The Valdai Club: Departing Reality for Self-Deception and Points North

Uncle Volodya says,”The difference between a puppy and a fool is this – the one is born blind and continues so for nine days only, while the other remains with his eyes shut all his life.”

Imagine you’re at the car lot, looking for a new car. You see a sporty model you like…but you notice the 4-cylinder variant costs $6,000.00 more than the 6-cylinder although you can see no other difference between them. When you ask the salesman to explain, he looks at you like you just told him peas are square, and replies, “Because 4 cylinders is more powerful than 6”.

Puzzled, you ask him to take you out for a test drive in the 4-cylinder. Once you get outside of town limits, you ask him to open her up, see what she’ll do. The car is obviously not faster than the 6-cylinder model. You point this out to the salesman, who mashes the gas pedal to the floor. The exhaust note rises to a scream, and the engine makes all kinds of noise, but the car doesn’t go any faster. The salesman looks at you and says, “See? It’s getting more powerful”.

Are you sold yet?

Oh. Well, then, you’re probably not going to buy the notion, advanced by the Valdai Discussion Club (thanks to Kirill for the tip), that the opposition in Russia is growing in influence even as it acknowledges the number of protesters it is able to draw for street demonstrations has steadily declined.

Probably you can think of many more comical analogies to describe this stubborn “less is really more” analysis, but really – what are they thinking? Does the provision that the opposition has become more noisy – and that in the Anglospheric press, not the Russian media – translate to greater power and influence on the part of the opposition? Not in Russia. Where, presumably, it matters.

Oh, wait. The survey – which revealed that just over 50% of respondents believe the Russian “extra-parliamentary opposition” has seen a slight increase in influence over last year – was not a survey of the Russian public, or of Russians at all, save for those who are members of the Valdai Club. We’ll look more closely at them in a little bit. The remainder are “Russia experts” from other countries. Other countries where it doesn’t matter a tin weasel what the public thinks of the Russian opposition since there is no conceivable way it can translate into votes for that group, not to put too fine a point on it. Comes to that, how an opposition that elects its leaders online from a group that has to register in advance as opposition supporters, which is ineligible for a  popular vote and which purports to represent less than a fraction of one percent of the population can be considered to have any national influence at all is somewhat of a puzzle.

Perhaps we can learn something from the composition of the Valdai group. Some of the members rotate in and out of membership, chiefly the foreign experts. There is an Advisory Board that is comprised more or less of permanent members. The Club was formed in 2004 by RIA Novosti, the Moscow News, the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy and Russia Profile and Russia in Global Affairs magazines. It has as its mission “to foster a global dialogue about Russia and to provide an independent, unbiased, scholarly analysis of political, economic and social processes in Russia and the world.”

So far, so good – there are few relationships that would not benefit from improved dialogue, right? As I said, the membership is somewhat fluid, but according to the “About” page the present advisory board is made up of 7 people: Svetlana Mironyk, the Editor-in-Chief of RIA Novosti; Sergei Karaganov, Head of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy; Timothy Colton, Morris and Anna Feldberg Professor of Government and Russian Studies at Harvard University; Piotr Dutkiewicz, Professor of Political Science at Carleton University; Feng Shaolei, Dean of the School of Advanced International and Area Studies, East China University; Toby Gati, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research under President Clinton, and Alexander Rahr, Director, the Berthold Beitz Center for Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Central Asia and a member of the Board of Trustees, Deutschland-Russland.

We’re still fairly simpatico here; not what you could reasonably describe as a Russophobe in the lot. Sergei Karaganov did come from the Moscow Higher School of Economics  (Dean, no less) – which I have learned to associate with pseudo-intellectual numpties given to making economic predictions that are like Miracle-Gro fertilizer for mockery – and did describe Mr. Putin as “a street boy turned into a very sophisticated political functionary and manipulator”, but on the whole has been quite fair and seems to have Russia’s best interests at heart. Timothy Colton did co-author a book, “Popular Choice and Managed Democracy: The Russian Elections of 1999 and 2000” and a journal article, “Are Russians Undemocratic?” for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace with Michael McFaul; however, he also told RIA Novosti in 2010 that there was “no effective opposition in Russia”, correctly predicted at that time that Mr. Putin would return to the presidency in 2012 and is also overall quite reasonable. Toby Gati suggested in the National Interest in 2002 that Russia wished to head off an American war with Iraq largely out of self-interest because it might – were the United States to succeed in bringing Iraq to heel and quickly turning it into an American-operated giant oil spigot, which is not quite the way things turned out – depress the world price of oil on which its economy depended, but there is some truth to that and the article was, all things considered, quite balanced. No real alarm bells among the Advisory Board, I hope you will agree. Also no clues as to who stepped over the lunacy line on the subject of the Russian opposition.

Well, then, let’s take a look at the list of contributors. But before we do, I propose we adopt our own index. Since it is the Russia Development Index – totally made up and based on votes from the Valdai membership of experts – which insists the opposition is gaining strength in the days when self-made martyr Sergei Udaltsov (soon, no doubt, to be a “political prisoner”) is left haranguing an empty square after bored demonstrators have gone home, I propose the membership be rated on the Shel Silverstein Index (SSI).

Shel Silverstein was an American poet, songwriter and author of books for both adults and children; he was also a Korean War veteran. But he really hit his prime during the freewheeling, make-love-not-war 1970’s. Although it’s hard to say what might have been his best work – The Giving Tree, Where The Sidewalk Ends or Freakin’ at the Freaker’s Ball, what shoves him to the front of the line for being the namesake of our index is a few couplets, strung together, about inclusiveness and a love of stories, called “Invitation”. It opened “Where The Sidewalk Ends“; my copy is getting pretty tattered, let’s see if I can make it out…

If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire;
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin
Come in!
Come in!

Ready? Let’s take a look. Uh oh. I don’t think we’re going to have to search very far for dreamers, liars, pretenders and magic-bean buyers. First up, Dreamer and Pretender Sergey Aleksashenko. According to his dishing to the Financial Times – always a sympathetic booster of the Russian Government – “Putin will disappear…the water is already moving under the ice and there is no way of stopping it. We can only discuss how long this might take.” Sure. About 11.5 years from now, I should think. But let’s not leave that reference just yet, because a number of other Valdai contributors and magic-bean buyers were featured in it. Next up, hope-er Mikhail Dmitriev, President of the grand-sounding Center for Strategic Research, which specializes in drawing loopy conclusions from navel-gazing focus groups. Let’s get his take: “Putin has little choice but to make concessions, otherwise he will not be able to rule…This is a serious change when people in his team are losing authority and they will have to compromise to stay in power.” There’s a flax-golden tale, if ever I heard one. Oh, look; it’s Gleb Pavlovsky, Valdai contributor – “The demonstrators are the ones who want order and rules to be followed…They want an honest government.” You don’t say, Gleb, you flax-golden bullshitter, you.

Well, that’s kind of messed up our alphabetical order, but gosh, there were so many great Valdai influencers all together in one story. We mustn’t forget eternal dreamer Boris Nemtsov, who opined this farsighted fairytale for the Valdai Club: according to him, Russia’s future depends entirely on the level of protest, not on Putin. Well, that’s certainly worked very well for all the world’s most powerful countries. My favourite outtakes – “…these rallies and the protest movement in general have virtually become a turning point in Russia’s modern history. The emergence of this movement means the end of “sovereign democracy” and the complete bankruptcy of the corrupt power system built by Vladimir Putin together with Vladislav Surkov”, and “The united opposition has a program of action, in effect, a program of political reforms. It consists of several points, the most important of which are abolition of political censorship, including on TV, and the release of political prisoners. The third point is not only the registration of political parties but also the formation of election blocs, the return of the right to local government, that is, elections of mayors and governors, and, finally, early parliamentary and presidential elections.” Did I say the opposition didn’t have a plan for Russia? Boy, was I wrong. Letting people say whatever they want, including on TV – which they apparently can’t do now although you can find dozens of examples of loose talk that would be pushing the limit anywhere – releasing all the political prisoners, lots and lots of elections. Presumably the newly-freed political prisoners are going to look after the economy, national defense and foreign policy, because everybody else will be too busy deliriously talking smack and campaigning for the next election.

So many more. The delightfully sour and grumpy Vladislav Inozemtsev, gimme-more-democracy bleater, who tells us “Under Putin, the Russian elite has felt completely free to disobey or ignore the laws and rules imposed on ordinary Russians”. Yes, the same Vladislav Inozemtsev who said “Russia is not a dictatorship but a relatively free country where the current regime rules more by consensus than repression, and where no serious threat to the regime seems likely” only 6 months before that. Numpty dreamer Yevsei Gurvich, economist at large who couldn’t predict yesterday’s weather today. Magic-bean buyer Olga Kryshtanovskaya, who felt comfortable reeling off statistics about the protesters at the June 12th rally – 70% have higher education compared with 28% of the population, 5.8% of protesters have an academic degree – when there was a difference of tens of thousands in the accounts of how many were actually there. The police said 22,000, the organizers claimed over 100,000, and journalists estimated 40,000, tops. Liar Nikolai Petrov of the mendacious Moscow Times, who insists Putin’s rule is collapsing; “Knowing that he can’t hang on until the end of his term, he will delay his departure in the hope that conditions will improve enough later for him to make a safe escape.” Pretender Kirill Rogov, who does a little hand jive with the gap between those who approve and disapprove of Putin to make it appear his ratings are cratering, while acknowledging that the “approve” rating was 65.35 when the article was written, in July. Pray-er Vladimir Ryzhkov, shill for western think-tanks.

I can’t imagine where the Valdai Club would get the idea that the opposition was getting stronger; can you?

In fact, Levada reported at end-October that Putin’s approval rating was unchanged at 67%, rather than sliding as Kirill Rogov and Nikolai Petrov would have you believe. Pretty soon the opposition and its sycophants are going to have to start making the number a different colour, so that they can argue there has been a change which can be interpreted as negative. Something else the article points out is that among those who voted for Putin in March – which group the opposition cannot win without swaying – Putin’s popularity remains at 90%.

The rush on the part of the Anglosophere to discredit video of Sergei Udaltsov discussing support for escalating protest to violence is puzzling, for several reasons. For one, if the Anglosphere had video of Putin ordering police to “disappear” Udaltsov on the occasion of the next demonstration, would the press body challenge it? Muddy the waters with a bunch of unsubstantiated statistics of how many people think the authorities made it up – a position which the Anglosphere reinforces daily? They would not, and you know it – it’d be front-page news from coast to coast and they would just run with it. By the time anyone got around to speculating it might be faked, it would be so firmly implanted in the public consciousness that you couldn’t shift it with a chisel. Need an example? Sure. Putin’s yachts, palaces, huge stolen fortune and penchant for wristwatches that cost a worker’s lifetime salary. No matter how many times this is patiently discredited and it is reestablished that Putin is in fact frugal by comparison with any number of western leaders, every time some fool breaks a story about Putin’s wealth as if it had just been discovered, the entire press is away with it like a pack of hounds.

For another, everything about Sergei Udaltsov shouts that he is a street thug rather than a reasoner; a surly, resentful sociopath who yearns for every confrontation to turn violent and can conceive of no better martyrdom for himself than for him to go down fighting under a hail of blows and kicks. I mentioned earlier the occasion of a recent demonstration which resulted in disappointing turnout, and closed with Udaltsov still doing the caged-animal walk up front and hoarsely rasping into his bullhorn when the audience consisted only of a few sweepers cleaning up the crowd debris. This passed more or less completely without comment in the Anglospheric press. Now, imagine Sergei Udaltsov – rather than the unstable leader of an opposition group – is a ramrod for Nashi. How crazy would Sergei Udaltsov be then? Mad as a hatter, a social hand grenade; and you know this, too.

Is it believable that Sergei Udaltsov would engage in planning violence against the state with an outsider who had access to funding and possibly western support? You tell me.

The Valdai Club, at bottom, is a good idea. Bringing together professionals in various fields from all countries of the world to highlight, capture, debate and resolve Russia’s problems is an initiative the country should welcome, and the regular presence of either the President or the Prime Minister at Valdai gatherings suggests it does. Nobody is suggesting the best way for Russia to solve its problems is to ignore good advice, freely given, when it is offered. But the Valdai Club sticks a grimy thumb in the eye of its own credibility when it ties its development index to partisan politics, and throws its support to the increasingly deluded and fragmented political opposition.

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183 Responses to The Valdai Club: Departing Reality for Self-Deception and Points North

  1. yalensis says:

    Does anybody know if Valdai board members receive a salary, or is it a volunteer position?

    • Misha says:

      Andreas Umland is listed as a Valdai contributor unlike Alexander Dugin.

      Umland has been periodically critical of Dugin.

      If I’m not offhand mistaken, the openDemocracy (oD) venue has a stated relationship with the Valdai Discussion Club. The former has has propped Umland – critical commentary of Dugin included.

      Dugin seems like he can hold his own. Should he be excluded from the process? These thoughts are said in a way that’s not intended to rubber stamp Dugin. Rather, to support the idea of a substantive point-counterpoint dialogue. Dugin is by no means the only option to Umland.

      Yes, Valdai has included others with views different from Umland. Neverthless, there’s a reasoned basis to believe that Valdai leans too much in a certain direction; in a way that downplays some constructively critical pro-Russian advocacy.

      Regarding Russia, do AEI and Heritage functions offer a noticeably high profile criticism of neocon-neolib to flat out anti-Russian leaning views?

    • Misha says:

      An example of diversity at the Valdai website:

      Albany Tribune having an affiliated relationship with Eurasia Review.

  2. yalensis says:

    Interesting… the Valdai link led to another link which led to this Fred Weir piece from a couple of weeks ago, which I hadn’t seen:

    I think Russia’s new tit-for-tat response (and pointing out American hypocrisy) is a good idea.

    Good post, by the way. I hadn’t even heard of Valdai Club before kirill brought it up, then you.
    Sounds like a shady bunch, though. Do other countries have these kinds of clubs, or just Russia?

    • kirill says:

      I am not fully informed about it, but after having followed RIAN for over a decade, this club is supposed to be some sort of unofficial presidential advisory group. It has been hijacked like RIAN itself, assuming it wasn’t a racket from the get-go.

    • marknesop says:

      I’ve heard of them before, but I always thought it was some secret-society financial organization like the Bilderbergers. There are, of course, international development organizations, but I don’t know that any are focused on a single country like the Valdai Club is.

