Thank You for Flying Capital – Hope to See You Again Soon

Uncle Volodya says, "Does this rag smell like chlorform to you?"

Remember Alice Cooper? Boy, I sure do. He gave my teen years meaning, and “School’s Out” blew the rivets out of the rock charts in 1972. Those raucous opening chords made me offer up my worthless soul to be able to play guitar like Glen Buxton. Perhaps just as well, my offer was never accepted. Parents used to get a look on their faces when you mentioned Alice Cooper’s name that suggested they might be trying to swallow a chicken foot that someone fished out of the sewer – which was, like, the final nod of approval.

Know what he does now? He’s a radio DJ, and although he still performs occasionally, his life is radio. Alice knew when it was time to let go.

What if he hadn’t? What if he had continued to live a life that – as his drummer once said in describing now-dead guitar strangler Buxton, – “made Keith Richards look like a boy scout”? What if he showed up at your son’s bar mitzvah, fat and drunk and all smeared with blurry make-up like a blind transvestite, with his Depends adult diaper bunched up under his skin-tight jeans, mumbling, “Schooolllzz…OUT…you fuckers” as he tripped over the coffee table and sprawled in a sodden heap? Mmmmm…awkward.

I got a little bit of the same feeling when La Russophobe showed up recently at Mark Adomanis’s new Forbes blog, fat and drunk and mumbling, “Russia is dying because of capital flight” over a couple of posts, like that person who gets so loaded at parties that their poor abused brain can only keep broadcasting the same nonsense over and over, while they lie in an embarrassing state of post public urination at the base of a tower of empty beer cans. Okay, perhaps the fat and drunk parts were just a vibe, but it didn’t require much of an imaginative leap.

Sigh.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy economics pretty much as I imagine I’d enjoy squeezing both sides of my face at the same time with a red-hot waffle iron. But we’re going to do one of those two right now. I pick…economics.

Can somebody tell me the difference between “Capital Flight” and “Capital Outflow”? Anyone? It’s mostly journalism, and narrative. “Capital Flight” is a term often used to describe money that leaves a country – frequently as part of the process that came to be known as “money laundering” – that is probably never coming back. Sometimes after it goes through the bath of legitimization, it’s hidden in an offshore account. Sometimes it’s turned into something else of value. But often it never returns, because governments are probably looking for it. With a view to confiscating it.

“Capital Outflow” is money that leaves a country for a variety of reasons. Foreign direct investment (FDI) in ventures in other countries, balances of payments, foreign aid. As Willem Buiter and Ivan Szegvari point out in their “Capital Flight and Capital Outflows from Russia; Symptom, Cause and Cure“, “Capital flight is a fuzzy concept. We shall argue that it is also an unhelpful and, in some respects, even misleading concept. It means different things to different people and even different things to the same person. It lumps together capital outflows driven by greatly diverging motives and incentives.

At the respectable, legal and (privately as well as socially) beneficial end of the spectrum, we find capital outflows motivated by portfolio diversification and similar risk-sharing
considerations. The sources of the funds are legitimate; their transfer abroad is in accordance with the law; and neither tax evasion nor tax avoidance is an issue.”

Get it? Although capital outflow and capital flight are just similar enough that someone motivated to put things in the worst possible light can claim all capital outflow is capital flight, not only is that inaccurate, but some degree of capital outflow is critical to the conduct of trade and legitimate business. Capital outflow that is money laundering or just rich oligarchs trying to get as much of their ill-gotten gains as possible out of the country could qualify as capital flight, because it’s flying away, never to be seen again in the country it left. Too much money going out while not enough is coming in – in the form of direct investment or payment for services or resources – could also be classified as undesirable capital outflow, and if such a situation persists the government usually steps in. Too much money coming in and not enough going out, and you will probably be looking at runaway inflation. It’s a constant balancing act.

Is Russia any good at it? Well, don’t ask me – let’s talk to Steven Jennings, CEO of Renaissance Capital (by way of Russia: Other Points of View – thanks, guys), the leading independent investment bank operating in Russia, Central and Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. Half-owned by newbie political candidate Mikhail Prokhorov, Renaissance Capital posted a 530% increase in new loans in 2010 year-over-year, and returned to pre-crash profitability. Mr. Jennings?

Economics, politics and geopolitics are being transformed by accelerating global change. Fast-growing economies, including Russia, are becoming the leaders of the new economic order. Russia is also one of the bridges linking these new super economies…Look no further than the IMF’s recent economic outlook, which predicts that the world economy will grow at about 4½ percent a year in both 2011 and 2012, but with advanced economies growing at only 2½ percent while emerging and developing economies grow at a much higher 6½ percent.”

Well, that certainly sounds like a grim forecast for Russia – I smell a serious capital flight problem in the offing. Can’t you tell us something positive?

“Russia has transformed beyond all recognition over the last 20 years. Real sustainable growth started after the 1998 crisis and since then nearly any economic indicator you care to name has improved massively….Russians are now the wealthiest of the BRIC  countries.Government debt has fallen to one of the lowest levels in the world…Reserves went from $600 billion to a low of $340 billion during the 2008 crisis, but within 18 months, they recovered almost fully…In the decade to January 1 2010, all the major Western stock market indices lost money — the UK and the US were both down more than 20%. In the same decade almost all the EM markets were up — and by triple digits. Russia was the best performing in the world of all the significant markets, up 727%, perhaps the most objective message of the extent to which Russia exceeded expectations.

Amongst country specific funds, Russia did even better: Specialist Russian funds ended the decade as the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th best performing funds in the world, with the very best returning over 3,000%, according to Morningstar. So much for Russia’s dismal investment returns.”

Mmmm…yes. Very interesting. But how does Russia plan to deal with its capital flight problem, which is bringing the country to its knees under the merciless and continuous ass-raping it endures from proud KGB spy Vladimir Putin?

“Russia has considerably and consistently exceeded consensus expectations over the last 20 years; I predict that it will continue to do so over the next decade and beyond. In particular, amongst the BRIC countries Russia has the greatest potential and likelihood of out performance over the next decade.”

You’re not listening to me, Steven. CAPITAL FLIGHT, can you get that through your thick investment-banker noodle? School’s out, you fucker, SCHOOL’S OUT FOREVER, Ahhhhhhh!!!!!!! Ahhhhhh!!!! Get away from me with that net!!!!

Oh, it wasn’t all sunshine and dark chocolate – Mr. Jennings addressed corruption problems quite boldly, and did in fact recommend political changes, including more open and inclusive government; I encourage you to read the full article, it’s quite an eye-opener. Current practices, he suggested, were stifling business to some extent, although it’s hard to see how that translates to a capital flight problem that will see the country implode right about….now. Okay, now. Oddly enough, he did not recommend the country be handed over to the liberals.

Will this make La Russophobe stop riding the capital flight pony so hard? Sadly, no. But now perhaps when you see her doing it, you and I can enjoy a laugh together.

This entry was posted in Economy, Government, Investment, La Russophobe, Politics, Russia, Trade, Vladimir Putin and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

84 Responses to Thank You for Flying Capital – Hope to See You Again Soon

  1. hoct says:

    Mark Adomanis started blogging again? That’s good to know.

    • marknesop says:

      Yes, and it’s like he never left – well, in a way he didn’t, since True/Slant was acquired by Forbes – because he’s just as sarcastic and funny and right-on as ever.

      • Yalensis says:

        In Adomanis’ latest blog, he literally jumped the shark!

