Consequence Free

Uncle Volodya says, "Journalists are like whores; as high as their ideals might be, they still have to resort to tricks to make money"

“Wouldn’t it be great if no one ever got offended; wouldn’t it be great to say what’s really on your mind?”

Regular readers will know that I often like to lead in with the working man’s poetry – music. Today we’re listening to Newfoundland hedonists Great Big Sea. If you’re not familiar with the music of Newfoundland, even most of the contemporary  stuff has a distinct Celtic flavour, and often borrows from the traditional in both rhythm and instruments. For me, it’s a poignant reminder of creeping down those jagged, rocky coastlines aboard a steam destroyer, in fog so thick that when the vertical adamantine spike of Signal Hill and the narrows leading to St-Johns harbour thrust out of the grey curtain, it always looked like they sprang from the sea itself. The pedal-to-the-metal revelry of a Saturday night in NewfieJohn in the days of my misspent youth is always just a Great Big Sea song away; in memory, at least.

But that’s not what we’re here to talk about. By way of Sean Guillory of the legendary Sean’s Russia Blog, I received this interesting link. So what we’re here to talk about -bookended nicely by Great Big Sea’s rollicking ode to deliberate irresponsibility – is the deliberate irresponsibility of those who run their chins when they have no idea what they’re talking about, preferring instead to draw upon what they would like to be true. The worst Great Big Sea is trying to duck is a hangover and a large economy-size portion of Catholic guilt. Ms. Knight is chain-lettering manifest nonsense and, as Sean correctly suggested, she should know it is nonsense. Consequences? Ha, ha; of course not. The russophobes who already swallow this rubbish like mother’s milk will continue to do so, while those who know better will sigh in exasperation.

In, “Putting the Watch on Putin” (“Watch”; get it? No? You will), Amy Knight has tracked down Vladimir Putin’s fingerprints on the cash drawer of the state. He must of a necessity be corrupt as hell, because (a) he’s not a millionaire, and (b) he wears a $60,000.00 watch.

A more imaginative man might tire of rising to this stupid bait over and over. But nobody ever accused me of being imaginative. So let’s start by dispensing with the tired trope that the price of Mr. Putin’s Patek-Phillipe wristwatch is more than his annual salary. As recently disclosed, Mr. Putin actually makes almost three times that amount; $178,000.00. I can’t blame Ms. Knight for not knowing that, even though it is easily obtainable information in the public domain, because many sites – including some that specialize in luxury watch statistics – list the bogus figure of $60,000.00. So for all you lazy tools who think the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation actually works for less than a meteorologist makes in the USA, you’re mistaken. But if you were correct, it’d leave Mr. Putin with a surplus of $118,000.00 that he could blow on watches to his heart’s content – so I guess he can afford Patek-Phillipes without having to steal from orphanages or raise taxes, right?

That said, I doubt Mr. Putin pays for them himself. I’d guess – and this is only a guess – that they are gifts from wealthy friends, or that the state purchases them for him, owing to his well-publicized penchant for giving them away . In the case cited here, it was a $10,000.00 Blancpain just like the one featured in Ms. Knight’s post. He also presented a Patek-Phillipe to Cherkessian jockey Magomet Kappushev for the recognition his achievements in racing have brought Russia.  Another Blancpain went to the son of a Siberian shepherd in the Tuva republic. If the state is paying for them, it’s money well spent in terms of Public Relations.

But let’s not leave the subject of expensive watches worn by state leaders just yet – I’m intrigued as to why Ms. Knight’s Eagle Eye of Sanctimonious Righteousness has not ranged further afield. Why hasn’t it fallen with justifiable contempt upon, say, Sylvio Berlusconi? Beloved American ally and near-octegenarian pussychaser Berlusconi sports a custom Constantin Vacheron that cost $540,000.00. Is that whataboutism? It certainly isn’t – Vladimir Putin is being criticised for wearing an expensive wristwatch which his detractors insist he can’t afford, so he must be stealing the money to support his watch habit, right? Yet average wages in Russia have risen steadily during Putin’s time in government while interest rates just as steadily declined. Italy? Not so much. There’s no minimum wage in Italy; the lowest wage workers can be paid is negotiated by collective bargaining, as it is in a number of other countries – but Italy is in the bottom 16%. Under Berlusconi’s leadership, Italy had the largest increase in income inequality across all 30 OECD countries, with the bottom 10% of Italy’s poorest earning average annual incomes of $5000.00 in purchasing-power parity – below the OECD average of $7000.00. How’d the top 10% make out? Considerably better. The top 10% earn above the OECD average, and control 42% of net worth as well as 28% of all disposable income.

I’m sure Berlusconi didn’t actually steal the money to pay for his watch – he’s a very wealthy man, and can easily afford it. But which of the two looks more inappropriate: Putin with his $60,000.00 Patek-Phillipe, or Berlusconi with his half-million-plus obscenity?

"Zut alors, you beetches! Maybe there is no place in the swimming pool that is not over my head - but my watch, she cost more than your house!"

Let’s not stop yet – this is fun. What about that sawed-off elf-eared president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy? Sticking with the swanky-watch theme, Sarkozy has a dazzling collection, ranging from his el cheapo $5, 245.00 Breitling Navtimer through the lovely $32,500.00 Girard-Perregaux that even-lovelier wife Carla Bruni gave him for his 55th birthday (the model pictured in his collection is not the same as the full-calendar automatic  he was given), all the way up to his $118,199.99 Breguet Classique Tourbillon. Sweet, Mr. President – you have impeccable taste, both in women and in watches. Unfortunately, since you were elected President in 2007, the country took a 20.43% jump in unemployment in 2009, and added another 4% last year. Probably due at least in part to your giving yourself a 140% pay raise while your people were struggling to keep food on the table, your popularity is at a record low – 22% – and only 15% of your people are optimistic that things will improve. Your national ombudsman describes the nation as “psychologically exhausted”. More bad news, I’m afraid – fully three-quarters of French citizens surveyed said they don’t want you re-elected next year. But look at all the free time you’ll have for watch-shopping!! Buck up, man: ce n’est pas si mal, eh?

“I want to be…consequence free; I want to be…where nothing needs to matter..”

