Dear Russia: Please Stop Fighting Poverty, We Liked You Better When You Were Impoverished and Dying

Uncle Volodya says,"At the funeral, they all said, 'What a shame; he died penniless. I don't know - to me, that sounds like perfect timing on a hell of a budget. "

Uncle Volodya says,”At the funeral, they all said, ‘What a shame; he died penniless’. I don’t know – to me, that sounds like perfect timing on a hell of a budget. “

In an unprecedented (for this blog) double shot of duplicity and dissembling, The Moscow Times is up for a second consecutive turn at bat.

Mikhail Dmitriyev and Svetlana Misikhina appear to have stirred up a hornet’s nest of spiteful fury with their “Good Bye, Poverty – Russia’s Quiet Social Revolution” article, released under the joint auspices of the Center for Strategic Research – of which Mr. Dmitriyev is President – and the Social Policy Center, the Institute of Applied Economic Research , of which Ms. Misikhina is Director. This upbeat article inspired a prompt and vindictive rebuke from Vedomosti, which was promptly picked up by The Moscow Times (thanks to Moscow Exile for the link), where they evidently like the cut of Vedomosti‘s jib – as they do that of anyone prepared to testify that Russian state statistics are just pre-rolled sunshine suppositories to be blown up the people’s asses, totally fabricated and manifestly unbelievable, and that the only agencies fit to assess Russian progress are American or British. And the default position of many of those is, there shall be no mention of “progress” and “Russia” in the same sentence unless that sentence reads, “Russia has made no progress”. Amplifiers such as “whatsoever” or “observable” or “worth noticing” are encouraged.

Funny thing, though. Just a few months ago, when Mikhail Dmitriyev co-wrote “Political Crisis in Russia and Possible Mechanisms of its Development“, he suddenly found himself with credibility up the wazoo – to quote respected Russia-watcher Eugene Ivanov, “All of a sudden, Dmitriev found himself in high demand: he became a frequent guest on political TV shows; his articles now are regularly published in both Russian and international print media.” The report was gleefully cited by Freedom House in its annual exercise in navel-gazing, Nations in Transit 2012, in which – you guessed it – Russia has made no observable progress whatsoever, in which corruption in Russia is growing faster than an expensive haircut and in which everything bad that happened, including the Domodedovo suicide bombing, is the fault of the country’s incompetent and flailing government.

Then, then, Dmitriyev had so much juice – as far as adoring western worshipers were concerned – that you could have squeezed his head and made yourself a credibility smoothie.

Now, apparently, Dmitriyev has blown all that off, and has turned into an idiot. Sad, really: he showed such promise, back when he insisted a political crisis in Russia was not only inevitable, unstoppable – in fact, it had already begun.

I’m sure I don’t have to draw you a picture. When the President of a Russian think tank co-writes a report that says the Russian government is in big trouble, and that a groundswell of public unrest is building that will surely sweep all before it like a cleansing wave, western analysts are comforted and satisfied, and pat him on the head – figuratively speaking – with benevolent pride, and shop him around the talk-show circuit so he can tell more people what a political dead man walking the Russian government is. The western media likes to hear that the Russian government is in trouble. When that same individual co-writes a report which says the Russian government has more or less eradicated poverty in Russia, according to benchmarks established and substantiated by the World Bank and adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), he is suddenly speaking a language nobody understands. Mouthpieces of Anglospheric policy like The Moscow Times are beyond disappointed – if Dmitriyev were an ice cream flavour, he would be Pralines and Dick.

Well, perhaps I’m being unfair: let’s take a look at it. Uh, oh. Right away, Pierre Avril pissed in the pickles when he suggested, “…Russians buy cars, luxury goods and food items as though they were unaffected by any economic problems at all”, in Le Figaro. I don’t suppose he realized at the time that it would cause a collective cerebral tipover at Vedomosti, but he probably ought to have known that westerners do not want to hear smack like Russians buying cars and luxury goods when there is a widespread economic crisis in their own countries and their governments are trying to make “austerity” sound like “good times”. In fact, they would probably rather it was most anyone else than Russia. And Vedomosti and The Moscow Times often specialize in telling westerners what they like to hear. Quod erat demonstrandum. Get a grip, Pierre.

Perhaps in an attempt to confuse the reader that the author of the report is not that Mikhail Dmitriyev – the bright up-and-comer who co-wrote that great report about political unrest in Russia – but is instead some federal drone alcoholic chowderhead who is just sucking up to the Kremlin, both Vedomosti and The Moscow Times credential him as Head of the Federal Center for Social Development. Social Development actually comes under the Ministry of Health, overseen by Veronika Svortsova; I could not find any Federal Center for Social Development in Russia, and Dmitriyev is clearly listed in the original article as President of the Center for Strategic Research.

While this Louis-Vuitton-grabbing, Hennessy-swigging orgy of consumerism might sound like things are going well, the Twin Talking Heads Of Disaster Pending (Vedomosti and The Moscow Times) want you to know that it’s all just another cheap facade, behind which lie misery and damnation. This epic of Caligulan excess is being fueled, we are told, by a massive increase in consumer borrowing, outpacing corporate borrowing by 300%.  Ominously (insert creepy organ music), borrowing rates like these were last seen just before the 2008 global financial crisis. Nothing good can come of this.

Uh huh. Let me ask you something: when was the last time you were in a bank, to get a loan? Know a bit about how banks work, do you? Now, I want you to imagine for a minute that you’re in a bank in Russia, and you want a loan. You’re going to have to see a loans officer, or some similar representative. He or she is going to want to know (1) how much money you want to borrow, (2) what you want it for, and (3) how much you earn, so the bank can decide if you’re a credible risk.

I should pause here to say we’re not talking about an American financial organization, where quite recently you could get a loan to buy a 4-bedroom house even though you couldn’t prove you had either a job or a fixed address. We’re talking about a financial institution in Russia, which has the lowest debt in the G20, the world’s third-largest cash reserves, and which bounced back from the global financial crisis like a rubber ball while its western rivals are groaning under debt loads of truly scary proportions, and trying to make austerity sound like fun.

Okay – back to the bank. I want you to look the loans officer in the eye, and answer, (1) $30,000.00 USD, (2) I need it to buy myself a new car, some Louis Vuitton luggage to put in it for my vacation, and a case of cognac to celebrate with my friends, and (3) I’m poor, and I can’t possibly pay it back.

Ha, ha. Whew, my ribs hurt a little.

Let me get this straight. The poverty problem has not actually gone away in Russia, people really are no better off, there’s just a pile of cash floating around that poor Russians are borrowing. Which is being lent to them by banks who have no hope of getting it back, but were hoodwinked by clever paupers who convinced them they had high-paying jobs which the bank never thought to check on.

Hmmm….I’m going to file that under “B”, for Bullshit. Or maybe “A”, for “As if”.

Agreeing enthusiastically with me is Natalya Zagvozdina, a commodities analyst at Renaissance Capital: ” The more credible explanation for the present upswing in consumer spending is that Russians are taking loans to buy high ticket items like houses, cars and furs, which they couldn’t afford while the crisis lasted…If Russian consumers will keep on dishing out cash, that in turn will keep the economy humming.” You remember Renaissance Capital; they were the biggest rivals of Bill Browder’s Hermitage Capital Management, and also the firm that Browder accused of being implicated in a similar tax fraud case to the one allegedly uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky. Except in this one the owners of the fake companies, who were Renaissance CEO Steven Jennings (the “Kiwi Oligarch” – God, I love how everyone the west wants to paint as a crook is an “oligarch”, while Browder himself is simply a “businessman” although his company was a thinly-disguised corporate raider) and Richard Olphert, former head of Merchant Banking at Renaissance Capital, simply stole the tax money back for themselves and hid it in front companies.

Anyway, let’s not go down that road, or we’ll be here all day. Poverty. Is Dmitriyev just making stuff up? Apparently not. Most readers by now will be familiar with the Gini Coefficient, which rates countries on distribution of income, from the poorest to the wealthiest. A figure of zero would imply perfect income distribution, and everyone starts out with the same disposable income – ergo, there are no rich, and no poor. A figure of 100 (or 1, for the national Gini Index) suggests one person has all of it; perfect inequality. So, keep in mind that a higher figure implies greater inequality.

According to the World Bank, Russia in 2009 had a more equitable distribution of income than the USA had in 2000 – Russia 40.1 in 2009, the USA – chief critic and self-appointed inquisitor of Russia – 40.8 in 2000. Russia has since made even greater strides toward reducing poverty. Has the United States? Not according to the CIA World Factbook. The Gini Coefficient for the USA grew to 45 by 2007, while Russia’s was 42 in 2010. But those figures don’t tell the whole story; going back for a moment to the Wikipedia table (figures from the United Nations Development Program), we see that the ratio of income of the richest 10% to the poorest 10% for Russia is 12.7, while it is 15.9 for the USA. The same criteria, for the richest 20% versus the poorest 20%: Russia, 7.6 – the USA, 8.4. Once again, this is Russia in 2009 versus the USA in 2000.

In fact, both poverty and income inequality are continuing to grow in the USA, and a powerful unequalizer in both instances is the U.S. Tax Code. Quite apart from being so complicated that it defies description, it is regularly manipulated by government to skew more tax breaks to the wealthy. This results in a national Gini Index (not coefficient) of .469 for the USA in 2010 – a figure which, according to the Center for American Progress, puts the United States in a disadvantageous position against Malaysia (.462) and Uganda (.443). In an example cited by the same reference, in 2007 the before-tax (federal) Gini index for the USA was .524. After taxes, it had decreased (improved) to .489, which represents a 7.2% reduction. The tax system has the power to reduce income inequality, but is not doing so to anything like the extent it could. The USA has made no observable progress whatsoever against income inequality, you might say.

After that, Vedomosti and its parrot, The Moscow Times, dissolve into farce as they cast about in a paroxysm of mean-spirited bitchiness for something negative that they can use to shore up their contention that Russians are still poor. The amount of space they live in, for instance; according to the article, this is “an accurate indicator of Russians’ real standard of living”, because if they were really doing that well, everybody would live in a big house. More than half of Russians, however, live in an average living space per person of only 7 to 30 m2. A few more are jammed in like sardines at home, says the Moscow Higher School of Economics, which I would not believe if they said their name was the Moscow Higher School of Economics, and would not trust to forecast the outcome of the War of 1812 today.