      Obviously I didn’t research every member deeply; that would take forever, and there were enough Ryzhkovs and Petrovs and Inozemtsevs and Nemtsovs to suggest where the silly fiction that the opposition is gaining in influence was coming from. But I went through the advisory board pretty carefully. Piotr Dutkiewicz received the Order of Friendship of the Russian Federation from Medvedev. He’s very active in youth at risk programs in Russia, and in regional development. Svetlana Mironyk is personally active in the fight against drug addiction in Russia, which is a serious problem. Many others I checked seemed not only well-credentialed personally and professionally, but to have a level-headed and realistic attitude toward Russia and its problems. We’ve discussed before that it would be a mistake to become so fervently involved in defending Russia from attack that we will admit no fault and tolerate no criticism – that way lies fanaticism. It’s only unfair or unconstructive criticism I object to, as well as that leveled by countries who are mostly interested in diverting attention from their own very serious shortcomings in exactly the same situation.

      What I’m getting at is that many Valdai Club members, perhaps most, seem to be the real thing; field experts who have signed on to tackle a problem in their area of expertise and are generally apolitical. I’m sure they have their own opinions, but those mostly do not seem to enter into their decision-making process. It does not, in short, appear to be just another organization that consists mostly of self-congratulatory foreign journalists and think-tank neoconservative eggheads. They’re a little more focused on the building of civil institutions than I like because that often seems to me a sort of panacea, but that’s probably because they consider the building of civil institutions paramount to the development of international trade links such as Russia will need to benefit most from its role in the WTO. There are articles written for the Valdai Club, some by Valdai members, with which I vehemently disagree; but the organization itself seems to have been mostly set up with a deliberate philanthropic tilt.

      According to the About link, the Advisory Board is responsible for “approving new members”. This suggests the names of potential new members are put forward by current members, or that those interested in taking part must apply. Then again, the same board or one very much like it must have let in Nemtsov and Gurvich and Petrov and others like them – to what end, I have to wonder. Most of the ideological deadweight consists of politicians or journalists. The industry and academic professionals seem mostly genuine.

  3. kirill says:

    Clearly this is a very biased collection of experts. It is hard to believe you would have such a chorus with experts just picked at random. Look at the names of these experts: there seem to be a lot of Russians. These are are all people with axes to grind. For every one of them there are dozens of others who have a different opinion. So their contribution is some cherry picking propaganda project. I think the Valdai club should be written off given this obvious nonsense.

  4. marknesop says:

    I’ve added the “Library” page; see what you think. I’ll take suggestions for additions – in any language, but if it isn’t English or French, you have to write the review yourself – that you feel offer a view of Russia that is different from the mainstream Putin-is-the-eye-of-evil rubbish.

  5. Moscow Exile says:

    It was Chubais, I believe, who may have started this meme that as the protest movement numbers diminish, so does its potential grow stronger; at any rate, this was what he maintained in an interview in Itogi magazine last month (October 2012).


    • marknesop says:

      Yes, I remember how we laughed about it then, and it’s a good thing we weren’t drinking because things would have got broken as we fell about. The speculation reached a crescendo with the implication that the protest movement could never disappear altogether, because that would mean it had taken over the country.

      • yalensis says:

        With your indulgence I would like to repeat my très witty comment from that thread about “architectural minimalism” or “negative space”. Add to these artistic movements the French “Theatre du Silence” of the 1960’s. What all these trends all have in common is the notion that “Less is More”. All this should give the Opps hope that their dwindling numbers are an indication of increased influence!

        • marknesop says:

          Yes, that was comical, but that sort of “less is more” minimalism means reducing something – in this case a sketch – to only its essential components. That’s an interesting exercise, though, as applied to the opposition – what are the essential components? Obviously, it must have a leader. Who is it? At this point, you’d have to say Navalny, if we’re talking about the liberal opposition, which is all the Anglosphere wants to talk about: if we’re talking about inconsequential things like votes, it’s the Communists.

          What’s going to happen to the liberals when Navalny’s gone, as he likely soon will be? The press will have a renewed golden age making a “prisoner of conscience” of him, but what’s going to happen to his peeps? Udaltsov is too rough-hewn and crude for them; Sobchak is too sensitive to lead. Nemtsov and the old guard are too much interested in politics and not enough in protest.

          That in turn leads to what might occur among the Communists and the LDPR: is it likely that Zhirinovsky and Zyuganov will lead their followers into the next election? I’d have to say not, and I’ve seen the same sentiment expressed elsewhere. Where’s the new blood going to come from? Zhirinovsky and Zyuganov have retained the leadership to this point precisely because there is no pressure from below.

          Far from cowering and frantically planning his exit before the end of his new term, I would say Putin is in an excellent position – assuming the current circumstances prevail – to win another.

    • Hunter says:

      Hmmm..according to that logic then, this theory of the Inverse Relationship between Protest Strength and Protest Power should find that the Protest movement is at its most infinitely powerful when the number of protesters is equal to zero….

      • marknesop says:

        Yes, that’s what I said – when the protest movement has died out altogether, that will be the time for the Kremlin to pack up and leave, because the protesters will be in control of the country. I’m hoping this theory of inverse relationships will grow and spread, so that the more money I spend, the richer I become, and the more I eat the slimmer I get.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Those that believe in this Inverse Relationship between Protest Strength and Protest Power must alll be fans of homeopathy, which “alternative medicine” is roundly condemned as bogus by medical scientists.

          Homeopathologists maintain that the more the dose of a homeopathogen is diluted, the more powerful it becomes. Well try telling a drunkard that his booze will become more potent if he dilute it so that only one mole of alcohol remain in his tumbler of water. Nevertheless, many believe this homeopathology bunkum, and I daresay many believe this similar nonesense that the visible weakening of numbers in the Russian “opposition” movement indicates a growth in the potential of that movement because they simply want to believe it and, in so believing, are in fact acting in denial of the perceived evidence to the contrary.

          • yalensis says:

            Yeah, homeopathy is like the “magic water” theory. First you have to dilute the medicine in water until there is only one molecule left. Then you remove even that one molecule. Then you drink the “magic water”, which somehow retained some kind of reflection of the essence of that one molecule. Color me skeptical. When I get sick, give me good old fashioned primo pharmaceuticals with lots and lots of powerful molecules!

            • marknesop says:

              There’s actually a lot to Homeopathy, and the fact that the Chinese had an established and illustrated Pharmacopeia of traditional medicines when there wasn’t much in North America except animals and trees is often used to illustrate the age and advancement of their society. However, traditional medicines are frequently to be used in a very narrow set of circumstances and only in a certain way; a tea made from the root when chewing the leaves will do nothing, for example. Unfortunately, the lure of traditional medicines has been highjacked by the Pharmaceutical industry as a moneymaker, and people are led to believe you can bind your head in Echinacea leaves for brain cancer when listening to “Locomotive Breath” at peak volume will have just as salutary an effect. I’ve never heard of this “magic water” approach, but in my experience any time the advert includes the word “magic”, they’re trying to get your money for something that they’re asking you to take on faith, and that the period in which faith resolves the situation is startlingly similar to the period in which doing nothing at all will resolve it.

              There are real examples of processes which could lead to that belief, though, and Kefir is one. Add your starter to a jug of milk, pour off the kefir in a day or two and top it up (dilute it, if you will) again with milk. Presto! Through the magic of kefir starter, in a day or so the new milk also becomes kefir. And you can do that over and over.

              Moscow Exile is quite right that the childlike belief in the deathless power of protest in Russia is that it both indicates the birth of real democracy – therefore it must be nurtured at all costs – and that somehow it is desirable because the existence of a “real opposition” is the wedge that will topple the way things always were, leading to double western happiness as the locals dance into the streets with their arms filled with flowers and candy, weeping with joy as they welcome their liberators. Oh, wait; that was Iraq. Never mind; the principle still holds, or fails to hold, as the case may be. The notion that Russians are a captive people is every bit as much a necessity to this belief process as the notion that an opposition comprised of a few snooty intellectuals who consider themselves better than everyone else, a soupcon of street thugs and assorted criminals and led by a couple of sharpies to whom political opportunity is all of a piece with any other opportunity – but which has no plan at all for how to get there except for people will be allowed to live their lives exactly as they choose in every respect and all the political prisoners will be let out – will free them. Always wanted to be a cowboy, a hula dancer or a fireman? This is the government for you.

              • kirill says:

                I am not so sure a bunch of fascist shills who call themselves the real opposition (as opposed to the millions who are part of the system opposition) are something that needs to be nurtured and protected. Their agenda is sedition against a *democratic* government. They openly spit on the electorate, which automatically renders them fringe lunatics.

                What needs to happen in Russia is for a proper opposition party (or parties) to gain support and develop serious policies. Not knee jerk contrarian tripe. Street riot thugs who needed the system opposition parties and nationalists to make demonstrations greater than a couple of thousand will never be the “real” opposition. In Canada it’s called “Her Majesty’s loyal opposition” for a good reason. A proper democracy requires everyone to work within the system.

            • kirill says:

              That’s the loon branch of homeopathy. There is another, broader variant that constitutes the supplement industry and focuses on the importance of nutritional changes to improve health. Consuming the trash called processed food will not do you any good in the long run. Supplementing with vitamin D3 in winter months is a good idea and is based on real science. Consuming vitamin C in non-trace quantities is a good idea too thanks to its free-radical suppression function. One herbal medicine that I know works is Strauss’ heart drops. Nobody can claim you can stop heart palpitations with a placebo. If a herbal medicine can save you from getting a pacemaker then it has proved its efficacy.

              Meanwhile, so called mainstream medicine pushes statins to save you from heart disease. This is outright medieval nonsense of the blood letting variety. Statins are co-ensyme Q10 blockers. They reduce LDL as a side effect of a shotgun blast at a whole array of biochemical reactions. In the case of Bayer’s Baycol they managed to kill dozens of people before it was recalled. The victims had their muscle tissue decompose. LDL is a structural molecule and not “bad” (a retarded label if there ever was one) and is actually needed for the proper functioning of the metabolism. Its *correlation* with arterial plaques is a poor basis on which to start claiming it is the causal factor. It will be correlated simply because the body dispatches it to injury locations and something is obviously damaging the arterial wall. There are many real causal factors including free-radical stress and bacterial attacks.

              • yalensis says:

                Hi, kirill, I totally agree with you about vitamins/supplements, and do not want to confuse these beneficial substances with quack pseudo-science of homeopathy. Vitamins and other supplments are scientific medicine (at least some of them) because (1) they involve actual botanical substances, real molecules in other words; and (2) many of them have been scientifically tested for efficacy using double-blind placebo method.
                So, things like Vitamin D and C and other supplements have been proven effective to do what they are supposed to do.
                I personally take a few vitamins and over-the-counter supplements, and I think they work to keep me healthy.
                For a more serious condition I have to resort to a more serious pharmaceutical. For example, I have a mild seizure condition, and I need a particular prescription drug that literally sends little molecules into my brain, to attach and block off some of the neural receptors from firing when they are not supposed to. This requires actual laboratory-created molecules (hence, big Pharmaceutical), because there is not any plant root or other natural product that can provide this effect. (No, acupuncture doesn’t work either.)
                By the way, I agree the Chinese should get a lot of credit for inventing botanical medicine back in the day, they made good use of what they had to at the time (herbals and acupuncture), because chemistry labs had not yet been invented. Technology is always improving, and I believe that so-called Western medicine is vastly superior to Chinese traditional medicine. (Although huge mistakes have been made, obviously, as in the case of the statins.)

                • kirill says:

                  I agree that just because it is traditional does not mean it is effective and modern pharmaceuticals are not all useless poisons. Traditional Chinese medicine includes prescribing rhino horn and tiger penis for impotence. That’s total quackery. The bottom line is to be pragmatic and take what works from either sort of medicine and not to just believe in one or the other.

  6. Moscow Exile says:

    PS: Я вернулся из Франции в Империю зла!


  7. yalensis says:

    Here is an etiquette issue worthy of Emily Post

    New Gruzian PM Ivanishvili is planning his first trip as head of government to Brussels. Right? To talk NATO?
    So guess who else decided he also had to go to Brussels (spontaneously, unplanned visit)? Saakashvili, of course. Like a jealous bridesmaid, he just couldn’t allow Ivanishvili to have his moment of glory!
    Even though he is disgraced and under consideration for impeachment, Saak is still, technically, Prez of Gruzia. This places Belgians in an etiquette dilemma. “According to (diplomatic) protocol, in the case of a contemporaneous visit of both (PM and Prez), it is required to receive the President before the Premiere.” This incident is going to put the NATO bigwigs in an uncomfortable position. Ha ha!

  8. Dear Mark,

    Even by your high standards I think this is an exceptionally good article. The claim that the protest movement is increasing in influence as it declines in numbers is as you rightly say total nonsense and a spectacular example of delusional wishful thinking. I think your characterisation of Udaltsov as a sociopath and basically a street thug is spot on. I particularly liked your comparison between the automatic assumption in the western media of Udaltsov’s innocence and of the faking of the video and the equally automatic willingness to believe the worst of Putin even in the absence of any evidence at all.

    As for the Valdai Forum unlike Yalensis and Kirill I have heard of it before. As you rightly say it started out as a good idea. More recentlly however it has become increasingly a venue where participants say bad things about Putin to each other behind his backs and then fawn upon him to his face. Its one remaining useful feature is that it gives Putin a platform to show to the outside world how totally on top of his brief he is. When you read accounts of the meetings between the Forum participants and Putin afterwards in western newspapers it becomes clear how utterly awed by Putin the participants, even the most hostile amongst them, invariably are and accounts of the latest meeting show that it was no exception.

    The fundamental problem with the Valdai Forum is the one you touched on in your article. There are actually some good and intelligent people amongst the participants. One of those for example who always impresses me is the German analyst Alexander Rahr. Another worthy participant is the British journalist Mary Dejevsky (who by the way was severely criticised in the British satirical magazine Private Eye for attending the Forum). The trouble however is that all of these people good and bad, Russian and non Russian, are fully paid up members of the western liberal consensus. This is because of the perennial problem familiar to anyone who has had to deal with liberals, which is that the only people they deem fit to debate with is each other. What is therefore supposed to be a discussion forum is therefore in reality simply a gathering of people who basically agree with each other.

    I can illustrate this point by the example of Rosneft. As liberals all the participants at the Valdai Forum take it as axiomatic that for an economy to prosper the role of the state must be reduced allowing for the greatest possible competition between private companies. The result is that all the participants in the Valdai Forum disapprove of the recent consolidation of the Russian oil industry in Rosneft, which is a particularly suspect company in their eyes because the state owns a big stake in it. Faced with this unanimous disapproval Putin was obliged to defend Rosneft by saying that he felt conflicted about Rosneft’s recent takeover of the BP joint venture but that he came round to it because he saw it as the lesser of two evils. A more honest answer would surely be that the criticism of Rosneft begs the question: Why is it axiomatic in a highly capital intensive industry like the oil industry that competition between a large number of private oil companies is better than consolidation in one large state backed company? The US oil industry after all was created by one big government backed monopoly company (Rockefeller’s Standard Oil) as was the oil industry of the British Empire (BP), the French Empire (Total) and the Dutch Empire (Shell). The equally capital intensive civil aerospace industries in the US and Europe are also consolidated in two government backed companies: Boeing and Airbus. There is surely a case for saying that the optimal management of the oil industry is through one big state backed company which has the resources to undertake the very big investments needed in the sector whilst controlling production to avoid over rapid depletion of fields such as has happened in the North Sea? However if Putin had argued in this way he would have been totally isolated in the Forum and we would now be reading articles about how Putin believes in a return to statism and Soviet style central planning.

