Selling Krazy by the Kilo – The Disturbingly Irrational Anne Applebaum

Uncle Volodya says, "Know who's not upset about gas prices? The Amish. When I take over the world, Annie, I'm coming for you first."

You’ve probably read, at one time or another, that George W. Bush is a graduate of both Yale University and Harvard Business School: two of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the United States, and in the world. Yet he struggled to form simple sentences, his train of thought tended to derail without warning, and he ended his presidency in a dead heat with Warren G. Harding – who famously described himself as “…a man of limited talents from a small town…I don’t seem to grasp that I am president” – for the title of Stupidest President Ever.

That’s by way of making the point that a superior education – and indeed, every appearance of smartness – is not a reliable indicator of actual thinking or reasoning capability. Which leads me to a bit of a departure from my usual sources of Russophobia, although she is a dyed-in-the-wool Russophobe from every angle: Anne Applebaum, former correspondent and editor for The Economist (always a source of uplifting commentary on Russia), former writer for the conservative British Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, and present columnist for Slate and The Washington Post. It is in the latter capacity that she informs us the degree of seriousness with which Russia applies itself to domestic and foreign policy reform is tied to oil prices. Yes, you heard right – when oil prices go up, the Kremlin declares a moratorium on humanity and order, and uses the opportunity to jail political opponents for no reason, brutalize honest journalists just trying to do their jobs and hand out bogus punishments to bellwether entrepreneurs like Mikhail Khodorkovsky. When oil prices go down, Russia has to stop with the tough talk, and adopt a more conciliatory tone with the west.

What’s wrong with that analysis? Anyone? Yes, that’s right; it’s nonsense, on so many levels. Have a look at this graph (thanks, Wired) of global oil price between 1990 and 2008. The low point on this graph suggests oil prices touched bottom – over this period – around 1999. This, we are told by people who actually know something about oil prices, resulted from the economic crisis in Asia being either ignored or severely underestimated by OPEC, who  boosted its production quota as consumption weakened.

According, then,  to the Anne Applebaum Russian Pushiness Index, 1999 should coincide with a contraction of Russian ambition abroad and a tame domestic policy, while Russia’s leaders made nice with the west. Is that what happened? NO!!!! The Second Chechen War kicked off in 1999, in response to the invasion of Dagestan by the IIPB. Enroute Washington DC for an official visit, Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov learned NATO had commenced bombing Yugoslavia, and ordered the plane turned around in mid-air for a return to Russia. Russian troops from Bosnia seized control of Pristina Airport, an action which Tariq Ali’s Masters of the Universe? NATO’s Balkan Crusade describes as a “hardening in spectacular fashion of the Russian position”, and “…a growing ascendancy of the Russian military in the Kremlin”. At home, State Duma elections, a unification treaty with Belorussia and cabinet reshuffling shook the establishment. According to a sampling of public opinion, the events of 1999 showed Russians “we have no allies in the world”. Subdued? Quiet? Conciliatory toward the west? Ummm….not so much.

It wouldn’t be so bad if this were one of only a few issues on which Applebaum has been all the way across town from accurate. Sadly, that’s not the case. Although, gosh, there have been so many, this one’s my favourite. A golden oldie from 2003, Anne warbles jubilantly, “Yes, the war [in Iraq] did prove, as everyone knew it would, that we [the USA] no longer need military allies – and in that sense, Europe is irrelevant.”  But it was just over a year later that Bush was pleading for more NATO troops; he didn’t get any, but he blamed the wrong people. He should have blamed Applebaum, who said the USA didn’t need any help with what was decidedly still a military operation. Or, how about this one? In “Russian Roulette”, Ms. Applebaum suggests retired Russian generals received decorations from the Iraqi government for helping to plan the defense of Baghdad. She’s quite clear that she bases this conclusion on “rumors of Russian military sales to the Iraqis [that] have swirled around Washington”. Later, the U.S. government was furious with Russia for selling arms and military technology to Iraq, of which it had “credible proof” (cough, weapons of mass destruction, cough), but when analysts in Moscow assessed the weapons – if any – had probably been supplied by a third country such as Syria or Ukraine, the official position walked back to Russia’s being “unhelpful”.

But while we’re on the subject, is it “do as I say”, or “do as I do”? I mean, is it forbidden to do business with a country owing to an ongoing conflict with it? If so, why was Halliburton – former firm of former Vice-President Dick Cheney – doing business with Iran in 2005 while the USA had strict embargoes on such activity? Ahhh, but that sort of jiggerey-pokery would never have happened while Uncle Dick was at the wheel, would it? I beg to differ. While Uncle Dick was running the show at Halliburton, that company sold equipment to Iraq and Libya that could be used to detonate nuclear weapons. Halliburton also sold six pulse neutron generators to Libya – a historic enemy under Moammar Ghadafi – through Italy. In fact, in 2000 an anguished Dick Cheney pleaded with an unreasonable U.S. government to “get with the now” on the subject of sanctions against Iran, saying such sanctions “are nearly always motivated by domestic political pressure, the need for Congress to appeal to some domestic constituency”. Yet in 2008, there he was trying to rally support against Iran because of their “obvious” development of nuclear weapon enrichment (none actually found to date), and pressing for military action. Confused? You and Applebaum.

Yes, talking of Applebaum, we got a little distracted there for a second, as tends to happen to me when journalists such as she make outrageous statements regarding  Russia’s “selling nuclear technology to Iran”. Anyway, as I alluded near the beginning, Ms. Applebaum is supposed to be a smart woman; quadrilingual (English, French, Polish and Russian), educated at the Sidwell Friends School (where Barack Obama’s daughters presently attend), Phi Beta Kappa at Yale, Marshall Scholar at the London School of Economics. She’s certainly not stupid. but she’s been painfully wrong on almost every major issue in the last 8 years. Why? Two words; “conservative ideology”. Her worldview causes her to see things and events in an extremely simplistic, black/white, good/evil fashion, and her journalism – at least for the Washington Post – is often seriously flawed by her fanciful connections and imagined conspiracies.

Why does the Washington Post continue to pay her and print her nuthouse ramblings? Two words; “her husband”. Ms. Applebaum is married to Radoslaw “Radek” Sikorski, Poland’s Foreign Minister. That gives her clout, not only as a rabid Russophobic activist for Poland (her writing on the plane crash at Smolensk that killed a good-sized portion of the Polish government is an instructive example), but as a star columnist in a newspaper that is growing steadily more conservative in its politics: Editor Marcus Brauchli would sooner tear out his own tongue than fire her.

Doesn’t help her charting skills, though. By her estimation, if Russia becomes more mean and aggressive every time the price of oil goes up, they should have been kicking ass and taking names from 1999 right up until now, at which point they should be trembling on the edge of Total War Against The World. But they’re not. Because Anne Applebaum is full of shit.

This entry was posted in Economy, Education, Government, Khodorkovsky, Russia, Vladimir Putin and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

80 Responses to Selling Krazy by the Kilo – The Disturbingly Irrational Anne Applebaum

  1. cartman says:

    I did not know that she went to an exclusive private school where POTUS’s send their children. In that case, she’s a member of the plutarchy and we can assume the barriers have been considerably lower for her throughout her life. If she grew up on the streets of Chicago, or scooped water and mud from her ramshackle home after a hurricane, then we know she made it on merit.