Amy assures us that part of the dominance Vladimir Putin enjoys in the Russian political arena can be blamed on the electorate, owing to its “general political apathy”. This, she believes, also prevents liberal-leaning progressive opposition politicians from getting a foothold. Does anything actually support that viewpoint? She cites a recent survey, but doesn’t provide a link. I guess we’ll have to take her word for it. I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out, though, that other statistics contradict her, and that Russia had a higher turnout in recent presidential elections than did the USA ( 68.6% to 67.4%). Both figures are quite respectable, given voter turnout has seen a general declining trend in established democracies since the 1960’s. The 67.4% who voted in the most recent U.S. presidential election, in fact, is the highest turnout seen in nearly a decade; voter turnout in 2000 and 2004 was 54.2% and 60.1% respectively. Even those are representative of a powerfully-engaged electorate when compared with turnout in the UK, where the figure has never gotten above 40% in the last 30 years, and in 1999 was an appalling 24%. That, Amy, is what political apathy looks like. The lowest recorded turnout for a Russian vote was 56.9%, in the 2003 Duma elections. I wonder if Amy will want to argue that relatively high voter turnout in Russia is due to manipulation, coercion and general electoral dirty tricks on the part of the “ruling party”. Between us, I sure hope so, because I’d love to compare such a proposal with techniques like recorded incidents of vote-caging, phone-jamming and voter disenfranchisement in recent U.S. elections.

I’m starting to feel a bit of skepticism for the premise that Russians are politically disengaged. Well, let’s see what Yalensis came up with. Hmmm….political analyst and Deputy Director of the Institute of Social Systems Dmitry Badovsky says United Russia increased its seats by 7% in recent regional elections, and suggests a gain of 700,000 votes “says a lot”. Oddly enough, when people are “resigned to their leadership”, that leadership customarily does not noticeably increase its hold on power in the vote: things usually stay more or less the same until everyone is thoroughly fed up (see Sarkozy, Nicolas). Elsewhere, Mr. Badovsky also predicts high turnout for the national Duma elections in December: speaking again here of the recent regional elections, he repeats his  assessment that United Russia made significant gains despite what observers refer to as the “outrageous techniques” of opposition figures and citing “beatings of activists for the ruling party”. Wow – there’s a turn-up for the books, Amy. Since it’s no more specific than that, you can make of it what you will, but you might wonder if some people have a clear picture of what’s really going on there. Thanks, Yalensis.

From – certainly no Kremlin mouthpiece, and a frequent citation of russophobe twit Paul Goble – a poll of the readership which suggests 27% would like to see Vladimir Putin run as a presidential candidate, against 18% for Dmitry Medvedev. As Yalensis is careful to point out, that kind of poll is probably not very scientific – since it samples only Gazeta readers; however, such a gap is significant no matter how you look at it, assuming you believe Russians know what’s best for Russia. That seems pretty self-evident, but it’s more hotly contested than you might think.

We wouldn’t have to worry..about approval or permission: we could slip off the edge, and never worry ’bout the fall….”

Amy seems to have slipped off the edge herself. But I doubt she’s worried about the fall, because there won’t be one. She said what was really on her mind, and perpetuating addled musings about Russia and its leadership that have no modern basis in fact is about as consequence-free as journalistic efforts get. It reminds once again that so many readers would rather see what supports their beliefs than what is true. That’s a legitimate basis on which to build one’s personal worldview, I guess.

But it’s a lousy basis on which to build a foreign policy. I hope you’ll remember that.

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79 Responses to Consequence Free

  1. Excellent piece as usual, Mark.

    I think in terms of wealth or (possible) personal corruption, Sarkozy is essentially comparable to Putin. Both have a net worth of a few millions. Both have a modest salary, by elite standards. Both have expensive watches. As you said, most likely given to them from state Presidential funds or rich individuals.

    From – certainly no Kremlin mouthpiece, and a frequent citation of russophobe twit Paul Goble – a poll of the readership which suggests 27% would like to see Vladimir Putin run as a presidential candidate, against 18% for Dmitry Medvedev

    The poll is very reliable, it’s not from Gazeta but from Levada.

    • marknesop says:

      Thanks, Anatoly; I agree Sarkozy could equate to Putin in terms of his status among the French, although he is nowhere near Putin in terms of personal popularity among his electorate. However, in character he is more like Medvedev – impulsive and reactionary, he doesn’t seem to think much before he speaks, and is extremely sensitive to insult or implied disrespect. Fortunately, Medvedev is a bit more mature about things like rushing to recognize the independence of countries when the fighting is nowhere near over (such as in Libya), or rushing to commit his military forces in a bid to look tough and decisive.

      According to his declared assets, Putin is nothing like a millionaire, although he can probably call on a good deal of state wealth if he needs to.

      I think Sarkozy is one of the worst leaders France has ever had, and it looks like a lot of the French agree. His wife is more statesmanlike than he is, and she has no political experience at all.

      Thanks for the correction about the poll; I didn’t notice the attribution to Levada. I think Yalensis missed it, too.

      • Yalensis says:

        Yes, sorry, I thought it was just one of those “insta-polls” that the readers click on on the webpage.

      • kievite says:

        I think the only right thing to do about this “watches-gate” is to state complete absurdity of russophobs attack. I view this “watches-gate” thing is a misleading substitution of two notions typical for C-class journalists, the class to which Amy Knight and others similar russophobe creatures definitely belongs: appropriate behavior of state leaders (and here wearing extremely expensive watches is not a good idea) and the personal level of corruption extrapolated from the fact of possession of such a expensive jewelry.

        But I would also completely reject as inappropriate attempts to justify Putin’s behaviour by comparison of Putin and Sarkozy and, especially, Putin and Berlusconi based on their personal fortune or watches they own or popularity. My rejection is based on old proverb: what is allowed to Jupiter is not allowed to the bull.

        Sarkozy proved to be just a regular politician and recent actions suggest that he a typical right wing politician who in order to get reelected is ready to “wag the dog”. Berlusconi proved to be even worse then that: C-class politician not that different from Bush II.

        Putin is a politician of another caliber, I would say Churchill or Roosevelt caliber. Based on this fact, for me it does not even matter whether Putin wears $60K watches, $600K watches, $6 million or even $60 million watches. What matter for me is that Putin was the politician who, at least partially, prevented complete colonization of Russia, its conversion it to yet another Latin American country. And who in desperate conditions put a good fight against foreign capital well staged attack of convert Russia into something like Nigeria, with corresponding status of foreign capital in oil and other industries. Moreover, he managed to prevent compete slide of standard of living of population to the level to which compradors like Berezovsky, Gusinski, Khodorkovsky and company who controlled this alcoholic Yeltsin definitely led the country.

        If we assume that watches were either gift from the state or a person on birthday or similar event, IMHO even $60 million watches and a couple of Roman Abramovich’s style mansions in GB and France are too small gifts for Putin’s achievements as a politician.

        • marknesop says:

          Westerners are quite comfortable with their own countries being run by millionaires who have always been members of the political and/or moneyed class that never does a day’s work (although when you get to actually be leader it is quite busy, not a job for lazy people, and many a president might envy the farmer who goes to his bed at 8:00 PM). Westerners are only suspicious of leaders of other countries when they show signs of having a bit of money. Naturally, that money must somehow be the spoils of theft or corruption, although they never suspect it of their own – and sometimes refuse to look at it when it’s pointed out to them.

