Vladimir Putin, Meddling Micro-manager

Uncle Volodya says, "The wise speak because they have something to say - the fools, because they have to say something""

“Better the rule of One, whom all obey, than to let clamorous demagogues betray our freedom with the kiss of anarchy”

So said 19th-century Irish poet, playwright and novelist Oscar Wilde. The relevance of this Victorian view of leadership is inspired by those clamorous demagogues at Open Democracy – more specifically, Grigorii Golosov. Along with the common western view (which actually looks increasingly possible) that Mr. Putin will stand for election in 2012 as United Russia’s candidate, Mr. Golosov advances the somewhat more oddball notion that the solidity of support behind Putin (not to mention the relative weakness and chagrin of political movements that oppose him) is due to his obsessive micro-management.

Working from that premise, please join me as we take a bemused look at “Putin-Medvedev: Russia’s Managed Drama”.

Is Mr. Putin a micro-manager? If not, what would better describe his management style? If so, what are the national consequences of such micro-management? Is micro-management, in this context, undesirable?

As is often the case, it’d be helpful to proceed from the definition of the term. Therefore, according to Merriam-Webster, micro-management is “managing especially with excessive control or attention to details”. Although I didn’t quote Wikipedia (and generally don’t unless I can’t find the information I want to pass on anywhere else), their definition broadly agreed – while adding the proviso that micro-management was “generally seen with a negative connotation”. Further substantiating that view, two professional management consultants agreed that “…micro-managers cause serious problems for their staff members and for the companies that employ them” while one offered, “Micro-management is a personality aberration of insecure individuals”.

Everyone agreed; micro-management is a negative quality that typically results in degraded performance? Right, then; armed with our new-found knowledge, let’s look at Mr. Putin under the micro-manager lens.

A good place to start might be the Prime Minister’s calendar. What’d he have on his schedule for, say, April 15th? Let’s see….click on “Working Day”….That’s odd. Hockey practice with the Chelyabinsk White Bears and the Penza Forward. Whoops – the Prime Minister had apparently never skated on ice before February, when he made a vow to learn. I wonder where an obsessive micro-manager like Putin found time for skating lessons? Anyway, let’s try another date – April 19th. Well, that’s more like it; a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Kozak, on preparations for the 2014 Olympics at Sochi. The narrative reports, “Mr. Putin pointed out the need to ensure high construction quality, emphasizing that the Olympic venues will be used by people in decades after the Games”. There, that’s micro-management, surely? No? Well, then, how about April 21st? Mmmm….a meeting with Francis Gurry, Director-General of the World Intellectual Property Organization. Teach your grandmother to suck eggs, Putin – that’s not your area of responsibility! Oh, oops – it is. Look, you can pursue this on your own if you like; I find the way the page is set up to be a little awkward in randomly selecting a date to see what the Prime Minster’s working day was like, because you can’t just jump from month to month (or if you can, I don’t see any guidance as to how). But my point is, when does Mr. Putin find time to micro-manage his ministers and other government officials? Along with the events I’ve just detailed, there have been well-publicized occasions of the Prime Minister driving across the Far East in a Lada to celebrate the opening of a new highway (allegedly stopping along the 2000-km route to inspect key construction sites), shooting whales with special skin-sample darts with a crossbow (the same report stressed his personal involvement with conservation projects in general, although the Khimki Forest episode casts a bit of a pall over that),  driving a Formula One racecar, roaring around on a Harley-Davidson and fishing in Siberia. Jeeze – does the guy ever work?

As well as the face-time spent in death-defying stuntery above, Mr. Putin has conducted 16 international State Visits since 2009, and 6 internal visits to different Russian regions in the past 4 months. He must have a platoon of micro-managers to micro-manage in his absence; either that, or a Blackberry bill bigger than the defense budget.

Mr. Golosov is insistent that a “mechanism of micro-management” has resulted in a “dictatorship of one man, camouflaged by its democratic institutions”. But it seems clear that Mr. Putin does not have enough time to actually dictate to everyone in person, which is pretty much the heart and soul of micro-management: I hope nobody, including Mr. Golosov, actually believes every bureaucrat in a country the size of the Russian Federation lines up outside Putin’s office every morning to get his or her marching orders. How’s it work, then? Well, “Putin gives personal orders to key bureaucrats he trusts, and these bureaucrats ensure that his orders are carried out…”

Oh, my God!! I just realized – that’s exactly like every other major top-down leadership organization in the civilized world!!! By no stretch of the most conspiracy-theory-fevered imagination is a system whereby the boss passes his direction to subordinates through department heads (it’s OK to call them “ministers”, because that’s what they are) accurately described as micro-management. But just to be sure, let’s go back to our definition. “Managing…with excessive control or attention to details”.  I don’t see how a guy who’s only in the office half the time can exert excessive control over details.

Seriously – what kind of government would you prefer? One in which there’s nobody really in charge, and where individual ministers just get their targets at the beginning of the year and everyone gets together for a barbecue at year-end to see what kind of shape the nation’s in? Is that how a Nemtsov or a Kasparov would govern? Hardly: but just in case such a notion occurred to either, I can preview for you what the press would say about that kind of leadership. Ready? “The leader is out of touch with the country!!!” You know – like when the Cabinet made the decision in 1998 to default on $40 Billion in debt and devalue the ruble, but Yeltsin wasn’t there, so they flew out by helicopter to tell him, and First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov didn’t know until he heard about it on Interfax. How’d that work out, as an example of leadership, do you think? You certainly couldn’t accuse Yeltsin of being a micro-manager, though, could you?

But since I brought that example up, let’s go with it for a minute. I realize Yeltsin was the President and Putin is not at the moment; but he has been president before, and for sources like Open Democracy it makes no difference – Putin has always been the inflexible dictator who squeezes Russia until it gasps in his iron fist. So just for fun, let’s assume Mr. Golosov’s analysis is accurate, and Putin is a micro-manager who ruthlessly controls everything that happens in Russia.

Ummm….how is that bad for Russia? I mean, let’s look at inflation, which Russia-watchers like Open Democracy are forever playing up as The Rampaging Dragon That Ate The People’s Paychecks. Inflation in Russia today is about 7% – not great, a little more than double what it is in the USA, but manageable and forecast to steadily decrease. What was it when Yeltsin was President, again? The first records available were from 1993, when he had already been President for 2 years. Inflation stood at 874.6%. It never got out of double digits, and when he left office it was on its way back up again, at 85.7%. The following year – under President Putin – it fell to 20.7%, after which it declined steadily until the global financial crisis in 2008. At that point, when Putin was no longer President, inflation briefly spiked – although it never went as high as the lowest figure it had ever achieved under Yeltsin – and then began once more to steadily decline. Let’s recall; by definition, micro-management is supposed to be bad news for the company (or the country, in this instance). It’s also the characteristic mark of the “insecure individual”.

Is Vladimir Putin insecure, would you say? The same guy who sang in a foreign language in front of an international audience? Anybody?

Let’s take a look at GDP. Growth was stable under Putin, never falling below 4.7% (2002). What’s it look like in the World’s Largest Economy (not for much longer, by the way)? Ooooh…not so good, I’m afraid: first-quarter forecasts were revised downward a full point last month, to 1.9%. In 2002, Russia’s worst year under Putin for GDP growth – a paltry 4.7% – GDP growth in the USA was 1.8%.

Once again; hard to see Vladimir Putin as a micro-manager at all – but if he is, I’m hard put to perceive how this is wrecking the country he serves.

Oh, but wait: there’s more. Putin micro-manages the “Russian Propaganda Machine”, too. In fact, United Russia is guaranteed to win, because “Russian legislation on political parties and elections virtually eliminates [the] possibility” that a genuine opposition candidate will take part. Do tell. I’d be interested in seeing that legislation, and understanding more on how it eliminates the possibility of opposition, because that sounds like a non-democracy to me. Have the laws on elections and political parties changed significantly, in a non-democratic direction, since Yeltsin ran the show (actually, to be perfectly accurate, his leadership pointed out what a narrow difference there is between “running” the show and “ruining” the show)? The reason I ask is because when Yeltsin was elected, the western media had a collective democratic orgasm, and couldn’t stop talking about what a great democratic advance it had been for Russia.

Are we talking about the ruling party monopolizing political advertising, and the difficulty opposition politicians have with getting equal representation? Yawn. I sincerely hope you brought something better than that, because media manipulation happens every election in the iconic I’m-Rubber-You’re-Glue (so everything you say bounces off me and sticks to you) democracy. What does Open Democracy think would be fair, then; United Russia should start at zero votes, but they should spot the Liberal opposition, say, a twenty-percent head start? Seriously, it reminds me of when Boris Nemtsov lost the election for mayor of Sochi, his home town, polling less than 14% of the vote. He complained then, too, that he didn’t have fair access to advertising to spread his message. For one thing, he was First Deputy Prime Minister of the entire Russian Federation only 10 years before – is it possible there was nobody left alive in Sochi who had ever heard of him? For another, the western media enthusiastically spread his message for him via the Internet, just as they will this time. Internet penetration is at around 43%, over 60 million users in Russia – I’d bet neither television or newspapers can match that as an information medium in the country.

Mr. Golosov is not the only bullhorn for the “God Damn It, Putin Wins Again” doomcriers. From her new journalistic perch as Foreign Policy‘s Moscow correspondent, Julia Ioffe offers us a gloomy election preview; “Of course, on March 11th, a few voters will go to the polls and cast their votes”.

Julia seems to have retained little of her Russian heritage except the ability to speak the language fluently and her good looks (which are neck-snapping, if her photographs are any standard of measure). At this point in her life she is American to the marrow of her bones, with the all-too-common propensity for projection. In fact, as pointed out in a recent post, voter turnout in Russia since there was a democratic vote in that country has consistently surpassed that of the United States. If that doesn’t seem like such a big deal, I’d have to suggest it is; according to statistics at NationMaster, there is a 51% correlation between Democracy, Presidential Elections and Voter Turnout, the strongest hit on the Democracy correlation board. Remember the history-making 2005 parliamentary elections in Iraq? Who can forget, all those Republicans running around with purple fingers like they just pulled them out of a purple monkey’s bum or something….great days. What was the voter turnout? Less than 60%, or  about what it was for the lowest turnout recorded in a Russian election. You’d never know it from the democracy orgy that went on in the western press.

Will there be irregularities in the 2012 elections in Russia? I’m sure there will. Are there irregularities in presidential elections in established democracies? My, yes; I did a post on it once. The ruling party in every democratic process endeavours to increase its chance of winning, by fair means and otherwise. In Russia, people vote – in larger numbers than in most established democracies. The votes are counted, and the count is substantially easier to verify than in democracies that use, say, voting machines which can demonstrably be hacked in two minutes by a college student. Whoever wins the most votes gets to be president. By every current indication, that will be either Mr. Medvedev or Mr. Putin, whichever of them stands for election. That doesn’t mean the fix is in, as twittering neoconservative mouthpieces would have you believe. It means more Russians trust United Russia to continue leading the country than wish to take a chance on liberal oppositionists who have yet to articulate a national plan, being mostly content to disparage the thus-far-successful one that is unfolding. It really is as simple as that, I promise you.

Rock on, President Micro-manager.

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186 Responses to Vladimir Putin, Meddling Micro-manager

  1. An excellent article. Though the topic seems a bit… weird. Accusing Putin of micro-managing and insecurity rather than totalitarianism or genocide this time.
    However “I’d bet neither television or newspapers can match that as an information medium in the country.” regarding the Internet, that isn’t true. For the most part, television plays a much more direct role in Russian media and newspapers take on the highest role in political information and journalism. These provide a much broader, more unbiased and much more numerous range of opinions, they are thus preferred by Russians. Western involvement in Russian politics is mostly laughed at, except of course by liberals. This isn’t to support Nemtsov or anything like that, I’m no fan of him, I’m just saying.
    The writer’s argument (in the piece about micro-management) didn’t really make that much sense anyway, he’s picking on pretty minor little character traits in an effort to escape looking mainstream in his dislike for Putin, which fails his argument altogether.
    Frankly, I can’t even see micromanagement as a problem, and I would agree that in some instances Putin is a bit of a micromanager. More in his own public-relations sector than with actual government. His actions such as shooting the whales and driving the cars are clearly popularity campaigns among many of his visits and speeches.
    The writer probably misunderstood such visits and funny little things Putin finds himself in as actual management; when Putin was only visiting for the sake of appearing to do more where not much is done and getting a more common-man atmosphere around him. Essentially, visiting factories, talking to workers and making a press headline doesn’t mean micromanagement, though it gives the appearance of Putin being involved in everything and this is likely what the writer fell for.

    • marknesop says:

      Thanks! I don’t know how “confused” Mr. Golosov is – judging by the rest of his article, he believes he is an astute political analyst. Some of what he said makes sense, but I got the impression he had just discovered the term “micro-management”, and meant to use it as much as possible. I’d agree Putin’s management style is authoritarian, and I imagine few would disagree. However, in a system where there is a good deal of corruption, the laissez-faire approach will obviously not work. That still doesn’t make Putin a micro-manager, and I suggest he’s not because there would otherwise be systemic discontent with his leadership, and there manifestly is not. I agree the publicity stunts are comical, and probably done tongue-in-cheek considering Putin’s sense of humour – but they do take time and he is far too busy to micro-manage.

      If television is far above internet as a medium for disseminating information – yet is, as you say, unbiased – then it still leaves liberals without an argument, because their contention (straight from Nemtsov’s lips) is that Putin’s supporters consist of the elderly who rely on “Kremlin TV” for their news. That is demographically impossible.

      • I said the newspapers were more unbiased. Perhaps I phrased it wrongly, but I said “The newspapers take take on the highest role in political journalism” I should’ve said “media role.” They’re all biased (you practically can’t not have a bias) but there’s a much broader range of bias, more liberalism, nationalism and communism rather than just centralist and pro-state stuff, since most of the political TV is pro-state. The people that watch “Kremlin TV” ie, get their politics from television; are the ones that take some notice in politics but not too much- those are the ones who read blogs and newspapers. Kremlin TV really is pretty one sided. It’s mostly the younger and older that completely rely on it for politics. But then again- they are normally the ones that don’t care too much for them, just stay informed, the middle aged are much more interested, normally.
        TV is, as I see it, the medium for ordinary media.
        Newspapers; political & business media.
        Internet; rapidly taking over the other two.
        In a few years, you’ll probably be completely right about the Internet statement.

  2. Also; that ‘socialist’ poster’s pure hilarity!
    If Obama’s supposed to be a socialist for putting a 38% tax on the rich, than Eisenhower (who had a 90% tax) makes Stalin look like Milton Friedman.

  3. Igor says:

    @Mark “..until the global financial crisis in 1998. At that point, when Putin was no longer President” – you may want to correct the typo.

    When publicly accepted norm is to steal as much as possible, micromanagement is about the only way to control the society (because the moment you don’t look at the official – or even a policeman – he stops doing what he is supposed to do & start stealing). That’s why eg. a video link from a building site in a burnt village near Moscow directly to PM office was necessary🙂 But of course, you are right – it is physically impossible to micromanage the whole country of the size of Russia. Since the reason that any – socialist, capitalist etc – economy works is not a profit maximization drive, but a sense of “fair go” – people must feel that they are getting what they deserve for their work – or at least have a reasonable hope to get what they think they deserve in the future, the fact, that Russian economy works, probably, means, that (a) the Russians are dreamers – enough of the population still believes that they all can become rich (b) they did not loose completely the dreaded “communist” moral and (c) they are getting back just enough of the proceeds from the stealing via government distribution channels. The latter means that somebody still has motivation, authority & methods to enforce it. Micromanagement? Unlikely…

    • marknesop says:

      Oops – you’re right, I was stuck in the 90’s. I meant 2008.

      I often wish low-to-mid-level Russians would be invested with a little of the work ethic that motivates the Japanese; not “what’s in it for me?”, but “what’s in it for Japan?” (or Russia, in this case). If they could be made to see that stealing and corruption hurts the country and slows its development, perhaps at least most of them could be persuaded to think nationally rather than personally.

      • Igor says:

        cit:”I often wish low-to-mid-level Russians would be invested with a little of the work ethic”.

        In Russia they say ” the fish starts to rot from the head”… In this case, of course, there are (too) many rotten “heads” higher up . It is easier to have patriotism overriding hoarding at that level first – because these people already have more than enough for a sane human to wish for. Then it might be expected to flow down the line almost automatically. The recent (Medvedev’s) high-level reshuffling was a good thing to have done – though, I am not sure whether it was enough or , especially, whether both of the two “power” structures were appropriately “adjusted”..

        • marknesop says:

          All right, I accept that. Maybe this would be a good place to start a discussion on what the government should be doing. You know and I know that if you just give people something, it almost never achieves the desired effect. Yeltsin’s cutting everyone in on the shares plan (I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt here, and assuming he meant well) did not result in all Russian citizens becoming invested in turning the country into a developing juggernaut – in fact, most people did not really understand their purpose, and gave their shares away or sold them for a tiny fraction of their worth. This resulted in the rapid rise of the oligarchs. Anyway, if you just say, “this belongs to you, as a citizen – here”, people (a) probably are not best-suited to know how to employ what they’ve been given, and (b) will eventually resent for the obligation you have forced upon them by giving them something for nothing.

          Getting the Russian people to throw their shoulders to the wheel of Communism was easy. Communism failed. Some people will now be suspicious of any government initiative, but no people’s movement has the influence and the connections to drive national gains. Plenty of outside agencies are interested in investing, but they are interested from a viewpoint of profit and not national greatness, because it isn’t their country. Sinotibetan sent an excellent link on this which seemed to excite little comment, so I believe it just slipped under the radar – here it is again. The subject at the time was also Putin/Medvedev, although it was a sidebar. Anyway, the thrust of it was that Putin and the internal administration were stepping on Medvedev’s bold liberal move to dismiss government cronies from the executive boards of major Russian firms. It generated a bit of excitement in the subject blogosphere, with the hopelessly russophobic of course saying it was too little, too late, although grudgingly allowing it was a necessary step toward reform. Now we learn that isn’t going to happen, and a government official (a “trustee”) will remain on the board because an independent director acts in line with what his vision of what is best for the company’s development, while a professional trustee acts on the government’s orders.

          The Russian government has already seen what happened when a western-style business model gained unfettered access to the Russian market – Hermitage Capital Management. Hermitage made a fortune by starting whisper campaigns against undervalued Russian companies in the western press., wiping out their management and then pocketing a bundle when the government moved in to clean up the wreckage. HCM grew by 40% in its first month of operation. It made money like there was no tomorrow, but as happens often in the west, the company became too big for its britches and thought it could dictate to the government. In the west it often can, but the Russian government was right to shut that down right there – there’s a world of difference between the way the west views countries it wants to build up, and those it wants to tear down. As mentioned in a link in this post, China is forecast by the IMF to blow past the USA as the world’s largest economy in only 5 years from now. And it has an enormous supply of natural resources and energy right next door that will only speed its development.

          Anyway, I believe Putin is right to want controls on western investment in his country, because powerful elements in the west (not everybody, far from it) wish Russia ill. Proceeding from that standpoint (lest we lose sight of our purpose), what do you believe are the best measures the Russian government can take to ensure investment on the part of the average citizen in playing it straight, and making honest profit for honest work, without all the bribery and toadying and cronyism? Bear in mind that there are interests in the country – and not necessarily government – who like the current corrupt model just fine. This is where the russophobes get it wrong – they believe unrestricted mercantilism, liberalized business models and unfettered market forces are the key to success, and consistently back Russian political candidates who they believe will take Russia in that direction. What those models are the key to is the global financial collapse that just happened.

          • Igor says:

            Note: this post can be deleted

            I have to take a time-out for a week +, my deepest apologies. But you bundled the problem(-s) very well, Mark – it is catching & it seems, there are (possible) answers almost visible there. I’ll get back to the topic with my unworthy thoughts later.

            Cheers

            PS. A food for thought – re. director boards & how the gov. should or should not regulate capitalist economy eg. here . Somebody asked me why did not they simply increase export tariffs in February instead & then fed the surplus back in as an insensitive to modernize refineries.. An abrupt control of this type will cause supply/demand waves – see eg. P. Senge, The Fifth Discipline, Beer Game.

      • cartman says:

        Look at this article today in the WSJ.

        http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704530204576234323376812908.html

        The average air traffic controller in Spain was making $500,000/year. I mean holy s&!%. I thought Spanish work ethic wasn’t too bad. It was mostly the property sector collapse that did them in. Their public sector is probably more spoiled than Russia’s because there is a lot more money going around.

  4. Yalensis says:

    Great article, @Mark. I think you successfully refuted the ridiculous notion that Putin is a micro-manager. Rather, his style is more like traditional authoritarian. When he shows up at some local enterprise, it probably means he heard something was going terribly wrong, and now heads are going to roll. That isn’t micro-management, it’s more like “undercover boss”. Putin obviously delegates everything except the most important projects, such as Sochi Olympics, which I am guessing he IS personally involved in.
    Two random notes: On the skating lessons, since he started from zero experience, Putin had to learn to skate with little kids, and now practices hockey on a children’s team , which I personally think is adorable – anyone who seeks to learns a brand new skill has to start from scratch and be willing to become a child again. His actual skating skills are not that good yet (understandably), but he seems pretty adept with the puck. Next: I would like to see VVP sign up for figure skating lessons. It would improve his posture and overall skating skills.
    Re. presidential elections gossip: Most of the online Russian papers seem to agree that Putin WILL be the candidate for United Russia party. Behind the scenes knife-fights (for example, the fall from grace of Gleb Pavlovsky , and various scuttlebutt seem to merge on speculation that Medvedev cut his own throat when he fell for NATO’s Libya scam (=allowing UN resolution for NATO no-flyover). This was the Russian equivalent of that wise American proverb “fool me once, shame on YOU; fool me twice, shame on ME.” Medvedev (whom internet wiseguys have dubbed “Айфончик” (“I-phone-chik”) proved himself to be a sucker once again, fooled or seduced by Americans, summoning very bad memories of Yeltsin era. I think along with everyone else, Putin at that moment also saw Medvedev for what he truly is. I make psychic prediction that in 2012 Medvedev will be put out to pasture running that Skolkovo white elephant while Putin returns in triumph to Kremlin with a healthy voter mandate.

    • Sam says:

      Yalensis, I would love for things in 2012 to happen the way you’re predicting them to, but I still think that Medvedev will be candidate with support from Putin. I think Putin still perceives Medvedev as his friend and would consider setting him aside as disloyal, and for anything Putin has a very important sense of loyalty. I hope he ditches it though;) Specially that I don’t think this sense of loyalty is reciprocal from Medvedev.

      • Yalensis says:

        @Sam: Nobody can see into the future, not even Nostradamus, so we just have to be patient and wait to see what happens. I am basing my prediction mostly on internet scuttlebutt. It is true that Putin is loyal to his friends, but there is a real sense out there that Medvedev (aka “I-phone-chik”, aka “Dancing American Boy”) really stepped over the line when he (1) allowed NATO to attack Libya, and (2) publicly rebuked Putin. If Putin does push Medvedev aside, I assume it will be done smoothly, with Medvedev getting cushy job, retaining rank within United Russia Party, and appearing to approve of his own ouster, not forcing him into opposition. But you are right, a lot can happen between now and then!