    As for Bush – he may be smart. He may have been affected by his rumored cocaine habit. Or he may have been faking his folksiness. None of his siblings have a Texas accent. Also he bought a ranch in some hellhole to play rancher at during his presidency, then dumped it as soon as he left the White House for an elite Texas neighborhood.

    • marknesop says:

      None of Bush’s siblings have a Texas accent because the family (GW included) is from Connecticut. Bush was just not a good public speaker; even when he was playing folksy, he still stumbled over simple aphorisms (fool me once, shame on you is a classic example). He did love being in the spotlight, though – he just didn’t like the hard work of governing. Luckily for him, the Democrats made it easier for him by letting him have his way on most things, instead of closing ranks and opposing everything as is done today.

      Although I wouldn’t dispute that Applebaum has likely had no trouble opening doors because of her connections, I’m sure she’s smart. Nobody could earn Marshall Scholar or Phi Beta Kappa for her – Bush did graduate from Yale and Harvard, but his grades weren’t great. However, neoconservatives like Applebaum tend to try making things the way they think they should be, instead of accepting them as they are. That doesn’t make for a good reporter, because a simple story can become very complicated if you can’t make it say what you want.

      • Misha says:

        A just released counter to the subjects in the above blog post:

        The Great Awakening of Vladimir Putin

        • Futility says:

          Jesus, that is a terrible article. Putin will run for a third term, will he? 2007 (and Putin’s speech) was when US-Russian relations started deteriorating? Over two thousand civilians died in South Tskhivali?

          All I can say is:


          • Futility says:

            Er, disregard the “South”.

            • Misha says:

              Fair enough.

              Nevertheless, the general gist of that piece serves as an offset to the kind of neolib/neocon leaning hack work that takes several forms, including the rhetorical bringing up of Chechen independence after Russia notes Kosovo in relation to South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

              The below linked Conservative Home article has its share of flaws that shouldn’t go unnoticed.

              • marknesop says:

                Hopefully, they did not go unnoticed; I left a comment. I note the author underreported the size of the Georgian army by about 5000, while crediting Russia’s army with the number that actually represents every active-service person in all three elements (Army/Navy/Air Force).

                • Misha says:

                  Good follow-up.

                  I should be chiming in there in a bit.

                  As earlier mentioned, I like the guy (Carl Thomson) whose article is being answered with a a pro-Georgian government slant.

  2. kovane says:

    Anne Applebaum is certainly a top-notch Russophobe, along with her pal, Ed Lucas. It’s hard to expect anything different from her – too many things superimposed in her: a neocon leaning and belonging to the Polish establishment. As to her alleged intellect, that’s an age-old conundrum – why do obviously not foolish people sometimes espouse the craziest ideas. Take Sakharov, for example. A brilliant physicist, without a doubt, but as soon as he moved into political activism, he immediately fell under the influence of his wife and demonstrated only abject naiveté and destructive initiatives. Bobby Fischer saw everywhere a Jewish conspiracy, Garry Kasparov turned out to be a lousy businessmen and now believes in the New Chronology. Unfortunately, a great scientist doesn’t make a good politician, a good musician doesn’t mean a hell of a poet. But the idea of universal genius still doesn’t lose its appeal.

  3. Yalensis says:

    I think, overall, Sikorsky is a good guy and Polish patriot, despite having picked horrible wife. However, his power is limited by American influence; like evil cloud, they are always hovering in the background, calling the shots and always trying to stir up trouble between Russia and Poland. (Not to mention trouble between Poland and rest of EU…)
    Example: A couple of months ago, in mid-November, Poles were almost ready to call it quits on the Smolensk crash and accept Russian verdict of mostly pilot error. Then Jaroslaw Kaczynski caused scandal by accusing Polish government (Sikorski and Tusk) of treason, conspiring with Russians to kill his brother, etc. His political party made these outrageous accusations publicly, in letter to American Congress. Polish government responded initially with outrage, saying Jaroslaw’s accusations and going over head to Americans “verged on treason”. Then, just a few days later, they caved and invited Americans in to “counsel them” on their formal response to Russian crash investigation. I am guessing, phone call from Hillary Clinton, telling them it is “too soon” to “forgive” Russians for Smokensk crash?
    Can’t find too many links online any more about this particular political scandal, here is one very short blog entry, but is worth reading for hilarious comments:

    • marknesop says:

      Some of those comments are pretty funny. I wouldn’t question that Sikorski sees himself as a Polish patriot – probably every nationalist who is not a deliberate traitor sees himself/herself as a patriot with a direct line to what’s best for the country. However, Sikorski is also – along with his wife – very conservative in his outlook and very into the conservative think-tank scene. He tends, as she does, to see things in very simplistic good/evil terms.

      There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with trying to get the best deal for your country, and trying to better the lives of your citizens. There’s nothing alarming, I suppose, about a willingness to do it at the expense of someone else: country first is what being a patriot is all about, right? But Applebaum doesn’t hesitate to make things up, or use rumour and innuendo as if they were solid source material, in order to blame reliable enemies for everything. Conservative mouthpieces nearly turned themselves inside out trying to link Saddam Hussein and Russia – remember when he was supposedly hiding at the Russian Embassy? America is a big and powerful country with a great deal of money (or they used to have) that can quickly be pressed into service to make things happen, sometimes before cooler heads can prevail. It also has an incurious electorate that tends to accept what it’s told, and pressure its representatives accordingly. If the “new” crash investigation came up with “evidence” that suggested Russia placed dummy runway lights in the forest near the airport to lure Kaczynski’s plane into the trees, how difficult do you think it would be to get that story up and walking? And once it is, the damage is done: nobody ever says, “It wasn’t true”, they say, “the Russians deny it”.

    • Misha says:

      Yalensis, when he was in the US, Sikorski regularly made comments about Polish apprehension, based on its history of being dominated by Russia. When making these comments, I never once recall him acknowledging any fault from the Polish side. During the so-called “Orange Revolution,” Sikorski attended an overly partisan gathering which was a kind of who’s who among the very negative on Russia types. In more recent times, I recall some not so objective commentary on Russia from him – which I’d have to backtrack on for specificity sake.

      Before the online era, I recall a National Review article of his, where he describes a train ride conversation with a Russian woman, who after listening to him suddenly asks why the hatred against us (Russians)? Sikorski’s answer was along the lines of: because you all don’t fess up to the past. I spoke over the phone with Sikorski’s editor Rich Lowry about that and some other comments made by the future Polish FM. Lowry gave a dismissive he’s my guy and I stand by him line. In the US, Sikorski would be noticeably rebuked for making such negative and inaccurate comments about others. Not so long ago, the Lowry edited National Review fired Ann Coulter for making remarks seen as insensitive to Muslims.

      In the US, the “moderate” side of Sikorski didn’t rule out Russia joining NATO. The follow-up question arises under what conditions? A geopolitically castrated Russia spinning to neolib and neocon desires? On this particular, I know that Brzezinski sees such an occurrence as a weakened Russia, fearful of China and seeking protection by being close to the West. In this scenario, it’s suggested that Russia will have to give up its “misguided” (sic) stances. On the subject of Russia, is there a noticeable difference between Brzezinski and Sikorski?