        • Yalensis says:

          @kievite: “what is allowed to Jupiter is not allowed to the bull.”
          Thanks, I LOVE this proverb, I try to use it in conversation at least once per day, although it sounds better in the original Latin:
          Quod licet Jovi non licet bovi.
          To your larger point, I agree with you that Putin will go down in history something on the level of a Churchill or Roosevelt (or maybe even Napoleon Bonaparte), i.e., a great ruler who saved Russia from destruction. Whereas Sarkozi will go down in history as a slimy coward who started a little war he couldn’t finish (=Libya); and Berlusconi as en epic pussy-hound who used state money to fund his bunga-bunga parties.
          I still don’t get why anyone feels the need to wear an expensive analog watch. Mark informed me that digital watches are only for nerds. (I am nerd and proud of it!) Putin, however, is NOT nerd, so I guess he needs a nice watch. Would be worse if he wore something stupid like a “Hello Kitty” watch, like certain people I know….

          • marknesop says:

            The nerd part wasn’t directed at you personally – I mean in the world of men’s fashion, digital watches are nerdy. I haven’t owned a digital for years (the one I have at the moment is a steel Alfred Sung that my wife gave me for Christmas), but it’s not because they’re nerdy. I just think there are a few skills we ought to be able to retain in a world where information is prepackaged and shoved in our faces, and one of them is being able to read an analog watch. It’s not like it tells you a different time or anything, and digital works just as well.

            • Yalensis says:

              Oh, no worries, mark, I didn’t take it personally, and, in truth, I AM a nerd. (And proud of it!). One of the many reasons I love my digital watch is because it supports 2 different timezones, so with the push of a button I can see what time it is in Timezone #2! Can you do that with your analog watch? … I didn’t think so !

              • marknesop says:

                But the face of mine is blue!!! Can you beat that?? Of course not. Besides, I rather like the idea of traveling to Russia to see what time it is rather than staying here pushing buttons.

  2. Re: The watch. If I ran a company that made watches that cost 60 grand, I could see no better advertisement than to give one to Putin so he could wear it. After all, designers do this all the time to Hollywood stars. Why not with one of the most powerful men on the planet? If this isn’t the case, as you say, it is ridiculous to only think that Putin bought the watch. I assume he (as well as anyone in his position, no matter what the country) hasn’t bought anything in a long time.

    I’m glad that you were able to do something with Knight’s article. I had a feeling it would inspire you. I’m just sad that the NYRB has her write their Russia articles.

    • marknesop says:

      Thanks, Sean: I appreciate the referral very much – it’s a shame some people are undeterred by authoritative references, and simply go on repeating the same chowderhead nonsense.

      You’re right that an implied endorsement by someone of Putin’s stature would be a prize for a luxury watchmaker, and it might be true for Blancpain. But Patek-Phillipe make a big deal about not seeking any kind of publicity except what retailers choose to release, and several accounts record their surprise at learning Mr. Putin had one of their pieces. Putin certainly could have bought it himself, because he likely doesn’t have much in the way of living expenses to absorb his salary. But like you, I doubt it.

      Yalensis came up with quite a lot of interesting research regarding “Putin’s Palace”, but I didn’t see it in time to include it in this post. It may be part of a future post, or just held in reserve for rebuttals.

      I saw on your twitter feed that real incomes in Russia (in terms of purchasing power) have fallen for the last 3 months. That’s not good, and although several reasonable explanations were offered (tax evasion? Really?), inflation seems to be the culprit. The government would be wise to get that under control before national Duma elections if it wishes to preserve party preeminence.

      • Real incomes should be measured over a year; figures for months are pretty useless as they fluctuate a lot (same for demographics). I wonder if they were even seasonally adjusted, which is crucial. Pay in December typically exceeds the year’s average by up to 50% because of year-end bonuses.

        Again, maybe its the start of a new trend; I’m not claiming any authority on this question. But it seems just a bit unlikely given that according to Rosstat, the economy is continuing to expand at a decent clip.

        • marknesop says:

          No, you’re right – I hadn’t considered that. It’s the same here, you get a pay drop in the beginning of the year as you start in again to pay your taxes for the year, and it picks up again after “tax-free day” (which seems to move a little to the right every year). But it should remain fairly stable rather than dropping every month, and the article really isn’t very clear on percentages or aggregates. Still, it’s a fair point that real income and inflation are in constant flux, and the earlier you can catch a trend that favours the growth of inflation, the earlier you can step on it. As you’ve suggested, the economy continues to expand – reliably if not dramatically – and none of the panic factors that preview a sharp rise in inflation are present. That being the case, it’s more likely just good old profit-taking, and the government can and should be clear on how much of that it will allow.

  3. sinotibetan says:

    Amy Knight’s article is usual anti-Putin diatribe. What is interesting is this:-
    “While the full implications of Sechin’s resignation are not yet clear, Russian journalist Evgeniya Albats, writing in the independent Russian news weekly New Times, has called Medvedev’s remarks at Magnitogorsk a declaration of war against the Putinites. If this is the case, then “Putin. Corruption” gives Medvedev an additional political weapon. As for Russian democrats, their ultimate aim is to become a part of the current political process by getting their new party on the ballot for the parliamentary elections in December and the presidential elections in March 2012.”
    A 2012 wish of Washington? A hope that Medvedev ousts Putin and get the likes of Nemtsov and Kasyanov into ‘part of the current political process’?
    Interesting also is this:
    “I asked one of the editors of the report, Olga Shorina, who is also the press secretary of Solidarity, an umbrella organization of different opposition parties and groups, why they make Putin the focus of their indictment; although they mention Medvedev’s extravagance, he is not a primary figure in the revelations. Shorina said they had little evidence of Medvedev’s involvement in corruption scandals and that in any case Nemtsov and his colleagues consider Medvedev to be a “puppet” of Putin, who holds the real power in the Kremlin. ”
    A deliberate ‘support’ of the West for Medvedev against Putin?

    Any comments from anyone?


    • Fantasy. I don’t know who is more ignorant of Russian politics here–Knight or Albats. I suspect that Albats was telling Knight what she wanted to hear, or Knight heard what she wanted to hear, regardless of what Albats was telling her. The idea that Medvedev would “oust” Putin or “declare” war on the Putinites is farcical, if only because Medvedev is a Putinist. Plus, does anyone actually think Sechin, Kurdin, et al will actually lose anything from not being on the boards of state corporations? It’s a PR move to satisfy the anxieties of foreign investors.

      People in the US and Britain (mostly) like to make much of any hint of a potential Putin-Medvedev rift. Both of these guys appeal to different segments in Russian society. Medvedev the more liberal minded cosmopolitan urban elite centered in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and Putin the more conservative, patriotic electorate in the provinces. Beyond that, they are a team and have learned that going after those within their own circle only brings chaos.