        • Misha says:

          As I sense might be mutually agreed, an attack on Libya was likely with or without UNSCR 1973.

          Perhaps the UN voting issue is a part of a growing up on the job phase. On foreign policy, such an instance was associated with JFK.

          Meantime, it’s not like Russia was alone on what occurred. No one voted against UNSCR 1973.

    • I too very much hope Putin shoves aside Medvedev in 2012 and takes the country back.

    • Misha says:

      On the reference to Libya and the matter of managed media:

      Selective Vigilantism
      http://counterpunch.org/tariq04292011.html

      Excerpt:

      The Saudis entered Bahrain where the population is being tyrannised and large-scale arrests are taking place. Not much of this is being reported on al-Jazeera. I wonder why? The station seems to have been curbed somewhat and brought into line with the politics of its funders.

      • marknesop says:

        Speaking of Libya, I see a NATO airstrike killed Gaddafi’s son and three grandchildren, in a private home in Tripoli, while Gaddafi was there. But NATO still denies Gadaffi himself is a target. They sure are doing a good job protecting those civilians, aren’t they? Say; how were civilians being menaced by Gaddafi’s forces in Tripoli, anyway? Isn’t Tripoli pretty much 100% for Gaddafi? Well, the rebels and their NATO pals will be dancing in the streets tonight, I guess. Great job, boys – you must be so proud.

        As usual, they’ll just keep on keepin’ on in spite of public opinion until they achieve their goal, and then money will flow in to smooth it all over like Novocaine until everyone forgets.

        • Back in 2003, though I was skeptical about the Iraq adventure, I thought it fitting and proper to support the coalition over Saddam.

          Not now. No longer can it be said to be a series of tragic mistakes, under administrations that are no more; it is systematic, a pattern of self-serving Western imperialism that carries on regardless of the empty suits in power at any one time. Hold on, Colonel! I hope China or Russia sends him modern SAM systems, though nukes is too much to hope for.

          • marknesop says:

            Well, I wouldn’t go that far. I’d settle for some honest reporting, and there’s truth-stretching going on on both sides. For example, if you look at the photo that accompanies the article I linked, the “missile” (reporters are notorious simpletons when it comes to war, and couldn’t recognize a missile if one decorated in Islamic slogans with Saddam himself riding it tore through their living room while they were watching the Royal Wedding – it was actually a bomb) that supposedly caused the cataclysmic ruin around it is entirely whole, not even deformed, and undamaged except for a film of plaster and cement dust. But the room is rubble. Somebody’s lying there, because there wouldn’t be anything recognizable left of the bomb. But there’s no getting away from the fact that NATO weaseled its way into the country under the premise that it was enforcing a no-fly zone, and protecting civilians. I might be behind in my tactics, but the last I read, bombing residential districts was not one of the recommended ways to protect civilians.

            I guess the core issue for me is that NATO (egged on by that warmongering Gallic midget, Sarkozy) claims to revere democratic principles, but is backing the play of a handful of Islamic-fundamentalist malcontents while the vast majority of the Libyan population does not support them. How in the fuck is that democracy? What’s next – send in a couple of squadrons to support the Basque separatists?

            NATO’s window of smarten-up is shrinking rapidly. If they force Gadaffi out, it’ll be the biggest recruiting initiative for anti-western extremist groups seen since the Iraq war. If they kill him, it’ll be a thousand times worse.

            Why couldn’t de Villepin be running France? Let’s ask ourselves for a moment; how much of this wouldn’t have happened if Sarkozy – on behalf of France – had not prematurely recognized the rebels as the legitimate government of Libya?

          • Misha says:

            Opposing Iraq in 1991 had more of a basis of merit than the action taken in 2003.

            This view explains why there was greater international support for military action in 2003 than 1991.

            Iraq attacked and then claimed an internationally recognized country in 1991. In 2003, suspect WMD claims were made without fully pursuing other options besides war.

            The action taken against Libya highlights the hypocrisy of so-called “humanitarian intervention” and how some countries might now feel more compelled to have a strong enough military to hopefully (from their point of view) decrease the likelihood of armed action taken against them.

            Along with some other past and present instances, the recent events in Ivory Coast and Bahrain highlight a certain BS factor behind some human rights driven foreign policy notions.

            On NPR, I recall Steven Erlanger of The NYT say (on NPR) that JNA activity in Kosovo wasn’t noticeably worse than Russian behavuior in Chechnya. He could’ve also added how the Turks behaved in eastern Turkey vis-a-vis Kurdish militants.

            Serbs don’t have nukes like Russia and aren’t in an American dominated club (NATO) like Turkey.

        • Yalensis says:

          Gaddafi’s family is confusing, because some of his sons have the same first name (=Saif). I did some quick Google research, and it seems like the one who got killed last night is not the “important” one, some older son named Saif who was being groomed to take over Libya when Gaddafi dies. (Side note: all these authoritarian regimes seem to have tricky issues with succession, and often you see the dictator grooming a son in advance as Dad grows older. Often this grooming process is what sparks the crisis and popular rebellion, when folks see that same tribe is planning to hang on to power.)
          The son that I am thinking of started off very westernized (studied in Europe, had liberal ideas, etc.) and even convinced Dad to pay reparations for Lockerbie and give up his nukes (for which he’s kicking himself now, I’m sure), in return for rapprochement with Bush and Blair administrations. But this son, who people assumed might stab Dad in back in return for Western acceptance, suddenly turned ferociously loyal to Papa and is now practically the leader of the pro-Gaddafi forces in this civil war.

          • Sam says:

            Yalensis,
            They don’t have the same name. The son who was killed is Saif al Arab.He was 28 years old and just a student, and he was killed along with 3 of Gaddafi’s grandchildren whose age you can imagine (the elder son being 38 and the youngest being 28) . The “important” one is Saif al Islam.

  5. sinotibetan says:

    “Most of the online Russian papers seem to agree that Putin WILL be the candidate for United Russia party. ”
    “I think Putin still perceives Medvedev as his friend and would consider setting him aside as disloyal, and for anything Putin has a very important sense of loyalty.”
    “I too very much hope Putin shoves aside Medvedev in 2012 and takes the country back.”
    I hope that Putin will be candidate for the presidency too. Medvedev – he bends down to America far too often and the worst part – clueless that America is not a ‘friend’ of Russia.
    Doubt that Putin perceives Medvedev as a ‘loyal’ friend anymore. I don’t think that the recent antics of Medvedev have been lost on Putin. If we and many others can ‘see’ Medvedev’s ‘disloyalty’ for Putin, I don’t think Putin would have missed it. I think Putin realised that Medvedev is not fit for his post. Putin can be ‘loyal’ to Medvedev by retaining him in the government – just not as President. Moreover, loyalty to country outweighs loyalty to a rather disloyal friend and is justified.
    Anyway, great article by Mark!
    Not even absolute monarchs or ‘totalitarians’ of bygone eras ever ‘micro-managed’ their countries, what more Putin! If Putin micro-manages everything, why in the world are Russian liberals and Western ‘analysts’ talking about Medvedev and Putin ‘slugging’ out for the 2012 presidential candidacy – and wouldn’t Putin be ‘micro-managing’ Medvedev? You are spot on -ridiculous to say any leader micro-manages anything!
    @yalensis – sorry I did not respond to your replies to comments in the previous post. I had been busy lately. Will try to respond to what you commented on America and the Masons later.

    Anyway, with regards to Pavlovsky, RFE/RL loses another ‘insider informant’. I wonder whether Pavlovsky is dismissed not only because he is pro-Medvedev but perhaps because he was found to be ‘disloyal'(a ‘middleman’ between pro-Medvedev faction and Washington)? Of course, just a wild speculation….
    http://www.rferl.org/content/the_pavlovsky_affair/16798268.html
    The Western narrative ‘changes’ again…now they’re worried about Putin ‘reclaiming’ the Presidency:-
    http://articles.latimes.com/2011/apr/28/world/la-fg-russia-putin-20110429
    And perhaps this may mean Putin does not fully trust the ‘loyalty’ of Medvedev:-
    http://en.rian.ru/business/20110428/163749519.html

    sinotibetan

    • Misha says:

      I recall Pavlovsky saying some not so swift things about David Miliband. I’m not fond of the latter. At the same time, pro-Russian advocacy faces enough obstacles, even with erudite commentary.

      • Misha says:

        Regarding high profile “Russian spin doctors,” I recall one of them providing commentary for a News World International (NWI) feature on Ukraine, shortly after Yushchenko’s presidential inauguration (now defunct, NWI was a Canadian Broadcasting Company television affiliate). When asked why the Orange government was counterproductive, Sergei Markov said that its Russia unfriendly elements served to provoke a nationalist backlash in Russia. From a Russian vantage point, this wasn’t good public relations, in addition to not offering the most accurate of thoughts on the subject. Markov’s emphasis on Russia conjures up the image of a Russian not concerned with how Ukraine feels and provides fodder for the faulty notion of Russia being collectively ripe with overly aggressive nationalists. The better answer to the NWI question would note that the newly inaugurated (at the time) Orange government’s not so Russia friendly members are an anathema to many in Ukraine, who don’t view Russia with hostility. This in turn could create instability within Ukraine, which in the long run wouldn’t benefit anyone. In any event, present day Ukraine has distanced itself from that Orange presidential period, with Russia and the West now taking an arguably less aggressive approach on that former Soviet republic.

    • Yalensis says:

      @sinotibetan: If Mr. Putin does decide to run for presidency in 2012, I think we can expect a Western propaganda barrage of unparalleled proportions. Every Western Russophobe journalist (from Julia Ioffe on up to the big boys) will be led to the stable and harnessed up for orchestra of hate and negativity that will no doubt ensue… If I were “spin doctor” for Putin campaign, I would preemptively harness up my troops too and have them respond to every Western propaganda attack with “asymmetrical” attack in kind. For example: “You arrest oppositionists…” “Oh yeah? Well, so do you… [and give specific examples]” etc etc.

      • Misha says:

        Pardon the repeat:

        How Russia screws itself in a way that’s so well known continues to be an ongoing reality.

        ****

        In terms of what you reasonably advocate, me thinks it’s high time for some roster changes.

      • I completely agree, yalensis.

        Too often Russia replies with pathetic pleas to not interfere with its national sovereignty, which just reads as an admission of guilt to the Western audience.

        It must orchestrate a direct counter-attack. For instance, every time the UK accuses it of breaking up protests, cite its use of kettling by the police; theirs charging a man the British police beat up with “violent disorder”; and pre-emptive arrests (numerous examples of these).

        I wish there were more people with the mentality of a Putin or Rogozin in Russian government, all too often they are whimpy bend overs like Medvedev who would sooner join the West in condemning his own country than countering their propaganda.

        • Yalensis says:

          @Sublime: Yeah, I agree Russia needs more people like Rogozin, he is smart, sarcastic, and can be very witty, when he points out the absurd hypocrisies of NATO. If a country finds itself at war, they try to find Spartan-type soldiers who love to shoot and fight. If they find themselves in ideological war, you would think they try to find ideological warriors who revel in the intellectual combat, like Rogozin does. I’m sure Russia has plenty of well-informed wise-guys out there who would love the job. Easy job, too: it is so easy to find examples of Western hypocrisy and human rights abuses. This person should be in charge of Russia’s “Annual Human Rights Report”, in which they publish 1000-page document detailing every abuse they can find, say, in USA or Britain, or any other country which criticized Russia during the past year. (But give a pass to countries which politely kept their mouths shut.)

      • Misha says:

        The usual:

        http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-zakharov/russias-multicultural-myth

        Downplayed is the multiethnic makeup of numerous Russian officials including the lead ones as well as how many Russians are a hodge- podge of different ethnic backgrounds.

        Considering the socioeconomic challenges in a country the size of Russia, it’s not surprising to see unfortunate instances of intolerance. In a truly open media, one reasonably expects a balanced overview.

        —————————————————————-

        With relativism in mind, someone presented this piece as not being so bad:

        http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/david-marples/ukraine-crisis-of-self-identity

        Note the article’s author being comparatively harder on Ukraine’s education minister than the likes of Rybachuk and Motyl.

        I don’t think it’s accurate to say that Ukraine has taken a neo-Soviet turn to history. Yanukovych said that Stalin shouldn’t be honored and that folks should be free to honor Bandera.

        As for popularizing Mazepa and Petliura, the fact of the matter is that these two individuals lacked popularity in their respective periods.

        The author in question doesn’t seem to consider the following points in conjunction with each other:

        – the separate Ukrainian identity became more popular over a period of time

        – if one is to accurately look back at its past, it’s inaccurate to suggest something different from Mazepa’s and Petliura’s actual stature.

        —————————————————————-

        http://russiaprofile.org/international/35557.html

        The above piece doesn’t mention Yanukovych’s familial ties to Belarus.

        Perhaps Lukashenko feels that Yanukovych should be more sympathetic .

        Lukashenko’s faults aside (which should by no means be downplayed, while not being exaggerated), there’s a basis for being critical of EU types like Barasso.

        Such folks appear to not be so distraught over the thought of meeting the likes of the repackaged KLA, among other suspect individuals.

        By their stances, some “human rights” foreign policy advocates set themselves up for taking hypocritical stands.

        Over the course of time, Barasso hasn’t said the most accurate and positive of things about Russia.

        —————————————————————-

        Regarding the Pulitzer and how journalism can be gauged:

        http://theivanovosti.typepad.com/the_ivanov_report/2011/04/pravda-on-the-potomac-26-what-the-washington-post-wrote-about-russia-in-april-2011.html

  6. Yalensis says:

    Just saw on news that Americans finally killed Osama bin Laden. They say they sent commandos into Pakistan and brought bin Laden’s body back with them. This was nice touch, because without body the jihadists would deny he was dead and maybe bring in stunt double to play the role. Also, I just won a bet with colleague at work, who kept insisting that bin Laden was living in some frozen mountain cave in Afghanistan, and I kept insisting that he was in Pakistan! (Although I did gild the lily a bit: I bet that he was living in a fancy villa in Karachi, complete with hot tub, but now it looks like he was living in some kind of “compound”, like a military encampment of some sort…)

    • Yalensis says:

      Addendum: Okay, I just read another report: Americans say they “buried bin Laden’s body at sea.” ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? Now I don’t believe them any more, and nobody else will either. To prove they killed him, they would need to display the corpse for journalists to examine, take DNA samples, etc. Otherwise, too much room for conspiracy theories.

      • marknesop says:

        I’m pretty sure it was actually bin Laden, and that they actually did kill him. The original report I read said the Americans were “in possession of his body”, but I believe Muslim tradition says the body must be buried within 24 hours or something like that. They have to walk a very careful tightrope here – as much as America hated him, and rightly so, a statement like “Yeah, we fuckin’ killed him, and I made a bike helmet outta his skull!!!” would invoke the dreaded martyrdom, and contribute to extremist recruiting.

        Personally, I think bin Laden was a bit of a spent force in terms of influence, largely because so much doubt existed – outside the tiny inner circle – as to whether he was even alive. A bunch of apocalyptic video and audio cassettes, big deal. If he had continued to mastermind successful terrorist attacks, the west would be wild to get him, and his death would be a terrible sorrow to the Islamic fundamentalist movements, probably resulting in defiant terrorist attacks and increased recruiting to the cause. But I question if that will happen now, and his death is more of a coda. The Arab who is at centre stage right now is Gaddafi, and the longer he battles the combined forces of NATO and their rebel allies-of-convenience, the more sympathy and anger he earns in the Arab world.

        I’d bet the U.s. has a video record of bin Laden’s death as well as DNA samples, which might be shared with doubters if it’s really that important. But the people on his side who matter will know he’s gone, and too bad for reporters if they couldn’t get a picture of themselves standing on bin Laden’s body with one foot on his head, like Tarzan or something. The subdued manner of announcing his death and the deliberate impression of treating a despised enemy with dignity at the end is exactly the right morally-superior tone to take, in my opinion.

        • Sam says:

          Mark,
          I don’t know why they “buried” his body so quickly, but saying they had to do it because of Muslim tradition is bullshit. Muslim tradition requires before anything that the body is buried in the ground (which is anyway the meaning of the word “burial” I think), not sea. I don’t even think the sentence “buried at sea” is correct. And the 24hr requirement exists nowhere. I think they just use general people ignorance about the subject to say whatever they want.

          • Misha says:

            Didn’t Saddam’s slain kids get buried beyond the 24 hour mark?

            • Misha says:

              Physical proof of the deaths of Saddam, his two sons, Il Duce, the latter’s mistress and the Ceausescus (husband and wife) were provided.

              From a PR point of view, it would’ve been better to do likewise with OBL, to offset some of the conspiracy theory crowd.

              A bizarre sci-fi movie on part of a corpse whose whole whereabouts have been the subject of question:

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/They_Saved_Hitler's_Brain

              http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1420578659489749890#

              • Yalensis says:

                @misha: Ha ha, is good one! “They Saved Hitler’s Brain” is one of my favorite movies!

                • Misha says:

                  Yalensis,

                  I gather the highlight of that movie is when Hitler’s decapitated head gives a wink upon being viewed by someone. That scene was specifically shown when that movie was a subject of discussion awhile back. I haven’r seen the film in its entirety.

                  Mark,

                  Not viweing such evidence to a wide audience leaves open the aforementioned conspiracy theory factor.

                  Between showing and not showing, I think the former to be a better route.

                • marknesop says:

                  “Not viewing such evidence to a wide audience leaves open the aforementioned conspiracy theory factor.”

                  Perhaps, but displaying bin Laden’s body in a manner that would not enrage Muslims would be a near-impossible feat; he was shot in the head – what would they do, show him in bed, surrounded by his family? There’s no upside for displaying his body, since he hadn’t been a major force in terrorist acts for years – since he escaped at Tora Bora, really. If they “took him out”, and there was no perceptible slackening in the tempo of terrorist activity, people would whisper that he was still alive. Since al Qaeda has been pretty quiet for a long time, there’s no real gain to showing his body. I don’t believe anyone seriously thinks it was a publicity stunt, and that bin Laden is still alive.

                  Displaying the bruised, bullet-riddled bodies of Uday and Qusay Hussein earned the USA a wave of revulsion, even though both men were loathed both inside and outside Iraq. Cellphone video of Saddam in the moments just before his hanging had the incredible negative effect of lending him a measure of dignity his execution was meant to deny. Ghoulish displays seldom bring approbation, no matter how much the electorate screams for the individuals’ deaths. When there’s nothing to gain in it, why do it? Nobody’s denying bin Laden is dead, especially the Republicans, who dare not appear doubtful in the orgy of celebrating. It’d be different if they insisted on proof, and even then it’d be a risk. His death absolutely cannot be turned into a pivotal event for recruiting of new extremists, or it was mostly for nothing and they would have been better off leaving him alive.

                  The prevailing mood in the USA wants it to be true, and that’s not a fertile environment for conspiracy theories. I don’t think any that start will get much traction.

                • Misha says:

                  On a somewhat sore note (at least for me), keep in mind the rumors that followed for decades after the last Czar and his family were murdered.

          • marknesop says:

            Well, that could be, although doubtless I could be better-versed on it; I’m just saying what I always thought off the top of my head, and I’m not Muslim. I believe the body is supposed to be disposed of – by whatever means is acceptable – in a fairly short period, but that stands to reason in a hot climate before refrigeration was common.

            I’d read the burial at sea (if that’s even the truth) was to preclude the location of his grave becoming known and being perhaps made into a shrine by his supporters. In that context, it makes sense – but I also read it was because no country would accept his body for burial. That rules out burying him in the ground, but it seems like nonsense and probably is fabricated.

            Mike, there was supposedly live feed of the entire raid provided to the White House – they likely have video of him actually being shot. I’m confident the U.S. has plenty of proof, which might be offered to heads of state if something like a big foreign-policy initiative were contingent on it, but it’ll never be for general distribution (although reporters are probably feverishly scribbling access-to-information requests right now).

          • Yalensis says:

            When they say “buried at sea”, I wonder if that means they just tossed bin Laden’s corpse out of the helicopter into the ocean? Supposedly American commandos arrived in 2 helicopters, then one heli malfunctioned and they had to destroy it on the ground. Leaving only one helicopter that commandos had to crowd back into (probably sitting on each others laps, plus lugging big tall corpse of bin Laden). So, they probably ran out of room in cabin, and I don’t blame them for jettisoning corpse, but couldn’t they at least slice head off first, to keep as proof? DNA sample isn’t enough proof — they could get that from hair follicle. Oh well… I am not soldier myself, so I guess I shouldn’t criticize….

            • marknesop says:

              A ceremonial burial at sea from a ship is quite a solemn affair; typically the padre reads a short religious passage, the “still” (to attention, on the upper decks) is piped, and the inboard end of the plank lifted, whereupon the shrouded corpse (or more often these days, an urn of ashes) slides out from under the national flag to go over the side. A surviving family member, usually the spouse if they are living, is presented with the folded flag that covered the shroud. Interestingly, in days of sail, the sailmaker would be tasked with sewing up the body in its shroud for burial, and the last stitch always went through the corpse’s nose (to guard against sailors faking death to get off the ship; remember, many were press-ganged into service). That’d be a big old sailmaker’s needle, too, made for sewing heavy canvas, and I’d imagine it’s be hard to keep from flinching if the corpse happened to be not a corpse at all.

              The suggestion the U.S. does not want bin Laden’s burial site to be known so that it cannot become a martyr’s shrine makes sense; still, I don’t doubt there will be all manner of stories in the months and years to come. How many people, realistically, must know? A dozen? You know news networks will be digging relentlessly to see who was on that flight, and some records must exist. Then they will be offered all manner of inducements if they will talk. Eventually, although they would all be sworn to secrecy, someone will.

              Although all that stuff about bin Laden being “buried” with “respect for Muslim traditions” is likely stretching it a bit, I doubt they just pitched him out of the cargo door. However it was done, you can bet somebody has a picture.

              • Misha says:

                Mark,

                Getting back to your points about how some can take the view of slain folk: there’s an appropriate and not as appropriate way to confirm the death of someone.

                Showing a brief photo or video with the stated DNA evidence, followed by an explanation for doing so and a pointed comment that OBL’s death has nothing to do with being anti-Islamic was IMO the better route to take.

                Agree that his burial site shouldn’t be known.

                IMO, there’re at times too much of an over-reaction to what can be perceived as anti-Muslim, relative to how some other denominations get caricatured.

                • Misha says:

                  On the matter of OBL, government influence in TV media, biased reporting and hero journalism, I proceed to make a series of comments, which you’ll not likely find at Foreign Policy Magazine and RFE/RL promoted sources – some of the latter leaving something to be qualitatively desired when compared to others like The Ivanov Report, Austere Insomniac, this blog and yours truly.

                  On his MSNBC show, Lawrence O’ Donnell took it upon himself to make partisan politics out of OBL’s death. Along with Paul Begala – O ‘Donnell is someone with Democratic Party ties. Their pro-Clinton admin. slant during the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia brings to mind what Soviet officialdom said about events like what happened in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

                  O’ Donnell said that in 2005, Bush ended the attempt to actively pursue OBL. In contrast, O’ Donnell portrays Obama as taking an activist stand in pursuing OBL. I’m not a Bush supporter. However, it’s clear that O’ Donnell is essentially carrying on like a Democratic Party advocate, who doesn’t give a complete picture.