Let’s unpack that a little, as a blogger I admire used to say. First of all – which is it? 7 m2 is pretty tiny, but 30 m2 is more than 4 times the space, and is quite generous. Compared to Hong Kong, say, where the average is 13 m2 of living space per person, I’ve been to Hong Kong and Kowloon, and I have to say poverty was not my impression at all, although their living space is likely to get smaller, if anything. But according to Vedomosti and The Moscow Times, those folks might as well abandon all hope, because they are poor as churchmice. The government should be ashamed of itself. Likewise in the Czech Republic, where it’s only 14 m2 per person, or in Hungary, where it’s 20 m2, or Poland where it’s 24.21 m2 (nationwide average), according to Eurostat.

But forget that, because even if your living space in square meters really reflected how poor you are, Vedomosti and The Moscow Times are still shooting you a line. They offer nothing to substantiate their claims that “the level of ‘housing poverty’ has not changed appreciably in the last 20 years.” In fact, the average living space per person in the Russian Federation has risen every year since 1999 (when it was 19.1 m2) to the latest available figure, 22.4 m2 according to Statinfo.biz (the Russian Federation is number 220 in the table).

According to the Intelligent Energy Europe Program, (Section 6, Buildings) living space per square meter in the Soviet Union by the end of the 1950’s was only 4 m2, which had expanded to 15.8 m2 by 1989. The construction method used by policy in the Soviet Union, called large-panel construction, made it difficult to expand the living space of apartments without knocking down the whole building and starting over, and that construction method continued long after European countries had abandoned it because of heating inefficiencies. The same source reports 15% of the current dwellings in Moscow were built after 1998. Also, “Much of the construction is aimed at the new wealthier classes; a development which has been accompanied by a significant reduction in municipal housing. A new phenomenon appearing in a number of cities is the suburban district containing low density detached housing or luxury residential blocks. This style of urban living is particularly popular on the outskirts of Moscow (Boret et al., 2004)”.

I’m not even going to get into the cheap shot that “morbidity statistics for 2000 – 2010″ suggest a steady upward trend in illnesses, which supports the contention that poverty is widespread. Suffice it to say the source contends the “real illness rate is even higher when you take into account the shrinking population” when the population is not shrinking and is in fact growing. I imagine you could find some illnesses which were worsening, and quite a few which were reduced dramatically. As was quite knowledgeably discussed by Mark Adomanis at Forbes, based on Rosstat data – tuberculosis, specifically mentioned by Vedomosti, way down. Social diseases, way down. Hepatitis, nearly eradicated, all of these during the 2000-2010 timeframe. Diabetes, up. Cancer, up, although neither as high as the rate in the USA. HIV, up. Are any of these exclusively poor people’s diseases? If so, why are the rates higher in the USA (not including HIV, which is a serious problem in Russia because of intravenous drug use)?

Simply put, when things are bad in Russia, The Moscow Times crows in triumph and makes them sound worse, not to mention a direct result of government incompetence, even if the incident under discussion is a natural disaster. When things are good in Russia, The Moscow Times crows in triumph that they are actually bad, and invents supporting information which it expects you to take at face value. It caters to a western audience, and is a reliable spreader of disinformation as well as a go-to reference for Russophobes.

Strike two, Moscow Times.

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992 Responses to Dear Russia: Please Stop Fighting Poverty, We Liked You Better When You Were Impoverished and Dying

  1. Misha says:

    On Ukraine, the EU and customs union:

    http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/International/2012/Dec-20/199207-russia-holds-summit-with-ex-soviet-allies.ashx#axzz2FZUWww1g

    Excerpt –

    “The Kremlin has seen Ukraine’s involvement in the Customs Union as key for the success of its integration projects and has aggressively courted its neighbor. But Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych, who is more Russia-friendly than his pro-Western predecessor, has been hesitant, eager to protect Ukrainian business interests against Russian business expansion and also mindful of a strong public support for closer ties with the European Union.”

    ****

    The stated “strong public support” point in Ukraine is evident in the desire to seek closer Ukrainian ties with Russia. The above excerpted is typical of a zero sum game mindset of choosing one (EU) or the other (customs union), with nothing that’s more measured, like Ukraine (at some point) becoming fully involved with the customs union, while having closer and better ties with the EU.

    What are the chances of Ukraine becoming a full fledged EU member in the not too distant future?

    As the following commentary notes, the EU appears to have limits.

    http://aminuk.org/index.php?idmenu=12&idsubmenu=311&language=en

    Excerpt –

    “US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently likened the Customs Union and associated Eurasian Economic Space to an effort to ‘re-Sovietize’ the former Soviet Union. But, at a time when several ex-Warsaw Pact members (Bulgaria and Romania, for example), having submitted to the remote, bureaucratic colossus at Brussels, find themselves high and dry in what British journalist James Delingpole calls a ‘Soviet-style economic dead zone,’ it is an open question as to which system bears greater resemblance to the old Soviet Union.”

    ****

    This piece suggests something different:

    http://www.kyivpost.com/content/ukraine/yanukovych-cancels-kremlin-trip-puts-customs-union-on-hold-317819.html

    • marknesop says:

      Very interesting. I attended my wife’s staff Christmas party last night – at Cafe Mexico; if you know Mexican restaurant decor, it is typically a little gaudy by conservative western standards (although I find it relaxing), but the addition of Christmas decorations makes it a little surreal, and one of the staff (I believe he’s in the maintenance department) was a Ukrainian named Yuriy. He has annoyed my wife from time to time by suggesting some Russians and Ukrainians don’t like each other – which, while it is perfectly true and even an understatement, is a little adversarial for the dinner table – but by the end of the evening we were fast friends. He agreed with me that the best thing for Ukraine would be a customs union with Russia.

      He left Ukraine in the late 90’s with his twin sons – and, I presume, a wife, although she was never mentioned – and he was a former military pilot, although we didn’t get any deeper into it than that. But he had some tremendously interesting observations, especially to me, because I don’t pay nearly as much attention to Ukraine as I do to Russia, and consequently I have less of a feel for its problems. Anyway, Yuriy mentioned that in 1996 the Ukrainian government made some changes to educational policy (I believe he left the following year). While the core subjects would still be taught free of charge, such as the Ukrainian language, Mathematics, Geography, History, etc…, anything else would be pay-as-you-go. That included English, as a foreign language. He said it was costing him his entire month’s salary to keep his sons in the English program, presumably at a state school as government policies do not affect private schools. Either Ukrainian pilots are very poorly paid by international standards, or the educational costs are immense.

      We discussed the Orange Revolution government and what a disaster it had been for Ukraine (my words, not his). We seemed to basically agree on the failed promise of the Yushchenko/Tymoshenko tandem, but he was more specific on the issue of the wasted money from the first big IMF loan: remember, Ukraine was denied a second loan because the IMF was unsatisfied with implementation of promised reforms? Yuriy went further: he said the government wasted it on foolish fripperies like wide, smooth new highways with shiny gas stations every few kilometers, but there were far fewer cars than there are in western cities and few could afford to drive them, including even those who had them. He also said prices for many models were the same or even more expensive than here in Canada, which are typically about $4,000.00 above the American sticker price even when our currencies are equal. It sounded strikingly similar to the vanity projects built in Saakashvili’s Georgia.

      He said the major employer in his city under the Soviet Union was a factory which made all kinds of cosmetic items – soap, lotions, perfumes and such – which he said were sold widely because the products were of very good quality. When he went back on a visit – he didn’t say when that was, but it was apparent that it was years ago – only one shop of the factory was still operating. It imported T-shirts (probably from China, but he didn’t say), and stamped Ukrainian souvenir-type logos on them. He had told his friends that he would buy Ukrainian souvenirs for them, but – “to my shame”, as he put it, very poignantly – he could not find anything that was made in Ukraine.

      Yet, to the regime-changers, Ukraine’s high-water mark was the Yushchenko years. Foreign investment in Ukraine actually fell in that period, when a show of confidence in the new government by foreign investors might have made all the difference. This suggests to me, although I may be wrong, that there was never any real political interest in developing Ukraine into a dynamic, prosperous market economy, but to use it as a wedge to put pressure on Russia and the loans were only to mortgage it to the west.

      • Misha says:

        Someone forwarded to me this piece from someone in your country:

        http://www.e-ir.info/2012/12/19/ukraines-new-political-colours/

        Some (stress some) similarities with the analysis on Russia. Is Ukraine really that dictatorial to the point of being the main reason why Yanukovych/Azarov are still around in their current positions? For example, is it not fair to say that however well intentioned Klitschko might be, his money backers have suspect backgrounds, along with just not having enough support? As described in the article, he felt a need to ally with Svoboda.

        Note how the aforementioned education minister Tabachnyk is described and what isn’t said about how the Russian language was treated, along with the Yushchenko pushed honoring of Bandera.

        On your raised point from someone about Russians and Ukrainians not liking each other, that’s easy to believe if your knowledge and personal experience is limited to the likes of Motyl and what’s often presented as Ukrainian commentary in English language mass media.

        • marknesop says:

          Oh, it’s quite true that there is a significant group of Ukrainians who intensely dislike Russia and Russians, and not all Motyl-readers, either. There are Ukrainian nationalists, Ukrainians who feel the Ukrainian language and culture (what remains of it) are threatened by creeping Russianization, and pie-in-the-sky young folk who believe Ukraine’s future lies with EU membership, so they can promptly disperse into it and find good jobs. It’s no good telling them that the EU is totally unimpressed with the thought of a flood of poor Ukrainian job-seekers beating on the doors of what is often largely-subsidized and protectionist employment. Because the plight of many Ukrainians really does appear to be desperate, and it’s hard to reason with desperation.

          I still have a lot of hope for a Russia-Ukraine renewal relationship, and I think Russia should start small, right away, with little initiatives that show good faith but which cannot be spun as the evil Kremlin trying to regenerate the Soviet Union. Preferential treatment for Ukraine on gas prices might be a good place to start, and it would remind the public of the usurious contracts Tymoshenko rammed through.

          • Misha says:

            A “significant group” that’s in the minority, while being disproportionately represented in English language mass media.

            In addition to numerous post-Soviet opinion polls, I’ve personally come across numerous instances.

            Over the course of time, I’ve been in contact with Soviet era born ethnic Ukrainians who aren’t so pro-Soviet, while preferring to speak Russian over Ukrainian and belonging to churches which aren’t UOC-MP affiliated.

            BTW, Russia’s culture minister is apparently a Ukrainian born ethnic Ukrainian, who has views which (if anything) overall seem more pre-1917 Russia nostalgic than Soviet nostalgic:

            http://www.eurasiareview.com/12082012-cherry-picking-the-soviet-past-and-russian-present-analysis/

            On what is and isn’t stressed, I note how I periodically come across historical recollections of Skoropadsky which include his (as stated) attempt to seek the release of some Nazi imprisoned OUN personnel. (After being overthrown, Skoropadsky lived the remainder of his life in Germany.) Meantime, this appears to have been the first online posted full transcript of his edict calling for an “All-Russian Federation” involving Russia and Ukraine:

            http://www.eurasiareview.com/22052011-pavlo-skoropadsky-and-the-course-of-russian-ukrainian-relations-analysis/

            Having to do with what is and isn’t emphasized, for reasons that are preferred slant oriented.