      I think that the US (and Britain) would rather have Medvedev, but I don’t think the EU (i.e. France and Germany) don’t care either way. They’ve been able to build ties with Russia regardless of who is at the helm. They want a stable Russia first and foremost.

    • marknesop says:

      I can’t say I’d considered the possibility that Medvedev might try something like cabinet appointments for Nemtsov and Company. It’s an interesting idea – however, although I’m still a little fuzzy on how Russian elections work, I’m pretty sure even the President would have a problem appointing someone to a position of high responsibility who had failed to carry his/her own district in a vote (assuming that individual stood for election, as it appears likely all the usual suspects will). And I can’t see any of them getting voted in. Recent polling suggests it would be fatal for Medvedev to openly break with Putin; it’d please westerners and the handful of hardcore liberatsi, but not really anybody that exercises a powerful voting bloc. The increase in the number of Russian billionaires during a period of broad economic prosperity is reassurance that a swelling of the wealthy’s ranks need not result from asset-stripping and economic catastrophe – consequently, the business community has likely learned to live with Putin’s rules as well, and is likely to support United Russia rather than back a western-leaning “reformer” such as Nemtsov.

      What makes me further skeptical is the source; Yevgenia Albats, who has thus far proven as adept at forecasting Russian political developments as she is at unpowered flight, and who has to resort to insisting police arrest her during demonstrations in order to bolster her liberal street cred.

  4. Misha says:

    Besides Mark’s above post, here’s another just released reference to Paul Goble, on a subject recently discussed at this blog:

    The above article hits home on the kind of spin favored among some of the leading think tank and media outlets which deal with issues in the Caucasus. There’s a geopolitical angle behind the more positive commentary on Abkhazia in contrast to South Ossetia. The latter isn’t viewed as being so adversarial to Russia as the former.

    Regarding the former Georgian SSR and some other issues, including the Armenian-Azeri dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, is this commentary and follow-up discussion:

  5. Yalensis says:

    Can somebody please explain to me the fascination with expensive analog watches? I myself own a “sporty” digital watch that includes a calendar, stop-watch counter, supports 2 different time zones, numerous other features, it is waterproof and almost impossible to break. It cost me $25 American dollars. I estimate it will last me around 5 years, after which time either the battery will run out, or the band will snap; at which time I will throw it away and buy a new one.
    I should not be considered an ascete or spartan, I just don’t understand why anyone would need any watch that costs more than $100? What am I missing here???

    • marknesop says:

      Men, owing to their gender, are not supposed to be fascinated with trinkets. That’s for women, and if you can get a man to wear a simple gold chain, you call it good; no use trying to interest him in an opal pendant for it. But the markup on jewelry items is fantastic, and there’s real money to be made if only that half of the market can be exploited. Ergo, the one exception is watches. Digital is for nerds – real men wear analog. Maybe somebody makes super-high-end digital watches, but if so, I’ve never heard of them.

      Enter the luxury wristwatch. You can easily convince a man he’s buying a precision instrument, not a bracelet. That’s why vendors go on at length about the eerie accuracy of the tourbillon movement, the durability of the case and the quiet sophistication it implies. You’re not buying a piece of man-jewelry, you’re buying a useful tool. Of course, there’s the satisfaction of knowing you own a precision instrument that the vast majority of your fellow men can’t afford.

      Not one person in ten can tell your suit is Giorgio Armani, or that your shoes are Prada. But it’s a dimwit indeed that doesn’t know what a Rolex looks like. And besides, the people who move in those circles can tell, so it admits you to a secret club of movers and shakers.

      I’d never spend that kind of money on a watch, but that’s based on the fact I don’t have that kind of money. If I had, who knows what crazy things I’d do? I’d love a well-cut Italian suit, though. Even if nobody knew it was an Armani, I’d know. For the socially unschooled, here’s an entry-level lesson on dressing well.

    • For the same reason that they buy $25,000 bottles of Dom Pérignon, instead of a good Chianti for $25.

    • Misha says:

      Watches are prone to getting lost and/or battered.

      Not too long ago, I saw some pretty decent looking ones at Walmart for under $11.00 (tax included).

  6. Alexei Cemirtan says:

    I have a question to ask, why should there be consequences for Knights’s complete divergence from reality? Maybe I am just not old enough to remember the days when journalists did report news, because in my memory their prmary occupation is very different. These days journalists report on “stories” and explore “narratives”, which basically means telling people what they want to hear.

    And what do most Western audiences want to hear? Do they want to know that they are certainly not as exceptional as they think? That their views are not the only ones that can lead to wealth and prosperity? That there are people doing things differently and achieving vastly greater results then they do? That their elites prey on their laziness and complacency and as ANY OTHER elite will not move a finger to help their people unless people themselves apply pressure for such actions, rather being satisfied for many decades that apparetly other places in the world are even more crappy then theirs?

    NOOOOOOOOOOOO, knowing that would mean that they would actually have to DO something, to think for themselves for a change! Such heresy!!!

    I am a firm believer that all of us get politicians, journalists and other elites that we deserve. They are not separate from us, but actually, just a reflection of our societies (which is a very very depressing thought given the state of affairs in modern media and politics).

  7. Yalensis says:

    Okay, now back to topic: I saw this today in regard to United Russia party and voter favorability polls:

    “The Ratings of Medvedev, Putin and United Russia have fallen to a record low”

    Data of a national poll carried out by the fund “Public Opinion”:

    According to the results of the study, the President’s popularity among Russian (Federation citizens), has plummeted since January 2010 from 62% to 46%. The Prime Minister’s rating has fallen from 69% to 53%.

    As far as the ruling party is concerned, United Russia’s rating has reached a record low for the past 2 years: 44%. In addition, the “unfavorable” rating for United Russia has risen from 29% in January to 38% in April….

    [Hmm… Sounds like there might be some elbow room for a new political party after all…! ]

  8. cartman says:

    Here’s a source that is long past its time:

    No, it does not ask why the Saudi Arabs are there in the first place. The US government continues to kiss them on the behinds. This does not help them prove their case that Al-Qaeda is not just an arm of the CIA, and that these Caucasian militants are separate from them.

    John McCain’s already dropped a few “freedom fighters” re: the Libyan rebels and even compared them to the Afghan mujahadeen. I just slapped my forehead.

    • Misha says:

      Nothing much said about the Saudis backing the authoritarian crackdown in Bahrain.

      • cartman says:

        This article exaggerates the role Russia plays in the ME:

        No mention of Bahrain, since the author’s paper is owned by a Saudi prince.

        • Misha says:

          Know her.

          Oy, yoy, yoy, yoy.

          This isn’t her first Russia is playing a noticeable and negative ME role.

          Along with James Bone, she was a regular on the Richard Roth hosted CNN show Diplomatic License that no longer airs. She comes across as an example of how some cosmopolitan Western savvy people of Muslim background can nevertheless leans towards Muslim nationalist sentiment.