    The other problem is that because liberals are only prepared to debate with each other the Russians who get invited to the Forum or taken seriously are Russian liberals. The result is that in what is supposed to be a Forum to bring together prominent politicians, intellectuals and business representatives from the west and Russia to discuss Russia’s future the Russian participants are totally unrepresentative of opinion in Russia. Thus opinions about the Russian economy are canvassed from liberal free market theorists like Aleksashenko and Inozemtsev rather than say from Miller, Timchenko or Deripaska, who have actual hands on experience of Russian industry, or Gerashchenko, the brilliant former head of the Central Bank. Of course any idea of seriously canvassing the opinions of non liberal Russian politicians and intellectuals like say Bortko the film director who is a Communist or Dugin the anti liberal philosopher and social scientist is out of the question. Instead we have the pearls of wisdom of utterly discredited and marginal figure like Boris Nemtsov. Confining the Russian participants to liberals however guarantees that critics of Putin and supporters of the protest movement will be ludicrously over represented, which is how we end up getting the absurd claims about the protest movement increasing in influence as it declines in numbers which you have so expertly taken apart in your article.

    • kirill says:

      You are spot on about liberals and their one-note-Johnny whine about state intervention in corporate affairs. They push some contrived theory about “competition” that does not conform to empirical evidence and existing practice in the countries whey these liberals allege have no state control of the economy.

      After the 1998 financial collapse in Russia, when Primakov took over as prime minister, the neo-liberal, monetarist BS being fed by Yeltsin’s western advisers was finally dropped from serious consideration. It was rather clear by then that shock therapy was predicated on false beliefs and mythology and would never work. So Russia started on the course of pragmatism and the “era of market romanticism [was] over” in the words of Chernomyrdin. And not surprisingly the Russian GDP started to grow rapidly, helped by the breakdown of the artificial over-valuation of the rouble via the GKO pyramid which was paying out 150% (!!!) interest at one stage.

      In the real world, western corporations run an oligarchy coordinated with the central governments. There is no cut throat competition. That is left for suckers such as family farmers who get pennies for their produce and go under routinely. When you are at the trans-national scale you *manipulate* the market. For example: Alcatel bought out Canada Wire from Noranda and shut it down. They got rid of a competitor and the Canadian government let them do it. It is interesting how the jobs lost through this machination were not even reported by the media. The same media that endlessly harped about potential lost jobs in the Temagami region of Ontario if the 0.5% of the original old growth white pine forest was going to be protected from logging.

    • marknesop says:

      Thanks again, as always, for your kind support, Alex. And once again you showcase that enviable talent for prying the elemental concept out of the background buzz that just makes everything come together with a click – you are absolutely correct; the energy industry is not susceptible to the drive toward market regulation, because it is currently a must-have, and the usual techniques used to force an industry into competition (usually to its disadvantage) are not applicable. By far the greatest part of the world’s population is still dependent on petro-energy, there’s only so much of it, and Russia is the largest producer of it overall. Russia has no need at all to fear the tools the west usually can bring to bear to gut an enemy’s economy and weaken it to the point it must come to the bargaining table to talk terms, and what the west seeks when it talks privatization of the Russian energy industry is actually diversity of ownership, so the state is denied leverage. Western buy-in is both desirable and sensible as it encourages investment and access to western technology which will prolong the life of Russia’s resources and keep it dominant for longer, and Putin has thus far navigated the ship of state well through dangerous waters – allowing just enough western ownership to keep them interested but never enough to give them the shareholder clout to start dictating terms.

      When you factor in the supposed repressive government crackdowns with the dwindling in numbers of the protest movement, the notion it is actually getting stronger stands out as nakedly ludicrous; you cannot have your cake and eat it, too, and those who wish to complain that Putin is crushing dissent cannot argue that it still grows stronger in spite of government brutality. I suppose the intent is to imply the recent online elections represent a new level of maturity and statesmanship on the part of the opposition, and thereby duck the numbers issue, but there is ample evidence that is not so.

      Interestingly, I have seen suggestions that Putin is of considerably better-than-average intelligence. I presume he must have been tested at some point, but I don’t have any reliable sources. Anatoly once speculated his IQ was around 140. That appears to have been simply a guess, although based on sensible determinants. This site, curiously, seems to advance the view that Putin is some kind of retard at 134, although by its own criteria he would only be two points below genius, while it rates Dolph Lundgren as scary-smart at 160. But it does not source its figures and is actually in the business of music promotion rather than intelligence analysis. It’d be interesting to know, although I doubt such information is accurately available in the public domain.

  9. Moscow Exile says:

    re: Russian liberals

    An interesting take off our 50-something-year-old native Muscovite friend, who emigrated when he was 17, on Russian-American attitudes towards Obama and liberl policies in the USA. Actually, his “Russian-Americans” should really read “Russo-Jewish-Americans” I’m sure. Furthermore, as his article progresses, these “Russian-Americans” transmute into “Russian intelligentsia”, but not Russian intelligentsia in Russia, but Russian intelligentsia in the USA – or should that be immigrant Russo-Jewish- American intellectuals?


    • kirill says:

      Not a bad article. It serves to highlight what Russian “liberals” are: foaming at the mouth right-tards. They hate Putin precisely because he is not a fascist. Of course the article leaves the impression that Russia is still authoritarian, which is obvious BS. There is no less freedom in Russia today than anywhere in the precious west. Nonsensical attempts to invoke the convictions of the hooligans calling themselves Pussy Riot proves my point. Show me a real case of repression for free speech, if western smear is factual then that should be trivial. Similarly, the presidential ballots have many names on them (not just one or two like in the USA) and those other names get lots of media attention leaving the OSCE “monitors” to whine pathetically about abuse of administrative resources which are no more excessive than those of any US or Canadian incumbent leader.

    • marknesop says:

      If that’s the case and the proportion of his 400-or-so friends who live in the United States are Russian-Jewish intelligentsia, then they are statistically several degrees below “insignificant”. The vote of declared Jews is only 2% of the electorate, and went overwhelmingly – 78% – to Obama in the 2008 election – there is little suggestion that the demographics of the Jewish vote were dramatically different this time around. And look; they weren’t – the New York Times disagrees slightly with the Daily Mail in giving Obama 74% of the Jewish vote in 2008 vice 78%, and he got 70% this time around. There are many compelling reasons for Obama to review his first-term policies, but sadly, catering to Alexei Bayer’s Facebook friends’ needs and wants is not one of them.

      Bayer is correct that Jewish-Americans – presumably incorporating many of his Russian Intelligensia friends – vote the economy as a primary concern, but not even close to being turned off by Obama’s “socialism”. At least he had the good sense not to suggest that the supposed realities introduced in his post have the Kremlin trembling with fear.

      • yalensis says:

        Sounds like these refuseniks were not numerous enough to sway American Jews towards Romney. And that’s even with Romney’s rabid support for Israel.
        Speaking of American politics, that David Petraeus scandal is getting pretty ugly now. Who amongst us truly believes that Obama was only informed 5 days ago that FBI had been investigating CIA director for 6 months prior to the election?
        Some light being shed on Benghazi incident: Petraeus’ mistress claimed the attack on American Consulate was actually an attempt to free Islamist prisoners. (American Consulate doubling as a makeshift prison in which Arabs are held without trial? … interesting…) That actually makes sense. The woman had a hell of a story, she could have cracked the case and won the Pulitzer. Then she blew it by cyber-stalking her romantic rival. Moral of the story: Never give in to your emotions.

        • marknesop says:

          According to this story, nobody even knew there was an investigation underway, except of course for those who were conducting it. I would not be at all surprised if that were true, since politicians are probably the leakiest group of individuals among humanity, and if it ever got out that one of the nation’s most revered figures – not so much politically as militarily – and a living symbol of American integrity was under investigation for sexual impropriety, and there turned out to be no truth to it….look out. They should probably have said something to warn at least the President, Vice and Secstate as soon as they were fairly sure there was something to it, but I find their denials fairly believable in light of what mouthpieces politicians are.

          The law enforcement officials about to get grilled could shut the whole tone of outrage down by going on the offensive themselves – you didn’t know because we didn’t tell you. We didn’t tell you because you are, as a group and as individuals, genetically incapable of keeping your mouths shut. You want examples? Just let me know when to stop.

          Interestingly, according to a demographic breakdown of the election sourced from exit polling, available also on the WaPo site, those who felt both positive and ambivalent about the economy broke strongly for Obama. It was only the group which felt the economy was in smoking ruins that went heavily Republican, and they probably figured they had nothing to lose. Perhaps also could not read, as the economy has been slowly improving under Obama, although it’s still not the Roaring Twenties sort of performance those people probably expected.

          • marknesop says:

            Here’s a juicy titbit from the New Yorker, which suggests that no laws were broken and that Petraeus would not likely have had to resign at all, were it not for an FBI whistleblower who took the story to the Republicans just before the elections, in the hope they could use it to turn the vote in their favor. I certainly hope he’s no longer employed by the FBI, since betraying the security of an investigation for political reasons is just about as far as you can get from non-partisan service to the nation.

            • yalensis says:

              Is highly likely that FBI did NOT inform Congress. In America, the executive branch has, in recent decades, assumed much more power than the congressional branch, and Congress is often treated like a doormat when it comes to foreign policy and national security considerations.
              What I find IMplausible is that Obama himself did not know about the investigation of Petraeus. Surely the FBI would have informed him of the investigation against his CIA director the moment it began? Hence, I don’t believe Obama when he says he knew nothing about this until after the election. If if WERE true, and if I were Obama, I would be furious that I had been kept in the dark by some rogue FBI director. No, that is simply not possible. Of course he knew about it. But obviously he couldn’t say anything about it to the public until the investigation had concluded and/or the election was over.
              Not surprised that Repubs blew the lid on this for political reasons. They’re the opposition now, and they’re bitter. They had hoped the Benghazi/Petraeus thing would be the big kahuna that would bring Obama down. It wasn’t enough to change the election, because the broader public hadn’t heard, or didn’t care. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to use it to impeach Obama in his second term.
              Along that theme, I saw in the news that Susan Rice will probably take Hillary’s post as Secretary of State. Hillary herself is going to spend the next 4 years running for President.

              • Hunter says:

                Well the Repubs are not really “in opposition” because of the way the American system of government works. Essentially they are in a state of “co-habitation” with the Dems in government (the term “co-habitation” would be even more accurate if America had operated a semi-presidential system like France and had a prime minister drawn from the majority in the House of Representatives). If (and maybe even when) they lose the 2014 House elections (unlikely due to gerrymandering) then they would really be in opposition. Not that I expect it to make much difference if they really did go into opposition since Obama squandered his first couple of years when the Dems had the the White House and majorities in the Senate and House.

              • marknesop says:

                Maybe, but I don’t think so. It seems reasonable to me that the FBI would merely pursue the case to its logical conclusion, and then announce internally that it was abandoning it as it had been satisfactorily established that no laws were broken. Why does Obama have to “know” all the personal ins and outs of all his people if they do not constitute illegal behavior? The only reason Petraeus resigned – at least according to this account – is because of the bizarre behavior of Cantor, re-informing the FBI Director of something he clearly already knew, just to make the point clear; “We Know”. He resigned because it became evident the Republicans were considering using it to brew a political scandal out of something that was essentially a private and personal failing. The possibility that he might be blackmailed through it was always remote – he would have resigned immediately, just as he did, and the idea he would give classified information to someone not cleared to receive it is foolish – everybody he talks to freely, such as someone writing a book about him who seeks his cooperation, as his indiscreet lover did – must be cleared in advance buy security services, and even then the need to know is a constant consideration – that’s the codicil the government and military considered using against the SEAL who wrote the “unauthorized” account of bin Laden’s death.

                Susan Rice certainly was the front-runner for the job, but we are led to believe her performance on the Benghazi raid knocked her down the ladder. We’ll see, but for my money she would be even worse than Clinton, as she is even more pugnacious and convinced of her essential rightness in everything. I doubt very much Clinton will run for President. All the things the Republicans planned to use against her are still there, she’ll be almost 10 years older than the last time, and the people have had plenty of opportunity to see how she would lead.

            • yalensis says:

              P.S. the New Yorker piece is pretty good and adds to the factual base, but I disagree with its final conclusion:

              A final question, at least from my standpoint, is whether Petraeus had to resign at all. It appears that Clapper, who like Petraeus is a military man, saw it as a no-brainer. Within the military, there are rules about adultery. But within civilian life, should there be? The line of the day on the morning talk shows in Washington seemed to be that Petraeus did the “honorable” thing, or “he had to resign.” The old saw that, if he wasn’t squeaky clean, he could be subject to blackmail by his enemies, thus endangering national security, was mentioned again and again. To me, the whole Victorian shame game seems seriously outdated. Something like half the marriages in the country now end in divorce, and you can bet a great many of those involved extra-marital affairs. Is it desirable to bar such a large number of public servants from top jobs? It certainly seems fair to question Petraeus’s judgment, ethics, and moral fibre in this matter. But if infidelity wasn’t treated as career-threatening, its value to black-mailers would be much reduced (the fear of a spouse is another matter). In this instance, evidently, there were no crimes. So why again did this blow up as it has? Fans of thrillers, like me, are waiting for more answers.

              I think this qualifies as “special pleading”, using the argument, “Hey, everybody cheats on their wife, what’s the big deal. No actual laws were broken.”
              It’s the technical defense, like the lawyer who gets his guilty client off on a technical loophole.
              The point is NOT that Petraeus committed adultery, most people couldn’t care less about that, the point is that he is the nation’s chief spy, who made himself vulnerable to blackmail by foreign powers. He used a cleartext email account to carry on his affair. Any foreign power worth their salt could have tapped into it and blackmailed him, thus gaining access to the Holy Grail of American intelligence! Can anybody imagine how, say, the Russian or Chinese governments would behave in an analogous situation? These spymasters are allowed to have their mistresses, they are just not allowed to broadcast their affairs over the internet.
              This whole “special pleading” thing, like in the New Yorker article, also reminds me of the special pleading done in the case of Bill Clinton. Liberals said things like, “Oh, they impeached Bill for getting a blow job.” Once again, it wasn’t about the blow job, it was about the fact that he (1) abused his power against an employee, and (2) lied about it under oath, which is a felony.

