilians are our concern”, and the no-fly zone was just that – a means to deny Gaddafi the use of aircraft in his campaign to suppress the rebellion. However, incorporated in the language of Resolution1973 was authorization to take any and all measures deemed necessary to guarantee the protection of civilians – hence, as soon as NATO had a foot in the door, it was striking “leadership targets” in residential neighbourhoods, including homes of Gaddafi family members. That in no way squares with the immediate goal of protecting civilians from danger – unless you can rationalize Gadaffi visiting members of his family as an action that causes civilians to fall down dead – but it squares easily with a goal of regime change. Again according to the unctuous Amr Moussa, the whole thing will come to a halt as soon as there is a cease-fire. Really? Gaddafi has offered a cease-fire, more than once. Every time it has been casually swatted aside, and the bombing goes on.

      If Gaddafi is forced from power, there is every chance the government that fills the power vacuum will be Islamic Fundamentalist. The Muslim Brotherhood has a strong following, and they’d be best-case, since the rebels are even worse and considerably more radical. Is that really what the west wants? Removal of all the dictatorial leaders it put and kept in power all these years, in favour of theocratic religious-fundamentalist governments that are the antithesis of democratic progressiveness? I guess it must, because it has supported that aim too often for it to be an accident.

      • Misha says:

        The greater carnage in the Ivory Coast is one example.

        How Turkey was treated between 1975-2000 during its war with the PKK is another.

        Likewise with Indonesian actions in East Timor.

        Similarly with Carter admin. human rights pointing at the USSR and comparatively toned down to non-existent versions with China and Romania.

        At times, the otherwise noble cause of “human rights” has been used as a propagnda tool.

        • Misha says:

          Chalk up another:

          http://original.antiwar.com/eland/2011/05/24/u-s-reticence-on-thuggish-repression-in-kurdistan/

          On anti-this and anti-that, what was the greater slaughter between Srebrenica versus Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Yet, when is the word “slaughter” more typically used?

          Vulgar and offended?

          Contrast what motivated dropping bombs from the safety and distance of the sky from something more up close and personal. Pearl Harbor and oppressive WW II Japanese actions with what Nasir Oric and his Bosnian Muslim nationalist commanded forces did in Srebrenica. Bosnian Muslim nationalist forces violating UN brokered ceasefires while fighting a war within civilian areas.

          Thought provoking points intended to hit home on what is and isn’t considered bias.

          So there’s no misunderstanding, the summary execution of civilian/ POWs is a punishable war crime. At the same time, this acknowledgement doesn’t excuse a blatant trumping up of casualty figures and misplacing of questionable opinions with actual facts.

  18. Finn says:

    A great blog, but man… Could you try refrain from taking jabs at Western countries so often, like the whole “Citadels of democracy” thing in this article for example? Your blog is really informative and interesting to read, but it would be even better if you just focused on defending Russia when it’s necessary and not resort to “Well the USA and Europe…!”. Double standards are disgusting, I know and you just want to point them out, but seeing as the blog is mainly about Russia that stuff comes off to me as a little insecure. But like I said, a great read nevertheless.

    • kovane says:

      I feel that I should step in, because it’s my piece after all. I have nothing but respect for the West, so I often try to use it as a baseline for various processes and phenomena. I don’t know how you came to the conclusion that referring to it as “Citadels of democracy” is a jab, for, whether someone like it or not, the West is the model of working democracies for the rest of the world. In addition, the general tone of both mine and Mark’s articles is rather sarcastic and ironic, but if you prefer to construe it as insecurity – knock yourself out, at least on my part.

    • marknesop says:

      Thanks, Finn; I missed the “Citadels of Democracy” phrase in this article, but confess to using such sarcasm often myself. Kovane’s perfectly capable of defending his own position, but for my part, I try to only use the west as a direct comparison when Russia is called into question for a particular practice which happens to be prevalent in the west. Oftentimes, simply “defending Russia” is not sufficient – it’d come off as you saying “Russia does this”, and me replying, “Umm….. they do not”. And if I did that, I might well be lying, because often Russia is guilty of whatever they’re being accused of. But that comes across as hypocritical when the same practice exists in the west to an even greater extent. Fake diplomas used to obtain better jobs is an example; that’s been brought up as a stick to beat Russia with, when the USA is fake-diploma central and the UK is number 2. Racism in Russia? Sure. But the USA and many western countries are in no position to accuse anyone else. See what I mean? For my part, most of my criticism is meant to suggest, “Clean up your own act, and then we’ll talk about my problem”.

      Anywhere you spot an incident of unfair criticism of western institutions – such as democracy – that you believe is unfounded, please feel free to bring it up; I’d be delighted to discuss it.

  19. Misha says:

    Regarding the image of Medvedev as soft:

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,410507,00.html

    In order to defend its legitimate interests, Russia isn’t by definition anti-West. Buchanan and some other American conservatives have some reasoned views of the post-Cold War world.

  20. Finn says:

    kovane: Sorry, I just sort of skipped right into this article and didn’t notice that you wrote it. ‘Insecurity’ wasn’t probably the best choice of words, but whatever I meant to say is mostly made irrelevant by the fact that some of this is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. I thought the whole thing was completely serious, but since it’s not, no problem. Oh, and I perceived “citadels of democracy” as a “jab” in the sense that, well, since they’re oh so democratic, how come they have to resort to using force. I see that you probably didn’t intend it as such, however, so it’s cool.

    • marknesop says:

      Here we go again. Russia is wrong, as a nation, to discriminate against gays – and as the article points out, homosexuality was illegal in Russia until comparatively recently. However, the law is the law as far as public demonstrations are concerned. The authorities denied permission for the rally on the grounds they might not be able to provide protection and there might be a violent anti-gay reaction. The demonstrators went ahead with the rally in spite of permission being denied, and a violent anti-gay reaction ensued. Would that have happened if the demonstrators had obeyed the instructions? No, it wouldn’t. Just like Boris Nemtsov wouldn’t keep getting arrested for taking part in rallies for which the authorities have denied permission, and issued warnings that transgressors will be arrested, if he didn’t keep breaking the law. What, pray, did you expect?

      I’m a supporter of gay rights, and anyone’s rights in general as long as their exercise of those rights doesn’t impinge on someone else’s freedom. However, if you wanted to hold a rally in support of bestiality in New York and the authorities said no, but you went ahead anyway, you’d be arrested. People who practice bestiality doubtless don’t feel they’re doing anything wrong, and that they have rights. Demonstrations turn violent everywhere, and often have nothing to do with sexuality; political affiliation is often a motivator.

      I’m not in favour of anyone getting roughed up because of their sexuality or for expressing an opinion. But if the authorities warn you that’s likely to happen and that your demonstration is unauthorized for that reason, but you go ahead anyway and you get hurt, it seems kind of stupid for you to blame anti-homosexual attitudes for your injuries. Weren’t you warned? Nobody said you couldn’t be a homosexual – they said not everyone agreed with it and some were violently opposed, and they probably have better uses for the police than protecting a gay pride parade the authorities denied permission to take place.

      • The problem here, as I see it, is that the Moscow pride kids weren’t “warned,” they were “banned.” While some in the world celebrate a day of equality, Russia lags behind. Not only that, but after being not protected by the authorities and brutalized by fundamentalist Christians and nationalists, a good deal of the protesters were also detained. If they’d been only warned, none of them would have been arrested. The gays should’ve been allowed to have their assembly and they should have been protected by the police, is what I think.
        I wrote a bit on it: http://sovietjournal.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/gay-rights/

        • marknesop says:

          According to the RFE/RL article, they applied for permission and were denied, and the reason cited was that celebration of homosexuality is likely to lead to violence. The fact that persons from both sides of the fight were arrested suggests the city government does not favour hooligans over homosexuals, and that they were arrested for fighting in the street rather than for some being homosexuals.

          It’s not illegal to be opposed to cuts in public services inspired by Britain’s austerity budget, but the City of London considered banning protesters from all public gatherings following violent episodes associated with anti-cuts demonstrations. Defying the government and holding a rally anyway would result in arrest and criminal charges. It’s certainly not illegal to be a woman in Egypt, but participants in what was to be a Million Woman March were victims of violence, and the Army was not able to protect them. Sometimes when the authorities warn you having a demonstration could be dangerous, they’re not just trying to take away your rights.

          Perhaps it’s just a matter of increased security for people to be guaranteed the freedom to exercise their rights without fear; in that case, as I commented at your post, perhaps every third person in Moscow should be a police officer. Unfortunately, when you do that the west accuses you of being a police state.

          I agree being gay should not mean you have to hide it or be a punching bag. However, the reality is a lot of society is violently opposed to homosexuals, and not just in Russia. If the authorities say you can’t have a demonstration because your safety might be endangered and you do it anyway, it’s unfair to blame the police because they couldn’t protect you, just as it’d be unfair to blame your mother if she said you’d burn your hand if you touched a hot stove and you did it anyway. There are other ways to raise awareness and advance your issues without risking your safety, and maybe that’s the way it’d be safer to go for the present. Attitudes are changing, but if you push too fast, sometimes this is what happens.

          Protesters were arrested because they were told not to hold the march, so they were breaking the law. According to the article, they regularly hold the march in spite of being denied permission; therefore, nobody should have been surprised. Again, I don’t want to seem unsympathetic, because I believe in and support human rights as long as the goal is not illegal and doesn’t affect others. But Russia is in a tough spot, being simultaneously leaned on for not supporting human rights, and being lawless. If it doesn’t enforce the law, you can be sure criticism rather than approbation will be the result. That’s why I suggested in my comment to your post that others are using the gays to advantage in forcing the government’s hand, because it’s a no-lose situation for them.

          • I live in America, if I go outside with 10 of my friends to protest health care or whatever, and then 20 evil jew zombies attack us, the police will come over, stop the fight, find out what happened, and then arrest the evil jew zombies. I’m pretty sure if that happened in Russia, the result would be the same. When thousands of spartak’s champions clashed with central asians for some kind of neo-fascist reasons, and there were massive fights in Russia’s subways and streets: the police came over, and arrested both sides. Why? Because both sides were agitating people to attack the other.
            Here: why were both groups arrested? Not just the provocateurs? Because both groups were doing something illegal. Holding the protest was unsanctioned, thus illegal. The protest should have been allowed, and therefore it would be legal. So when the police came to the scene of the fight, they would arrest the assholes who were attacking the pride parade, and let the parade continue. That would have been the right thing to do- because when a fight breaks out, the police come anyway, and they follow their responsibilities by protecting the law. If the law was on the side of the righteous, as in, the innocent civilians who were merely using their right of assembly: that would mean the attackers would be arrested, and today, instead of reporting on another human rights violation, we could report on a breakthrough in Russian democratization. Instead of pity, I could feel pride in that my country is tolerant of peoples so radically different from us. That Russians aren’t savages who beat people who are different from us, but rather, accept and protect their rights. I know it’s much worse elsewhere, but I’d been expecting something great and just found another disappointment.

            • marknesop says:

              I am confident that that’s exactly how it will be, and in not too long. When the dazzlingly homophobic Luzhkov departed, the talk was that the first Pride parade held after his departure would be allowed to go ahead. It looks like it didn’t, but perhaps the next one will, or the next after that. It’s not going to go away, and those who hate it will just have to get used to it. And probably the forcible arrest of a bunch of hooligans would not cause too many tears.

              However – and there’s always a however – homosexuals cannot be the special group that’s allowed to break the law. The thing to do would be to agitate for a public demonstration that is not against the law. And it shouldn’t be. But if it’s not permitted, and everybody is told in advance, only fools would go ahead anyway. They have to be arrested. If they’re not, Nemtsov and his “31” hangers-on will want to know why it’s OK for homosexuals to disregard the law, but not for him and his gang. You might say, OK; it’s a small thing – let anyone who wants to demonstrate. Unfortunately, demonstrations are frequently engineered to cause a riot and give the authorities a serious enforcement problem, which is quickly played up in the press to advantage.

              But you’re right.

        • Yalensis says:

          @SovietJournalist: I read your piece, I think it’s pretty good, and I agree with your position. Someone correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t believe homosexuality was ever illegal in Russia, except for a very brief period under Comrade Stalin. Therefore gay activists have every right to practice consensual adult sex, and to demonstrate for their rights. I do think it is important for homosexual activists to distance themselves from Western agencies and NGO’s which seek to exploit their predicament in order to attack Russian government. For example, Amnesty International is not to be trusted; they used to have a good reputation but in recent years are too much identified with American geo-strategic biases. Therefore I think is important to point out Western hypocrisy on this issue, while still standing up to oppressive forces, especially Orthodox Church, which has odious history on this as well as other human-rights issues.

          • marknesop says:

            Just to be sure I made myself clear, I’m not arguing that homosexuals currently have no legal right to demonstrate in Russia; they most certainly do. However, all public demonstrations that will consist of more than a single individual must have permission, and this particular event was denied permission. That’s what makes going ahead anyway against the law, not a broad law that says homosexuals may not stage public demonstrations.

            All major cities have laws which regulate public demonstrations, because some will be large enough to seriously disrupt traffic and freedom of movement. It’d be too easy to simply gather a band of activists and supporters for any particular cause, and tie up traffic until an exasperated population began to put pressure on the authorities to do something. Regulation in many major American cities is extremely detailed, including the requirement to get a separate event permit if your demonstration will be amplified.

            • Yalensis says:

              Tactics = valid discussion. My understanding is Moscow gay activists want to have a big parade, like in European countries, with costumes and floats, etc. But if parade is forbidden by the authorities, then they could have alternative activities, like educational seminars, etc. Still, I do not think it is right for authorities to intimidate people against a public gathering on the grounds that skinhead bully-boys will likely beat them up.

              • marknesop says:

                I completely agree there – the Classic Helicopter Designs of Leonardo da Vinci Fan Club should be able to organize and hold a parade (if they can line up enough members and interest) if they want to, without the fear that the event will be cancelled due to the threat of physical violence. Similarly, nobody should have to accept a degraded standard of social services or benefits because of their orientation.

                However, like it or not, the issue of sexuality is likely the most polarizing except possibly for race.

                As I’ve argued many times before on other blogs, there is wrong thinking on both sides. On the one hand, those who are the most vehemently opposed to homosexuality often are unable to get past the thought of two people of the same gender having sex, as if that’s all they do all day and all night. While that’s an important part of every loving relationship, it’s a very small part of their whole lives, and mostly they are occupied with the same concerns and worries, triumphs and tears as you are. There is no evidence to suggest being raised by gay parents makes you gay yourself, and many gay couples do yeoman service to society adopting and raising bright, well-adjusted and heterosexual children. Beating up a few gay people is not going to make gayness disappear, and the risk of being beaten up is highly unlikely to make anyone who is seriously gay think twice and take up an unsatisfying life of heterosexuality – Hilary Swank made that point brilliantly in the very moving, “Boys Don’t Cry”.

                On the other hand, gays (not all, but many) have gone in a single generation from modestly concealing their relationships to rubbing society’s face in them. Flamboyant public spectacles force observers to take a position on issues, and that sometimes results in gay rights losing the support of people who might have been quite happy to support them in principle before a parade of rainbow-coloured individuals – especially if they’re sporting those trendy T-Shirts that read “Bottom” or “Top” (indicating the wearer’s preferred position during the sex act) – forced the issue. Standards of public behaviour prevail in even very free-thinking countries; public tongue-kissing and fondling even on the part of the majority – heterosexuals – is frowned upon by all but voyeurs, and groups who show they can’t handle liberation responsibly often have it curtailed. Gay Pride parades might have the effect of making gay people feel great about their gayness, but any responsible social group must weigh the value of short-term jollies against the negativity of causing their neighbours to see them otherwise than as simply members of the community, which they are. Put another way, if you don’t see parades dedicated to the Bondage and Discipline Lovers of America, there’s probably a reason. That doesn’t hurt anyone, either (well, it does, but you know what I mean), but its practitioners choose not to make an issue of it.

                Let me be clear; I would not be offended by a Gay Pride parade. As far as I know, my city has one every year. But I’ve also never marched in it or attended it. I haven’t avoided it; we’ve just never ended up on the same street. I’m not going to say, “Some of my best friends are gay” (although they probably are), because that is usually code for at least a mild phobia; I don’t make it my business to find out because I don’t care. I might be a little more sensitive to avoid causing offense to gay couples I know, and if I especially like them (my daughter used to attend playschool with the daughter of a lesbian couple, and I sailed with both the girls who are the parents in different postings), I go out of my way to show my support for their relationship. But mostly, I’m just not curious about things people don’t force me to acknowledge. I’m not suggesting same-sex relationships be hidden as if they’re something to be ashamed of, because securing the affection of someone you love is too good to keep to yourself. Where you like to park your wiener at night is less a concern for me than if you pay your taxes. However, I’d much prefer dignified and straightforward negotiation for equal rights to seeing you prancing down Main Street wearing a pink T-Shirt that reads “Bottom”, a lime-green mohawk and rainbow-sequined sneakers.

                Call me conservative.

                • Yalensis says:

                  Well, I’m kind of conservative too (no, really!) and I don’t get it why a dude would want to be with another dude, when girls are so much cuter and nicer, have less body hair and smell better, but heck, to each his own. Anyhow, I admit I approach this from a somewhat ideological slant, that’s the Marxist in me, I don’t believe that humans can achieve true gender equality until the gay issue is resolved too. (Homosexual equality being an ancillary issue to the bigger issue of gender equality.) And if it takes a big parade to accomplish that, then Viva La Parade! (But yes, please do lose the vulgar T-shirts, I agree with that….)

                • marknesop says:

                  It’s not so much that I really am conservative – in more or less every respect, I am the polar opposite. I just don’t see many of the goals of gay rights getting accomplished by forcing Moscow to let them hold a flamboyant parade that in turn forces observers to confront gayness in a manner that is much more likely to foster a negative impression in all but those who are gay themselves.

                  To me, the best chance of success for equal rights on the part of any group that considers itself different from the mainstream – unless its numbers are so huge as to challenge the mainstream, and I think you’ll agree that’s not the case here – lies in making a straightforward and dignified appeal. Look at me. I’m just like you; I have the same fears and concerns as you do, many of the same likes and dislikes. What makes me different is something you don’t have to see if it upsets you, like my religion or my favourite restaurant. You are not going to have to change the way you live at all in order to support me in getting the same basic rights as you have, and there’s no sensible reason I should accept less. I’m a person, not a mutant or a freak. So – how about it? Can I count on your support?

                  That pitch is a lot harder to make if you’re wearing skin-tight pink snakeskin, rubbing your difference in my face and asking for my support while you’re demanding special protection to stage a public spectacle that flaunts the fact that you’ve already gained the right to be different. What will you want next? The achievement of basic rights everyone should have, such as access to their lifetime partner’s pension benefits if they die, paternity leave if you adopt as a gay couple and access to and inclusion in the lawmaking process itself is going to be far from everyone’s mind when the the petitioners for those rights are part of an event that forces you to watch or go someplace else in a place you consider your own.