      Part of Sikorski’s moderation might be attributed to his diplomatic position. With doubt, I don’t rule out the possibility that he has truly moderated a bit as opposed to window dressing. When compared to the Kaczynskis, it’s easier to appear relatively moderate. Another way of looking at it is that the K brothers are more up front in an across the board way. In comparison to Sikorski, they seem more critical of other issues like the EU and when Yushchenko arbitrarily gave the “Hero” status to Bandera.

      There’s something else to maybe consider as well in relation to Polish political rivals. According to several folks I know familiar with the Polish political scene, Polish political rivals are known for hacking away at each other in a way that can serve to backfire against Polish interests.

      On some other items that might interest others and yourself, this just released piece is an interesting study in pro-Saakashvili spin:

      Looking forward to the IIHF U-20 men’s championship game between Russia and Canada, to be played in several hours from this posting:

      • marknesop says:

        Thanks for your as-always perceptive commentary, Mike! I agree Sikorski’s position determines in large part what he can say out loud, but I doubt his thinking has changed much. Poland has good reason to fear being overrun by foreign armies – not because it’s likely to happen, but based on all the times it did. However, that “I hate Russia because they won’t confess to their past crimes” nozz just makes me want to blow lunch. I’ve seen similar commentary at La Russophobe, when certain commenters are pinned to the wall – “See, I’m having a basic problem with your stated aim of helping Russia achieve meaningful reform, when it’s framed against your obvious hatred of the country and everyone in it. How do you reconcile those?” Answer: “Germany acknowledged the crimes of the Nazis and apologized for them; why can’t Russia admit its horrible past?” I say, to what end? So all the Russophobes can scream, “AHA!!!! I KNEW it!!!!? The debate over Katyn rages on, although it has been mostly preempted by the Russian government’s acceptance of responsibility. But of course, that’s not enough. No amount of national humiliation will ever be enough. The “get it off your chest, you’ll feel better” trope is nonsense, and Sikorski makes himself look foolish with that silly fable, as if Russia would be forgiven in a torrent of mutual weeping and hugging just as soon as their lip begins to tremble, and they can no longer hold back their guilt. Ridiculous. What they’re likely hoping is that Russia will cop to a lot of things they didn’t do, in the hope that all the acrimony will finally end, so they can close the book on them and say, “See? I knew it was the Russians all the time”.

        That’s shaping up to be a great game!! I feel pretty good about Canada’s chances for another gold, since they already kicked this same team’s ass on Boxing Day. However, the Russians have learned a lot since then, and both teams’ long game is pretty good – coming at them hard hoping to wear them out early would not likely work very well. We’ll see – in my house, there are no losers when it’s down to Canada/Russia. Although I admit to a slight predisposition for Canada.

        • Misha says:

          Thanks for prompting good discussion Mark. That was a great game. My comments on it are down a bit further.

          Regarding Poland, that country has its share of imperial dominatiion which can be reasonably described as unjust. Instead, there’re periodically propped sugar-coated versions claiming that it wasn’t so bad.

          I want to see Russia and Poland bury the hatchet. However, I don’t want it done in a way that’s historically misinformative and unfair to Russia.

          • marknesop says:

            Couldn’t have said it better myself.

            • Yalensis says:

              I totally second that emotion! By the way, who won the game? Sorry, I don’t follow hockey much. I am more into the figure skating and downhill skiing sports.

              • Misha says:

                Yalensis, on your inquiry, I see that you now know who won that thrilling game:


                Your other observation partly relates to that Harvard propped work, trying to suggest that Gogol was something that he wasn’t. (This matter is discussed under Mark’s prior post to this one.)

                The intent of that work by a Polish academic appears to belittle Russian identity. In contrast, Harvard doesn’t seem to prop academic work which is overly negative of Poland or the anti-Russian strain among a minority of Ukrainians.

                I’m reluctant to automatically hold one’s ethnicity as a basis for judging someone’s views. In some instances, one can’t help but notice – especially when the given individual (like Sikorski) makes it an issue. Regarding the academic of the Harvard work in question, her takes are (put mildly) suspect and from a Russia unfriendly position.

                Perhaps even more shocking is the uncritical lauding of that Harvard propped work. Offhand, I haven’t come across any critical English language review of that work.

                It continues to be quite ironic how some suggest a delusional element among Russians. In turn and from a pro-Russian perspective, there continues to be ample reason to be critical of Russian government involved efforts media and PR efforts in the English language.

  4. Giuseppe Flavio says:

    Selling Krazy by the Kilo What’s the meaning of this sentence? I fail to understand it.
    I’ve read that Kaczynski claimed the body of his brother, that he himself recognized in Russia, was later “stolen” by Russia and another corpse sent to Poland. Why Russians stole the dead Kaczynski wasn’t explained, perhaps some voodoo rituals or an attempt to clone him.
    I remember a prophetic joke posted in a comment to Mark Adomanis post The tragic plane crash in Smolensk.
    2010: The plane of the President of Poland crashed in Smolensk, 97 died.
    2020: The plane of the President of Poland was destroyed mid-air in an explosion, 167 died.
    2030: The plane of the President of Poland was destroyed mid-air by Russian MIG-35 jets, 476 died.
    2040: The plane of the President of Poland was forced to land in Smolensk. 1524 of the passengers were shot after being tortured by NKVD officers. The plane was burned in the nearby forest.

    • marknesop says:

      “Krazy” is just an alternate spelling of “crazy”, to make it fit better with “Kilo”, which is of course short for “kilogram”. It’s a jump from the old Genesis album title, “Selling England by the Pound” (1973).

      I can’t help noticing that “Krazy” also goes very well with “Kaczynski”.

    • Yalensis says:

      @Giuseppe, yeah, why would anybody want to clone a Kaczynski, there were already too many of them! My favorite conspiracy theory about Smolensk is the one where, supposedly, a descendant of Ivan Susanin has led the Polish journalists into the forests, then when they they refused to pay for his services as a guide, he killed them in a fit of spite, having first enlisted the NKVD to torture them. This joke is funny because it is based on heroic legend of Ivan Susanin (one of my favorite operas, by the way: Glinka’s music is awesome). Anyhow, according to this theory, after Kaczynski’s plane was brought down, everyone survived (miraculously), but NKVD soon rushed in and tortured everyone EXCEPT Lech Kaczynski: Lech was handed a revolver with a single bullet in the chamber and told that “he knew what he needed to do.” Later they switched his body to conceal the fact that there was bullet hole. These conspiracy theories are very funny, but also sad that so many Poles believe them.

      • Giuseppe Flavio says:

        Be careful Yalensis, some Pole can take you seriously and spread this joke as another conspiracy theory. It can be argued that a Russian was the source, so it must be true.

        • Yalensis says:

          I know! You’d be amazed how many crazy people out there believe these wacko conspiracy theories. On the brighter side, I saw in the paper today, Donald Tusk issued his opinion that crash was caused mostly by Polish pilots. These pilots behaved like careless idiots. To save some face, Polish government is insisting that a disclaimer be inserted into the final report indicating that Russian dispatchers “could have done more” to prevent plane from landing in such inclement conditions. Pu-leeze! The dispatchers did warn them not to land; I don’t think it’s their fault.
          One final word from the cultural front: I highly recommend everyone watch or listen to Glinka’s opera (“Ivan Susanin”) about the Russian-Polish war which took place 4 centuries ago, it is a ripping good story and truly amazing music.