    • AK says:

      I call them Sovok Jews.

      Coming to the free world, former Soviet citizens reached the very flawed conclusion that democracy was something similar to their own system, except it was directed against communists.

      Yep, pretty much.

      Incidentally, many of them still seriously think that Russia is “communist”, as I found out when trolling a pro-Khodorkovsky group. They have no end of torn identity issues leading to political schizophrenia.

    • Misha says:

      In short, some quality options to the neocon-neolib and sheer anti-Russian leaning of perspectives are being shunned by the “corrupt” (if you may) selection process, evident within trans-Atlantic establishment circles.

  10. kirill says:

    “So it is not surprising that the Russians will be only too pleased by that. However, I see no reason for us to be pleased.”

    The mentality of the Baltic russophobes. Russia filled with gladness because some two bit statelet decided not to build a nuclear plant. Grow up, you prats!

  11. Robert says:

    I think it would be true of the Western punditocracy – certainly I feel it’s true of the chattering classes in London – that while few are from the ruling class as such, old or new, fewer still have any experience of being on the kicking-end of society in any real way. They’re nearly all from the profssional classes, nearly all will have expected to do well (and even those who did not, are doing well) and none of them really knows what it is like to be skint, or bullied at work, or fearful of one’s life because of being on the wrong side of ethnic divisions and living where that matters.

    Indiviually that doesn’t disqualify anybody from having an opinion, from being right or wise or good, and it would be crass to suggest otherwise. But it does tend to mean that in the mass, these people do tend to identify with the viewpoint of well-off people in centres of power, because even if they are not from there, they are not excluded from there in any meaningful sense.

    I learned this lesson at Oxford, which people misunderstand as an upper-class place where people outside a public-school elite are few, and victims of snobbery. Hardly at all, really – you can come from anywhere provided you’re preapred to play the game, and you’re most likely to come from the professional classes.

    For this reason, professional-class people are unsympathetic to what they see as whinging by the working class or the poor, because to them it does look like la carrière ouverte aux talents and so there is a basic sympathy not just for a certain sort of politics economics (friendly to rights but not to trade unionism) but to Washington, New York and London. Of course it’s normative to them, because there’s nothing stopping them being a part of it.

    I believe this is one reason why so many have got Russia so wrong. They have never taken on board the catastrophe Russia experienced in the Nineties and are more likely to emphathise with the liberals than the Russian working class who form Putin’s base.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      And another thing: apart from the fact that these members of the “Western punditocracy” have little experience of being on the “kicking end of society”, it often strikes me that they have never ever experience real violence. They go on and on about the system “cracking down” and the “brutality” of a “brutal regime” and few of them have ever witnessed or experienced real violence.

      In my other life, I remember after I’d been promoted, as it were, and put in charge of a team of men, my boss giving me my tasks for my first shift as a chargehand: he concluded by saying: “And if they don’t do as tha tells ’em, fucking hit ’em – tha’rt big enough!”

      And he meant what he said, as he certainly practiced what he preached.

      I mentioned this unfamiliiarity that these professional classes have as regards violence a while back, as did Alexander Mercouris. They like to talk about arrested protesters “being beaten to a pulp” by Russian cops and they don’t know what they’re talking about; it’s just a hackneyed phrase they like to use.

      Another one they love to use and which really gets up my nose is: “My thoughts and prayers are with you”.

      • marknesop says:

        Very well said, Robert.

      • Dear Robert and Moscow Exile,

        I completely agree with what both of you say. I have already discussed the bizarre way in which people like Mark Adomanis in Forbes and Rupert Cornwell in the Independent seem completely oblivious to the fact that what Pussy Riot did would be a crime in their own countries. I think I also mentioned the extraordinary internet debate I had on Mark Sleboda’s Facebook page with Charles Clover, the Financial Times’s Moscow correspondent, following the May 6th Bolotnaya riot in which I tried to educate him on the sort of things (such as “kettling”) the riot police regularly get up to in Britain of which there has so far been no sign in Moscow. As a veteran of the 1984 miners’ strike Moscow Exile needs no educating about this. I would add that British law treats offences like riot of the sort we saw on Bolotnaya on May 6th extremely seriously and sentences for such offences tend to be very severe and can involve long prison sentences.

        As for economic questions I remember a forceful memorandum I wrote about a dozen years ago when I was working at the Royal Courts of Justice in response to a report from the District Judges’ Association in which I took strong issue with their view that the reason people get into debt is because of their extravagance and inability to manage their money properly. I found myself obliged to explain patiently and at great length using all the statistical evidence available that by far the most common reason why people in Britain get into debt is not because they are extravagant or feckless but because they are poor and are forced to borrow to make ends meet. Touching on a point Robert made what was bizarre about that episode is that I had far less trouble convincing the wealthy patrician aristocrats of the High Court judiciary of this fact than I did with the middle class District Judges.

        • Robert says:

          Very interesting Alex. I’ve noticed that it’s the right wing of the middle class who are most hostile to welfare and to the poor. I feel that there are two walls in society. Just as the uppermost echelon has no idea about what goes on below them, so does the great obsessively-washed middle have no clue about what goes on below THEM. In our society “Let them eat cake” is not uttered by a fictionalized member of “The 1%.” Rather, it is uttered on a daily basis by the middle class about the bottom 10-20% or so, often in the form of “Get a job!” or “Go back where you came from!” (that latter to ones what have managed to find one of the jobs that the Great Middle would never stoop to doing anyway). The attitudes you describe about debt from the DJs are as likely to be held by a suburban householder with a 5-figure income than by an elite neo-aristocrat with a 7-figure income.

          This divide was evident in the Occupy encampments last year, when the problems in the camps were often publicly attributed to those icky homeless people and dirty barefoot hippies, not to the “real” occupiers. I guess the 99% somehow is defined to exclude the bottom 10%…

          As for Pussy Riot I feel that their sentence was much too harsh but yes given some of the sentences handed down for public order offences in the UK we have no business lecturing the Russians. I also feel that the PR campaign on their behalf by Western celebrities and pop musicians probably did them nothing but harm. Madonna having the arrogance to get involved most likely doubled their sentence.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            It has often been pointed out that in the UK the working classes and the aristocrats (yer real toffs) have more in common than would at first sight appear to be the case, especially as regards their interests and activities: they both like blood sports and fishing (going ratting and catching perch and pike was one of my major boyhood summmer activities: aristocrats often hunt bigger beasts and go for salmon and trout) and dogs (little terriers and whippets for the hoi-poloi and more nobler hunting dogs for the Lords) and horses – thoroughbreds, that is, on which you place bets, albeit that the toffs own the horses as well. Oh yes! And shagging around – much too vulgar an activity for the sedate and upwardly aspiring middle-classes, one has to think of one’s reputation after all, doesn’t one?

            Those miserable ever-so-good and morally smug bourgeoise are the real “enemy within”: they are shit-scared of becoming impoverished and always yearn to be richer and richer.


          • yalensis says:

            Dear Robert: Very good points.
            Unlike Madonna, Jennifer Lopez refused to get involved in the Pussy case when pressured to. As a result, she maintains good relations with Russia, and was rewarded with a kiss and a doll from hunky Dima Bilan:


      • yalensis says:

        Dear MoscowExile: I am sorry you had to suffer so much in the bloody coal mines.
        My thoughts and prayers are with you.


  12. Robert says:

    As far as the Russian liberals are concerned I said this on Anatoly Karlin’s blog a while back and I think it’s worth repeating. They strike me as similar to the UK Orange Book liberals, progressive in some ways, more educated (often far more so) and more enlightened on some issues than many of their countrymen, but at the same time completely unable to understand:

    a. that they have their own snobberies and prejudices ;

    b. that they are where they are as a result of social advantage just as much as ability ;

    c. that the economics they propound favour (and are seen as favouring) them, not everybody ;

    d. that there is a huge link between social division and prejudice, which their economics foster rather than ameliorate ;

    e. that if you weaken labour organsiation and socialist politics, it’s not liberalism which fills the gap ;

    f. that if progressive social ideas are linked to fuck-you economics, and are seen as being propounded by a superior elite, then you are asking for what you get, which is an alliance between the resentful proletariat and the cynical wealthy.

    That they can’t grasp any of these points is precisely because of their monumental self-regard and sense of superiority.

    • kirill says:

      Russian (neo)liberals are fascists. The prattle about democracy is nothing but a smokescreen. Seriously, they view Khodorkovsky as some sort of saint and that is Randism right there. As long as their dear oligarchs run the show they are happy and that is as far as they will go with democracy. When there is actual democracy and the vast majority of Russians who are not liberasts support non-oligarch forces then they howl with indignation and scorn. This mentality is simply not democratic at all, it is goosestepping authoritarian. They want to dictate to the majority how to live and what to think.

  13. Moscow Exile says:

    “I think Georgia has suffered a catastrophe comparable to the one that befell Germany with the election of Adolf Hitler and Chile with the election of Salvador Allende.”

    Latynina in today’s Moscow Times on Ivanishvilli’s election as Georgian president.


    Another case where a member of the chattering classes, one of the self-appointed bourgeoise elite, shows profound ignorance. Is Latynina really aware of what befell Germany, to say nothing of the rest of Europe and the world, as a result of Hitler’s election as chancellor?

    • kirill says:

      What is obscene is that this retard has a paid job to spread her nonsense to the world. There are thousands of others would would do the job properly and they don’t get such a chance.

      Just because someone has an opinion does not grant them the automatic right to have it published and spread by the media. That is a privilege that requires much higher standards than this degenerate has to meet.

    • marknesop says:

      Ivanishvili; “I think journalism has suffered a catastrophe comparable to the one that befell the Washington Post – when its reporter, Janet Cooke, bullshitted her way to a Pulitzer for a story that turned out to be completely fabricated – with the decision of Yulia Latynina to be a reporter.”

      Yulia is a one-trick pony, and hysterical hyperbole is all she knows. When you think about it, she really isn’t much of a writer.

    • AK says:

      I’d take Chavez over Pinochet (Latynina’s hero).

    • AK says:

      I just read that article. Wow that is deranged even by Yulia’s standards.

      • marknesop says:

        Well, in fairness to her, she is out of her mind with grief. She did have quite a thing for Saakashvili. You can expect her to be a little unhinged at having the snorting Georgian charger of democracy from her private fantasies (I heard from a semi-reliable source that her vibrator is named “Mikey Likey”) replaced by a somewhat wizened eccentric – even if he is a billionaire – who made his fortune in Russia.

    • yalensis says:

      The good news is that Bacho Akhalaia was arrested in the middle of the night “in the best Stalinist tradition”, according to Crazy-Head. Wasn’t Akhalaia the guy who imprisoned dozens of Gruzian oppositionists and then had them raped with broomsticks? My respect for Ivanishvili increases with every day. Seems like he really is determined to clean house.

      • kirill says:

        Real human rights abuse is perfectly acceptable if it is by your political side. And when they come to arrest your idols for these crimes you scream that it is oppression. This is the story with Khodorkovsky and even Timoshenko. The trail of bodies they left in their wake are not even worthy of discussion, we are all supposed to just have our hearts bleed for such guiding lights of humanity.

        I think it is time for the Moscow Times to be sued into closure.

  14. Moscow Exile says:

    Can someone not sue this odious woman for libel and defamation of character? How long can MT go on publishing without let or hindrance the manic and malicious ramblings of this clearly unbalanced woman?

    If I were the multi-millionaire president-elect of Georgia, I would hit her hard – in the courts – for daring to state that I was a latter-day Hitler and that my entry into office would ensure that same lot for my country that Germany had suffered as the result of it becoming a one-party totalitarian police-state under the leadership of Hitler, namely total destruction on a scale never known before in the history of mankind, to say nothing of the unspeakable horrors and degeneracy that were part and parcel of Hitler’s Nazi regime.

    Other politicians have sued newspapers and journalists for much less of an affront to their character. When the British Mail on Sunday ran a story on the soon to be married but also already thrice-married German Chancellor’s latest divorce and of his philaderings with numerous mistresses, the irate chancellor had a German court issue an injunction against MoS not to publish. It would not be so hard to imagine what would have been the German government and Chancellor Schröder’s reactions if the Mail had likened the former Chancellor to Hitler.


    Latynina gets away with too much. She writes utter shite and nary a word is said against her crazed ramblings. At the beginning of this year she said that on winning the presidential election, the first thing that Putin would do was to order the invasion of Georgia. It didn’t happpen, of course, and not a murmor of criticism was made against her. Now, no invasion having taken place, she says that Ivanishvilli is a political monster on a par with Hitler.

    Why is she allowed to get away with this? Why is she not exposed as what she really is: a shrill who clearly feels confident that she can say what she wants about anything or anyone, no matter how untrue it may be, as long as what she writes falls into place with Washington’s policy of denigrating its real or imagined enemies.

    And all this in a country where there is neither a free press nor freedom of expression as well!

    • kirill says:

      I agree completely. This deranged moron should be chased out of her job with libel and defamation suits. I can’t find a “reporter” like her in the anglosphere so clearly there are standards which are enforced. Russia needs standards and not pandering to lunatics.

      • marknesop says:

        True, but Latynina is on the liberal side, and there can be little doubt that her snapping and drooling are not an endorsement for liberalism or else Boris Nemtsov would be wailing “Leave Yulia Aloooonnnne!!!” on American TV. There’s mostly just an uncomfortable silence from the liberals on the subject of the Medal of Freedom honoree. In fact, if I worked for the Russian press, I’d be hyping that all over town – Yulia Latynina, decorated celebrity of the U.S. government, taking on Ivanishvili in a smear campaign when even Saakashvili admits he is the legitimately-elected leader of Georgia.

        A lunatic in the press is only a liability if she works for you and defends your viewpoint, because it merely makes it appear that everyone who holds the same viewpoint is just as crazy. I think they should pay her more, perhaps give her a promotion. Senior Editor In Charge Of Locating And Rooting Out Hitler Zombies might do, but it’s just off the top of my head and I haven’t had time to give it much thought.

    • marknesop says:

      I think you’ll find that unless she makes a specific charge – that Ivanishvili is like Hitler, and he even dresses up in jackboots and a Waffen SS uniform when he addresses the public, for example – there is very little that can be done. Her defense will be that he seems to her like Hitler, that it is an impression, and surely we are still free to form impressions, aren’t we? Impressions do not have to be backed up with facts. However, Ivanishvili could engage her in the press, call her a crazy harridan – which she is – and challenge her to provide specific examples of how he is “like Hitler”. He could then refute them all one by one, steadily mocking her derangement the whole time, and perhaps he should. Alternatively, he could buy the paper and then fire her. But then she’d only be taken on, fifty times as vituperative, by Novaya Gazeta or the even nuttier New Times of Yevgenia Albats.