            • Misha says:

              Following up on what seems like a significant number, consider the stated categories which have been termed as the “tyranny of the minority” and “silent majority”.

              Referring the uphill battle they face, a smaller group can be far more activist in promoting their views over the larger one. An ethnic Ukrainian I know from Kharkov concurs with this point, adding that the nationalist anti-Russian element among Ukrainians includes a nasty manner that some would prefer not engaging with. In turn, this can further lead to a greater monopolization on what is and isn’t emphasized at the more high profile of venues.

  2. Moscow Exile says:

    Another Russia-is-such-a-shit-hole-and-Putin-is-a-bastard Moscow Times commentator, “political analyst” Georgy Boyt, describes “Where the Opposition Stands One Year On” in today’s MT, stating that last Saturday’s rally “was not sanctioned by the authorities, and many people did not attend for fear of being detained or bludgeoned by riot police”.

    I just cannot imagine any other state in the whole bloody world that would tolerate a publication as is MT: it consists of just one endless diatribe against the Russian state and the present government and is full of lies and calumnies.

    As far as I remember rightly, during the past three or four “marches of a million” in Moscow, no arrests were made and nobody was bludgeoned by the riot police. In fact,the only violence that I saw reported occurrred between nationalists and anarchists. Those “bludgeoned by riot police” last March attended a sanctioned rally that consisted of some who had clearly organised a confrontation with the authorities and started hurling missiles and, in one incident, a “Molotoff Cocktail” at the police.

    Has Boyt not noticed how the riot police have been behaving in Spain and Greece this year?

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Another point that I should like to add to the one above: Boyt’s opinion that people were afraid of being detained last week at Lubyanka Square is total shite.

      When the cops started “moving on” the demonstrators, who were mostly pampered bourgeois “student” types in my opinion, they directed them to the entrances to Lubyanka metro station. This station has several entrances around the square, under which a circular passage connects the various station exits around that square. So having been sent down one entrance by the cops, the protestors popped up on the other side of the square. They were then directed by the cops back down to the underground entrance of the station, only for the brave freedom fighters to appear again at yet another exit on the other side of the square. In the end, the cops gave up and went home.

      If this had happened in London, without any shadow of a doubt whatsoever, the Paddy Wagons would have appeared and the protesters would have all been arrested. On what charges, you may ask?

      Obstruction.

      If you do not do what a cop tells you to do in the UK he will tell you that you will be charged with obstructing a poice officer in the course of his duty. If you ask why you have been asked to move, you will be told you are causing an obstruction to pedestrians and/or the highway.

      I have great experience of this tactic used in the UK and have been charged many times
      with causing an obstruction and with obstructing a police officer.

      Those soft arse guitar strumming white-ribbonist freedom fighters whine about their right of freedom to assemble being denied them. They should try their silly tricks in London, and I daresay in Toronto and New York as well, and see what happens to them.

    • Misha says:

      That’s “Bovt” who has a prolonged period of spinning in a certain direction.

      http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/69017

      Likewise, JRL does a good deal of propping such sources while downplaying others – sometimes in a blatant way:

      http://www.exile.ru/articles/detail.php?ARTICLE_ID=6751&IBLOCK_ID=35

      There’re those who appear to suck up to this kind of manner for self promotion sake, as opposed to openly opposing this situation, inclusive of promoting the valid options that have been getting downplayed.

      These thoughts lead to the soft RT treatment accorded to several journos that have been critically discussed at this blog.

    • Leos Tomicek says:

      I have seen injured OMON on photos from the March demonstration. Those that say the protester were peaceful are laughable hypocrites.

      • The reality is that the OMON police behaved with exceptional discipline and restraint during the protest on Lubyanka Square as they have from the onset of these protests a year ago. The result is that there was no violence during the Lubyanka protest at all even though the protest was unauthorised.

        I am becoming utterly bored with this endless harping on the supposed crackdown. What crackdown? There has been a certain tightening up on the rules about protests but this has not prevented protests from being authorised and from taking place and when they do take place even when they are unauthorised the police conduct themselves with exceptional restraint. Certain rules have been imposed on NGOs that obtain foreign funding but it is difficult to understand why this should deter protest. A number of people are being prosecuted over the violent disturbances at the protest on 6th May 2012 but that is as it should be given that we know if only because Ksenia Sobchak has told us that the violence during that protest was pre planned. Criminal cases have been launched against Navalny and Udaltsov but in both cases there are genuine grounds to do so and neither Navalny nor Udaltsov at the moment are even in pre trial detention. Besides Navalny and Udaltsov are hardly the entire white ribbon opposition. No newspapers have been closed (except for the one in Chechnya, which hardly counts since there have been no anti government protests there), no opposition journalists have arrested, no blanket censorship has been imposed, there’s been no mass round up of opposition supporters, the prisons are not bulging with prisoners, oppositionists have not been prevented from standing for election (though as Chirikova showed they do appallingly badly when they do) and the white ribbon opposition has even been able to stage “elections” to its own Coordinating Council. Please someone show me where this crackdown is? Perhaps it’s the fault of my poor eyesight but I simply can’t see it.

  3. Moscow Exile says:

    Bovt, of course. Typo on my part.

  4. Moscow Exile says:

    Tax exile Gerard Depardieu invited to become Chechen citizen.

    “Жерара Депардье будут рады принять в Чечне, сообщил глава Чеченской Республики Рамзан Кадыров.

    “Жерар Депардье отказался от французского гражданства. Для этого у него есть свои причины. Иначе актер так не поступил бы. Я не намерен обсуждать этот поступок. Но могу однозначно заявить, что мы готовы принять великого артиста”, – подчеркнул Кадыров.

    [“We shall be pleased to accept Gerard Depardieu in Chechnya”, said the head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov.

    “Gerard Depardieu has turned down French citizenship. He has his own reasons for doing this, the actor wouldn’t have done it otherwise. I do not intend to discuss why he has taken this action, but I can definitely say that we are ready to accept the great artist”, said Kadyrov.]

    Mon Dieu! C’est formidable!
    :-)

  5. Moscow Exile says:

    That nice Mr. Khodorkovsky and his also really nice pal Mr. Lebedev have both had the sentences of their second convictions reduced today by a Moscow court, according to this article in today’s Komsomolskaya Pravda.

    From the article:

    В четверг, 20 декабря, президиум Мосгорсуда изменил приговор по второму делу в отношении бывшего главы ЮКОСа Михаила Ходорковского и экс-главы МФО «Менатеп»
    Платона Лебедева: срок наказания был снижен с 13 до 11 лет. Таким образом, если это решение вступит в законную силу, то Ходорковский может выйти на свободу уже в октябре 2014 года, а Лебедев – в июле того же года.

    [On Thursday, December 20, the Presidium of the Moscow City Court changed the sentence in the second case against former Yukos CEO, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and former head of MFO (microfinancial organization – trans. ME) “Menatep”, Platon Lebedev: the sentence has been reduced from 13 to 11 years. Thus, if the decision comes into force, Khodorkovsky may be released in October 2014, and Lebedev in July of that sameyear.]

    And a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you both!

    Pity the world’s going to end tomorrow.
    :-)

  6. yalensis says:

    In other financial news: Russian bank giant “Sberbank” has purchased/merged with Yandex online money. (Yandex is the Russian equivalent of American Paypal.)
    Political effect is that Navalny has ditched Yandex. (I guess because Sberbank is government owned and hence evil?)
    In the past, Navalny and his Coordinating Committee have used Yandex as their way of fleecing I mean collecting dues from their members. (Also collecting donations for Rospil and other projects.) Navalny is credited as the guy who figured out how to raise significant money over the Russian internet. Yandex was his tool for this process. But now Navalny has pulled out of Yandex and only accepts Paypal, so now his followers have to pay him in American dollars. This will come in handy if and when Navalny decides to flee to USA, he won’t have to exchange rubles for dollars.
    Sberbank, by the way, is said to be the largest bank in all of Eastern Europe. That’s where its name comes from: “Sberbank” is Russian for “Is a Bear-Bank”. [Not really, that was a pun…]

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/yandex-sberbank-announce-joint-venture-141000998.html

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Sberbank – in full: Sberbank Rossii (Сбербанк России – Sberbank Rossii, a contraction of “сберегательный банк” – sberegatelʹnyĭ bank; in other words:”Savings Bank of the Russian Federation”) is the third largest bank in Europe as well as being the largest bank in Russia and Eastern Europe. It’s motto “Всегда рядом” (vsyegda ryadom) means “Always By Your Side”.

      Russians trust Sberbank – at least those whom I know do – and not Western wannabes, namely white-ribbon podpindosniki, because it is owned by the Central Bank of Russia, the state bank, and not by shysters, thanks to whom many Russians, including my wife, lost their savings in 1998.

      Both my wife and I have a Sberbank account. I also have an account with VTB (ВТБ stands for Внешторгбанк – Vneshtorgbank, which means “Foreign Trade Bank”). Established by the Russian State Bank and Ministry of Finance in 1990, in 1998 VTB was converted into a public company, with a majority stake owned by the Russian government represented by the Central Bank, which owned a 96.8% share. That’s why many here trust VTB: it’s backed up by the state and is not a Khodorkovsky type operation that fleeces its clients and stashes their stolen money in offshore accounts.

      • marknesop says:

        I used to use Sberbank to send money to my wife when she was still in Russia. They seemed quite reliable, but the comedy with fees for foreign transfers wiped out most of the money – almost half. I initially sent $100.00 USD as an experiment. The banks between them converted it from U.S. dollars into rubles and then back again to U.S. dollars, collecting a fee each time, and my wife ended up with only about $57.00 of the original $100.00. After that I just sent her a credit card and established a joint account.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Oh, Sberbank underwent a serious revamping a few years back and its branches are like any Western High St. bank now with all the services and customer friendly service to boot, including welcoming smile. Well that’s how it is in my local branch, anyway. And they don’t rip off anymore as regards money transfers as they have to compete with Western intruders such as the Austrian Raiffeisen bank and Citibank.

  7. Moscow Exile says:

    Shock!

    Horrors!

    This morning’s Moscow News reports that the imprisoned members of Pussy Riot will not be able to celebrate the New Year holiday in prison.