  5. marknesop says:

    On the subject of Georgia, this guy looks like some interesting new blood. Efforts by Saakashvili to discredit him will suggest whether or not he is a credible threat, but I like the look of him so far as an alternative.

    • Yalensis says:

      Yes, I’ve been following Irakly Alasania’s career for a while in the newspapers. He is noticeable among Gruzian politicians for the fact that he is not insane. He looks to be probably choice of Americans to replace Saak in power. By all rights it should be Nino Burjanadze, but Americans dissed her, for some unknown reason.

      • Eugene Ivanov says:


        Americans “diss” Nino because she’s too pro-Russian (goes to Moscow too often and even meets with Putin).


    • Eugene Ivanov says:


      The guy was Georgia’s U.N. representative back in 2008, and I remember him, with an indignant expression on his face, condemning Russia’s “agression” against “democratic Georgia.” Besides, between 1994 and 1998, he worked for Ministry of State Secutiry. A plausible alternative to Misha? Perhaps. A new blood? Hmm.


      • marknesop says:

        Hmmmm….maybe not being openly insane isn’t enough. I didn’t know that – thanks, Eugene. Any future leader of Georgia is going to have to go into the job making getting along with Russia a priority. I’m not saying dance to Russia’s tune, show no backbone, don’t resist being assimilated. Not at all. Georgia is already an independent country, and rather than annex it now, Russia could simply have refused to let it go. But Saakashvili makes a high-stakes political game of kicking sand in Russia’s face, on the assumption that if his mouth writes a cheque his body can’t cash, the west will jump in to save him. He was plainly outraged that his plan backfired in 2008; strangely, he seems not to have learned anything from it.

        The new leader should have a good relationship with the west, but the west mistakenly thinks they have this with Misha. They haven’t – he’s only interested in using their muscle to help him achieve his own plans. By “a good relationship”, I mean a give-and-take relationship of sensible dialogue with the west, and a continuation of democratic reform. But Georgia is not geographically located to be an important trading partner with the west, while it is admirably suited to be one with Russia. Saakashvili’s attitude and behaviour hurt trade relations between the two, which in turn hurt ordinary Georgians. Nobody’s suggesting you have to toady up and lick boots to make trade deals that will benefit both buyer and seller. But making a return of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to Georgian control a deal-breaker will be a non-starter.

  6. marknesop says:

    Wow. Russia’s long game was even better than I thought. Molodets, gold medalists!

    • Misha says:


      Some patriotically upbeat music that comes to mind for the moment:

      Another tough final loss for the Canadian men’s junior team. I understand that unlike Russia, many of Canada’s current players will be back for next year’s torurnament to be held in Canada.

      Sports is a nice diversion from some of the material that gets propped as astute.

      • marknesop says:

        It reminds me why I hate early leads – they invite complacency. Russia played in the third period like Canada played in the first, and they were just unstoppable. This is good for Russia; it’s the first time the Juniors was carried live on First Channel, and I can imagine that third-period magic led to jubilation in Russia. Also, Russian support was greatly lacking at the actual game, while the stands were wall-to-wall red and white. Simple logistics, but still, it had to be a drag for the Russians, making victory all the sweeter.

        • Misha says:

          Had the game been played in Madison Square Garden, a noticeable pro-Rusisan contingent would be present.

          Love how Canada embraces ice hockey.

  7. Vlad R says:

    Hi Mark,

    Happy New Year!

    Did you see the amazing U20 hockey final earlier today? Whom did you root for? Five goals in the third period! “Do you believe in miracles”?! Wow. I have never seen anything like this before.


    “Muscovy Duck”

    PS. Please reply to my email

    PPS. I also sent an email to our mutual friend

    • marknesop says:

      Hi, Vlad; same to you!!! Sorry, the FSB account is dead, I don’t monitor it any more, so that’s why I didn’t notice it. Yes, I watched the game with my father-in-law. He kind of watched impassively as I did my dance for each of the three Canadian goals, but he smiled a little more at each of the Russian goals and was positively beatific by the time they won. As I mentioned earlier, I hate early leads, because it seems like every time Canada takes the lead early they burn out, get lazy or choke before the end and just fall apart. That said, the Russian team played magnificently in the third period – they made Canada look clumsy by comparison. As I also mentioned earlier, they didn’t have much support at the actual game, and they were obviously very proud of their amazing accomplishment, as they should be. Congratulations, Russia!!!

  8. Yalensis says:

    Re. hockey: okay, bravo, Russia! Now, please god, let them perform well where it REALLY counts: in Sochi!

  9. Tim Newman says:

    That’s by way of making the point that a superior education – and indeed, every appearance of smartness – is not a reliable indicator of actual thinking or reasoning capability.

    But you seem to think how somebody speaks in public is.

  10. Tim Newman says:

    The fact that you brought his struggling to “form simple sentences” in your second sentence, in the context of contrasting it with the assumption regarding his intelligence people would make from the schools he went to.

    • Yalensis says:

      Ouch! I notice a pattern that Tim gets defensive whenever his beloved George W comes under attack. Personally I believe that W is a smart enough guy, just having a weak personality and blinded by his neo-conservative ideology. His verbal malapropisms can be attributed to dyslexia, which is a genetic brain defect but is not correlated with intelligence. It is my understanding that dyslexic individuals can study and learn the same as normal people, just require special educational services.

    • marknesop says:

      Okay, every criticism is fair, but I believe yours would be stronger if Mr. Bush’s fractured English were the only evidence of his general unawareness in proportion to the position he occupied. That’s not just my take on it – many media sources suggested he was “wilfully ignorant”, and his understanding of basic geography, for example, was extremely poor for someone leading the country that insists it dominates the globe. Not to mention for someone with such an excellent education.

      I disagree with Yalensis on this – I don’t believe he is a “smart enough guy”, I believe he is essentially a privileged dolt who is too lazy to learn anything even when he has a staff to brief it to him directly, and never needs to pick up a book or periodical of any kind. There have been plenty of presidents and senior public servants who did not have his connections or educational background, who nonetheless gave the nation great service and personal committment. I don’t believe GW was overly possessed of “neo-conservative ideology”; I don’t think he had much ideology at all beyond goofing off, hanging out at his ranch on vacation or attending high-profile events where he could be the center of attention without having to do or know too much. He preferred to “go with his gut” – was distinguished by that trait, when that organ failed repeatedly to guide him in responsible decisions.

      By way of contrast, your countrymen who have the benefit of such excellent education can often tell which school an individual attended by the manner of his/her speech. That’s what I meant. But I’d be delighted to entertain a debate on GW being a misunderstood genius.

      • Tim Newman says:

        I disagree with Yalensis on this – I don’t believe he is a “smart enough guy”, I believe he is essentially a privileged dolt who is too lazy to learn anything even when he has a staff to brief it to him directly, and never needs to pick up a book or periodical of any kind.

        The evidence doesn’t bear this out either. This is what John Lewis Gaddis had to say about him:

        I can only speak for myself here, but something I did not expect was the discovery that he reads more history and talks with more historians than any of his predecessors since at least John F. Kennedy. The President has surprised me more than once with comments on my own books soon after they’ve appeared, and I’m hardly the only historian who has had this experience. I’ve found myself improvising excuses to him, in Oval Office seminars, as to why I hadn’t read the latest book on Lincoln, or on—as Bush refers to him—the “first George W.” I’ve even assigned books to Yale students on his recommendation, with excellent results.