                  The likes of O’ Donnell and Begala aren’t keen on mentioning the Carter admin. activity in Afghanistan which supported the likes of OBL. With CIA knowledge, there’s credible evidence that OBL was in Sarajevo in 1994 along with Zawahiri.

                  In the process of writing this note, I came across this piece on the O’ Donnell show in question:

                  http://hotair.com/archives/2011/05/02/lawrence-odonnell-on-obl-capture-thanks-for-nothing-bush/

                  My friend John Peter Maher (an academic in the true sense) was at a February 2006 Hague session when Judge Patrick Robinson immediately turned off Eve-Ann Prentice’s microphone, when she told of seeing OBL in Bosnian Muslim nationalist leader Alija Izetbegovic’s Sarajevo office.

                  Regarding Prentice:

                  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article2546365.ece

                  She did the opposite of Western journos like Pulitzer winner Roy Gutman.

                  The NYT and the Pulitzer
                  http://www.counterpunch.org/lindorff10272003.html

                  Revoke Miller’s Pulitzer
                  http://www.counterpunch.org/lindorff10242005.html

                  Roy Gutman has a Pulitzer unlike Prentice and Peter Brock. I believe the latter two to be more deserving of consideration as competently independent and earnest investigative journalists.

                  http://www.amazon.com/Media-Cleansing-Dirty-Reporting-Journalism/dp/1882383303

                  A former NYT reporter David Binder appears to agree. No surprise that Binder doesn’t have any Pulitzer awards.

                • marknesop says:

                  I quite agree that some have run in the wrong direction with the death of bin Laden – it’s to be expected that such a momentous event will be spun so as to garner political capital, regardless how inaccurate the premise. O’Donnell’s remarks clearly fit into that category although, like most opinion-laced bromides, there is a kernel of truth. It’s clear Obama did continue to pursue efforts to get bin Laden – he just didn’t strut and whoop about it all the time like Bush did, which is stupid for two reasons; one, you might not be successful, and then you look like a tool while your opponent looks smarter than he is because of your buildup, and two, it keeps your opponent cautious and less apt to make a careless mistake, although that’s less relevant in this case as bin Laden was pretty much the epitome of caution.

                  Anyway, equally stupid – with a partisan spin in the opposite direction – is this piece by CBN News Chief Political Correspondent David Brody. Incredibly, he insinuates in his original report that Obama is “catering to thugs” – unnecessarily concerned for the feelings of the Muslim world – because he doesn’t smile when he announces bin Laden’s death!! Mother of God, if I ever say anything that stupid, lay me down in the street and drive over my head with a 1956 Chevy Belair, something heavy. Note that it was so appallingly out of line that he actually offered what turns out to be a fairly classy apology for his ignorance.

                • Misha says:

                  On the matter of neolib cherry picking of what is and isn’t important, O’ Donnell has company:

                  http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1575113/posts

              • Yalensis says:

                @Mark: Thanks for fascinating discussion of sailors customs of burial! That bit about sewing the needle through the nose is interesting, albeit gross. I am still concerned about the “proof of death” issue and the possibility that jihadists will deny bin Laden’s death and claim the whole thing was a fake. Well, that doesn’t seem to be happening, the jihadists are mourning, so I guess they accept it. Good!
                There is article in online Izvestia about reactions of various Russian public officials to news of bin Laden death. One of my favorite Russian leaders is Junus Bek-Evkurov:
                “Слава Богу, что Усаму бен Ладена ликвидировали. Это действительно успех”, – сказал “Интерфаксу” глава Ингушетии Юнус-Бек Евкуров. “Стоит поздравить тех, кто осуществил эту спецоперацию. Надо делать и в дальнейшем все возможное, чтобы злодеев, которые под прикрытием различных религий пытаются творить свои черные дела, было меньше”, – подчеркнул он. Правда, Евкуров уверен, что Усама бен Ладен никакого влияния на ситуацию в Ингушетии не оказывал.
                ”Thank god that Usama ben Laden has been liquidated. This is a true success,” Ingushetia head Junus Bek Evkurov told “Interfax” (news agency). “We should all congratuate those who carried out this special ops. And we must continue to do everything possible to reduce the number of such evil-doers, who perform their perfidious deeds under the cover of various religions.” Evkurov goes on to say that Usama ben Laden never had any influence over the situation in Ingushetia.”

                I like that last bit; it shows the true class that Evkurov has shown all these years. (In that he doesn’t pass the buck for his own terrorist situation onto bin Laden, although it is certainly true that the guys (and gals) who blow things up there are none other than Wahhabi Islamists.) Hey, I just thought of something: Russian cops: walk around the Caucasus towns, see who is crying and in mourning, and THOSE are the people you need to watch out for!
                Evkurov himself, who is what they call a “moderate Muslim”, was the victim of a vicious terrorist act a couple of years ago, he almost perished in a bomb blast and maintained a serious head injury, despite which got back on the job as soon as he could. He is an honorable man, impeccably incorrupt (unlike …ahem..his neighbor, Kadyrov…) and loyal to Moscow. So I think people should listen to his words, the guy has a lot of credibility.

  7. sinotibetan says:

    @yalensis, Anatoly and Misha:-
    Is Russia in trouble?
    I think the West really hopes so. They really want Medvedev to be President –
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/01/medvedev-stay-russian-president
    http://www.indianexpress.com/news/medvedev-likely-to-seek-a-second-term-as-russian-president/784596/
    However,
    “I wish there were more people with the mentality of a Putin or Rogozin in Russian government”(Anatoly)
    “If they find themselves in ideological war, you would think they try to find ideological warriors who revel in the intellectual combat, like Rogozin does. “(yalensis)
    Rogozin is said to be ‘nationalist’/’right-wing'( http://en.rian.ru/russia/20080110/95978194.html), which makes it highly unlikely to be an ‘ally’ of Medvedev as Zatulin alleges.
    Vladislav Surkov(http://putinania.wordpress.com/biographies/presidential-administration/1st-deputy-chief-of-staff/) may support Medvedev for his(Surkov’s) own ends – apparently Surkov hates Sechin and Medvedev shares the same hatred apparently, but apparently Surkov ‘got rid’ of Pavlovsky for being ‘too pro-Medvedev’ , so I cannot explain that. Moreover, I think Surkov’s view is ‘statist’ which is more in common with Putin’s than Medvedev’s. Should Medvedev be given power, people like Surkov has no future unless he makes a 180 degrees turn and become ‘democrat'(i.e. kiss the West’s ass). Then again, such a person like Surkov who has been described as ruthless, cutthroat and opportunist – it’s not that impossible. For all the bad things said about Sechin – he is at least, in my opinion, more loyal to Russia than snaky sneaky fellows like Surkov.
    I wonder if Zatulin is saying all this to provoke Putin? Or he’s another pawn of Medvedev’s? Any guesses?
    “How Russia screws itself in a way that’s so well known continues to be an ongoing reality.”(Misha)
    I really wonder why this is so. And WHY Putin failed to rectify this. Why did he put someone who has a liberal(i.e. a West bed-over) heart to be President?Any guesses? I had my hypotheses which I’ve articulated before. I wonder if anyone here have other views?
    To be honest, I’d hope that Putin and his successors would lift Russia up from the lows of the 1990s. Here again, Russia is on the verge of collapsing to the same lows if such a wimp as Medvedev gets his way. To be honest, it’s a disappointment to me.

    sinotibetan

    • Misha says:

      Sinotibetan, on pro-Russian advocacy to a foreign (especially Western) audience, cronyism is a periodically found aspect of human nature the world over. This reality can conflict with putting out the best possible product. There’s also the matter of some Russians in Russia in relatively influential roles, who appear agreeable to some of the Western foreign policy trends. For example, some at this thread might be familiar with Fyodor Lukyanov.

      On the ongoing notion of Medvedev being more liberal than Putin, politically diverse societies often suggest such diversity as a plus. In this scenario, different ideas “clash” (if you may), in a way that can (in overall terms) be positive – as long as the best interests of the given country are at heart. Sometimes the final decision is off.

      How to have dealt with UNSCR 1973 should be properly gauged. This includes understanding how UN resolutions can have little meaning. I once again note UNSCR 1244 recognizing Kosovo as part of Serbia and how in 1999 that country was bombed without a UN resolution.

      It has been suggested that Medvedev was a driving force behind the independence recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Some consider this as a very assertive move that wasn’t needed from a point of view of Russia’s best interests. With this thought in mind, perhaps Medvedev decided on taking a move (not voting for UNSCR 1973) which wouldn’t appear as aggressive.

      As noted, no other country directly voted against UNSCR 1973. In this sense, Russia was part of a collectively questionable mindset. I gather that a lesson was learned. While UN resolutions can carry little weight, there’s no need to give dubious manner a greater cover.

      At times, Rogozin appears to have loose cannon attributes that can rub some at the very top the wrong way. It’s not uncommon for these type of individuals to be periodically purged and brought back into play.

  8. sinotibetan says:

    @yalensis
    “Americans say they “buried bin Laden’s body at sea.”
    I agree. Now it sounds fishy. Probably he might not be dead.
    1.)Anyway, America did NOT win the war on ‘terror’ , even if they REALLY killed bin Laden. Killing him makes him a martyr. There will be more bin Ladens to come, even though it may no longer be al-Qaeda, the ‘flavour’ of al-Qaeda and jihadism will remain. And the situation in the Middle East, I believe, is NOT in the favour of Washington in the end. Perhaps Washington thought that if their propped-up regimes fail, they supporting ‘democracy’ and ‘oppositionists’ there might lead to a continuity of ‘pro-Washington’ regimes even with regime change. I suspect that even if there would be regime changes in the Middle East, ‘democracy’ would lead to the formation of NOT pro-Western regimes, but pro-Islamist regimes. That’s the trend there. I think they fail to realise that the war is actually ideological. Easier for them to deal with ‘tangible’ rivals like Russia or China than a truly ideological war in which the war is not with a nation/alliance of nations but transcends nationalities. So, I think Washington will fail in that war in the end.
    2.) Washington’s insistence on being nosy with the internal affairs of ‘rivals’ like China and Russia – even if met with initial ‘success’ will spell doom for Washington:-
    a.) ‘Democracy’ as an American ‘export’ WILL fail in those countries because the situation in those nations are just NOT ready for such a process. If America succeeds in getting ‘regime change’ in China and Russia, chaos will ensue there. Chaos can either lead to break-up of those nations OR rise of Hitler-like leaders(as the public will clamour for such a leader to boost their down-to-the -dumps morale) who are probably far worse than the current regimes. As such, noting that these rival nations are nuclear weapons wielding nations, it spells great trouble globally. If the former happens, terrorists can get their hands on nuclear weapons, destabilizing global geopolitics. If the latter happens, WW3 -like scenario becomes not implausible.
    b.) America is broke and is continuing that slippery path with all their busybodiness.. If the above scenarios actually transpire, with trouble brewing in the Middle east and further geopolitical chaos, the world economy collapses and America in trying to ‘sustain’ its influence will collapse even quicker.
    The world is in trouble because we have a lone CORRUPT superpower which claims the moral higher ground and insists on it.
    I don’t believe in bringing down the USA but in rival nations rising up to counter it.

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      Despite all the bitching I do about America and its breathtaking hypocrisy, I do not wish for America’s downfall, but for its return to the principles that made it great. For generations America was a good neighbour (although abroad it occaasionally engaged in questionable behaviour), but as a Canadian I did not have too many causes for complaint. It was really only under Bush that the USA became openly militant and always ready to default to a military solution for me. I didn’t pay too much attention when Clinton bombed Yugoslavia, and because I wasn’t particularly engaged in politics at the time I mostly bought the “freeing an oppressed people from an evil dictator” line about Milosevic – although I can understand now why it angered so many.

      Even when Bush was swaggering around making an ass of himself and an enemy of his country, I didn’t wish some celestial lightning bolt would zap America off the face of the earth – just maybe him and Cheney, and if there were any volts left over, Rice, Rumsfeld, Pearle and Wolfowitz. Obama’s not perfect, but he seems more willing to listen than Bush ever was, and I believe he could be made to understand that improving relations with Russia is in America’s best interests. Constant opposition of Russia will only drive Russia and China closer together, and God help NATO if they form a military alliance.

      Real democracy is still the best system going, but it depends on a lot of things. The people have to want it, they have to be ready for it and they have to understand that it’s work; it comes with responsibilities. Once you let corporations take over and make your decisions for you, you’re pretty much a democracy in name only. Russia is a democracy, regardless how the russophobes try to paint it otherwise, but it remains considerably more authoritarian than many others. There’s nothing that says a leader chosen by popular acclaim cannot be authoritarian, and it does not make him a dictator. As long as he continues to rule in the best interests of the country, he can probably count on staying in power (depending on things like term limits). So far I have seen no indications at all that Putin craves absolute power and is working toward that end, and he appears content to work within institutions.

      The west perceives Putin as a man with no sense of humour because it refuses to engage with Russia in good faith. There’s nothing humorous about that.

  9. Misha says:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/russianow/opinion/8477647/Nato-in-Libya-based-on-hope-not-knowledge.html

    Excerpt:

    Somehow, we Russians (according to others) are never supposed to be free. A refusal to see our condition as anything but the most miserable of states crying for an immediate new revolution is seen at best as resignation before evil; at worst, as a gross injustice. “Don’t you want to have the same freedom as Tunisians now have? How rotten of you not to want it!” This was a question with a readily attached answer from a friend of mine, a British journalist whose every report from Moscow starts with the words, “In another blow to Russia’s democracy…”

    No, I don’t want to be one of those 25,800 Tunisians currently waiting for the Italian government to decide their fate as illegal immigrants on the island of Lampedusa. We Russians have learnt the hard way since 1917 – or maybe even since 1789, when the first refugees from the French Revolution started coming to Russia – that a revolution’s quality is best defined by migratory flows.

    Having overthrown the tsar’s autocracy in 1917, millions of Russians suddenly found themselves in the situation of émigrés, enduring such humiliations that the tsar’s “humiliating” rule seemed a paradise lost in comparison. Worse still, those who stayed in Russia, and found themselves under Lenin and Stalin, envied their relatives who had left. So, if the wind of change is so sweet as the European press describes it, why are so many people now fleeing North Africa?

  10. sinotibetan says:

    Regarding bin Laden:-
    “but I believe Muslim tradition says the body must be buried within 24 hours or something like that.”
    “Muslim tradition requires before anything that the body is buried in the ground (which is anyway the meaning of the word “burial” I think), not sea”
    In my country, most Muslims insist on burial within 24 hours. From a website below, it’s said Muhammad said to ‘hasten funeral rites’ and no time frame was stated. I am not sure though regarding the validity of ‘within 24 hours’ based on the hadiths and as far as I remember, nothing in the Quran about this.
    Yes, I think burial in the ground is preferable. The fact that bin Laden(if we do believe he’s dead) was buried ‘at sea’ and by ‘kaffir'(infidel) America is anathema to jihadists, I’m sure. I also wonder if he had Muslim funeral rites performed before his undersea burial. Whether he is truly dead or alive doesn’t matter. To his supporters and hardline jihadists – he’s a martyr.
    http://islam.about.com/cs/elderly/a/funerals.htm
    http://www.missionislam.com/knowledge/funeral.htm

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      According to this report ( http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3560143/Osama-Bin-Laden-burial-off-aircraft-carrier.html ), bin Laden’s body was washed and shrouded according to Muslim tradition, by a Muslim sailor, and prayers were recited in Arabic before the body received a sea burial from the Aircraft Carrier CARL VINSON, not from a helicopter (an interesting bit of naval tradition – CARL VINSON at the time of her commissioning was the only ship in the U.S. Navy named for someone who was still living. Of course he’s dead now, he died quite soon after the commissioning, in fact. The practice of naming ships for living individuals is a little more common now, but once upon a time it was never done).

      The Arab world thus far seems fairly accepting of bin Laden’s death, and I believe is willing to accept it based on the shred of pride they can keep that he was killed fighting (I read it was not bin Laden who used a woman as a human shield, but another individual who was also killed) rather than captured and held up to ridicule.

      • Sam says:

        @ Mark: Somehow I would find it funny if Muslims protest his burial. It will be like:”Oh,it’s ok with us that you killed him, but now HOW did you bury him?”🙂
        I don’t even see why the Arab world should feel its pride is at stake here, it suffered more than anyone else from terrorism, just remember last week’s explosion in Morocco. They are probably as relieved as anyone else.

        @Sinotibetan: Yes, quick burial, but definitely no time frame. Sometimes if someone dies on Wednesday then people would wait to bury him on Friday since it’s considered a “special” day.
        What is challenged in the version of “buried along Muslim rules” is not whether they have been respected or not, but that they are used as the justification for the quick disposal of his body. So no one really gives a damn about whether muslim traditions were respected, but whatever reason they buried him so quickly for, that’s not why.

        • marknesop says:

          That might well be an accurate assessment, but I think that – for Muslims – everything to do with bin Laden’s death is all of a piece: the manner of his killing, the way his body was handled, and its eventual disposition. I repeat, I don’t believe it could have been done better. It achieved American aims (as giving his body back to Saudi Arabia, which I’m given to understand they would not accept anyway, would not have done because it might have made his grave a shrine to anti-western extremism) while offering the classic (unmerited) respect for a fallen enemy. I meant to add a longer reply to sinotibetan regarding my earlier remark about not wishing for America’s downfall, but for its rediscovery of the values that made it great, but it fits nicely into this subject so I’ll attemmpt to address both in the same reply.

          The very fundament of American greatness was an understated, homespun restraint and determination to not respond angrily or boastfully to a threat or an injury from another. Corny, I know, but for me it was always like the chivalry implicit in western movies; you don’t go for your gun until the other guy makes his move, and then you’re faster (the hero always is), but you never, never spit on his dead body or say, “get this piece of trash out of here” – or, God forbid, start a “U S A!!! U S A!!! chant or something jarring like that. Although it would have been deeply satisfying on some level to dress bin Laden’s dead body up in a cheerleader skirt and tape pom-poms to his dead hands, hang him from a wire rope and fly his body suspended from a helicopter all over New York City, it would be an offense to national dignity that the nation would likely never get over in the eyes of the world.

          Yahoos like the bloodthirsty I-got-500-lights-on-my-pickup-truck, gun rack in every room of my house, never-get-enough-war whackjobs who can be counted on to fill the comments section of the Washington Post with stuff like “Kill em’ all, and let God sort ’em out” or “Kick their ass and take their gas” examples of deathless wisdom confirm every American prejudice ever inspired by ignorant, thoughtless behaviour. That’s what’s wrong with America now; the brainlessly-grinning, it’s-all-about-us-bucko self-centred braggadocio that makes over-the-top displays of patriotism so disliked by others. To me, at least (not being American and therefore perhaps incapable of understanding), that’s not a fundamental American value or a dignified way to behave.

          The America I remember, and respected deeply, never needed to brag or strut about its achievements; they were self-evident. America was successful at milestones everyone else had tried and fallen short of, and rubbing everybody’s nose in it was counterproductive (except for the personal satisfaction to the victor) because it erased every chance that observers would applaud the victory rather than resenting it. In fact, I can’t boil it down any smaller or simplewr than that – at some point, the United States of America made a collective decision that it wanted that personal high of rubbing the world’s face in the glory of its achievements more than it did the quiet, dignified conclusion of letting its achievements speak for themselves, and letting those who were unable to reach the goal start the ripple of applause. I can’t adequately express to you how detrimental that has been to the American image.

          But it’s not irreversible. And the classy, respectful way official America (I exempt here headlines like “Rot In Hell!!!” which, while understandable – New York paper – are another example of short-term satisfaction’s triumph over statesmanship) has handled bin Laden’s death is an excellent step in that direction.

          • Misha says:

            Played down is the Khadafy claim that Al Qaeda has been going against him – perhaps put mildly: a view that can’t be ruled out.

          • Yalensis says:

            @mark: Much as I despise bin Laden, I do get, and agree with, your whole point about how people (and a nation) should be dignified in victory and not gloat so much. There is no more annoying creature on this planet than an “American Yahoo”. These types invariably irritate me in sports games (like Olympics) when they chant mindlessly and gloat over every victory, instead of being modest and good sportsman-like. Russians, unfortunately, are starting to become similar to Americans in this regard. (Russian athletes were much classier and better-behaved in Soviet times.) I like the way Chinese and Japanese people handle success; they seem more modest and dignified about it.

      • marknesop says:

        In a further validation of what I discussed earlier, updated news reports now say that although bin Laden “resisted”, he was unarmed, and also “backed away” from previous suggestion that he had used a woman as a human shield.

        I don’t know why they’re bringing this up now (unless it’s part of a Republican effort to discredit the attack so that bin Laden will still be dead, but Obama can’t get any political clout from it), but maybe it will quiet the slobbering mouth-breathers in the comments sections at WaPo who were only too willing to buy the “human shield” story, and screeched that it was only what you could expect from such a coward. All followers of a strict code of manly ethics themselves, no doubt.

        • Misha says:

          You dah man!

          Not like someone who suggests a high and mighty route, while carrying on in a different manner, that includes deleting and blocking erudite comments while showing a willingness to cater to anti-Russian trolls.

          No qualitative need to promote the overrated and so-so in ability. Support the folks who more qualify as heroes, in the form of successfully taking on the dubious establishment slants.

          Kremlin Stooge, The Ivanov Report and Austere Insomniac are among the more down to earth and reasoned of blogs dealing with former Soviet issues.