    Yet another example of how corrupt this stinking Putin regime is!

    • marknesop says:

      What a dreadful pity!! Still, it’s curious how a stint in the slammer takes you back to your roots, innit? I mean, before the “punk style prayer” (still insistent that it was some kind of prayer, I guess you have to give the writers full marks for sticking to the narrative), the suggestion that they spend New Year’s at home with family would likely have been met with an anarchic curl of the lip, a sneer expressive of contempt for the pedestrian conventionality of it all. Now, the thought of Mama and home fills them with childish nostalgia.

      The journos had best watch their reporting, because if they stopped to think about it, the “artists” sentences are a textbook of rehabilitation by incarceration. I mean, look at their behavior and attitudes before they were sent down, supposedly by Putin himself. Anarchists, squatting in basements and abandoned buildings, living rough and stealing from supermarkets rather than get paying jobs, because that was so boring and would leave them too little time for the staging of “art events” which were thinly-disguised provocations to outrage. Spouting defiance at their sentencing and daring the cruel dictator to lock them up – it would be like a walk in the park.

      Look at them now, after what, a month of camp routine? Worried about dry hands, and yearning for the solid grounding of the simple life at home with family and friends. I tell you, it’s so prosaic, it fair warms my heart. Gone are the big dreams of changing the world and speaking truth to power, swept away by chapped hands and yearning hearts. If prison camps have such a salutary effect, and so rapid, upon the misfits of society, one can only hope the rest of the “art collective” are soon in the bag and behind those wonder-working bars.

      Do reporters not realize that not only do such reports make them look foolish, but that they are making a pretty good case for the efficacy of prison time toward making solid citizens out of troublemakers?

      • Moscow Exile says:

        I tell you how they let convicts celebrate Christmas in the slammer in Merry England, UK: at Her Majesty’s Prison Strangeways, Manchester, they allowed the cell doors to be left open so as to hear a Salvation Army choir sing “Ding-Dong Merrily On High” and other favourites on the quadrangle below the landings. I remember hearing how one jolly Yuletide one idiot con stuck his head out of the door to join in the singing and was promptly clouted over the head for his efforts with a big stick by a sly screw standing to one side of the open door.

        And a ho-ho-ho to you convict 75489328! Now get yer f*cking head back inside yer
        f*cking cell!
        :-)

        • Moscow Exile says:

          I shouldn’t really be writing descriptions of prison life in the UK as I signed a document saying I wouldn’t do so.

          Do you think I’ll hear big boots kicking in my door after midnight before my being whisked away to stand trial at the Old Bailey?
          :-)

          • yalensis says:

            Exile: Be sure to have a disguise and escape route ready in case English screws come for you in your Moscow lair! A priest hole and tunnel could come in handy.

            • Jen says:

              Yalensis: I like your suggestion of “priest hole”. Are you alluding to the Internet rumour that one Karol Wojtyla entered the Roman Catholic priesthood in order to escape questioning over whether as a sales rep for IG Farben he might have sold cyanide in one form or another to the German government in the early 1940s?

              Moscow Exile: If the priest hole option is closed off because you have a wife and children, perhaps applying for asylum in Ecuador might help? Someone could even draw a yellow circle around the route that takes you and the family from your Moscow home to Domodedovo airport to stop the British authorities from arresting you. Watch these videos to see how powerful the yellow circle is and how it stops British people from touching anything inside:

              • marknesop says:

                That’s amazing. Maybe they think the yellow circle is something the police put there, to mark evidence in an ongoing investigation, the way they draw the outline of a body on the pavement. Or maybe British people just don’t steal.

                A “Priest Hole” was an actual hole or place of concealment, sometimes more elaborate with a secret passage incorporated through which the priest could escape. Back when Merrie England was not so merrie for certain of its clergymen, notably Catholics, a ready-to-hand escape route was quite common.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                I remeber how many years ago somebody with a wad of £10 notes stood on London Bridge and tried to hand them out to passers-by. Very, very few accepted the offer of a free “tenner”. It was a TV-show stunt. I suppose people just thought that it was highly suspiscious behaviour handing out money like that and wanted nothing to do with it.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  As regards the possibility of my place of residence in Moscow being located by the British authorities, that would present no difficulty for them as it is registered with the British consul here. They advise all British citizens to do this, and dutiful British citizen that I am, I complied with their request.

                  However, I must tell you all this tale about what happened to me a couple of years after I had first arrived in the post-Soviet Evil Empire and when I was living in Kalingrad, Moscow Region (now Korolyov and not the former Königsberg).

                  At the time, I was a trustee of the Lancashire Miners’ Home, Blackpool, England – a sort of seaside sanatorium built in the 1920s for the recuperation of injured mineworkers. This building was the pride of the Lancashire Area of the National Union of Mineworkers and was built after years of weekly penny subscriptions from ordinary miners. After the miners’ strike 1984-85, and prior to the de-nationalisation of the remaining deep mines in the UK, the National Coal Board, re-named “British Coal”, claimed ownership of the Lancashire Miners’ Home because the pre-nationalisation coal companies had also contributed to the subscriptions for building the home. All this, of course, was part of the government’s post-strike plan of continuing the emasculation of the miners’ union by the seizure all of its assets. There was a long legal battle over this matter, which started after I had already gone into voluntary exile in Muscovy.

                  The legal argument came to a head and all trustees of the miners’ home were required to present themselves before an investigative committee or whatever. Lancashire NUM knew I was in Russia, but knew not where. It was necessary for them to appoint another trustee in my place so that all trustees could appear before this inquiry committee, but they could only do this if I died or tendered my resignation. So signals were sent out: find Moscow Exile! Not to kill him, I should add, but to ask him to write out a resignation from his trusteeship and send it off poste-haste to NUM HQ in Sheffield.

                  So one day – I remember it well: it was February 1995 and there was a raging blizzard as I tramped “home” to my one-room flat after having riidden out of Moscow on the “electrichka”, the electric suburban commuter train. As my frozen fingers fumbled with my key to open my flat door, I noticed that near the keyhole a small piece of paper had been stuck between the door jamb and the door. I took it out. It was tightly folded and there was something written on it in Russian. I carefully opened it and read: “Comrade P………! Please contact the NUM, England. This is urgent.”

                  Contrary to received opinion, the Comintern, it seems, was still alive and well in 1995!

          • marknesop says:

            You can always style yourself as a Russian oligarch, and hint that you might want to move back to the UK at some point in the future. Then you’ll be allowed to say anything you like, and there’s only one person in the whole UK who will jerk you up short. Stay in her good books, and you can lay it on as you like. The British government will probably say all your records were destroyed in a fire, and so there is no longer, unfortunately, any proof you signed anything such as you have described.

  8. cartman says:

    The New York Times criticizes Russian lawmakers for voting on each others’ behalf. They should have seen this first:

  9. Moscow Exile says:

    The Moscow Times reports how the Economist relentlessly continues its moral crusade against the Beast from the East: this month’s issue has on its cover a cartoon depicting hell, where President Putin is shown “floating along in a fiery river with Syrian President Bashar Assad, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the euro under the heading ‘A rough guide to Hell'”.

    The December 2012 Economist feature, which, I supppose, is intended to be humorous, is loosely based on Dante’s inferno and is actually entitled: “Hell: A very rough guide”.

    Abandon hope all ye who read it!
    :-)

  10. Moscow Exile says:

    Oh yes! And MT reports today that Navalny has been charged with fraud and money laundering.

    Tough!

    Better luck next time, McFaul and chums!

    Other outstanding news from Moscow: the world hasn’t ended here – yet!
    :-)

    • marknesop says:

      I see he’s still going to go with that silencing-the-opposition story, despite the demonstrable fact that the opposition has been the next thing to dead silent on its own. For the last few months the most aggressive action by the opposition has been that farcical “election” of the Coordinating Council, and although the papers tried to puff that up into a great moment in Russian history, they soon gave it up.

      It still sounds funnier when Boris Nemtsov says the police are throwing him in jail for one of his 31 demonstrations because the Kremlin is cracking down on dissent. But not much funnier. I’m sorry for Navalny’s wife and children, but he plainly doesn’t think he has done anything wrong. Since, according to the Anglosphere, he’s the hottest lawyer this side of the Urals, I guess we’ll find out.

      I thought that end-of-the-world thing was a fake. Now what am I going to do with 1,800 cans of creamed corn?

      • Moscow Exile says:

        End of World officially not happened!

        According to this report from MK, it’s already tomorrow (22nd December) in Kamchatka (you can see Sarah Pallin’s house from there) and so in Russia it’s now officially the end of the end of the world nonesense:

        Конец света официально не случился

        В Петропавловске-Камчатском – полночь, а значит, конец света официально можно назвать несостоявшимся! Жуткое предзнаменование, якобы оставленное
        индейцами майя, касалось именно 21 декабря. Однако тот факт, что в славном городе уже наступил следующий день – 22 декабря, как говорится, не может не радовать…

        [End of the world officially has not happened.
        In Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky it is midnight, so the end of the world can officially be said to have been a non-event! The eerie foreshadowing allegedly left by the Mayans concerned 21 December. However, the fact that tomorrow, December 22nd, has already arrived in that glorious city cannot be, as they say, all that bad…]

        • Moscow Exile says:

          In the video clip embedded in the above linked MK article, in answer to the question where they would like to be when the world ends, all the people questioned outside of 1905 St. metro station, Moscow said “at home” with wife, friends, relatives, children etc. One girl (blondinka) said she’d like to be on an island with family and friends. One newsseller and one man said it was a daft joke and no more.

          These are people who live in a society which, according to Western pundits, is undergoing disintegration.

          • marknesop says:

            Meanwhile, in the state of Michigan, 33 schools closed early; in part because of the prediction of the end of the world, but also because of a lot of chatter on social media about “going out with a bang”. In The Daily Beast, Megan McCardle argues that if it was drilled into people to run toward the shooter in a gun attack on unarmed young people, the killings would be less deadly because 8 – 12 unarmed people can overwhelm even someone with a very powerful weapon; this, she argues, would be more effective than a total ban on guns because that would be impossible to implement, and crazy people will always be able to get hold of a gun somewhere. Given the National Rifle Association’s customary reaction of upping the ante whenever there’s another mass shooting – the theory being, I suppose, that if you argue for even more gun freedom, the authorities will say, “Hell, we’re not doing that”, and things will go more or less back to where they were – I fully expect a campaign recommending that all teachers carry sidearms at all times, to protect children.

            These are people who live in a society which, according to western pundits, is the spearhead of freedom and democracy.

