Once He Was the King of Spain – Now He Vacuums the Turf at Skydome

Uncle Volodya says, "There’s fool’s gold—pyrite—and then there’s fool’s gold—gold owned by idiots willing to trade it for worthless dollars.

Uncle Volodya says, “There’s fool’s gold—pyrite—and then there’s fool’s gold—gold owned by idiots willing to trade it for worthless dollars.

Anders Aslund proves me wrong, over and over again. Every time I think I’ve seen the stupidest, most pedantic, most off-the-wall leap for mediocrity from the atrophied pecan in his head, he surpasses his previous foamy wild-eyed assessment of reality. Rodeo clown dressed as economist. All of it delivered in that whiny Swedish accent that makes him sound like he needs to be changed, and put straight to bed for a nap. I hasten to add that the Swedish accent is not annoying in all its speakers – pretty much only Aslund and the Swedish Chef from “The Muppets”, to whom he bears an astonishing resemblance. And it doesn’t end with physiognomy; they share a similar grasp of economics and government.

I can’t wait, I’m lowering interest rates, my people say:
“King, how are you such a genius?
There’s a roof overhead and food on our plates!”
It’s laissez-faire, I don’t even care
Let’s make Friday part of the weekend.”

Moxy Fruvous, from “King of Spain”

Hey, remember when Aslund was president of that country; Jeez, what was it called? Anyway, he became president way back in the late 90’s, almost further back than pterodactyls can remember, it’s not surprising that the details are a little fuzzy. I do remember that when he became president, the country was on the ropes: the inflation rate was around 27% (now it’s 11.4%), the unemployment rate was 12% (now it’s 5.2%), and per-capita GDP was about $3,500.00 USD (now it’s $7,000.00 USD). Adjusted for PPP, it’s about $25,000.00 per year, the highest it’s ever been. Personal income tax rate was a flat rate of 13%, and it still is. In how many other countries has the electorate seen its tax rates remain the same for 14 years? Not the UK, that’s for sure – they started the same period at 40%, went up to 50% from 2010 to 2012, and after that 45% looked like a tax break – neat, huh? The USA’s tax rate has remained stable, which is a remarkable achievement…but it’s at 35%, more than double what president Aslund was able to offer his electorate.

Of course Anders Aslund was never president of anywhere. That was Russia, and Putin was – and is – president. I introduced that short and harmless deception merely to showcase what a self-important, pompous toad Aslund is, when he says “In short, Putin – who is no economic expert – makes all major economic policy decisions in Russia, delivering orders to top managers of state-owned enterprises and individual ministers in ad hoc, one-on-one meetings. As a result, Russian economic policymaking is fragmented and dysfunctional.” Aslund wants you to know that he is an economic expert, and that Russia would be in so much better shape if only Putin would obey Aslund’s advice and step down, turning the presidency over to a brilliant fellow economist like, say….oh, I don’t know…Alexey Kudrin.

Aslund is at his entertaining best in his latest blowhard epic, “Putin in Denial“. World oil prices have halved since June, he says (he knows juicy insider stuff that you and I don’t because he’s an economist), and the value of the ruble has plunged along with the oil price (ditto). And, he warns, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Which he would know, of course, being an economist and consequently such a reliable engine of prediction. Like when he said back in 2009 that Gazprom – and whenever he speaks about Gazprom he has to switch over to his reserve vitriol tank, since he really, really hates Gazprom, probably because they will not “open up” to western investment and share ownership – was failing, citing the excellent book co-written by co-numpties Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov. The following year, Gazprom overtook Exxon-Mobil as the world’s most profitable company. His masterwork, “Think Again: Russia” contained more stream-of-consciousness bullshit than you could carry home in an eighteen-wheeler; I think Foreign Policy Magazine became ashamed of the flash flood of drivel in it and deleted it. If you have a hard-copy subscription, you can probably still read it and marvel at the mental grounding of anyone who could argue that political stability is undesirable because it is poorly suited for reform; I quoted from it here, but the electronic link is now dead. He described the voucher scheme introduced under Yeltsin – which resulted in Mikhail Khodorkovsky making the leap from ambitious geek to oligarchical geek virtually overnight – as an acceptable way to create an owner class, and the oligarchs as “engines of capitalist development”. Describing that view as wrongheaded would be an understatement on the order of describing Bill Gates as financially secure. Better wrap the belt from your bathrobe around your jaw before you read “An Assessment of Putin’s Economic Policy“, to stop it from dropping to the floor: penned by Aslund in 2008, it describes Putin as “one of the lucky ones who happened to be in the right place at the right time, as Talleyrand said about Lafayette, but accomplished little that was positive”, and blithely informs the reader that “Lucky” Putin took over the helm in Russia after Boris Yeltsin had already successfully set it on the road to a market democracy. It is for howlers like this that some long-ago Suffolk writer coined the word “flabbergasted”.

Here, from the subject article, are a few glittering examples of Aslund reasoning; (1) cutting Russia’s imports in half is going to worsen Russians’ living standards considerably (now that they presumably cannot afford to vacation in New York or buy milk packaged by Pepsi); (2) Russia, which has greatly increased its holdings in gold by dumping its useless dollars to buy it, suffers from “ever-worsening corruption and a severe liquidity freeze”; (3) Because he is unprepared to act, Putin continues to pretend there is no crisis at all; (4) Putin could withdraw his troops from eastern Ukraine, whereupon the benevolent USA and Europe would lift their crippling economic sanctions, but he won’t do that because he can’t stand losing, and (5) Putin’s failure to use the internet prevents him from grasping the magnitude of the crisis because he does not have access to up-to-date statistics. I have to stop now, because I can’t focus on the screen while I’m shaking my head.