          On Roth’s show, she took noticeably anti-Serb positions which were inaccurate and lauded Bernard Kouchner.

          I spoke with Roth about it, who read a letter of mine on air which told her to shove it (verbatim), followed by a deconstruct to some inaccurate comments she made about Bosnia. She laughed it off as the show moved on.

          • Misha says:

            I stand corrected.

            Afsane Basir-Pour regularly appeared on CNN’s Diplomatic License. With quite some time having gone by since any thought was given to her and Raghida Dergham, it’s understandable to confuse the two. Their views (particularly on issues dealing with Russia and Serbia) are similar, along with the venues prone to propping them. (All the more reason to have strong media alternatives.)

            If I’m not mistaken, Dergham had one or more appearances on Diplomatic License.


            “A Canadian intelligence report written in late 2009 … described the anti-Gadhafi stronghold of eastern Libya as an ‘epicentre of Islamist extremism’ and said ‘extremist cells’ operated in the region. That is the region now being defended by a Canadian-led NATO coalition.”


  9. sinotibetan says:

    To yalensis and others who wish to comment:-
    “The Ratings of Medvedev, Putin and United Russia have fallen to a record low”
    1.)What would be the possible reason for this?
    2.)”Sounds like there might be some elbow room for a new political party after all”
    If this is possible, what party ideology could probably challenge United Russia/Putvedev? I deem the Russian liberals out. Other possibilities include a revitalized Communist Party – but I think they need to get Zyuganov and his antiquated ways out. Or will the disparate banned nationalistic parties band with/without the Communist be a possible ‘new party’? Or other ‘unimaginable’ concoctions?


    • Yalensis says:

      @sinotibetan: I still haven’t given up hope for some kind of new type labor/socialist party in Russia. It would become more and more necessary in time if wealth continues to accumulates in the hands of fewer individuals. (Same deal in Western capitalist countries: at a certain point people have to push back and resist more privatizations, demand increase in public sector, etc.) In Russian conditions, given the whole history, such a party would need to be completely separate from Communists, but not excluding tactical alliances. Even if such a bloc never acquired enough votes to form government, they could still gain some political influence.

      • marknesop says:

        But wealth is not continuing to accumulate in the hands of fewer individuals. The number of billionaires in Russia continues to climb, and this is being used to suggest Putin is becoming more and more corrupt while Medvedev is only a mouthpiece for reform, although really not achieving anything. But nobody can point to incidents of asset-stripping or massive offshoring of personal wealth to explain why the ranks of the rich are swelling.

        Can you imagine how much airplay such a narrative would have gotten in Texas during the oil boom? That the increasing number of American millionaires (few billionaires, back then) was testament to the decadence and greed of the American oligarchy, rather than the emergence of the American dream?

        • Misha says:

          Your earlier (at this thread) reply to some of the disgust with the distribution of wealth in Russia has a selective blinders approach in certain instances.

          At last notice, American top mangement make considerably more than the work force below them, relative to what’s evident in other leading market economies. A bit of a whataboutism drift, which nevertheless has some relevance regarding what does and doesn’t get highlighted by some.

          On the flaunting of wealth, elements of the nouveau riche are known for going overboard in their money spending habits. Countries classified as “emerging economies” have their share of such individuals.

      • Misha says:

        Here’s one recently announced political movement:

        Minus an effective system of checks and balances, an obvious negative aspect of absolute monarchy is who might get to run the show.

        From the general outline of the RT blip, the folks of the party in question seem to acknowledge this view.

        I kind of like their flag:,13342019

        A number of countries deemed as democratic and advanced have Communists and monarchical leaning elements. You’ve the likes of Niall Ferguson giving historically selective praises of some past monarchical empires.

        The outline of the announced Russian monarchist party doesn’t seem particularly obtuse. Their described platform doesn’t go against participatory democracy. There’s a difference between bluntly saying that Ukraine and Belarus should be part of Russia, as opposed to sympathizing with a mutually voluntary union of the three, while respecting the current international status quo of these three former Soviet republics and descendants of Rus.

        Getting back to the Ferguson reference, Russia had a pre-1917 past which for accuracy sake shouldn’t be crapped on as has been done in some instances. Some folks not necessarily viewed as anti-Russian take gleeful pot shots at Mikhalkov. Some balance on that particular:

        In contrast, Limonov gets greater respect in some circles. Therein lies the kind of ideological slant (bias) that has been evident. This includes being more tolerant of de Custine than Pobedonostsev.

        • Yalensis says:

          Thanks for the link about the “Tsarist party”, I read their political platform. Of note:

          According to the Tsarist Russia program, every citizen would be granted free medical service and education, modern housing, well-paid jobs and “judicial and physical protection from any encroachments on their lives or property.” Tobacco and alcohol would be taken under state monopoly, foreign sects banned and the death penalty imposed for terrorism, keeping and selling drugs, rape of minors and for high treason.
          Foreign policy tasks include “restoring the Russian state within its natural borders” and actively seeking the voluntarily return of Ukraine and Belarus to a unified state; revival of close ties with Russia’s traditional partners, first of all Orthodox and Slavic. According to monarchists, Russia should minimize its membership in any kinds of international organizations.

          I agree with all the points of their platform except for that bit about “death penalty for selling drugs”. (I am libertarian on drug issue, believe people should be allowed to use drugs if they so wish…) Also, as you point out, tricky issue who gets to be top dog, and after he dies will his idiot son inherit throne?
          Aside from that, hey, sign me up!
          You know what they say, politics make strange bedfellows!

  10. sinotibetan says:

    “I am a firm believer that all of us get politicians, journalists and other elites that we deserve. They are not separate from us, but actually, just a reflection of our societies (which is a very very depressing thought given the state of affairs in modern media and politics).”
    A very interesting notion.
    Yet our societies are influenced by the journalists who serve some politicians/elites who are probably tycoon/businessmen-politicians host-commensal/parasite relations(to borrow from biology) and via ‘democracy’ societies ‘elect’ those politicians/elites and they influence societies and…and.. and.. – a viscious cycle.
    I don’t think there is ANY perfect political/economic system nor one that fits for all situations for all nations. Nor can I think of any fool-proof political system.
    My view is that the majority of humans are base creatures, and would probably care more of their physiological needs than any ‘altruistic’ notions, do not wish to improve the lot of fellow beings(or it’s amongst the last on their list), are selfish etc. And amongst those of us who consider ousrselves ‘enlightened’, they are only better in degree as basically we humans are the same in these negative attributes.
    The problem with autocracy/oligarchy/monarchy is this: if we get base leaders or weak leaders surrounded by base ‘hangers on’ – society would be ruined by them.
    What about democracy? Just as bad.
    The democratic principle is such that: We try to get a concensus on ‘what is acceptable’ and ‘what is not acceptable'(politically incorrect to use the moralistic ‘what is right or wrong’). What turns out in the end will depend on the innate propensity of human nature. Are human beings , by nature, ‘good’? Or ‘bad’? Or ‘neither’? Somehow, I find it hard to verbalize this without such ‘moralistic’ connotations.
    And how does one decide what is ‘good’/’acceptable’ or ‘bad’/’not acceptable’? Certain tribes in Papua New Guinea in the not-too-distant past carry out ritualistic human-eating. It was ‘acceptable’ until ‘more civilized people’ had contact with them and render such practices ‘depraved’. Who decides, then, that it’s ‘bad’/’not acceptable’ anymore? Why is laziness or complacency ‘bad’ even as most of us struggle to overcome such a trait? (That their elites prey on their laziness and complacency…)
    If, we human beings, are in the majority, delight in what may not be ‘good'(which I believe is the case) – then wouldn’t it be the case that democracy might in the end be bad for all societies in the sense that what is ‘acceptable’ by concensus may actually be bad for society in the end or what is ‘unacceptable’ and made ‘unlawful’ but may actually be the bitter prescription that societies must take render societies marked for self-destruction? Or are the ‘founders’ of democracy people who have a very optimistic view of the nature of human beings or have they not considered this aspect at all?
    I see in history, that, regardless of political systems – societies are brought forward or energized in a positive way by leaders with some degree of ‘greatness’ and ‘sagacity’. I totally disagree that any political system -and that includes ‘democracy’ and all that rant about ‘human rights’ – is a sure remedy for societal progress. As such, I disagree with all forms of political ideological dogmatism. The presence of sagacious leaders are more important than political systems.
    Just some rambling, disjointed thoughts.


  11. sinotibetan says:

    1.)”Can you imagine how much airplay such a narrative would have gotten in Texas during the oil boom? That the increasing number of American millionaires (few billionaires, back then) was testament to the decadence and greed of the American oligarchy, rather than the emergence of the American dream?”
    Well, I actually believe that both could have occurred simultaneously!
    Problems occur only when the decadent and greedy oligarchs get richer but the majority see no improvement or worse – hopelessness and despair – that’s when protests and revolutions can spark. If oligarchs increase their wealth exponentially while the majority have their living standards improve like y = x + c (sorry….I forgot how to say it in words!) – complaints and public murmurings but no great protests. I think every nation has its ‘oligarchs’ – those greedy, decadent super-rich who are part of the ‘shadow’ ruling elites – who are partly behind the political futures of Presidents and Premiers – the USA President is NOT excluded. Whether a country is in a state of social turmoil due to mass protest depends on the treshold of public tolerance to their current condition, decadent oligarchs notwithstanding. And why can’t becoming a decadent, rich, oligarch not be actually a part of the American Dream? In fact, that may be one reason people flock to the USA!
    2.)”Plus, does anyone actually think Sechin, Kurdin, et al will actually lose anything from not being on the boards of state corporations? It’s a PR move to satisfy the anxieties of foreign investors.”(I can’t see the nick but are you Sean’s Russia Blog?)
    “Recent polling suggests it would be fatal for Medvedev to openly break with Putin”(Mark)
    Recent event to support your views:-


    • Yalensis says:

      In USA it’s worse, I think, because billionaire oligarchs heavily influence political process (see Koch Brothers and their anti-union activities in Wisconsin, also oligarchs creating “Tea Party” and influencing Supreme Court, etc.) In Russia Putin has forbidden oligarchs to participate in political process; but I suspect that deal will break down eventually, as oligarchs naturally hope to expand their powers.

      • kievite says:

        “but I suspect that deal will break down eventually, as oligarchs naturally hope to expand their powers.”

        Not all oligarchs are created equal. There are financial oligarchs and “other” oligarchs. The most dangerous is financial capital and oligarchs who represent it. Financial capital always is an active participant of political process and neither Putin nor anybody else can suppress this process. And financial capital is global and has no motherland and no decency as Napoleon aptly observed long ago.

        Large banks are as much financial institutions as instruments for acquiring and keeping political influence. That compensates their inefficiency (due to excessive size) in internal market. And banks understand pretty well that the best investment with highest return is an investment in political capital. My feeling is that like the last Gensec used to say “the process started” (процесс пошел) 🙂


        That suggests that it is unlikely that Russia, in a long run, can escape the USA variant, where financial oligarchy captured government. And in modern invasions troops are actually not really necessary. Financial institutions are often enough to bring the nation to its knees. So other might succeed where Berezovski, Gusinski and Khodorkovski failed.

  12. Yalensis says:

    Off topic, but if anyone likes to re-fight Cold War, here is something interesting about assassination attempt against Pope back in 1981.

  13. sinotibetan says:

    @Mark, yalensis and kievite:-
    1.) I can finally remember the word:-
    “If oligarchs increase their wealth exponentially while the majority have their living standards improve in a linear fashion – complaints and public murmurings but no great protests.”
    2.)An interesting comment about ‘financial oligarchs’ and ‘other oligarchs’ by kievite!
    Banks are basically like legalized thugs. 😉
    “And financial capital is global and has no motherland and no decency as Napoleon aptly observed long ago. ”
    “That suggests that it is unlikely that Russia, in a long run, can escape the USA variant, where financial oligarchy captured government. ”
    Why, I have to agree with olde Napoleon!
    Not just Russia, but it seems like no country has escaped capture from the financial oligarchy. I think our whole world is ‘partially’ ruled by these financial oligarchs! They have their own clans, fight their own clan wars, finance many if not most of the world politicians(I suspect especially Western ones who wield greater influence), have their own designs on the whole world, through insidious, indecent and corrupt ways crept into every institution – education, financial, political, entertainment/media, medical/pharmaceutical etc. etc. , and probably instigate and finance many wars as well! A heterogeneous group with disparate and maybe antagonistic motives but somehow working ‘in concert’.
    While, I would stop short at saying they are omnipresent and omnipotent – I’d say they dominate our world.
    The “USA variant” would probably affect the country that ‘inherits’ American supremacy should American lone superpowership go bust – I don’t see any country yet ‘succeeding’ the US – certainly not Russia or China.
    I wonder though, how long the current global economic system is sustainable. Is it in the brink of collapse as doomsayers and alarmist claim or in a period of general decline[this is what I think it is – not a big bang but a gradual ‘whimper’]? I am no expert in economics – but I smell something rotten in the current global economy and the American economy in particular.
    An assortment of links with divergent agendas, conclusions and comments on the American/global economy(I don’t vouch for any of them – just brought them up to ‘ingite’ discussion):-
    Who are the global ‘financial oligarchs’? Are they linked up in such groups like the ‘Bilderberg group’? Conspiracy theory abounds also about so-called ‘shadow secret societies’ with some influential members within them—
    Some argue that America is a ‘masonic’ construct –
    Comments, anyone?