    • Yalensis says:

      @sinotibetan: I don’t know much about history of Islam, but I am guessing back in Muhammad’s time it was very important to bury body quickly, because of natural conditions (heat of desert sun causing corpse to putrify more quickly?) And maybe tribes of that time didn’t possess technology to preserve corpse. I believe mummification was originally invented as way to preserve corpse longer so more time to plan big funeral. (Then Egyptians got a bit carried away with technology…)
      Re. bin Laden, why such a fuss over giving him last rites, I wonder? Those 3000 random people in World Trade Center, whose deaths he ordered, did not get last rites. They either got fried in initial impact of plane, or suddenly felt the weight of 52-storey building collapsing on top of them. Some, who were trapped on top floor, had no other option except to jump to their deaths. And those were the lucky ones. Unlucky ones were buried alive in rubble and died slow horrible death.
      Let us also recall journalists whom jihadists captured and sliced their heads off, and then posted video on you-tube, I don’t think those innocent journalists got last rites either. Just had head hacked off by one guy, while another guy holds video camera. Then headless bodies dumped on street corner. No funeral, no last rites for them… Yet wait and see, jihadists will start whining about how their guy was disrespected because he was dumped into ocean…

  11. sinotibetan says:

    @Mark:
    “Despite all the bitching I do about America and its breathtaking hypocrisy, I do not wish for America’s downfall, but for its return to the principles that made it great. ”
    Neither do I wish for its downfall. Nevertheless, we might disagree on what principles actually made it great.
    However, sad to say, America’s current internal/domestic policies and foreign policies are almost ensuring its future collapse.
    “Real democracy is still the best system going, but it depends on a lot of things. The people have to want it, they have to be ready for it and they have to understand that it’s work; it comes with responsibilities.”
    As I’ve said before, I am not too sure about democracy. I think that the majority of human beings are:-
    a.) Often irresponsible.
    b.)Tend to like evil /bad tendencies than good, constructive ones.
    c.)Lazy and do not really analyze things/ideas.
    d.)Often make wrong choices rather than right ones(look at our own decisions, for example – or should I say just mine)
    e.) May not be smart enough to develop policies that actually work for their countries.
    f.)Due to the above, are therefore often not the best people to choose the correct leaders to lead them.(nowadays I see them often electing crap ones – also perhaps because they have crap candidates!)
    Points a,b,c, d and e probably differs in different nations at different times. So, for some democracy might work quite well for a while – but in the end, I believe democracy to be unworkable and centrifugal to any nation. I don’t think there is ANY political system that can be developed to overcome this inherent, innate problem of ‘evil’ in human nature. Therefore, I am reticent about supporting ANY political system as ideal. That human beings do not need to learn how to lie, cheat, steal, be lazy, be violent etc.(and any of these ‘evil’ things) – instead they who wish to do so learn how to do them more proficiently- convinces me of the innate evil in humanity. Though I do not deny ‘goodness’ in humanity, human ‘goodness’ is tainted/corrupted with innate evil. Democracy is thus philosophically overly optimistic in human goodness and thus a dead-end. Practically, I am convinced, it will fail as well.
    Democracy worked in the West because it had some form of ‘world-view’ to ‘hold it together’, anchored in the ‘ethics’ and ‘culture’ of Christendom. I think, Westerners, although mostly repudiating most beliefs in that ‘ethical system’ – cannot deny that even current Western ‘political vocabulary’ is influenced by the former. Whether one believes in ‘Christian-influenced’ ethics or not today is immaterial – it’s that it once had some form of ‘ethical’/’cultural’ basis. However, Western ‘word view’ has become so flux(more like a plethora of world views almost in conflict with each other)due to perhaps democracy itself that the ‘base’ is forever shifting and unstable. Therefore, I predict – with this ‘weak base’ – Western society IS doomed. Not doomed to be extinct. Doomed to be destroyed as a civilization that produces constructive things for mankind. The West’s dazzling achievements today is anchored in her past. Although the literati that brought scientific progress – many did rebel against their own ‘culture’ or ‘mores’ – yet it’s that ‘cultural milieu’ that produced such literati. Some sort like biting the hand that feeds them.
    Therefore, when I think Russia or any other nation should not be ‘pro-Western’ in all their ways mean not that we non-Westerners should not accept things that are good from the West. More like we should be analytical, critical and rational when the West ‘lecture’ us. And also, partly because I think there are many things in the West – even the way democracy is evolving in the West even – which would lead to national suicide in the end. We, as non-Westerners, should watch how these principles AFFECT the West in years to come – for the policies of today , their fruits are not known today but will be seen in years/decades in the next generations. Although we of course must devise ways to tackle problems in our own nations while awaiting the results of the above – we should do them with rationality and careful analysis – not accept everything Western just because they are NOW the most powerful nations. Neither do I claim that there are NO serious faults in Russia or China or other nations in Asia(there are PLENTY!) but the West is not God that we should swallow all ‘lectures’ unquestioningly.
    I suppose you’ll disagree with me. But my main point is that not all things Western – cultural, values, economics and political system are automatically good nor are they sure recipes of success for we in the ‘non-West’. My disdain for ‘Western-worshippers’ like Medvedev or even those in China who disparage all things Chinese but worship all things Western is this -uncritical acceptance of any Western ideas.
    Sorry for my rant but I’d thought of sharing these things.

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      You’re absolutely right that electorates in democracies suffer from every one of those faults – laziness, irresponsibility, inability to analyze important events….but to me, all of those are also uncharacteristic of the “real democracy” I spoke of. Perhaps it’s not even achievable, but I seem to recall the citizens of established democracies being keenly interested in affairs that might greatly impact them individually or nationally; politicians of all parties addressing each other and speaking of each other in respectful terms that allowed for humorous barbs without outright rudeness or hysterical hyperbole. Paradoxically, with the rise of the information age and fingertip access to everything a prospective candidate ever published or said on the record or off it, voters have become disinterested – election turnouts are often lacklustre and feeble, the worst sort of bullshit becomes conventional wisdom (Obama was born in Kenya, he attendeed a radical Muslim maddrassa, blah, blah…). It became acceptable to keep your own political motives and agendas hidden, instead abusing your opponent until the most disgraced, or most-recently disgraced fell in favour of the candidate who could sling the most muck the fastest – and it became the whole reason for following politics, like watching hockey just for the moments when the players drop their gloves and beat the bejesus out of each other: politics as bloodsport. It certainly is entertaining, and makes great theatre. It also enables the election of politicians about whose actual intentions the voter knows nothing.

      “I suppose you’ll disagree with me”. Sometimes, but not this time. In fact, everything you said is accurate, and summed up inarguably in the phrase, “my disdain….is for [the] uncritical acceptance of any western ideas”. Precisely. Uncritical acceptance should be reserved for precepts that can stand on their own merits because they are self-evident truths. Honesty is the best policy. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Before removing the mote from thy neighbor’s eye, attend first the beam in thine own. Handsome is as handsome does. There are many quaint aphorisms that contain unassailable core truths, and together they add up to “Nobody owes you respect. Everyone owes you courtesy. Respect is earned: unnecessary of courtesy, which should always be automatic. Too many peopple do not perceive a difference”.

  12. Yalensis says:

    Sorry, change of topic: I am very worried now, all the signs seem to be pointing to the fact that Kremlin is getting ready to throw Transnistria under the bus. If these horrible rumors are true, then Obama has convinced his dancing “American boy” toy Medvedev to pull Russian troops out of Transnistria. Smirnov has been told to pack his things and “hit the road, Jack”. Transnistria will be absorbed into Moldova, which will then be absorbed into Rumania. To cap the whole betrayal, Rumania has been slated to host American bases and NATO radar installations directed against Russia. (Well, they claim it’s directed against IRAN, but who really believes that??) Initial paragraph of article:
    БУХАРЕСТ, 3 мая. По данным румынских СМИ, президент РФ Дмитрий Медведев договорился с президентом США Бараком Обамой вывести из Приднестровья российские войска, вынудить непризнанную республику войти в состав Молдовы и создать условия для вхождения Молдовы в ЕС – вероятно, в составе Румынии.
    Bucharest, 3 May. According to Rumanian media, Russian Federation president Dmitry Medvedev has concluded an agreement with U.S. president Barack Obama to pull Russian troops out of Pridnestrovie, to force the unrecognized republic to become part of Moldova, and to create the conditions for Moldova to join the EU, most likely as a component of Rumania…

    • Futility says:

      Why would you be worried about this? It’s clearly sensationalist idiocy.

    • Misha says:

      Yalensis,

      I’ll believe it when it happens. There has been a good deal of crock written about the former Moldavian SSR dispute over Pridnestrovie. Perhaps it’s sometimes calculated for the purpose of seeing what the replies might be.

      From another extreme from what you bring up is a not so distant claim by some Ukrainian anti-Yanukovych opponents about a secret Russian-Ukrainian deal for Ukraine to takeover Pridnestrovie. Paul Goble uncritically propped that claim, which received little in terms of critical rebuttal.

      http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:HeVxsCb9nwkJ:www.eurasiareview.com/old/analysis/analysis/4424-differences-over-disputed-territories+%22Differences+Over+Disputed+Territories%22&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&source=www.google.com

      http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:PUUpad44UZQJ:www.eurasiareview.com/russia-ukraine-whataboutism-17122010/+Haggling+Over+the+Former+Moldavian+SSR+Dispute&cd=17&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&source=www.google.com

      Over the past few years, there’ve been periodic claims of a former Moldavian SSR settlement being near with nothing happening.

      The subject of Pridnestrovie typically involves a certain set pattern like this article:

      In This Tiny Land, Some Wish They Were Back in the U.S.S.R. Transnistria Has Rubles, a Supreme Soviet; ‘We Will Always Be With Russia”
      http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703662804576188522910176218.html

      The following are additional points which are either downplayed or omitted altogether:

      – The non-recognition of Pridnestrovie’s (AKA Transnistria and closely related spellings) independence is more a reflection of the diplomatic influence of the major powers than a lack of actual merit. From the historical and human rights perspectives, Kosovo doesn’t appear to have a better case for independence than Pridnestrovie.

      – Regarding the Soviet era, the background of Pridnestrovie’s president Igor Smirnov is arguably less in the “Communist Party apparatchik” category in comparison to former Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin and a number of other leading Moldovan government political figures. Yevgeny Shevchuk, is considered a likely successor to Smironv. Shevchuk is regarded as being more reform oriented than Smirnov.

      – The use of the hammer and sickle in Pridnestrovie has declined in recent years. It’s not evident on Pridnestrovie’s flag. In Pridnestrovie, a statue of pre-Soviet era Russian general Alexander Suvorov (who is credited with founding Pridnestrovie’s capital Tiraspol) has gained ground as a symbol of this disputed land. This link (as well as some other examples) in Pridnestrovie confirm this point: http://tiras.ru The official position in Pridnestrovie has stated that the use of the hammer and sickle as a coat of arms isn’t intended to support a return of the Soviet Union. It was Soviet decision making which created the boundaries of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist republic in 1940. Pridnestrovie’s government opposes the Soviet drawn Moldavian SSR boundaries as an independent Moldovan state. Moldova’s still influential Communist Party utilizes the hammer and sickle. Pridnestrovie’s Communist Party isn’t as influential in Pridnestrovie in comparison to the Moldovan Communist Party’s influence in Moldova.

      – Pridnestrovie has three official languages (Russian, Ukrainian and Romanian/Moldovan) which are officially used in the Cyrillic alphabet. Moldova has one official language (Romanian/Moldovan) which is officially used in the Latin alphabet. Although unofficial in status, the Russian, Ukrainian and Romanian/Moldovan language in the Cyrillic alphabet aren’t banned in Moldova. The Romanian/Moldovan language in the Latin alphabet isn’t banned in Pridnestrovie, while not officially used. Over the years, there’ve been complaints concerning the treatment of the aforementioned unofficial languages and alphabets in Moldova and Pridnestrovie.

      – The Russian troop presence in Pridnestrovie is considerably less the foreign military deployment in Kosovo. In Pridnestrovie, there doesn’t appear to be any noticeable opposition to Russia’s military in that disputed territory.

      – Moldova’s economically challenged conditions serve as a reason on why the mood in Pridnestrovie leans more towards independence and eventual reunification with Russia.

      – Russia’s reluctance to recognize Pridnestrovie’s independence is likely motivated on an effort to not have bad relations with Moldova.

      – From the looks of things, the best compromise for a former Moldavian SSR settlement is the creation of a union state of autonomous republics on territory making up the former Moldavian SSR – with the understanding that such an entity wouldn’t join NATO, while having the option of joining the EU. In this scenario, Pridnestrovie wouldn’t be part of Moldova in a similar manner that Scotland isn’t part of England (while both are in the UK) and New Jersey isn’t part of New York (with both being in the US).

      Among other things, this piece replies to a neolib leaning slant on the former Moldavian SSR dispute:

      http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:fdsGcIUGOVcJ:www.eurasiareview.com/nato-russia-relations-a-new-beginning-30112010/+The+Future+of+Russia-NATO+Relations+eurasiareview&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&source=www.google.com

      Regarding this set of comments, feel free to tell me differently. From the looks of things, a good deal of ground isn’t substantively covered at the more highly promoted of venues.

      The last point relates to an earlier thought at this thread about how the coverage can be improved by putting some new folks in the game.

      • Yalensis says:

        @misha: Personally, I’d rather see Transnistria absorbed into Ukraine than into Rumania (although my first choice would be absorbed into Russian Federation). I am guessing majority of Transnistrians might agree with that too!

  13. Sorry for being a little off topic, but I think I just about did it- I intentionally incited an argument with Ms. Zigfield herself, and by the looks; I’ve won!!😀 Get a look before she deletes the whole thing:
    http://larussophobe.wordpress.com/2011/04/28/editorial-the-collapse-of-the-neo-soviet-army/

    • Misha says:

      Mark has a very cool policy of letting the discussion drift to different subjects which are nevertheless typically Russia related – whether directly or indirectly.

      Somewhat against my idea of nurturing better discussion, I briefly looked at that exchange. It doesn’t take much to get the better of someone who ducked a live BBC radio appearance, where he/she/it could’ve maintained an anonymous identity. In cyber, there’s a good deal of punk like activity, in contrast to live appearances, whether in person or on the radio against competent opposition.

      Don’t mean to come across as square. On the contrary, one can be informally interesting, minus the antics at that venue.

      Yeah, you came out on top.

      • marknesop says:

        Speaking of being off-topic slightly (not to mention a bit late) – I noticed this piece on Yuri Gagarin right after it came out, but I was rather rushed at the time and didn’t read beyond the first couple of sentences. On reading it in detail, I was struck by its inclusive nature, and the humbling perspective that Gagarin’s achievement was a triumph for the world that should be remembered as such. I like this kind of journalism, because the anger and bitterness that so often attends America/Russia relationships is completely absent, replaced by a somewhat wistful tone of wonder and approbation for a truly groundbreaking event by a citizen of our world. I liked it, and I recommend it.

    • marknesop says:

      Ha, ha!!! That’s great!!! I used to love going around in circles with LR and her baying bozos; unfortunately, she interprets any “editorial” (often just a copy-and-paste job from some other source with a brief few-sentence lead-in by her) that draws a lot of comments as having “struck a nerve”. This, presumably, means that her cleverness has so wounded you that your grief will no longer allow you to keep silent. She puffs up like a toad when she gets lots of comments, because she believes it points out the relevance of her blog, even if the vast majority of those comments disagrees with her and point out where she went wrong. But I must say you made her change the subject quite a few times, which usually indicates that she is confused and can’t find any references that contradict what you’re saying. I’m sure your tenure in the Chair of Reason will not last long, because if you make reasonable arguments but do not lose your temper (which she likes to use to substantiate what zealots russophiles are), you will likely find yourself blocked from commenting. But nobody knows better than I that it’s fun while it lasts!!

      Robert is typically not a bad sort at all, but he has Chechnya tunnel vision and really only pays attention to current events as they pertain to Chechnya and the situation in the Caucasus. He obviously hates Russia, but at least he is customarily polite. I offered (in the comments section of an article on Julia Ioffe’s old blog, after she left True/Slant but before she joined FP) to help him start his own blog on the Caucasus, but he never responded. Bohdan is the very same pridurak who gave this blog its name.

      You never really “win” an argument at La Russophobe, because (a) she rarely cites references herself, but insists you do and then mocks them because they’re “from the Russian government”, as if the CIA’s figures on the Russian army were somehow more reliable – let’s remember how decades of exaggerating the Soviet naval threat out of all proportion resulted in the USN’s gigantic and unsupportable naval cruiser mismatch; and (b) she will simply claim victory and always gets the last word. I’m quite proud of having made her rewrite her comment rules to permit her own disgraceful rudeness and mendacity, after calling her on her own rules many times. But you’ve done an excellent job, and viewing the dialogue is well worth the short-term downside of adding to her traffic. Well done, indeed.

      • I understand I’ll never win but as you said yourself; it’s pretty fun🙂 I hope all the people that read it become a little embarrassed for LR, I mean it IS pretty embarrassing. She meddles from one topic to another, losing at ever turn. I hope if I keep irking her by playing the “so called best Russia blogger forgot how to read a bar graph” scheme, she’ll get too angry to just block me and make a little post with all the hellish insults she’s been holding back. Nothing could be more satisfying! Haha!

        • marknesop says:

          Again, Ha, ha!! I swore I would never post there again, but I broke my vow and tried it – naturally, I’m still blocked, even after almost a year. I replied to Bohdan The Brain Trust of the Ukrainian Nationalist Movement, whose comment suggested he’d like to see your beloved Spetsnaz up against some of the elite western Special Forces, such as the SAS or the SEALS. He punctuates his rebuttal with the suggestion that you should “bring a lot of body-bags for your beloved “specialists””.

          I replied as appears below:

          “Ah, Bohdan….always nice to hear from an expert. Were you the former Ukrainian Defense Minister, or something? Here’s an interesting snippet about an SAS Unit getting captured by its allies; the Libyan rebels.

          http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/8364937/Captured-SAS-unit-Libyan-rebels-release-special-forces-team.html

          You have to wonder about the quality of their fake passports if the deception was detected by guards at an agricultural compound. Awkward.”

          • Yeah, that must be a pretty embarrassing little episode for the world’s “recognized most successful and effective special service.”

            If you would like, I can deliver that to him.
            “Dear Bohdan, despite promising to ignore your meddling in return for you finally shutting up, I have a message for you, from someone I’m sure you remember.

            (insert your message here)

            -The Stooge

            I’m so gonna do that next time he says something stupid (any comment he may leave). It’ll be hysterical!
            Hehe, anyway, LR seems to have bugged off. Finally defeated… I’ll erk her about it.

            Robert’s a decent guy to argue with, though, I’m sure he’ll go nuts when he reads mine criticizing the EU report on Georgia and favouring video proof instead.

            • Yalensis says:

              I am driven berserkers by those pro-Gruzian commentators who continue to insist that Saakashvili won the war against Russia. What would it take to convince them that they lost?? They remind me of that knight in movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” who has all his limbs chopped off, and continues to boast that he won the fight!

      • cartman says:

        Congratulations on your country’s purchase of new single-engine F-35’s. If I didn’t know better, the Russians must be receiving payments from LM to help sell to otherwise skeptical customers. I am sorry Canadians are perceived as such rubes because they only bothered to send 60-year-old propeller bombers to fly through the Arctic.

        • marknesop says:

          Yes, the election Monday resulted in a majority Conservative government, so the PM knows (1) he has a lot more power, since he can push through decisions on a straight party vote rather than having to make nice and build coalitions, and (2) he doesn’t have to worry about another election – unless he gets caught robbing a convenience store or banging a goat or something like that – for four years. That means he doesn’t even have to start thinking about reelection for at least another two.

          I’m not as crazy about the F-35 as you appear to be; it’s a lot of plane, but it’s extremely expensive and so far has a spotty reliability record because it’s very complex. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t buy it; but, obviously, it’s not. I wouldn’t argue our 18’s are getting long in the tooth and are past due for replacement, but I’d pick something else. The cost overruns alone on the project have already raised the price alarmingly, and we may have to settle for fewer aircraft as the government – rightly – won’t budge on the price. I think something simpler than the F-35 would serve our purposes admirably, and there are plenty of great aircraft out there. But LM’s tentacles are everywhere in our very limited defence industry, and pretty much nothing moves without them. As long as we’re talking fantasy-land and I get to pick, I’d choose the next-generation Saab Gripen, the Rafael F2 or maybe even something Chinese; there are some incredible Chinese fighters coming down the pike. For obvious political reasons, only the Gripen would be marginally acceptable, but I believe it to be a better aircraft (for us) than the F-35.

          I’m not sure what you meant about the bombers, because we don’t have any. We have propeller-driven ASW aircraft (the Aurora), but I don’t think anybody uses jets for ASW, and the Aurora has no bombing capability. We have the Hercules, and I suppose you could roll bombs out the cargo door like the Argies did in the Falklands (never say they didn’t try everything they could think of, and you couldn’t fault their courage even if their cause was foolish), but it’s by no stretch of the imagination a bomber. Unless you meant the Russians were using propeller bombers. Yes, they do, and the Bear is still a damned good bomber; the range is incredible, and attempts to build a dash bomber (Blackjack, Lancer, etc….) were pretty much throwing money down a dark pit. You can’t bomb at supersonic, a slow, steady platform still does just fine, and all the money blown on flying-wedge assrockets would have been far better spent on relatively-inexpensive fighter cover to keep enemy aircraft off the bombers until they could drop their loads. Besides, many modern missions are precision bombing of a known target, from altitudes where fighter attack or AAW missile defence are inpractical. A propeller-driven bomber is every bit as effective in such circumstances as any other.

    • Yalensis says:

      @SovietJournalist: Wow! You totally rock. Congratulations on most excellent debate, you actually lured LR into the open and forced her to engage with you. After she lost debate to your superior logic, she and her minions had no option but to fall back on random insults (“jackass”, etc.).

      I clicked on “File save” and saved the whole session to my hard drive, you should do the same, and also capture screen shots, just in case; I am not sure but I believe the “file/save” will save all the comments as well, in case she decides to purge them from the historical record. Respekt!

      • marknesop says:

        Once again lending weight to the premise that Catherine Fitzpatrick and La Russophobe are not the same person. As much as I disagree with Ms. Fitzpatrick, she usually comes across as well-educated and fairly well-informed; occasionally polite, or even slightly humorous. LR argues by introducing “magic bullet” code words like the beloved “Potemkin Village”, which are supposed to reduce you to a spluttering standstill. If that doesn’t work, eye-blinking changing of the subject is the fallback. If neither of those rattles you, next come the all-caps insults, followed by crocodile tears about how you are “spamming her blog” or “refusing to act in good faith”. Either of those is usually a prelude to a block on your ISP to prevent further comments from going through. Sometimes she announces this, to great fanfare and cheering from her toadies: more often, you just suddenly discover your comments are not going through. However, she might let Soviet Journalist linger for awhile even though he makes her look foolish, because she places a high value on comment numbers, and tends to get desperate when they fall off. Opposition is usually a guarantee of a spike in the comment numbers.

        • Robert invoked goodwin’s law- perfect point at which to bug out. I’ll mock him and LR and promise to leave forever in one of those two responses… then comes the 20 tons of compressed Kim Zigfield on crack.
          “haha, I knew your worthless russophile scum response the moment you brought your neo-soviet zhopa on my site. You wanna leave!? Molodets! Just like all the commies like you in blah blah blah some totally made-up historical event”

        • No!! Potemkin village! Potemkin village!😄

        • Misha says:

          I kind of violate my own stance by commenting as follows:

          At Amsterdam’s JRL and RFE/RL propped blog, I recall LR taking issue with James and yours truly, giving some credence to the Serb position on Kosovo. In contrast, LR (at that thread) took a Sorosian position on that subject. In addition, LR has spoken negatively of Palin (not that I’m a fan of the latter). The stances of LR are in line with someone having been employed by the Open Society Institute. On a related note, openDemocracy (reflecting a Sorosian tilt) published an article linking Alexander Nevsky’s name to a LR hack job.

          As previously noted, LR punked out of a live one hour BBC World Service radio show – instead preferring cheap pot shots in bully pulpit situations.

          It doesn’t take a great talent to get the better of LR.

          —————————————————–

          On a more pertinent subject:

          http://www.kyivpost.com/news/opinion/op_ed/detail/104182/

          An interchangeable association of “Russian” with “Soviet,” in a suggestively bigoted (IMO) way that overlooks the negative non-Russian aspects of the USSR.

          Never mind the non-criticism of pro-Svoboda/OUN/UPA elements.

          • Yalensis says:

            Theory makes sense that LR is a Soros project gone terribly wrong… Maybe LR is the man himself (=Soros)??

            • Misha says:

              The Open Society Inst. point concerns the stated background of someone thought to quite possibly be LR.

              There’s a similar MO between the two.

              Creative writers with bizarre personalities can be adept at altering their writing style up to a point.

      • Thanks, though, I have a really crappy computer so it’s not working for some reason.

        • Yalensis says:

          My computer saved the whole session as some kind of file type called “MHTML document”, which I believe is Microsoft-only compatible. But definitely better than nothing, I wouldn’t put it past Kimmie to retroactively delete your comments!