  11. Moscow Exile says:

    “Navalny charged immediately after V.V.P’s press conference” states Moskovsky Komsomolets:

    Братьям Алексею и Олегу Навальным предъявили обвинение в мошенничестве в особо крупном размере и легализации денежных средств, полученных преступным путем. В обвинении фигурируют и их мама с папой. Алексей Навальный заметил, что, похоже, следствие принялось за всю семью, и порадовался, что дети несовершеннолетние — пока не привлекают.

    [Brothers Alexey and Oleg Navalny were charged with large scale fraud and with laundering money that had been criminally acquired. Their mother and father also appear in the indictment. Alexei Navalny observed that it seemed the investigation had included his whole family and that he was glad that his children were still minors and had so far not attracted the attention of the investigators.]

    • yalensis says:

      In all the talk of family-based crookedness, one must take into account the fact that the Navalny family is connected in some mysterious way with the Gaidar family, as hinted at in Navalny’s requiem for Yegor Gaidar (from 3 years ago):

      http://navalny.livejournal.com/414357.html


      “Yegor Gaidar has passed away. I never had the opportunity to meet him in person. With Masha, however, we have long been friends at a family level. She knows my parents. She was always promising that she would introduce me to her papa some day. I am not a shy person, but I was intimidated by that possibility, to be honest.
      After all, this was GAIDAR. I was a fan of his during those romantic times of the establishment of the market economy. I argued to the point of hoarseness with anybody who was opposed to him…”

      Navalny’s hero-worship of Gaidar, his friendship with Masha Gaidar, the personal (and business?) ties that bind the Gaidar and Navalny families. These are basically entrepreneurial type families who fall into criminality. Navalny family probably would have gotten away with their various dodges, the moonshining, bogus businesses, overcharging, money laundering, and so on… yeah, would have gotten away with it, were it not for that damned kid L’osha with his big Scooby dog and his political ambitions.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        ROMANTIC times of the establishment of the market economy!!!!!

        There are MANY millions of Russians who would find it very difficult to describe those times of the unabated criminal pillage of the Russian economy under the guise of the implementation of free market reforms as ROMANTIC!

        I shouldn’t doubt, however, that the likes of Berezovsky, Abramovich, Khodorkovsky et al. not only found those times to be romantic but also highly stimulating, exciting and, not least of all, highly profitable.

        Those ROMANTIC times for the vast majority of Russian citizens were times of impoverishment, disilusionment and, very often, an early grave.

        What shits the likes of Navalany and his arse-wipe white-ribbonist colleagues are! Because the only thing that they fundamentally offer the Russian electorate is a return to those ROMANTIC times.

        Not unsurprisingly, that’s why they cannot get elected.

      • marknesop says:

        “…during those romantic times of the establishment of the market economy.”

        I think that’s a fairly broad hint of how a Navalnyite liberal government would govern. Welcome back, Anders Aslund!! Welcome back, come on in, Jeffrey Sachs, long time no see!! Say – do you think you could show us the secrets of western-style economic success?

        • kirill says:

          If only there was actual westernization and not yet more ideologically based theoretical experiments. Russia seems to be cursed with various western backed turds doing social-economic experiments on its soil. Ultimately these experiments are failures since they are run by fanatical nuts and not objective people without agendas.

          The west is going to have to lump it when it comes to Russia. Russians are not going to support any 1990s style witch doctor voodoo. And these “oppositionists” render themselves irrelevant the moment they try to make the 1990s seem like something they were not.

          So ten years from now we will have the same street demonstration theater with some Limonov style prat leader and his several hundred lemming supporters staging illegal blockages of streets. There will be no mass movement to back western-desired regime change.

          • Dear Yalensis,

            That is an extraordinarily revealing comment of Navalny’s you have found. If he thinks the 1990s were “romantic” then is it a wonder that most Russians won’t vote for him?

            By the way, it does seem odd if Navalny’s family and Maria Gaidar are such good friends that he never met her father.

  12. Moscow Exile says:

    And that should be “rather unsurprisingly” and not “not unsurprisingly”!

    These damned double negatives! I’ve been living in Russia too long!

    (For those of you unaware of the nuances of Russian grammar, you can get strings of negatives in the Russian tongue, e.g. Я не сказал ни одного слова никому ни о чем! (ya nye skazal nee odnovo slova neekomy nee o chom) – l didn’t say one word to anybody about anything! (literally: I did not say not one word not to anyone not about anything).

  13. Moscow Exile says:

    I’ve said it before, but this mind-set of Navalny and the rest I’ve met before. They who have it feel that they’ve missed out on the “good times”, that they graduated a trifle too late to take full advantage of the new, rapacious, no-holds-barred, unfettered robbery-capitalism that was already burgeoning when they hit town.

    “We’re the lost generation”, one said to me so forelornly 10 years ago. He was working in “futures” at the time and doing rather nicely, but not as “nicely” as Khodorkovsky, Berezovsky and Abramovich had done earlier. In fact, Khodorkovsky had started doing nicely when he was a Komsomol member and before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. And that’s why – really – deep down, they hate Putin: he put the blocks on the blatant criminality of the “romantic” Yeltsin years.

    And that’s why the likes of Latynina hates the proles, the “bydlo”, because they were too uneducated – or “stupid” from her point of view – to take advantage of the opportunities offered to them on the free, no-rules, market. In other words, they were too stupid to be clever criminals.

    It’s the same with Chirikova: she passes herself off as a tree hugging housewife, but she’s really a businesswoman; she and her husband run a tunnelling business, if I’m not mistaken. She is clearly contemptuous of the mob who were not smart enough, from her point of view, to raise capital and risk it in a business venture.

    All this is so typical of the bourgeois mind: the working class are idle and feckless; they waste their money on booze and fripperies, and are gulled by lying politicians – especially those on the left who promise them a workers’ paradise where work is minimal. It is only the bourgeois that really creates the wealth of a nation by risking their capital to create even more wealth. that’s why only they should have the franchise and only they should be electable to government office.

    Yeltsin and his Harvard advisors seemed to open up new horizons to the likes of Navalny – and the promise of fabulous wealth as well. And now such opportunities have gone, thanks to the machinations of the KGB/FSB and the skullduggery of Putin. Furthermore, Putin must be clearly opening doors for his pals and enrichening them as well as himself – after all, that’s what the “liberals” would most certainly do if they were in power: it’s only human nature to do so, isn’t it?

    • kirill says:

      Then these clowns should pack their bags and bugger off from Russia to their mythical promised land in the west. The heady days of freedom in the 1990s meant mafia wars and complete impunity for murder by the likes of Khodorkovsky. These Rand-tards fancy themselves ubmermenschen but they are just a bunch of parasites who lived off the wealth created by the commie USSR.

      At the end of the day it is the “proles” who are the backbone of the economy and the self-designated Royalty would be nothing without them. Anyone who exerts even a bit of effort can see this. The “proles” are the ones who buy the goods and services and they are the ones who make and deliver them. The precious owners are a dime a dozen who can be replaced any time.

    • marknesop says:

      “It is only the bourgeois that really creates the wealth of a nation by risking their capital to create even more wealth. that’s why only they should have the franchise and only they should be electable to government office.”

      Don’t look now, but that view is by no means restricted to crazy Russian liberals like Latynina and Chirikova. According to this columnist, a student at Brown University – a member of the Ivy League located in Providence, Rhode Island, universal suffrage is immoral, and the poor and shiftless of America have a disproportionate influence on the political process they failed to earn. Voting should be determined by tax bracket. He is apparently not joking.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        That’s exactly how right up until 1884 the franchise was determined in the so-called parliamentary democracy of the UK for the election of members of the “Mother of Parliaments” . If you were not a man of means, if you did not own property, you had no vote. And I mean “man”: women in the UK did not get the vote until 1918, and then they had to be no younger than 30.

        • We are now at last beginning to get a sense of what the latest case against Navalny is about. Unfortunately the one report about the case I have read (on Itar Tass) was so badly translated (obviously by someone who does not understand the case or legal questions) that a lot is still unclear. However from what I can understand it seems that Navalny’s brother Oleg who has some sort of position in the Russian post service was able to divert a delivery contract with a foreign based (but possibly Russian owned?) company to a family company partly owned and controlled by Oleg but also by Navalny himself. This company simply did not have the means to carry out the contract (something which Oleg knew when he arranged the contract) and the deliivery was actually carried out by an entirely different company. Navalny’s company nonetheless charged for this work which it did not do, the charge being much higher than would have been the case if the contract had been made directly with the company that actually made the delivery.

          The money laundering aspect of the case is different. It seems that Navalny and his brother simply appropriated for their own use the money that was paid to their company for this contract and which properly speaking belongs to the company.

          That at least is what I can understand of the claim. As I said I am basing it on a rather confused account from a poorly translated and rather confusing Itar Tass report. If anybody has any further information or if I have got the facts wrong I would be very grateful for any further information or correction.

          A few preliminary points based on the assumption that the above summary is at least broadly right:

          1. The money laundering charge reflects what unfortunately is a common practice in Russia. In my experience many Russians who own companies have only the haziest understanding of the fact that money their company makes does not belong to them but to the company and can only legally be taken out of the company as a share dividend or by way of director’s salary, which in both cases needs the company’s formal approval. Many, many Russian businessmen make this mistake and Navalny would hardly be the first to make it. The one thing I would say is that Navalny is of course a lawyer and one moreover who has studied in the US so one would expect him to know better. Still, unless there were minority shareholders in the company who were cheated or if the appropriation of the profit affected the company’s tax liability (which it might have done) I don’t think this part of the case is very serious;

          2. The substance of the case will depend on whether Navalny and his brother can show that there was a valid subcontract between Navalny’s company and the company that actually carried out the delivery. There is also the question of what if anything Oleg disclosed to the client about this transaction and whether he disclosed that he had an interest in the company with which the contract was made. There is also the issue of whether this chain of transactions and Oleg’s conduct (which was obviously not at arm’s length) breached the postal service’s internal rules, which I strongly suspect they did.

          Obviously this is hardly a fraud on the scale of those of Khodorkovsky or Berezovsky or of the one in the Defence Ministry case. However there is a prima facie case. It does not seem to be as strong as the KirovLes case. However I would not go so far as to say that there is no case at all. On the face of it the main defendant in this case is not Navalny but his brother.

          The one aspect of this case that does make me uneasy is that charges are apparently being brought against Navalny’s parents as well, presumably because they also had an interest in the company. Unless they were actively involved in these transactions that does seem to me vindictive and unfair (if it is true).