                  Unlike you, I can easily see how an attraction could develop between persons of the same gender, and I’d be surprised if anyone had never felt a tickle of it in their secret heart. Usually it manifests itself in a close friendly relationship, and it probably doesn’t feel like anything sexual even though attraction is attraction when broken down to its most basic form. It’s common for men to prefer the company of other men, and most of the men I know would go nuts if they had to hang around with women all the time, cute and hairless though they may be. Conservative Republicans, typically the fiercest ranters against those sick gay fairies, regularly are exposed as those who can’t leave it alone in their private lives. Live and let live is the way to go, I think, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else or restrict their freedoms.

          • Misha says:

            Among some major religious denominations, the OC is far from being alone.

            Suggesting differently is something evident at some of the more high profile of venues.

            BTW, I recall the Great Soviet Encyclopedia (at least at one point in time) referring to homosexuality as a disease.

            • Yalensis says:

              Agree most religions are homophobic. Old Testament decrees “a man who lies who another man, they shall both be put to death.” (Leviticus 20:13). So technically Jews not allowed to be gay. And yet I know plenty of gay Jews who are also deeply religious – how they reconcile this in their own heads, I have no idea.
              In New Testament, Jesus never said anything condemning homosexuality, so kudos to him. On the other hand, J is crystal clear that divorce is not allowed except in the case of adultery (Matthew 19:3-9). So technically, gay marriage should be allowed by Christians, but once the couple is married, they can never divorce, if they’re Christians. (Unless one of them is unfaithful.)
              Islam? I don’t know, I have never read the Koran, but let me guess: they probably don’t approve of gay relationships. Although, it is my understanding that the Taliban in Afghanistan originally came to power as a result of a dispute where two rival warlords were arguing over a young boy lover claimed by both. The Taliban was brought in to pass judgement and used Koranic commentaries to judge which warlord got to keep the boy.

            • Yalensis says:

              @misha: On Great Soviet Encyclopedia: I sincerely hope you are not expecting me to defend this; some of those sections were written by Stalinist dinosaurs!
              However, I am compelled to retort with what-aboutist argument that even “civilized” United States classified homosexuality as mental disease until 1987. American Psychiatric Association (APA), which is a bunch of shrinks meeting annually, is in charge of deciding what is mental disease and what is not, and they then publish their decisions in “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM). In each succeeding edition, there are changes. Some diseases go away, others are added. Homosexuality was eliminated as mental disease in 1987 edition. However, new diseases were added, such “caffeine addiction”. So, it is now okay to be gay in America, just cut back on those mocha lattes.

              • Misha says:

                Yalensis,

                Coca-Cola and ice tea are my preferences. In the winter, I’ll often take a strong hot tea, mixed with fruit preserves (typically strawberry or rasberry), a dash of lemon juice and a sweet kosher wine – the latter typically drunk at the beginning of the Sabbath.

                From the point of view of a consistent accuracy, “whataboutism” can have a constructive aspect. There’ve been politically motivated attacks on the Russian and Serb Orthodox Churches that involve a good degree of hypocrisy.

                In contrast, I can respect a well rounded advocacy that isn’t prejudiced. I’m suddenly reminded of two types of ethnic humor. One can be an across the board no harm meant type, with the extreme opposite taking selectively nasty jibes at a given group. So there’s no misunderstanding, I’m not putting you in the latter category.

                I’m nevertheless compelled to note inaccurately one-sided agendas. One recent example concerns the Serb Orthodox Church and a “progressive” venue:

                http://www.thenation.com/article/161017/arrest-ratko-mladic-victory-eu

                Hockenos was also on DW last week spewing such deceit. Very unlikely to find Hockenos, DW and perhaps The Nation note how influential elements within the Croat Catholic Church referred to the recently arrested Ante Gotovina as being in a Christ like position – something very much downplayed in English language mass media.

                • Yalensis says:

                  @misha: Your tea recipe sounds delicious! Coca Cola on the other hand — don’t you know that stuff rots the enamel off your teeth? Coke is so acidic that some auto mechanics use it to clean the gunk off an old engine. Also, it was apparently Osama bin Laden’s favorite beverage, and look what happened to him!

                • Misha says:

                  No disagreement Yalensis.

                  Most, if not all of us have some degree of fault, in terms of what we choose to eat and drink.

                  My Coke drinking has gone down due to it no longer always being at 99 cents (US) or less a two liter.

                  I can’t justify buying it for over that price. Hence, I’m drinking more ice tea, beer and club soda mixed with fruit juice.

                  To offset some eating and drinking fault lines is a diverse exercise regimen and these:

                  http://www.epinions.com/review/Trader_Joe_s_High_Potency_Chewable_Multivitamin_Tablets_epi/content_526687833732

        • cartman says:

          Lags behind who, exactly?

          Also, I am not sure that pride parades are very productive when they are exported and organized by somewhat former enemy countries. Where are the nuclear missiles pointed and who are the NATO bases aimed at? It is pointless to deny these countries are not still enemies under these circumstances.

  21. sinotibetan says:

    OK….some comments. Especially to yalensis, Mark, Misha and ?Finn(I cannot see the nick)
    1.) Regarding Medvedev – thanks to Misha for the link.
    Ethan Burger’s narrative is typical Western narrative. Vlad Sobell’s seemed like a ‘jab’ on the West rather than discussing about Medvedev but I quite agree with his assessment of the West’s current situation. About Russian liberal ‘fanatics’ and Russian intellectuals ‘abandoning’ Medvedev(Belaeff and Miskova) – were they really ‘for’ him in the first place? Russian liberal ‘fanatics’ are more interested in a weak Russian President(which I suspect they think Medvedev is and would be if given another term – without Putin anywhere near[they prefer Khodorkovsky released and Putin jailed in his place in some remote Siberian jail], of course) so that they can take over the country. They’ll denounce Medvedev as ‘part of Putin’s stooge’ once they feel confident enough to rebel and claim the top post amongst their squabbling selves. As for Russian intellectuals supporting Medvedev, it is a hint/suggestion that Russian dumbs support Putin – which is untrue of course. “If you support Medvedev – then you’re intellectual; if you support Putin- then you’re not of the intellectual class’. Sounds like a smug and arrogant comment in support of Medvedev.
    I am not sure if Medvedev or Putin will be candidate for the Presidency. Medvedev would fight for the presidency under the following possibilities:-
    a.)Putin let him. In that case, Medvedev would be content with a powerful PM Putin. I doubt Medvedev wants that now – as I think Medvedev wants Putin out from being too powerful. As Putin is not keen on being ousted from power, this is a very unlikely scenario. Putin, I think, now doubts Medvedev’s loyalty and see him as an ingrate nowadays. I believe the break between Medvedev and Putin is real and Medvedev’s actions of late has convinced Putin that he should no longer support Medvedev for the post.
    b.) Medvedev unilaterally insists on being a candidate even if Putin disagrees. Then, a great ‘war of the clans’ will ensue with chaos reigning in Russia. It is very unlikely that Putin and his political allies, especially the siloviki, will just give in. It’s one that Medvedev will most likely lose because he cannot count on the his ‘liberal supporters’ – they tend to be the businessman type who have no sense of loyalty whatsoever(their only loyalty is to self) or the idealistic-intellectual type who cannot rule such a complex country like Russia. Even if he ‘wins’, the country would be so chaotic politically and economically and I see Medvedev as too weak in persona to deal with those. Then the population will clamour for a ‘strong leader’ – and the West might get a person far ‘worse’ than Putin.
    Putin’s ‘error’ is not honing other leaders just or more capable than him to be future leaders. Medvedev was a bad choice.
    2.) @yalensis
    a.)”However, I would point out that gang rape, like what happened to Lara Logan in Tahrir Square, is not a characteristic ONLY of Islamic cultures.”
    I did NOT think gang rape ONLY occur in Islamic cultures. Sure gang rapes occur in all cultures and all nationalities. But I think there’s something in Islamism which somehow ‘influences’ that tendency- especially if the ladies are ‘kaffir’. What I meant is more of tendency and possibility of gang rape – higher in certain cultures, especially in Islamic cultures which are ‘ultraconservative’. yalensis – Chinese girls were gang-raped by Muslim fanatics in Indonesia during their cyclical racial riots as they shouted ‘Allah is great’ and these Muslims were Indonesian Malays – nothing Mediterranean about them. Sure there’s racism involved but the religious component cannot be ignored.
    b.)”The “cultural” factor is that even if Lara Logan were herself a Muslim woman, and even had she been a local Egyptian lady, she still could have been attacked by the mob simply for appearing in public.”
    Actually I did not mean culture only….I meant more of religious factor(as underlying the cultural factor). I see Islam as a religion obssessed with sexuality – more than any other religion. True, parhaps if she were Muslim, she’d be gang-raped as well but then as you’ve observed, if a Muslim woman appeared amongst the mob, she’s perhaps suggesting ‘she’s game for rape’[perhaps not being 'modest' and so deserving the rape?] in the eyes of the mob?
    c.)”I disagree with your characterization of “sexual frenzy” and “sensuality” – these monsters tried to rip pieces of her scalp off, I don’t see anything sensual in that!”
    Yalensis, the context of those phrases were for the ‘modest ladies without headscarves’, not pertaining to Lara Logan. Anyway, there is a condition called sado-masochism in which the perpetrator finds such pain and violence ‘sensual’. It’s rape because Lara did not think it sensual, but I’m sure the mob did!
    d.) The Italian movie and “but eventually they herd her into a corner, and it is pretty clear what they want to do to her; and there are no Muslims involved in this scenario.”
    One cannot say that Italians have a tendency for gang-raping based on a movie(even if produced by Italians!) inasmuch as one can conclude that Chinese people have a tendency to be good in martial arts like Bruce Lee movies(I can’t do wushu and I donn’t like Bruce Lee!).
    3.) Regarding ‘respect for the West'(kovane) – although my comments often sound anti-Western, I don’t ‘hate’ or purposely ‘jab’ the West. Perhaps these are my differences regarding my views of the West vs the rest here:-
    a.) I view Western culture /values of today as degraded and warped from what was initially intended by their recent (say 18th-19th centuries) predecessors. Despite serious weaknesses of the past, I have respect more of the West of the past than of the present in terms of culture and values. If I am critical of the current West, is because I see current Western culture as having ‘downgraded’ from a better past.
    b.) Many here want to bridge the animosity between Russia and the West but do not see anything wrong at all with the social , political and economic situation in the West. Only try to help the Western politicians discard anti-Russian rhetoric to bridge this precipice. I see a lot of things are wrong IN Western society. While I believe Russia(or China or the rest of the world) should try to get along with the West, I do believe our nations should develop our institutions, values and cultures independently and not conform to the Western ‘model’. Of course, that’s because I don’t think the current Western ‘model’ of society will endure future shocks.
    4.) The issue of gay rights is one that I totally disagree with the prevalent average Westerner mindset and thus has connexion with my point #3(a). At the risk of being labeled a ‘homophobe'(like I care! I’ve been labeled Islamophobe also – so it’s OK….I am a bundle of ‘phobes’!):-
    a.) Some pro-homosexual biologists have tried to ‘prove’ the existence of gay genes(see pages 664-665; Principles of Genetics by Snustad and Simmons; 3rd edition) citing experiments with Drosophila mutants with ‘gay’ tendencies and Simon LeVay’s report of brain morphological differences between homosexual and heterosexual men. Firstly, Drosophila are flies and extrapolation of Dipteran sexual behaviour to human behaviour is not accurate because flies , for example , go through egg, larval and pupal stage with associated ‘behaviours’ whereas humans don’t. Moreover insect sexual behaviour include parthenogenesis in aphids which certainly don’t occur in humans! Also those were fly mutants – suggesting abnormality, and rare mutants as well. Thus the Drosophila analogy is invalid. Secondly, if homosexual tendency is purely biological – then it is a medical problem inasmuch as thyrotoxicosis as an underlying cause for a quick temper needs treatment. Although it’s possible that there is genetic influence on behaviour, for most gays/lesbians I think it’s more of personal choice than biology. If it’s truly biology, then perhaps we should find a cure?
    b.)The above point was raised to deflect criticisms that homosexuality is a moral issue. To me, it is a moral issue – a right and wrong in behaviour inasmuch as is it right to cheat or is it right to murder. Sure, consensual adults who want to be gays – that’s up to them. But not when Gay Pride people insist that those who don’t agree with homosexuality ‘accept’ them – or else we are labeled discrimatory/bigots. Or that they fight for ‘recognition’ of marriage and adoption etc. By saying “OK” to that and legalizing that is actually tantamount to saying it’s ‘right’ to be gay/homosexual because if I think it’s ‘wrong’, I am actually punishable by law not to recognize such ‘unions’.

    sinotibetan

    • Misha says:

      ST,

      Thanks for the reply.

      In that particular panel, I found B & R the most interesting. One of the panelists is there for the purpose of having a diverse panel. Some consider that presence as a kind of intellectual Affirmative Action.

      At last notice, every year a Gay Irish group gets denied a spot in New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. I don’t follow Gay topics, while recalling differences between the Vatican and some Gay activists.

      When writing for a venue like RFe/RL, I don’t expect James Kirchick among others to note these points, while writing some not so accurate pieces on OC churches.

    • Yalensis says:

      @sinotibetan: On the Italian film: you are absolutely right, it was ridiculous of me to quote a scene in a film as if it were an actual event. Although I am disillusioned to learn that that not all Chinese people are experts in martial arts !
      On homosexuality: That’s obviously one of those topics that people will never agree on. Although, since you are a Christian, you might be swayed by the fact that Jesus never condemned gays; on the contrary, he helped out a gay couple, I am referring to the story of the Roman centurion and his young lover who was dying from some disease (Luke 7:1-10).
      I don’t have a Greek keyboard, so you’ll have to bear with me, as I transliterate Verse 7 from the Greek New Testament, which is more authoritative then the later versions translated into various languages:
      “dio oude emauton exiosa pros de elthein, alla eipe logo kai iatheto o pais mou…”
      (The Roman centurion is saying to Jesus: “Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee, but say in a word and heal my [“pais” = Greco-Roman term for young male lover]
      So what did Jesus do? Did he spit at the centurion and say, “Be gone, thou unnatural pervert!” ?
      No, of course not! He healed the “pais” and said nice things to the centurion.

  22. sinotibetan says:

    @yalensis
    Thanks.
    1.)Regarding that verse in Luke 7:7, you might have the ‘meaning’ from the ‘higher critics'(‘liberal scholars’) who already are biased in translating the meaning of the word ‘pais’. Conservative scholars will dispute with the meaning given to the word ‘pais’ as male lover. Example of conservative intepretation:
    http://www.biblestudytools.com/interlinear-bible/passage.aspx?q=Luke+7%3A7&t=kjv
    http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/kjv/pais.html
    The KJV New Testament Greek Lexicon
    Strong’s Number: 3816
    Original Word Word Origin
    pai’ß perhaps from (3817)
    Transliterated Word TDNT Entry
    Pais 5:636,759
    Phonetic Spelling Parts of Speech
    paheece Noun

    Definition
    a child, boy or girl
    infants, children
    servant, slave
    an attendant, servant, spec. a king’s attendant, minister

    King James Word Usage – Total: 24
    servant 10, child 7, son (Christ) 2, son 1, manservant 1, maid 1, maiden 1, young man 1

    KJV Verse Count
    Matthew 8
    Luke 9
    John 1
    Acts 6
    Total 24
    Greek lexicon based on Thayer’s and Smith’s Bible Dictionary plus others; this is keyed to the large Kittel and the “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.” These files are public domain

    Moreover, I DO NOT use the Westcott and Hort texts because I consider them as corrupted texts. Westcott and Hort were anti-Christian ‘Christian scholars’. I only accept the Textus Receptus.

    2.)”So what did Jesus do? Did he spit at the centurion and say, “Be gone, thou unnatural pervert!” ?”
    a.)First, I allege your translation is wrong(biased as ‘liberal scholars’ want to please so-called ‘gay’ Christians).
    b.)In Christianity, we hold the whole Bible as ‘truth’. Verses cannot be interprated ‘in isolation’. Yahweh destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah due to their homosexuality. As to Jesus agreeing to Yahweh’s actions in Sodom and Gomorrah is verse Luke 17:29-32. As a matter of doctrine, Romans 1:26-27 describes lesbianism and gays – calling these ‘vile affections’. No doubt, such are considered sins in Christianity.
    c.) Jesus did not condemn the adulterous woman condemned by the Jewish priests. But He said ‘go, and sin no more'(John 8:11) – He did not condemn but He did not absolve the sin. IF, pais really meant male lover(which I completely disagree with your interpratation), similarly Jesus did NOT condemn but di not necessarily absolve even as Jesus was accused as dining with ‘sinners’. All men(including Christians) are sinners. No one is righteous in God’s standards and none are free from sin.

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      Arguments about the literal translation of terms will likely go on forever, and religious texts more than perhaps any other written body of work are deliberately skewed toward personal interpretation, and are thus often shrouded in parables and riddles. However, if you read the passage in context, the centurion in question was at least as likely to be accompanied in the circumstances described by a male lover as he is to be accompanied by an infant or child. As far as a “servant” goes; maybe, that’s certainly possible. But the open affection that occurred between people of the same sex – usually men – in the Roman culture is beyond dispute. In fact, the “corruption and decadence” of ancient Rome was specifically cited as one of the prime contributors to its downfall. Religion is like statistics; you can always find something that appears to support what you’re trying to say.

      Similarly, although at least as many wars have been fought and societies ruthlessly crushed on behalf of Christianity as any other religion, Christianity is advanced as a religion of compassion and forgiveness. Modern Christian teachers routinely tout Christianity’s inclusiveness, and promise Jesus will forgive anything as long as the sinner genuinely repents and resolves to stop sinning (which, as you say, none of us can ever do to perfection). Once they used to include homosexuality as something you could be forgiven provided you didn’t plan to keep right on doing it, but I believe the trend now (in recognition of prevailing social mores) is toward normalizing it within the bounds of an exclusive relationship (excluding promiscuity). Look at the prominent religious leaders (mostly conservative Republicans) who are in the best possible position – knowledge-wise – to be aware of Jesus’s position on homosexuality, and indulge in it anyway while vehemently denying and often denouncing it. Pastor Ted Haggard is an instructive example; after indulging in a gay sexual relationship secretly for 3 years, he claimed to have seen the light when it was exposed; after a bare 3 months of therapy in 2007, one of his fellow ministers announced he was cured of gayness, and was now “completely heterosexual”.

      Apparently it didn’t take, since he “came out” as bisexual in February this year. I imagine if you asked him, he’d tell you he’s definitely going to heaven, though.