  14. Misha says:

    Pardon and delete if repeat. The first submission didn’t go thru.

    For those who think that Strobe Talbott is “soft” on Russia:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/ronald-d-asmus-who-pushed-for-nato-expansion-dies-at-53/2011/05/02/AFO52UiF_story.html

    If Talbott was truly “soft” on Russia, he would’ve shown a greater interest in someone like former Carter Administration official Charles William Maynes, who actively opposed the first wave of post-Soviet NATO expansion. Around the time of that issue, I fondly recall Maynes getting the better of Brzezinski in a PBS NewsHour segment. Maynes was appreciative of this bit:

    http://www.nytimes.com/1995/05/15/opinion/l-central-europe-still-feels-wary-of-russia-the-bullied-bear-638395.html

    Regarding the recently deceased Ron Asmus, he showed a willingness to consider other views from sources he didn’t necessarily agree with. He expressed interest in this piece:

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

    Caught this piece about Russian activity against Al Qaeda:

    http://www.rferl.org/content/russia_al-qaeda_militant_chechnya/24091315.html

  15. sinotibetan says:

    @ Mark:-
    I am (pleasantly) surprised that you and I are in agreement with regards to my last comment.
    “I seem to recall the citizens of established democracies being keenly interested in affairs that might greatly impact them individually or nationally”
    If I may ask – since I never lived in the West(except a few days visit as a tourist)- when did the negative changes of present Western political culture come about? You did mention about the information age but I am not too sure it’s the main ’cause’. And I don’t think that political apathy in the West came overnight – it might have been insidious, cumulative ‘steps’ that lead to the current situation. Perhaps , and it’s just a speculation of mine – that the general wealthiness of Westerners(as compared to other non-Western nations, in general of course), a gradual accumulation of arrogance(i.e. initially confidence slowly transformed to arrogance) due to great achievements in economy and technology, a perceived sense that ‘we are truly free’ compared to ‘others’ , growing upper and middle class(I am also from ‘middle class’ so if any ‘middle class’ people think I am ‘against’ them – then they’re wrong!)who have lost sight of ‘the real world’ because they’ve forgotten what it was like to be poor and not think about crazy ‘ideals’, boredom of a richer nation leading them to enjoy a culture of ‘sensationalism’ instead of being grounded in realism, a former healthy attempt to correct ‘past wrongs'(like in the case of the USA – slavery and racism) leading to a repudiation of the ‘dominant culture’ leading to unhealthy historical/cultural revisionism, etc. etc. – all these gradually and cumulatively lead to the present state of Western electorates?
    Regarding Obama and Bush – I don’t support the latter and am reticent of the former. I am politically and socially ‘conservative'(and if I were American, I would be so) but I marvel when many of my politically ‘conservative’ American friends think Bush was one of the greatest American president! His dealings with Iraq was definitely out. Not that I have ‘high’ regards for Saddam(he was a murderer) – but that the USA had no good reason to war with Iraq at that time. It led to the kind of geopolitical instability currently going on in the Middle East and I dare say the situation in Iraq has not improved and I might say it’s worsening. If the Iraqis had been given the opportunity to determine their fate without American meddling – there is a possibility that Iraq might not be so unstable as now. Although my thoughts about Islam as a political ideology(in which Giuseppe and you disgaree with me) remain the same, I don’t agree with outside/foreign coercion – even if I’d thought that letting Iraqis decide their own fate could lead to pro-Islamist regimes.
    Indeed, due to my empathy towards Russia, some here have commented that we all(I assume myself included) are against neoconservatism and neoliberalism. I have to admit, I had the character of that lazy , un-analytical person and was quite surprised that somehow I was against ‘neoconservatism’ when I thought I am politically similar to ‘Western conservatives’ than Western leftists/liberals. I had that overall impression that if one is inclined towards ‘Western conservatism’ type of thinking then he/she would be like the Russophobe type and if left-leaning, ‘pro-Russia’ and I was thinking – how come I was not ‘against Russia’ (of course, the main reason is because , from my own reading before I came to yours or sublime oblivion’s site – Russia is so often wrongly maligned by Western media). Read about neoconservatism and yes, you are all right – I was and am against neoconservatism(without realising it)! I don’t know how accurate wikipedia is on ‘neoconservatism'(what are good websites on this political ideology’) but these are the kind of things I am definitely against(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoconservatism):-
    a tendency to see the world in binary good/evil terms
    low tolerance for diplomacy
    readiness to use military force
    emphasis on US unilateral action
    an us versus them mentality
    I have some, but not all, ‘paleoconservative’ type of thinking yet I disagree with some of their thoughts, so I don’t even know what ‘category’ am I. But to some ‘paleoconservative’ ideas that I agree on(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleoconservatism):-
    “Paleoconservatives argue that since human nature is limited and finite, any attempt to create a man-made utopia is headed for disaster and potential carnage. Instead, they lean toward tradition, family, customs, religious institutions and classical learning to provide wisdom and guidance”
    “opposition to abstract ideals”
    “argues that Western civilization relies on civility at the center of the society”
    “Many paleocons also say that Westerners have lost touch with their classical and European heritage, to the point that they are in danger of losing their civilization.”
    But I disgaree with some, eg.:-
    “Certain paleoconservatives say that tradition is a better guide than reason” – Not true!
    And I agree even with some views from socialism, liberals etc. I believe this, in spite of our differences: we are not all wrong and we are not all right!
    In terms of being Chinese, I of course, substitute European civilization with Chinese civilization. As you realize, I have great esteem of European civilizations – in spite of many great faults in the past(and present), they are great civilizations. I feel sorry to say that Western civilization, in my estimation, is heading for self-destruction.
    Sorry for this long comment. Just sharing my thoughts.

    sinotibetan

  16. Dusty says:

    You need to write more often sir. Best thing I have read on Russia and Putin in friggin forever. Thank You for educating me.

  17. sinotibetan says:

    @yalensis
    I suppose it may be for ‘practical reasons’ that Muhammad said ‘hasten the burial’ – but of course, in Islam, it is believed that:-
    1.) Words from the Quran originated from Allah and was recited to Muhammad by Malaikat Jibril(Angel Gabriel).
    2.)The Quran is said to have ‘already been settled in Heaven’.
    A religious dimension was given, of course. So the real reason(s) why Muhammad commanded it cannot be known for certain, I believe.
    It(Quran) is the ‘word of Allah’ to Muslims inasmuch as the Bible is ‘word of God’ to Christians.
    Regarding the ancient Egyptians, they had an elaborate ‘theology’ of the afterlife – the pharoahs thought they need to continue ‘life’ in that ‘afterlife’ and a need to have themselves ‘preserved’ after death – hence, mummification.

    Someone commented :” Somehow I would find it funny if Muslims protest his burial.” (I can’t see the ‘nick’) – about bin Laden.
    I remembered during 9/11 when I was talking to a few Muslim friends of mine who are considered moderates(and I thought ‘liberal’ -having studied in the West such as the UK, USA etc. and by my acquaintance with them) about how cowardly it was for these ‘jihadists’ to target civilians. I was very surprised when these came up:
    1.) Conspiracy – the Americans did it on themselves to have a reason to ‘attack’ the Muslim world.
    2.)”Osama bin Laden – I cannot say he is ‘evil’ or did ‘wrong’ and those who( planned the attack and) died in 9/11 are considered martyrs(‘syahid’) if we were to consider ourselves Muslims. Even if they were wrong in methodology, they are Muslims and we cannot condemn them.” – some sort to that effect.
    3.)The West supported the Jewish nation against the Palestinians – in a way, they deserve it.
    I believe, living in a Muslim-majority nation and sometimes talking to them about their world-views in which they are in clear majority and have no reason to ‘hide’ their true feelings, give me a better understanding of the Muslim world than any Westerner who are in a majority and communicating with minority Muslim communities in their nations. I think that even many forward-thinking/modern Muslim will, inwardly – at the very least, do not ‘condemn’ jihadists and some may even covertly admire them. Sure, there are hyper-liberal Muslims but I think these are considered ‘murtad’ and are not respected.
    Once I asked a moderate Muslim friend, what is the Muslim view of Hari Kiamat when Imam Mahdi comes to destroy Dajjal. Apparently(maybe it was just an interpretation)that all modern weapons will not work and there will be war between Muslims and non-Muslims using swords, horses and camels. I asked him – what would be the aftermath? Muslims will slaughter all non-Muslims and teh whole world will be under Islam. I asked him – ‘will you slaughter me, should it happen – and I’m your friend but a non-Muslim?’. He said ‘Yes. I have to.”
    Maybe some here may say – hey isn’t Christianity the same too? Not really.In ‘Judgment Day’ only God(who is assumed to be omniscient) decides who enters eternal damnation – not Christians or any humans(who are finite and cannot make those judgments). Not trying to justify my beliefs – just pointing out that difference.
    Thought I shared that real story with you guys.

    sinotibetan

    • Esmerelda says:

      sinotibetan,

      I’m very shocked at some of what your moderate Muslim friends told you actually, and I AM a Muslim from a Muslim-majority country, and very much a moderate one, leaning towards conservative.

      2. This was especially shocking, because most of the Muslims I know (myself included) condemn all ‘jihadists’, on the basis that ‘jihadists’ do not actually fight for the religion (it’s all politics, although some of them probably think they ARE doing it for the religion), makes things a lot worse, and hurt innocents more than they hurt the people they are actually angry at. In fact we never call them ‘jihadists’, we think terrorist is a VERY apt term for them. Saying that we can’t condemn him because he is a fellow Muslim is – I don’t mean to be rude, but at the moment this phrase is very suitable – total nonsense. What your friends told you is a more common opinion amongst the conservatives – some of them being those who are condemning the killing of Osama.

      3. Not a common opinion where I come from too. What they do to Palestine does not justify what happens to them, although the Palestine issue IS a strong factor fuelling anti-American sentiments amongst Muslims (personally I don’t see it as something religious, it is plain old politics to me).

      Oh, by the way, to clear your uncertainty with the term murtad – that is actually for those who has LEFT the religion. ‘Hyper-liberals’ are still considered Muslims, although probably not very religious judging by your confusion with the term.

      I can’t confirm whether what your friend said about the Muslim version of Judgment Day is correct, since I’m not very well versed about that (yet) – as you said it could be an interpretation, and I’m inclined to agree with that – but what you said about the Christian Judgment Day is the same to the Muslim one too: only God decides who goes to Hell and Heaven, regardless of religion. Just because I was born a Muslim it doesn’t mean I am guaranteed a place in Heaven. Would it be fair to good well-behaved non-Muslims to go to Hell whilst non-practicing vile Muslims are surely destined for Heaven? Doesn’t look so to me. But then again this is just the way I see it, many Muslims might not agree with me on this.

      Hope this provides a new perspective for you.🙂

      • marknesop says:

        Thanks for the interesting reply – even for those who are not Muslims, the religious angle is interesting and I have learned more about the world’s religions from comments than I ever did in the sum total of my religious schooling while growing up.

        The part that struck an odd note for me was the suggestion that Muslims are duty-bound to kill unbelievers, even if they are personal friends, in the aftermath of Hari Kiamat. That sounds a little immoderate to me, and I’d be interested to see where it’s written.

        • Esmerelda says:

          And thank you, sir, for this awesome blog! Have been a silent reader for several months already.

          Yes, I found that odd too, and my pals have never heard of that part about killing non-Muslims in the aftermath either. However, if it IS in the Quran, then I’m guessing sinotibetan’s friends haven’t told him the full story, because from what I’ve been taught about my religion and what I understand from it as a moderate, God wouldn’t simply tell us to do something without a good reason, e.g. kill non-Muslims just because they are non-Muslims (which is TOTALLY against what is in the Quran). And when I say good reason I mean solid concrete reasons, not the type where God winks at you and says He knows best so we should just do whatever He says.

          • marknesop says:

            The trouble with the Bible and – I’m guessing here, as I’m not a Quranic student – the Quran is that religious guidelines or directives are often couched in parables. This prevails to even greater extent when the text is written in Arabic, with its characteristic rhetorical flourishes and ambiguities. It was these that resulted in the tenacious narrative that Ahmedinijad had said Israel must be wiped off the map, when various scholars were united that he had actually said “this regime must vanish from the page of time”. It’s fairly easy to make a religious message say what you want to hear, or appear to support what you want to do, or absolve you from sin because you already did it. It is easy for the right to quote Quranic passages that suggest massive bloodshed and out-of-control intolerance, while those who advance Islam as a religion of peace insist those passages mean something else entirely or quote others that appear to roundly contradict such a message. You’re largely flying blind with religion unless you are a scholar of long standing, and they are very, very few. Most of us just believe whatever our religious figure of choice tells us our Holy Book says, because we don’t have the time to study it in detail ourselves – why would they lie, right? Even when Jesus was supposedly alive, as an earthly man but able to perform miracles, there were priests – because somebody has to catch the fish, build the houses and tend the livestock. That group has always far outnumbered the religious scholars, and always will.

            America was in the mood, in the days following 9-11, to believe Islam demanded the blood of unbelievers. Convincing them that’s what The Book actually says was simple. Does it really say that? I’m afraid I don’t know. I can say only that there are passages in the Bible which appear to advocate violence and intolerance on as large a scale as you care to imagine, while its teachers insist Christianity preaches tolerance, inclusiveness and peace. Turn the other cheek, right? The Book doesn’t say, “…if a person smite thee upon the cheek, sack him without delay with thy foot”. That notwithstanding, the deeply religious are never short of a Scripture that appears to support military intervention: remember the odious General Boykin and his “I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol”? General Boykin once commanded the elite and secretive Delta Force, and served in it for 13 years.

  18. sinotibetan says:

    Something new about Libya:-
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13292852
    Hmmm….further Western ‘taking sides’ of the ‘rebels’.
    To be honest, I think Gaddafi was and is also guilty of atrocities. But the ‘moralization’ of Western intervention in Libya which is nothing about Western ‘care’ for the Libyans is reprehensible.

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      You can almost see the west’s strategists restlessly casting about for alternatives that will allow them to put some troops in there to help out the rebels, and you can bet Nikolas “short-man-complex” Sarkozy is bouncing on his feet in his eagerness to lead the charge. Figuratively speaking, of course; the nearest he’ll actually get to the action will be the front of his TV. I read recently that Germany floated the idea of putting some ground forces in Libya to “escort supply convoys” – and you can see how easy it would be to augment the ground component as soon as they came under fire, as they inevitably would – but I don’t know if anything ever came of it.

      Meanwhile, every day Gaddafi hangs on increases sympathy for his position, and contempt for the Arab League for inviting NATO to get its foot in the door. He shows no signs of quitting, and although he’s likely been offered all sorts of back-channel inducements to do so, it’s extremely unlikely the rebels can dislodge him unless he does, or unless NATO gives them some soldiers to help out. Obama promised there would be no ground war, and he’s probably not anxious to undo all the goodwill getting bin Laden has engendered. So the west has a real problem. It can see the goal line, but its ragtag surrogate players just don’t appear to have what it takes to get across it without help.

      One of the Counterpunch articles Mike linked – while not particularly well-written and even a little wild-eyed for a site that is decidedly leftist – offered the suggestion that the west wants a free hand in Libya because the U.S. has been looking for some time for an African nation to host AFRICOM; African Command. Although I had never heard of it, it evidently does exist and is currently headquartered in Stuttgart (with a small forward-based component in Djibouti that is unlikely to get any larger). And, lo and behold, the approach of several African nations without success appears to be true. So the suggestion that NATO wants to conquer Libya in order to establish a western military presence there is, at least, believable.

      Then, too, there’s the well-publicized oil angle. African countries have evolved into serious players in the oil business (Libya itself has substantial reserves and much of the country is unexplored for that purpose – additionally, much of the reason Libya’s production is not a good deal higher owes itself to dated and poorly-maintained infrastructure; modern practices likely would substantially increase production. The U.S. military is a thirst customer, and finding a steady, reliable supply of oil remains a concern. Although this piece is a little dated, the demand for fuel remains a major expense, and the military certainly isn’t getting smaller, in spite of its being large enough to annihilate just about anyone else’s several times over. Don’t believe any of the nonsense you read about the military possibly “going green”, because although it’s perfectly true that military equipment can’t tell the difference between petroleum and biofuel, the latter still costs more energy to produce than the energy it yields. You will not see the USA off the oil teat and driving its tanks through waving fields of corn anytime soon, although they’re perfectly happy for friends to cut down the jungle to make more room for growing corn for biofuel.

      As you may have noticed, the conflict in Libya drove oil prices up, and every day it remains unresolved is another day they stay high. That’s a double-edged sword: the oil companies are once again reaping ridiculous profits for absolutely no outlay, but as the site above points out, every $10.00 rise in the price of oil increases the U.S. Navy’s fuel bill by $300,000,000. It’s certainly in the western interest to wrap this up soon.

      • Misha says:

        Mark, if the past is any accurate read of the present, the otherwise noticeable faultlines will get a good deal of teflon treatment.

    • Yalensis says:

      The so-called “Arab spring” movement started in Tunisia and did really seem like spontaneous uprising, not engineered by West. Egypt was next, and we saw an American ally (Mubarak) being overthrown by a popular movement that included Islamists and people not too fond of Israel. Based on that, it seemed like Tunisia/Egypt were NOT color-coded “revolutions” engineered by American State Department. Then Libya, this one seemed like same deal at first (at least to an uninformed person like myself), so my first impulse was “Yeah, I got they get rid of that bastard Gaddafi…” Then very quickly it became clear that this was an imperialist war (France, Italy, USA, NATO) piggy-backing themselves onto initial “Arab spring” (which West DIDN’T support or engineer) and pretending that Libya was just another “democratic” movement, like Tunisia/Egypt. Gotta hand it to imperialists: these guys are nimble on their feet, they take a hit with Mubarak, but then see an opportunity to get rid of two old enemies, Gaddafi (Libya) and Assad (Syria).
      Whoever these Libyan rebels are – and it’s probably some tribal thing and maybe a lot of their beefs are legitimate – the fact that they so quickly became NATO tools make their cause deeply illegitimate. In any case, barring further involvement by NATO, conflict looks to become long stalemate. Rebels can’t win, but Gaddafi can’t defeat them altogether either… so maybe Libya will split into two countries, East and West.

      • marknesop says:

        “Rebels can’t win, but Gaddafi can’t defeat them altogether either… so maybe Libya will split into two countries, East and West.”

        Possible but unlikely; however, if it happened, it would still suit the west just fine IF the western imperative is the establishment of a military presence such as AFRICOM HQ or a NATO base. All that’s required in that event is somebody with the authority to hand over real estate and draft a request.

  19. Misha says:

    On why bin Laden was killed as opposed to taken prisoner alive:

    http://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/2011/05/05/dr-trifkovic-interviewed-on-rt/

    Among other things, some insight on Arab Orthodox-Christian, Russian and Israeli perceptions of Syria:

    http://counterpunch.org/shamir05052011.html

  20. cartman says:

    O/T, but Mark is so tolerant of that:

    http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2011/0506/Russia-emerges-as-Europe-s-most-God-believing-nation

    It puts Muslims at four percent, but the pollsters admittedly did not poll the largely Muslim North Caucasus.

    • Misha says:

      Did the author of that piece issue a retraction to a recent article of his on the ROC-MP?

      http://www.russiablog.org/2011/02/twice-lost-in-translation-mini-skirt-russian-orthodox-church-nicolai-petro.php

      In contrast, I’m hopeful that a better example of quality journalism will be out shortly.
      😉

    • marknesop says:

      I love the, “Are You Smarter Than an Atheist? A Religion Quiz”. Isn’t that….ummm….a little bit slanted in favour of the religious, considering an atheist recognizes no deity? You’d hardly expect someone who does not subscribe to organized religion to be particularly well-versed in organized religion. Suppose the quiz included a section on freshwater fishing and hunting, with questions like, “What bait would Jesus use if he was fishing for laregmouth bass in an acidic lake where water clarity was a problem?” “Imagine Jesus is hunting for pheasants, and his .20 gauge shotgun has only #4 shot in it when he is surprised by an angry black bear – where should Jesus shoot it in order to have the best chance of dropping it?” Further suppose the atheist is an avid outdoor sportsman, and nails every question – does this mean he’s smarter than the Christian scholar? Of course not, any more than putting a Nuclear Physicist up against a High-Performance Mechanic in a contest in which the questions all have to do with spark gap and timing chains demonstrates the mechanic’s relative smartness.

      The deeply religious had a lot to do with the double-term election of George W. Bush. I think that says all you need to know about how smart they are.

      • Yalensis says:

        Ha, is good one! I like your scenarios of Jesus hunting and fishing, made me laugh. I doubt if Jesus even knew how to fish, although he did hang around with fishermen. He would have needed professional help to pull off that magic trick where he pretended to turn 2 fish into [enough fish to feed 5000 people]. His assistants would have had to catch the fishes in advance, preserve them, maybe with salt or smoking, and conceal them in the 12 baskets.

  21. sinotibetan says:

    @Mark
    1.)[I love the, “Are You Smarter Than an Atheist? A Religion Quiz”. Isn’t that….ummm….a little bit slanted in favour of the religious, considering an atheist recognizes no deity?]
    Not really – but the ‘title’ was (I think,purposely) provocative! Many ‘religious’ folks do not know the doctrines of their own beliefs and not a few atheists know a lot about religious matters because ,being a former atheist myself, some of us take ‘pride’ in seeing religious folks appear ‘unintellectual’ or ‘ignorant’ when we ‘spar’ with them. Moreover, a true hardcore atheist would lose credibility if he/she knew little about religious beliefs as how is he/she going to refute these beliefs and thus ‘prove’ atheism? One ‘method’ of atheistic ‘apologetics’ is to demonstrate that certain(if not all) religious dogmas are illogical or contradictory to human reason, ‘disproved’ by current scientific opinion, philosophically untenable etc. etc.
    Atheism, being a belief-system, shares similarities with religions because these also encompass belief-systems. And how would atheists not compare these belief-systems so that they can conclude that theirs is ‘the truth’? Are these not all ‘truth claims’ about man, his origins and his universe and ultimately moral characterization? If Satre or Bertrand Russel had not known the concept of ‘God’ as envisaged in the belief-systems of ‘Christendom’, how would they have argued their cosmological ‘disproofs’ of a ‘First Cause’? Or that the idea of ‘creation’ is refuted by Darwinian evolution as Dawkins insist? Etc.
    Anyway, atheists and ‘irreligious’ claimed they had ‘full score’ in those ‘tests’.
    2.)[The deeply religious had a lot to do with the double-term election of George W. Bush. I think that says all you need to know about how smart they are.]
    I would not have disagreed with you if you’ve said ‘I think that says all you need to know about how smart some of them are/or even many of them are.’ Coming from the author of “Are Slavs stupid” and “Nobody owes you respect. Everyone owes you courtesy. Respect is earned: unnecessary of courtesy, which should always be automatic. Too many peopple do not perceive a difference”… I don’t quite agree with your last two statements.

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      I suppose you’re right about atheists, although I’d have to say I never saw that particular group as culture warriors, arming themselves with knowledge of the enemy’s beliefs and history. Rather, I always saw them as people who had abandoned organized religion because it somehow failed them in a crisis of faith, or cynics weary of the dirty deals done in the name of some Almighty or other. That shouldn’t suggest atheists are not smart, but simply that I believed them more interested in operating outside the distractions of religious networks, rather than militantly opposed to them – more of a semi-tolerant, “That’s all right for you, knock yourself out, but it’s not for me” when they see the faithful streaming off to church on Sunday morning.