        • marknesop says:

          How so? Do you mean his treatment of the (likely temporary) decline in wages? If so, I’ve always found he calls a spade a spade, and if something is detrimental to Russia but has a basis in fact, he treats it fairly. I hope I do the same; leaping to the defense of something that truly is rotten to the core is tiresome and phony. I base most of my criticism on information about Russia being incorrect or exaggerated in comparison with other countries. It’s not my intention to defend Russia when it’s wrong, as it sometimes is.

          • Giuseppe Flavio says:

            In his latest post about RT and US media Mark Adomanis makes fun of the latter with a couple of examples, one of which involves a jumping shark.

            • marknesop says:

              Oh, right. And I read that one, too: I don’t know why it didn’t register. Maybe because it wasn’t Adomanis, but just some guy he was making fun of.

              • Yalensis says:

                @mark: Yeah, but then Adomanis added a footnote, saying something like “In Soviet Russia shark jumps YOU.” That made me laugh. Sorry for the confusion, I was just trying to crack a joke of my own (not successfully…)

                • marknesop says:

                  Oh, c’mon – don’t be so hard on yourself; you could easily do standup. I just missed my cue: sorry. Yes, that made me laugh, too, and I don’t know why the shark reference went over my head. Usually “jumping the shark” has come to mean “betrayed everything we thought he stood for”, and I was instantly absorbed by trying to figure out where Adomanis had done that. It never occurred to me it was just a joke.

  2. kovane says:

    Damn it, just when I started writing a piece on capital flight from Russia, you beat me to it. Well, a good thing that I didn’t progress too far.

    In sum, as long as Russia has a trade surplus, it has to be compensated by a capital outflow, or the growth of the foreign currency reserves.

    • marknesop says:

      Don’t feel bad – I’m 100% confident the subject will come up again, because LR is nothing if not persistent. Or, if you like, you can simply add your points to the current post, which is more emotional than analytical.

      You’re exactly right, of course; if none of the country’s money ever leaves the country, it follows that it just makes a continuous and incestuous loop, and that nation has no foreign trade unless it is in kind – lumber for chemicals, produce for fish, medieval-style. Additionally, what would be the point of that currency having an international exchange rate?

      The U.S. Dollar is probably the most widely-traded currency in the world, and staggering amounts of U.S. dollars leave the country every day. Is that capital flight? Of course not.

      That is, of course, unless you’re talking about the Billions of U.S. dollars hidden by Americans in offshore accounts, to avoid taxes, and the American banking industry that enables the same courtesy to be extended to foreigners’ money in the USA. Although why the latter would be a great deal is beyond me, since it simply makes it easy for the U.S. to freeze your money as soon as they decide it’s time for your leader to go, and hand it over to their chosen successors.

  3. Yalensis says:

    Okay, off topic again, back to Libya… sorry… my self-appointed mission to follow the fighting on the ground… I admit I have an ulterior motive: I am selfishly hoping to prove my pet theory that Yugoslavia could have defeated NATO if Milosevich had held on just a tad longer and not thrown in the towel. (i.e., my theory = NATO cannot defeat a country by air bombings alone, unless the leader of that country gives up.)
    Libya is a good test case of this theory because, unlike Milosevich, Gaddafi has true grit and seems to be hanging in there, despite every sucker punch thrown at him by his enemies.
    It follows from this that, if neither side gives in to propaganda or psychological coercion, then the result is decided strictly on the battlefield. And the most recent battlefield has been in the Western mountains, especially a strategic town called Bir el-Ghanam.
    Well, after a couple of weeks of setbacks, today Gaddafi loyalists finally won an important battlefield victory by pushing rebels back from this strategic town. I didn’t just take the word of Russian press, I also read about it in Reuters, which is more sympathetic to the rebels. So is probably factual.
    On the same day, Gaddafi showed off his army of highly trained female warriors , armed and ready to repel NATO land invasion. You gotta hand it to Gaddafi: he’s very adept at this propaganda game.

    • hoct says:

      I’m not sure how we got from Russia’s capital outflow to Yugoslavia’s resistance to NATO’s 1999 bombing, but since it’s something of a pet topic for me as well I won’t complain.

      I think it is important to point out Milošević did not just cave in. The terms under which VJ withdrew from Kosovo were more advantageous for Belgrade than what was demanded at first. Resolution was in part made possible by NATO giving up on some of its war aims. Now it is another thing that the West treated the deal as an Indian Treaty and reneged on it after Milošević fell from power, going on to act as if though it had won an unconditional victory at the time.

      • marknesop says:

        I’m afraid it’s a subject in which I’m not well-versed, and at the time it occurred I tended to take NATO’s word for it that things happened as they said. I see I need to look into it a good deal more, but the narrative tended to be pretty seamless right up until Milosevic was dead, when a few sources speculated he was nothing like the monster the mainstream press had made him out to be.

        Comment threads have a way of going where they will, and we’ll eventually get back on topic. If we don’t, it suggests it wasn’t very interesting to begin with; but I don’t think that’ll be the case, since it’s a popular trope.

      • Yalensis says:

        @hoct: Sorry, but like he said, Mark allows comments to go off topic. I have taken advantage of his tolerance to work through my current obsession with Libya. In my mind, it still relates to Russia (maybe not specifically to capital flight, admittedly), because I am firmly convinced that if NATO wins this war against Libya, then Russia will be in for the same treatment, maybe a decade or so from now. Should I now cite the obligatory Santayana quote about he who does not learn from history is destined to repeat it..? Nah, skip it…

  4. Misha says:

    In Yugoslavia, NATO’s bombed the civilian infrastructure, with the knowledge that the population there is influenced by the mindset of a modern European society – likely not as willing to endure inconveniences as some other societies.

    The Yugoslav body politic and population faced the situation of further holding out at the expense of their country being reduced to rubble.

    Overall, the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia didn’t include the same stated level of seeking to oust Milosevic, when compared to what’s said of Khadafy. During the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, the Serb opposition to Milosevic wasn’t actively seeking to overthrow him, in the kind of situation evident in Libya between Khadafy and his armed opposition.

    • marknesop says:

      This, too, is why the propaganda campaign is so important – it isolates the leader and makes him feel there is no hope, and that he might as well go along with the plan because nobody is going to help him and the whole world stands shoulder-to-shoulder against him. It’s possible the bombing campaign against Milosevic might have collapsed if he’d held out another couple of weeks, but he was made to feel that a couple of more weeks would only mean more dead people, and that he had no option but to give up.

      • Misha says:

        At the time Milosevic had greater global sympathy when compared to Khadafy’s current predicament. Albanian nationalist terrorism was an issue before Milosevic’s political zenith. Milosevic’s bad guy image was hyped to simplify the spin in a “humanitarian intervention” direction. At the same time, a number of others saw a nation fighting against a violent secessionist movement, whose flaws are evident.

        Note that NATO bombed Yugolsavia without a UNSCR sanctioning such action, unlike the diplomatically loose enough in wording UNSCR 1973 on Libya.

        The JNA did a good job at protecting itself from NATO bombs. NATO’s use of the ironically named Apace helicopters and ground troops would’ve been problematical. Bombing the Yugosalv civilian infrastructure was another way of getting the Serbs to negotiate a withdrawal of their forces from Kosovo.

        UNSCR 1244 has yet to be fully implemented. That UN resolution calls for a limited return of Serb military and administrative personnel to Kosovo, with recognition of that province as a part of Serbia. Serbia is the legal successor state to Yugoslavia. In Yugoslav and pre-Yugoslav times, Kosovo had been part of Serbia.

        Prior to any recogntion of Kosovo’s independence, I favored making that area an irrevocably autonomous republic in Serbia with its own UN and Olympic delegations. (Precedents for such a status exist). Given the amount of independence recognition that Kosovo has received, this settlement option is now more of a pipe dream.