    • Yalensis says:

      @sinotibetan: On the dominance of banks and financial institutions: Add to the list of quotes this prophetic one from Lenin in his book “Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism”, which was written before WWI:
      Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capitalism is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.
      Re conspiracy theories of capitalist history, Jews, Masons, etc.: I think there is a grain of truth, in this sense: When banking capital started becoming really important in the Middle Ages, ordinary people, like peasants and small shopmen, became aware that their actual lives and family economies were increasingly out of their own control, and into control of these wealthy banking families (including Jewish families like Rothschilds, etc.) People also became aware, or believed, that the various elite families met in secret societies (like Masons or Illuminati), so this also deepened the paranoia. It is all too easy to imagine bankers and oligarchs meeting secretly at night with weird ceremonies, plotting the downfall of ordinary people.
      Is a fact, indeed, that most of America’s “founding fathers” were Masons (Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, Franklin, etc.), and this is reflected in architecture of Washington DC and symbology of dollar bill, etc. It is hard NOT to believe that essence of American constitution was mostly hammered out in secret meetings not open to non-Masons. This is not conspiracy, just fact. In this particular case, Masonic influence was probably beneficial for America, because it stressed secular values, separation of church and state, etc. But the destructive part is that American public was and is completely in the dark about the actual ideology of the Masons. (Because they are a secret society, see, so their innermost core of beliefs are not published in a programmatic platform. I don’t know what Masons actually believe, do you? Even most Masons don’t know, until they reach the “inner circle” of the elite within the elite. For this reason, secret societies should not be allowed to participate in politics, IMO.)

  14. sinotibetan says:


    Happy Easter to you also!


  15. sinotibetan says:

    Dear yalensis,
    Thank you for your thoughts on bankers, Jews, Masons and ‘conspiracy theories’. And the quote by Lenin.
    1.)I view unbriddled capitalism as a subset of Imperialism – only the ‘imperialists’ are motherlandless, international, cosmopolitan tycoons/oligarchs. We can imagine a ‘ethnic/nationalistic’ imperialism such as Imperial Japan during the late 19th Century till WW2. I think the former is more insidious, pervasive and powerful compared to the latter. In the latter – ambitious ‘imperial-minded’ politicians rein on financial/banker-like oligarchs to sustain their imperialistic (mis)adventures. Whereas, in our current situation, financial/banker-like oligarchs prop up politicians to answer to their wills. I think the USA – a cosmopolitan and ‘international’ place – and the fact that it’s the lone superpower – is the most conducive place for these financial/banker-oligarch types to ‘rule’ the world by their pushing of ‘free market'(which ain’t free at all!) and an unbriddled capitalistic ‘system'(i.e. insatiable greed).
    2.)Regarding Jews – I don’t think the majority of them(those ‘average Joe’ Jews) are to be blamed for any ‘conspiracy’ but it’s true that the likes Rothschilds etc. who were/are hyper-rich – I am sure they too have a hand in playing with the destiny and lives of nations.
    3.)”I don’t know what Masons actually believe, do you? ”
    I am not exactly sure as well. I’ve read some articles on Freemasonry including some Christian accounts of it. Nevertheless, I am not putting any Christian links because they examined Freemasonry in the light of Bible doctrines and that’s like comparing two sets of belief-systems and so might not be useful if the audience here include non-Christians.
    But here are some accounts:-
    Here, a Freemason apologist denies ‘Masonic influence’ in the construction of many ‘cherished’ American symbology like the ones you mentioned. I am not convinced of his apologetics, however.
    Looks like a Freemason Apologetics site. I think they deny Freemasonry is a ‘religion’.
    An account by theosophists.
    An article by Thomas Paine regarding the ‘origins’ of Freemasonry. is a secularist webpage.
    A very remarkable idea that Freemasonry is derived from Druidic traditions and apparently ‘derived’ from antiquity to Egyptian religion.
    My personal feeling is that Freemasonry is a form of occultism and thus IS religious in nature. A form of mysticism.
    “Though dealing exclusively with religious themes, Freemasonry is not a religion: no one dogma is professed as being particularly Masonic. Nor is the Masonic Lodge a place of worship; it would be better considered a classroom. Freemasonry “teaches” an occult philosophy to lead the initiate towards the essence of religious thought. All that is required of the initiate is an expressed belief in higher intelligence (God); therefore, no atheist can become a Mason. Religions in and of themselves are made by mankind to explain Deity. Freemasons come in all colors and nationalities and may worship Jehovah, Jesus, Mohammed, or Krishna, to name a few. “(from the theosophy website).
    A religion because there is, in a sense, SOME dogma – eg. in this case the presence of a mystical ‘Supreme Architect’.
    There is , I think, some degree of similarity with the mysticism of the theosophists and a more modern myticism of ‘New Age Movement’. Some form of pseudo-syncretism of belief-systems.
    If it were true that Masons were the architect of the USA – as some allege – could it be that the USA was meant to be a ‘model’ nation of which all other nations are slowly ‘persuaded’ to emulate?
    “If Freemasonry does nothing else, it will continue to shape world events by bringing together men of different races, creeds, and nationalities under the auspices of the Masonic teachings of brotherly love, friendship, relief, and truth. In this one act, it will have served mankind on a grand scale by promoting a dialogue among all members of the human race. ”
    All are just my speculations. What do you think?


    • Yalensis says:

      @sinotibetan: Thanks for fascinating discussion! Just a quick note on Jews: No one can deny that Jewish bankers and tycoons played (and play) a big part in the development of monopoly capitalism. The fallacy of classical anti-Semitism is the belief that ALL Jews are somehow in league with each other, regardless of economic class or political beliefs, and all meet at night in secret ceremonies to plot the downfall of the world. (So, Lev the Butcher secretly in cahoots with Lev the Banker.) That notion is clearly ridiculous.
      On Masons: I accept your point that Freemasonry is a type of religion, with mystical philosophy, etc. People have always been nervous about the notion of Masons influencing the political process in various countries (in Europe and America), and I think there is good reason for this apprehension. It is not because Masonic beliefs are evil – if anything, they seem fairly benign – but rather because Masonic core beliefs are a SECRET. I personally wouldn’t want to vote for someone unless I knew what they actually believed and intended to do.
      I would make a parallel with the fake “religion” of Scientology, which is popular among American celebrities. From what I understand, people get sucked into this sect on the grounds that it is some kind of self-help process (like, becoming a better public speaker, gaining confidence, etc.) After several years and many trials of faith (and many thousands of dollars paid in “tithes” to the church hierarchy), the initiates finally make it into the “inner circle” where they learn the actual secret belief: something to do with an ancient god living in a volcano and practicing mind-control on humans… (?) The only reason these “secret” beliefs are known is because there have been a few important renegades who defected and informed the world what was actually going on. In contrast, I don’t believe there have ever been any major defections from Freemasons. Masons explicitly threaten to torture and murder anyone who tells their secrets to the public. Once again, my point is not that Masons should not exist, but that they should not be allowed to run for political office, since no one knows what they actually believe (I mean, the actual core of beliefs at the level of the inner circle).
      P.S. I also happen to think that the whole notion of “secret knowledge” is an oxymoron. Real knowledge should be right out there, preferably on the internet, or at least written down in some book for everyone to see and learn, if they have the time to apply themselves. For example, differential calculus is very difficult to learn, and the formulas might seem like mystical gibberish to some, but anyone can really learn it if they study hard enough, and certainly there is no lack of textbooks.
      Whereas “Secret knowledge” is just some bullshit that people believe deep down in their hearts (such as ancient god living in volcano, etc.), but they are afraid to publish it for all to see, because then some sceptic can possibly take it apart and disprove it.