      I’m not an atheist myself; I was baptized Anglican, but I could count on my fingers the times I’ve been to church in my lifetime. I often like to get things done on weekends, and I became fond of saying that if God really is everywhere, then he won’t mind sitting on the sawhorse to talk to me while I’m cutting baseboard for the baby’s room. I hope that doesn’t sound contemptuous of others’ religion, because it isn’t meant that way; I believe there is some sort of afterlife, and that we don’t simply wink out like sparks when our life on earth is over. I just haven’t any idea about what happens to whatever remains, and never felt any particular motivation to pursue it. One day I’ll find out, I’m sure, and that’s soon enough for me.

      As to your closing paragraph – touché. “Are Slavs Stupid?” was fundamentally flawed because I was too lazy to look up Estonians to see if they were Slavs: I simply assumed they were, and indeed some of them are although the group is nothing like dominant. I left it as it was because it seemed hypocritical to change it, as if the error never happened. Still, I hope it doesn’t mean I’m stupid because I didn’t know – if I knew everything, I’d be something other than what any of us are. And I would argue a core difference between myself and religious conservatives who re-elected George W. Bush, if you were drawing a parallel. As soon as I was presented convincing evidence – in fact, even doubt – on Estonians’ ethnic makeup, I acknowledged that I was wrong and that I could certainly have been more accurate if I hadn’t been too lazy to research it properly. Religious conservatives – and by no means every single one of them, but a convincing majority according to exit polling – voted for George W. Bush in the face of convincing evidence he was a charlatan and deceiver, and that his bromides about American unity and sacrifice were covers for steering wealth to the rich and precipitating a financial crisis that disproportionately affected the middle class.

      But you’re absolutely right that I should not have implied they were universally wrong and consequently stupid, and that any quality of stupidity they may or may not possess was linked to their religious beliefs. For that I apologize, and thank you for the correction.

  22. sinotibetan says:

    @Misha
    Thanks for the website. I think my views are not entirely similar to ‘paleoconservatives’ but thanks anyway.🙂

    sinotibetan

    • Misha says:

      I tend to find some agreement with them on a number of foreign policy issues.

      IMO, they serve as a valid enough alternative to neolib to neocon leaning slants.

  23. Yalensis says:

    In change of topic from religion [=AWKWARD!], hey, how about that de-Sovietization/de-Stalinization campaign in Russia? How’s that working out for you, Medvedev (the guy who commissioned the project)? Apparently, like a lead balloon. I don’t even need to translate this for non-Russian readers, you can see from the graph that a whopping 89.7% of the Russian people (scientific poll conducted by Julia Krizhanskaya, PhD candidate in sociology/psychology) said a big “NYET” to the de-Sovietization project. Russians are such a primitive, obstinate people: they refuse to tromple on their victory in WWII, or spit on such heroes as Yuri Gagarin.
    As you recall, the project’s intention was to inculcate (brainwash) the Russian people with the notion that the Soviet period was ALL bad, it was just one big Gulag, “the whole nation was a giant Katyn”, as the project organizers claimed. Soviet Union did nothing good, it was all sufferings and sorrows, Stalin was just as bad as Hitler, Soviets incited WWII, only Western Europeans are pure and innocent, etc etc. For me, shocking aspect of poll was that 9.6% of Russian population AGREES with this nonsense?

    • marknesop says:

      Actually, I’m afraid it’s news to me; I have been busy enough with work and other obligations that I haven’t been able to keep up on things as closely as I’d like to. The religion discussion is interesting to me – although it’s a tender subject for some – because I can’t think of any other human condition (except love) that can make a rational person deny the evidence of his own eyes and common sense. But it’s like the languages thing – that, too, is way over my head; the discussion on Anatoly’s blog regarding languages fascinated me. It was so interesting for me how the Japanese word for “screwdriver” (doriba) is simply a script adaptation from the English word that allows for limitations in direct speech extrapolation between the languages, or “hochikisu” for “stapler, based on the Hotchkiss brand name for a well-known office stapler (including a very interesting sidestep into the possibility it was the same family who invented the Hotchkiss machine gun).

      Anyway, I hadn’t heard of Medvedev’s deSovietization project, but it seems a loser initiative on the face of it. I’m sure Mr. Medvedev isn’t interested in my advice, but all the same I offer it – Dima, stop listening to Russophobes; or, if you must listen, stop doing what they want you to do without first assessing what kind of insult it will be to your people. You know – the ones you depend upon to get you elected again, if you decide to run. Because your current practice is making you look like a knee-jerk apologist.

      I’m pretty sure every nation has its disgraces in its past that it would never repeat now; I can understand the pressure on various nations to apologize for atrocities. The Soviet period ultimately was a failed experiment, but many sociologists acknowledge the concept of communism was alluring. What’s the philosophical difference between a commune and a kibbutz? Do you see anyone pressuring Israelis to abandon the kibbutz concept, and apologize for it? In fact, the population of kibbutzim has grown from less than a thousand in 1920 to about 200,000 today.

      I can see the idea behind de-Stalinization: Stalin was a polarizing figure and remains one today. Although the west didn’t seem to mind him killing Germans when they were a common enemy, the west likes to lecture today on the Holodomor and Katyn while ducking discussion of the famine deaths experienced during the Great Depression, and the more recent stain of Abu Ghraib and the occupation of Iraq. I can see Medvedev’s reasoning; he thinks like a businessman, and the implication is that the west will not do business with Russia until it “‘fesses up” and comes clean about its past crimes and errors of judgment. There’s no suggestion that there will be any kind of reciprocal breast-beating: Russia must simply trust, and do the right thing, before it can be considered for admission into the magic circle. Confession is good for the soul, and all that.

      Communism on a national scale turned out to be a failure, but it might have worked. There’s no real reason – except for greed, incompetence and human failings – that it didn’t: by that, I mean it’s not that Communism was essentially evil, as it’s often portrayed by western sources. Nobody suggests the kibbutz system is evil, and that it must be eradicated for the good of mankind, and it’s exactly the same thing – they even use the same slogan; “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”. It seems to work quite well on a community scale, but it’s probably a lot easier at that size to keep an eye on everyone and make sure that everybody who’s capable of working and contributing is doing so, instead of party bosses goofing off and whisking around in limousines while the peasants are working their fingers to the bone in the fields.

      The notion that the entire nation was one big Katyn is preposterous; my wife’s grandparents were collective farmers, and I’m sure they’d remember it as a good life filled with purpose and a sense of common goals. The industrial achievements alone were remarkable under the Soviet mantle. It’s quite all right to ackowledge it was ultimately a failure, but it would be wrong to suggest it was all for nothing and a huge black spot on Russia’s history.

      • Yalensis says:

        In a related story, here is something about Joseph Biden’s recent visit to Russia and meeting with oppositionists. It’s a short piece, I translated the whole thing into English:

        Blackmail: The Vice-President of the USA threatened Putin with revolution if he decides to run for election…

        Interesting details continue to appear in the media concerning the recent visit to Moscow of American Vice-President Joseph Biden. In the course of his visit, Biden met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and also with leaders of the Russian Opposition. A representative of the latter, World Chess Champion Garry Gasparov, in his radio blog on “Echo Moskvy”, under the title “A frank conversation in Spaso House “ [=American Embassy], communicated what Biden said to the Russian oppositionists during the meeting.

        Kasparov recounts in his blog: “It is telling that Biden, despite his haste to get to his lecture at MGU [Moscow State University], continued to ask [us] questions, and at the end communicated very frankly to us that during his meeting with Putin, he told him [Putin] that it would not be appropriate for him to run for a new term [in the presidential election]. In the opinion of the American Vice-President, Russia is weary of Putin, and this weariness will grow and inevitably lead to events analogous to those which are happening now in the Arab world. It is obvious that the dynamic of these events has forced the United States to reassess its relationships with ALL authoritarian regimes, including Russia. The stability of the Putin ‘vertical; has ceased to be a constant in American foreign policy.”


        [Translation into meta-language: USA wants Medvedev to stay as president. If Putin decides to run for election, then America will regard him as illegitimate dictator and feel they have every right to treat him the same way they are treating someone like Gaddafi.]

        [My paranoid speculation: Americans have already struck a backroom deal with Gorbachov … I mean, Medvedev, sorry, Freudian slip….]

        • marknesop says:

          It’s a pity the dozy Russian people have yet to wake up and realize that they are weary of Putin, since polls consistently suggest the public (except for liberal oppositionists and their couple of dozen followers – who remind me strongly of the members of the “Cult of Zoltan” in “Dude, Where’s My Car?”) heavily favours Putin running again and appears to signify he would win handily were he to do so. Of course that’s all an illusion, supported by the clever liberal-leaning bloggers like Julia Ioffe and Brian Whitmore, who keep saying – bitterly – that Putin would win if he ran and the liberal opposition hasn’t a chance. Damned clever of them, you must admit. In fact, everywhere you look except in Joe Biden’s briefing notes, it appears Vladimir Putin is the most trusted man in Russia among a solid majority of Russians. It’s typical that Biden would know something nobody else does; it seems to be a quality invested in the office of U.S. Vice-President, since Dick Cheney also regularly claimed to “know a thing or two” that was evident to nobody else. Then again, he also used to deny saying things that a split screen showed him saying even as he was denying ever having said them on the other half-screen, so perhaps he was able to reach an alternate plane of existence that we lesser mortals could not.

          Wake up, Russia, and pay attention to Joe Biden, who knows what’s best for you even if you don’t. You…are…getting….very…sleepy……You….are….weary….of…..Putin…

          I hoped Biden would bring something to the office that Cheney lacked. And I wasn’t disappointed – he did. Whatever else you can say about Cheney, he wasn’t stupid.

        • grafomanka says:

          Regardless what Biden meant (I have the impression he’s not the smartest person) let’s imagine scenario of 12 more years of Putin.
          Now recently right wing nationalism and even extremism is on the rise in Russia. Gen Prosecutor Chaika’s report suggests that it is connected with corruption in the state organs (police etc). People are tired of United Russia party (polls results, recent elections results etc suggest that) yet in the current system they have little possibility to vote out corrupt mafia.
          So what happens in 12 more years? Do think Russia might head into the direction of nationalist putsch? Or the extremism will intensify?
          It might depend on the performance of the economy, but it is my greatest concern about 12 more years of UR dominance.

          • Yalensis says:

            @grafomanka: I’m not a United Russia supporter either, and I didn’t like the increase in presidential term to 6 years. That is too long for even a patient voter to wait it out if their guy didn’t win. A 4-year term is more than enough, IMHO.
            Putting that aside for a second, Russian voters should decide who is their next Prez. Joseph Biden is acting like he gets a vote. Oh, and BTW, Biden is not stupid. He’s a blabbermouth and he looks stupid, but he’s actually a smart guy. That’s what worries me… It’s like he really does know that something is going down, maybe a backroom deal with Medvedev… If it was just to push Putin aside, I wouldn’t worry so much, but I feel like they are planning something even bigger than that…

            • marknesop says:

              I actually liked Biden; I saw him as more of an open guy who wouldn’t smile at your face and stab you in the back, like the one who immediately preceded him. He still comes across as an affable kind of guy, but more and more when he does foreign policy, I see and hear Hillary Clinton when Biden’s mouth opens – the starstruck adoration for Saakashvili in spitre of his horrible record and penchant for wild hyperbole, the finger-wagging at countries the U.S. doesn’t like over their human-rights record even after the Abu Ghraib scandal.

              The U.S. keeps saying it doesn’t want to be the world’s policeman, which would be easier to believe if it didn’t keep acting like it when it perceives a chance to protect its own interests. Russia is not at war with anyone right now, while the U.S. has two on the go plus a “policing action” that few really believe is designed only to protect civilians.

          • marknesop says:

            I think you’ve hit upon a key pillar of it, and the state of the economy will largely rule how people feel about their leadership, just as they do everywhere. It’s hard to brew revolution among full bellies, they say, although that reduces it to its basest form. If people overall are prosperous, have a reasonable degree of personal freedom and can afford a few luxuries like the occaasional vacation or a new car, it’s hard to convince them they are unhappy and should be agitating for a change in government that might bring something entirely different.

            I’d be more supportive of Medvedev if I thought the west actually intends to be his pal if only he liberalizes Russia, eliminates or reduces corruption (who wouldn’t sign on to that, except for criminals?) and does more or less as he’s advised to do. Unfortunately, I don’t – I can see him making concession after concession, weakening the country more and more and getting little for his efforts except for the occasional largely symbolic reciprocation. And I’m basing that on a fairly long history of the west providing teasing suggestions, them withdrawing the offer for some half-assed reason or other that seems inspired more by amusement and ideology than anything else. If you need an example, look at the continued blocking of Russia from joining the WTO – allegedly owing to Russia’s human rights record and reputation for corruption – and look at some of the countries who are members.

            • grafomanka says:

              But what concessions did Medvedew actually make? Even on Libya Russia’s stance is pretty negative. Isn’t Medwedev something of an ‘Obama’ – fooling everyone into giving him the Nobel Pecae Prize when in reality he’s ordering drone attacks on Pakistan etc. but America’s image abroad is great🙂.
              In the same way Medvedev as president provides much better PR for Russia. Putin is still very much there probably with great influence but less visible.

              • marknesop says:

                No, you’re right – Medvedev hasn’t done anything to give away the store just yet. He just creates the impression he would; that he would consider anything in pursuit of his goal. I admit his goal – a prosperous and modern Russia that subscribes to a much greater use of western business practices – is admirable and necessary, and I don’t suspect him at all of nest-feathering or trying to advance his own personal situation. But I believe him to be politically naive, and believe he sees himself as a citizen of the world first and a Russian second. The recent project to “cleanse” Russia of Soviet taint by basically labelling the entire period a gross failure and devoutly apologizing for inconvenience it caused the world, as cited by Yalensis, is an example. And once again it illusrates the mindset of the west in its dealings with Russia, as opposed to the way it views itself. According to recent media stories, some of which were discussed here, the USA – speaking as de facto world leader – has warned Putin that he should not run for President, and that life could be difficult for Russia’s aspirations if he does. This suggests they would prefer Medvedev, with whom they believe they might forge an accord. But Medvedev’s performance thus far suggests he is willing to go along with the western storyline without really questioning it, and to apologize on Russia’s behalf without much critical thinking. This, not to put too fine a point on it, appears to be a desirable characteristic in a leader, from a western point of view.

                But what about the manner in which Obama attempted to get relations back on the rails between America and the world following 8 horrid years of Bush essentially thumbing his nose at it, and saying “Screw you, we do what we want”? Remember? That’s right – Obama’s “apology tour”. Never mind that it was bullshit. The prevailing expressed opinion was that Obama had “humiliated a superpower”. We can extrapolate from that, then, that America – at least the most vocal part of it – admires a foreign leader who will admit his country was mostly wrong in the way it handled its affairs, but despises any American leader who will acknowledge the slightest fault in American reasoning or decision-making.

                Indeed, the Russian national view of events in Libya is mostly one of opposition to the current operations. In that, the Russian view is much more in line with international misgivings as established through polling. However, let’s recall that Medvedev initially was a good deal more supportive than Putin – sufficiently so that he publicly rebuked Putin for his remarks, but later came more quietly around to Putin’s original position. Medvedev is impulsive, and in my opinion is too conscious in his decision-making of perceived western approval.

                On the issue of Libya, I see that despite western assurances that there will be no ground war, consensus is moving in that direction and Gadaffi has implemented broad conscription in anticipation of it. The gutlesss Arab League now calls a ground war “inadmissable”, but it’s too late; the die is cast. In this instance as in so many others, western forces are less interested in getting to the desired end state than in getting to the point of no return; the point at which the public will go along with a view that says, “OK, mistakes were made – but we’ve gone too far to stop now, so we’re all in this together and let’s pitch in and get it done”. Sound familiar? It should.

      • Yalensis says:

        @mark: P.S. On religion: to clarify, I think it’s a perfectly valid topic, especially since it started with a link about some Orthodox priest going all Taliban and criticizing Russian women for the way they dress. (He’s just jealous, ’cause they’re so hot!) Your remarks were fairly mild-mannered; I was the one who chimed in and basically accused Jesus of being a magician/charlatan. It wasn’t my fault, though, the devil made me do it!

        • Yalensis says:

          And to continue my criticisms of Jesus, here is my biggest beef against him: He had a marketable skill (carpenter), but refused to settle down and earn an honest living. He preferred to wander around performing magic tricks and live (like a gigolo) off the money of wealthy women, like Mariam Magdalene.

          • marknesop says:

            I see a future for you that prominently features brimstone and inflammables. Brush up on your barbecue skills; opportunity is likely to be limited only by the meat supply.

        • Misha says:

          Fred Weir misrepresented that subject.

          • Misha says:

            Last comment on FW concerns the ROC-MP.

            On J – he has been referred to as the first big time reformed rabbi.

            • Yalensis says:

              @Misha: My favorite Jewish joke of all time (don’t worry, it was told to me by Jewish person, is not anti-Semitic, just teases Jews for being sectarian…) So here goes:
              A shipwreck in remote Pacific leaves only one survivor, a Jewish guy, who is stranded on deserted island for 10 years. Finally he is spotted by overflying plane, and soon helicopter arrives to rescue him. But first he takes rescue crew on tour of little island, to show how he survived for 10 years. He shows them very nice hut that the built from coconut trees. They are impressed. Then he takes them over little hill to show them synagogue that he built to worship in, also built from coconut trees. They are impressed. Finally, he takes them over second hill to show them second synagogue that he built. It is also very nicely constructed, but they ask him: “Why did you build a second synagogue?”
              He replies: “That is the temple I DON’T go to, because I disagree with their politics.”

              • Misha says:

                One reason why over the course of time, there’ve been a disproportionate number of synagogues built within close range of each other.

                Factions within a faction can be an interesting study. Consider OUN supporters of Melnyk versus those of Bandera and the bloody fights they had during WW II

                Leads me to this somewhat comical piece:

                http://www.kyivpost.com/news/opinion/op_ed/detail/104145/

                Off record, someone termed that article as being written by the kookier against the kooky.

      • grafomanka says:

        It’s a pity that Russians can’t agree on the common narrative about soviet time – prisisng the good things (like common free education) and condemning the bad things.
        No wonder most people don’t want de-sovietisation, most people alive now remember the later-days soviet union.
        Unfortunately my impression is there are still many Russian who think Bolsheviks coming changing the way land was cultivated for generations, and taking all your stock/land, and leaving you with nothing to eat was a good idea. And this is astonishing, maliscious stupidity.

        • Yalensis says:

          Yeah, but Western Europeans did it too: Enclosure act forcing English peasants off their lands; American banks foreclosing on family farms during Great Depression (allude to Steinbeck novel “Grapes of Wrath”); [placeholder for hundreds of other examples in history of Western Europe]; and let’s not forget what happened to native Americans (and continues to happen, as Amazonian Indians continuously forced off land and into city slums, etc etc.) Hence, nobody can claim that Russians/Soviets were uniquely evil when they collectivized peasants.
          Ideological foundation of Medvedev’s proposed de-Sovietization campaign is the notion that Soviet Russia was uniquely evil and did things no other “civilized” country would even dream of doing. This is blatant attempt to de-legitimize the very existence of Soviet Union (and hence its successor state, Russian Federation). Such de-legitimization is Step #1 in long-term Western strategy of defeating and dismembering Russian Federation. Why do they want to dismember a country that is not threatening them militarily? I dunno. To get more access to oil, I guess.

          • Yalensis says:

            P.S. If de-Sovietization was merely a reprise of Khrushchev’s “Stalin was a bad guy, he collectivized peasants and purged his political enemies”, that would be one thing. Been there, done that. Yawn!
            But this campaign is way more insidious than that: It is primarily directed against the Holy Grail of modern Russian identity, which is Soviet victory in WWII. Proponents of campaign want to strip away this victory: They claim that Soviet Russia incited the war in the first place, got what it deserved, did not contribute much to war effort, did not liberate Europe, became occupiers, etc etc. It’s basically the Polish-Baltic view of history, which they now want to cram down unwilling Russian throats.

            • grafomanka says:

              It increasingly looks like it will be Russians who dismember the Russian Federation, just listen to the “Russia for Russians” crowd.

              But I have to agree with you that attempts to de-Stalinise (if not de-sovietize) society are not helped at all by the patronising position of the West.
              I only found out recently that Churchill was complicit in a famine in India that took 3 million lives (in 1943, Britain was at war then and needed supplies, but still…). Even Churchill himself blatantly stated that he hates Indian people.
              Churchill is revered as an all-time hero in Britain and nobody talks about the famine. In ‘documentaries’ British make about ww2 Churchill is the only good guy (as opposed to Roosvelt who just wanted to be friends with Stalin).
              So what is expected of Russia is not expected of other countries to the same extent.

              Now about ‘holy grail of Russian history’ – there is an interesting article about Soviet/Russian identity in limbo
              http://www.polit.ru/country/2011/05/05/culture.html
              which was summarised in English by Paul Goble http://windowoneurasia.blogspot.com/2011/05/window-on-eurasia-russians-caught.html
              I agree with the author that the war should not be used as an excuse to justify as necessary/good everything that happened in the 20th century in Soviet Union.

              • cartman says:

                They say the British took India – which accounted for 23% of the world’s GDP (where the US stands today) and reduced it into a country that accounted for 3%. The British still believe the myth that they were helping – building infrastructure and institutions.

              • marknesop says:

                Russia is a nation with an enormous landmass footprint and a proportionately tiny population. The birth rate is turning positive, but far from speeding overpopulation, is barely adequate to stay even with attrition as Russians die or emigrate. The very best way for Russia to experience growth in every sector is encouragement of a vigorous, realistic and manageable immigration policy.

                The United States is among the most nationalistic of countries – except they market it as “patriotism”, but in fact it is exactly the same thing. Far from tearing the country apart, it has come to define it and is often touted as a strength rather than a weakness. As cited here in an article which originally appeared in Foreign Policy;

                “First, American nationalism is based on political ideals, not those of cultural or ethnic superiority. That conception is entirely fitting for a society that still sees itself as a cultural and ethnic melting pot… American political institutions and ideals, coupled with the practical achievements attributed to them, have firmly convinced Americans that their values ought to be universal. Conversely, when Americans are threatened, they see attacks on them as primarily attacks on their values.” Russians, by way of contrast, see their own national achievements as every bit worthy of pride as those of the west, but must endure a constant hail of criticism and suggestion that they ought to be ashamed of national achievements rather than proud – that Soviet military actions were somehow “cheating” because they lacked the nobility of purpose of western campaigns.

                Bearing in mind that this is expressive of nationalism, not patriotism – regardless what you have to call it to make it appear a virtue rather than a vulnerability – Russia needs more of it, not less, and russophobic slurs against the Russian populace in general are an attempt to prevent any such national pride from gaining a foothold.