        “Well, so Bush reads history”, one might reasonably observe at this point. “Isn’t it more important to find out how he uses it?” It is indeed, and I doubt that anybody will be in a position to answer that question definitively until the oral histories get recorded, the memoirs get written, and the archives open. But I can say this on the basis of direct observation: President Bush is interested—as no other occupant of the White House has been for quite a long time—in how the past can provide guidance for the future.

        Never needs to pick up a book?

        • marknesop says:

          Yes, and Rush Limbaugh said, “…there are people in this White House who could blow you away with their intellect, and the President is one of them if he chose to address you in that way.” Trouble is, Rush Limbaugh also said ,(speaking of the Deepwater Horizon spill) “…oil is as natural as the ocean water, and the ocean will take care of itself if you leave it alone”. That kind of taints his judgment in my eyes. I’m afraid I’m not familiar with Mr. Gaddis, and consequently can’t speak to his judgment. Maybe Bush is a book-devouring fiend with a restless, inquiring mind – I’m just saying I’ve never seen any evidence of that, while I’ve watched and heard him say things that square somewhat oddly with that image. Such as, “Wow! Brazil is BIG!” while looking at a map of Brazil with that country’s leader. Or “I don’t think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees” only 6 days after he received detailed briefings from experts on what they expected to happen if the hurricane did not turn away from New Orleans. Or “peaceful countries do not develop weapons of mass destruction”. Can he be unaware of America’s nuclear arsenal? Or did he mean to suggest the USA is not a peaceful country? If the latter, it’d be the first evidence I’ve seen of true brightness.

          Look, it’s possible you’re right, and he’s much brighter than he appeared. But if so, he assumed everyone he was speaking to was a dolt, examples of which abound. Or perhaps we’re both wrong, and he’s a sociopath, as Mark Crispin Miller (professor of media studies at New York University) suggests: “Bush is not an imbecile. He’s not a puppet. I think that Bush is a sociopathic personality. I think he’s incapable of empathy. He has an inordinate sense of his own entitlement, and he’s a very skilled manipulator. And in all the snickering about his alleged idiocy, this is what a lot of people miss…. He has no trouble speaking off the cuff when he’s speaking punitively, when he’s talking about violence, when he’s talking about revenge. When he struts and thumps his chest, his syntax and grammar are fine. It’s only when he leaps into the wild blue yonder of compassion, or idealism, or altruism, that he makes these hilarious mistakes.”

          I’m not familiar with Miller, either, and consequently cannot vouch for his judgment.

          • Tim Newman says:

            Look, it’s possible you’re right, and he’s much brighter than he appeared.

            I’m not arguing he’s brighter than he appears (at least, not now I’m not). I’m contesting your initial implication that his inability to speak in public was an indicator of his intelligect, and then your statement that he never picks up a book. Regardless of whether you trust the judgement of Gaddis, unless he is lying through his teeth then it is almost certain that Bush reads a lot of history books.

            • marknesop says:

              Okay. Done. His inability to speak clearly in public is not necessarily a reflection of his intellect – he may be very clever indeed, only completely unable to express it, which renders the value of that cleverness questionable – and he does occasionally pick up a book or books, some of which may be historical in nature. Another popular literary preoccupation, I’ve read, is fart jokes.

      • Tim Newman says:

        By way of contrast, your countrymen who have the benefit of such excellent education can often tell which school an individual attended by the manner of his/her speech.

        Yes, but this does not apply to universities. Speech is generally formed at school, not university, hence my brother and I have different accents.

        One of the most fundamental mistakes you could make with a Brit is to judge his intelligence by the way he speaks, as that would condemn anyone from the West Midlands or Liverpool to be forever considered little more than retarded. Sure, you can judge, to some extent, ones class from the way they speak, but class has no bearing on intelligence.

        • marknesop says:

          “…but class has no bearing on intelligence”. Nor does an excellent education when one’s conclusions are driven by ideology rather than intellect, apparently, as I suggest is the case with Ms. Applebaum and which was pretty much my point.

          I am careful not to make any further mistakes with Brits, as I was married to one for 16 years. However, as you seem well aware, North Americans untrained as I have been assume any British accent is the very echo of cucumber sandwiches, knickerbockers and a public-school education. A nasal Liverpudlian accent merely suggests you are a natural musician, and perhaps fab into the bargain.

  11. peter says:

    It’s a plausible argument — if a bit too generic and circular to really prove anything. Indeed, one only has to change a few words to turn it around, sort of:

    Okay, Mr. Putin’s fractured Russian isn’t the only evidence of his general unawareness in proportion to the position he occupies. That’s not just my take on it – many media sources suggest he is “willfully ignorant”, and his understanding of basic economics, for example, is extremely poor for someone leading the country that aspires to overtake Portugal (GDP-per-capita-wise) in a decade or two. Not to mention for someone with such an excellent education.

    I don’t believe he is a “smart enough guy”, I believe he is essentially a lucky dolt who is too lazy to learn anything even when he has a staff to brief it to him directly, and never needs to pick up a book or periodical of any kind. I don’t believe VVP is overly possessed of “rising-from-the-knees ideology”; I don’t think he has much ideology at all beyond goofing off, skiing on vacation or attending biker events where he could be the center of attention without having to do or know too much. He prefers to “go with his gut” – is distinguished by that trait, when that organ failed repeatedly to guide him in responsible decisions…

    • marknesop says:

      Yes, you could,sort of, provided you weren’t especially concerned with accuracy. None of that is true of Putin (except maybe for the attention-getting stunts). I’ve never seen any media source, western or Russian, speculate that Putin is ignorant – rather, they often credit him with diabolical intelligence, like he was Sauron of Mordor or something.

      • Tim Newman says:

        Yes, you could,sort of, provided you weren’t especially concerned with accuracy.

        With respect, the same could be said of your characterisation of Bush. I’ve already shown that he does actually pick up books, more than most it seems, and he also (AFAIK) speaks rudimentary Spanish. How this squares with your belief that he:

        is too lazy to learn anything even when he has a staff to brief it to him directly

        I don’t know.

      • Misha says:

        Mark, from several years ago, some others besides yourself might recall a Bush-Putin press conference in St. Petersburg.

        Bush suddenly says that he wants Russia to be freer like Iraq. Putin calmly replied by saying (perhaps not verbatim): let’s hope that Russia doesn’t become like Iraq.

        Right after Putin’s reply, there was a noticeable amount of laughter among the press corps in attendance.

        On this matter, I don’t recall any English language mass media criticism of the way Bush carried on.

        The BBC’s Matt Frei spun the exchange as Putin unnecessarily initiating the football (soccer) equivalent of a head butt. Never mind that it could be reasonably surmised that it was Bush who provoked things in the home town of his host.

      • peter says:

        Yes, you could,sort of, provided you weren’t especially concerned with accuracy.

        Well, I’m actually being more accurate here than you seem to think. Trust me, Putin doesn’t speak half as well as a brilliant ЛГУ graduate ought to — and his trademark jokes aren’t really funny, are they?

        … except maybe for the attention-getting stunts…

        Even if it were indeed the only exception, it’s a pretty telling one. He used to be a small man with big complexes, it looks like he still is.