  23. sinotibetan says:

    @yalensis
    I have my New Testament in Koine Greek in my hometown and not here. Sorry, I had to use links.

    sinotibetan

    • Yalensis says:

      @sinotibetan: My Greek New Testament is some old edition from 1966 which I bought in an antiques bookstore in New York City many years ago, it says it was printed in Stuttgart, West Germany by Wurttemberg Bible Society. However, the introduction and footnotes are in English. There is also a nice little Greek-English dictionary at the end.

  24. Giuseppe Flavio says:

    @Sinotibetan and Yalensis
    I find your discussion about Jesus and homosexuality very interesting, because IMO it proves one of the points I made discussing Islam. That is to say, Holy scriptures are easily bend to personal ideas through interpretation, so what it is written on them is largely irrelevant. Some of the interpretations can be wrong, others can be debated without an end, but this is irrelevant, because people live with their own interpretation, not those of others. In fact, I’m no longer amazed that none of the Christian believers I’ve met has ever felt compelled to study koine Greek to know the true word of Jesus.
    Re. the word “pais”, to my knowledge its meaning was “a boy between 6-7 years and 16-18 years”. That the centurion meant his lover is a possible interpretation (like when we say “my girl”), but not the only one. However, if the centurion really meant his lover in this story, the “liberal scholars” are actually saying something different than “Jesus never condemned gays”. The kind of love between an adult male (like the centurion) and a “pais” isn’t simple homosexuality, it’s pederasty. But saying “Jesus never condemned pederasts” implying that it’s OK is highly politically un-correct.

    • marknesop says:

      It’s good to see you again, Giuseppe; I’ve missed your reasoned and thought-provoking commentary, not to mention your sense of humour.

      • Giuseppe Flavio says:

        Hi Mark,
        thanks for your kind words. Re. homosexuality in the Greek and Roman civilisations, there is a very good book by Italian author Eva Cantarella, “Bisexuality in the Ancient World”.

    • Yalensis says:

      Hi, Giuseppe! Amen, amen, and triple aman to everything you say!
      Yeah, this one of the (many) reasons I am so glad I am an atheist. Aside from the fact that it allows me to do anything I want (within the limits of secular laws!), in addition my atheism frees me from having to spend endless hours pouring over some obscure parables that somebody wrote thousands of years ago, trying to figure out what they REALLY meant, because my “immortal soul” depended on the correct interpretation! In my opinion, a good chemistry textbook is worth more to humanity than all the religious works ever written down, and that includes the Rig Veda, which is 2000 pages long!
      On the centurion: I agree with you that if the centurion’s ailing pal was an actual child or adolescent under the age of 16, then that makes the centurion a filthy pederast! So maybe Jesus really should have given him a stern lecture about his abuse of power. (In another part of the passage, the centurion brags about how he commands the men under him, and they have to carry out his orders immediately.)
      As a sidenote, the Greek word “pais” is the root of the English borrowings “pederast” and “pedophile”, which uses to be spelled “paederast” and “paedophile”. English speakers get very confused about two Greek roots “ped” (“foot” – as in “pedometer”) and “paed” (“child” – as in “paediatric”), because they are pronounced the same, and will sometimes mix up the spellings.

      • Giuseppe Flavio says:

        Hi Yalensis,
        if I were not an atheist, I would probably scratch my head trying to understand the true meaning of sacred scriptures. But I’ve never met a religious person that bother himself so much with sacred books (besides the “professionals” in the field, like the Catholic priests). Mostly, they pick the interpretation they like the most, discarding other interpretations claiming they’re not valid because they come from “liberal scholars” (if the picker is a conservative, like Sinotibetan) or from “conservative scholars” (if the picker is a liberal). Scholars without an agenda make both liberal and conservatives unhappy, so often they find themselves between a rock and an hard place.
        IIRC, the word “paideia” in ancient Greece denoted the love relationship between a free adult male and an underage boy, also belonging to the free part of the population. The adult was supposed to educate the boy to be a good citizen, and to be the “active player” during sex. That’s the reason many scholars call this system “educational pederasty”. For ancient Romans this kind of relationship was immoral (the “Greek vice”), but toward the end of the Republic many Romans (e.g. Catullus) indulged in it.

        • grafomanka says:

          I think Greeks/Romans while condoning and indulging in bisexual relationships never actually treated homosexual relationship as an equal to heterosexual one (meaning marriage). That’s why what people try to do now, put an equal sign between them, is quite unprecedented.
          Not sure if I’m correct tho :)

          • Yalensis says:

            Hi, grafomanka! Yes, I believe you are correct, some Greek and Roman men liked to play both sides of the street, but their societies truly did disapprove of actual homosexuality. If a man was “educating” a boy (yeah, right!), that was okay; but the idea of two adult men (or women) having an equal relationship was not acceptable. Modern Western/European thought is the exact opposite: doesn’t like paedophilia because it is an abuse of power against children, but believes same-gender relationships are okay, so long as no kids involved.
            I remember reading a biography of Julius Caesar, he was a fairly macho guy and a ladies man, but Roman historians considered him to be effeminate because in his same-sex relationships he slept with adult men and liked to be on the bottom. Supposedly there was a saying about him: “Best man on the battlefield, best woman in bed.” That shows how warped the Romans really were (sorry, Giuseppe!) that they identified the bottom position = subordination = being a woman. Kind of makes my point that struggle for gay equality is a subset of struggle for female equality.

            • Giuseppe Flavio says:

              I hadn’t seen this comment of yours before posting my answer to Gafromanka. As you can see by reading it, Romans were really warped.
              As for Caesar, there are a lot of sources which suggest he was a bisexual during his time, enjoying being both on the bottom and at the top, and that he had no problems if peoples spoke about him as an effeminate. During a discourse in the Senate, he said that he could march over the heads of his enemies, so a senator tried to provoke him saying that it wasn’t an easy task for a woman. Caesar retorted that Semiramis governed Syria and Amazons dominated Asia.

          • Giuseppe Flavio says:

            Generally speaking, ancient cultures didn’t classify sexual relationship into heterosexual and homosexual with the modern meaning of these words, rather they made the distinction between sexually active (to put it bluntly, those that penetrated) and sexually passive (those that were penetrated, sorry for the rudeness).
            An adult male citizen, that it to say someone with full political rights, was considered normal if he was sexually active, regardless of the sex of his partners, abnormal if he liked to be the passive partner. Where Rome and ancient Greece had different views, was about who had to be the preferred passive partner. For Greeks the preferred partner was a young boy that had to be formed to become a good citizen, and their relationship was viewed as not just a carnal one. There was a courtship phase, and great emphasis was put on the intellectual and sentimental aspects of the relationship. As strange as it may appear, those going after a young slave boy were disapproved as people interested just in sex, not in love. The same for women, but they needed to reproduce!
            For Romans the preferred passive partner was someone that was subjugated, like a war prisoner or a foreign slave. The stronger was the subjugated partner, the higher was the glory and the virility shown by the active player. So, there wasn’t so much satisfaction with women. Since virility and military/political ability were seen as one and the same thing, those enjoying passiveness were despised as “molles” (weaklings). Also, the Romans thought that an underage citizen shouldn’t be a passive partner, because this would undermine his virility and so his ability to be a good adult citizen. It was illegal to try to seduce an underage citizen, but slaves were fair game.
            As for marriage, there is a debate if it was allowed between a man and an eunuch in ancient Rome. Nero married an eunuch freedman named Sporus, but it is uncertain if it was something customary or one of Nero’s lunacies. Most scholars hold the latter view.
            One last thing. Both Greeks and Romans considered lesbianism a monstrosity, while the “homophobic” ancient Jews were quite neutral on it.

            • Yalensis says:

              @Giuseppe: Thanks for great discussion of ancient mores. It seems your ancestors really were warped! Why, just look what they did to these subjugated Spartan slaves by the gods, wasn’t it enough that they forced them to fight in the arena? No, they also made them wear “skin-tight pink snakeskin” costumes that shows off their derrieres (just like what Mark warned us about), and then forced them to DANCE… DANCE… DANCE….

            • grafomanka says:

              @Giuseppe and @Yalensis – thanks for epic discussion! :D

  25. sinotibetan says:

    @ Giuseppe and Mark
    Thanks for your reasoned responses. I am no Bible scholar but I did try to understand the New Testament via looking at concordances with the ‘original Koine Greek’.
    Mark – on your points:-
    1.)Regarding the word ‘pais’ – in the context of the verse, true several interpretations are possible. However, you yourself mentioned ” As far as a “servant” goes; maybe, that’s certainly possible ” – in fact, that’s very likely. But then you mentioned –
    “But the open affection that occurred between people of the same sex – usually men – in the Roman culture is beyond dispute.”
    Sure, it did occur – especially in the latter parts of Roman history. However to extrapolate that indeed that WAS the sexual relation between the centurion and the ‘pais’ (most likely a servant) is extremely hypothetical and unsubstantiated. That possibility is rendered less plausible with these:-
    a.)Jesus commended the faith of the centurion in Him and as Christians assumes He is God and has the attributes of a Holy God , it is likewise logical to deduce that the centurion subsribes to what is considered Holy by Jesus in many ways.
    b.)Though the centurion was Roman, it does not automatically mean that he did not have values considered ‘correct’ by Jesus. Inasmuch as there are Buddhists and Christians who subscribe to similar values, why not a Roman who’s no Jew?
    c.)Although the prevailing attitude at that time MIGHT be of rampant acceptance and practice of homosexuality, by no means one can assume , with absolute certainty, that INDEED the centurion-pais relationship was homosexual. If he had enough ‘correct values’ to have faith in Jesus, then likely he rejected the prevailing homosexuality of the day inasmuch that I and many others reject the prevailing attitute towards homosexuality of OUR day.
    d.)As I’ve said, one cannot wrench those verses out from the context of the WHOLE Bible. Jesus’ disciples certainly believed that homosexuality is sinful( eg. 2 Peter 2:6 on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah) and Jesus claimed the Old Testament as ‘Word of God’ and thus what Yahweh pronounced regarding homosexuality in the Old is also true in the New. Jesus never spared UNREPENTENT sinners in His rebukes so that makes it less likely that the centurion-pais relationship was a homosexual one.
    2.)”Arguments about the literal translation of terms will likely go on forever, and religious texts more than perhaps any other written body of work are deliberately skewed toward personal interpretation, and are thus often shrouded in parables and riddles.”
    That people bend verses and wrench them out of context to suit their own personal tastes – sure no one disputes these happen.
    Nevertheless, isn’t the onus on us to ‘search’ what was the original message of the authors to the best of our ability? If we esteem doctorates in linguistics in finding out the ‘original meaning’ of a Shakespearean play , why esteem less the seeking of understanding the original intent of the authors of religious texts since religion had and continues to influence human behaviour, understanding of ‘right and wrong’ and as you’ve said wars have been fought in the ‘name of religion’?
    3.)”Religion is like statistics; you can always find something that appears to support what you’re trying to say.”
    Perhaps. But without statistics, much of modern life cannot exist. For example, even the medications that are used to treat illnesses use statistical analyses to prove efficacy and likelihood of serious adverse events. The problem is in the interpretation thereof and not the statistics. Similarly on religious texts – the problem is NOT the texts but the interprators. Would one abandon statistical analyses due to the bias and weakness of interpretation?…surely not. The same analogy can be said about religious texts and their interpretation thereof.
    4.) Rergarding Ted Haggard or other pastors or self-proclaimed Christians that failed their own self-proclaimed standards etc etc….
    a.) Only God(and the person himself) truly knows who’s save and who’s not. Mere declaration “I’m saved” is just that – a declaration only. We won’t know who’s ‘really’ ‘saved’.
    b.) “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven….., I never knew you: depart from Me , ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7: 21-23)

    @Giuseppe
    Some of your ‘arguments’, I’ve already attempted to reply in my response to Mark.
    “That is to say, Holy scriptures are easily bend to personal ideas through interpretation, so what it is written on them is largely irrelevant.”
    Not really. Holy Scriptures are easily bent to suit personal ideas – those interpretations are relevant because they can be used to justify behaviours/ideas. So, finding the original intent/message of the Holy scriptures are important so as to compare of those interpretations come close or far to that of the original intent. True – we may not know ALL the ‘original’ messages intended – but at least we can attempt to know as much as we can and see if current day interpretations are closer or farther than that originally intended. The relevancy of religious texts and their interpretation thereof does not depend on whether we agree or not they are relevant – the present-day(and past) influence of religious beliefs on values and behaviours of multitudes continue to make these relevant regardless of what we think. In fact secular humanism is a quasi-religious phenemonon and have characteristics of ‘religion’ too as interpretations are of various shades as well. Humanity and religiosity/ideology is kith and kin and will be with us as long as mankind exists.

    Needless to say. we shall never agree on this issue of religion. Neither will we ever agree with regards to homosexuality.
    I hope , though, that you can appreciate that I’ve tried to give as reasonable and rational response as possible to your comments to the best of my ability. Thank you.

    sinotibetan

  26. sinotibetan says:

    To yalensis and giuseppe:

    I am not going to ‘debate’ any longer about this matter but just have these to say:-
    1.)Your deductions regarding religions/interpretations are actually based on your own world-view – viz. Atheism.
    2.)All your assessments on religious texts/issues(including the assertion by giuseppe on the irrelevancy of religious texts/interpretations) must be seen in that context.
    3.)Inasmuch as I am allegedly biased towards the conservative side, both of you are also biased towards fitting whatever ideas you have on religious matters towards atheism(which is closer to the position of ‘liberal scholars’) . In other words, both of you are NOT neutral in the assessment inasmuch as one may claim I am not as well.
    4.)”Scholars without an agenda make both liberal and conservatives unhappy, so often they find themselves between a rock and an hard place.”
    Unfortunately NO human beings are totally without biases and agendas. Including both of you. And myself included.

    sinotibetan

  27. sinotibetan says:

    @Mark and atheist commentators:-
    I remembered Mark mentioned in a previous post that atheists do not actively promote their beliefs(or unbeliefs) and that atheism is somehow a reaction against religions/theistic ideas.
    Being a former atheist myself and with the occasional (often heated) debates with atheists in this blog or elsewhere, I view atheism as similar to religion. The Selfish Gene, The God Delusion etc. are the sacred and religious texts of this modern day religion perhaps?
    Wonder if anyone have comments on the following article:-
    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.11/atheism.html
    “Neoatheism”?

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      I can’t say I have a lot of experience with atheism, but in the experience I do have, atheists do not promote their beliefs – or lack of them, as you have correctly noted – so much as they are eager to quantify thmselves as atheists. I wouldn’t equate an eagerness to self-identify as an atheist with promotion of apostasy or atheistic beliefs/non-beliefs. In my (again, limited) experience with the subject, atheists use their beliefs/non-beliefs to avoid theological discussions or to explain why they have no particular opinion upon certain subjects, rather than expounding on the philosophy of atheism in general. In fact, if I had to rely on atheists to learn anything about atheism, I’d know nothing instead of very little.

      Or perhaps I’ve only met non-chatty atheists.

    • Yalensis says:

      I only mentioned my atheism because when I am engaged in a debate I try to be honest about my views and biases, so people know what direction I am coming from. Hey, I may be a heretic, but I have feelings too! :(

      • Yalensis says:

        P.S. I wanted to clarify that my atheism is not an “absolute” belief. In the sense that if someone showed me some real proof or evidence, or I witnessed something with my own eyes, then I could change my mind. Absent of that, it just doesn’t seem that probable. And even if there WERE all-powerful supernatural beings, let’s say dwelling in another dimension or something, then I doubt they would give a rat’s ass what kind of sex humans had with each other. I mean, these “gods” would be to us as we are to bugs. And be honest with me, does anyone other than entomologists really care how bugs get it on with each other?

  28. marknesop says:

    Our friend Tim Newman has a very funny post up at White Sun of the Desert, which appears to be inspiring a grassroots rebellion on the part of expat Nigerians. I note a couple of them appear to be currently living in the UK, and since majority opinion on the part of the native population no longer matters a damn when there’s a possibility of initiating an overthrow of the government, I expect Sarkozy to recognize the Nigerian expats as the legitimate government of England any moment now. This may or may not be followed by imposition of a no-fly zone to protect civilians from David Cameron’s despotic and illegal government. He must step down without further delay.

    • Yalensis says:

      Aha! so that’s what Tim really looks like, chomping on that cigar! He’s a funny guy.

    • I agree Newman is funny.

      In much the same way that “In Soviet Russia…” comedians are funny. Not very, as well as idiotic, conceited, and rude.

      • Yalensis says:

        @anatoly: I’m surprised his company allows him to blog under his own name. Would seem like bad PR for the company.

      • marknesop says:

        I know it’s not for everybody, and I get outraged when someone makes fun of Canada that way so I can understand why the expat Nigerians are furious, but that particular kind of humour just is rude. Part of what makes it funny – at least to me – is the hearkening-back-to-the-days-of-Empire flavour of it, as if Nigeria were somehow letting the side down by not properly preparing for a foreign visitor with higher standards. And if you’ve spent much time with the English, there’s no place on earth that quite measures up, including England. But Tim’s descriptive powers remind me strongly of Dave Barry; you can almost smell the curry and feel the mud squish under your shoes. Sorry, but I just find that funny. If I thought it was unaccountably rude to the Nigerians, I’d still be hard-pressed to defend against it, because the impressions probably are largely accurate. I don’t doubt native Nigerians would see “a lot of men with BO standing around with nothing to do” as chronic unemployment rather than laziness, but it’s hard to argue a country is just the victim of bad luck when you will stand around and bemoan your fate rather than move a log off the sidewalk and clean up the muck a little bit. Russia has a little work to do in that respect as well in some areas; although I loved Dalnegorsk, I don’t think there’s 10 feet of whole sidewalk in the entire town, and there must be enough concrete-laying skills among the folk who don’t have much to do that they could pitch in for the sake of public appearance – that was pretty much the backbone of the Communist ethos. What does it suggest if there are weeds growing up between the bricks that form the perimeter of your war memorials? Surely everyone is capable of pulling weeds. There’s no place for apathy among people who feel positive about their future. Russians have every reason to feel positive about the future, so nobody should have to coddle them or make excuses for them.

        Anyway, I agree not everyone admires sarcasm, but I’d probably be lost without it, and in my own way I am more like than unlike Tim. I just happen to argue in favour of Russia rather than against it, but I imagine some who have been the target of it think, what a sarcastic prick.

  29. Misha says:

    Gotta wonder about “Russophiles” who find an admirer of Hoare and Kamm to be “funny,” in conjunction with a series of comments that show a lack of knowledge, objectivity and fairness to some reasonable mainstream Russian views.

    Off to more constructive commentary on some hardcore anti-Russian biases that aren’t addressed at venues including InoSMi and RT.

    • The history, culture and politics of the country in question.