                Immigration is difficult to sell because it’s often seen as a luxury rather than a necessity. Despite what you may have read about Canadian immigration, if anything, it was official government policy 10 years ago that, 10 years away (which, obviously, would be now), 100% of our economic growth would result from immigration. But self-interest prevents people from seeing that few native-born citizens see themselves as spending their lives in a service-industry job like running a restaurant, a convenience store or a garage. Plenty of immigrants would be glad to have a job like that, would do it well and frequently use the money to send their children to local or national universities and colleges to assure their upward mobility.

                Russia has a problem, now and in the forseeable future, in that much of their immigration comes from areas that are often at odds with Russian rule – Ukraine, Georgia, the Caucasus. Owing to incidents of terrorism, immigrants from the latter are often viewed with suspicion or alarm. This makes integration and employment much more difficult than they need to be. For the sake of the country, these must be overcome and everyone who is a Russian by virture of birth or citizenship must feel himself or herself a member of something greater than the mere sum of its parts. Easier said than done, I know, but the sooner people stop talking about it and start working on it, the closer it is to realization. There’s nothing inherently alarming about a “Russia for Russians” philosophy when it includes all citizens of Russia and an immigration policy that makes it easy for qualified applicants to become citizens with a vested interest in national greatness.

                I tend to favour Mark Adomanis’s view of Paul Goble – a whore who dredges through the worst garbage of Russian opposition newspapers, translates the most virulently anti-Russian articles he can find and then lends them the imprimatur of scholarly works. In the article you’ve cited he is less russophobic, but still closes with the suggestion that “leading Russians along a single path to overcome the divisions in [their] society” is a goal he supports. Nothing else he’s written leads me to that conclusion. However, his suggestion that Russians’ view of the world and their place in it is still actively evolving even 20 years after the collapse of the USSR is a valid and thought-provoking point.

                • Yalensis says:

                  I agree that more immigration would be a positive thing for Russia and help increase population. The “Russia for Russians” crowd are white racists. (Let’s not mince words.) I could foresee people from many different genetic backgrounds becoming loyal Russian citizens and proud to be part of Russian tradition and history, if only they were given a chance. Let’s face it: if Russia cannot beef itself up in the next couple of decades, then it will be destroyed by NATO in any case. Then Russian greatness will just be a distant memory, like Carthage.

                • marknesop says:

                  I agree the “Russia for Russians” crowd are white racists, and they have co-opted the slogan for their purposes, but there is nothing inherently racist about the concept, any more than there is from the “America for Americans” crowd. They, too, are anti-immigration, and there is probably a racial element to it since most of those who seem to rouse their ire are Mexican.But there’s nothing wrong with the idea, “America for Americans”. Russians need not abandon nationalism – or at least its patriotic elements, which tend to unify as they have done many times in the USA – just because a bunch of yahoos have claimed the slogan for their own.

          • marknesop says:

            “To get more access to oil, I guess.”

            To prevent rapidly-developing economies such as China and India continuing to enjoy unfettered growth is my guess. Several strategists suggested that was also behind the invasion of Iraq; to exert some measure of control over development in heavily-industrialized nations with strong manufacturing bases (ding, ding, ding!!!! China and India) by assuming an unprecedented degree of western control over world energy supply.

            Those who maintain the war in Iraq had nothing to do with oil always point to the fact that it is a fungible commodity traded on world markets for a set – albeit fluctuating – price, and that it is beyond the power of any nation to set world price. True? Well, you tell me. How long did it take following the approval of the no-fly zone and the ensuing military action in Libya for the price of gas at the pump to leap upward? A day, two? It’s just surged beyond $1.40 per litre here. Did the west make that happen? It sure did. Are western oil companies reaping the benefits of the higher prices, without having to put a single foot on the ground in Libya? They sure are. Was the civil war in Libya ongoing before western intervention? It sure was. Did it affect world oil prices in anything like the manner the NATO intervention did? It sure didn’t.

            If you controlled Iraq, hypothetically, how difficult would it be for you to manipulate world oil prices, based on the perception that there was likely to be an interruption in world supply – or, alternatively, a surge in pumping capability that would drive prices down, if that suited your purposes? Not very. Would a dramatic drop in world oil prices hurt an energy-dependent national economy like Russia’s? It sure would. Is it possible for countries like Libya and Iraq to double their production over the short or longer term, based on a quantum improvement in what is presently rickety and inefficient infrastructure in the industry?

            It sure is.

            • cartman says:

              I imagine that is why Germany is not committed to a super Western USA energy conglomerate and hedges it with Russia. At the turn of the last century, the British were intensely paranoid by the commercial success of Germany which did not have (much of) an empire. Pax Britannica was supposed to ensure no upstarts could arise.

              The US and China stand in their places today (although Germany is still defiantly commercially successful). Hillary can bleat on about human rights in China (while running three wars and a concentration camp), but I do not understand how the US can win anything if it alienates every country around Asia’s perimeter.

        • Misha says:

          Graf

          I sense some balance among many Russians when evaluating the Soviet legacy.

          For accuracy sake, balance has at times been lacking when evaluating Russia’s Riurikist-Romanovist past.

          Their faults aside, I sense that the Riuriks and Romanovs weren’t as biased against Russia as Marx and Lenin.

  24. grafomanka says:

    “I agree the “Russia for Russians” crowd are white racists, and they have co-opted the slogan for their purposes, but there is nothing inherently racist about the concept, any more than there is from the “America for Americans” crowd.

    Mark, I think there are certain differences here.
    While ‘Americe for Americans’ will indeed make the country stronger, Russian nationalists want to proclaim a ‘nationalist’ state.
    I can understand why they feel this way, I bet there is a certain critical number of immigrants coming to your town after which you feel like the world is ending.
    It was just a matter of time for Russian nationalism to ‘wake up’ … because Russia was never a nationalist state, it was always an empire, but Russians like all the Slavs have a great deal of nationalist pride.
    No idea how Russian nationalist state would look like, but by definition, it would have to be smaller. That’s why I think that this kind of ideas gaining popularity might dimember Russia.

    • Yalensis says:

      @grafomanka. Agreed. American anti-immigration movement has some validity in the sense that they are opposed to illegal immigration, not immigration per se. Some of these people are racist yahoos, true, but they DO have a point: how can any modern nation expect to function properly if they don’t even police their own borders and don’t have a reliable means of identifying people?
      Whereas my understanding is, “Russia for Russian” crowd are not really talking about illegal immigration, although I am sure there is concern about that, but they want to deny Russian citizenship to people who already ARE Russian citizens (like people from North Caucasus). Is that your impression too?
      In other words, they want to cut Caucasus loose and shrink Russia down to area around Moscow and a few other core Russian cities, to be small European country with (white-skinned) Slavic population around 20 million. That’s called the “Brzezhinski Plan”.

    • kovane says:

      Russian nationalists want to proclaim a ‘nationalist’ state.

      What rubbish this is! Name me just one political force that campaign for a ‘nationalist’ state. Even the most radical one that was recently banned, DPNI, argued just for a better control of immigration. And the most radical nationalists usually demand only the succession of the North Caucasus. I’ve never heard even a hint of the idea to separate Tatarstan or your beloved Bashkiria from the rest of Russia. And I mean even from the brutest skinheads. Please, don’t be like liberals who see scary Russian fascism in the statement that the rights of ethnic Russians should be protected. And who even liken Navalny to Hitler. The demonization of Russian nationalism is becoming a little nauseous.

      • grafomanka says:

        Kovane,

        So if nationalist want to “establish a national government and proclaim a Russian national state” what does Russian ‘national’ state mean?

        Bashkeria, as a rich region, would be better off without money being siphoned off to Moscow.

        If majority of Russians would be happy in smaller Russia without Caucasus I don’t see why not.

        • cartman says:

          I thought oil from the Volga region was of poor quality, and had to be mixed with oil from other regions of Russia in order to sell it. The reason for this is political since it actually drives money back to Tatarstan and Bashkiria.

          Your theory that they would be rich on their own is flawed, because – in theory – most of the ‘stans (and Azerbaijan) would be rich too.

        • kovane says:

          what does Russian ‘national’ state mean?

          How exactly can I know what some specific nationalist means by a national state? Most of the nationalists I know interpret the term as a state where the rights of ethnic Russians would be better observed. And there’s some space for improvement indeed, try living as a Russian in Chechnya, for example. Or in Bashkiria or Tatarstan, by the way.

          Bashkeria, as a rich region, would be better off without money being siphoned off to Moscow.

          Ha-ha! Really? And why exactly didn’t Bashkiria and Tatarstan separate from Russia in 1989-1999, when everyone “took as much sovereignty as he could”? My advice, look at the map of Russia. What future any of these republics had, being surrounded by Russia? Whom would they sell oil? That’s why Tatarstan played at being independent for a while, but then dropped the idea. And I don’t even cite all the advantages of living in a big country, the fact that much of the money you talk are siphoned back, etc. Basically, everyone who had any chances on real independence fell off from Russia by 1991. And many of them are not so happy about their choice I guess.

          • Misha says:

            Regarding Tatarstan, Andrei Zolotov took a Lucas like position on the PBS aired Foreign Exchange:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_Exchange_(US_TV_series

            Apparently, there’s no online archive to reference.

            On that show, Zolotov restated the questionable claim that Russia’s independence recognition of S. Ossetia and Abkhazia threatens Tatarstan remaining in Russia.

            Foreign Exchange had a definite neolib leaning bent to it.

            http://www.serbianna.com/columns/averko/008.shtml

            According to what some suggest: when a number of countries recognize Kosovo’s independence, that’s not considered a threat to existing borders elsewhere, unlike when Russia recognizes the independence of S. Ossetia and Abkhazia.

            On the British recognition of Kosovo’s independence and the situation in Scotland:

            http://grayfalcon.blogspot.com/2011/05/modest-proposal.html

            Meantime, the evidence of a dramatically increased separatism in Tatarstan appears limited. The aforementioned Foreign Exchange segment highlighted some Tatar separatist literature that appears to reflect a tiny portion of Tatarstan’s population. Turkey’s president visited Tatarstan. Since that time, there appears to be no significant rise in separatist sentiment in Tatarstan.

            What I’ve heard (from credible people who’ve been to Tatarstan), there’s relative tolerance in that republic which has a degree of autonomy. Greater autonomy doesn’t necessarily mean greater democracy. Based on feedback, Tatarstan comes across as having a government with some authoritarian tendencies.

          • grafomanka says:

            I took that quote from Dmitrii Demushkin, apparently a spokesman for the newly united nationalist.
            He also allegedly said that “The minimal goal for “Russians” [the new umbrella organization representing 40 nationalist organisations] is to facilitate universal ethno-political Russian solidarity and the maximum is to bring to power a nationalist government which would proclaim a nationalist state.”
            I’m not trying to demonize nationalists hear (excluding neo-nazis)– they have legitimate grievances. Too much immigration too quickly is not good for anyone. Besides it seems like more intelligent of them like Navalny understand well who’s ‘oppressing Russians’. It’s not the fault of Caucasians that Russian police is corrupt.
            But it’s quite clear that Russian nation state means a nationalist state, and I didn’t make this up. All I was saying that were those people to take power (by undemocratic means, or democratic if enough people support them) the result might be dissolvement of RF.
            “And I don’t even cite all the advantages of living in a big country, the fact that much of the money you talk are siphoned back”
            In Bashkiria they manage to build some decent roads in the 90ties, when they got some independence from federal government. Since then Putin’s been rolling it back.
            Apparently Soviet government had something else more important to spend Bashkir money on than roads in the Republic.
            I don’t know about this money being ‘siphoned back’ this is definitely not the feedback I get from the people.

        • marknesop says:

          The Russian state could never accept partition of the Caucasus, because it would be promptly gobbled up by western interests for pipeline routes that would diminish Russian energy clout, and general mischief-making against Russia. Non-stop inveigling to get ABM bases established on the Russian border is ample evidence of such a desire.

    • marknesop says:

      Well, I hope you’re wrong (about nationalism dismembering Russia), and I disagree that breakup will be the end result in any case. But there are indeed several fundamental differences in nationalism in the two countries; America is much smaller, and has a much bigger population. Although immigration continues to be important for American growth and development, it is not urgent as it is in Russia with its small population.

      American nationalism as embodied in the ethos “America for Americans” suggests, “let’s elect and support leaders who will make decisions based on what will improve life for American citizens and strengthen American influence”. You’d have a hard time criticizing that kind of goal-setting, anywhere on the planet. But analysts forget that America, too, is an Imperial power – it merely retains its influence and directs the pursuit of national interests through diplomacy and a far-flung archipelago of military bases rather than colonization. That’s why American cultural influence is so important to American goals, and why any opposition to its spread is vigorously resisted.

      Conversely, an ethos that says “Russia for Russians” is portrayed as being much more closely in line with the racist posturings of the group which uses the slogan, and Russian nationalism is portrayed and seen as being much more anti-immigration based on race than it is supportive of patriotic goals to which all Russians can aspire.

      Part of that is an image-management problem. The immigrant experience in the west is largely positive, and any number of professions can point to leaders or influential members who are immigrants, some of them very recent. The Russian experience with immigration is less positive; domestic terrorism and rioting. I’m sure there are success stories in Russia as well which feature immigrants who are in leadership positions, who have contributed much to the country and who owe their loyalty to the state. There should be a trend toward emphasizing these positive stories on the part of the government, while law enforcement improves its efficiency in anticipating events and incidenyts which might spin out of control and yield undesirable racial overtones. The state should also maintain absolute intolerance for “nationalist” groups who use their platform for racist blatherings rather than rousing and supporting national pride, and there are signs this is beginning to happen already.

      Extensive immigration can work, but a constant message of racial tolerance backed up by strong anti-racism laws is necessary for its success. For example, metropolitan Vancouver is overwhelmingly multi-ethnic: according to Statistics Canada, the Canadian-born and Americans account for only a bit more than 14%, while nearly double that are of East or Southeast Asian origin. The largest ethnic group, at nearly 36%, originate in the British Isles. Russians account for less than 3%. There is sometimes a perception that “the Chinese are taking over”, which leads to expressions such as the initials UBC changed to mean “University of a Billion Chinese” rather than “University of British Columbia”, but this is because the Chinese are a highly visible group while Europeans tend to blend in with other Caucasians.

      Again, though, Vancouver has never experiences a terrorist attack that was tied to a visible minority group. It’s easy to see where intolerance is born, and how quickly attitudes can change.

      Again, Vancouver

      • grafomanka says:

        Mark, I think Canada and America are quiet different, they are nations build on immigration.
        From what I understand America doesn’t have problems with Muslim communities not integrating etc to the extent that Europe has. In Europe the problem has prompted several leaders to proclaim recently that ‘multiculturalism has failed’. Can you imagine an American president saying this? In Europe and Russia societies are much more conservative (and xenophobic). As some British politician, whose name I don’t remember’ put it – ‘the majority of people are white and bigoted and they have to be represented!’

        Soviet Union took more or less care of regional development, so such big immigration waves as Russia is experiencing now are quiet unprecedented (I think).

        • marknesop says:

          “…the majority of people are white and bigoted and they have to be represented!’”

          That’s pretty funny, I had never heard that one before.

          I can’t explain the differing attitudes to multiculturalism depending on what country you’re in, because the situation is so complicated it defies generalizations, and any response I make is going to come off sounding simplistic. Amalgamation, as sinotibetan alluded, is desirable, and it’s better for everyone if new immigrants learn the dominant language and absorb whatever national customs and traditions do not conflict with their own. However, people born Canadian or American, for example, tend not to have a realistic idea of what a gigantic adjustment it is – particularly for adult immigrants whose habits are already well-developed – and believe any initiative to make it a little easier for immigrants to make the transition is pampering or coddling them. We have several Chinese and East-Indian television channels; businesses in ethnic neighbourhoods are encouraged to add their native language to signs provided they are in English also. English lessons are free through an immigration help centre. This is not coddling immigrants – it’s increasing the odds that they will become productive members who will want to stay, rather than confused, homesick castaways who can’t remember why they left from wherever they did.

          Although there are holes in Canada’s immigration policy and we’ve certainly admitted people we should not have, overall it is sound. I’m reluctant to say that, because the country jerked me around for 3 years while I was trying to get my wife and stepson admitted, and I’ve seen some hair-raising cases since. But the reasoning behind it is basically sensible; we need immigration for growth because, although we share a lot of commonalities with the USA, Canada is significantly bigger and has only about a tenth the population. At the same time, admitting more people than you can reasonably expect to employ leads to jobless, resentful populations which frequently explode in rioting, such as that recently in France. Overpopulation is not a problem Canada has to deal with, and our attitudes might be considerably different were that to be the case.

          Frequently, too, immigrants have their own worst enemies among them. Some arrive with criminal backgrounds and an abiding intention to take up their old activities in their new home. Vancouver has a problem with ethnic gangs, mostly Asian and frequently Vietnamese. Major credit-card-fraud rings have been broken up in Toronto that proved to be masterminded and largely composed of Russians with Mafia connections. Jamaicans have also caused serious law-enforcement problems in major cities like Toronto. They and the Asians are identifiable (and mis-identifiable) by their appearance, while whites such as Russians tend to stand out less, and criminal activity among a visible minority makes employers reluctant to hire anyone who looks like them. Unemployment or being forced to take a job that doesn’t pay much and is far beneath one’s job experience are major dissatisfiers that lead to civic unrest and, in the extreme, rioting.

          Ideally, immigrants would all be honest and not make terrible nuisances of themselves while learning the skills needed to take a productive place in the economy. That rarely happens in actuality. People who need a little more help getting settled in are perceived as slacking while the taxpayer takes care of them, and become targets for anti-immigratrion groups. Some networks disproportionately feature immigrant crime so as to create the impression it is rampant, while crime among natives hardly exists at all.

          But Canada differs from the USA and most of Europe in that we would not be able to maintain growth without immigration. The USA and Europe both have large populations already.

  25. sinotibetan says:

    Wow….heated discussions!
    I tend to be pro-nationalist and am not too agreeable with immigration as a means to maintain/increase national population. Thus, in this area, I do not agree with yalensis and Mark. I quite agree with kovane that nationalists(not only Russia, but everywhere else) are demonized. I am kinda a “Chinese nationalist” myself, the ‘irony’ is I am part of the Chinese diaspora : but I am in where I am due to history not because I think mass migration is a good thing – I don’t favour uncontrolled migration; strict, controlled, properly regulated migration when it is needed is the way to go – certainly not in favour of current Western ideas of immigration. Although I agree that SOME who call themselves ‘nationalists’ ARE racists, certainly not all of us are! Though certainly not supporting the beliefs of Russian skinheads/ultranationalists(they might kill me if I were in Russia?), I do not see anything wrong at all with Russian ethnicity and culture being predominant and wanting to maintain that predominance(hence, strict immigration control) because ethnicity begets culture begets ethnicity begets culture begets ad infinitum. The origin of traditional countries began as an ethnocultural construct and it remains that way till today whether anyone likes it or not. Some of my points:-
    1.)”encouragement of a vigorous, realistic and manageable immigration policy.”
    Vigorous, realistic and manageable are all descriptive and subjective words. Some objectivity /numbers must be given to actually discuss this point. Yet, I think a vigorous immigration policy(does that mean a great encouragement for immigration?) is not quite compatible with the words ‘realistic’ and ‘manageable’. How many would be realistic? How many would be manageable? Who actually knows? I think manageable and realistic would be this: migration of ethnically and culturally similar is preferable to ethnically and culturally ‘distant’ peoples because the latter logically do not integrate so well compared to the former; ethnically and culturally ‘distant’ people who wish to adopt the predominant culture of the ‘host’ nation is preferred to those who don’t; better immigration laws with less loopholes as there are many migrants who are opportunists and may thus be troublesome to the host nation – a toughtimmigration policy is better than a loose one because that would ensure the QUALITY(and not just mere economic expediency/quantity)of migrants; I think our internationalists ‘tycoons’ who control our ‘free market’ world has convinced most of us(or rather mostly in the West – haven’t convinced us Asians!) of a ‘laissez faire’ type of immigration law so that they can exploit these migrants without caring a hoot what happen to nations(or the migrants for that matter) etc. etc. That’s the problem when the businessmen rule the world. Not that I am against the rich businessman – good for him. I am against their class as being so hyperinfluential and hyperpowerful as they are today.
    2.)”First, American nationalism is based on political ideals, not those of cultural or ethnic superiority. ”
    Yet culture and ethnicity had their genesis in politics too! These are intertwined! For my own ethnicity too – the Chinese – had it not been for the politics of previous dynasties which unified and amalgamated culturally and ethnically not-too-dissimiliar Mongolic(sino-tibetan and non-sino-tibetan) tribes into a dominant Chinese culture and polity, there would be no such word/thing as Chinese today! In fact we call ourselves Han ren or Tang ren and both Han and Tang were political , historical countries which in turn begot the Chinese ethnicity(although that incubation of ethnogenesis started earlier even with the Xia, Shang, Zhou and Qin). When comparing Russia(or any other ‘old world’ countries) with ‘new world’ countries like America(and Canada, Australia, etc.), I see a particular distinction: Russians are an ethnicity already begotten and becoming a distinct people at least 1000 years or so whereas the American ‘ethnicity’ is actually in the process of ‘being borned’! The ancient Rus principalities which later’ gave birth’ to a distinct ‘Russian’ polity ‘gave birth’ to the Russian ethnicity via amalgamation of various Slavic and non-Slavic(I think Volga Finnic mostly) into a predominantly ‘Slavic’ culture and ethnos. Perhaps that ‘period’ would be akin to what America is now – the USA is 1000 years ‘too late’. Thus, comparing these two nations without this distinction is inappropriate. As for ‘political ideals’ – these can BECOME culture. Are we Chinese not culturally so indebted to Confucianism? Yet Confucianism was a political ideal/doctrine! My point is this – Americans are trying to define who they are(the ethnogenesis of ‘American ethnos’) while Russians are already a ‘defined’ ethnos. What or who Americans finally want to ‘be’ is their own business but one cannot push this model into Russia or any ‘old world’ nation because our histories and situation is different.
    3.)”because Russia was never a nationalist state, it was always an empire, but Russians like all the Slavs have a great deal of nationalist pride.”
    Russia was not ALWAYS an empire, in my view. The Russians became ‘self-identified’ before the 15th Century starting with the distinction of East Slavic tribes from 3rd till 8th Centuries and the rise of Rus principalities. At least by th 12th -13th Centuries, the disparate Varangian ruling elites, Finnic tribes and ‘predominant’ East Slavic tribes have amalgamated to form the ‘Russian’ ethnos. I think from 16th or 17th Century onwards with (ethnic) Russian expansion to Siberia and Caucasus did Russia become a multiethnic Empire. Multiethnicity in a state is either due to territorial expansion or immigration or both.
    4.)”society that still sees itself as a cultural and ethnic melting pot”
    Americans are unsure whether they want amalgamation or multiculturalism which are NOT the same. Amalgamation into a putative ‘American ethnos’ unifies the nation; multiculturalism break apart nations. As I’ve said before in previous posts, the best for national cohesion is monocultural(eg. Japan) – even same ethnic groups quarrel(North and South Korea) – what more different ethnic groups which have different outlooks(and looks!) and mindsets; those multicultural nations(like mine) should not aspire to become even more multicultural(i.e. ‘multiculturalism policy’) – suffice that we learn how to live together in our present situation. I don’t believe we human beings have become ‘so noble'(in spite of all the technological and scientific advancements) so as to be able to live together with these stark differences without unrest/tensions as history and current realities demonstrate. I understand ‘melting pot’ as amalgamation rather than multiculturalism.
    I know many here will deem me ‘racist’ for these views – so be it! At least they cannot call me a neo-Nazi coz I am Asian!😉

    sinotibetan

  26. sinotibetan says:

    @ Mark
    Regarding Vancouver, I think there are many Hong Kong Chinese there? My cousin used to live in Vancouver but his wife could not stand the winters and now they’re back home here(sorry I cannot disclose where I’m from because I like to remain anonymous even with my citizenship!It’s in southeast Asia though).
    We used to call Vancouver ‘Van Kong’ as prior to the reversion of Hong Kong to China’s rule, many rich Hongkies migrated there.
    I think Canadian ‘tolerance’ to us Chinese would change if let’s say the ‘less desirable’ types such as those pimping and drug-dealing mobsters become the predominant type of Chinese migrant. Most of us in Asia think of Western nations as THE place for us to get rich, realise our ambitions – especially for the scientifically-inclined. So, you all get some of the ‘better ones’ from our region.
    As for multiculturalism, I am reminded of an acquaintance who worked as a cook in New Zealand. After living there for 10 years, she could not utter a single word of English! Apparently she stayed secluded in Auckland’s Chinatown – speaking only Hokkien and Mandarin!

    sinotibetan

  27. sinotibetan says:

    @ Mark and the Muslim commentor(sorry – I cannot see your nick!):-
    1.) Thanks for correcting me that hyperliberal Muslims are not considered murtad. Yup, those who left Islam are murtad. But at least where I’m from, the hyperliberal Muslims are ‘not respected’.
    2.)”Yes, I found that odd too, and my pals have never heard of that part about killing non-Muslims in the aftermath either. ”
    Indeed! I don’t know about other texts like the Hadiths but I’ve read the Quran and never saw that too! That’s why I thought it was an interpretation(or my friend was trying to tell me he did not like me?) – but it was no point I asked my Muslim liberal friends because I know more about Islam than them and after others more conservative were reticent to condemn the late Osama, I thought it prudent not to ask their views.
    3.)”The trouble with the Bible and – I’m guessing here, as I’m not a Quranic student – the Quran is that religious guidelines or directives are often couched in parables”
    This is partially true. Example the parables were explained later in the Bible. As for the Quran, most are not parables and quite many are quite clear descriptions/instructions but of course, context is important. Even eschatological passages in the book of Daniel(in the Bible) was explained, though I agree a lot were allegories and symbolic. I think that is more so with the Apocalypse(Revelation).
    The “Ten Commandments” are so clear – there’s nothing ‘unclear’ about them. As for the New Testament, Paul’s epistles contain many clear doctrinal teachings – certainly these are hardly ‘parables’. Even Buddhism which tend to lean towards the philosophical is not too nebulous to understand some pertinent doctrines/dogmas. In that sense, I disagree that we cannot be ‘objective’ even in seeing what are the ‘real’ teachings found in these religious books. Two reasons why they are not ‘umimportant’ or ‘irrelevant'(like Giuseppe’s ‘argument’):
    a.) Religious reachings claim to be ‘truth'(truth-claims) – so are they?
    b.) Religions and ideologies will ALWAYS(so long as humanity exists) influence and energize man to do great deeds both noble and ignoble – so we cannot ignore what ‘they actually teach’ or at least attempt to find that out.
    4.)”the deeply religious are never short of a Scripture that appears to support military intervention”
    Some. I can be thought of belonging to the so-called ‘deeply religious’ but am against it. As I’ve said before – context. We had a joke that goes like this:-
    Matthew 27:5 – Judas hanged himself.
    Luke 10: 37 – “Go, and do thou likewise’
    Sure, wrenched out-of-context, ANYTHING can be justified!
    And I think America – although now secular, is Puritan ‘in spirit’ – only the Bible is replaced by democracy, freedom, etc. etc.
    One doctrine of Puritan thought is ‘Millenialism’ – they believed that we live in the ‘golden age of the church’ and later married their religious doctrines with culture and politics. And ‘religious’ Millenialism later gave rise to (secular) Utopianism and I was surprised I found this in wikipedia which I agree:-
    “In the Modern Era, with the impact of religion on everyday life gradually decreasing and eventually almost vanishing[citation needed], some of the concepts of millennial thinking have found their way into various secular ideas, usually in the form of a belief that a certain historical event will fundamentally change human society (or has already done so). For example, the French Revolution seemed to many to be ushering in the millennial age of reason. Also, the philosophies of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) and Karl Marx (1818–1883) carried strong millennial overtones. As late as 1970, Yale law teacher Charles A. Reich coined the term “Consciousness III” in his best seller The Greening of America, in which he spoke of a new age ushered in by the hippie generation. However, these secular theories generally have little or nothing to do with the original millennial thinking, or with each other.”
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millennialism)
    The mix of hypocrisy and ‘moral indignation’ exists in the “American spirit” till this day, in my opinion – a legacy of the founding colonies of America influencing thoughts and politics there – replacing Puritan morality with ‘secular morality’.
    I think some of the ‘deeply religious’ in the USA again are influenced by this Puritanism ‘spirit’. Hence the eager ‘interest’ to establish a ‘Christian country’ or ‘Christianize’ the world by politics/military intervention(which I STRONGLY am against).
    But then again, I am a ‘premillenialist’ in eschatological views and also do not believe that anyone should coerce/force(eg by political means/military intervention) their beliefs into anyone – hence already do not agree with Puritanism.
    5.)”Most of us just believe whatever our religious figure of choice tells us our Holy Book says, because we don’t have the time to study it in detail ourselves – why would they lie, right? ”
    Sadly this is true. Sadly many religious leaders DO lie and manipulate.

    @ Misha
    Regarding ‘paleoconservatives’ – you are right, I too agree with some of their foreign policies – these conservatives are also favourable towards a friendly relations with other nations like Russia and non-intervention into the internal affairs of other nations. Not sure about their economic views to comment plus I am not good in economics to comment also!

    @yalensis
    Your criticism of Jesus is only valid if you have concrete evidences that your allegations are true.
    1. Feeding of the 5000 –
    a.) The feeding of the 5000 – well, Jesus later critisized the crowd that was ‘fed’ -saying they were more interested to eat the foodstuff rather than any spiritual yearning and they hated Him after that. So, if Jesus was a ‘manipulator’ as alleged, he isn’t smart to say such negative things about these would-be supporters.
    b.) If your justification that Jesus was a manipulator and trickster BECAUSE miracles are impossible then that lies on the truth-claim that atheism is true. But can atheism be PROVEN true? No. Inasmuch as theism cannot be proven either.
    c.) Or you think that the Bible is a hotch-potch of manipulative fictitious accounts and ‘true events’ then why not even discount the whole existence of Jesus? Since that whole book is unreliable and how can anyone separate ‘fact’ from ‘fiction’?
    2. As to the charlatan character of Jesus relying on a rich Mary Magdalene:
    a.) Any concrete evidence? Hope it’s not Dan Brown’s ‘proofs’.
    b.) Again your claim of his magic tricks is merely an affirmation of your atheism and because of that dogma there is no god anywhere, anytime and anyhow – so miracles never occurred, occur or ever will occur. So, he must be a liar and a trickster.
    c.) A better argument you could have come up with : is that Jesus wanted to be famous and he was so adept in magic tricks that he could inspire people to die believing in him and so many deluded people like myself still claim to believe in him up to this day. This invalidates your claim that he is more marketable as a carpenter. Had he only been a carpenter, he would die a Jewish unknown. He was so good in performing magic tricks that the world are divided into those who cannot bear him and those who claim they love him. Surely Jesus was a better trickster than David Copperfield!

    sinotibetan

    • Yalensis says:

      @sinotibetan: Greetings! Agree that Jesus was a better magician than David Copperfield. He was more on the level of Houdini, maybe even greater than Houdini. Yes, you are correct that I begin with an atheist assumption that miracles are impossible. Starting from this postulate, I try to explain the so-called “miracles” that Jesus performed. This also assumes that the accounts in the New Testament have some historical validity. I know, I know… too many assumptions. And I am not a Biblical scholar, so I probably have no right even to an opinion. But here goes anyhow:
      I believe that J’s first set of magic tricks involved containers:
      Wine into water at the wedding, that was an easy one, the wine could have been concealed in containers under the floor; didn’t most of the homes have cellars in those days, and then easy to use some kind of piping system to get the wine up into the containers of water.
      Multiplying the loaves and fishes: this is a more sophisticated trick, I don’t know exactly how it was done, but, again, must have involved concealed baskets. You do make a good point that Jesus criticized his hungry followers for scarfing down the free lunch with such gusto that they barely bothered to listen to his sermon. I can’t explain that, except maybe J was in an irritable mood that day.
      Walking on water … there is one, and only one, way to do this, and that is by means of plank, or deck, concealed just below surface of water. Only good for very shallow part of lake, but we tend to forget that fishing boats can operate in very shallow water.
      J’s greatest trick: raising of Lazarus from the dead. This was truly on the level of Houdini. Required assistance of a very dedicated team, but scriptures make clear that Jesus was very close with that whole family, which included Lazarus and his sisters, Mariam and Martha. Like every good magician, Jesus used attractive female assistants, but in this case he needed a male accomplice. His friend, Lazarus, would have had to be willing to sit down there in the tomb for 3 days, pretending to be dead. It is noteworthy that after J was crucified, the same scenario was planned: same tomb, same rock, etc. I think Lazarus’ family owned that tomb. In those days, only wealthy families owned cave tombs.
      Oh well… I guess I’ve offended you enough. I do consider you to be a friend (kind of), even though I’ve never met you! So please forgive me for my rudeness. Since you are a good Christian, I know you will!

  28. Misha says:

    Mark!

    http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/stanleycup/story/2011/05/12/sp-canada-russia-hockeyworlds.html

    Reminded a bit of the most recent world juniors, where until its first defeat, Canada had the best performing team in that tournament – with Russia looking a bit shaky.

    Wouldn’t be so surprised if Russia doesn’t win the semifinal or (if it advances) the final.

  29. kovane says:

    Mark, have you got my mail?

    • marknesop says:

      Probably – sorry; as I mentioned before, I don’t check it every day now because my father-in-law sleeps in the computer room and I don’t like to disturb him. My regular mail is an Outlook address that just opens automatically on that comnputer, so I don’t have a password to check it from another computer. I’ll check it when I get home today.

  30. sinotibetan says:

    Dear yalensis:
    You have interesting views that cannot be just discounted and thrown out of the window. And although we disagree, I respect your opinions.🙂
    “I guess I’ve offended you enough.”
    No, you never offended me at all. It was just that I thought I should response to your earlier two views and I have to apologize that I might have been a little sarcastic.
    “I do consider you to be a friend (kind of), even though I’ve never met you!”
    Same here. I consider you to be a friend too. And friends can have different views, can’t they?
    You have nothing to apologize because you did not offend me at all.🙂
    Take care and we shall discuss about Russia and many other things! I must say that I am quite busy nowadays hence I am a little ‘quiet’ these days.

    sinotibetan

    • Yalensis says:

      Dear sinotibetan: You take care too!
      I look forward to more discussions on various interesting topics. 🙂

  31. sinotibetan says:

    @ Mark
    Thanks for your ‘general’ reply on immigration, amalgamation and multiculturalism.
    Perhaps I generalize things too much, but Canada and USA(Australia, NZ included) are nations of migrants(at least the majority of their population had ancestors who were migrants) and thus have probably little reason to be not so keen on ‘mass migration’.
    Yet, I agree with you that ‘amalgamation’/’melting pot’ into a putative ‘Canadian’ ‘ethnos’ or “American’ ‘ethnos’ is better than multiculturalism – but I can perceive that it may be difficult if ‘mass migrations’ continue and especially if the integrative process is weak/teneous but the desire for disparate communities to insist on their disparate communities to continues strong. As I’ve said before, people with European backgrounds, despite their national origins, might find it easier to ‘forget their past nationalities’ than say Africans, Middle Easterns or East Asians because the latter look different and also have cultures that are not only ‘too distinctive’ but also as ancient/more ancient than the dominant ‘Anglo-Saxon’ culture in North America. I still think migration is NOT the answer to improve population growth – I agree, not zero migration(that would be impossible in an ‘attrctive'[i.e. ‘rich’] country like Canada, for example) – migrants are OK but perhaps European migrants are preferable not because they are ‘better’ but because they are easier to integrate and Asians, Indians etc. are admissable but probably more of those that are already very “Canadian” in outlook and culture, for example. Sustained growth should be via the following:
    1. Educate the people that TFR of 2.1 is needed to ‘reproduce’ the population and thus encourage ‘optimal’ family size – i.e. not too large and not too small ( people are encouraged to hve 2-3 children for example; extra taxes for above 3 and less juicy economic benefits[eg certain tax exemptions etc.] for those who have less than 2)
    2. There should be no ‘poor’ people in a country. Ideally, the ‘poorest’ should still be having a ‘lower middle income’ bracket and all should own their own home etc. I know that sounds a bit ‘socialist’ but where I differ from socialism is – one must have a job(if he/she has no reason not to have one).
    3. I think the pharmaceutical industry must be regulated to reduce rising health costs. Improving longevity and health also stops depopulation in advanced countries(or countries with ‘advanced country type population demographics’).
    4. Good support for mothers and children so as to encourage fecundity.
    5. A policy of trying to reorient themselves from purely individualistic notions(which has become the norm in the West and catching up fast in the rest of the world) but also a more communal/national orientation/consideration as well. I think this pursuit of individual ambition and selfishness(in which I must admit, I have difficulty overcoming as well)- this Donald Trump ‘spirit’ – is one reason for people not having kids. Rich nations have forgotten such virtues like patience, sacrificial giving, looking not only on oneself but others etc. Superficially western societies seem communal and ‘altruistic’ but generally yuppie upstarts (who are the ones supposed to ‘reproduce’) are inwardly selfish and individualistic. Not that I’m against individualism – there should be a balanced view – not overtly individualistic.
    I think the retention of enough youthful people so as to lessen dependence on ‘mass immigration’ and its attendant undesirable ‘side effects’ depend a lot on point #1 , #2 , #4 and #5.
    My 2 cents.

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      Although some might call your proposed policy “socialist”, I would not. But then, I live in probably the most socialist province in Canada, and we probably have support groups and government programs that would make you laugh out loud – I’m often grateful that I don’t know them all, because it might make me bitter. Especially so since, although I’ve paid into Unemployment Insurance (UIC) (although fairly recently – in keeping with the premise that if you give something a happy name it will have less of a stigma – its title has been changed to “Employment Insurance”) as long as I’ve had a job, but I can never collect it. When I retire I am entitled to a pension (which I also pay into, of course; it’s not free), and any UIC benefits I might be entitled to because I’m no longer working will be indexed against my pension entitlement. Since the pension payment would be more than the UIC entitlement, no entitlement is deemed to exist. I can recall many a beautiful, cloudless sunny Monday morning that I’ve left for work grumbling about all the welfare bums and drug addicts that will be out enjoying the beautiful sunshine all day while I’m stuck inside earning their daily bread for them.

      Anyway, pardon me that digression. Your immigration policies and population replacement initiatives are sound, sensible and realistic. In fact, relevant Russian government agencies acknowledge the relatively high mortality rate is mostly due to shortcomings in the medical system (rather than every working-age man being an alcoholic who polishes off several bottles of vodka a day, as some would have you believe). A broken medical system is fixable – it just takes money and political will. A nation of alcoholics would be much more difficult. That shouldn’t suggest levels of alcoholism in Russia are not comparitively high, because they are, but efforts are being brought to bear to get that under control as well.

      I personally have nothing against ethnic communities maintaining a reasonable duplication of their culture within Canada, and national pride is encouraged in a variety of ways – you should never forget where you came from, or where your parents came from, and your children should be encopuraged to learn the native language of your country. My daughter is fluent in both Russian and English, and is starting to pick up French. But ethnic communities should not become fortresses against the encroachment of the dominant culture, and everyone should be able to speak English or French or both (in Canada; I believe encouragement of ethnic origin is extremely liberal in the USA as well). Inclusiveness should rule the day on both sides, and in that context, multiculturalism is a big plus. What passes for Canadian culture (in British Columbia, overwhelmingly British-influenced) would be very bland and dull without the influence of other prominent cultures.

      I agree everyone owning a home (or at least a private living space, like an apartment) or being able to rent accommodation if you prefer not to invest the bulk of your income in a home is a realistic goal; there should be no homeless in an affluent society. But as you suggest, everyone should work. If it were up to me, even prisoners who were not too dangerous to be allowed out of their cells would be on supervised work programs cutting the grass on highway medians and in public parks. Those who do not contribute, whether as a result of chronic laziness (and don’t get me started on welfare) or because they are criminals who earn their money by the proceeds of crime are far too numerous in affluent societies.

      TFR would probably be difficult to adjust upward, as it seems to be declining worldwide on average. I don’t know enough about it to know why that is, but in affluent societies it is often a conscious choice to not have children, in favour of both parents working in order to afford a comfortable lifestyle. In poorer or chiefly agrarian societies, large families are/were the norm to increase the likelihood some children would still be living when the parents were too old to work, or to help out with labour-intensive field work.

  32. sinotibetan says:

    Mark,
    Thanks for your interesting comments.
    1.)Perhaps my experience of multiculturalism is more negative than positive – thus I do not quite agree with it. I myself am a descendent of Chinese migration to my current country- in my country, we became multicultural not due to conquest by the host ethnic-group but by the conquering Western colonial power which encouraged Chinese migrants from Fujian and Guangdong. In that sense, we have similarities with the USA and Canada – multiculturalism via migration rather than territorial expansion of the host state. However, our physical appearances and cultures are very different plus the religion of Islam amongst the host natioanlity – so assimilation/amalgamation is not something we Chinese here are keen of although the host nationality might be keen on it. We have to learn how to live together in our country but it’s really not easy. I think such uneasiness in inter-ethnic relations will occur in Canada if certain ethnic minority/minorities which are very different culturally from the host nation reach a certain population treshold. We Chinese form ~20-25% of the population and the richer ones amongst us have a symbiotic(more like parasitic on the general population but mutualism amongst the elites) relationship with the political elites(dominated by the host nationality). These rich Chinese are the economic/business elites. I believe there is resentment of the host nationality – with a tendency/psyche that is generally laid-back(bordering laziness sometimes) – towards us Confucius-influenced, kiasu and kiasi Chinese who tend to excell academically or in the business world due to a combination of sheer hard-work and cunning(or shall I say – ruthlessness). To approximate these two very divergent peoples with different psyche lead to a lot of resentment, envy and ill-will – something the politicians love to play with. In my opinion, it would have been better if we never became multicultural and if my ancestors never left China! But then again – I cannot imagine myself living through Mao’s Cultural Revolution and although I am proud of my Chinese identity, the Chinese from China is culturally and ‘mentally’ different from us Chinese diaspora as well! It is a feeling that I cannot adequately describe. Hence, my aversion towards too much immigration and a belief that the best country is the ethnically homogeneous one(like Japan or even Scandinavia of the past). I feel sorry for the host nationality who have to ‘put up’ with us with our totally alien culture and yet I am unhappy(sometimes bordering to anger) that it is government policy that I have less privileges than the host nationality in which an ‘affirmative action’ policy means a person of the host nationality with less intellectual ability than myself can do professional courses like law or medicine in a public university and though I may be the top student with top grades may not be admitted into these courses just because I am Chinese! Even in business, buying of property etc. the host nationality is given a certain quota. True, the problem is racism entrenched into government policy. Yet – I blame it on multiculturalism that brought us to that situation in the first place. If we the Chinese(and other migrant communities like the Indians from India) were never here – the host nationality can only blame themselves for their own failures and not on us. We fail to integrate because we are too different and too many and are not keen to integrate. However, now that my country is multi-ethnic, we must learn how to live together – I see that situation as not ideal but if each community harbours racism, that will spell doom for my country. Hard to explain my mixed emotions on this subject. My motto is this: the world should be multicultural, the nation should be monocultural if it is monocultural or remain status quo if it is actually multicultural(i.e. not become even more multicultural). Hope you can see my point of view.
    2.)Regarding TFR – it’s hard to predict trends with certainty. I think it depends a lot on the attitude of the modern woman with other complex socio-economic and cultural factors. I suppose many modern women have achieved economic equality with men that they don’t see why they should ‘compromise quality of life’ by having children. Perhaps the family planning programme worked too well – and ‘developed’ nations are only now reaping its aftermath – the idea of quality over quantity brought to the extreme. I think increasing TFR is the only long term and sensible solution for national population maintenance but sadly it is the hardest to achieve because the main factor is attitude and that’s not easy to reverse. Generally the world is divided into two extremes – a subsaharan Africa that have far too high TFR and more developed nations who have too low TFR and both divides are resistant to change. Perhaps developed nations /low TFR nations should reduce emphasis on family planning and assume pronatalist policies while the energies of militant family planning activists(who are too many in developed/low TFR nations) are channeled to high TFR nations like subsaharan Africa and Afghanistan.

    sinotibetan

  33. It is time to continue our walk as we enter Poland from Lithuania…..

    Poland is another of the oldest European nations, founded almost a 1000 years ago, fought over many times by Russia and Prussia – but she managed to gain full independence from both of them – until they both colluded to invade and partition her.

    Subjugated but never beaten partisans fought an armed resistance until the end of WWI when she regained her independence but the Russians and the Germans were to attack her again with Russia gaining control and stealing her eastern land while shifting her Western border into Germany. During WWI she lost 1,128,000 of her citizens – as they were conscripted into the Russian, German and Austrian units to fight against each other. All in all she lost 2,000,000 of her people in a war that had nothing to do with them.

    But, Russia was not content to leave Poland alone after regaining her independence – they fought another 6 wars until Russian finally invaded and overthrew her in WWII. Once again her borders were redrawn to shift her further even further West. She lost another 5 million of her people caught in between the atrocities of Germany and Russia, but Russia was not yet finished with her, killing another 100,000 after they defeated her, 40,000 of them in secret executions.

    Poland lost 38% of her national assets due to Russia and Germany. To put that into perspective Britain lost 0.8% and France 1.5%. Half of what was Poland was subsumed into Russia including her great cultural centres of Lwow and Wilno. 2 million of her people were deported to the new lands of Poland from what was now Russia.

    98% of Poles living in Galicia were either killed or expelled. Every attempt by the Poles to rise up against their Russian occupiers was ruthlessly put down, until the final time when workers revolted in Gdansk. Things started to change – albeit very slowly but she was to regain her full independence when the Soviet Union was defeated – but she had paid the highest price of all nations under the jackboot of Russia.

    Who, who would blame her today for not wishing to have anything to do with Russia – one day, when Russia finally meets her match – Poland may regain some of the land stolen by Russia.

    As we leave Poland and walk even further westwards before swinging back East we pay farewell to a nation that has the most reason yet to hate Russia – and will NEVER forget or forgive her. Revenge may not be a possibility – but who knows – one day, one day.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Yeah, like when the Polacks invaded Muscovy in 1605?

      Was that an act of revenge as well?

      And in 1918?

      That eastern part of “Poland” that Russia “stole” was not Polish.

      Just like the that part of the Ukraine that the Russians recently “invaded” and “annexed” was never “Ukrainian”.

      In fact, most of “the Ukraine” was never Ukrainian.

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