  5. cartman says:

    I wasn’t aware of the difference between “capital flight” and “capital outflow” because even business publications are using the wrong terminology. If it is the former, then something illegal has occurred and nations involved would probably be bound by treaty and UN conventions to take action.

    Now the Bank of Moscow has been bailed out, and it looks pretty obvious that the Luzhkov were using it as their personal piggy bank. The former bank chief Andrei Borodin fled to London after the authorities were sniffing at $0.5 billion loan that ended up in their personal account (because a few hundred million dollars is not enough). It sounds like a classic laundering scam, and now all the parties are in the UK, so what is London’s responsibility here? What actions can be taken against this rogue state?

    • marknesop says:

      Yes, you’re quite right that by definition, capital outflow is often mischaracterized because there does not seem to be a term for legitimate transfer of money out of the country. But such transfers surely must occur or business cannot happen. The term has been abused for a long time by those who would suggest that every dollar that leaves Russia is someone trying to move his money where the government can’t steal it. But such transactions out of the USA happen every day without comment.

      There were a number of scams in which the Luzhkovs appear to have been involved, particularly Mrs. Luzhkov, who seems to have been venal to the bone. Well, they’ll need tons of money if they plan to keep that stately rockpile they bought in England.

      I’m not sure what the law says England’s responsibility is to recover Russia’s assets if it’s determined the Luzhkovs are benefiting from stolen money – but the link I sent earlier in response to Kovane points out that only Canada has a deal with the USA whereby the USA must report large balances Canadians appear to be hiding in U.S. banks to avoid taxes at home. For other foreigners, apparently the nation that can’t know enough information about everyone’s business dealings simply “doesn’t keep records” – Mexico has begged the USA for a deal like Canada’s, and a Mexican businessman is the richest man in the world. It’s probably telling that other oligarchs like Boris Berezovsky fled to England, and that England ended up being home for the Luzhkovs even though it’s by no means the first place they tried. It’s not like they go for the great weather.

      • cartman says:

        I know that UK, Russia, and Austria have all signed and ratified the UN Convention against Corruption. If the Russian government can show they were all drawing from this bank for their personal use, then UK and other governments are legally obligated to help recover the stolen assets.

      • Giuseppe Flavio says:

        Some time ago I read about a British law, dating back to the colonial times, which stipulated that the earnings made in the colonies were exempt from taxes. Now that the UK has no more colonies, this law is applied to foreign earnings. Hence a lot of wealthy people elect the UK as their residence, but maintain their activities abroad.

        • marknesop says:

          It’d be helpful if you could find a reference, at your convenience, of course. It’s just that you would have a better idea where to start looking. But it sounds reasonable, and nations are notoriously reluctant to amend their laws, particularly where they bring a steady flow of foreign cash, at least some of which is perfectly legitimate.

          • Giuseppe Flavio says:

            I’ve found this. The relevant part is For individuals resident but not domiciled in the UK (a “non-dom”), foreign income and gains have historically been taxed on the remittance basis, that is to say, only income and gains remitted to the UK are taxed (for such people the UK is sometimes called a tax haven). However from 6 April 2008, a (long term [resident 7 of previous 9 years]) non-dom wishing to retain the remittance basis is required to pay an annual tax of £30,000.

            • marknesop says:

              Thanks, Giuseppe; that was quick. Shows how valuable that tax privilege is if multimillionaires like the Luzhkovs and Berezovsky are willing to cough up something in the order of $60,000 a year for it. Then again, I suppose they could always just move somewhere else for a year or two every six years or so.

    • grafomanka says:

      Here’s another smartass from Renaissance talking about how capital outflow from Russia has nothing to do with investment climate, with what authorities are doing or not.
      http://www.bne.eu/story2739
      In short: everyone earning big bucks in emerging markets dreams about making off to developed countries, keeping money for children in London. Russia is no different.
      Investors are like sheep, they go after the herd, Russia was fashionable in the past, now it isn’t.

      IMHO the fact that Russia isn’t fashionable anymore has something to do with investment climate, for example, we still don’t know who is going to be THE presidential candidate (?!). The general consensus seems to be that Russia is sliding into stagnation. It’s telling that even optimistic about Russia investors from Truth and Beauty said that they want Putin to be the president because he can appoint as PM somebody like Kudrin, somebody who can force reforms through.

      • marknesop says:

        I agree the overall tone is a little smarmy – a flat in Notting Hill; well, look who’s arrived, right? – but there were some interesting data in there all the same. And it doesn’t actually say that Russia “isn’t fashionable anymore”, although herd mentality was indeed a factor – it suggests the volatility in the ruble is influential, which would tend to discourage some investors (except currency speculators). It does say that Russia is not overcrowded and overbought, and that such conditions bode well for the future. I’d like to look at a more detailed breakdown of the capital outflow figures for the other BRICs, since this analyst suggests the outflow trend is typical of big emerging economies. I note FDI inflow for Russia for 2011 is nearly double that of China and more than double Brazil’s. Thanks for the informative link!

  6. Yalensis says:

    Now that anti-Gaddafi Berber fighters have been pushed back from Bir al-Ghanam…
    Apart from Cyrenaica province (=Ben Ghazi), Libyan rebels main asset = port city of Misrata, which has been under siege from Gaddafi forces, and situation growing ever more hopeless for the rebels.
    This interesting piece of tape from Al Jazeera shows rebel political leaders in Misrata begging France to air-drop them some Grad rockets.
    Towards the end of the tape, you get a glimpse of actual battlefield fighting: poorly trained rebels clustered ineffectually on a sand dune. Incoming Grad rocket kills 2 rebels and blinds cameraman. Don’t worry, it’s not gory, you don’t see anybody die, you just hear some screaming.

    • marknesop says:

      Yalensis – check out the documentary link in this extremely interesting post at hoct’s “Crappy Town”. We’ve discussed before the rapid appearance of “demonstration aids” such as posters, banners and small flags bearing the clenched-fist revolutionary symbol. This documentary will give you some instructive background on where they come from, who pays, and introduce you to the new startup occupation – “revolution consultant”. Fascinating.

      • Yalensis says:

        @mark: Wow! Thanks for that link, this video is indeed eye-opening, everyone should watch it. I had known that this latest series of color-coded revolutions began with Otpor in Serbia, but I had not been aware that these Otpor types continue to trot around the globe acting as professional consultants to other movements. I somehow thought they would now be hanging their heads in shame and repenting for their youthful sins and the role they played in dismembering their own country.
        Now, I have to add that the concept of “professional revolutionary” is not a new one. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin himself may have coined the term. Lenin proudly considered himself to be a professional revolutionary, in the sense that he received a salary from his political party (initially Russian Socialist Party, later Bolshevik Party) and lived on that salary, not having any other job than to be a professional revolutionary. (Any officer in the Socialist or Communist Party, once they were elected to the Central Committee, was eligible to receive a salary and quit their day job. The rule was that the salary could be equal to, but no greater than, the salary of a skilled white-collar laborer.)
        The difference between then and now is that Lenin, and Marxists in general, regarded revolution as a means to an end (=complete change of government and economic structure, leading to dictatorship of proletariat), not an end in itself. Bolsheviks didn’t have video games, T-shirts or Skype, but they did have demonstrations, strikes, mimeographed pamphlets, etc., all of which were important, but were considered merely tactics serving the larger strategy. Marxists wrote and published hundreds of volumes of books detailing their political, economic, and social goals, exactly what they intended to do if and when they took power.
        Whereas these newer color-coded revolutionaries seem to regard revolution as an aim in itself. Their books and publications (and video games) are ALL about tactics, not strategy. They don’t appear to have an economic platform, or even any specific political goals. (Just calling for “democracy” doesn’t cut it.)
        From this I conclude that either 1) these revolutionaries’ only real strategic aim is to promote American geo-political goals; or 2) – even more cynically, they only care about their own consulting fees and jet-setting lifestyle?