      • Misha says:

        At times, “secret” has been used to concoct crock notions:

        On the subject of Jews, it has been suggested that Philip Cohen has essentially served as a front for non-Jewish former Yugoslav anti-Serb propagandists. Getting someone of known Jewish background to support certain wartime claims has PR clout. Recall the recent bit I brought up regarding Elie Wiesel and his recently ended association with a pro-Bosnian Muslim nationalist organization:

        Regarding the first link in this note about WW II activity in former Yugoslavia, this RFE/RL piece is an example of severely inaccurate information:

        The posting of fact based comments to the contrary highlights the reality of the dubious views which get propped for article consideration over more accurate material.

        • Yalensis says:

          @misha: Yeah, I am amazed that any Jewish person would let him or herself get aligned with these Bosnian Muslim groups and their sob story about their supposed “genocide” equalling Hitlerite Holocaust. Elie Wiesel did right thing in bailing from this nonsense, but it was a case of “too little too late”.

          • Misha says:

            Yalensis, I think some Jews have supported the Bosnian Muslim nationalists to show that they aren’t anti-Muslim while supporting Israel. I also suspect that within neocon, neolib and some other political ranks, that include a number of Jews, the bias against Russia comes into play. I’ve referred to the Serbs as miniature Russians to be trampled on. Mind you, I stress that the bias at play doesn’t reflect all Jews. Keep in mind how some Ukrainian and Russian views are treated over others. What often gets propped in mass media and establishment wonk fests downplays or excludes altogether certain realities.

            I remain suspect of Wiesel. After his recent changed stance, someone felt that he’s anti-Serb.

            Perhaps Wiesel is such without knowing all of the particulars.

            There’re quite a few who get subconsciously duped, as opposed to having a well versed prejudice.

            It stands to reason that European born people have a generally better grasp on Euro matters than North Americans, thereby making it less probable for the former to not have a subconsciously duped mindset on subjects like how other Europeans are depicted. In other words, a European born person’s animosity towards a given European group is likely more sincere than a typical North American, whose basis for such dislike is frequently motivated by a comparatively limited awareness of the involved particulars.

            With this in mind, I’m a bit apprehensive of the European born Wiesel.

            He apparently got ticked off at anti-Israeli and pro-Muslim terrorist elements within a pro-Bosniak org. Prior to that, one takes into consideration what Wiesel did and didn’t say of Serbs. (Offhand, I’d have to check the record, which I suspect isn’t so good.) Putting him aside, numerous Jews don’t buy into the anti-Serb line, which brings to mind this nonsense:


            Lost in the above linked piece is the fact that Israel doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s independence. As for the termed “Israel treatment” (little respect), the significant minority of nations recognizing Kosovo’s independence disrespects Serbia.

            See further below this thread regarding some outrageous comments on the Russian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate and Ukrainian Greek-Catholic denomination.

      • marknesop says:

        I agree with your theory about knowledge – anyone can duplicate the efforts of a great pioneer, and probably a lot of those who follow will never appreciate the brilliance it took to lead the way.

        When Yes released “Close to the Edge” in 1972, people had never heard anything like it. In 2006, Guitar World voted it #67 of the 100 Greatest Albums of All Time. When Steve Howe wrote and played the guitar work for Close to the Edge, he was 25. Think of the people you know who are 25: how many of them are doing something like that? How many could? But anyone who has played guitar for a couple of years and has the patience to listen and practice could do that guitar work now. The level of difficulty is daunting, but imagine what it took to compose it when there was no precedent. Most other disciplines have a similar example to offer; that just happens to be one of my favourites.

        • Yalensis says:

          @mark: I am always in awe of people who can compose music. Heck, I am in awe of people who can PLAY an instrument. Do you play the guitar, by any chance? I play piano a little bit, but I am not very good, and I cannot even imagine having the kind of brain to be able to compose music!

          • marknesop says:

            I can’t compose music either, but I played bass guitar in a rock band for 4 years between finishing school and signing on to my present employment, and have played lead guitar in a couple of bands since.

  16. Yalensis says:

    I forgot how we got on topic of Masons … oh yes, it had something to do with oligarchs and history of capitalism. People may deny it, but it really does seem likely that USA was founded by a clique of Freemasons; here is the classic picture of George Washington in Masonic regalia. American founding fathers believed they were founding new, enlightened civilization unlike any other (=American exceptionalism). And these were really smart men too, especially guys like Jefferson, Paine, Franklin, they were the best intelligentsia of their time; that also cannot be disputed. And yet these intelligent men met at night in secret and performed ridiculous ceremonies like drinking blood from skulls! Mozart was a Mason too (his opera “The Magic Flute” shows some Masonic ceremonies and myths, e.g., hero’s quest for enlightenment, Sarastro vs. “Queen of the Night”, etc.) On that note, seems like Masons are sexist, because they do not admit women. That would be okay if they were just a private club, but is a problem if they pretend to political influence in a modern, egalitarian society.

  17. Misha says:

    IMO, the below linked article can be reasonably considered as anti-Russian Orthodox Christian propaganda:

    A significant downplaying of how the Greek-Catholic denomination came into being and the historical relationship of the Russian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate with Rus.

    Before becoming Greek-Catholic, the ancestors of today’s Ukrainian Greek Catholics were Orthodox-Christian.

    Without follow-up, I wonder if Hilarion actually said what’s attributed to him. On this particular, the above linked article references a source who appears to have a track record of making generally inaccurate and negative comments about Russia.

    It stands to reason that the appropriate reply from Hilarion would support the right of the Greek-Catholic denomination’s present day existence, despite its origin having involved coercion that included the discrimination against Orthodox-Christians.

    Over the centuries, ethically challenged behavior has been undertaken among some in the respective denominations discussed. In addition to being inaccurate, the above linked article unnecessarily promotes divisiveness.

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