    • Yalensis says:

      @misha: Who is Hoare and Kamm?? Are they economists? I personally had Newman pegged as an Ayn Randite. In one blog I tied to pin him down how many times he had read “Atlas Shrugged”, but he evaded my question. :(

      • Misha says:

        Yalensis,

        Oliver Kamm and Marko Attila Hoare are two Brit based neocon leaning indviduals, whose questionable (put mildly) views and manner include some inaccurately negative commentary about Russia and Serbia.

        The likes of such people aren’t my cup of tea. In contrast, I respect folks who make an earnest enough attempt at objectivity in an intelligent way.

        Didn’t quite get the JEH reference below, which certainly doesn’t apply to me. If anything, it’s more suited to people who launch sleazy cheap shots from a safe distance, in a way that appears to ducks facts and fact based opinions, countering their own views.

        The last characterization excludes the participants in this particular discussion.

        I’m “arrogant’ and “pompous” enough to feel that I’ve a good sense of some of what is and isn’t getting said (of an otherwise pertinent relevance) in certain instances.

    • marknesop says:

      Ummm….what are you trying to say? Should I automatically assume a defensive crouch against people based on what they read? That reminds me of somebody…..Oh, I remember! J. Edgar Hoover.

      • Yalensis says:

        No, it’s not really a question of reading a book, it’s just that this particular book (and how many times they read it, and whether or not they loved it) is a pretty accurate litmus test to find out who is or is not a Randite. (Like, I read that book too, but I hated it. ) When I am debating someone about economics (in which I am admittedly weak), I just like to know whether or not they are a Randite, so that I can tailor some of my arguments (or mockery).

        • marknesop says:

          That wasn’t directed at you.

          • Ass kissing towards an imperfect clique to do the bulk of the opposition to the “Russophobes” doesn’t reflect progress. This includes promoting some “Russophobes” over authoritative opponents to them.

            Besides the below, there are other examples of overt mainstreaming, while simultaneously adjusting a previously stated presentation.

            Beats supposedly knowing the language and being there, while not knowing much about that country in question.

            • marknesop says:

              Oh, I’d stipulate to him not knowing the language any better than I do – we all like to say, “I can get around in (insert language here)”, but in reality wouldn’t last 5 minutes in conversation, and I can understand it a lot better than speak it. Likewise, I’d agree his overall knowledge of the country is based on a very narrow glimpse which in turn is based entirely on personal experience, and coloured by an impatience with business practices that are different to what he’s used to. Probably there’s a degree of exaggeration to how difficult it is to get things done in Russia, perhaps for comic effect, although I’m afraid I’d be unable to appreciate it from a businessman or engineer’s viewpoint because I have no such experience.

              However, I don’t really know Russia any better – my own position is entirely based on my own experience being extremely positive, and my impression that most criticism of Russia is unfair at best and deliberate nonsense at worst. On the other hand, without spirited argument on how sloppy and inefficient Russian business practices are, I’d never learn anything – because there’s no motivation to learn information outside your comfort zone unless you’re challenged to do so. I don’t doubt the procedures for erecting public buildings and renovating public-service infrastructure could be vastly improved, and I can’t argue there’s no corruption because we all know there is; kovane has corroborated it quite well for those who have either never been in Russia or haven’t visited in some time. I’ve never argued Russia is perfect – simply that its faults are nowhere near as great as some suggest, and that hurling abuse is no way to fix them.

  30. Yalensis says:

    Back to topic of Navalny: A piece in INOSMI translated into Russian original article by Guy Faulconbridge and Maria Tsvetkova in English language.
    My favorite comment (from someone named Kotian) compares Navalny to Saakashvili, in the sense that both men use corruption as a rallying cry fomenting for Orange-type revolutions in their respective countries:

    • Kotian:Навальный – личинка Саакашвили
    02/06/2011, 09:11
    Я полностью поддерживал Навального, пока он пытался бороться с коррупцией (даже денежку послал в РосПил), но и тогда Навальный был темной лошадкой (этакий правдоруб с непонятной мотивацией); но теперь он все больше превращается в PR-проект, и даже видно в какой – о цветной революции заговорил.
    Теперь о сходстве с Саакашвили:
    – оба относительно молодые юристы (все же любят в США юристов, видимо, за гибкость)
    – оба борются/”борются” с коррупцией (Саакашвили на подобных лозунгах пришел к власти)
    – оба – прозападные националисты (звучит парадоксально, но посмотрите на Саакашвили – поймете, что и такое бывает)
    – обоих вскармливает Запад (ездит в США выступать (отчитываться?)перед конгрессменами)
    – оба говорят о насильственном прозападном перевороте (Саакашвили такой уже провернул, Навальный пока мечтает) – кто не согласен, что с прозападным, пусть скажет, о каких еще переворотах будет писать западная пресса.

    Так что, господа заседатели, я вас поздравляю – у нас завелись собственные “оранжевые”.


    Translation into English:

    I completed supported Navalny when he was fighting against corruption (I even sent him money to [his website] RosPil), but in those days Navalny was a dark horse (some type of straight-talker with unknown motivation); but nowadays he is more and more turning into a PR-project, and it is even clear what kind of [project] – once he started talking about color-coded revolution.
    Now, about his similarity to Saakashvili:
    -Both are relatively young lawyers (in USA they love lawyers, probably for their flexibility).
    -Both fight against corruption (Saakashvili even came to power on similar slogans).
    -Both are pro-Western nationalists (that sounds paradoxical, but just take a look at Saakashvili, and you’ll see what I mean)
    -Both are [monetarily] supported by the West; he [Navalny] regularly travels to USA to speak to (report back to?) Congressmen.
    -Both talk about a violent pro-Western uprising (Saakashvili actually did it, Navalny still only dreams about it) – anyone who thinks [such an uprising would not be] pro-Western, then let them explain what other kind of uprisings are [praised] in the Western press.
    And so, gentlemen, congratulations, we [now] have our own “Orange” revolutionaries!

    • Misha says:

      Former Communist bloc studies is a vast field ,with no one appearing to be very well versed on every particular.

      That said, there’s commentary noting a Russian nationalist/patriotic side to Navalny, which doesn’t seem eiident among some of the Russian political opponent darlings of you know who.

      So there’s no misunderstanding, I’m all for a responsible patriotism which doesn’t include chauvinism, based on crackpot history and inaccurate sterotypes. I see a mutual benefit for improved Russia-West ties. A key component to that desire is “mutual,” which pertains to understanding and respecting the views of the involved parties – Russia and the West – the latter which is by no means so monolithic.

  31. Yalensis says:

    For some comic relief:
    I saw this yesterday, apparently it has been floating around the Russian samizdat blogosphere. The context is that Joe Biden was meeting with Saakashvili yesterday in Rome, and Saak invited him to Tbilisi to the premiere of Renny Harlin’s film about the August 2008 war with Russia. The samizdat was written by some blogger named vivizul, and is a proposed screenplay for a pro-Gruzian blockbuster film called “We are all Georgians”. I liked it so much that I decided to translate into English. (I think my translation skills are getting better, because the whole thing only took me about half an hour, which I did during my lunch break at work):
    We are all Georgians
    (Blockbuster Screenplay– by vivizul)
    An ordinary American youth of Gruzian ethnic origin, John Ramboshvili, arrives in his ancestral motherland, in order to visit his elderly, ailing grandfather, who dwells in a Gruzian enclave very close to [the gates of Mordor] the Roki Tunnel. (Note: for scenes set in the Roki Tunnel one can use the same set as was used in “Lord of the Rings”)

    The [hero’s] plane lands in Tbilisi. John strolls down the well-lit streets of the capital and admires the accomplishments of this young Gruzian democracy. The air of freedom is intoxicating for this American youth, and he quietly hums the American national anthem.

    Next scene. Our hero arrives at his grandfather’s house. Grandfather is delighted to see him, and as they share a bottle of “Kindzmarauli” [a brand of Gruzian sweet red wine], he tells his grandson all about the accomplishments of the young Gruzian democracy. Together they breathe the air of freedom and sing “Suliko”. Night comes, grandfather goes to bed, and John goes for a walk along the tunnel in order to see with his own eyes this border separating the good guys from the bad guys. Approaching the tunnel, John notices with horror how Russian tanks are quietly creeping out of the dark maw of the tunnel. John takes photos on his cellphone and hastens back in the direction of Tbilisi to warn this young democracy about the impending threat. In the town of Tskhinval John meets up with a column of Gruzian tanks. They already know what is up and have arrived in the town in order to protect the peaceful inhabitants. The peaceful inhabitants greet their liberators with fireworks. Above the town appear Russian planes, which begin to bomb it. Right in front of John a bomb falls on a kiosk selling Coca Cola. Enraged by this act of blatant vandalism, John reaches into his backpack, grabs a slingshot equipped with laser sights, and with this weapon he brings down no fewer than 10 Russian planes. At the same time, Russian tanks are appearing on the outskirts of the town. The Gruzian soldiers ferociously resist the aggressors, but there are too many of them. There are 10 Russian tanks and 300 Russian soldiers for every one Gruzian soldier. Plus, the Russians have in reserve 100,000 mounted Cossack cavalry, and border-guard units consisting of FSB-successor-to-KGB butchers.

    An epic battle scene. [Close-ups] of faces of Gruzian soldiers, filled with manly courage and valor; and faces of Russian soldiers, distorted by rage and twisted by drunkenness. John Ramboshvili destroys no fewer than 50 tanks.

    The Russians, realizing that they cannot defeat the proud, brave and freedom-loving Gruzians in a fair fight, resort to cunning: they sneakily broadcast disinformation that a Russian landing party has set down [behind enemy lines] in Tbilisi itself. The Gruzians, with shouts of “We’ll kill them all with our bare hands!” toss their weapons aside and race back to Tbilisi. John is left alone to hold the front lines. He destroys another 50 tanks and brings down 20 planes. At that point he runs out of ammunition (stones equipped with highly accurate laser guidance for his slingshot), and is forced to retreat. While he is retreating, John witnesses painful scenes of looting and maraudering on the part of the Russian troops. The drunken Russians steal everything in their path. Trucks filled with trophey toilets are moving back in the direction of the Roki Tunnel. Behind the convoy of trucks stretches a line of prisoners. MacDonalds [hamburger restaurants] are blown up, and Coca Cola kiosks are flattened by tanks.

    John finally makes it to Tbilisi, where he meets with the youthful Gruzian president. Under his leadership, the Gruzians are getting ready for a counter-attack against the Russians. John tells the Gruzian president everything that he has witnessed. The Gruzian president is so angry about the sufferings of his freedom-loving people that he cannot stop himself from wolfing down his own tie.

    Meanwhile the Russians, learning that the Gruzians are preparing a counter-attack, panic and flee back to Tskhinval. John Ramboshvili enters Gori along with the victorious Gruzian warriors, and the grateful inhabitants pelt them with flowers. Even in the smoky ruins one can feel the wind of freedom blowing once again.

    • marknesop says:

      Ha, ha!!! Brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it? Thanks for the excellent translation of this must-see epic. I’m curious how they are going to work in the scene of SaakashBraveHeart scampering for cover upon hearing a plane fly over, and the crowd of protectors who cover him with their bodies and even their briefcases (both of which, everyone knows, are excellent armor against a 20mm or 30mm chain gun such as aircraft often carry – in fact, clustering in one place like that would only tip off the pilot to the location of a valuable target). Hooray for Hollywood!

      I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but it reminds me of the counter-movie that was made (reached the previewing stage, at least, because I saw a clip from it) to respond to the American success, “The Hunt for Red October”. I’m sure everybody’s seen this – quite apart from the hilarious impossibilities like Sean Connery wrenching the giant submarine into a screeching turn in less than half its own length to dodge torpedoes (while both screws are still whirling merrily in the same direction; it couldn’t be done at all in the manner shown, but without reversing one shaft while going ahead on the other a ship that size wouldn’t answer her helm for a good 500 yards and would probably take a couple of miles to turn), the scene where the dying Executive Officer uses his last words to mourn the injustice that he will never see Montana or drive across it in a recreational vehicle is so maudlin that I would have roared with laughter if it wouldn’t have infuriated other moviegoers. Anyway, some Russian producer made a film (or maybe it was even made elsewhere as a joke; it was hard to tell because everyone in the clip spoke English) that showcases how movies exaggerate in order to make an impression. I think it was called “Grid Square 13″ or something like that, but I looked for every reasonable combination without success. The clip showed a couple of (purportedly) American aircrew members on a P3-C Orion, searching for submarines. In the clip they are far too high and going too fast to be really searching for submarines, but that’s the intent. The two crew members in the film are unshaven and look hung over, and they are playing cards instead of watching their instruments. Of course the US Air Force and Navy leaderships would never tolerate anything even remotely like that, but it’s portrayed as if it’s not at all unusal.

      “Firefox”, with Clint Eastwood as American pilot Mitchell Gant, is another howler. I had to bite my lips in order not to scream out “as IF!!!!” when he’s landing a supersonic fighter with spindly nosegear that looks about as strong as a Christmas-tree stand – on an ice floe. Ditto when he’s flying so close to the ocean’s surface that there are huge curtains of spray following him – in such proximity to the water, the ground effect would likely suck him right into the drink because there likely wouldn’t be enough lift. The crash of an RAF Nimrod into Lake Ontario during an air show display in 1995 was a good example, although it was considerably higher at the time than “Firefox” in the movie, and the pilot’s problem was complicated by him stalling the aircraft when it was too low to recover. I can’t access YouTube at work, but I’m sure you can find video of the crash and it’s quite dramatic. The closer you get to the surface (or the ground), the less lift there is available, often owing to temperature differences between the surface and the air above.

      By coincidence, I was on a course in England with an RAF Warrant Officer who had been crew in this particular plane, and the same pilot who died in the crash was pilot while he was there. He told me the crew had agreed that guy was going to kill someone some day, because he took crazy risks and didn’t seem to understand he and his aircraft were subject to physical laws just like everyone else. I remember thinking later that it would take some kind of crazy to frighten this guy, because he was our driver for a one-week road trip to bases all over England, right to the Scottish border at Newcastle, and he was a maniac himself. There were four Canadians on the course as well as one Italian, and since none of the foreigners had international drivers licenses or knew the country well, the RAF guys were our drivers. As soon as he started up the car, he put on his sunglasses, turned to me and said, “This is the fastest car in England!!!” I said, “What do you mean?” (Sometimes I’m a little slow), and he replied, “It’s a RENTAL!!!” and we were off on a series of semi-airborne maneuvers that wouldn’t have looked out of place on “The Dukes of Hazzard”.

      • Giuseppe Flavio says:

        the scene where the dying Executive Officer uses his last words to mourn the injustice that he will never see Montana or drive across it in a recreational vehicle is so maudlin that I would have roared with laughter…
        Mark, are you a fan of the “So bad it’s good” movie genre?

        • marknesop says:

          Actually, I loved the book version of “The Hunt for Red October” – in my opinion that (or perhaps Red Storm Rising) was Tom Clancy’s best work, and it’s hard to believe what a my-country-right-or-wrong Republican-leaning rightie he’s turned into since. Back then he seemed to think like “the enemy”, and give them a little credit for being something other than the quacking electronic duck that keeps parading back and forth in front of your gunsights at the fair. Since then (or at least up to the point I stopped reading his books; I haven’t read anything new since the beginning of the “Rainbow Six” series) the glorious American dogfaces always win after a fierce struggle for the hearts and minds of the world, about as hard to predict as a Sergeant Rock comic book.

          But even “The Hunt for Red October” had its pandering-to-western-self-image moments and its stereotypical Soviets as grey-faced expressionless droids moments. And the movie version was just comical, although not as cheesy and unabashedly Hollywood as “Firefox”.

          I’d like to see somebody like Peter Jackson make “Red Storm Rising”. He’s proved he can do justice to a big epic, and doesn’t seem to be in it just for the money or to fatten his ego.

          • Speaking of that, only Clancy book I read was Red Storm Rising. I am interested in the outcome of the WW3 that never happened.

            The casus belli (a decrease in Soviet refining capacity) was ridiculous. With the benefit of hindsight, it seems that C. was mistaken on several points. For instance, the “black project” stealth fighters that preemptively destroyed forward-position Soviet logistics hubs at the beginning that Clancy assumed existed didn’t, in fact, exist. And as is also now known, if the Soviets had attacked, it is likely they’d have gone tactical nuclear from the beginning.

            But overall it was interesting and semi-plausible.

            • marknesop says:

              Oh, it wasn’t particularly accurate in terms of being prescient. But it was indeed plausible. While the plunge in refining capability was ridiculous in context with the monster world producer it is today, the cause of that fictional incident was all too believable – a terrorist incident that abruptly wiped out a large percentage of Soviet refining capability. Mr. Newman would likely know better than either of us how difficult it would be to access a refinery facility with mischief in mind, but it was my impression that it would not be too difficult at all. The al Qaeda raid against Abqaiq in 2006 may, from some perspectives, have almost succeeded – the Kingdom was quick to reassure the world that the source of its only current surplus capability was never in any danger, but the fact remains that the attack killed 2 security guards and wounded 4 more, and that other terrorists (there were only 2 in the initial attack, both killed) exchanged fire with other guards from positions that suggest they were able to penetrate the outer perimeter. There was a small fire which was quickly put out, but had it not been, Kuwait provided an excellent lesson in how hard refinery fires are to put out once started. Saudi Arabia has a force of military security personnel that is nearly a third the size of the entire Canadian Armed Forces (although Canada is nearly 160 times the size of Saudi Arabia), plus another 5000 who work directly for Aramco. What’s Russia’s refinery security arrangements look like, compared to that? Shaky, I’d bet.

              Saudi Arabia has extensive redundancy arrangements should a terrorist attack succeed, and would concentrate on increased routing from other refineries. Likely Russia would do something similar rather than decide to make a desperate lunge for world domination using what oil it had on hand (that part was just silly).

              Also, the “stealth” technology currently available has generally proved much less dramatic than the general public believes, and advances in radar efficiency, scanning modes and peak power have largely wiped out the advantage. Clancy seemed to acknowledge that by suggesting enemy radar sites got “smears” of radar returns on the “Frisbee” stealth fighters, but most modern fire-control acquisition systems can see them just fine. Stealth technology gives an attacker a break in battlespace by letting an attack get closer before it’s detected, but the “invisibility” a good part of the public believes it affords is true only of older unmodified systems. Russian systems typically make up in raw burnthrough power what they may lack in sophistication.

          • Giuseppe Flavio says:

            I was not implying that “The Hunt for Red October” movie belongs to the “so bad it’s good” movies class. Fact is, I’m a fan of crappy movies, those movies that make you laugh although this wasn’t the expected reaction by the producer, director, scriptwriter, etc.
            I’ve noticed that normally people don’t react to absurd/idiotic/unintentionally comic scenes with a laugh, but take them seriously. On the other hand “so bad it’s good” movies fans do laugh, like you did for the dying Executive Officer scene. Hence my question.