      Her over-the-top craziness mostly just makes her an object of amusement these days, and while people used to be offended by her odious comparisons they are now more likely to pity her and be a little annoyed at the paper for continuing to make money – somehow, I’m sure, although the paper is mostly a giveaway – from the ramblings of the insane.

      Besides, the Hitler schtick has been done to death.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Thing is though, Latynina not only scribbles away for the inconsequential Moscow Times: she pours out her condescending bile in a regular slot on Radio Ekho Moskvy, where she pontificates to her more than willing acolytes and has, judging by the lugubrious praise she receives from commentators to that station’s site, a sizeable following.


        An extract from the above linked ramblings of Latynina:

        Смотрим, что происходит после того, как победила партия Иванишвили. Там, пункт первый, заявление Иванишвили «Я буду править Грузией из собственного дворца». Нормально. Удивительно, что те люди, которые нам рассказывали, что Саакашвили плохой, что он диктатор, что он там тратит много денег… Да? Вот, «Я буду править из собственного дворца». Пункт второй. Начинают избирательные участки брать приступом, потому что на некоторых избирательных участках не те результаты, которые нужны Иванишвили…

        ….Дай бог, если я ошибаюсь. Дай бог, если грузинский народ через год или сколько там прозреет. Я сильно подозреваю, что тот тип избирателя, который сейчас считает, что Иванишвили должен снизить бензин на 30% и который рад, что Иванишвили будет управлять Грузией из собственного дворца, вот этот тип избирателя, когда бензин на 30% не снизится или снизится и пропадет, скажет «Да это враги» и снова проголосует за Иванишвили.

        [Look at what took place after the victory of Ivanishvili’s party. The first thing that happened was a statement saying: “I shall govern Georgia from my palace”. Well OK then- but what is strange is that there were people who were telling us that Saakashvili was, like, bad – a dictator – and that he had squandered lots of money – yeah? And lo and behold: “I shall govern from my palace”. Second point: they’ve started giving false voting results because at some polling stations the results have not been what Ivanishvili needs…

        …God grant I’m mistaken. God grant that a year or whatever from now the Georgian people will have wised up. I strongly suspect, however, that the type of voter who now believes that Ivanishvili should reduce the price of petrol by 30% is pleased that Ivanishvili will govern Georgia from his own Palace and is the type of voter, who, when the price of petrol isn’t reduced by 30%, or is lowered and then vanishes, will say “Yes, this is the work of our enemies” and will again vote for Ivanishvili.]

        Note how contemptuous she is of the mob – the simple, dumb folk that vote for somebody whom she does not like. How unfortunate they all are that they are not as intellectually gifted as she.

        And here is her column in “The Weekly Journal”

        And there are other publications that pay her to write out her dross. She’s a well paid head-case, that’s for sure.

        Here are several clips of her courtesy of Yandex:

        Definitely certifiable!

        • Leos Tomicek says:

          I have a relative who had Ekho on in the car with her speaking. I must say that she is nuts, but her show is entertaining nevertheless. I guess that’s why she has a following.

        • marknesop says:

          See, there’s a perfect example. Is Ivanishvili asleep, or something? Ivanishvili’s “palace” is his private home, which presumably he has already paid for. First, Latynina’s statement should be sourced. I am positive Ivanishvili did not atually say, “I will govern from my palace”. Therefore, let’s get it out front what he actually did say. Maybe the entire quote – and it is framed as a quote – is fabricated. But I wouldn’t stop there – plenty of documentation exists on how much it cost the people of Georgia to have Saakashvili, a wealthy man in his own right, represent them as their leader. I would be dragging that out chapter and verse, and saying, “Is it Ms. Latynina’s recommendation that, rather than ruling from my “palace”, my personal residence in which I will continue to live regardless and which costs the citizens of Georgia nothing, I should engage state quarters appropriate to my political status, at taxpayers’ expense? Truly, Georgia is fortunate that Ms. Latynina is not in any way a part of its political system”.

          She should also be invited to discuss her accusations of vote-rigging in more detail. Of course she cannot be made to reveal her sources, but the charge coud be answered nonetheless, and that would provide a good excuse to drag out the OSCE Report from the last election, which explored Saakashvili’s purchases of votes using state funds in some detail. All of this would put so much pressure on Saakashvili, who is already struggling to remain relevant, that I’d be surprised if he did not contact Latynina personally and advise her to shut it.

          • Ivanishvili’s palace is a complete red herring. He built and paid for it himself. Saakashvili also lives in a palace (one Ivanishvili is trying to drive him out of). That unnecessary and extravagant folly was built with public money, which could and should have been used for other more worthy things. I am told that it is commonly referred to in Tbilisi as “Caligula’s palace”.

            For the rest as is always the case with Latynina I get the feeling that she is simply making a lot of things up. I find it difficult to believefor example that there really are many people in Georgia who seriously believe that Ivanishvili will reduce petrol prices by 30% or that Ivanishvili ever promised to do such a thing. As for Latynina’s suggestion that beating people is acceptable for insulting the uniform and that that is all Bacho Akhalaia is accused of she must know that that is simply not true.

            For the rest, I once knew some Chileans. They would have been outraged at having Allende bracketed with Hitler. As for Moscow Exile’s suggestion that Ivanishvili sue Latynina in defamation, such a case would presumably have to be brought in Russia where Latynina writes and gets published and the trouble is as we have often said that Russia has no properly functioning defamation law. Also I have to say that deranged though her comments about Ivanishvili are I doubt they are properly speaking defamatory. I suspect that she would have a defence on the grounds that they are political commentary. Having said this with someone like Latynina it is surely only a matter of time before she crosses the boundary and does say something about Ivanishvili which is defamatory. When that happens it’s a shame that for practical reasons it is unlikely it will be possible to bring a defamation claim against her in Britain. The sight of Latynina being cross examined on her views and beliefs by a British Counsel in a British Court would be an extraordinary one.

            • Moscow Exile says:

              “The sight of Latynina being cross examined on her views and beliefs by a British Counsel in a British Court would be an extraordinary one.”

              Dear Alexander Mercouris,
              As regards the extraordinary nature of a possible cross-examination of Latynina in a British court, it would be no less extraordinary than the one undertaken by Berezovsky a few months ago in the Royal Courts of Justice, London.

              During the Berezovsky vs. Abramovich case, Berezovsky explained, rather smugly in my opinion, to the court how he had amassed a fortune largely as a result of his enabling Yeltsin remain in power. In short, he described the infamous scam, and the essential role of крышка (kryshka) therein, that he and other “oligarchs” organised in order to asset strip the Russian state under the guise of their being defenders of democracy. He did this without any shame whatsoever in order to display to the court how intellectually superior to Abramovich he was, maintaining that his opponent’s only talent as regards his amassment of fabulous wealth was his personal charm, whereas he, Berezovsky, was a “mover and shaker” in the Russia of the ’90s, a person of far greater intellectual might than his bumpkin opponent Abramovich.

              After he had stopped crowing in court about the great service he had done in defending the fledgling democracy of Yeltsin’s Russia (and in increasing his bank balance as well), Justice Gloster asked him if he did not feel that those political/financial actions of his, and especially that of “kryshka”, that he had so glowingly described were somehow questionable (I cannot recall Justice Gloster’s exact words, but I think she asked him if he did not think that what he had done had been wrong), to which enquiry Berezovsky seemed genuinely quite surprised and replied that he saw nothing at all wrong in what he had done whilst a member of Yeltsin’s “inner circle” of advisors. (Twelve years previously in the Washington Post, Berezovsky had already proclaimed the right of “oligarchs” to meddle in the nation’s politics, arguing that in the absence of civil society “it is acceptable – indeed, necessary [for the rich]- to interfere directly in the political process in order to “protect democracy”. See:

              Many years ago a Russian acquaintance of mine who had known Berezovsky well whilst he was in academia told me that the man had no morals. I recalled this comment made about Berezovsky’s absence of morality when reading reports of his contest with Abramovich and Judge Gloster’s summary of the case. Were Latynina to stand trial in London and undergo a cross-examination, I think that she too would display the same amazing degree of smugness and immorality that Berezovsky displayed in the Royal Courts of Justice.

              It seems to me that Latynina just cannot imagine how conceitedly smug she appears when castigating all that do not agree with her as being some kind of social retards and having a restricted intellect, whilst at the same time praising the policies of those such as Pinochet. Latynina is a classic example of a person that believes that the ends always justify the means. The “end” in her case being, I believe, a fantasy land, a “free society” that she believes exists elsewhere and, in its most developed stage, in the USA, but not in Russia.

          • yalensis says:

            Yeah, I think I actually know the issue, because I read about it last week. The issue is that Ivanishvili, upon coming to power, discovered that the Gruzian government is almost bankrupt. A lot of it due to Saakashvili’s corruption and looting of the treasury. Ivanishvili wants to save $$$ by tossing Saak out of his lavish taxpayer-funded multiple palaces. He himself (Ivanishvili) plans to save the taxpayers even more $$$ by not moving into the government house that is his due. Hence his pledge to rule the country out of his own private residence. He probably said “residence” not “palace”, but I can’t be sure, because unfortunately I don’t read the Gruzian language.

        • Misha says:

          Then there’s the oppulent Putin bit from a venue that is more Western mass media influenced than what some seem to believe.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            As regards head-of-state opulence, no Western media howls of outrage about this:


            Steam room? Check. Concert hall? Check. Garage for Rolls? Check.

            Imagine the perfect flying experience – no queues, a reclining seat.. Add four-poster beds, a Turkish bath for four and somewhere to put the Rolls-Royce – not to mention a boardroom with holographic screens and a concert hall…

            A superjumbo designed to order for a Middle Eastern Prince…

            When completed, the converted Airbus A380 will be the world’s largest private jet.
            Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud spent $485 million on the custom Airbus A380, with interior and amenities designed by British firm Design.

            The plane usually seats 600, but lots of room had to be cleared for various perks.
            Naturally, there’s an on-board garage, so that the prince can be driven right to the threshold of the airplane’s elevator.

            After arrival, he can retire to his master suite–one of five with king-size beds, and computer generated prayer mats which always face Mecca , up to 20 extra-guests have to make do in sleepers that are the equivalent of first class.

            Not to forget there’s also a concert hall that seats ten and has a baby grand piano; a boardroom with a holographic projector; and a full-size steam room

            But The most entertaining perk is a “Wellbeing Room” which has a floor upon which is projected an enormous image of what the plane is flying over–thus creating a “magic carpet” effect.

            • Misha says:

              Pardon my misspell of opulent.

              Among numerous world leaders, I take it that Putin is by no means living in opulence.

              Relative to the linked RT column, are Russians en masse noticeably outraged at how Putin lives?

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Not president-elect, but prime minister!

      Too little sleep and getting my wires crossed with Obama.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        The above comment should have been below my comment as regards why Ivanishvili does not sue Latynina.

        • yalensis says:

          Here is Ivanishvili’s wikipedia page. Apparently he made his fortune primarily in metals and banking. Some of his financial deals sound sort of like Mitt Romney (=harvesting dead companies, etc.). But he got started in real-world business, import-export, trade with Russia, etc. The guy is obviously very smart: he was born a poor peasant in a small village, and went on to get a PhD inEconomics from Moscow State University.
          Everybody who knows Russian academia at the time knows that only the best of the best got accepted into MGU. Especially for somebody like him, with no connections.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            In my opinion Ivanishvili is as straight as they come as regards business men go in the post-Soviet business world: he is certainly not a criminal of the same order as is Berezovsky and Khodorkovsky are. There is also no denying his business nous and intellect.

            Saakashvili, on the other hand, though not stupid, comes from a priviliged background, his parents belonging to the professional Georgian intelligentsia. Saakasshvili graduated from Kiev university before being granted an internship with a New York law firm. His positioining in society was, I am certain, thanks to his knowing the right people – more exactly, his parents’ knowing the right people; his internship in the USA was thanks to Washington’s decision to have him groomed as one of their people in Tbilisi; his entry into Georgian politics was also, I am sure, the result of his knowing the right people.

            Of course, certain features of Saakashvili’s career path are not uncommon in many other countries as well; the British prime minister, for example, went to the right schools and the right institues of higher education because he (more exactly, his father) knew the right people and had plenty of money. In fact, the Right Honourable David Cameron PM has never really done an honest day’s work in his life: he was granted an internship in a far eastern British trading company as his father was “someone in the city” and, after spending a few months as a highly educated dog’s body in some Hong Kong office, after having returned to the UK, the present British PM was then invited to join the Conservative party, where he was groomed for a ministerial post. Cameron, by the way, is a distant cousin to the British head of state, who got her job because her dad had it before her – as had his dad before him etc.

            Ivanishvilli was born a peasant’s son in a poor village. He really is a local boy who has done well and I should think that he is more in tune with the wishes of the broad masses of his fellow citizens than Saakashvili is. Furtheremore, Ivanishvili doesn’t seeem to have any curious idiosyncracies such as Saakashvili has – like tie chewing, for example.

          • marknesop says:

            I read an interview with him, prior to the Georgian vote, in which he said he made his first real money selling computers. He and presumably a partner or two would buy computers in the west or Japan and sell them at tremendous mark-ups in Russia, because there was no domestic computer industry and Russia lagged the west considerably in getting on board the computer bandwagon – that notwithstanding, they could sell as many as they could import, at premium prices. There was, however, considerable risk to hear him tell it, as the business consisted of a couple of them in a truck, criss-crossing the country with a bunch of computers and money – an attractive target for robbery. For whatever reason, it never happened, and as soon as he had a stake, he moved into safer financial ventures.

            It would be a mistake to attribute any qualities of romantic altruism to him, and I’m sure in his own way he is as ruthless as Saakashvili and as hungry for power, the ultimate aphrodisiac. I certainly hope so, because at least he already has money and does not need to plunder Georgia in an orgy of self-gratification, while a simple good-hearted patsy would be eaten alive by what remains of Saakashvili’s government, not to mention Saakashvili himself, who must toy with fantasies like, “Look here, Bidzina, from the edge of the roof – you can see forever!!”

            • Dear Yalensis and Moscow Exile,

              I think your assessments of Ivanishvili are basically correct but let us not be too starry eyed about him. Nobody made money of the sort he made in Russia in the 1990s without being a pretty tough and ruthless character. The point is one doesn’t have to like Ivanishvili or even think well of him to see him as a vast improvement on Saakashvili. Despite his bizarre house he does not seem to suffer from Saakashvili’s political megalomania and as someone who made his fortune in Russia and who obtained his degree from MGU he knows Russia well, which Saakashvili conspicuously doesn’t. For the same reason it is simply impossible that he has the sort of anti Russian complexes that Saakashvili has. Also as a successful businessman he surely has a better understanding of Georgia’s economic realities than Saakashvili does. Lastly the fact that he was born to a rural family probably means that he has a better instinctive understanding of conditions in the Georgian countryside than does Saakashvili, who came from an elite family.