        • marknesop says:

          Anyone who benefits from the efforts of snake-oil revolution salesmen would do well to remember there’s a new motivation for overthrow of countries, and it has nothing to do with democracy – but everything to do with keeping the country in a perpetual state of unrest so that it will be easy meat for a more stable country that would like to control its resources or simply remove a potential threat to its own security. Such johnny-come-lately leaders would further do well to think of themselves as the lucky guy who took a very attractive woman away from her husband: she left him for you – but what makes you think she won’t leave you as soon as something better comes along? By which I mean, as soon as your attitude or behaviour no longer suits those who put you in power, you can just as easily be removed by the same means. And every time it succeeds, it only goes further toward convincing those who are behind it that they’re really on to something.

          What if the west perceives itself as having lost so much ground in the financial crash that it will never again enjoy unchallenged global dominance unless it keeps all its enemies in a constant state of chaos and simmering violence? I can’t pretend to be widely-read on Lenin, but I do remember he said capitalism would succeed at first beyond its practitioners’ wildest dreams, and that they would become rich. But soon enough, according to him, the gap between what the workers made and what the boss made would become so large as to become intolerable (check out some of the scandals in recent years regarding CEO salaries and bonuses), and the workers would rise up and overthrow the bosses.

          Mind you, that’s when Lenin was talking factories and assembly lines, things pretty much anyone could run. You didn’t have to be particularly bright to do what the boss did. It’s a complicated world now, where networks and you-scratch-my-back agreements are not always easy to discern. What if revolution-by-appointment is now just another means of global control and regulation of national influence? If so, what would be effective weapons against it? It’s like anything else – it will only work until someone develops a weapon or tactic that renders it ineffective.

          I maintain that a well-educated and aware electorate that is broadly satisfied with its government’s direction and policies is much more difficult to convince that a revolution would be just what the doctor ordered.

        • hoct says:

          Your comparison is more valid than you know. Bolsheviks were recipients of considerable foreign largesse. Key Bolsheviks (Karl Radek, Jakub Hanecki) had direct links with the Germans. Aside from organising transfers of about 350 radical Russian émigrés from Switzerland and Belgium, Germany also helped finance the Bolsheviks. With German aid the Bolsheviks went from, in February 1917, not even possessing their own press to by July 1917 printing something like 27 publications in 11 languages.

          • Yalensis says:

            @hoct: I agree that Bolsheviks received financial aid from Germany, that is a historical fact that cannot be disputed. And Germans had a very obvious reason for betting on Bolsheviks: to destabilize a regime with which they were at war. But, despite that surface similarity, I still insist that Bolsheviks were qualitatively different from today’s color revolutionaries, in that they had a strategic goal and economic program. Their goal was to build dictatorship of proletariat, not to whore themselves out as international consultants. Also, as soon as Bolsheviks came to power in Russia, they attempted to incite proletarian revolution in Germany. Can you imagine Otpor turning on its American masters by inciting revolts against Bush or Obama?
            Hm… that gives me an idea: what if Russia was to offer big bucks to hire these same color-coded revolutionaries to destabilize USA? Would be interesting to see if those whores would take the bait.

            • marknesop says:

              It’d be extremely difficult to destabilize a country that already is a representative democracy. The colour revolutions are designed to appeal to populations who think they want western-style government, and that the moment you don’t like a leader, the people can unseat him. Of course that’s not the way it really works in a democracy, and one thing that makes it extremely resistant to a colour revolution is that it is actually quite difficult to unseat the leader in a democracy. I guess nobody knows how well revolution would go over in the modern USA, but I’d bet it would be very difficult to sell. Look at the teabaggers – they’re as close to revolutionaries as you will find anywhere, and they seem to be having a rather tough time of it. Certainly not because they have no wealthy backers, either.

              Otpor would probably tell you more or less the same. They’re not interested in getting involved in a hopeless endeavor, because their best advertisement is their success.

              • Yalensis says:

                Agree that stable representative democracies are difficult to overthrow, because they have long-standing “rules of the game”, involving elections and rituals of succession. Most “authoritarian” regimes have awful problems with succession crises: Nobody knows the rules of the game, or what is going to happen when the leader dies or is overthrown. In that respect, these regimes resemble old-time European monarchies, with all the palace intrigues: heirs vs. bastards, Rosencrantz and Guilderstern, civil wars, etc etc. (Allude to all of Shakespeare’s historical plays plus Boris Godunov for some Russian flavor.) This one systemic weakness does provide a point of entry for intriguers like the color-coded revolutionaries: their propaganda is particularly effective when the current aging dictator appears to be grooming his own son as successor. Then the other elite families fall into despair: “We waited 50 years for this old bastard to die, and now he’s grooming his idiot son…”
                So… I agree with your basic point. However, I would point out that color-coded revolutionaries don’t just stick to Third-World quasi-monarchies, they also target some parliamentary “democracies” such as Iran and Russia where the head of government is (at least technically) subject to elections.
                Also, I would make the point that REALLY DETERMINED revolutionaries could always find SOMETHING to stir up, even in a stable representative democracy like America; for example, their paymasters could order them to poke at ethnic and regional divisions, agitate for secession of Texas, etc. I’m not necessarily advocating that, I’m just sayin…

                • marknesop says:

                  Speaking of that, the intertubes were full yesterday of a shaky youtube video that purported to show a huge pro-Gaddafi rally in Tripoli, something like a million people. If you google “huge pro-Gaddafi rally”, you’ll probably find it, although all the myriad sites seem to be using the same video. I wonder if it’s genuine? If so, the old man still sounds full of piss and vinegar, although it’s allegedly a spokesman’s voice and not his. Interesting.

                  I looked on the New York Times site for it, and (unsurprisingly) there was no mention. All the hits for “pro-Gaddafi rally” were oddly similar; in every case it showed only a single person or a small handful of people, and took care to mention that it was a “government-sponsored tour”, thereby implying the protesters were government stooges.

  7. Yalensis says:

    Did everyone catch the Wimbledon finals yesterday? I was rooting for Sharapova, of course, not just as a loyal Russian, but also because her victory would have sent La Russophobe (and her young protegee Julia Ioffe) into psychological tailspin of despair.
    Unfortunately, Sharapova lost, but I take some comfort in the fact that the winner is a fellow Slav, Czech cutie-pie Petra Kvitova.

    • marknesop says:

      I was so hoping Sharapova would win, too, that I intended to devote my next post to it. It was quite satisfying to see the Williams sisters blown into the weeds early, because it validates an argument I once had with her (LR) in which I asked her who was the next American dream when the Williams sisters burned out. There was no other up-and-coming young American woman tennis player anywhere on the horizon, and the dominance by the Williamses couldn’t last; both were getting a little old for the sport, while Sharapova was still young. A Sharapova win now, after Serena Willams’ humiliation, would have been the icing on the cake.

      You disappointed me, Maria. Have your things moved out by Saturday – we are so over.

  8. Misha says:

    Djokovic rocked.

    On color coded revolutions, Mark MacKinnon has a book out on the subject:

    http://siberianlight.net/book-review-the-new-cold-war-by-mark-mackinnon/

    • Yalensis says:

      Great book review, thanks!

      • Misha says:

        You’re welocme.