        I’ve never seen any media source…

        As I’ve pointed out in the past, Putin does have two weaknesses: his temper, which leads the ice-man to attack his neighbors in fits of pique, and economic illiteracy.

        All this, though, is beside the point. I’m just trying to point out that you are sometimes guilty of circular reasoning, especially when it comes to Bush and Putin. Here‘s another recent example:

        While Bush is testament to the reality that one really can have a tiny brain and still reach the nation’s highest office, I doubt Bush would have been able to stay on top of the rough-and-tumble of Russian politics for much more than a month. Putin’s been in politics a good deal longer than that, and is most assuredly not an idiot.

        When people are agog at something he says (or does, like riding around on a Harley trike, or some such attention-getting stunt), it usually turns out that he is playing to a particular audience or otherwise competing for the loyalty of a target group. If what he said appears stupid, you’re probably not in the target group. But I’d bet it appeals to someone, and he probably calculated it would do him more good than damage.

        What exactly do you mean by “it usually turns out”?

        • marknesop says:

          What I mean by, “it usually turns out” is that he had a plan when he said or did what he said or did, with a political objective in mind and calculated to play to a certain group. To a certain extent, Bush did that as well, although his contrivances were often contrived for him. Perhaps Putin has the same extensive road crew – I wouldn’t know. What I do know is that Putin appears to control his own events, and delivers his speeches as if he wrote them himself or is just ad-libbing, while every time Bush tried to stack the deck to create an impression, he got caught. A good example is his question-and-answer session with allegedly randomly-chosen troops in Iraq, until the press revealed they had all been carefully chosen in advance to represent certain demographics, and actually filmed a White House staff member choreographing their questions in advance, and rehearsing with them.

          Perhaps Putin does exactly the same thing; perhaps every politician does, which would be a sad comment on a world of politics that already has little to recommend it. But if so, Putin is better at it than Bush was, because it doesn’t show as it did with Bush. Then again, maybe Putin’s enemies dare not expose him the way the media was often fond of doing to Bush. That said, he got a free pass with a lot of his shenanigans.

          The difference for me is that Bush was undeniably bad for America (although corporatists loved him), while Putin seems to be good for Russia. The economy of Russia improved considerably under Putin – whether or not it was an accident, at least Putin did it no harm – while the American economy tanked under Bush. Some will argue that a looming recession that began to gather speed under Clinton scuppered Bush when it wasn’t really his fault. But yes, it was. The New York Times (if memory serves) recently published a chart which demonstrated clearly that the mild recession did little to damage the economy – although it did wipe out a portion of the surplus inherited from Clinton – but that it was Bush’s tax cuts that did far more to send the debt soaring. Moreover, the revenue the cuts were supposed to generate never materialized – the rich merely sat on their gains and waited for better times. I’ll see if I can find that chart for you, but I haven’t time to look right now, I have to go out.

          Anyway, that’s the basic difference for me, regardless who might be an academic diamond in the rough – Bush did a great deal of damage to his country, and ended his term in disgrace, while Putin has by and large provided good governance for Russia (comparatively speaking) and remains dominantly popular. That’s based on the judgment of their respective people, not my opinion.

          • peter says:

            Perhaps Putin does exactly the same thing…

            Yes, he surely does.

            … perhaps every politician does…

            No, surely not.

            … Putin is better at it than Bush was, because it doesn’t show as it did with Bush.

            Nothing compares to “Она утонула.”

            The economy of Russia improved considerably…

            If Zhuravskaya and Guriev are to be trusted, the improvement has been (literally) only half as considerable as the Kremlin would have you believe: the “long-term elasticity [of Russia’s GDP to the world oil price] is about 0.2; in other words, an increase in oil price by 10 percent results in a 2 percent increase in Russian GDP. This means that if the price of oil increases from $17 (in 1998, constant 2008 dollars) to $97 per barrel (in 2008), then GDP should go up by a factor of 1.4, or grow at a rate of 3.5 percent a year for 10 years. Therefore, the increasing price of oil explains about one half of Russia’s total growth. If the oil prices had remained constant, then between 1998-2008 the Russian economy would have grown at 3.5 percent a year—a decent growth rate for a country at the economic frontier, but slower than the world’s average, and slower than the average annual growth rate of other successful emerging economies during this period, and certainly well below that of poorly-endowed-with-resources South Korea both eleven years ago or even now.”

            Putin has by and large provided good governance for Russia…

            That’s a bad case of cum hoc ergo propter hoc

            … and remains dominantly popular.

            … and ad populum to boot. Прошла зима. Настало лето. Спасибо Путину за это! We don’t know quite how the “collective Putin” really functions, do we?

            • kovane says:

              Peter, while reading your posts here, only one phrase comes to mind: “wishful thinking”.

              By the way, you are not “erasure” at AGT, are you?

              • peter says:

                … wishful thinking

                Wishful? Are you sure you understand the word correctly?

                By the way, you are not “erasure” at AGT, are you?

                No. Why?

                • kovane says:

                  Are you sure you understand the word correctly?

                  Of course I’m sure. I don’t know what the hell that word means; I simply love to go around using beautiful words that I don’t understand.

                  No. Why?

                  It’s just seemed to me that you both have a severe case of acute Putinophobia.

                  Hey, kovane, what’s taking so long?

                  You have to forgive my ignorant ways: I was looking up the meaning of the word “wishful”, insteat of waiting for your brilliant answer that clarified the issue. Clearly, my mistake.

                  You can’t possibly accuse me of similar naivete, can you?

                  Of course not. You are far shrewder for that. Look how cleverly you figured Putin out!

                  What I meant when called your post here “wishful thinking” is that you already have the cut and dried conclusion “Putin is a monster”. And you conveniently brush aside all evidence that says otherwise. But not to worry, my perceptive friend! Reading Belkovsky is exactly what you need!

                • peter says:

                  … you already have the cut and dried conclusion “Putin is a monster”.

                  What monster? Are you talking to straw men in your head? The worst thing I ever said about Putin was “a small man with big complexes”.

                  And you conveniently brush aside all evidence that says otherwise.

                  All evidence I’ve seen so far here was of the cum hoc ergo propter hoc variety. Did I miss something? Do tell.

                • kovane says:

                  Are you talking to straw men in your head?

                  There aren’t any strawmen in my head, just straw. Please be precise in your accusations.

                  Putin was “a small man with big complexes”.

                  Are you saying this as a psychiatrist, so your words can be interpreted as a professional opinion? Am I to understand that you diagnosed him using only television? If so, you’re a true master of your art.

                  Did I miss something? Do tell.

                  You did. Correlation indeed does not imply causation, but it also doesn't rule out the causation. And in such a complex subject as economics there will be no definitive proof linking the mild economic success of Russia to Putin personally. Is he a economic wizard? Probably not, but Putin is certainly an improvement on his predecessor – at least Putin didn't run Ponzi schemes on a state level (GKO) and managed to retain a fraction of the oil income. Could he fare any better? By all means, I myself have a list of complaints about him longer than Putin's height. But, by and large, I bet that history will be kind to him. Having said that I suggest we end this discussion as I doubt that we find common ground.

                • peter says:

                  Are you saying this as a psychiatrist, so your words can be interpreted as a professional opinion?


                  Am I to understand that you diagnosed him using only television?