              • Dear Yalensis,

                On checking I notice that Ivanishvil’s father was a factory worker rather than a peasant. Also it seems that he did not obtain his Ph.d (presumably actually his Candidate of Sciences degree) from MGU but from MIIT (the Moscow Communications University), which is of course a less prestigious university than MGU. As I understand it MIIT mainly trains people to work on the railways so presumably Ivanishvili’s degree was concerned with railway management. The Soviet railway system was a gigantic and massively important organisation, which at that time accounted for more than 50% of the world’s railway traffic so Ivanishvili’s degree from MIIT was probably a pretty good business administration degree.

                Anyway your essential point still holds. Ivanishvili does not come from a privileged family even if his background is working class rather than peasant whilst he was obviously clever enough and ambitious enough to study and obtain a postgraduate degree at an institute in Moscow where the entry requirements and the quality of teaching must have been far higher than anything that existed at that time in Georgia.

                • yalensis says:

                  Dear Alexander: Thank you for corrections. I apologize for my factual mistakes, I must have misread the piece (or maybe read too quickly, in my haste!)

              • marknesop says:

                I see we are on the same page on this issue – there is no need to romanticize Ivanishvili into some latter-day Robin Hoodvili to be generally very pleased at his election over the toad Saakashvili. And if it turns out he does have a ruthless streak, by God he’s going to need it, as the Anglosphere clearly would have preferred a renewed Saakashvili mandate by whatever means he managed to stay in power.

                Georgia is going to need perhaps even more foreign investment to pull itself out of the hole Sakkashvili put it in, the outlines of which are only now beginning to be discerned.

            • yalensis says:

              Dear Mark: The power struggle between Ivanishvili and Saak has begun already. I read yesterday that Gruzia’s top foreign diplomats and consular staff abroad are already taking sides. Some of them refused to welcome Ivanishvili at the airport when he arrived in Brussels. La lutte commence…

              • marknesop says:

                I would take steps to have them quietly fired, never to hold a Georgian diplomatic post again. If they were Saakashvili fans they were probably dirty anyway, but more importantly, they cannot just pick and choose whom they are going to follow – Ivanishvili is the people of Georgia’s choice. Having a government job means you do what the government tells you to do, and a change in government does not remove that obligation. It’s an imperfect system and often leads to wasteful practices like the cancellation of defense contracts signed by the previous government – after significant funds have already been spent – but it’s the system we have.

                • yalensis says:

                  Nino Burjanadze wants Saakashvili investigated, jailed, and his ass nailed to the wall:


                  Recall that Nino’s husband, General Badro Bitsadze, who used to be a deputy minister of internal affairs, is still in hiding somewhere in Western Europe, because Saak was going to have him thrown in jail and probably tortured, or even killed. According to Nino, Badro wants to come home, but he has to wait until the situation with political prisoners stabilizes.

  15. cartman says:

    Does anyone know what happened to the Atlantic? When did their section on Global affairs turn into reprints of RFE/RL? The articles there used to be their own, but now it has been taken over by the government (and I refuse to see RFE/RL as anything other than a government mouthpiece).

    • Misha says:

      The quibble being that they’re not directly under the US government unlike VOA.

      The latter used to have a reputation counter to James Brooke.

      VOA served as an example of how a government affiliated media organ could put out better material than one with not as strong a government tie.

  16. Misha says:

    In terms of shortcomings, Western mass media alone isn’t responsible for what has been evident:

    A non-chauvinistically inspired patriotism serves to better educate a people on how to best address the biases against them and their country – something that a good number of folks don’t seem to grasp.

    No small wonder why the coverage of Russia continues to lack among the high profile venues.

  17. yalensis says:

    In American news 700,000 Americans want to secede from the United States of America:

    Secession sentiment is especially strong in Texas. However, secession would not be a cakewalk. I did a bit of legal research and discovered that unlike in Soviet Union, where technically Republics had a right to secede, in America, on the other hand, there actually is NO legal right to secession written into the Constitution.
    No less a legal scholar than Antonin Scalia, has said there is no right to secede. Maybe there was such a right initially, but then that question was decided once and for all by Civil War:
    “If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede. (Hence, in the Pledge of Allegiance, “one Nation, indivisible.”) …”

    I suppose there might be room for a second legal opinion, namely that Civil War was primarily about slavery, and not about secession. Either way, if Texas tries to go, it would no doubt result in another civil war.

    • marknesop says:

      Just another stupid publicity stunt, much like the vaunted establishment of the Tea Party immediately upon Obama’s election to his first term, and probably by quite a few of the same people. Texas is not going anywhere. Give the rebels Houston, and then uncouple it from the power grid for a couple of days; they’ll be eating each other. America’s glorification of the self-indulgent fits right in with its fascination for celebrities and everything they do and say. Perhaps the leader of The Republic of Freedom and Liberty, One Tiny Nation Under Republicans can be Kim Kardashian.

      If Russia had any feel for irony, Moscow would announce the Texans are freedom-loving activists willing to put their lives on the line for human rights and dignity of the individual, not to mention the right to choose one’s own destiny, that Russia recognizes them as the legitimate government of the United States of America, and that it will straightaway begin airdropping weapons to them through Ukrainian intermediaries, help set up a government in exile in Canada and put forward resolutions in the UNSC that call for a no-fly zone and humanitarian corridors. Now, that’d be funny.

    • Hunter says:

      Well if I’m not mistaken the reasoning behind the idea of their being no right to secede is that the Constitution (went into effect in 1789) itself is the successor to the Articles of Confederation (drafted in 1777 and went into effect in 1781). That original document maintained that the Union was “perpetual” and since it didn’t allow for secession, the only logical conclusion is that secession was not allowed. And the preamble of the US Constitution states that the intention is to form a more perfect Union, obviously building on the structure which existed before.

      • yalensis says:

        Dear Hunter: Yes, it seems there really is no legal basis for secession of a state from USA. Scalia’s citing of the “Pledge of Allegiance” is ridiculous, since that is just a chant for schoolchildren and has no legal basis. On the other hand, all the other documents clearly do prove the point, as you note.
        Texas claims to be a special case, because of their unique history. But even if they had a referendum I don’t think that the secessionists could garner more than (I am pulling a number from my head) about 20% of the vote. Also, there are tons of Latinos in Texas, and they would NOT vote for secession. They would probably freak out if they were left to the mercy of the local tea-baggers.

        • Hunter says:

          Well Texas v. White in 1869 did establish a legal basis for secession – but the secession cannot be unilateral. It would have to be done in the context of agreement with the other states (i.e. a constitutional amendment) or revolution (in which case the constitution becomes meaningless).

          The citing of the pledge of allegiance is ridiculous in a number of ways. First it has no legal basis and secondly it was composed only in 1892. How Scalia could cite something that was extra-legal (at least until 1942) and composed over 100 years after the constitution was made and even 20+ years after the civil war was fought as a basis for their being no right to secession is beyond me.

        • Misha says:

          Be interested to see any polling on such.

          In Quebec, secessionist talk among some French Canadians had led an element of the Indian population there to suggest that they’d not welcome being part of a Quebec separated from Canada.

          I’m sure there’s a degree of a Mexican-American sentiment in Texas hoping for that state to be part of Mexico – a view that likely gets deflated for socioeconomic reasons.

          • marknesop says:

            “In Quebec, secessionist talk among some French Canadians had led an element of the Indian population there to suggest that they’d not welcome being part of a Quebec separated from Canada.”

            As well they might – Separatist hardliner Jacques Parizeau directly blamed them for the failure – by a narrow margin indeed, it was what they call “a squeaker” – of the 1995 Quebec referendum on sovereignty. We never had to confront what the country would have done had the vote gone the other way, and a majority voted Parizeau’s way, but I don’t think it would have been permitted. Let me say that I like the Quebecois, and am of the opinion that we would be a much poorer country without Quebec and its vibrant culture, but I don’t think in the end they would have been allowed to go. Once France expressed an interest in supporting them – that interfering old prick De Gaulle very nearly started a revolution in 1967 with his encouragement of separatism and his “Vive le Quebec Libre” (long live a free Quebec). But more recent separatist overtures have been for “sovereignty association”, whereby Quebec would be a sovereign republic which exercised a great deal of control over its own destiny (read “would exercise rigid control over the language law and immigration”) but would continue to maintain federal links such as Canada Post and the Canadian currency. That’s not separate enough for the hardliners – who already have signs on the major highway entry points to Quebec City which read “Welcome to the Nation’s Capital”, or at least they had the last time I was there – and there’s not much heart for it among other groups.

            • Misha says:

              Quebec City comes across as being to Quebec separatism kind of like what Lviv has been associated with vis-a-vis Ukrainian nationalism.

              I remember that in violation of NHL protocol, Nordiques home games had French only public address system announcements. Likewise, it was 100% French language when the Canadian anthem was initiated by the singer before the start of each game. In contrast, Montreal Canadiens (French spelling) home games have bilingual public address and Canadian national anthem singing.

              • marknesop says:

                Quebec City is the very heart of French culture in Canada, and is very old. But it also relies heavily on tourism, and you will find no shortage of people who will speak English if you need them to when you are there as a tourist. Which I highly recommend, as the city is breathtakingly beautiful and very European-looking in the old quarter. Quebec also boasts healthy tourist draws in the winter, despite it being as cold as the proverbial witch’s tit, thanks to the genius of the spectacular Carnavale de Quebec, and the warmth and appetite for fun of the Quebecois.

  18. Moscow Exile says:

    Yee haw! The South shall rise agin!

    Son, go fetch me great grandpa’s old musket!

    And the war between the states was not about slavery! It was about state’s rights.

    Sure, a state’s right to legalize slavery or not, but no goddamn Boston Yankee ain’t gonna tell me what property ah kin or can’t have.


    • You are absolutely right, there is no right of secession in the US and the defeat of the South in the Civil War conclusively established that secession is illegal. It was because the North said the secession of the South was illegal that the North called the South “rebels”. The North’s doctrine, which by virtue of the North’s victory is the law of the US, was set out by Daniel Webster: “Liberty and Union, one and inseparable, now and forever”.

      Needless to say and as the examples of the USSR, Yugoslavia etc conspicuously shows it is one US doctrine, which is not for export. On the contrary the US considers itself entirely free to support secessionist movements everywhere and anywhere provided they are aimed at governments it disapproves of.

      • marknesop says:

        I read an article on this silliness this morning, in the Washington Monthly, in which a commenter expressed her astonishment that Texas had not gone already.

        According to her, it was part of the prize in the 2010 World Series. If the Texas Rangers won, Texas would be allowed to secede. If the San Francisco Giants won (as they did), Texas must secede. Yet another commenter admitted to an abiding curiousity regarding what a country with Jim De Mint as President and Lindsay Graham as First Lady might look like. Although that last shot was vaguely homophobic and in general I disapprove of homophobia, I found it hard to be outraged through a mist of laughter-tears.

        • Misha says:

          The Texas Rangers uniform highlights that state’s pride. Its home and away shirt reads as “TEXAS” across the chest. Excluding the Yankees, most if not all MLB teams have their team name (Dodgers, Mets, whatever) on their home shirt, with the road variant having the given town’s or state’s name (Minnesota, Detroit, whatever).

          On a somewhat related note, the Prokhorov owned Nets of the NBA have “BROOKLYN” across their home and away jerseys, much unlike many NBA teams. There’s a certain aura about Brooklyn.

          When the Texas Rangers clinched a World Series berth in their home park, I recall a plethora of Texas state flags flying in the stands. Offhand, I gather the Quebec Nordiques (now Colorado Avalanche) came closest to NHL teams exhibiting that kind of state/provincial pride.

      • cartman says:

        The secession laws in the Soviet Union were not followed when the country broke apart. This problem was particularly acute the Caucasus (especially Abkhazia). One place that hasn’t seceded, but its rights have been deliberately ignored is the Crimea.

        As for secession in the USA, well Texas did it illegally from Mexico. The settlers were required to convert to Roman Catholicism and give up their slaves. When the Spanish colonies broke away in the Americas, all of them outlawed slavery decades before it became illegal in the United States. This particular requirement was unbearable to the “Texans” because most of them grew up in slave-owning states in the South.

        • kirill says:

          Not quite the myth of the heroic defenders of the Alamo is it. The big bad undemocratic Spanish were standing in the way of freedom, or so we are supposed to believe.

          There is a new movie out about Lincoln. It pushes the standard line that slavery was one of the primary reasons of the civil war. That is, America is always about human rights and not economics. There are dissenting views of Lincoln:

        • Dear Cartman,

          This is of course completely true. The USSR did have a right of secession in its Constitution, a deadly legacy of Lenin’s dogmatic insistence on free determination. At some point in the perestroika era the USSR Congress of People’s Deputies introduced a law on secession which set out how the right of secession in the Constitution was to be exercised. As I remember there was supposed a referendum in any republic that wanted secession.

          In the event not a single republic abided by this law. The one republic that half heartedly tried to do so was Armenia. The Baltic States claimed that they were not part of the USSR but had been occupied by it and that they were not therefore bound by the law. They refused to allow the March 1991 Union referendum to be held on their territories as did Moldavia and Georgia. The referendums these republics did hold like the referendum held in the Ukraine in December 1991 contained absurdly loaded questions so as to make them as expressions of democratic opinion effectively meaningless. The Ukraine had of course previously voted in the March 1991 referendum to say in the Union. I always got the impression (Leos can correct me) that the December 1991 referendum in the Ukraine was staged by Kravchuk and the Ukrainian leadership to rescue their reputations following the implicit support they gave to the anti Gorbachev coup in August 1991.

          None of this in the end had any bearing on the actual mechanism of the USSR’s collapse. In August 1991 Yeltsin simply recognised the independence of the Baltic States though at that time the USSR was still in being and the Soviet law on secession was still in effect. By doing so Yeltsin effectively conceded the argument made by Baltic nationalists that the Baltic States had never been part of the USSR but were merely occupied by it, something which has put Russia on the defensive in its relations with them ever since. Finally in December 1991 Yeltsin together with Kravchuk and the Byelorussian leader (I forget his name) simply declared the USSR Constitution void at their meeting in Brest. The pretext was the Ukrainian referendum but it is now known that this had been Yeltsin’s intention all along and that he basically did it because he could not find any other means to get rid of Gorbachev. Apparently Yeltsin did not at the time properly recognise the full implications of what he had done and actually believed that his Commonwealth of Independent States was functionally viable and that in time he would lead it.