        At that link, Aleks has a great follow-up:

        Apparently when Otpor leaders were on an official visit to D.C., their hosts were less than impressed with their behavior – i.e. they were far more interested in partying and more importantly, wern’t very politically astute or offer anything new…

        This is one of the things that bothers me with such movements. They’re good on soundbites ‘Join the EU’, ‘Join NATO’ (whatever), but they don’t really know what this means or what either are, i.e. the nitty gritty and the certain fact that once they’ve done the dirty work, they are much less favorites with special treatment.

        The worst aspect is that it is really important that the citizens are properly informed in the Media and by their politicians with substantive information and arguments.

        • marknesop says:

          You’ve hit upon the core issue, and a country with an informed electorate is hardest to destabilize. Otpor’s – or other agencies like it, because if Otpor is known to us there likely are other versions closer to home – interest begins and ends with stirring up a revolt that causes the government to fall. Once that’s accomplished, it moves on to its next anarchy gig. Picking up the pieces and setting the country on the road to democracy is left to whatever country wants to take it on, and that seems to be largely influenced by whether the country has any resources worth exploiting. If not, the “this country needs to learn to stand on its own feet, and its proud, independent people are eager to take the lead” narrative comes into play.

          The existence of Otpor and a candid exposure of its motives as well as what is known of its methodology should be given wide distribution by the government, bearing in mind that the mainstream press will promptly counter with accusations that this is just another example of the government wanting to keep the people ignorant and restrict their access to tools that will help them achieve freedom and self-determination. Bring it on, Otpor – it will be a good test of whether Russia is truly a democracy or not, because democracies are the toughest nuts to crack. A spectacular failure might end the “revolution consultant” occupation before it really gets off the ground.

          • Misha says:

            One can also seek a test of countries west of Russia, which touches on this excerpt at this thread from Yalensis:

            “Hm… that gives me an idea: what if Russia was to offer big bucks to hire these same color-coded revolutionaries to destabilize USA? Would be interesting to see if those whores would take the bait.”

            ****

            I don’t take for granted the notion that there’re folks who sincerely believe an otherwise BS view.

            Looking at the slants at Foreign Policy, RFE/RL openDemocracy and yes Forbes, there appears to be limits on a truly “open society.”

          • Yalensis says:

            @mark:

            “Bring it on, Otpor – it will be a good test of whether Russia is truly a democracy or not, because democracies are the toughest nuts to crack.”

            Yes!
            I just had an epiphany, and I think you are right: instead of fearing or oppressing movements like “Otpor”, Russian government should simply make sure that the full story is told in all the media, and then let the people decide who is right.
            In a twisted kind of way, the color-revolutionaries could even serve a positive purpose, by keeping government from getting corrupt and complacent, knowing that enemy is always out there watching them with a keen eye.
            Reminds me of an old Russian proverb:

            “на то она и щука, чтобы карась не дремал”.

            Loose translation:
            “The purpose of the pike is to keep the carp alert.”

  9. Misha says:

    In the periodically exhibited manner of getting contructively off topic, here’s a link to an interesting debate on China’s future role in the world:

    http://wwww.c-spanvideo.org/program/Munk

    Overall, I think that Niall Ferguson got the upper hand over Fareed Zakaria. The Chinese panelist was pretty good, with Kissinger being Kissinger.

  10. Yalensis says:

    On Libya:
    I found an interesting site, apparently this is a special English-language blog set up on Al Jazeera for the purpose of supporting Libyan rebels. I discovered this a couple of days ago, and have been following the comment feeds, in order to track ground fighting as best I can. Some of the commenters brag they are using this blog and related Twitter feed to provide coordinates for NATO bombers in Libya. I have no idea if they are bullshitting or not. But some commenters (especially one named “Bivi”) do appear to have actual on-the-ground knowledge about the fighting, for example, this from “bivi”:

    Andrew Batchelorpdanaharbbc Paul DanaharJust returned from #Misrata ‘southern’ front line at Abdul Raouf which has has seen worst fighting in weeks. 4 #feb17 rebels dead 15 injured1 minute ago

    Sad one RIP FF : ((

    (In their Twitter jargon, “FF” is abbrev for “Freedom Fighters”. )

    To the disappointment of FF’s, Gaddafi seems to be winning most battles on the ground, FF’s have not been able to push out of Misrata, every time they try, they get a dozen new “martyrs”.
    FF’s also apparently desperate to take Brega back from Gaddafi forces, yesterday these Twittering jihadists were all “We’ll have Brega back by this time tomorrow insAllah…” but today they are expressing disappointment:


    4Wittmann4 9 minutes ago in reply to juveman
    Yes..The fact that Brega didnt fall yet,its (unfortunately) a FFs FAIL..
    Dont try (from somes) to call it ”clever strategy”..
    Unfortunately Gaddafi succed to stop the advance of NLA in Brega.
    I dont know WHAT,but something they mast change at FFs Strategy in this front

    Another desperate FF calling on NATO to bombard the heck out of Brega:

    Bgega MUST bombardment EVERY day & night..
    If the NATO cant (or dont want to do it) FFs MUST do it..
    Otherwise the city will not fall with sporadic bombardment and few ”in & out” raids

    • marknesop says:

      As to providing coordinates for NATO bombing, I doubt it. If they’re talking about calling in bombing raids on a fixed target like a city or town, any actual attacks are likely coincidence, since it’s probably a regular target anyway. But calling in raids on, say, an armored column in the open, not likely; by the time NATO confirmed it through its own sources, it’d be somewhere else. The notion of NATO bombers rolling in on hot talk they’re receiving from some jihadi on a cell phone is from the movies, something like that “5 Days of August” nonsense. Oh, wait – is the guy on the cellphone Val Kilmer? If so, then it’s totally real.

      I don’t doubt someone for NATO is following that blog as well, since you take every intel source you can get – for validation/comparison purposes if nothing else. But I hope NATO is smart enough that they would never bomb a target without independent confirmation and knowing exactly who they were talking to. Usually they use their own observers, because dropping a bomb on a target you didn’t identify yourself is a recipe for a war crimes trial. That “fog of war” defense will only carry you so far, and if you bombed a hospital because some “freedom fighter” you couldn’t identify told you it was a military barracks, you could say goodbye to sunlight for quite a few years.

      • Yalensis says:

        The more I learn about these so-called “Freedom Fighters”, in their own words, the more repulsive I find them. At their best they are a vindictive lot, ominously and petulantly threatening countries (esp Russia and Germany) who they deem are not giving them what they need (=political recognition, weapons and money; lots of money):

        “After liberation, paradise will appear in North Africa,” he [rebel military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Omar Bani] said. “This paradise is Libya. No one will be in this paradise if he didn’t support us now – that’s all.”

        In other words, “Once we come to power, forget about the oil contracts: all the oil will go to France and Qatar, and whatever other countries supported us from Day #1.”
        Another repulsive characteristic of these FF’s: a persistent tendency to count their chickens before a single egg has hatched. Every rebel blog, and every establishment media that supports them, is full of news like “Rebels intend to advance on Tripoli….” “Rebels intend to afford oil contracts…” “Rebels intend to do this, and rebels intend to do that…”
        Rebels can’t actually DO anything, but, boy, do they have a lot of intentions. News flash: Yalensis INTENDS to win the lottery and become a millionaire!
        At their worst, the rebels suffer from intolerable arrogance and hubris. They seem to feel they have a god-given right to come to power and rule over all of Libya, even though they cannot hold much actual territory on the ground. To be sure, they do hold some territory, but not much; and that which they do hold, they hold only by the grace of NATO bombers.
        Sometimes these FF’s seem like selfish teenagers, with NATO as their mom: “Give me money, mom, fight my battles for me, give me MORE money, I need 2 billion dollars by tomorrow. If you won’t give me the money then I HATE YOU!”
        Imagine an annoying, narcissistic selfish teenager; and then also imagine him violent, sociopathic, nasty, vulgar, and vindictive. That the exact tone I get from reading these rebel blogs. Now that I know what kind of people Gaddafi is up against (narcissistic jihadists), I feel more sympathy for him, even though I think he is an asshole too.