                  Correlation indeed does not imply causation

                  So far so good. Do I really need to read the rest?

                  By all means, I myself have a list of complaints about him longer than Putin’s height.

                  That’s not saying a lot. (sorry, couldn’t resist)

                  Having said that I suggest we end this discussion

                  OK, but take you straw monster back.

              • peter says:

                Hey, kovane, what’s taking so long? OK, I’ll help you along. “Wishful thinking” is believing something to be true just because you wish it to be, right? Like, for instance, here:

                Is corruption in Russia state-defining and ineradicable? No; as the experience of Singapore and Sweden shows, decisive and thought-out actions transform places that were previously considered to be strongholds of corruption. All that is required is political will. Moreover, most of Russians are tired of corruption, and support decisive measures against it. There are plenty of people and businesses that refuse to participate in shady activities, even though it puts them at a disadvantage. Sooner or later , Russia will cure its social illnesses.

                You can’t possibly accuse me of similar naivete, can you?

            • marknesop says:

              I know it’s not the western way – especially when someone from outside criticizes their own political system – but some would hold that the best judges of a leader’s performance are the people who have to live with the system.

              But that would presuppose that those who voted George Bush in for a second term, and those who keep Saakashvili in power now, were and are right. So perhaps you’re right, too. I guess we’ll see, won’t we? You can bad-mouth Putin all you like; he’s not my leader, apparently not yours, and neither of us have a vote to affect his political standing. You can likewise pare it down as much as you like, only a mere half of what it could be, whatever. The fact remains that Russia recovered nicely from the economic meltdown and paid down its debt. The United States has yet to recover, went much deeper into debt under Bush and now is on the brink of default. Oligarchs stole much of the people’s wealth in Russia, true. However, Mr. Bush gave 80% of his taxpayers’ wealth to the top 10% of income earners (although they’re not called oligarchs), and Mr. Bush’s party just held the present government to ransom until it agreed to extend that policy for a further two years. So you can speak admiringly of Bush if it pleases you, and disparage Putin as an economic waster. Conditions suggest otherwise.

              • peter says:

                The fact remains that Russia recovered nicely from the economic meltdown and paid down its debt. The United States has yet to recover, went much deeper into debt under Bush and now is on the brink of default.

                We’re going around in circles, don’t we? You already said that, I already replied: “under Bush/Putin” is not the same as “thanks to Bush/Putin”. It just isn’t.

                • marknesop says:

                  Dear me, you do seem wedded to that point, don’t you? All right then – “under Bush/Putin” is not the same as “thanks to Bush/Putin”; it just isn’t. In precisely the same context as “Bush puts on a shirt” and “Bush wears a shirt” are just not the same things, they are different combinations of letters which lead the reader inescapably to the same conclusion.

                  Which would you prefer: the U.S. economy swung dramatically from surplus to deficit “under Bush”, or “thanks to Bush”? They both lead to the same conclusion, but if it will keep you smiling, sunshine (not to mention breaking out of the dreaded “circular argument”), I’ll go with one or the other. Makes absolutely no difference to me.

                  The economic policies a country follows are irrevocably tied to its leader at the time major economic events occur, whether or not he/she is an economist or personally made up the national plan. I’m willing to stipulate that Putin is not an economist, or particularly well-versed in economics – I’m not an economist myself, and lack the skill to make a responsible assessment. If you say he’s dozy about economics, you’re more than welcome to your opinion. I suggest that one country under one leader put national assets aside to address indebtedness, raised the overall standard of living and reversed a downward economic trend, irrespective of whether its leader was or was not a brilliant economist . Another country under another leader added a whacking great tax cut to a downward trend imposed by a mild recession, as well as pouring money into a war of choice. Under that same leader, there was no significant recovery. The trend has begun to reverse itself under a different government.

                  The facts – not projections for what may or may not occur in the future – tend to support my view rather than the one you have expressed.

                • peter says:

                  Dear me, you do seem wedded to that point, don’t you?

                  Yes, absolutely. Correlation does not imply causation, period. We are going to have to agree to disagree on this one.

                  … Putin is not an economist…

                  Well, he is an economist of sorts, but let’s not go there or else kovane’s head will explode.

                • marknesop says:

                  All right, we’ll agree to disagree. I’m perfectly willing to accept the premise that correlation does not necessarily imply causation, but I don’t believe the concept was intended to absolutely exclude it, either. Otherwise, it would have been cum hoc non importat propter hoc. To suggest that the collapse of the American economy and the impingement of a series of stupid policy decisions and occasions of economic malfeasance – while Bush just happened, by coincidence, to be president and overall in charge of making those decisions – are unrelated simply strains credibility. Not just on my part, either, but on the part of serious economists who blame his policies explicitly.

                • peter says:

                  Oops, I messed up the link, sorry.


            • marknesop says:

              If Zhuravskaya and Guriev are to be trusted, the remaining holdouts should be tripping over themselves to admit Russia to the WTO. Frequent snide complaints that Russia has an economy entirely dependent on energy overlook the implication that the profits so realized were channeled into paying down the country’s debt responsibly and building up a surplus, rather than squandering them on war and foreign intrigues, and going horribly into debt as a consequence. Admission to the WTO would be the best thing that could happen to Russia, if the goal is for it to modernize as the above authors suggest. It’s not like the rest of the membership is going to begin doing things Russia’s way, is it? Russia would be forced to modernize or be rendered unable to compete, because its chief attraction for the WTO membership is access to enormous reserves of natural resources and mineral wealth. If those cannot be had at a competitive price, or if the buyer must snorkel through endless slicks of bribery and payoffs to get at them, the buyers will go elsewhere, and Russia will be pretty much where it is now. The world can already get Russian energy at the same price everyone else pays for it, because oil is brokered at an international price. I’m sure Russia is anxious to sell timber rights and raw logs, processed wood products and minerals, chemicals and fertilizers and steel and the like, which it has in abundance. Again, if it won’t follow international practices to sell these products, it can’t sell them, which should provide admirable incentive.

              It’s all very well to quack, “Russia is a one-trick pony; oil, oil, oil” but continue keeping Russia at arms length trade-wise, so they never get an opportunity to sell anything else in a competitive market. It likewise is a bit hypocritical to infer “modernize first, then we’ll talk”, considering some of the economic disasters and human-rights blackguards who are already WTO members.