          To be frank I am always troubled when I read about how the USSR was supposedly unsustainable and how it supposedly collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions. To my mind this ignores the fact that its collapse was not the result of a popular revolution or an expression of the popular will but was entirely the result of what was to all intents and purposes a coup. Of course the political system had become profoundly demoralised and dysfunctional by December 1991, which is why despite the transparent illegality of what happened in Brest there was no effective resistance to it. Much of the trouble lay with Gorbachev who was by this time so politically enfeebled and discredited that he found it impossible to lead opposition to what was done, which as the nation’s President he was properly speaking under a duty to do, but instead weakly acquiesced in it. Nonetheless the fact remains that we are not talking about a popular revolution that brought down the government and inaugurated a change in the political order such as happened in Russia with the fall of the monarchy in February 1917.

          • Misha says:

            With hindsight especially at play, Gorbachev didn’t play his cards well.

            With this in mind, a union of some (now) former Soviet republics could’ve occurred.

            Just prior to the attempted coup against Gorbachev, Kravchuk was flirting with the more secessionist minded of Ukrainians. This might’ve been a bit of a juggling act on his part. During the attempted coup against Gorbachev, Kravchuk seems to have been somewhat on the fence. The Soviet breakup appears to be partly encouraged by some top Communist officials sensing greater personal importance as leaders of independent states. There was also the mindset that their republics would be better off as independent entities – a view that Kuchma noted as being more popular in Ukraine from what’s currently evident there.

            The aforementioned stance of the Baltics was partly motivated by the US stance in never recognizing their being incorporated into the USSR. (I’d have to check and see what other countries took the same position.)

    • yalensis says:

      Dear MoscowExile: Here is some more authentic southern dialect for you. Memorize it carefully, there WILL be a test at the end:

      Rhett Butler: Open your eyes and look at me. No, I don’t think I will kiss you. Although you need kissing badly. That’s what’s wrong with you. You should be kissed and often and by someone who knows how.
      Scarlett: And I suppose you think you’re the proper person.
      Rhett Butler: I might be… if the right moment ever came.
      Scarlett: You’re a conceited, blackhearted varmint Rhett Butler. I don’t know why I let you come and see me.
      Rhett Butler: I’ll tell you why, Scarlett. Because I’m the only man over sixteen and under sixty who’s around to show you a good time.
      Scarlett: You low-down, cowardly, nasty thing you! They were right! Everybody was right! You – You aren’t a gentleman.
      Rhett Butler: A minor point at such a moment. Here, if anyone lays a hand on that Nag shoot him but don’t make a mistake and shoot the Nag.
      Scarlett: Go on! I want you to go! I hope a cannonball lands slap on you! I hope your blown into a million pieces! I…
      Rhett Butler: Nevermind the rest. I follow your general idea. And when I’m dead on the altar of my country I hope your conscience hurts you. Goodbye, Scarlett.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        The Texan accent makes me smile when they sometimes have to say “ink pin” so as to differentiate between a pen and, say, a hat pin. And when those fighting for the South claimed to the federalists that they were not fighting for slavery but for state “rats”, I’m sure many a Yankee was a little puzzled.

        Bear in mind, when I slip back into into my native accent and dialect, my wife is often none too pleased because my kids copy it and get told by their Russian English teacher that they are not speaking “correct” English. When I presented Natalia Vladimirovna to my remaining ancient kinfolk and pals back in “the Old Country” she thought they were speaking some kind of German: “Nay, tha ne’er tow’d us that tha’d getten wed!”

        • yalensis says:

          Ha ha! You’re right, Texans pronounced “pin” and “pen” as if they were the same word. I guess they have a more limited repertoire of vowel phonemes than “standard” English, since certain vowels have basically converged. Also, in West Texas, some locals pronounce “oil” and “all” virtually identical. Highly humorous patois. Although, I have to say, younger urban generation of Texans speak standard American dialect, with no discernible accent. It’s just the older generation and rurals who talk funny.

          • marknesop says:

            My ex-wife – and others of her generation, I imagine – got around the thorny question of how to pronounce “pen” by inventing a whole different word for it. She was from the South of England, and they referred to a pen as a “Biro”, so named for both the brand name and the inventor of the ballpoint pen, Hungarian journalist Laszlo Biro. She likewise spelled the word “tires” as “tyres”, and called gasoline “petrol”.

            Canadians, too, often characterize an entire range of products by one successful model – snowmobiles were all called “Ski-Doos” when I was growing up, after Bombardier’s successful machine.

            When we were camping once, as a family, we camped next to a very friendly American from somewhere Southern, and his family. He made my parents’ eyes go big and round when he announced their intention to visit one of Canada’s premiere vacation destinations, Nigger Falls. It was a couple of awkward seconds before they realized he was saying “Niagra” Falls.

      • marknesop says:

        The big takeaway from that dialogue is “Varmint”; if ever a word was underused in modern social intercourse, that’s it. I believe it devolves from the inability of Southerners to wrap their tongues around the word “Vermin”, but its origins are unimportant in light of the pure contempt expressed by its use.

        “Madame Justice, I propose that all of Mr. Berezovsky’s testimony be disregarded, on the grounds that he is a lying varmint.”

        • yalensis says:

          Ha ha!
          Another funny southern word is “vittles” in the meaning of “food”, as in this conversation:

          Prissy: Mammy, here’s Miss Scarlett’s vittles.
          Scarlett: You can take it all back to the kitchen; I won’t eat a bite.
          Mammy: Yes’m you is, you’s gonna eat every mouthful of this.
          Scarlett: No… I’m… NOT.

          BTW, got all these quotes from here:

          • marknesop says:

            I’m pretty sure that one is a mangled attempt at “victuals”.

            • Moscow Exile says:

              Well, it’s also “vittles” in Charles Dicken’s stories: Abel Magwitch, the escaped convict in “Great Expectatations”, asks the hero of the novel, Pip, for “vittles” in the very opening scene of that story. Dicken’s uses “varmint” as well.

              Very many “Americanisms” were in common usage in early 19th century Britain and had travelled across the Atlantic with the North American colonists. Then these expressions, whilst remaining in use in North America, fell into disuse in the UK, only to return to Britain via Hollywood. The term “pigs” for “police”, for example, was used in early 19th century London, fell into disuse there, then came back across the Atlantic as an “Americanism”.

              I say “standard British English”, because those older terms that were considered as Americanisms upon their return to the UK often remained in English dialects. For example, I still say “stove” in my dialect, whereas Londoners say “cooker”, and I say “dove” instead of “standard” British English “dived”. I also say “getten” when I mean “managed to acquire”; North Americans say “gotten” in this sense.

              Most British and foreign speakers of English believe, or are led to believe, that “gotten” is the US English cognate of British standard English “got”: that is not the case. When I say “got”, I mean “received”; when I say “getten” I mean “acquired” or “changed
              state”, hence in my dialect: “He’s getten old” and “I’ve getten a cold” and “I got a letter yesterday off my sister”. Most North Americans would say “gotten” and “got” respectively. Sometimes my “getten/got” are interchangeable, as are the North American “gotten/got”, depending on meaning: for example, “I’ve got a new car” (fact – I
              possess one) and “I’ve getten a new car” (I have managed to acquire one – US English
              “gotten”); likewise,”I’ve got a Russian wife” and “I’ve getten/gotten me a Russian wife” (courtesy of a “Russian Brides” agency).

              Конец английского урока!


              • yalensis says:

                Re. “I’ve gotten me a Russian wife”. Reflexive case is used on and off also in Standard American Negro Dialect (SAND), as in that infamous line in the movie “The Help”: “I do loves me some fried chicken!”

              • marknesop says:

                That’s interesting, and you’re right; I hadn’t thought of Dickens. In any case, my speculation is based more on the root word from which it came – “victuals” for “vittles” – than its country of origin, but that opens up a whole new field of interest because we often tend to think of the “Americanization” of certain words with an amused tolerance for their country bumpkinism, as if the new word were a result of their inability to say it properly. My wife’s name is Svetlana, and we had a neighbour (not an American, either) a couple of years ago who determinedly called her “Savannah” because she couldn’t say Svetlana. But maybe such a school of thought is unfair to Americans, and they were simply saying the word the way they first heard it. Sometimes, thanks to influences such as the Cockneys, the word is deliberately mangled into a new form out of vanity and a desire to be a creator and innovator.

                There are quite a few words and expressions that make us laugh now, and would probably earn you a punch in the head if you used them in a bar frequented by truckers or bikers – words we can divine the meaning of only through their context, such as “i’fakins” as an expression of affected surprise, as in “I’fakins; ’tis young Radcliffe o’ Dilston!!” from “Devil Water“: “Dilston” itself in this sentence a corruption of the word “Devilstone”. It’s curious that the gentry were typically correct and deliberate in their enunciation while lazy slurring was the hallmark of the peasant and tradesman, yet it was the latter’s diction which survived in many cases.

                Fortunately gone now also are the almost indecipherable Scots greeting, “Haw gie thee noo?”, which would most closely equate in modern speech, I guess, to “How’s it going?”, as well as the Welsh “Come ben an’ crook your hough” for “Come in and sit down”.

                “Canada” derives from the word “Kanata”, adopted by early explorers from the dialect of the Huron people, to whom it meant “Village”.

  19. Moscow Exile says:

    Between 1836 and 1845 the Republic of Texas had legations in both London and Paris. In fact, the British supported Texan independence and made promises to the Texans that the British Empire would guarantee their United States and Mexican borders. The British were against the US annexation of Texas for a variety of reasons and Bitish government support of Texan sovereignity became a thorny issue for the US in the 1840s.


  20. Misha says:

    A Valdai Discussion Club promoted piece by Edward Lucas:

    • Moscow Exile says:

      So Lucas thinks Putin behaves boorishly. I should be very interested to know what he thought of Yeltsin’s behaviour then.

      • Misha says:

        On that particular, EL has his detractors.

        • marknesop says:

          Owing to the more or less permanently swollen state of his head due to chronic self-satisfaction, Ed Lucas has frequently been proposed as an alternate cleaning instrument for the Channel Tunnel, sometimes called the Chunnel. The way it would work is, a book signing would be held in Coquelles for Mr. Lucas. During this book signing, an attractive young woman featuring a daring decollatage would approach Mr. Lucas and confess huskily, “I think ze New Cold War is ze best book ever written”. Then – quickly, before the swelling subsided – Mr. Lucas would be staightaway dragged by his heels all the way back to Folkestone. Then the tunnel debris could be hosed off his forehead and temples.

      • Hunter says:

        Perhaps he thinks Yeltsin’s behaviour was unspeakable, hence why he hasn’t written about it? 😉

  21. cartman says:

    This is rather pathetic for former friend of the “anti-corruption blogger”:

    • marknesop says:

      Who is this? I can’t find any identification except for “Posted by CJ”. Who’s this “former friend of the anti-corruption blogger”?

      • cartman says:

        That is the governor of Kirov region Nikita Belykh at the opening.

      • yalensis says:

        Yeah, remember Nikita Belykh?
        Chubby guy in gray jacket?
        Marching with fat-bellied priest to bless doomed bridge?
        Is still Governator of Kirov Region?
        Stroll down memory lane and recall hacked email correspondence with Navalny. Those 2 charmers used to be friends, then they broke up. Navalny called Belykh a “hysterical pregnant blonde”. Good times!.

        • marknesop says:

          Yes, I remember him quite well, as a name in the Kirov-Les Email scandal. I just didn’t remember what he looked like, or perhaps I never knew.

          I don’t care much for English Russia; although their photographs are top-notch in quality and clarity, the subject chosen is almost always something that will embarrass or humiliate Russia, and the tagline “only in Russia” deliberately suggests it is a backward hinterland of dolts and mental defectives. That would not be difficult anywhere if that was your theme; a half-hour’s work in San Francisco could convince those who don’t live there that it is a city of nothing but heartless businesses, while every doorway is the refuge and perhaps temporary residence of a homeless bum, sometimes entire families (or groups of people about the right age that they could be members of the same family, including children) holding up paper signs that read “Please Help”. Throw in a few bag ladies and season it with truck drivers picking their noses while they believe themselves unobserved, and those who do not know otherwise would believe San Francisco a city of the damned where America sends its idiots to die. Is that accurate? Of course not, it’s a beautiful city.

          That said, that bridge doesn’t look like much of a bargain for what it supposedly cost. If it is indeed a pontoon bridge – as it appears to be – that explains why the center is angled downward in the first photos: the center follows the water level while the wings pivot upward or downward as required. However, it does not seem to have risen with the water level as it was supposed to do. Overall, the construction standard doesn’t look like a fair exchange for that kind of money, and that bridge style seems an odd choice considering the surrounding terrain; a conventional flyover design would likely have been cheaper and could have been built high enough that the water could never reach it.

    • kirill says:

      EnglishRussia is a troll site that a lot of the time posts material (from other websites) not pertaining to Russia. Here we see a flood submerging this structure, which to me looks more like a pontoon bridge. The yakking about it “sinking” is just retarded. A million dollars for a bridge is a total joke and that is why it was not a real bridge but some sort of temporary structure.

      After reading it looks like I was right that it was a pontoon bridge and in spite of the Moscow News BS spin, there was a flood.

      • I agree with everything said here about the English Russia site. Occasionally one sees some good or interesting photos but more often than not they are simply pictures of derelict buildings or machinery one could find pretty much anywhere. Also I think some of the photos are borderline soft porn.

        • I would just finish this series of comments by also questioning the claim about the supposed coolness between Merkel and Putin. There may have been some truth to this at the beginning especially given Putin’s very close relationship with Merkel’s predecessor Gerhard Schroder. However I wonder whether it is true now? I cannot imagine that Merkel much enjoys her meetings with other western leaders at present. Given the eurozone crisis she must feel when she meets them that she gets from them nothing but demands and trouble. Even Obama constantly pressures her nowadays. By contrast she must find her meetings with Putin plain sailing. He at least is one leader who does not make incessant demands of her. I would not be surprised if he is the only leader at the moment a telephone call from whom does not provoke a sigh.

        • marknesop says:

          “Also I think some of the photos are borderline soft porn.”

          Okay, those are the ones I like.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          I collect the old pictures and postcards off that site and save them in my “Russia” file.

          Breach of copyright?

          But yes, I agree: the person who runs the site likes too much taking the piss out of Russians, who are, I think, are his own folk.

          I reckon I could open a site showing just as stupid behaviour and social dereliction in my old neck of the woods in the North of England.

  22. Evgeny says:

    Some offtopic about Russian culture news. Yesterday a beta version of techno-opera “A Little Mermaid” was released: (A link to a blog post by the author with a download link.) It’s distributed freely (not that you cannot reward the author if you like). To understand and fully enjoy it, you need to know Russian. But, overall, it’s entertaining and thought-provoking.