          Three further points:

          1. Of the three cases against Navalny, I have always felt that the weakest case is the one involving the Urzhum distillery. It is not at all clear to me how Navalny in his capacity as Belykh’s pro bono (legal?) adviser could have rigged the privatisation of the distillery in anybody’s favour least of all his own. Also I don’t read the email exchange between Navalny and Belykh as any sort of confirmation or admission that there was some conspiracy between them to make money illegally from the privatisation of the distillery. I think this exchange has been over analysed and taken too literally. On balance it reads to me like a crude threat by Navalny to Belykh about something Navalny doesn’t know very much about and which only succeeded in provoking Belykh and making him angry. Of course I may be completely wrong. Time will tell;

          2. Anatoly a short while ago expressed surprise that people are so hostile to Navalny. I don’t think the reasons for this are so difficult to see. Briefly:

          (1) A lot of people must be put off by Navalny’s sheer arrogance and his assumption of an attitude of superiority (moral and otherwise) over others. Arrogance is a very unattractive character trait and is guaranteed to make enemies. One gets the impression that quite a lot of people even within the white ribbon opposition personally dislike Navalny (remember Yalensis’s translation of Nemtsov’s elliptical comment about Navalny being a “fabricated” person) and I am sure that his arrogance is the reason for this;

          (2) whether people want to admit to the fact or not there is no doubt that for a short time Navalny frightened people. Navalny was someone who was briefly presented (and who presented himself) as the brilliant leader of the opposition, a sort of liberal Lenin, who had his finger on the nation’s pulse and who was going to lead the opposition to victory and who would sweep Putin and the Russian government away and inaugurate the Russian Liberal Millenium. Not surprisingly many people who remember the catastrophe of the 1990s were frightened by all this especially as it seemed for a time to be becoming true. Even I who never took the protest movement seriously and who never believed it posed any sort of threat to Putin or to the Russian government nonetheless thought as recently as a year ago that there was more to Navalny than has turned out to be the case. It is natural for people to dislike those they fear and in the case of someone as arrogant as Navalny it is all but inevitable;

          3. On Anatoly’s further point about whether the outcry in the event of Navalny’s conviction will surpass that following Khodorkovky’s, if the case against Navalny had happened a year ago that would no doubt have been true. My own feeling is that Navalny’s star has faded so much that that is unlikely to be the case now. It is striking how little interest the western media has shown in his case. Obviously there will be an outcry but since Navalny is no longer seen even in the west as Russia’s Mandela I rather doubt it will be very intense or will last for very long. Basically people are too disappointed in him, and because of their disappointment too angry with him, to feel sorry for him. Certainly I don’t think any reaction will be anything like as strong as was the one during the Pussy Riot case, which because of the “culture war” aspect did touch in the west on a popular nerve. Once the fuss dies down I suspect Navalny’s conviction will simply be added to the long and tiresome inventory of confected “facts” western critics regurgitate when they criticise Putin and Russia. In a sense that will be testimony to Navalny’s lack of importance. Of course I could be wrong but in this case I rather doubt it..

          • marknesop says:

            I am sure you are correct and that a lot of Russian business leaders simply appropriate company proceeds for their own use. However, they cannot be charged under a foreign law which has no jurisdiction in Russia, so it seems clear that the practice is illegal in Russia as well. Nobody – let alone a trained attorney – who is the head or nominal head of a company has any business running it if he or she has only the haziest understanding of what is legal and what is not legal. It’s hard to imagine nobody has ever been charged with the same crime Navalny is being charged with, and unless the matter was settled out of court there must be precedent and case law in the matter. I am sure he is not going to plead ignorance, but nobody else who has risen to head of a company, even if it’s a small one, should be unaware that such a practice is unethical at the very least.

            • “However, they cannot be charged under a foreign law which has no jurisdiction in Russia”.

              That is exactly correct. One of the points no one has made about the Magnitsky law is that it is actually insane. The US Congress and the US government (which are not courts) have appropriated to themselves the right to say whether a Russian is innocent or guilty of a crime committed against Russians in Russia. There is no logical point at which this absurdity ends. In legal theory the US Congress and the US government might just as well now say that they give themselves the right to pronounce which Russians commit shoplifting in Moscow. Leos has done an utterly brilliant post on his blog in which he has set out the Magnitsky law in all its technicolour lunacy.

              Whatever one may think of the new Dima Yakovlev law at least the Duma has had the sense to link the sanctions it imposes on US officials who mistreat Russians and who Russia therefore has a duty to protect. I understand why some Russians might be unhappy with aspects of this law but it has none of the megalomania the Magnitsky law has.

  14. R.C. says:

    More on Syria:

    http://news.antiwar.com/2012/12/21/syrian-rebels-set-up-religious-police-around-aleppo/

    This simply makes no sense to me. Why would NATO want to overthrow Assad for this? Since US politicians are always crying and complaining about Israel’s security, how for logic’s sake will this make israel more secure if Assad is overthrown by a hoard of medieval barbarians who’ll likely make getting rid of Israel a priority?–and right on Israel’s border to boot! This whole war against Assad make no sense to me whatsoever. The NATO nations can’t possibly be serious about Syria turning into anything remotely resembling a Democracy if they should get rid of Assad.

    And this:

    http://news.antiwar.com/2012/12/21/rebels-attack-civilian-plane-in-aleppo-vow-more-strikes/

    Firing at civilian airliners!?!?

    Yet, the UN nor any American politician will never refer to this as “terrorism” since the thugs are being armed by them. “Terrorism” much like “anti-semitism” are terms which have become so propagandized, that they’ve pretty much lost their efficacy. The way both words are selectively employed by the west is shameful —of course, it naturally all changes if the brutal acts are directed at them. Can anyone imagine the outrage if extremist were firing at airliners taking off at LAX or JFK?

    What a disgrace.

    • Misha says:

      A suspiciously worded piece that might have some truth to it:

      http://www.dnaindia.com/world/report_moscow-admits-that-assad-s-time-is-up-as-it-backs-handover-plan_1780525

      —————-

      Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had this to say:

      http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_world/view/1244038/1/.html

      http://en.rian.ru/russia/20121221/178312101.html

      There would appear to be no great need for the Russian Foreign Ministry to give another press conference rebuttal, along the lines of what was recently done in an apparent answer to a remark made by the Sate Department’s Victoria Nuland.

      —————-

      Look who is uncritically highlighting the reported comments about the Russian position on Assad’s future:

      http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4323001,00.html

      —————-

      A more detailed accounting of what Russian officialdom have recently said on Syria:

      http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/world/putin-meets-with-eu-restates-syria-stance-667385/

      Moscow isn’t thrilled with Assad, while having good reason to question what Syria might become with his getting overthrown.

      —————-

      A US foreign policy establishment realist piece supporting Western cooperation with Russia on Syria:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/22/opinion/to-save-syria-america-needs-russias-help.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0

      Regarding this piece, Putin seems to be saying that Russia isn’t committed to Assad. There’s nothing substantially new about the Russian stance on Syria. Roughly a month or so ago, Sergey Lavrov (on Charlie Rose) was quite negative in his comments about Assad.

      The above NYT article has this line comes which across as perhaps having an obligatory aspect to it:

      “Russia may seem an unsavory partner. And Moscow’s motivations for a negotiated transition are hardly altruistic: maintaining military and commercial contacts in Syria, winning prestige by being part of the solution to a major international crisis and avoiding domestic fallout from violence in a country that is home to roughly 30,000 Russian citizens would all benefit the Kremlin.”

      ****

      There’s good reason to question elements of the anti-Syrian government opposition and the the immediate downfall of Assad.

      • marknesop says:

        I doubt very much Putin really wants to see Assad go, and he has perfect deniability so long as he continues to speak through an interpreter, just as his western counterparts can claim misunderstanding when they say “Putin said we should just finish the job now – send in the bombers!!” The issue has focused on Assad the man, and he really is not that important although he is symbolic of a leader NATO has decided to depose for no particular reason other than that he is in the way of its agenda. What is important is what happens to Syria afterward, and it is this that Putin sees with perfect clarity. I daresay the west hopes it will settle down and in the medium term become a client for western arms, but a plan for post-Assad Syria – despite all the breast-beating – is conspicuous by its absence. Western NGO’s would not last 5 minutes, just like there are none (to the best of my knowledge) in Libya, and the plan is to set up some puppet transitional council, but for all intents and purposes to simply turn it over to the successful rebels. It will promptly get the Libya treatment, a large portion of its citizens will become fleeing refugees, and the remainder will live in a smoldering cauldron of sectarian and theocratic violence.

        I’m damned if I can see why the west is doing this, either, because it is such a big fuck-up that it can no longer be papered over; even the normally fawning press is beginning to ask puzzled questions. Perhaps they want another area which will represent an existential threat to the west and which will necessitate a large regional war to put right, but in such a case it would be hard to escape the conclusion that it had prepared the ground by creating the enemy itself. But there can be no claim to rationality here; putting more and more oil-producing real estate under the control of backward short-tempered religious freaks only strengthens Russia’s hand as energy producer, as the price goes up and up.

        Also clear is that, for reasons introduced in RC’s comment, Assad is exactly the sort of leader the west – 10 years ago – would have sent in its troops to support, in order to prevent his being deposed by internal rebellion.

        • It seems that what we are seeing here is the usual falsification of Russian policy. Right from the outset of the Syrian conflict Russia has said that (1) it does not back Assad (2) the conflict in Syria should be solved internally by negotiations between the Syrians (3) that it is not Russia’s job to tell Syrians who their leader should be and specifically that it is not Russia’s job to tell Assad whether to go or stay and (4) that Russia resolutely opposes any external interference in Syria and will block any Resolution in the Security Council that purports to authorise such interference which would be violate international law.

          That policy was set out as long ago as Spring 2011. I can clearly remember Medvedev who was then President and Lavrov patiently explaining the policy to uncomprehending ears and saying very clearly that Russia is not an ally or supporter of Assad. Whenever this fact is explained you can rely on western governments and the western media to misinterpret or misrepresent these explanations as a sign that Russia is “abandoning” Assad. This has happened so often over the last two years that I have long since lost count.

          Putin during his press conference said absolutely nothing new. He merely restated what has been Russian (and Chinese) policy all along. With dreary predictability his words have again been misrepresented in the west as a sign that Russia is “abandoning” Assad and we again have the predictable and entirely wrong newspaper gossip that Misha has discovered of “secret talks” between the US and Russia to “remove” Assad. As for the Dmitri Simes article, if one examines it closely whilst it appears to call for talks between the US and Russia over Syria in reality the only purpose of these “talks” would be to arrange for Russia to do the US’s job by “removing” Assad.