  12. Yalensis says:

    “One of the most fundamental mistakes you could make with a Brit is to judge his intelligence by the way he speaks…”
    This is very good point. In fact, if I am not mistaken, it is the main plot point of George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion”, one of the greatest plays ever written! 🙂

  13. sinotibetan says:

    Ro Mark, Newman and others:
    Regarding Bush vs Putin:-
    Agree that Putin brought more good to Russia than bad.
    However, I cannot agree that America’s predicament (especially its economy) is mostly due to Bush. That he aggravated and exacerbated the economic hardships is true(with the useless and expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan rather than ‘just’ the tax cuts, in my opinion). But the ‘political rot’ in America is not fundamentally a Bush doing, or a Republican doing or even a neoconservative one. Political factions , whether it be liberal/conservatives/neo-conservatives/neo-liberals/Democrats/Republicans etc. all contributed to the ‘rot’…they are the both the cause and symptoms of American political rot. Liberals/Neo-liberals/most Democrats – using ‘social liberal’ slogans to woo the social liberal crowd; Conservatives/neo-conservatives/many if not most Republicans – using ‘social conservative’ slogans to woo the social conservative crowd(mostly those who call themselves ‘Christians’) . None of them, collectively(perhaps some individual politicians might have ‘some’ notion of doing something good for their nation), do care more but their positions of power or else they would have been more earnest in not stooping to bipartisanism. In this sense, in spite of America’s technological, systemic and scientific greatness, America is not unlike other nations and do not deserve the role of a global ‘moral policeman’.
    I’ve noticed, as a non-Westerner, these ‘trends’:-
    Republican/Conservative/Neo-con :pseudo pro-social-conservative -(eg anti-gay and lesbian, anti-abortion etc.),(perhaps pseudo?) pro-Israel, pseudo anti-Muslim, for less immigrants, for less taxes for the rich, more inclined to use ‘war’ in foreign policy, pro-Western oil firms, environmental concerns toned down, pseudo less affirmative action for blacks.
    Democrats/Liberals/(?Neo-libs) : pro-social-liberal(pro gay marriage, pro-abortion), slightly anti-Israel(some rabidly anti-Israel), pro-Muslim, free flow in of immigrants, more inclined to use ‘behind the scenes’ method in toppling foreign enemies/rivals, pseudo-pro-environment, pseudo more affirmative action for blacks.
    Why the ‘pseudo’ comes about is because I don’t think what they say is what they actually believe. I think many Republicans are hypocritical when they claim to support socially conservative values(when the whole West is socially so liberal and I think most of these politicians are just as socially liberal) while Democrats are rather ‘honest’ when they say they are pro-gay marriage or pro-abortion.
    Which brings me to Mark’s remark:-
    “Why? Two words; “conservative ideology”. Her worldview causes her to see things and events in an extremely simplistic, black/white, good/evil fashion, and her journalism – at least for the Washington Post – is often seriously flawed by her fanciful connections and imagined conspiracies.”
    I have a ‘conservative ideology’ in terms of social conservatism but in terms of politics, I consider that as a barbarous, diabolical world in which events are so laden with moral darkness that any talk of ‘morality’ in politics is idle chatter and paradoxical; although politicians DO talk about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and there is a lot of ‘moral talk’ by politicians. I trust none of them. I myself have views that tend to support some supposed ‘beliefs’ of those who call themselves ‘political conservatives’ but that does not stop me from critisizing them and certainly these politicians are so wrong in many areas(eg. concerning Russia). But so are political liberals wrong in may areas – their pro-gay attitude is something I’ll never agree for example; especially they trying to make it legal for people to accept gay marriage. Their tendency for rabid anti-Israel attitude and pro-Islam(and I believe Islam is a political threat for non-Muslims all over the world : read the Quran – the evidence is there) is incorrect. Israel is no saint but Palestinians are no saints either! The problem is not ‘conservative ideology’ only or rather I don’t agree with the term(Anne’s should be perhaps ‘conservative political ideology’ rather than ‘conservative ideology’). The problem is ‘fixation on a political ideology’ and this can be applied to any political factions/schools – ‘Marxist’/’Communists’/’Conservatives’/etc. When political ideology becomes dogma – that’s the problem. As I see it , political liberals can be just as judgemental and ‘black/white’ and ‘good’/’evil’ as political conservatives – taking sides is the game. I think political commentary should be a commentary of the politics and the politicians comparing what we can confirm as truth ; speculation may be neccessary but once some things are validated speculation on those matters cease. Far too often, (and I’m just as guilty many a time), we take sides – we ‘see’ who are ‘friends’ and who are ‘enemies’. Dogmatic political conservatives are far from examplary. Sadly the same can be said of dogmatic political liberals.


    • marknesop says:

      All true, and many suggest there is not a dime’s worth of difference between the parties. For my money, the Republicans fight a little dirtier and are less reluctant to use outright fabrication to scare people out of their vote, but you could equally criticize Democrats for not keeping their Utopian promises – if they did, they likely wouldn’t have to worry about reelection.

      However, you’re talking about two completely different things – political rot, and economic malfeasance. The data show the Bush tax cuts are the main mover that drove the economy into negative territory, and the mild recession was a long way from doing that. War expenses combined with a stubborn refusal to put them in the budget – instead relying on “emergency supplementals” so the staggering cost wouldn’t spook the electorate simply accelerated the free-fall.

      The political rot is a different thing altogether, and need not in and of itself harm a healthy economy, except where partisan bickering slows the passage of vital financial regulation. It can make it impossible to govern the country, but governance and the economy are not joined in every respect.

    • marknesop says:

      Liberals are not “pro-gay”, at least those that are not gay themselves. They object to discrimination against gays, which is much different. I also don’t think they are “trying to make it legal for people to accept gay marriage” (I’m assuming you meant trying to force its legalization). The fundamental disagreement lies in the rights and entitlements of couples, including those pertaining to the dissolution of the marriage. Currently in most states (and provinces), gay people upon the dissolution of a long-term relationship are not entitled to sue for a share in pension benefits, nor may they claim pension benefits if one dies, because their union is unrecognized by law. My province is an exception in that respect, has already seen its first gay divorce, and the sky did not immediately curdle and begin to rain toads. The government certainly doesn’t mind collecting gay people’s taxes all their lives.

      There’s a big difference between the belief that people’s sexual orientation shouldn’t mean they have to accept a lesser standard of rights and freedoms when they don’t enjoy a lesser expectation of social responsibility, and active promotion of that lifestyle. I personally believe most gay people would accept civil unions if they were accorded all the same rights as marriage, and the activists who insist it must be called marriage are a minority. Most of the quarrel is over what entitlements accrue to civil unions vice marriage.

    • Yalensis says:

      Dear sinotibetan: Agree on almost everything, including assessment of Islam and criticism of liberals for being too pro-Islam. Disagree on only one point, i.e., gay marraige. Not that I give a damn about marriage laws in any society. But I truly believe that homosexuals must be accepted as equals to heterosexuals. Without that, men and women can also never become equals; and without sexual liberation, humans will not be able to advance beyond current repressive patriarchal structures.

  14. Pingback: Weekly Blog Roundup, Sunday 9 January | Siberian LightSiberian Light

  15. Pingback: » Weekly Blog Roundup, Sunday 9 January

  16. Giuseppe Flavio says:

    Kovane, you got it wrong with peter, he’s not erasure. The style is different, erasure is direct with his Putinophobia, peter is twisted in his reasoning, tries to use sarcasm and to appear cynic. Rather than a Putinophobe, he looks at Putin with a sense of superiority (note the “small man with complexes”).
    I think peter’s contempt for Putin is just the result of his passion for what in Italy is called “dietrologia”. It can be translated to behind-the-scene-logy and it’s similar to conspiracy theory thinking. To paraphrase a well known saying, the “dietrologo” misses the forest and the trees because he fantasizes on the underground. Believing his own fantasies on what is invisible to ordinary men, he acquires a sense of superiority toward them.
    Like with erasure it’s useless to argue with him, although peter is much better in the art of “climbing on glass” as we say in Italy.
    Peter’s preferred (fantasy) writer is not Belkovsky, it’s Vladimir Pribylovsky. I had a long discussion with peter about Pribylovsky on Anatoly’s blog.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s