  23. Misha says:

    The BBC’s Steve Rosenberg had a bit today on the reported strain in Russo-German relations, which has been instigated from the German side.

    On a related note, look what just came out and see the folks who’re uncritically referenced:

    Merkel and some other Germans have behaved boorishly towards Serbia. I don’t see the Russian government lecturing Germany.


    Regarding negatively inaccurate BS:


    – the Russian government (Lavrov in particular) has spoken out against comments that the Iranian president has made about Israel

    – consider the number of Jews who’ve returned to Russia since around 2000

    – one suspects there’s more than meets the eye regarding the hyperlinked Paul Goble piece

    – Anti-Jewish sentiment in Russia (pre-Soviet period included) never came close to matching what has been evident in some other places.

    • This story about supposed strains in Russo German relations is being completely misreported. It is a trivial incident arising from a report about the Russian domestic situation made by an official of Merkel’s Christian Democrat Party, which was then actually watered down at the request of the German Foreign Ministry. As Peskov has absolutely correctly pointed out this is simply pre election positioning in Germany to give Merkel cover from claims (primarily from the Greens) that she is too soft on Russia. German business and the German unions and the leaders of both the CDU/CSU and the SDP have invested heavily in good relations with Russia and to speak of a minor spat like this as signs of a strain in relations is absurd. A much more significant indicator of where things are actually going in Russian German relations is the continued enlargement of the North Stream and the completion of agreements with transit states (which could not have happened without German support) to build the South Stream.

      The only reason this story has received the attention that it has is not because of the ritual criticism of Russia that unfortunately happens in any western country during an election period but because of the strength of the Russian reaction. Very unusually the Russian Foreign Ministry went on to a vigorous attack once the German official made his report. This much more assertive response seems to have taken people in Germany by surprise and apparently came as something of a shock. Here is a typically sober and factually analysis of the affair by Fyodor Lukyanov.

      • I would add that dragging in the incident of Putin’s Labrador is pretty desperate. It must have happened years ago and was obviously a simple mistake, which everyone apart from Ed Lucas and his like have long since forgotten. Of far greater significance surely was the Russian leadership’s decision to invite Merkel to the big May 9th Victory Day Parade on Red Square in 2010, which she duly attended and in which she was given a major role.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          And another thing: Labradors are amongst the most docile breeds ever. I’ve never heard of a Labrador biting anyone and they’re great with children. I should think that their docility together with their intelligence is the reason why most guide dogs for the blind are Labradors. I reckon Merkel must be pretty freaked out if she is afraid of such a lovely, gentle retreiver as is the Labrador, which breed originated from British North America. Now if Putin had turned up with a Rottweiler, for instance, which breed originates from Germany, Frau Kanzlerin Merkel would have had something to be afraid of.

          • marknesop says:

            Putin just doesn’t get it. If he had the social instincts of, say, George W. Bush, he would have known that the proper way to treat a foreign head of state – especially female – is to administer an impromptu and affectionate backrub in the presence of other foreign heads of state. Fortunately he was dissuaded from pursuing the ice-breaker to its logical conclusion, and was distracted with a shiny object when he went off to slip into something more comfortable.


            • Misha says:

              As reported in this short bit, the “well behaved” Merkel made a politically cheap comment on Pussy Riot, with Putin answering back:


              Regarding Bush, some might recall his provocative behavior at a 2006 press conference in St. Petersburg. Putin answered him back well.

              • Misha says:

                A more detailed accounting:


                When push comes to shove, RT came thru in providing a rebuttal to the propaganda in the leadup to the Putin-Merkel meeting.

                • Misha says:

                  Upon immediate follow-up, is Putin confusing the mock hanging of a Tajik with a Jew?

                  IMO, he could’ve and should’ve highlighted how folks in the West (UK) have been arrested for making obscene Tweets.

                  Pussy Riot went beyond that by violating the sanctity of a chapel in a church that had a history of destruction against it. it’s not like they definitely would’ve been arrested for doing the same thing at a place where they were invited to perform as they chose.

                • Misha says:

                  Some second guesssing on a claim made by Putin:


                  Contrary to what was suggested elsewhere, the issue isn’t that Putin and official Russia are too tame in replying to negatively inaccurate criticism. The greater issues are:

                  – how often and accurate does foreign media pick up such comments
                  – the quality/accuracy of these comments.

                • yalensis says:

                  Unfortunately, I think Putin got this one wrong, because he was misinformed. As we discussed on this blog, some of us (including me) were similarly confused at first, and we thought Pussy Riot was fascist and promoting the hanging of Tajiks and so on. Then it turned out they were pro-Tajik and were actually spoofing Luzhkov’s racism. (Although, being narcissistic dolts, they presented their message in a totally confusing way.)

                • Misha says:

                  i was leaning in that direction.

                  All the more important for Putin to be well informed and briefed by a competent staff of “handlers” (if you may) – a point leading to how some are playing out of position (to use sports lingo).

                  An example of how a negatively inaccurate comment about the situation in Russia (in that instance by Merkel) could’ve and should’ve been better answered.

      • Misha says:

        As of this posting, the German government funded DW highlights German remarks that are negative about Russia/Putin.

        In contrast, RT isn’t highlighting this issue.

        You’d think that as a suggested alternative, RT would highlight the issue, inclusive of rock solid replies to the negativity.

        • The German report shows how completely lacking in substance this spat is. Reading it one would almost get the impression that some Germans are upset because the Russians have been visiting them less often than they would like. The tone of the article confirms my point: it is the Germans who are on the defensive and who are flaying around looking for reasons to justify themselves. This shows that the story and the problem are in Germany not Russia. RT is therefore right not to highlight it since it has no need to.

          • Misha says:

            Within reason, the reverse can be said of RT.

            English language mass media bits from RFE/RL, BBC and Lucas have been top heavy in a slanted direction.

            Many viewing this aren’t so knowledgeable and/or inutitive of what you point out.

      • Misha says:

        From that RIAN piece by Lukyanov, who appears agreeable enough for neocon-neolib leaning wonks:

        “What Russia is in fact trying to develop is the same relationship – albeit in a more advanced and modern form – which the Soviet Union had with the West during the periods of détente. Germany is the best example here. German big business became interested in the Soviet Union’s economic opportunities three years before diplomatic relations were established: the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations was set up in 1952. Business and political ties were developing very successfully in the 1970s, and no one thought of making them directly dependent on the Soviet political regime or society. Everyone knew that the Soviet Union was different, and that it was not a subject for debate, even after the Helsinki Final Act, which added the human rights issue to Europe’s geopolitical agenda.

        The model that Putin would like to recreate is based on the West’s recognition of the fact that Russia has, at its core, a different ideology and set of values.”

        • In what sense is this agreeable to neocon/neo liberal wonks? Russia is simply (and finally!) telling its western critics to mind their own business. It is also saying that if they want to deal with Russia they will have to do it on Russia’s terms and should keep their ideological baggage to themselves. That is what the USSR successfully did before and it is what China successfully does now. Far from this being agreeable to neocon or neo liberal wonks and other preachers of “universal western values” it puts them firmly in their place. I cannot imagine anything that will make them more angry.

          • Misha says:

            Without specifics, a good number will read that piece as meaning that Russia doesn’t put as much a value on human rights – that post-Soviet Russia is “neo-Soviet”.

    • marknesop says:

      Robert Coalson was once half of “The Power Vertical”, with partner Brian Whitmore. Curiously, since Coalson’s departure Whitmore has become much more negative in his views on Russia, as if any balance in the coverage disappeared with Coalson; when they were a team, Coalson was consistently snide and sarcastic and fond of drawing obscure parallels which he would shore up with unrelated facts and then invite the reader to conclude there were many sinister plots going on below the surface that a wise man armed with Coalson’s eye for rot and corruption would be able to discern while the rest of the world was still yawning and scratching itself.

      Whitmore – at the time – would mostly stick to facts and would occasionally allow that Russia had done something right. After Coalson exited the stage, he became a huge fan of the protest movement, and now sees every incident that is even peripherally related as the “tipping point” that is going to result in the Russian electorate rushing into the streets in coalescent fury, issuing out torches and pitchforks and marching shoulder to shoulder on Castle Putin. He never seems to learn anything by the failure of this dream to achieve any real manifestation, but blithely skips on to the next tipping point.

      For his part, Coalson has not changed at all, and is still the bitter, mean fault-finder he always was. He was also a regular and popular feature at La Russophobe.

      The other article is just comical. After a lengthy diatribe against the Russian Jew-haters who will not “man up” and admit they are responsible for all the dislike of Jews in the modern world, so the children of those who fled persecution (like Ioffe and Elder and Gessen) can sleep at night, even though they now feel perfectly safe to live in Russia part or full-time and shower it with the most egregious insults day in, day out, the article concludes with a proud recital of the author’s credentials: minister, historian, broadcaster and columnist…who is currently writing an espionage thriller. Where does he find the time? If there were a riddle about how you could get 50 nutjobs in a space that would only hold 30, The American Thinker would figure somewhere in the answer.

      • Misha says:

        The establishment preferred G & G appear well within the good graces of BW.

        In line with his overall selection of promoted Russia watchers.

      • Misha says:

        In addition to my earlier comments at this thread on the matter of Jews and Russians:

        – the number of people of “mixed” (if you may) Russian-Jewish background
        – the known folks of Jewish background, who’ve been post-Soviet Russian prime ministers, contrasted with the number of American presidents and vice presidents of known Jewish background
        – The Cold War era Novoye Russkoye Slovo was noted for having a noticeable Jewish staff at a venue that was leaning in a politically White Russian direction.

      • Hunter says:

        “He never seems to learn anything by the failure of this dream to achieve any real manifestation, but blithely skips on to the next tipping point.”

        The same could be said of many media commentators actually.

        I’ve noticed for a while now that the media (especially the British media) seems unable to learn that harping on an on about growing discontent in Russia and the end of Vladimir Putin’s time (the first time I really noticed it was in 2008 when Medvedev became President and there was speculation that he would turn on Putin) or about the imminent demise of the EU and/or eurozone (which has been predicted from as far back as 2009 with regards to Greece and even further back more generally). Yet, 4 years and counting since Putin was supposed to have lost support (of either the electorate and or Medvedev) he is still around and 3 years and counting since Greece’s “imminent” departure from the eurozone (something which in my research I found would require a two year period, a treaty change and open debate for it to be legal and not have Greece’s government sued by their own population to the point of collapse) and we now have Greece getting a 2 year extension on the bailout terms which means any supposed departure won’t happen before 2015 (in the eyes of the media) or 2017 (in the eyes of the law and Greece’s population which still heavily supports the euro). I can’t imagine how 8 years could possibly be seen as “imminent”, but it won’t stop the media from being blind to past,failed predictions and making new ones along the same lines.

        • marknesop says:

          Yes, I guess you’re right about that although I more or less bought the notion that the EU as a currency union was not long for this world. The euro did well at first and came out of the gate strong, but stupid mismanagement and the establishment of the Central Bank as an authority when it has no money of its own and no real power to levy any made it simply a refuge for lazy toffs who wanted a great job with good pay but no real duties or responsibilities. But you’re right that Whitmore is far from alone in his prediction of catastrophe for the Putin government. He’s just unusual in the significance he attaches to each action by protest figures; his hyping of the online “elections” to the “Coordinating Council” was a classic example of attributing pomp and majesty – and self-determinant rebellion – to the scurrying of mice.

  24. Misha says:

    U.S. House approves Russia trade bill with human rights slap

    Excerpt –

    The House voted 365-43 to approve the legislation, which takes a jab at the policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin while ensuring U.S. companies get the full benefits of Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization on August 22.

    “Since Vladimir Putin was re-elected president in May 2012, his government has taken a harsh and confrontational approach to ongoing protests, cracking down on the Russian people’s growing discontent with corruption and creeping authoritarianism,” said Representative Jim McGovern, a Democrat.

    The bill, which still needs Senate approval, would establish “permanent normal trade relations,” or PNTR, with Russia.

    • marknesop says:

      The United States – or, more precisely, American businesses – would be at a significant disadvantage with Russia in the WTO and an absence of the PNTR agreement, as Kovane discussed knowledgeably in his post on Russia and the WTO. It’ll pass.

    • R.C. says:

      It’s utterly amazing how America can parade itself as some sort of authority on human rights after all we’ve witnessed in Iraq, Afghanistan & their ruthless drone killings in Yemen & Pakistan. America now has a president who has decimated the Bill of Rights by claiming HE has the right to execute ANYONE without due process or judicial oversight. Glenn Greenwald has documented this tragedy for years, so I won’t bother going to deeply into what everyone here is probably already familiar with. America also has one of the largest prison populations in the world and supplies Israel with money and weaponry, courtesy of the US tax-payer, to continue carrying out a brutal occupation that most of the planet abhors and finds immoral..

      How American politicians can scoff at Russia over their “Human Rights” record while they themselves murder up a storm, shows just how out of touch with reality their leaders are. Surprisingly, I’ve read that farmers and businesses are NOT happy that congress tacked this “tacky” human rights “slap” on to a bill which should of focused exclusively on trade.

      • Misha says:

        Let’s see how this plays out in the Senate, as well as how Obama and his foreign policy team respond.

        • R.C. says:

          My guess Misha………………

          The Senate will probably pass it, but Obama will likely veto it. Naturally, he’ll conceal his reason in lofty rhetoric about a possible separate bill which’ll address the “human rights” issue. He knows that this bill in its present form is a step back in relations with Russia, something he knows that must improve. There’s no reason why this “human rights” rhetoric should be stapled to a trade bill other than to anatagonize Russia. The business and farm community also don’t want this rhetoric alongside the bill, which gives Obama even more cover to veto it.

          • Misha says:


            If so, I’m interested in the % differential between the House and Senate.

          • marknesop says:

            Yes, I guess I wasn’t entirely clear in my own forecast; I meant that PNTR will pass, and that if it transpires they cannot pass it without the human-rights baggage, the business community will intervene because it is in its direct interest that the USA be able to trade with Russia under the same WTO restrictions/freedoms as other countries. Otherwise, without PNTR, Russia could impose duties or tariffs on American goods that would not be in place for competing European imports. I never envisioned it getting as far as Obama with the ugly Siamese Twin still attached, but you are right that that is a possibility also.

      • kirill says:

        It’s all transparent, two bit propaganda. The west bitches about Pussy Riot while ignoring Guantanamo and prison terms without trial. It also ignores the real torture that is enacted by the US on POWs and others while harping about some BS claim by a perp that he was tortured into a confession in spite of damning video evidence against him.

        What crack down on protests? These US blowhards are so full of shit it comes out of their ears.

  25. Pingback: Marketing Putin And Russia To A Foreign Audience | Up to the hour news

  26. Pingback: Marketing Putin and Russia to a Foreign Audience | nsnbc

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