In the up-is-down Orwellian bizarro world of La Russophobe, the references say what she thinks they say. We’ve spoken before about her tendency to turn an essentially positive story into a nosediving negative one, but she has – sadly – rolled out another example that’s simply too stinky to ignore.
Peep this, brothers and sisters. The defense will prove that the underpinnings of this story rest upon a streak of bullshit so wide and so brown that it is like unto the Massachusetts Turnpike of bullshit, if you can imagine it. If not for the extraordinary binding properties of bullshit, it would collapse under its own weight, and that’s just what we’re about to make happen.
Boy, right off the mark the foolishness starts – in the very first line, we’re led to believe the spike in bread prices is due to the soaring price of grain, which in turn is because of the “badly bungled agriculture policies” of Vladimir Putin!! In the first place, Mr. Putin is not responsible for the setting and oversight of national agricultural policy; those fall under the Agricultural Minister, who is Yelena Skrynnik. Next…wait a second; are there any farmers here? You; yes, you, in the checked shirt, with the beard. What’s the cause of the shortfall in this year’s grain harvest in Russia? That’s right – the worst drought in recorded history! Say; this same reference says Australia’s wheat crop was damaged by a plague of locusts – perhaps there’s some way that could be blamed on Putin, too! Who’s blaming the Russian wheat shortage on Putin? Not the Moscow Times, which is the reference for the La Russophobe “editorial”. In fact, the reference is unambiguous that the Prime Minister is taking action against “Dishonest market participants” who are not acting “within the boundaries of law”. The editorial’s implication that Putin might “round up and shoot the evil capitalist millers and bakers who dared pay attention to market reality” is not only another brick in the Turnpike of Bullshit, it is a specific endorsement by this author of profiteering at the expense of others’ misery. The Moscow Times goes on to say the Prosecutor-General’s office and the Anti-Monopoly service have been directed to look carefully into every instance of unlawful rises in bread prices. How anyone could manage to label a post, “Lawless, Barbaric Russia” and then take the government to task for enforcing the law simply staggers the imagination.
The sense of unreality persists as you read on. Further down, La Russophobe uses an opinion piece from Robert Amsterdam’s blog to substantiate the suggestion that Russia chooses to simply “disregard the ruling of an American court.” Before we go any further, a little more about Robert Amsterdam. He’s one of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s lawyers, or so he says, and is very candid that he makes no pretense to objectivity where Russia is concerned; stating categorically that the posts which appear on his blog are opinions. I don’t know if I’d like my lawyer blabbering fantastic stories all over the internet – such as the one that the Duma passed a law in 2006 making it legal to execute anyone outside of Russia perceived to be an enemy of Vladimir Putin (I’d love to see that one) – or that Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany and Italy’s Romano Prodi were “turned” by Mr. Putin. He has said, though, (same reference) that “if they shoot me, there’ll be someone else to take my place”. Although that certainly sounds dramatic, I doubt it will happen. After all, he’s not even on the list of Khodorkovsky’s lawyers. But assuming he was, and that Mr. Putin decided to “have him whacked”, Khodorkovsky would still have at least 12 more. In 2006, Forbes reported that Khodorkovsky still had around $500 Million remaining, but you have to wonder what will be left of that by the time his platoon of lawyers gets done with it.
Mr. Amsterdam was expelled from Russia in 2005, and has no firsthand knowledge of what is happening there. Yet, somehow, he is one of the “two great Roberts of Russia blogging”.
But just for fun, let’s see if his allegation that Russia has no right to refuse repatriation of the Jewish manuscripts because it was ordered by a U.S. civil court is correct. Does the Russian Federation have immunity from orders by a foreign civil court? I’m afraid I don’t know, although they appear quite confident they do, but I’d submit it was not at all unreasonable to assume so. Most countries do; including the United States, according to the Harvard Law Review. In fact, the United States reserves the right to ignore judgments issued by the United Nations World Court as well. Take that, you UN sissies! Oh, and the U.S. doesn’t pay any attention to rulings by the World Trade Organization, either, which ruled the U.S. had collected better than $5 Billion in illegal tariffs from Canada over a period of better than 3 years. To be fair, the U.S. eventually returned almost all the money, but stood on its right to ignore the ruling for several years, as well as successive verdicts.
Should Russia pay any attention to an American civil court order to return manuscripts to a religious organization that never had possession of them, given America’s refusal to obey any law but its own? Seems a little unreasonable to me to expect a higher standard of jurisprudence from a country you’re always running down for how draconian and repressive their legal system is compared to your own.
As to Mr. Amsterdam’s observation that protection of the rights of foreign investors must improve – indeed, in tandem with overall legal reform – this is a fair criticism. However, it’s nothing anyone who can read the Financial Post couldn’t figure out for themselves, and isn’t an indicator of genius as the slobbering devotion of La Russophobe seems to suggest. I honestly can’t think of any other country where the slightest effort toward reform is met with such hoots of derision. If the Russian government announced it intended to change nothing, and would make no efforts to modernize infrastructure or change its ways with respect to the rule of law, the USA would shout that such a course of action was detrimental not only to the Russian people, but to the world – and it would be. But announcements of intent to change and to introduce efforts to modernize bring nothing but mockery. If you’re not interested in investing in any “technology city” Russia builds – don’t. Nobody’s suggesting its success or failure is contingent on American participation or approval. It’d be nice, and doubtless those who are accustomed to high risk being associated with the potential for significant profit will invest according to their assessment. I expect China will be very interested. Smugly assuming California’s Silicon Valley is the only technology center in the world – and if it doesn’t give your project the nod, it’s destined to fail – is the sort of mistake America can’t afford to keep making. Since China’s economic outlook appears fairly bright (cumulative economic growth of 371.3% over the last 40 years, annual average of 9.3%, accounts for 7.5% of the world’s total economic activity) while the USA’s economic forecast looks…well, not so bright, appealing to a broad investment market would be a wise move for Russia. It’d be a wise move for anyone, comes to that.
Lecturing from a position of strength and moral certitude gets to be a habit, I imagine. It’s based on a bedrock conviction that things will never change, nor will one’s relative position in the great scheme of things. Except maybe it will.