          What those of us who oppose western policy in Syria need to make clear is that there is a very simple route to peace in Syria, which was outlined in the original Arab League peace plan of a year ago, in Kofi Annan’s original peace and in the Geneva agreement brokered by Kofi Annan a few months. This is for there to be negotiations without preconditions between the parties with a view to a settlement. Ever since the summer of 2011 Assad has agreed to this. It has not happened because the US, its allies and the rebels refuse to negotiate without preconditions but instead insist that Assad must first go. By insisting that these negotiations can only take place after Assad goes the US and its allies nullify the whole point of negotiations and in effect are preventing the negotiations from taking place. It is they therefore who have chosen a military solution and who are responsible for the continuation and escalation of the war. It is they therefore who by insisting on fighting to the last Syrian are responsible for the thousands of deaths and injuries and the enormous material damage done to that country.

          On a number of further points made here:

          1. I get the impression that Russian arms deliveries to Syria all but ended many months ago. Syria’s coasts are to all intents and purposes under blockade and it would be very difficult for Russia to ship weapons to Syria by sea in large quantities. Turkey’s airspace is obviously closed for that purpose. Weapons could be sent by air through Central Asia and over Iran and Iraq but it would be a circuitous and complicated route and one wonders whether the exercise would be worthwhile. A point that is often missed is that Syria was already a very heavily armed country before the conflict began so it is difficult to see how adding to what is already a very large arsenal of weapons is going to change anything on the ground. By contrast there is no doubt that Russia is providing a substantial and increasing amount of economic assistance to Syria and I have no doubt that it is also behind the scenes giving Syria quite a lot of intelligence assistance. That together with Russia’s diplomatic support is more than enough.

          2. Mark has questioned why Iran has not been providing military help to Syria. In fact there have been several reports of secret flights by Iranian IL 76 cargo aircraft that have supposedly been supplying weapons to Syria by overflying Iraq. The US has supposedly put heavy pressure on the Al Maliki government in Iraq (which supports Syria) to stop these flights but without success, It may be that the so far unsuccessful rebel attempts to blockade or capture Damascus and Aleppo airports are intended to prevent these flights. Frankly I can’t believe that these flights (if they are taking place) are supplying weapons in sufficient quantity to make much difference to the course of the conflict.

          3. I don’t what the truth of the Engel story is but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the expressions of skepticism about it are true. Contrast however the amount of attention the western media has given the Engel story with the almost complete absence of western media coverage for the case of the young Ukrainian woman journalist the rebels have captured and whom they are threatening to kill.

        • Misha says:

          Putin is willing to Assad leave, provided the successor is someone who isn’t negative against Russian interests, while having a good potential to not get replaced by someone who goes opposite of Russian interests.

        • Misha says:

          This piece summarizes Putin’s views on Syria and Assad:

          http://en.rian.ru/russia/20121220/178292216.html

    • yalensis says:

      Dear R.C.: Thanks again for interesting links.
      As to NATO’s motivation, it seems pretty clear that they are intent in eliminating the “Shiite arc” in the Middle East and consolidating the entire region under fundamentalist Sunni regimes allied with Saudi Arabia. This could only be accomplished by total genocide of the various Shiite populations, except in Iraq, where the Shiite government is allied to U.S.
      This is clearly NATO’s goal, and they are pursuing it relentlessly.
      NATO does not see the resulting “Muslim Brotherhood” type regimes as a threat to Israel, and they are probably right about this. Islamists seem to get along okay with Israel, I don’t think the Saudi/bin Laden fundamentalist types have ever attacked Israel, despite some occasional rhetoric. The only attacks against Israel, terrorist or otherwise, have come from either Palestinian nationalist groups like Hamas, or from Shiite militias like Hezbollah.
      Therefore, I believe that America/NATO are not deluded or stupid, and are pursuing a RATIONAL self-interest in the Middle East. Hence, journalistic exposes of how rotten and backward the rebels are don’t really affect them or cause them to question their choices. Although, to be sure, the Benghazi attack was a kind of blowback, just like 9/11, but I guess the grand poobahs of western strategy have taken those incidents into account and decided they can live with that level of risk, i.e., accepting a few spectacular terrorist attacks from crazy jihadists in return for the prize of a complete re-colonization of the Middle East.

      • kirill says:

        In spite of their smart-assed policy these NATO kooks are ultimately wasting their time. There is nothing of worth in the Middle East aside from the oil and that oil is basically on its last legs. When Saudi Arabia goes it will be all over and its premier field, Ghawar, is old and very close to the depletion point where wells extract water instead of oil. There was lots of talk about 12 million barrels per day of Iraqi oil production, but that has failed to materialize and is a highly dubious figure given that Iraq never produced more than 4 million barrels per day. And we are talking about the same old oil fields and not some vast untapped reservoir.

        It should be remembered that the USA has planted itself in the Middle East to control Europe, Japan and many other countries via the oil valve. China has become a net importer since the 1990s and this means it is, like Japan, open to Washington’s manipulation. But the era of Middle Eastern oil is coming to an end and this century is not likely to be “The New American” one.

        • Dear Yalensis,

          I have to say that on this I come down on the side of RC and Kirill. US policy in Syria may be logical but I cannot see that it is rational. Presumably what the US wants in the Middle East is (1) an uninterrupted flow of oil and (2) security for Israel. Surely the best way to achieve both objectives is for the US to throw its weight behind efforts to achieve a broad, comprehensive and just peace agreement between Israel and the Arabs. Instead what the US is doing is giving Israel carte blanche to pursue a relentlessly expansionist policy that is clearly aimed at consolidating exclusive Israeli control over the entire territory of the former British Mandate of Palestine whilst doing everything in its power to overthrow those Arab governments that stand in Israel’s way. A more certain way to perpetuate conflict in the region it would be difficult to imagine. In the meantime key US allies like Jordan and Turkey are becoming increasingly threatened.

          It all reminds me strongly of US policy towards Afghanistan in the 1980s. That too doubtless seemed “rational” at the time to its makers, though it is difficult to see what actual interests the US had in Afghanistan at the time. 30 years later and a decade after 9/11, with the US bogged down in a losing war in Afghanistan that has cost it tens of billions of dollars, how “rational” does that policy look?

          • yalensis says:

            Dear Alexander: Good points, but by “rational” I don’t mean rational from the POV of a normal mind! American elites have their own conquistador type logic. I guess you could call it Realpolitik. I was just making the point that it is hopeless to try to reason with NATO imperialists along the lines of “Don’t put Islamists in power, because they’re rotten people who will abuse women.” They won’t listen to that, because they don’t care. I suppose they might be more open to kirill’s argument that the oil is drying up anyway, so why bother spending all that $$$ to conquer a barren wasteland? I wasn’t aware of that fact (that the oil is drying up), but I sure hope kirill is right about that. (The oil is more of a curse than a blessing.)

            • Dear Yalensis,

              I understand you and now that you have explained it I agree with you. Certainly it is a mistake to think that these people can be (1) reasoned with (2) are stupid and (3) don’t know what they are doing. When I was a court official I had to meet some extremely dangerous people including several psychopaths and killers. I qiuickly learnt that it is perfectly possible to be highly intelligent and completely mad at one and the same time and that madness is immune to reason but follows its own logic.

            • kirill says:

              When the end comes it will be very rapid. The analogue field for Ghawar is the Yibal field in Yemen. It does not matter how much horizontal maximal contact well technology they threw at it. The Yibal field “dried up” in a matter of months. Once the oil to water ratio approaches about 55% you have an emulsion phase change. Instead of oil flowing through the sedimentary rock pores you have water flowing and the oil trapped in the rock. Ghawar is 70 years old and from the 3rd party analysis of its state it is nearing its end (see “Twilight in the Desert” by Matt Simmons).

              Libya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, etc. do not have any new reserves. Domestic consumption is increasing so there is less and less net export potential. The gravy train is coming to an end for both Washington and its client states in the Middle East.

              There is evidence that Dick “Darth Vader” Cheney knew about the sorry state of the world’s oil reserves. So adventures like Iraq were indeed blood for oil in a short term grab the last drops sort of way. If the establishment running the show in the west is fully aware of the looming energy crisis then that could explain the hate propaganda against Russia. Khodorkovsky once claimed that Russia deliberately misleads the world on its oil reserves. It is true that they are official secrets and it is also true that the reserve estimates often thrown around by various media are just plain silly. Supposedly Russia has the same amount of reserves as Kuwait (60 billion barrels). This is just nonsense since Russia produces 10 million barrels per day while Kuwait with its much easier-to-exploit petroleum geology never went above 2.7 million barrels per day. So grabbing Russian resources is not excluded as one of the plans of western deciders.

              • cartman says:

                Russia’s reserves are always understated since it has been a government secret since Soviet times. I think the oil off Sakhalin was discovered in the 60s or 70s, but Chevron or someone gets credit for it because Yeltsin sold it off for next to nothing (although I am sure he personally benefited from the sale).

  15. Moscow Exile says:

    The case is tightening against Serdyukov. According to this article in today’s Komsomolskaya Pravda, one of those now being held on remand, former chief of the legal services company “Mira”, Dmitri Mityaev, a “key figure” in the case being made against the former Minister of Defence, has promised to “sing” to the Investigative Committee if he is given bail.

  16. yalensis says:

    Richard Engel recounts his Syrian kidnapping “ordeal”. Personally, it sounds like bullshit to me. I’m not a body-language expert, but it seems to me like the guy is really struggling through this and lying through his teeth.
    At 4:10 minutes in, Rachel inadvertently catches Richard in some bullshit when he declares that a guy was shot right next to him, and she asks the normal journalistic question, “Did you actually see this happen?” Well, no, he had duct tape over his eyes, so he couldn’t see anything… but he’s pretty sure it happened. For a journalist this is amateur hour, he should know better than to make unqualified assertions. “And then they were dragging the body away later… which we didn’t see, but we KNEW it was happening.” Yeah, right…
    “The rebel commander said: Kill me. These are innocent journalists. Let them go. Kill me instead.” O, what a noble rebel commander is he! He’s a regular Sydney Carton, that guy.
    Another thing that doesn’t pass the smell test: When Richard claims that his captors didn’t know that he and his crew understand Arabic (4:53), so here they are chatting freely in front of them in Arabic, that’s how Richard knows about their “shabiha” and Hezbollah connections, and the fact that the kidnappers are itching to kill 2 of the hostages.
    Now, wait a minute… Richard stated earlier that they were led into the ambush, that implies the kidnappers knew exactly who they were. Hence, the kidnappers must have known that this was the famous TV reporter Richard Engel who is FLUENT IN ARABIC!
    If Rachel were a better journalist, she could have pursued these lines of questioning and exposed this whole bullshit then and there. .

    http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/heather/richard-engel-recounts-his-harrowing-kidna

    • Misha says:

      No surprise.