        • marknesop says:

          Gaddafi is a bit of a social hand grenade, true, but arrogance in a leader is always forgiven as long as he can do the business. And Libyans should be assured he can do the business; how many African countries can boast that only 3% of their populations do not have access to safe drinking water? How many have 100% access to good health care? Free (and compulsory) education?

          Libya’s GDP per capita is among the highest in Africa; although it was unaccountably omitted from this list, it was reported in the previous reference as $8,900.00 (USD) in 2000, and the CIA World Factbook confirms it at $14,000.00 now. That means, if you go back to the world chart, that even in 2000 it was higher than Ukraine’s is now, and a third higher than Georgia’s is now. Let’s recall both these countries are must-have candidates for joining NATO, according to the west. The CIA Factbook sniffs – without any substantiation – that while Libyan GDP per capita is one of the highest in Africa, “…little of this income flows down to the lower orders of society”. That so? Going back to the Wiki list, I note the GDP per capita for the USA is just under $50,000.00 for 2011. Uh…how did you guys manage to have a housing crisis if the “lower orders of society” are the sixth-highest-paid in the world? Or are all those billionaires skewing the calculation?

          The Mom/teenager analogy is a good one, very appropriate. However, I thought we had nailed down the lid on this, “we’re only going to sell our oil to our friends” nonsense back in Iraq. Oil is sold in futures, at world price, and Libya has no control over where its oil goes after it leaves the terminal. If it decided it would only sell to France, I think it might find itself the target of another revolution in very short order. But the statement serves to illustrate what simple morons NATO is enabling in North Africa; bear in mind that these are the best they’ve got, the ones with political aspirations.

          • Yalensis says:

            Gaddafi has been a pretty good ruler of Libya, but he did make a couple of big mistakes which have come back to bite him. One was that he seems to have oppressed the Berbers somewhat and forbid them from using their native language. (Or at least, that’s what they claim, and this is one of their beefs against him, as a result of which he has several army units tied down in the Nafusa mountains battling Berber rebels.) If I were his advisor today, I would recommend that he cut a deal with the Berber leaders and allow them to have schooling and print books in their native language, in return for maing peace. A larger mistake is, obviously, that Gaddafi renounced his nuke program, in return for Western promises and guarantees. Sucker!

            • marknesop says:

              Well, secondary-school education is compulsory in Libya, and likely he wanted it all done in one language for unity and simplicity, rather than start up Berber schools that nobody would attend but Berbers. I could see it if it were an important secondary language, like French is for us, but I agree it would be smart to cut a deal now. A few schools looks like a small price to pay.

              Gaddafi’s mistake regarding his nuclear program was believing that renouncing it would be the end of it . It never is, in an oil-producing nation. What I can’t figure out is why the U.S. has not tried to destabilize and overthrow the House of Saud, preferring instead to carry on a cozy friendship with it. I realize it means they get most of what they want, but it looks bad to be so chummy with such a repressive regime, and a colour revolution would likely work quite well there. They could run the whole thing and turn it into the beloved free-market democracy, plus break the back of OPEC and have a serious voice in the world price of oil. It would have the bonus value of satisfying all the rednecks who like to see the USA kicking somebody’s ass.

            • hoct says:

              Gaddafi renounced a nuclear weapons programme he did not actually possess.

              It was a little bit of theatre where Gaddafi pretended he was straightened out by the Iraq invasion into abandoning a “secret” WMD programme he didn’t even have in the first place, and the US pretended they thought he ever had one. Washington got a propaganda victory about how actually there were good things coming out of the disastrous Iraq war and Gaddafi got sanctions lifted.

              That was probably not the first time he pragmatically took on responsibility for something he had not done. Earlier he had agreed to pay out damages for Lockerbie and UTA Flight 772, but it is doubtful Libyans did that. It is more likely it was the Iranians. http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn07232010.html

              • marknesop says:

                Wheels within wheels. As Lily Tomlin was credited with saying, no matter how cynical you get, you can never keep up.

              • Yalensis says:

                @hoct: That is extreming interesting. So, in other words, Gaddafi was pulling a “Saddam” by pretending to have a nuke program he didn’t actually have? Oh well, I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time…
                On Lockerbie, after reading the link you supplied, I agree Iranians had more motive to commit this crime (= revenge). However…. 2 points:
                1.) If Gaddafi didn’t do it, then why did his friend Mr. Megrahi have to spend all those years in prison, and, more to the point, why was Megrahi hugging Gaddafi when he got sprung? If it was me, and my friend made me go to jail for something I didn’t do, I would be punching him in the gut, not hugging him, when I came out.
                2.) If the Iranians did Lockerbie, then why would they lay low and let somebody else take the “credit” for their deed? I just don’t understand this. If revenge was the motive, then the whole point of revenge is to see the look of horror on your enemy’s face when they realize that you just got them back. And also as deterrent. If Iranians were trying to say: “You blow up our plane, we’ll blow up one of yours”, the message would be somewhat lost in the translation if everybody thinks some other guy did it. In other words, if the lesson was supposed to be “Don’t fuck with Iran”, then everybody learned the wrong lesson. If I were Iran, I’d be like, “No, no, I did it!” Or, if the deed was so heinous that you don’t want people to know you did it, then just don’t do it in the first place. Like Americans say, “If you can’t do the time, then don’t do the crime…”

                • hoct says:

                  1.) I wish we had information on the state of Mrs. Megrahi’s bank account. Perhaps an answer is to be found there. Gaddafi has a lot of money and can be very generous with it when it is expedient for him to be so. And there are worse deals than having yourself locked up for your family to be made into millionaires. Purely speculation on my part, but if Gaddafi was going to pay out 2 billion to the victim’s families what is a few more million for the fall guy?
                  2.) You make a valid point there isn’t an obvious counterpoint to. Maybe the Iranians were only interested in sending a message to the people who are in position to dictate policy (who would know anyway), and not to the (politically powerless) American masses.

          • Misha says:

            A relatively small population and an abundance of fossil fuel available for the world market can help in the socioeconomic development of such a country.

  11. Yalensis says:

    @mark: From thread up above, ran out of room, re. pro-Gaddafi rally in Tripoli, guess what? I actually found the link:

    • marknesop says:

      I would have used another word starting with “C”, and it would have been “Comical”. I’m reminded of a piece Vladimir Socor did back last October for the Jamestown Foundation, in which he griped and whined that Rasmussen was too lukewarm with his support for Georgia during a visit there; that his pronouncements were mostly generic pablum. You can bet he’s been under a great deal of pressure to twist and shout for Georgia ever since. A country they keep talking up as a big success story although its per-capita GDP is one of the lowest in Eastern Europe, and which Russia would not likely take back if it was offered. Yes, that’d be a grand bargain for the European Union and NATO – I bet they can hardly wait: the EU to admit a few million impoverished manual labourers, and NATO for Saakashvili the Hothead to start a war with Russia that they’ll be dragged into. Sounds like a bargain to me.

  12. Misha says:

    >>>>Like Saakashvili, Socor has a basis to play the consistency card:

    http://www.eurasiareview.com/haggling-over-the-former-moldavian-ssr-dispute-analysis-07062010/

    http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/77845

    Offhand, I’m not sure if Socor supports recognizing Kosovo’s independence. I sense that he might not, given that Moldova and Romania take that position. Nevertheless, Saakashvili and Socor have downplayed certain particulars, that run contrary to their agendas.