            • marknesop says:

              Yes, I knew what you meant, but I went off on a tangent for some reason.

              Some movies – they’re sometimes rated in “tomatoes”, as in how many should be thrown at them, or perhaps their producer or director – achieve legendary status because of their terrible acting, bad dialogue, garbage special effects or a combination of all. When I served in the frigate VANCOUVER, my mess owned a well-worn copy of “Showgirls”, starring Elizabeth Berkley. Whenever we arrived at a new port of call, “Showgirls” would go on as a sort of traditional pre-going-ashore ceremony. It is perhaps the most terrible movie I’ve ever seen, with drama-queen overacting, nonsense script and dialogue and a clumsy, hackneyed plot. But it always pulled in a good following of the faithful. If you haven’t seen it, don’t wait to screen this train wreck. Five tomatoes, easily. And Berkley is deadly serious throughout, as if she can smell an Oscar.

              • Yalensis says:

                @mark: Am I the only person in the world who LIKED “Showgirls”?? I viewed it as a profound indictment of the alienation of modern life. The inability of humans to connect with each other. The failure to find love in a world where everything is about competition, and not cooperation. Especially the rivalry between Nomi and Cristal when they are competing for the big pole dance number. :)

                • marknesop says:

                  I think you just might be, although it could be worth the effort to Google it for ratings and see what the critics thought. But that opens up another avenue for discussion; what do critics really know? Two extreme examples would be Siskel & Ebert, whom I never knew to give a rating less than “two thumbs up”, and that other prick whose name escapes me who used to do the movies for “Entertainment Tonight”…oh, yeah; Leonard Maltin. Maltin hated everything ever made in the English language, and a movie could only win his grudging admiration if it was in, say, Polish dubbed with subtitles, and should be the tortured tale of a young soldier trying to find his lost uncle after some major conflagration, during which at least part of the movie is a narrative of what the main character is thinking, while he himself says nothing. It should be sufficiently boring to average moviegoers to make them think about how many of their primary-school classmates might be still living while they watch it.

                  Alienation in modern life is a product of urbanization, and the encouragement of anonymity caused by large numbers living in close proximity – the only way to retain a shred of privacy is to withdraw somewhat compared to the everybody-knows-everybody life of a small town. You could say “A Bug’s Life” is a profound indictment of modern life.

              • Giuseppe Flavio says:

                I’d not watched this movie, but after reading your comment I got and watched it. Not the worst movie I’ve seen, but among the high-budget big-names ones surely one of the worst. The black guy in the movie says a thing about the “Stardust” that actually applies to the movie “they pretend it’s not just about tits and asses, but it’s just that”.
                Note: “Nomi” is not an Italian name, as implied at the start of the movie, it’s the plural for nome (name), so it means “names”.

    • Misha says:

      Georgians paying respect to Bagapsh:

      http://dmitrybabich.livejournal.com/4813.html

      On this panel, I find JGJ the most agreeable:

      http://russiaprofile.org/experts_panel/37817.html

      At that panel, IS was essentially put into the game as a replacement for EB. (Wrong, wrong, wrong…)

      Churkin touched on some of the panel discussion points on last night’s (June 2) Charlie Rose (CR):

      http://www.charlierose.com

      Of possible interest, Serbia’s foreign minister was also on. Some view him as a kind of Quisling, trying to simultaneously look independent up to a certain point. On that particular, it’d be interesting to compare a CR interview with a Trifkovic, Gavrilovich and Malic versus the Serb foreign minister. Such a comparison isn’t evident in a way that shows limits within English language mass media.

      An example of how some are quite selective in finding a flaw in media:

      http://www.rferl.org/content/sensational_story_wasnt_reports_of_stoning_death_in_ukraine_girl_false/24213624.html

      All the more reason to be accurate when reporting and commenting on a news item. The issue of extremism in Crimea (religious and otherwise) is a reality that (if not probably addressed) can lead to considerable instability in that region.

      Regarding the earlier mentioned Hoare and Kamm, these are the kind of views that (from a technical perspective) they fail to answer, while propping some inaccurate opinions:

      http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/printable/10559/

      http://www.electricpolitics.com/2011/05/a_bosnian_war_story.html

      http://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/2011/06/01/general-mladic-the-facts/

      • marknesop says:

        I would rank your second link as indispensable reading on this decision, perhaps the best-written piece of analysis on the subject I have seen. And Ira Straus should be shot with a ball he was forced to make himself by chewing 5 feet of rebar down to .45 calibre.

        I recall the “rightness” of Medvedev’s decision on Libya being discussed here ages ago, right after it happened, and I believe the consensus was that abstention was the only sensible decision. It semi-subtly implied Russia’s disapproval while permiiting something to go ahead that Russia would not have been able to stop alone anyway – NATO was determined to go ahead even if it had been vetoed at that level. If it had been left there, Medvedev would have looked statesmanlike far beyond his experience, and gained mojo as a wily political navigator. But he couldn’t: oh, no, he stepped on his own dick by overreacting to Putin’s statement. He merely completed his sad spiral down to clown status by more recently reversing himself and looking like an indecisive mother hen. It’s a shame, because if he could settle on which face he wants to show in public, he might be quite a good president. I’m afraid he might have waited too long to scream “rape” and pretend the west slipped him a mickey.

        • Misha says:

          Over the course of time, Ira is someone who has exhibited a blend of National Interest like realism and standard neolib to neocon leaning positions.

          That panel has the appearance of trying to be diverse in a way that at times resembles a kind of intellectual affirmative action.

          On the linked Charlie Rose – Churkin said that assurances were given that UNSCR 1973 wouldn’t be used in the context of seeking Khadafy’s ouster – which is opposed on the reasoned basis that such action leads to more death and destruction.

          In retrospect, Russia and other countries who abstained on UNSCR 1973, should’ve forced the issue. On the other hand, the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 shows that this issue has substantive limits (There was no UNSCR authorizing the bombing of Yugoslavia.) Still, why give such action more cover?

          • marknesop says:

            I wasn’t aware at the time (of course, I’m not responsible for reading it and saying “go” or “no go” on a national scale) that UNSCR 1973 so transparently pre-laid the foundations for mission creep. I very angrily argued on other blogs that it was such bullshit that NATO forces were bombing “leadership targets” in residential neighbourhoods in Tripoli, and what the fuck did that have to do with a no-fly zone to protect civilians – only to be told coolly, “Read UNCSCR 1973. It authorizes NATO to do whatever it decides in its best judgment is “necessary” to protect civilians”.

            And so it does. National leaders (or those they authorized to speak in their behalf) should have seen that. Or perhaps they did, and were perfectly happy to sign on while welcoming the political cover such an open-ended fiat gave them.

      • Yalensis says:

        @misha: Agree, Jatras makes so many good points in that discussion, it simply enrages me that Russian leadership will not listen to someone like him. This quote from Jatras supports my intuition that Yugoslavia could have defeated NATO, if only they had held out just a bit longer:

        As Milosevic described it to me in person a few years later, Chernomyrdin and Ahtisaari delivered NATO’s offer to take the two unacceptable American demands that tanked the farcical Rambouillet non-negotiation off the table: independence for Kosovo and NATO occupation of all of Serbia and Montenegro, not just of Kosovo. But the duo warned him that if the offer were refused, NATO would vastly intensify its bombing of civilian targets. “Faced with such a choice, what alternative did I have?” Milosevic asked me. I countered, “But NATO had no intention of keeping any promises about Kosovo. As for the threat of stepped-up bombing, NATO was on the verge of cracking. We were already pounding dirt in places we had bombed before, with almost no damage to Yugoslav military forces. It was mainly a question of which NATO country would be first to pull the plug on the operation. Surely you knew they were lying to you?” With a melancholy glance at the dreary walls of the prison he would never leave alive, he said: “I know that now.”

        Gaddafi should read this very carefully, because NATO is playing exactly the same gangster-blackmail game with him: “Come out with your hands up, or we shoot your puppy.” They might even promise him something like a “dignified exit”, but Gaddafi is no fool, he has to know they’re lying. I realize it’s easy for a coward like me to sit back in my armchair and encourage him to “fight to the death”, especially after NATO butchers murdered his favorite son and grandchildren, which apparently sent him into a spiralling depression. But really, what is the alternative for him? Being dragged back to Hague in chains and dying in a cage, just like Milosevic?

        • Misha says:

          Yalensis,

          Among others, JGJ who should be getting more high profile play.

          Among other things, he’s involved with this org:

          http://www.aminuk.org

          I especially like some of the material they utilize:

          http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:oB2XFNeMkAIJ:www.aminuk.org/docs/White_Paper_ENG.pdf+%22Mike+Averko%22&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESghV9rfi70xzGonvTuFIlzHNMUmFUVi8a-bz6pm5KgfXdO-FcbCxH4CIWhwPDrgQBqRG0yoA-zfxhxcR_01WOXC-lQDc3H4ueJnm8QBoB0L3Ud5lZh8Bn3KhYBFeCnnQdsqCKy1&sig=AHIEtbQ9EtXanbi3d7PxFpkn4quoNUG79w

          A very good speaker, who effectively articulates pro-Serb and pro-Russian views from the perspective of America’s best interests:

          http://www.russiablog.org/2006/11/how_kosovo_factors_into_russoa.php

          That kangaroo couirt at the Hague is privately relieved that Milosevic died. Albeit under hypocritically restricted circumstances, he was doing a pretty good job at noting the flaws about the “criminal enterprise” that some others besides himself were allegedly involved in.

        • marknesop says:

          Strongly agree that NATO will eventually lose interest and look for another shiny can to kick, if Gaddafi can weather the storm. This particular intervention started out with lukewarm support, and enthusiastic cheerleading only from the usual crowd of ghouls who can’t wait for bloodshed as well as the moony-eyed democratists who think everyone has to be just like us or they’re not truly free. Pragmatists didn’t care much for it, and support has only weakened since.

          • Misha says:

            Not looking good for Mo, given how key Russian government elements openly express the view that he should leave the political scene.

            When they still feel strong, undemocratically selected leaders don’t often go so easily. As their political clout declines, they practically wonder what happens after they leave the political arena?

            • Yalensis says:

              Russians are bunch of pussies, IMHO. For geo-strategic purposes they should be supporting Gaddafi and every other dictator in the world who stands up to NATO. Russians should be sending him anti-aircraft batteries so he can shoot down NATO bombers and helicopters. If they did that, I bet NATO would back off.

              • Misha says:

                Practically speaking, this might arguably serve to further encourage a Western military reply which (let’s face it) would prevail. Having weaponry by itself doesn’t win wars. For all its problems, the leading Western military powers have overwhelming assets in their favor

                I’m speaking as someone who wanted to see Russia push further at the end of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. Recall the limited Russian troop contingent sent to Kosovo and the stated reason they couldn’t be further supported. NATO didn’t need a UN resolution or airspace approval from the Yugo government to bomb Yugoslavia; whereas Russia backed down after Bulgaria and Hungary (perhaps Romania as well, as I’d have to check back on the particulars) denied Russian air access for sending military personnel to Kosovo.

                Politically correct cover like “humanitarian intervention” (as actually implemented) aside, might makes right. A stronger Russia will see its view get greater consideration.

                Consider the pragmatism of Alexander Nevsky, which helped pave the way for a strong RUSsia to rid itself of a foreign subjugation.

                There’re some other factors to consider. The enemy of my enemy is my friend thinking can have a blowback effect. Recall how the West approached the situation in Afghanistan, only to see you know what transpire. Regarding Russia, Libya and the West: Russia and Libya aren’t such great allies and the West and post-Soviet Russia aren’t exactly great adversaries of each other.

                Meantime, Russia should be wary about supporting or not completely opposing certain UN resolutions which can be used later on as a basis against Russia. In the West, there has been commentary about how such advocacy can apply to Russia vis-a-vis Chechnya.

                Being pragmatic shouldn’t be confused with taking a misguided capitulationst route. On Charlie Rose last week, the Serb FM gloated at how the Serb government issued an apology for what happened at Srebrenica. Such an act then gets used as anti-Serb propaganda. Besides, the current Serb government sees itself as different from what was governing Serbia in the 1990s. The suggestion of collective guilt can be misleading in a way that might encourage bigotry. Consider how non-Serb nationalists in former Yugolsavia are essentially spoiled into the suggestion that they aren’t so bad.

                • marknesop says:

                  I’m with Mike on this one; Russia made the pragmatic – and right – choice by abstaining, as vetoing would not have stopped the “intervention” anyway. Personally, I think if NATO had not gone along France would have intervened alone; Sarkozy appeared to want it that badly. Openly supplying Gaddafi with defensive weaponry would have been just the political channel some russophobic elements of the U.S. government (and, to be fair, in other western governments including Canada’s) needed to introduce wedges in policy initiatives. Covertly supplying the same weapons, if exposed, would have been even worse. A Russia that honestly wants to join the world community, as I believe Russia does even though more stumbling-blocks are placed in her way than for any other country, would not behave that way. I imagine that one way or another, the west will eventually prevail and Gaddafi will have to go. Countries who have an interest in this not happening would be far better served to mobilize protest movements in Libya which argue for Gaddafi remaining, and introduce their own reporting networks to air verifiable reports of casualties caused by NATO bombing in residential areas where they are plainly trying to kill Gaddafi in spite of their protests that regime change is not a goal. The longer Gaddafi can hold on against the pressure, the better his eventual image is likely to be when he eventually submits or is killed; a martyr rather than a butcher. If he’s lucky, he’ll take the Arab League down with him, since many Arab countries are increasingly sickened that the Arab League foolishly supported the NATO mission. Then perhaps a regulatory body on Arab issues that isn’t made up of dithering old fools will emerge. If that’s the case, Gaddafi will have given the Arab peoples a valuable gift for which he will be long remembered.

                  Russia seriously needs to overhaul its diplomatic community. More about that in an upcoming interview at Sublime Oblivion, as it has just answered for me the question, “If you could advise the Russian government to do something it isn’t already doing, what would it be?”

                • Misha says:

                  Mark, Yalensis & Co.

                  Diplomats the world over often take a messenger role that compromises how they actually feel.

                  One gets this impression with some media folks as well.

                  All kinds of obvious improvements are in need. I’ll note again how RT does a half hour show on global anti-Jewish sentiment (a valid topic), while not doing likewise on anti-Russian stances abroad. RT’s coverage of Luke Harding initially getting denied entry into Russia (over an admin. snafu on Harding’s part) omitted a valid whataboutism point of sorts on some action taken by the Canadian and Israeli governments – Canada banning some law abiding citizens from Western democracies because of their views and Israel periodically doing likewise, as experienced by Norman Finkelstein, among some others.

    • Yalensis, can I post that as a guest post at S/O?

      (Or Mark, he has first dibs as it’s posted here. But I do think it deserves a separate post of its own, as its just too funny).

      • marknesop says:

        You can have it, because you mentioned it first, but I agree wholeheartedly that it rates a post on its own, and I hope it will mark that lazy bastard Yalensis’s debut as a guest writer so that I can utilize his talents as well!

        • Yalensis says:

          Anyone can have it, but it doesn’t really belong to me, I just translated it from Russian into English. The actual author, “vivizul”, has it copyrighted, gee, I hope he doesn’t sue me for taking the liberty of translating his masterpiece!

  32. marknesop says:

    Just by way of an aside – here’s a site that gave kovane’s post quite a few referrals today, and where an interesting argument is ongoing. Something that strikes me about this sort of dialogue is that when someone defends the performance of the economy under Putin and challenges, “show me one area in which Putin has worsened the situation”, the response is just snide parrying. To be fair, the first individual in the argument did not cite any actual statistics, merely suggesting the GDP has doubled under Putin, bla, bla. But he/she could – such statistics are available to support his/her argument. However, even when firmly pointed in the direction of coming up with actual facts to substantiate a claim of Putin ruining Russia, his detractors consistently do not do so. They merely squawk away on the same theme without providing any substantiation at all. They’d probably gain a great deal more credibility by suggesting it’s just a coincidence and has nothing at all to do with Putin’s leadership (which would be difficult to prove, you’d have to get pretty deep into legislation and the content of various speeches directed at the fiscal stewardship level to gin up anything like proof) than by insisting the signs of prosperity simply aren’t there.

  33. Misha says:

    Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister Opens Ivan Vazov Monument in Moscow
    http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=128939

    Excerpt –

    Later on Friday, as part of his visit in Moscow, Nikolay Mladenov paid tribute to the Bulgarian monuments in the Russian capital, most notably the Monument of Pleven Heroes, i.e. the Russian soldiers who lost their lives in the siege of Pleven in Northern Bulgaria during the Russian-Turkish War of 1877-1878, which liberated Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire.

    ****

    Russian Orthodox Church to Honor Bulgarian Batak Martyrs
    http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=128910

    Excerpt –

    In April 1876, Bulgarian freedom fighters rebelled against the authorities of the Ottoman Turkish Empire seeking to liberate their nation and create an independent nation state.

    April Uprising was crushed with great violence by Ottoman forces, when an estimated 30,000 Bulgarians, mostly civilians including women, children, and elderly, were slaughtered. Coverage in the European press led to an international outrage and a humanitarian intervention in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78.

    Between 4000 and 5000 Bulgarians were butchered in the Batak Massacre – in the southern town of Batak – described by journalist MacGahan in a shocking account, while some 700 were slaughtered in the region of Novo Selo, Kravenik, Batoshevo, and Apriltsi – villages in Northern Bulgaria near Lovech.

    • Yalensis says:

      @misha: info about American connection to Bulgarian liberation = hero journalist MacGahan. Annual festival in state of Ohio:
      http://www.jamacgahan.org/

      • Misha says:

        Thanks for the follow-up on something that more closely relates to a “humanitarian intervention” when compared to some other instances.

        Of course, there was a Machiavellian aspect involved as well. I prefer being spared the BS that such an aspect isn’t involved in other instances involving other countries.