      Rachel is an English language mass media preferred liberal – not to be confused with with those left of center journos (as well as some others), who’ve been considerably more thought provoking, when it comes to challenging establishment preferences.

      Suddenly reminded of the greater number of times that Christopher Hitchens appeared on major TV news networks over Alexander Cockburn.

    • marknesop says:

      Really, if readers feel anything, it should be disgust and insult at the continued clumsy attempts to “spin” them. “I don’t understand – it’s always worked before!!” People are, sadly, no brighter than they were last year, but when you see the same formulaic image-management techniques used over and over, the modus operandi can’t help becoming a little threadbare. You can almost see Oz at the panel now, pulling the levers. I reiterate, people should feel insulted that the spin doctors apparently believe them to be that dumb, such bydlo.

      I’m sure there still are plenty of believers who buy the spin lock, stock and barrel, but the dissent and questions are getting louder. In any sensible political system this would mean “Back off!! You’ve gone too far””. In this one, it means “redouble your efforts, or all is lost”.

    • R.C. says:

      To me, Engels story is akin to Colin Powell at the UN in 2003 when he played the audio recording supposedly of two Iraqi generals over the phone discussing where to move the WMD. I thought it was awfully “accomodating” that the generals happened to be “discussing” everything the war-makers wanted to hear – which sort of reminds me of Engels rabble about Shabiha, Iran & Hezebollah. It was nonsense, it sounded like nonsense & it ultimately was (the entrie Arab delegation were laughing at the patently bogus Arabic accents in the recording, but the US public and media fell for it – hook, line & sinker — to the degree that a few columnists actually blasted the Arabs for laughing at the “powerful” recording which “proved” Hussein was up to no good). I may’ve been mistaken in believing that Engel was an innocent dupe, because if he is indeed lying (or even embellishing for that matter) – which appears to be the case, then he is more likely an active participant in the charade.

      • yalensis says:

        Maybe his camera crew was just played for suckers, but I think Engels himself was in on the hoax.
        Watching his performance in that Rachel Maddow interview (playing the role of a brave, but slightly traumatized innocent), by the gods, he isn’t even a very good actor!
        So, who recruited him for this Danny-Boy Production? I don’t know, could it be the CIA???
        Why would Engels risk his career as a journalist to spin this bullshit? I have no idea. Maybe because he’s Jewish, and he believes Assad’s overthrow would be good for Israel? Or maybe he doesn’t give a shit about Israel, but he’s just doing this to help his family? His wiki entry says his family is connected with Goldman Sachs. I don’t know if Goldman is involved in Syria, but I wouldn’t be surprised. They sure as hell were knee deep in the Libya war: Gaddafi’s murder saved Goldman from having to sell (at bargain prices) a huge chunk of their shares to the Libyan government, as part of a legal settlement.

  17. Does anybody have any thoughts about John Kerry’s appointment as Secretary of State? On the one hand he is entirely a figure of the US establishment (his father was for a time actually a diplomat) and he completely qualifies as US aristocracy. His family were friendly to the Kennedys and he was on easy speaking terms with President John Kennedy when he was a boy. I believe there is even a picture of the two of them fishing or boating together. If you read his lifestory he comes across as someone who effortlessly floated up. He is also if you combine his own immense personal fortune with the billionaire fortune of his wife probably the richest man to hold government office in US history.

    Against that he does have some knowledge of the world and he does not come across as a fanatic. He has also served in the military and despite Karl Rove’s disgraceful trashing of his reputation he appears to have fought bravely in Vietnam. I may be wrong but I tend to think that someone who has actually served in the military and who has actual combat experience is someone who is intrinsically less likely to want to play soldiers in the way enthusiastic amateurs like Bush II, Donald Rumsfeld, Obama, Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice like to do.

    I am not getting my hopes up. Still he cannot be as bad as Hillary Clinton or Susan Rice (though I am afraid there are rumours circulating that Obama intends to make Susan Rice his National Security Adviser).

    • Misha says:

      All tyhings considered, I think he’s a better choice than S. Rice, as well as Albright, Holbrooke and H. Clinton.

      The major factor in this opinion concerns diplomatic etiquette.

      That said, Kerry is part of the Democratic Party foreign policy establishment. He accused Bush of being too soft on Russia, when the two were running against each other for the US presidency.

      Before becoming president, JFK earlier accused the Repubs of being soft on the Soviets. After the Cuban missile crisis, JFK exhubited a willingness to take a less confrontational and arguably more reasoned approach to the Soviet Union.

      IMO, when compared to the likes of Albright, S. Rice, H. Clinton and Holbrooke: Kerry seems to have a greater potential for being less confrontational and reasoned towards post-Soviet Russia.

      Post-Soviet Russia should be confused with the USSR.

    • apc27 says:

      Some months ago, the BBC, I think, featured a short series of programs on Russia. These programs mainly consisted of a series of interviews with foreign officials who dealt with Russia and Putin. In one of those programs, Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State at the time, described how she and Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense, made an honest effort to reach a compromise with Putin’s administration and finally solve the issue of the missile defense shield. Russians were prepared to abandon their opposition and Rice and Gates were prepared to accommodate their concerns by letting their officers on those installations and doing several other things to prove to the Russians that the system really wasn’t deployed against them.

      The deal was practically complete. Both sides were in a verbal agreement on all the terms, but when it was put into writing… something happened in the shadowy terms of the State Department. Judging by the way Comdoleezza Rice described it, the State’s Department own Secretary AND the Secretary of Defense received quiet a spanking from their own State Department (their supposed subordinates). They reneged on the deal, the agreement collapsed and the missile defense problem became even more intractable than before.

      Rice and Gates are Republicans and at the time they served a Republican President. Given how much more difficult it would be for Kerry to even offer such a deal, not to mention push it through, I really doubt that him being a Secretary of State would really make much of a difference, apart from a few light rhetorical touches.

      Its annoying, but it seems that treating Russia as an inferior partner is a default attitude in American political and diplomatic circles. A competent and committed Secretary of State could correct these attitudes and establish a new equilibrium, but it will cost him. Do you see Kerry, or anyone else for that matter, willing to spend political capital on improving American relations with Russia (or at the very least understanding that doing so would be in America’s own interest)?

      • Misha says:

        There’s hope.

        Recall Obama going after Romney for the remarks the latter made about Russia.

        Chris Matthews, (who is Democratic Party establishment) has echoed a similar tune.

        There’re some others who cling more to negative images.

  18. kirill says:

    http://en.rian.ru/world/20121223/178337948.html

    Wow. This brazen meddling in Russian affairs in this case is breathtaking. It also shows the severe mental deficiency of those signing and putting up this petition. Since when was an adoption ban a “violation of human rights” similar to the alleged Magnitsky case?

    • Dear Kirill,

      If I was the Russian Foreign Ministry I would be pleased with this petition: (1) it shows that the Dima Yakovlev law has touched a raw nerve and (2) by threatening Russian lawmakers on an issue that is wholly unconnected to human rights and over which the Duma has undoubted jurisdiction it exposes the Magnitsky law for what it actually is – not a law about human rights but a device to meddle in Russia’s internal affairs and in Russian political and legislative processes.

  19. Moscow Exile says:

    In today’s UK “Independent”, owned by Alexander Yevgenievich Lebedev. (Note: The picture top left in the linked Wiki article shows Lebedev at Chatham House. For “Chatham House” read “far-right think-tank”.)

    1). Russians scoff at Putin’s anti-corruption programme.

    A Washinton Post article faithfully reprinted by Lebedev’s rag. Check out the comments!

    2). Chechnya: Russia closes paper after journalists laugh at Vladimir Putin, an article listed in the Europe section of the World News section of Lebedev’s Independent. The subheading states:

    “A Chechen newspaper has been closed down just hours after its editor-in-chief embarrassed the region’s Kremlin-backed leader while questioning Russian President Vladimir Putin”.

    Go to the article itself and you find that it is not “Russia”, aka V.V.Putin, that has ordered the newspaper shutdown but Ramzan Kadyrov, “the head of the Chechen Republic, who announced later that the newspaper would be closed down” after journalists had apparently laughed at what they believed to be a sarcastic opening statement made by a journalist colleague when posing a question to the Russian president.

    No source given for the story either.

    And this rag calls itself a newspaper!

    Several months ago I closed all my links to the odious Guardian, having become sick and tired of reading endless diatribes in that “newspaper” concerning Russia and penned by Harding, Elder and others.

    The so-called Independent is now going to suffer the same fate as the Guardian.

    I have long found it hard to find any news or objective analysis of world events in these “newspapers”: they are clearly propaganda organs for … whom?

    • Misha says:

      The aforementioned Chechnya matter relates to how some champion greater autonomy over centralization. The situation is more complex.

      In the US, the idea of “states rights” came to essentially mean a given state having a greater right to be repressive.

      Somewhat similarly, note the areas in post-Soviet Russia considered the most autonomous from Moscow, while being thought of as the most authoritarian of Russian republics (Chechnya, Kalmykia and if I’m not mistaken Tatarstan, with the latter not being as bad as the other two).

  20. Carlton says:

    It is also the center of all other Divine Powers.

    The media discourages the use of the “N” word, but blacks can freely toss around the insulting label of “cracker”.
    Every 10 meters in both directions there is a stronger, pathogenic grid line.

  21. Moscow Exile says:

    Жерар Депардье стал русским гражданином!

    Gerard Depardieu has become a Russian citizen.

    What price freedom?
    :-)

  22. Moscow Exile says:

    The French always have that je ne sais quoi as regards class!

  23. Moscow Exile says:

    The response of a UK Independent reader on learning that Depardieu has taken Russian citizenship:

    “I think I’d rather pay tax than live in Russia…corruption, dictatorship in all but name, no consistent or effective rule of law, gun crime, terrorism, limited free press, rubbish weather, hopeless health care. lousy food, streets full of alchis [sic], HIV, young beautiful women who turn into sacks of potatoes in their forties,,,Jeez”

    I’m willing to bet he’s never been to Russia in his life.

    And the response of another reader:

    “Well he is going to be a citizen of one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Seems appropriate, won’t be watching any more of his movies”.

    And another:

    “He’s a disgrace – personal friend of Putin – the French don’t want Depardieu anyway”

    Semi-literate – how shal I put it – bydlo?

    • marknesop says:

      Rubbish weather??? Somebody from Britain theorized that Depardieu will suffer from shitty weather?? Must have come from a commenter who lives in a sealed pod underground.

  24. jack says:

    You suck !! ASS!!

  25. Pingback: Da Russophile’s Predictions For 2013

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