    The aforementioned consistency point is said while cautioning against an across the board all or nothing approach on recognizing disputed territories. Ideally, the respective independence claims should be reviewed and judged as objectively as possible, in a way that can include comparisons.

    Without reading further, I saw a recent piece saying that Shevardnadze is supportive of Abkhaz independence. In that piece, nothing was said of South Ossetia. At oD, there has been some commentary in that direction. Something might be at play on this Abkhaz preference. South Ossetia appears more inclined at being pro-Russian than Abkhazia. Prior to the Soviet breakup, the Georgians were the plurality of Abkazia’s population. Now, the Abkhaz appear to have that placement. Before and after the Soviet breakup, the Ossetians have been the majority in South Ossetia. It’s said that Abkhazia’s government is more democratic than South Ossetia’s. On the other hand, there’s the matter of the ethnic demographic shift in Abkhazia, which can be used as a negative talking point against further recognition of Abkhazia’s independence.

    • Misha says:

      Concerning chutzpah on Russia, the former Georgian SSR and Kosovo, here’s one from Samantha Power:

      http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1832845,00.html

      • marknesop says:

        Wow – pretty cocky. If it had been written, say, this month, it would have made a dandy subject for my next post. Why does Obama listen to nuts like that? What the hell was he thinking?

        • cartman says:

          I don’t believe the G8 (which is conceding to the G20) nor the WTO (which includes almost every country in the world) are élite (which must be a fancier version of elite). Besides, Kosovo did not present an imminent crisis and occurred when Clinton was facing his own domestic crisis.

        • Misha says:

          “Thinking” is often geared in a certain direction.

          I recall coming across a Boston Latin School discussion thread on Power. At the top was the highligthed thought of “Learn to Question”. I understand that the school in question interacts a good deal with Harvard, where Power was affiliated. The whole thread discussion questioned those in disagreement with Power, without questioning her views.

          I’m reminded of the stereotype of how kids are taught in countries deemed as democratically challenged.

          • Misha says:

            Power and the orgs uncritically propping her are prone to nurturing the views in these comments by a Curt Johnson on Novak Djokovic:

            http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1187102/2/index.htm

            Some offline replies:

            “I watch sports as a brief escape from the daily grind and current global economic and political crises. I greatly appreciated SI’s feature on Novak Djokovic in the May 23 issue. Djokovic is a 24 year old tennis player, NOT an experienced foreign minister or Secretary of State responsible to answer political and historical matters. Djokovic was 5 years old when the Bosnian Civil War erupted in 1992. Does anyone remember being 5 years old much less the politics of the day?

            If Mr Curt Johnson (June 13 letters) wants to ask Djokovic about geopolitical issues, he should ask how Djokovic endured 78 consecutive days of NATO bombing of the former Yugoslavia in 1999. Mr. Johnson can also ask about the plight of his family and other Serbs from Kosovo who are not allowed to live and worship in peace.

            Will Mr. Johnson ask Nadal about Basque separatism or Federer about Swiss banking indiscretions? I don’t have any plans to. I do look forward to watching Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, and other great tennis players on the men’s and women’s tours.”

            ****

            On the last paragraph, one can add a number of other particulars on the non-Serb nationalist violence in Bosnia and Croatia.

            IMO, Johnson’s mindset isn’t so far off from the attitude of the terrorists at the 1972 Munich summer Olympics.

    • marknesop says:

      Let’s recall that in the piece done for the Moscow Times; “How to Make Peace With Georgia” the floated solution would have seen South Ossetia returned to Georgian control, while the more restless Abkhazia (minus its best agricultural land, in a “land for peace” deal) would come under the Russian orbit. Quite apart from it being somewhat unconventional for the victor to come to the loser with peace terms, this would have been a great deal for Georgia and a lousy deal for Russia. It seems plain that of the two, the loss of South Ossetia hurts far more.

  13. Yalensis says:

    In news of Libyan civil war: Yesterday rebels scored a military victory by taking a town called al-Qawalish in the Western Nafusa mountains; this is the only area where rebels seem to be getting any traction, due to support from restive Berber tribes. Al Jazeera, like ALL major media in the world (including even Reuters now, sadly) acts as cheerleader squad for rebels, trumpeting their every advance, even if only 10 meters, while silently ignoring their setbacks.
    Apparently rebel supporters were extremely disheartened last week by huge pro-Gaddafi rally in Tripoli on July 1. I have been following pro-rebel blogs on Al Jazeera, and I get impression pro-rebels really believe their own propaganda that Gaddafi has NO support among Libyan people. They think anyone who says they support Gaddafi is lying out of fear. So, for them, 1 million people crowding square in Tripoli to chant pro-Gaddafi slogans was something they found difficult to stomach or rationalize away.
    In response, rebels organized their own rally in Ben Ghazi yesterday, flying their rebel flag, as well as flags of their paymasters from European Union and NATO. They claim their rally attracted 100,000 people. Some sources said only 10,000. I tried to find videos of their rally but couldn’t find any, and even if I saw one, I am not so good at counting crowds.
    In any case, there is no disputing that rebels did have a pretty good day yesterday by seizing this one mountain town. Now they are bragging that this ragtag army of something like 1000 Berbers will march on Tripoli, and they actually believe population of Tripoli will rise up to greet them as liberators. We shall see…

    • marknesop says:

      It’s kind of ironic that the west finally seems to “get” the Arabic and other tribal peoples’ custom of “firing their AK-47 rifles into the air in jubilation”. The USA was in Iraq for years, and firing rifles into the air at even a wedding quite often bought the crowd a multi-aircraft assault and mass casualties. The justification might be something as lame as “bad people have celebrations, too“. Again and again, when Arab men fired rifles into the air in celebration of anything, the occupying forces reacted by assuming they were under attack.

      But now that a bunch of rebels – who are far more likely to be al Qaeda followers than any of those people ever were – are doing it, well….it’s just sort of cute.

      Good to know, though, that the ammunition shortage is over for the rebels. If they have enough that they can blow off whole clips into the air whenever they achieve the most modest objective, I guess they don’t need France to airdrop them any more. Perhaps when they appear on TV in future begging for ammunition and arms, NATO will think to ask what portion of the requested shipment is forecast to be expended for celebratory purposes.

      • Yalensis says:

        Why don’t they just use fireworks like normal people? Shooting bullets wildly into air is awfully dangerous — not only does it bring down NATO airstrikes, but some of those falling bullets actually still have enough velocity in them to pierce skin. I have read about people getting scalp wounds from this.

  14. Misha says:

    At a recent thread at this blog, some comments (if I’m not mistaken from Yalensis) were made about the Romanian president explaining his opinion on his country’s position during WW II.

    From Rick Rozoff’s email list of articles on geopolitical issues, these pieces were brought to my attention:

    http://www.nineoclock.ro/voronin-urges-eu-to-publicly-denounce-basescu%e2%80%99s-wwii-statements/

    Nine O’Clock News (Romania)
    July 7, 2011

    Voronin urges EU to publicly denounce Basescu’s WWII statements

    The head of the Republic of Moldova’s Communist Party, former President Vladimir Voronin, yesterday criticised President Traian Basescu’s recent comments about the Second World War and demanded that the EU publicly denounce the Romanian head of state for his words, Pro TV Chisinau reported.

    In a TV show on June 22, President Basescu said he would have done the same as Marshal Ion Antonescu did during the war, when joining Germany in invading the Soviet Union. “We had an ally and we had a territory to recover (e.n. Moldova). If I had faced the same conditions I would have done it,” Basescu argued.