  34. sinotibetan says:

    @yalensis
    As I’ve said in previous comments, I think ‘agnosticism’ has probably more basis(scientifically and ‘empirically’) than atheism. The dogmaticism of atheism makes it akin to religious fundamentalism more than atheists dare to admit.
    Several points to make:-
    1.)”I wanted to clarify that my atheism is not an “absolute” belief.”
    I do understand that you’re trying to say that your belief in atheism is ‘not absolute'(see point # 2 in this comment) pending on further ‘proofs’ of the existence of a Deity. However, atheism itself is already dogmatic on the question of the existence of the supernatural:-
    Your previous ‘takes’ on Jesus Christ like he being a great trickster etc. depends on the ‘absolute’ belief that any form of ‘god’ does not exist. For example:-
    http://marknesop.wordpress.com/2011/04/29/vladimir-putin-meddling-micro-manager/#comments
    [Yalensis: Yes, you are correct that I begin with an atheist assumption that miracles are impossible.]
    Is it fair for me to assume that you viewed miracles as impossible because of atheism? Atheism itself is an ABSOLUTE belief that there is NO GOD(or similar beings). The ‘credo’ or ‘statement of belief/unbelief’ of atheism can be stated as such:
    There is no God. There is no God in the world nor beyond the world. There is no God which is actually both in the world and beyond the world. There is no panentheism in which there is a God who is related the world like a mind to body. In fact, there is no God of any kind anywhere, anytime, anyhow.
    I think SOME atheists – especially the hardcore atheists who spew anti-religious rhetorics – are as ‘fundamentalists’ as jihadists – and to satisfy those who equate jihadists with ‘Christian fundamentalists’ – as ‘fundamentalists’ as those people as well(btw , I can be considered a ‘Christian fundamentalist’). This affirmation that there is positively no God is just as dogmatic as “God exists”. Hence, I view atheism(and its attendant -isms such as humanism, materialism, positivism and naturalism) as a quasi-religious ‘movement’.
    2.)”In the sense that if someone showed me some real proof or evidence, or I witnessed something with my own eyes, then I could change my mind. ”
    a.)Are there real proofs that there is NO God? Can we see with own eyes that there is NO God? You might counter that because there are no evidences for the existence of God , therefore God does not exists or is very unlikely to exist. An analogy can be made with the existence of atoms. Until the 20th century, atoms were just philosophical musings. No proofs can be made of the existence of atoms. Yet, atoms existed all along even without them being ‘proved’! Another analogy – no one knew the existence of antimatter; it was ‘unproven’ until recently – yet antimatter existed all those times when it was ‘unproven’ to exist. Therefore, unprovability does not automatically assume ABSOLUTE negation.
    b.)Unless we assume that our intellect is ABSOLUTE in terms of judgement; omniscience in terms of knowledge, then can mankind affirm with ABSOLUTE certainty ‘There is NO GOD’. However, to affirm the latter is to assume the former which means we are equal to that of the attributes of “God”, i.e. we ourselves are ‘Gods’. Hence the assumption leads to a contradiction, hence making the original assumption most likely invalid.
    3.)”Absent of that, it just doesn’t seem that probable. ”
    As I’ve said in previous comments, ‘proofs’ supporting BOTH atheism and theism are CIRCUMSTANTIAL. There are no absolute ‘proofs’ at this juncture, even with all our remarkable strides in science, to prove or disprove the other. My problem with atheists is the rather dogmatic assertion that ‘God does not exist is scientifically proven’ while at the same time disparaging the ‘dogmatism’ of theists(of whatever persuasions, but Christians automatically get the most ridicule, of course). Talking about religious texts and chemistry textbooks that you mention earlier – it’s surprising that biological data can be construed of ‘supporting’ atheism(such as Gould and Dawkins for example) and some say ‘supporting’ theism(eg Francis Collins – former Human Genome Project head; current director of America’s NIH – I don’t agree with his views though) and some ‘popularizers’ of science has questioned that science is without a ‘faith-basis'(Paul Davies : http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/24/opinion/24davies.html?pagewanted=1)
    I myself, with my extensive training in the biological sciences and with a special interest in molecular biology, have come to the conclusion that atheism is less possible than theism – and that was before I ‘became Christian’. Scientific data is not for or against any ideological dogmas. Like ‘religious texts’ , these ‘scientific data’ can be manipulated to fit with any ‘theory’. Ask the average drug representative if that’s not true. We are concerned with the ‘intrepafacts’ of all the different ‘conclusions’ put forth by scientists and it’s genuine enquiry to see which conclusions are ‘more plausible’. Scientific data themselves offer no proofs without the data INTERPRATED by scientists who have their own biases and world views. It is within the framework of their biases and world-views that these data are argued upon to either support or go against their world views – and scientists, as mere humans, are wont to publish interpretations of data that support their hypothesis.
    I also venture to say that biology supports more of an intelligent Designer(s) than non-existence of an intelligent Designer.
    4.)”And even if there WERE all-powerful supernatural beings, let’s say dwelling in another dimension or something, then I doubt they would give a rat’s ass what kind of sex humans had with each other. I mean, these “gods” would be to us as we are to bugs. And be honest with me, does anyone other than entomologists really care how bugs get it on with each other? ”
    Sure that’s possible. Especially if such beings are the Mr. Data(of the Star Trek fame) type but even Mr. Data later ‘learned’ human ‘attributes’ of emotion and personality etc. As I’ve alluded earlier, we are moral creatures. If we affirm we are not, we nullify the affirmation by having even ‘taking sides’ for neocons or not(as an example) – for that is a ‘right and wrong’ position; a ‘moral’ position. Even though politics IS murky and there’s no true black and white(most are grey)- yet we can say, with almost ‘moral certainty’ that Nazism is ‘wrong’ – for example. We cannot deny the moral nature of human beings. IF it’s true that some supernatural beings ‘created’ human beings – with personality and moral attributes – would it not be reasonable to think that it’s plausible that such supernatural beings ALSO have personality and moral attributes? If such is a possibility, would it not be unreasonable that our behaviours and attitudes DO matter to such beings?
    5.)”In my opinion, a good chemistry textbook is worth more to humanity than all the religious works ever written down, and that includes the Rig Veda, which is 2000 pages long!”
    Maybe. But the corpus of legal documents(which are as considerable as Rig Veda) matter whether we lose or win a case in a dispute – we expect our solicitors to have some degree of hold / knowledge on such legal documents. If such a thing as Rig Veda help spawned a great civilization like India(including its role in the destiny of our world), whether we like it or not – some perhaps may need to know something or even much about it? As I’ve said again and again, religion and ideologies – INFLUENCING our attitudes, behaviours, biases and civilizations – will continue to be part of humanity as long as mankind exists. To consign any discussions of these matters as irrelevant is unreasonable, in my honest opinion.

    Yalensis – as a parting word, I respect your views though we ultimately disagree. I’m trying to say that my views are NOT unreasonable nor irrelevant – and for the benefit of others sitting on the fence – I leave them to their discretion to judge our disparate views. Thank you.

    sinotibetan

    • kovane says:

      sinotibetan,

      I’m sorry, but you’re simply too poorly equipped for this debate. The whole matter has been around for more than a couple of thousand years, so all possible arguments have been reviewed over and over. Atheism is not an absolute belief that there’s no God (it would be some kind of religion in this case), atheism is an acknowledgement that there’s no enough proof of God’s existence. Sure, there are plenty of too overeager atheists who are trying to convert everyone around to their creed, but it’s just a predictable fallacy of human nature.

      I don’t know if you’re familiar with usual scientific methods, but the correct way is to prove the existence of something, not non-existence. For example, do you have any compelling evidence that Cthulhu doesn’t exist? No? Then why don’t you believe in Cthulhu? What about Zeus? And so on. Your parallel with atoms is also weak. Yes, so far nobody presented any evidence that God exists. But in the moment they do, I will admit God’s existence. Or for example, when burning bushes start talk to me. Though I might try to get a prescription for Vallium first. We shouldn’t believe in anything that might turn out to be true in the future, just in case.

      Read any serious book on atheism, you will not use such faulty arguments in the future.

  35. sinotibetan says:

    @kovane

    Thanks for your comments. You obviously misunderstood me.

    1.)”Atheism is not an absolute belief that there’s no God (it would be some kind of religion in this case), atheism is an acknowledgement that there’s no enough proof of God’s existence.”
    A Play on semantics. Atheists themselves argue what the ‘true definition’ of atheism really is. Eg. d’Holbach and George H. Smith vs Ernest Nagel. My definition of atheism is that of the ‘strong conviction’ atheists – which, as you’ve readily admitted is quasi-religious.
    Like all ideological movements, there are some with ‘strong convictions'(‘explicit atheism’) and those with ‘weaker convinctions'(‘implicit atheism’). I was talking about ‘strong atheism’. The definition of atheism that you gave is my definition of agnostism(‘weak atheism’) which I did say is more reasonable than “There is absolutely no God”.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Implicit_and_explicit_atheism
    yalensis in his original debunking of Jesus appeals to the ‘idea’ of ‘explicit atheism’ which denies the very existence of any deity whatsoever. I take cognition to the fact that yalensis’ later statement seems to suggest he is still ‘open’ to the existence of a deity or god such ‘proofs’ of its existence come to light.
    Like a Muslim laity or Christian laity ‘appealing’ to the dogmatics of more ‘convicted’ followers, similarly do atheists of ‘lesser conviction’ do the same. I was talking about the dogmatics of ‘higher conviction’ atheists like Dawkins et al. I will not let atheists with ‘lesser convictions’ get away with the argument that they do not exclude the possibility of a deity and will readily accept one if proof comes to light when they constantly use the arguments of ‘higher conviction’ explicit atheism to defend their atheism.

    2.)”I don’t know if you’re familiar with usual scientific methods, but the correct way is to prove the existence of something, not non-existence. ”
    True, one CANNOT prove the non-existence of something via scientific methodology.
    a.)”Are there real proofs that there is NO God? Can we see with own eyes that there is NO God? ”
    These statements are not said to say that the usual scientific method is to ‘prove’ the non-existence of something. I was trying to sarcastically say we cannot prove non-existence of something ABSOLUTELY, and definitely not scientifically. This is because hardcore atheists often claim that ‘it’s scientifically proven’ that ‘there is no God’.
    b.)My analogy of atoms and antimatter is to substantiate this statement:-
    “Therefore, unprovability does not automatically assume ABSOLUTE negation.”
    It is NOT used to press ahead with the notion that since the idea of ‘there is no god’ in ‘unprovable’ therefore one must embrace the oppositie idea that ‘there is god/gods’. Your assertion that just because no one can prove the Zeus doesn’t exist does not mean one has to believe in Zeus is a valid one. I DID NOT use that argument to support my belief in God. I used that argument to state that the ABSOLUTE belief that there is no God is not reasonable and is akin to the the faith of dogmatics of a theist who says there ABSOLUTELY is God.

    3.) My arguments in the above comments are NOT used to JUSTIFY my faith in God nor are they used to PROVE GOD EXISTS. They are used to imply that the idea of ‘There is absolutely NO GOD’ is as dogmatic and ‘faith-like’ with the opposiite notion that ‘God definitely exists’. Both are unprovable statements at this juncture.

    Thank you.

    sinotibetan

    • kovane says:

      I find the whole division atheism/agnosticism is fairly artificial and created to not offend those who believe in God. I agree that so called positive atheism is erroneous, but the burden of proof lies with the one who states that something exists. And before that person definitely prove that, I don’t bother myself with denying. Otherwise I would spend my whole life believing that mermaids, imps, vampires, Krishna or Chtulhu don’t exist. I have many far more pleasant pastimes to occupy myself with.

      • sinotibetan says:

        @kovane
        I respect your decision on this matter.
        Unfortunately, ‘positive atheism’ advocates are as ‘evangelical’ as ‘evangelicals’ nowadays.
        We can see that in the writings of Dawkins et al. Almost akin to indoctrination because such advocates are
        considered ‘scientific’ and ‘rational’ thus wielding great influence.

        sinotibetan

  36. sinotibetan says:

    @ kovane

    If I can prove God exists, then it’s no longer faith. I NEVER claim to have the proofs that God exists. I do think, however, that examination/scrutiny of our natural world/universe; human nature; current trends etc. tend to favour the existence of one. It’s unfair that people like Dawkins et al are potrayed as reasonable and ‘scientific’ while theists are potrayed as unreasonable. I felt that hardcore atheists like Dawkins et al must be seen as who they really are – and that their ‘faith’ is as unprovable as that of a man who believes in the existence of the supernatural.

    sinotibetan

  37. sinotibetan says:

    @ Mark:-
    “I can’t say I have a lot of experience with atheism, but in the experience I do have, atheists do not promote their beliefs – or lack of them”
    “Or perhaps I’ve only met non-chatty atheists.”
    Perhaps so. Nevertheless, Western secularism via ‘secular humanism’ is an atheistic(of the ‘strong’ /’ explicit’ kind joining forces with ‘weaker’ kinds) construct and so the reason why these beliefs are ‘not’ promoted by ‘believing atheists’, in my opinion is ‘why should they?’ when it is part of Western societal, moral and political establishments – making policies and influencing millions? “Atheism” is the ‘belief’ behind secular humanism(see: http://www.americanhumanist.org/Who_We_Are/About_Humanism) .
    Examples:-
    http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=library&page=dawkins_24_5
    http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=library&page=angier_24_5
    ‘democracy and naturalism'(talking about human nature – which obviously leads to a ‘religious’ dimension):-
    http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=library&page=shook_27_5
    Maybe , for Giuseppe – fellow ‘secularist’ and ‘humanist’ like the words below – surely don’t think knowing the Quran as ‘irrelevan’t:-
    The Taliban, Al Qaeda, and Iraq’s Badr Corps (commanded by that country’s Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution) are certainly extremist, but they are orthodox-deriving logically from the Qur’an, which denigrates women and tells believers to wage jihad against heretics and infidels. Moderate Muslims may explain it away as misinterpretation-but why, then, did Allah or his Prophet lapse into ambiguity? Even the two major Islamic sects, Shia and Sunni, are at each other’s throats in Iraq and elsewhere.
    (see: http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=library&page=smoker_26_6)
    One can read more about their(secular humanists) ‘beliefs’ from these sites(they claim they have gone even ‘beyond atheism’):-
    http://www.secularhumanism.org/
    http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=main&page=dangerous
    And far from being ‘non advocative’ – many great thinkers – were atheists – and certainly these intellectuals changed our world as much as ‘religionists’ did! See below:-
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_atheists
    And atheists can be as ‘evangelical’ as ‘religionists’ as well:-
    http://www.atheists.org/about
    Whether one is atheist or believe in some Martian as a god is not important. Just that it’s not true that ALL atheists are so meek as they are potrayed to be.
    Anyway, I am for separation of Ideology from Government(thus not only including religion, but any ideology as well – including ‘secular humanism’).

    sinotibetan

    • Giuseppe Flavio says:

      but why, then, did Allah or his Prophet lapse into ambiguity?
      That’s a common feature of any successful holy scripture. It make it easier for believers to bend the holy word to their worldviews.

  38. Yalensis says:

    @sinotibetan and @kovane: The main dispute I have with religious fundamentalists is not really about abstract philosophical/ontological concepts. If that was all religion was about, then it would be in the realm of academics, like that boring college course when we had to read the works of Hume and Schopenhauer. What is knowable, not knowable, provable, not provable, etc., until your brain was twisted up like a pretzel. The problem is that religion is not really about gods, it’s really about man. Just like humanism is. Only humanists are more honest about their obsession with mankind. Every religion, no matter how philosophical and high-and-mighty it pretends to be, sooner or later, there is some guy in your face telling you that he talks to god, and that he has the right to tell you what to do, even in the most intimate aspects of your daily life.
    Recall the Oedipus myth, and how Oedipus solved the riddle of the Sphinx. The answer to the riddle was: “Man.” Because that’s what it is really all about. Whether it is Zeus assuming human form so he can “snuggle” with Europa; or whether it is Jesus bringing the keg to the wedding; or Krishna; or … yeah, all those other super-people that kovane mentioned… And sooner or later, like I said, there is some “authority figure” who says: “God told me to tell you that you are not allowed to walk down the street unless you cover your hair, because God doesn’t like uncovered hair…” Or: “God says you can’t drink wine…” or: “God says you can’t eat pork…” and then sooner or later it comes down to: “If you don’t listen to me and obey me (because I declare I have super-natural authority), then I will have you put to death.” So people shouldn’t even pretend that we are only talking about abstract concepts, we are talking about laws and whether or not people get put to death, based on somebody’s belief in invisible beings.

  39. sinotibetan says:

    Dear yalensis,

    I understand your points.
    1.)”The problem is that religion is not really about gods, it’s really about man. Just like humanism is. Only humanists are more honest about their obsession with mankind. ”
    First part is partially true. Second part – I am not so sure about the ‘honesty’ part.
    2.)”The main dispute I have with religious fundamentalists is not really about abstract philosophical/ontological concepts.”
    Sure. I can understand that. It’s true that(especially in the past) not a few religious fundamentalists want to force their beliefs unto others – many times by force. In that , I agree with you. Nevertheless, far too often atheists use these philosophical/ontological concepts to ‘prove’ their ‘beliefs’. As I’ve said, ‘atheistic fundamentalists'(if there’s such a word!) are of ‘similar’ spirit to such religious fundamentalists who like to shove their morality down everyone. At least, you should give me the credit that I don’t insist you or anyone else agree with my views on religion/morals. Not all ‘religious fundamentalists’ are of such bitter and ‘holier-than-thou’ spirit!
    I actually wrote to Mark that some atheists are not as meek as he potrayed them, with links, but somehow that post is now gone from this blog. Anyway, yalensis, not as to talk too much about these things anymore – I part with these links that show the connexion between secular humanism-prevalent in Western ‘thinking’ and its association with even dogmatic type of atheism.
    http://www.americanhumanist.org/Who_We_Are/About_Humanism
    http://www.secularhumanism.org/
    http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=main&page=dangerous
    http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=library&page=dawkins_24_5
    http://www.atheists.org/about
    Thank you for bearing with me.

    sinotibetan

  40. sinotibetan says:

    Opps….Sorry…did not realise that my post was ‘awaiting moderation’. Sincere apologies….did not see it.

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      No problem – probably because of the number of links.

    • Yalensis says:

      @sinotibetan: Thanks for interesting links. I did want to clear up a factual error in one your comments above about Mr. Data (in Star Trek) being a supernatural being (like a god). Mr. Data was actually a highly sophisticated robot, who was constructed by a human being, Dr. Noonien Soong (thanks, wikipedia!), using positronic technology (instead of electronic, like we use today, in our digital devices). Just thought I would clarify that.

      • sinotibetan says:

        @yalensis
        Thanks so much for those interesting comments about Mr. Data. I was aware that Mr. Data was not some
        supernatural being(like god). I was commenting a god who is ‘Mr. Data’-like : not having true emotions
        and ‘personality’. I like the positronic technology part. ;)
        You make many valid points in your previous comments to me. Just want to say that though we disagree
        sharply on this issue, I appreciate all your comments and harbour no ill-feelings at all. Thanks again. :)

        sinotibetan

      • Misha says:

        Big fan of the original series and the movie when the crew goes back to SF, circa 1980s.

        Haven’t gotten into the others for reasons that are probably generation related. Growing up, I found 1950s scifi space movies to be a bit tacky in the kind of graphics utilized. Some folks younger than me express a similar view on the original Star Trek.

  41. Misha says:

    The author of this piece relates to the theme of propping the relatively young from countries deemed (in no uncertain terms) as troubled to articulate a certain viewpoint:

    http://www.rferl.org/content/the_nations_dissident_problem/24213437.html

    Some will find the presentation of Bukovsky and Muravchik relative to The Nation to be a bit amusing.

  42. marknesop says:

    Apropos of nothing at all, I see over at Mark Gullick’s new Traumaville Gazette that Greece is at the cash window again looking for another bailout. Probably the world was too busy playing “Where’s Gaddafi?” to notice.

    • Yalensis says:

      @mark: Western media ignores Greece protests because they’re the “wrong type” of protests. Instead of demanding neo-liberal free market “democracy”, economic austerity, and NATO missile strikes against their government, all Greeks are asking for is a little $$$ so they can continue the standard of living to which they have become accustomed. I think Russia should give them the cash they need, that way Russia can buy a new friend. (And Russia needs all the friends she can get!)

  43. cartman says:

    Apropos of nothing at all too, I saw this article in Financial Times about the wheat ban from last year. SWP likes to throw feces over every decision ever made in Russia, and this one was no different. The article admits that it kept prices down and averted a mass culling of livestock.

    • Yalensis says:

      @cartman: I think Russians remember lessons learned in 1930’s, that farmers will cull herds if they can’t afford the grain, or don’t have the grain, to feed them.
      In another trade-related story, Russia has banned import of European vegetables because of the e-coli outbreak which is thought to originate in Germany. This is horrible stuff, it’s not just a tummy ache: people have died or been permanently injured (damaged kidneys, etc.) Plus, Germans doctors have learned that not only does this strain of e-coli NOT respond to antibiotics, the antibiotics actually make the infection worse, because they stimulate the bacteria to emit more toxins. Which means there is no effective treatment, even in a hospital setting. Hence, Russian officials are being prudent to ban imports of European vegetables until Europeans figure this out and/or improve their sanitary quality control. But, as you can imagine, Russia is being criticized by some people, as if they’re just being trade bullies. Advice to anyone living in Europe: do NOT eat any salads until they figure this out. Especially cucumbers and tomatoes. Either don’t eat vegetables at all; or boil them well before eating.

  44. Giuseppe Flavio says:

    What would you say was a really bad movie in the English language? “Showgirls” was my pick.
    A couple of B-movies I watched some months ago come first to my mind:
    “Primal Park”, a trash spin-off of Jurassic Park, with just one extinct species, the sabretooth tigers that you’ll see for around 5 minutes in the entire movie. Almost all the 5 sabretooth tigers minutes are bad CGI, the rest are clearly puppets. The most entertaining scene of the movie is when the hero asks the heroine (they feel attracted, could you have guessed it?) “I’ve heard you’re a jinx, is it true?” and she answer “Oh no, my dear” instead of shredding him to pieces.
    “Ghost Voyage” AKA “The Container’s Wall”. This movie is set on a container ship in the middle of the sea, but the producer hadn’t enough money to make some decent CGI for the scene inside the command room. So, instead of the sea you’ll see a container wall outside the windows. There is also a Titanic-like scene between a movie producer and an aspiring actress where the container wall is once again the cheap surrogate of the CGI sea (how romantic!). There is also a scene with a big wave that goes above the container (finally) and its quality reminded me of “Aces of the deep” a DOS game of the ’80.
    The characters are just stereotypes, the blond girl (the aspiring actress) is a bad girl, the brunette is a good girl (she’s an archaeologist) with a trauma, the good guy is a NASCAR mechanic with a trauma, the bad guys are the movie producer, the son of a Russian oligarch (apparently without a trauma), two mobster (no trauma surveyed) a junkie and a smoker that meet their sad fate in the first half of the movie.
    This are some of the worst movies I’ve seen, but I’ve heard about much worser English language movies, like those produced by the Asylum company. These guys were able to make this unbelievable scene http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBizgLZX7W0
    Another English language bad movie I’ve not seen completely (only bit and pieces) is “Deadly prey”. Just look at this scene http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvBgdFi1y98

    • Giuseppe Flavio says:

      I forgot to mention “Troll 2″ but it is debatable if it is in English. The director, Italian Claudio Fragasso was the scriptwriter along with his Italian wife, but none of them spoke English. Nevertheless, they wrote the script in “Engrish” and required that the actors didn’t change a word.

    • marknesop says:

      My God. Those two stinkers make “Showgirls” look like “Pride and Prejudice”. I guess I’ve never seen movies that awful, but you’re right – they do have a powerful comic appeal.

    • Yalensis says:

      @giuseppe: That’s pretty good. I like the bit where he chops the other guy’s arm off, and then beats him with his own arm. Then he screams when he scalps the other guy. Why is HE screaming? He’s not the one being scalped! Plus, he doesn’t even bother to check if the girl with a bullet in her might still be alive; maybe she just needs first aid.

    • Giuseppe Flavio says:

      @Mark
      I realise that there is at least a positive thing to say about E. Berkley in “Showgirls” (besides her body). She has the right look for the part she’s playing, i.e. a semi-illiterate topless dancer. It is not enough to make a watchable movie, but sometimes even such a basic requirement is missed, like that movie where the overweight Ice Cube jumps from an helicopter to a building (or vice versa).
      @Yalensis
      Why is he screaming, you ask. Perhaps for a moment the “actor” realised how bad was the movie he was “acting” in, hence the scream. But other questions remain open. Why he throws away his machine gun and engages an handgun armed villain with a machete? Why the villain misses him while shooting at point-blank range? Why he beats the villain with the cut arm instead of using the machete? Why the villain falls on his face after being repeatedly frontally hit? What were they smoking while doing this scene?

      • marknesop says:

        I have to confess that ever since Elizabeth Berkley was a cast member on “Saved by the Bell”, I always secretly wanted to see her naked. And now I have; thanks, “Showgirls”. I agree Ms. Berkley fits perfectly into the role: or at least by everything we already know about her, she seems to. She might actually be a graduate of an exclusive private school, but that seems an unlikely scenario considering she must have read the script and decided, “Yes, this is the vehicle I want to use to finally let all the dirty old men who wanted to see me naked get their wish”. I can’t believe she agreed to appear in it at all, I imagined she must have had a big drug debt to settle, and agreeing to appear completely nude just takes things over the edge of improbability despite her being relatively unknown outside the teen sitcom scene.

        “Deadly Prey” does look horribly bad, well worth being added to the collection of a connoisseur of dreadful movies. When I watched that clip, YouTube offered other choices in a similar vein, one of which – entitled “Worst Fight Scene Ever” – showed a heartbreakingly young-looking William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk fighting a large lizard that walked upright, never blinked and hissed constantly. The lizard telegraphed its blows so far in advance and struck so slowly that making it look like an actual fight was impossible. Technically, since it was a syndicated series and not a film, it wouldn’t qualify. But it’s horribly bad, too.

        • Giuseppe Flavio says:

          Perhaps Berkley thought that the scandal set off by the movie could project her into stardom, like Sharon Stone with Basic Instinct. She took the risk and lost.
          Just out of curiosity, how would you rate her acting skills in that sitcom? Did she tend to overact?
          Star Trek was one of the TV series I liked the most while a teenager, occasionally they made some blunder, but overall even today I appreciate it.

          • marknesop says:

            Yes, but Sharon Stone could act.

            I didn’t actually watch “Saved by the Bell”; my kids watched it and if I had nothing else to do I might see part of it. But it was annoying the way most of that genre is. I’d have to say Elizabeth Berkley (and imagining what must be under those loose shirts; she was always modestly dressed but it was still easy to guess at a generous endowment) was the best part of a weak storyline, and no, she wasn’t a chronic overactor in that series. She wasn’t brilliant, but it’d be hard for anyone to appear brilliant with such an insipid plot.

        • Yalensis says:

          Even so, the lizard has the advantage in hand-to-claw combat. But Captain Kirk is able to break out of the clinch via the “Three Stooges” gambit of cupping his hands and bonging the lizard on both ears. He also could have used the “poke in 2 eyes simultaneously” gambit.

  45. sinotibetan says:

    @yalensis
    Your comment about the E. coli outbreak in Europe is an interesting one. Here’s a link from Guardian:-
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/05/deadly-ecoli-resistance-antibiotic-misuse
    Haemolytic uraemic syndrome(HUS) is a syndrome comprising MAHA(microangiopathic haemolytic anaemia), thrombocytopaenia(low platelets) and microangiopathic-induced renal failure/impairment. More often seen in children after a diarrhoeal illness due to E. coli strain O157:H7 rather than in adults, from what I know.
    What’s interesting is that the new O104 strain somehow leads to the potentially deadly HUS AND is also ESBL(extended spectrum beta lactamase) producing – conferring multiple-antibiotic-resistance. The ESBL enzyme produced can destroy the beta-lactam ring found in penicillin group of antibiotics and also destroy the lactam ring in the 7-aminocephalosporanic acid of cephalosporins rendering these antibiotics useless. Exchange of genetic material via plasmids encoding ESBL production occur readily amongst bacteria of the enterobacteriaceae group – if I remember correctly- encompass such organisms as Escherichia, Klebsiella, Salmonella, Shigella, Proteus, Serratia, Enterobacter, Citrobacter and Providencia amongt others : all these genera have pathogenic species. Imagine if these start ‘sharing’ their pathogenic factors via ‘genetic exchange’! I think we humans are too proud to admit that in spite of our scientific achievements, we should have some amount of ‘respect’ for the ‘cleverness’ of such so-called ‘simpler’ organisms.
    Russia and other nations should not allow the import of European vegetables till these are sorted out. I think the so-called agricultural ‘standards’ propped by EU is more political than purely standardization alone. Putin’s right to ban those vegetables.

    sinotibetan

  46. sinotibetan says:

    @yalensis
    Forgot to mention – maybe the carbapenems like meropenem and imipenem which work for ESBL are useful to kill this new strain. Thanks.

    sinotibetan

    • Yalensis says:

      @sinotibean: Wow, it sounds like you are really knowledgeable about these pathogens. I hope you are working to find a cure? A few years back I got a really bad case of food poisoning when travelling in state of Texas, I am not sure, but I believe the source was a chicken caesar salad from Starbucks at Dallas International Airport. (Tasted and looked fresh, but you never know!) Ended up in ER on IV antibiotics. Incredible pain. But got very good medical treatment, lots of lab tests, antibiotics and pills for the pain. Docs said it was something called “clostridium difficile”, which is unusual, because that is usually a hospital-borne infection, not known to inhabit airports. Apparently I got a massive dose, if I had been in a 3rd-world country I probably would have died. As it was, it took my gut almost a whole year to fully recover from that onslaught of pathogens. Makes you realize how vulnerable we are. It is the duty of any government to try to protect their citizens from this kind of thing, as best they can. Given this, it is unbelievable to me that Russia is actually taking a lot of criticism from EU for temporarily blocking imports of vegetables. It is doubly hypocritical that they accuse Russia of violating terms of World Trade Organization (WTO), since Russia is not even a member of WTO!

  47. sinotibetan says:

    @yalensis
    Microbiology was and still remains one of my interest and my job often deals with these pathogens as well. However, I am more into cancer biology so I am not part of the people looking for cures in infectious diseases.
    Clostridium difficile? You’re right – a little unusual to get that from ‘the community’. Prior use of antibiotics predispose to infection by this germ and can cause pseudomembranous colitis.
    “Apparently I got a massive dose, if I had been in a 3rd-world country I probably would have died.”
    I think depends on which 3rd world country and which part of that 3rd world country. I come from a 3rd world country myself and though our healthcare may not match those that are top-notch in the USA, some centres in tha capital are not THAT bad. Patients with cancer got cured here, so I think we are not so dire. You’d survived here. ;)
    I don’t know what to say when it comes to such a serious issue like preventing the spread of dangerous pathogens, Russia’s still ‘wrong’. Perhaps the West wouldn’t be so ‘critical’ if it’s not Putin who temporarily halted vegetable imports from the EU. I bet their reaction will be more ‘accomodating’ if it was Medvedev – but then Medvedev would never antagonize the West, would he?
    An Indian ‘take’ on Putin and Medvedev:-
    http://www.dailyindia.com/show/442477.php
    Typical ‘pro-Western’ “The Moscow Times” liking for the current President:-
    http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/resets-and-reruns/438233.html

    @Mark
    “But he couldn’t: oh, no, he stepped on his own dick by overreacting to Putin’s statement.”
    And he’s doing it more often nowadays. Every initiative Putin does, he gives that cynical chuckle and offers an oblique swipe at his former mentor. To the delight of the West, of course. I’d prefer him to say it outright that he’s breaking from the ‘tandem’ than these kind of ‘teasings’ which only show that he’s unfit to be a ruler of such a great nation as Russia.

    sinotibetan

    • Yalensis says:

      @sinotibetan: Yeah, I apologize for that remark about “3rd-world countries”. I typed those words without even thinking, and based on old stereotypes rattling around in my brain. The fact is, most “3rd-world countries” (that term doesn’t even make sense any more) have excellent medical facilities, not necessarily in every region, but certainly in the capital cities. In fact, I have even heard about American citizens going on “medical tourism” trips to places like India, to get treated for, e.g., cancer, or have other surgeries, because they can get world-class medical treatment for only a fraction of the price they would pay in their own country. In my case, the treatment I received in Texas was excellent, and the docs and nurses wonderful caring people; but I forgot to add that one week later, when I am still recovering at home, I get a bill for $18,000 American dollars. And that was ONLY something like 5 hours in ER (lab tests, IV hookup and pain pills, nursing care and doctor poking his head in door to ask me how I’m doing), not even an overnight stay in a bed. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to pay a single penny of that bill, as I have excellent group medical insurance through my company. But not everybody is as lucky as me!

      • sinotibetan says:

        @yalensis
        “one week later, when I am still recovering at home, I get a bill for $18,000 American dollars. And that was ONLY something like 5 hours in ER (lab tests, IV hookup and pain pills, nursing care and doctor poking his head in door to ask me how I’m doing), not even an overnight stay in a bed”

        US$18,000 ????? Wow!!!! I couldn’t afford that! That’s more than 6 months of my salary(and I hava a postgraduate degree)! I feel poor now.

        sinotibetan

        • sinotibetan says:

          @yalensis again
          “because they can get world-class medical treatment for only a fraction of the price they would pay in their
          own country.”
          “Market economy” exploitation as usual. Some of the smartest professionals in my country are paid a
          pittance.

          sinotibetan

          • Yalensis says:

            @sinotibetan: The $18,000 bill should not make you feel poor. My point was that it was an OUTRAGEOUS amount of money, and shows how out of control costs are in American medical system. I make pretty good salary, but I wouldn’t be able to afford it either. If I didn’t have medical insurance, I would have asked the docs to pull the plug on me and let me die, so that I would not have to pay the bill!

            • sinotibetan says:

              @yalensis:
              Indeed that’s an outrageous bill! Actually even the development of new drugs is so ‘market driven'(i.e. driven by greed more than care for others) that everywhere else in the world, Western pharmaceuticals even ‘control’ our health and thus life-and-death! In the USA, wow…I don’t know what to say! Here in my country, the bill will probably be US$100 at the most(our government subsidize the rest)?

              sinotibetan

              • marknesop says:

                Moreover, the emphasis in the west is on “managed care” rather than cure; if the medical community merely controls the symptoms, you become dependent on your medicine because it helps, and they have a customer for life.

                • sinotibetan says:

                  @ Mark
                  “Moreover, the emphasis in the west is on “managed care” rather than cure”
                  I think there’s some truth in this – especially in so-called ‘psychiatric disorders’. With regards to cancer(which I deal with) – I don’t think that the medical community per se is interested in purely ‘managed control’ and not cure – although I am not too sure about the pharmaceutical industry.
                  The pharmaceutical industry, as far as I see it, is clearly profit-driven. They would select diseases which are :
                  1. Common
                  2. Hopefully ‘incurable’ – even with latest scientific gizmos
                  3. Hopefully life-threatening
                  4. The rich ALSO(better if the rich often) suffers from them
                  For example, the EGFR(Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor) inhibitors like Iressa(Geftinib) and erlotinib which are used for Non-small cell lung carcinoma have such exorbitant price-tags that only the rich/superrich can afford them. Such targetted therapies are of course significant progress in medicine but we can see why lung cancer is a target for extensive research based on the above 4 ‘reasons’ although surely pharm reps will say it’s because they care for lung cancer sufferers. Or HAART therapy in AIDS patients – it’s because the rich and famous CAN get AIDS due to their lifestyle that so much of money and research is poured into this disease. Not that it’s not important to search for a cure but I see less emphasis on certain infectious diseases like malaria or tropical diseases because the rich don’t get these conditions ALTHOUGH sufferers of malaria(including mortality) far outweigh even that of AIDS.

                  sinotibetan

                • marknesop says:

                  That’s more or less what I’m talking about, and though it indeed applies to the pharmaceutical companies more than to the diagnostic – which is easy to understand as it is their livelihood, and there is little profit in curing you if you’ll never come back – a certain relationship seems to have developed between the two. Also, western research seems more motivated to bring you comfort and freedom from pain or other deleterious effects of your illness rather than eliminating it. You’d know far better than I, but stories of cures for cancer being suppressed because the research money is just too good are as common as stories of backyard inventors coming up with carburetors (which are nearly non-existent now, having been blotted out of existence by fuel injection) which would allow ordinary vehicles to get 80 miles to the gallon were regularly bought out – and their work shelved – by gas companies were when I was young.

                  The personal wealth angle was one I hadn’t considered, and it’s an interesting relationship I never noticed.

                • sinotibetan says:

                  @Mark
                  “if the medical community ”
                  I am sorry that I need to defend the medical community somewhat because I belong to one(although in Asia and not in the West)! Not all of us in the medical fraternity are ONLY out for the money! Some of us remain poorly paid in public institutions because conscience beckons us to to think about humanity at large before we become ‘private practice vultures’!
                  Thanks.

                  sinotibetan

  48. kovane says:

    Gee, Navalny is a lively topic indeed – Libya, gay pride parades, the history of homosexualism in Ancient Rome and Greece, atheism, microbiology and, most importantly, the birth of the true name for the future colour revolution in Russia. No other figure has managed to spark anything so diverse so far.

    • marknesop says:

      You are just twisted because “The Soiled Pants Revolution” never took off, and in fact this is probably a clever Russian marketing trick to make me mention it again and give you free advertising, so I won’t. In fact, judging by the fact that this post is now 18 days old but looks set to tie or beat it’s best-ever total for hits today, I’d say it is still attracting interest.

      And where are those legions of angry LJ bloggers who blitz all derogatory postings on the subject of Navalny? If I were you, I’d be proud that it was my post that ground Navalny into the dust of irrelevance; obviously, he’s less interesting than gay pride and bad movies. It’s hard to form an argument when you say, “Navalny pretends to be a progressive, but he’s really just a lackey of the running-dog capitalists”, and everybody just says, “Meh. Guess so”.