    “The president of a EU member state labelled as correct the actions of a war criminal and Nazi executioner, Antonescu, by whose actions more than 300,000 people were exterminated,” Voronin said yesterday.

    Basescu’s comments were fiercely criticised by the opposition and large parts of the public, but also by Russia, which said the head of state was practically trying to justify his country’s decision to join the war against the Soviet Union on Hitler’s side. Moreover, it was reported that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also had some very tough comments on Basescu during the NATO-Russia council earlier this week. Asked to comment on the reports, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen refused.

    “President Medvedev talks about this matter in a confidential diplomatic framework and in the terms appropriate for this framework. The Romanian envoy to NATO replied in the same framework and the same terms,” he said. NATO envoy Sorin Ducaru too refused to make any comments.

    ————————————————————————–

    http://www.itar-tass.com/en/c154/181545_print.html

    Itar-Tass
    July 8, 2011

    Moldova’s former Pres urges EU to condemn Romanian Pres statement.

    CHISINAU: Moldova’s former President Vladimir Voronin on Thursday expressed surprise over the absence of reaction on the part of the European Union to the remarks made by Romanian President Trajan Basescu regarding Hitler’s aggression against the USSR in 1941.

    Basescu said earlier this week he would have sent Romanian soldiers to take part in the occupation of the USSR along with Hitler’s forces in 1941.

    Romanian dictator Ion Antonescu did send Romanian troops to war against the Soviet Union in June 1941.

    ‘We’re indignant over Basescu’s statement,” Vladimir Voronin said Thursday as he met in Chisinau with European Council President Herman van Rompuy. “In actual fact, Basescu, who is president of an EU member-state, justified the war criminal and butcher Antonescu, whose immediate involvement – in the punitive operations – took away the lives of more than 300,000.”

    “Now Basescu says that if he had been in Antonescu’s position seventy years ago, he, too, would have ordered the troops to cross the river Prut,” Voronin said.

    “We expect condemnation of these statements,” Voronin said.

    • Yalensis says:

      Yeah, Basescu is a right dick, isn’t he?
      The comment I made about him on an earlier blog related to the Victory Day celebrations in Moscow, that’s the one where all the European leaders are invited to show up at Red Square and pretend to cheer for the Red Army, even though most of their countries fought on the other side.
      At the time, Basescu turned down the invitation, saying that since his country had been on the other side of the conflict (i.e., on the side of Nazis), and had been defeated, then he did not regard this as a Victory and was not appropriate for him to attend. At the time I ironically praised him for his refreshing candor!

      • Misha says:

        Given his background, Voronin has reason to be against the Romanian president’s WW II comments.

        The pro-union with Romania mood in Moldova is a vocal minority (at last notice, in the 15%-20% range) with the potential to expand.

        When the USSR first broke up, Romania was in a more dire situation than the present day. At the time, Moldova was viewed more positively, from a socioeconomic perspective. There was talk of Moldova becoming absorbed into Romania. During this period, the Romanian and Moldovan NY diplomatic offices were right next to each other. In recent years, Romania has improved its socioeconomic standing in a way that Moldova hasn’t – with the dispute over Pridnestrovie ongoing. A number of Moldovans feel that they’re generally belittled by Romanians. Actually, part of Romanian territory was affiliated with the independent Moldovan principality of centuries past.

  15. Yalensis says:

    On Libya war:
    That blog war I mentioned earlier turns out to be bullshit. When I first discovered it, I thought I was really onto something, some of the commenters seemed to be indicating that they had real information about what was happening, like they were actual Libyans on the ground twittering targets to NATO bombers over their iPhones. Since (1) I am trying to follow the Libyan war at the ground level, and (2) it is virtually impossible to find out what is really going on, since the entire world media backs the rebels and only tells their side of the story (imagine back in 2008 trying to follow the Russia-Gruzia war if there was no Russian media, only reporting from Europe and America); therefore, I thought at least these folks, even though clearly pro-rebel, might have some actual on-the-ground raw data to report.
    Turns out they’re just a bunch of cheetos-gobbling Reagan-Bush neocons and wannabe jihadist losers sitting in their mom’s basement blogging on their computers until 3:00 am and sharing the same mixture of “news” and rumors that I can read myself on Reuters or CNN.
    This gives you a good idea of the mental level of the folks who follow this blog: the first comment that comes up (the one with the highest rating) is from some German guy named Gerhard Heinz, who is dissing another commenter (a girl named Tania) who dared to criticize rebels as NATO stooges:

    this blog is only for members of mi6 ,cia (i miss gloria),bnd and others
    allowed are also marines,ranger,navy,airforce and some special friends.
    and anybody who can give infos about libya for nato use.
    we are the group who find out the targets for the nato in the www.
    there are a lot of other websides for comunist and daffi lovers

    When I first read this, I thought the guy was being ironic and sarcastic and blasting the pro-CIA politics of the al-Jazeera blog. Then, as I read more comments, I came to realize, with astonishment, that these folks are deadly serious about being pro-CIA, pro-NATO, etc. Any commenter who disagree with them is promptly dismissed as a “troll” and gang-raped by the rest of the brood.
    Also, it became clearer that none of these folks are actually in Libya, or involved in the fighting; they are simply groupies of the rebels, whom they dub FF’s (“Freedom Fighters”).
    It goes without saying that I never left a comment on this particular blog, even though I was sometimes tempted to debate them. Reason being: these types actually kind of scare me. On other blogs you can have civilized debates and even vigorously disagree with one another without worrying that someone will come and try to kill you. But jihadists are different…. You can’t really debate them. You either agree with them, in which case you’re a wonderful person in their eyes; or they kill you.

    • marknesop says:

      It’s the he-man sissy-haters club, another of those redneck yahoo blogs where they just like to see their country (The Forces of GOODNESS) beating somebody up. Don’t be too hard on them – those are the people whose votes you rely on when you want to spend a lot of the taxpayers’ money on an expensive war.

      An argument would be wasted anyway; they’re not interested in facts, like how the rebels are a tiny minority and more likely to be affiliated with a terrorist group than the average Libyan. The rebels just provide a convenient reason for a fight, and being vicariously involved in a fight is what gets them off. Think of this group as western foreign policy writ small.

      • yalensis says:

        Yes, that pretty much describes these barbarians. Says a lot about al-Jazeera to sponsor this bullshit. Of course, al-Jazeera is pretty much the state media of Qatar, and Qatar is second only to Saudi Arabia in repulsiveness of its international politics. Still boggles my mind that 19 Saudi citizens attacked USA in biggest terrorist act ever (9/11/2001), and instead of punishing Saudis, USA promptly invaded Iraq, which had done more than most countries to curb these jihadists. Now NATO is going after Libya, which had also done much to curb jihadists. Hm… I see pattern emerging: USA always supports extreme islamist/jihadist movements, either directly or indirectly, even though jihadists attacked them too. What a country!

        • marknesop says:

          If you have the world’s most powerful military and you don’t want to listen to any yapping from the citizenry about maybe it’s time to draw down a little – after all, we don’t really have any enemies – it’s prudent to always have a bumper crop of enemies. Ditto the culture of “the rest of the world hates us for our freedoms”, and promoting the notion that other countries are so insanely jealous of how good you’ve got it that they’re apt to attack you just for being happy. Therefore, the best way to defy them is to talk about how great freedom is and act as if you’re about to split with happiness any moment now.

          That shouldn’t suggest westerners aren’t really happy, and it’s all an act – I’m sure it’s not, and we can all be very happy about where we live. But the notion that there are billions of jealous people out there just waiting for you to relax a little so *POW* they can take away everything you have is just a fairy tale. Your own government is considerably more interested in everything you have than outsiders are.

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