      • kovane says:

        It’s nice to see that you’re still falling for my tricks. Imagine a Pepsi CEO caught with a Cola can in the hand and trying to explain that it’s just for telling how unpopular the competing brand is. Great publicity!

        An additional emphasis on the fact that there is little connection between Russia-watching blogs in English and Runet in general. Anything that is not translated by Inosmi remains unbeknown to the Russian-speaking audience. Alas, the permeation of English in Russia is very limited.

    • Giuseppe Flavio says:

      You forgot the “so bad it’s good” movies genre, which is a very large topic.
      Back to Navalny, I can’t help but think he is somewhat similar to Limonov. Both of them cared to build some political capital (Navalny through anti-corruption and nationalism, Limonov by means of nationalism and Soviet nostalghia) unlike the usual pro-Western opposition that seems to fail in grasping the concept. They both claim to be anti-Kremlin and are suspected of being part of a Kremlin secret strategy.

      • kovane says:

        Yes, and Elizabeth Berkley’s formidable acting skill :)

        No, I don’t agree with you here – Limonov sees himself as a great social experimentator, his activities are a form of art to him. I doubt he’s ever intended to reach serious political goals. Navalny on the other hand, relishes the idea of gaining political power, at least this is my impression. It’s just that he chose an unorthodox way of achieving it – through a grass-root movement.

        • marknesop says:

          I’m really concerned that your obsession with Elizabeth Berkley is concealing a deeper insecurity, kovane. You’ll feel better if you just let it come out. Do you want to talk about it?

          Has there been such a thing as a real spontaneous grass-roots movement in the last 10 years? I can’t think of any. In every case I can recall, you could track its beginnings to the prodding of some special interest or other. That shouldn’t suggest its members don’t feel they are part of something entirely unrehearsed, because they probably do.

          • kovane says:

            Yes, that would be lovely – I’m all out of money earmarked for a shrink.

            In fact there were many small movements, for example against the monetisation of benefits, but they were too short-lived and not popular enough. It is only now a sentiment that unites drastically different people exists – practically everybody is tired of corruption and the government’s inefficiency. In that sense, Navalny was the first who jumped on that particular bandwagon.

        • Giuseppe Flavio says:

          Thanks for the clarification. I had the impression that Limonov was far more serious.

  49. Misha says:

    Re: InoSMi and Russia Related Issues Where Pro-Russian Sentiment is Limited

    Is Stratfor such a great source to frequently post over some other material?

    On foreign policy matters, Lukyanov is a preferred Russian among Western neolibs.

    Consider how some Western mass media/academia reared Russians at RIAN affiliated venues might be influenced by fault lines in the West.

    Meantime, on matters like Crimea and the rest of Ukraine, there’s a need to address certain questionable slants:

    http://www.rferl.org/content/sensational_story_wasnt_reports_of_stoning_death_in_ukraine_girl_false/24213624.html

    http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/new/blogs/motyl/Regime_Incoherence_in_Yanukovychs_Ukraine

    http://www.kyivpost.com/news/opinion/op_ed/detail/105950/

    Overall, New Yorker preferred sources don’t seem to refute anti-Russian biases as much as going along with them. Hence, promoting them over some others isn’t in sync with pro-Russian advocacy.

    Blasting Paul Goble isn’t complete without specifying those venues showing a preference for his comparatively questionable work (in the qualitative sense).

  50. Misha says:

    http://www.rferl.org/content/poland_assume_eu_post_pledges_attention_to_eastern_europe/24221420.html

    Excerpt –

    “We think that Europeanizing Russia is in Europe’s interests as well, and those kinds of initiatives will have Poland’s support during its presidency.”

    ****

    Sarcastically put, one needs to be fully “European” by being in the EU.

    Don’t count on Moldova or Ukraine getting full or near full EU benefits anytime soon. Likewise, some pro-EU Serbs might be disappointed. They should note the rumblings about how turning over Mladic isn’t enough. The above linked article doesn’t address a good deal of Croat public opinion which isn’t so supportive of Croatia entering into the EU.

  51. Yalensis says:

    I saw this yesterday, it is more backstory to the Libya conflict. As author Russ Baker states in his very first sentence: ”Qaddafi plus Goldman plus oil equals war.”
    Summary of author’s argument: It all goes back to the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. No one ever proved that Qaddafi was actually involved (or what his motive could be). However, in 2001 a Netherlands court convicted Mr. Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer, of carrying out the bombing. Eventually Qaddafi was forced to stipulate to the crime (without actually admitting to it) and pay reparations, as the price to pay for re-acceptance into the “world community”: lifting of UN sanctions, etc.
    As part of the settlement, Libya was supposed to deposit a large sum of $$$ in an international escrow account created for that purpose. The deal worked to end Libya’s isolation. In 2003 George W. Bush even welcomed Qaddafi back with open arms and the future was looking rosy. Western oil companies were “champing at the bit” to get their hands on Libyan oil assets. Britain Petroleum was heavily involved in all this and starting in 2007 tried to use their influence to get Megrahi freed from prison (which eventually happened in 2009).
    But then everything went sour: ”In early 2008, Libya’s sovereign-wealth fund controlled by Col. Moammar Gadhafi gave $1.3 billion to Goldman Sachs Group to sink into a currency bet and other complicated trades. The investments lost 98% of their value, internal Goldman documents show.”
    In other words, Colonel Qaddafi’s financial advisors made a very bad investment and lost all the $$$. Prior to that, Libya was flush with cash (in 2007 they set up an investment group in Tripoli with $40 billion to play with on international stock market), but with collapse of Goldman Sachs the money was now all gone, and Q couldn’t see how he could afford to pay into that reparations escrow fund. He needed more cash, so he started to lean on the inernational oil companies to give more money back to Libya; and even threaten to re-nationalize them. Next thing you know, he’s got a “color-coded revolution” on his hands, and then full-blown war.
    Interesting argument, I like this author, because instead of spouting on about “democracy” and “protecting civilians”, and all that nonsense, he basically says, “FOLLOW THE MONEY” !

    P.S. To @kovane: See, it DOES all relate back to “color-coded revolutions”, and hence relates to Navalny topic. If we wanted to, we could even figure out a way to make “Captain Kirk vs. giant lizard” relate to Navalny!

  52. I think what you gentlemen are debating is irrelevant. The difference between Putin and Medvedev is insubstantial. They are Siamese twins. Their disputes and disagreements are all make believe. The ideology of Russia’s Thieving Class is personal consumption (in that respect it is unique, I can’t think of no other society where personal consumption was the chief motivator of the society’s owners. There were states, as I mentioned before, which were largely driven by profit – 17th century Netherlands and 18th century Britain come to mind, but never was there a society which was ruled by a junta whose only reason to exist is its own personal consumption. That’s what Putinist Muscovite Khanate and so grotesquely named United Russia is all about). The notions that Russian Federation junta is somewhat not fully pro-American (false) or that Americans can undermine Russian junta (they can but why would they) should be put in a proper perspective. The government-owned air carrier, Rossia (funny, the Putinistas write their state airline’s name as RossiYa, with ya – like it were an Arab country), which is the equivalent of the USAF unit operating government aircraft including Air Force One, replaced all Russian airplanes with American Boeings. Not with Brazilian Embraers or Airbuses for short and medium routes but with Boeings. Come on. State aircraft procurement has always been the sign and the proof of one’s political orientation. Presidential Administration (the Khanate’s home office) in addition to luxurious BMWs for the viziers and Muscovite Khan’s most favorite eunuchs buys only Fords. Russian Federation “Ministry of Defense” buys Ford Focuses for their stuff, not Russian cars, not Peugeots, Citroens or Fiats but Fords. Militia bosses in St. Petersburg and KGB thugs drive hummers in a manifestation of machismo and Americaphilia that is unimaginable in the US itself. Not citroens, alfa romeos, or Russian vehicles. The image they want to present of themselves to the populace and the world is distinctly thuggish and distinctly (though phony) American. There is no more americanized “elite” in Europe or Asia than the Muscovite Thieving Class. It is far more americanized than America’s staunchest New European vassals. Russia keeps most of its foreign reserves in US dollars entrusted to the care of the US government while supposedly pro-American ethno-Nazi statelet of Estonia has no financial assets in the US. Russia’s thieving class prefers Russophobe London over Paris or Milan or Frankfurt – that’s where the Thieving Class of Muscovite Khanate buys blocks of prime real estate and keeps assets. That’s where corrupt managers and overseers of Khanate’s capital (city) run to when dismissed by the Khan (in time free of licking the fence of various alleged “concentration camps” on the eastern shore of the Baltic). Russia’s Thieving class sends its offspring mainly to the US and Britain for ” education” – not to France or Austria or Japan or China (I know a KGB functionary who is also a (state Russian) railroad kingpin whose children are all in America) – it is obviously a unbalanced one-sided relationship as I am unaware of a single instance when members of the American ruling class or its oligarchy had sent their kids to study in provincial colleges in the so-called Russian Federation, say to Ivanovo, or used deliberately russified English language for internal communications, bought Russian cars and if that were not enough also had kept all of their assets in Russia(-an Federation). This relation is far more skewed, one-sided and pathological than of any other country I can think, not even of its closest vassals like Britian, vis-a-vis the US. Neither Putin nor Medvedev ever stood up against American aggression or did anything to oppose the collective evil of the West because they cannot – how can you oppose anything in real life (babble on television is a different thing) if you moved all of your assets to the US and the EU, have kids studying in enemy countries, usually in the US or Britain, drive cars made by the enemy and have in the show of extreme affectation deliberately destroyed own industry so you could buy American aircraft for your own government use (what about spare parts in case of emergency?) . All your trinkets are supplied by the enemy. The “President” (again a word borrowed from the US English which replaced existing Russian equivalent of a person presiding over government) of the so-called Russian Federation, Medvedev openly displays his fondness for US corporate brands and promotes Apple Computer merchandise on over-the-air Russian TV (something no US president would do). The Soviet nomenklatura and criminal Moscow -based junta that usurped power in and over Russia and of which Putin and Medvedev are most visible “presiding” representatives do not care about Russia, Russian people or Russia’s interests. Its sole interests are personal consumption of its “members” and the maintenance of the resource-based regime that allows extraction of private wealth from public, once Soviet but then Russian, assets. Its rule rests on a bureaucratic dictatorship that. paradoxically, is also culturally US oriented. Russia or Russian Federation is a peculiar state in precarious state – there is no ideology save for personal consumption of the Thieving Class (naturally enough. enough crumbs fall off the table down into the hungry mouths of the servants, and the population of Moscow and Putinburg and a few other major cities. hence the underlings are reasonably content as long as they don’t keep Noalny’s blogt). The system is reliant on imports (physical and cultural) from Russia’s civilizational enemy and keeps all of its assets within jurisdiction of nations that are openly hostile to Russia. One doesn’t have to be a genius to figure out that Russian Federation junta is vulnerable to any kind of boycott or asset freezing. Structurally the system is unique in historic terms because its corruption is unparalleled as it represents a mini Soviet Union within the borders of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, hypercentralized – in fact the degree of centralization is quite unparalleled, it is centralization on steroids, a geographic and political entity which has been “privatized” wholesale by the nomenklatura and the criminal classes and where every state asset, office or institution, be it an oil well or police (militia) station is turned into money making resource for the members of the Thieving Class. I cannot find a historic analogy or a parallel to /Y/EltsinPutinMedvedev’s Russia. Fundamentally it is anti-Russian. It has low cultural immunity (in the cultural sense post-Soviet Russia is a patient with terminal stage of AIDS). Its Thieving Class is reliant on “abroad”, primarily on the US and Britain, for its daily needs – transportation, conveniences like credit cards and banking, entertainment, education of its evil offspring, anything, and thus is pathologically shy and unable to act in the nation’s interests. Under this setup when the choice is to be made between personal consumption and personal interests on one hand and national interests on the other, the personal consumption considerations always come on top – that’s also unique and historically almost unprecedented. With this sort of balance, the ongoing discussion about who is better Putin or Medvedev is irrelevant, it is a no-issue-issue, while the question who is Navalny can be answered regardless of whether Navalny has made dark sides or just one. He is someone who has exposed a few minor misdeeds of Russia’s Thieving Class and of the nomeklatura behind Russian Federation’s illegitimately privatized illegitimate state,

    • kovane says:

      That is some quality trolling, my friend.

      Thanks for the politics lesson, of course you’re right – politicians everywhere except Russia only concern themselves with public good, future generations and the fate of mankind in general. The thought of appropriating state funds repulses them and they content themselves with bread and water each day.

      Please, report more from the mysterious land of dreams where you obviously live.

      • marknesop says:

        Better throw that cretin Putin out on his ear quickly, and get that honest fellow who was so good with money – and making sure the proceeds of auctioned state assets made it down to the “little people’s” level – in office in his place! Oh, what was his name, again……Oh, yes! Boris Nemtsov! Boy, you’d soon see a return to Russia Pride under a Nemtsov administration, and no more shiny American toys.

    • marknesop says:

      Unless you’re talking about a different airline, or unless this clean-sweep replacement of Russian-made aircraft with shiny Boeings has taken place since this past Christmas, Rossiya has no Boeings in its government fleet, and only 7 out of 28 in its commercial fleet. The government fleet is all-Russian with the exception of a single (French) Dassault Falcon, and the commercial fleet has 15 French Airbus, 6 Russian Antonovs and 7 Boeings.

      • Giuseppe Flavio says:

        To my knowledge, the An-148 was preferred to the Sukhoi Superjet 100, because the latter has much more non-Russian components than the former, hence a much higher risk of having a spying device onboard. The idea of Boeing-made aircraft in the government fleet of Russia is simply ridiculous.
        I hope that Eugene Soukharnikov doesn’t represent the new Navalny-style nationalist opposition, otherwise people will regret the Nemtsov pro-Western opposition.

      • cartman says:

        It is probably a fraction of their worldwide activities, but Boeing does have considerable operations in Russia on both the design and supply sides.
        http://www.boeing.ru/Home.do

        Maybe he was thinking of Aeroflot.

        • marknesop says:

          Agreed, and they make an internationally-recognized aircraft that is as good as anything in the air. But no airline in Russia I’ve ever heard of uses exclusively Boeings or exclusively American aircraft of any type. While Aeroflot uses some and appears to like them, I don’t see it as the expression of disappointment in the domestic product that Mr. Soukharnikov seemed to be angling for.

          • Misha says:

            Putting aside what I take as a likely intended shtik, there’s something within reason to be said of the belief that the Putin-Medvedev differences are a bit hyped – and that an influential class with crony elements can especially have a negative impact, on a country in need of further advancing itself.

  53. Yalensis says:

    The one element in Sukharnikov’s rant that I do agree with is the idea that it is dangerous for Russia to keep so many financial assets in Western banks. That worries me too. We see in Libya situation (and prior to that, with Saddam Hussein) that West has no compunction in simply freezing (=stealing) assets of any foreign government they don’t like. Recall that Great Britain became an international superpower back in the day by being PIRATES (Sir Walter Raleigh, etc.), attacking ships of other martime countries, and stealing their swag.
    In the case of Libya, Western leaders simply decided that all Libyan assets (oil revenues converted into cash) now suddenly belong to Libyan rebels. In the same manner, West could suddenly decide one fine morning that all Russian cash in Western banks now belongs to Navalny, to help him form new (un-corrupt and super-democratic) government.
    Hence, my advice to Russian government would be: Remove all or most cash from Western banks. Either set up new bank in Moscow, or put the $$$ somewhere reliable, like in Chinese bank. Worst case: pile all the loot into a treasure chest and bury at the bottom of Baikal Lake. It will be safer there than in tender care of Goldman Sachs, trust me!

    • grafomanka says:

      pfft. the West should have frozen oligarch assets on the basis that they come from unlawful privatisation and corruption. But no one’s going to do that and the money has been a laundered long time ago. London is still a pirate port, since the likes of Baturina and Berezovsky, and countless oil princes and princesses from CIS countries, end up there.

      • kovane says:

        grafomanka, I’m sorry for an offtopic question, but I just can’t help it – this has been gnawing at me for a while. What’s general attitude to Suvorov in Poland? (the one that was marshal, of course).

        • Misha says:

          Not Graf, but will answer that it’s something like how many Russians view Pilsudski.

          I recall it being said that the Warsaw born ethnic Pole Soviet marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky had street cred problems in Poland, when he became part of the post-WW II Polish government. Part of the problem was his being awarded the Stalin era instituted Order of Suvorov.

        • grafomanka says:

          You got me there, Kovane, I don’t really know. I haven’t heard about Suvorov since my school history lessons. But I think the attitude is negative because of the massacre of Praga (the suburb of Warsaw) where his troops murdered around 20 000 civilians.

          • Misha says:

            Philip Longworth has written what appears to be the most authoritative English language work on Suvorov, which includes Soviet and Imperial Russian sources.

            Without recalling the specifics, he provides insight in questioning that figure with by noting how it might be simply higher from reality, in addition to the matters of including wartime combatants and collateral damage.

            Subjects like Suvorov and Gogol have involved some questionably subjective commentary, that’s indicative of an underlying bias against Russia. This matter pertains to where Russian government involved English language media/PR efforts can be improved upon, by better utilizing folks who know the biases and how to directly address them.

            At an earlier thread at this blog, note how someone said that the Soviet actions against Polish military personnel at Katyn had in mind a payback for how Red Army personnel were fatally treated during the Soviet-Polish war. Before Suvorov’s attack on Warsaw, the Polish subjugation of Russia included some brutal aspects.

            Another evident and related bias concerns the use of “slaughter.” I don’t see it used to describe Hiroshima and Nagasaki, unlike some other instances, where it’s arguably/comparatively not more applicable.

      • cartman says:

        I wonder how Scottish independence would affect this? London could become insolvent, then Moscow could buy Berezovsky back in chains.

    • marknesop says:

      One of my predictions for the upcoming Sublime Oblivion interview was that Asian nations will form new financial institutions, which will invest heavily in Russia. Those sound like a better place to keep one’s money. Asian people are generally less emotional than westerners and more pragmatic. Western business leaders are more like Asians, too, but it is the common everyday people who are like cattle who smell smoke; it’s fairly easy to point them in one direction or another and stir them up. Just mention “Democracy” and throw in a lot of “Freedom”, and you can do pretty much anything you like with strong public support.

      Freezing of other nations’ assets and handing them off to democracy activists is something I never thought about, but you’re right – it’s fairly common. A couple of weeks worth of demonization in the popular press, and it’s easy to convince a western audience that it’s not only legal, it’s the right thing to do.

      • sinotibetan says:

        @ Mark

        “Asian people are generally less emotional than westerners and more pragmatic. ”
        You are absolutely correct on that.

        sinotibetan

  54. Ivo says:

    Has anyone noticed that there is too much Jewish involvement in this ?

  55. Pingback: Putin vs Medvedev vs Navalny | Timely Thoughts

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