“Likewise, short of initiating a major war, Putin has few options for driving up oil prices. Moreover, even before the oil-price collapse, crony capitalism had brought growth to a halt – and any serious effort to change the system would destabilize his power base.”

Really? I can think of a way, although I won’t pretend I thought it up myself, because it’s already happened – shut off Europe’s gas. Did you forget that one, Anders? All based on a very strange piece in the Daily Mail in which they appear to have copied and pasted part of it, since it reports that Mr. Putin is the Prime Minister – which he was, for a time – but it is dated today and several other details suggest they meant it to be now. No major war. Have energy prices risen? You tell me.

Whether six European countries are without gas tonight and blubbering in terror as they try to marshal their reserves, or it is all a big hoax, some of that famous British humour, it is apparent that the suggestion it could really happen is enough to make energy prices jump, so don’t fool yourself.

“Though accurate and timely statistics on Russia’s economy – needed to guide effective measures to counter the crisis – are readily available to the public online, Putin claims not to use the Internet.”

I can’t think of a more reliable way to inspire commentary by western leaders that Putin had “lost touch with reality” than to learn he was trying to run the country using the Internet as a guide. Because every leader knows the Internet is more reliable than your closest advisers who are, theoretically, experts in their fields. That might be true if you were George W. Bush, surrounded by a sycophantic circle of people who took turns blowing sunshine up your ass because it made you so happy when things were going well regardless how they were really going, but there is no evidence at all that Putin is that kind of leader and ample evidence which suggests he is not. And the United States seems to still be slogging along, despite the description of the Internet by one of its elected representatives as “a series of tubes“.

“His actions suggest that he considers economic data to be far less important than security information – perhaps the natural attitude of a kleptocrat.”

It becomes steadily more evident that Aslund simply loathes Putin so deeply that his desire to rant and call him names seizes complete control of his brain so that he can’t think – his entire mental hard drive is focused on talking smack like a six-year-old. There is absolutely no evidence at all that Putin is so preoccupied with security that he is oblivious to the economic situation. If he were, the deliberate effort to cause a panicky run on the ruble that would collapse it entirely might have succeeded. It is Aslund who is totally oblivious to the fact that Russia’s economic woes are caused largely by a bitter economic war of which it is the sole target and against whom are arrayed the entire forces of the NATO powers, with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Aslund is acting as if the price of oil is the only consideration, and that Putin is mismanaging it terribly.

“If Putin wants to save Russia’s economy from disaster, he must shift his priorities. For starters, he must shelve some of the large, long-term infrastructure projects that he has promoted energetically in the last two years. Though the decision in December to abandon the South Stream gas pipeline is a step in the right direction, it is far from adequate.”

There you have it: Putin’s decision to shut down South Stream was a wise one, but not near enough. He must stop all the big projects that he only uses to steal from the Russian people anyway. What do the European Union’s mandarins think of the decision to shut down South Stream? I think it’s safe to say their take on it is all the way across town from Aslund’s.

I’m not sure how much more evidence anyone would need to conclude that Aslund was born an idiot, strove all his life to be an even bigger idiot – largely succeeding – and  will likely be carried in his pine box by six of his most thickwitted contemporaries in a celebration of idiocy that will see the grief-stricken pallbearers pass under an arch of giant crossed dunce-caps, to be laid to final rest under a stone which proclaims, “In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made economists.”








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2,333 Responses to Once He Was the King of Spain – Now He Vacuums the Turf at Skydome

  1. peter says:

    • Moscow Exile says:

      If Browder’s prognosis turns out to be true, will that please you, and if so – why?

      Again, would you be so kind as to write what you think future economic developments in Russia are likely to be.

      Your own opinion, if you don’t mind: no cut and paste.

      Just a few paragraphs would suffice.

      Thanking you in advice for sparing your valuable time in order to share your sagacious judgements with others.

      • peter says:

        If Browder’s prognosis turns out to be true, will that please you…

        No. Why?

        Again, would you be so kind as to write what you think future economic developments…

        Sorry, no, I don’t opine on subjects I know next to nothing about.

    • marknesop says:

      And they were the diehards, who hung on after the rest quit.

      Lots of interesting info there which strongly refutes the popular theory that low oil prices are killing Russia but are good for everybody else.

      • errol says:

        Great blog…..I’m furious with myself for only realising it’s existence now.
        Could you do something on Kiselyov please?

  2. Moscow Exile says:



    31-01-2015 | Статистика России
    Новолипецкий МК установил абсолютный рекорд производства стали

    31-01-2015 | Statistics of Russia
    New Lipetsk Iron and Steel Works has established a new record in steel production

    The volume of steel production at the New Lipetsk plant in 2014 reached the highest level in the entire 80-year history of the company – 12.56 million tons.

    31-01-2015 | Статистика России
    АЛРОСА добыла 36,21 млн карат за 2014 год. Рост на 8% выше в третьем квартале

    31-01-2015 | Statistics of Russia
    The ALROSA Group produced 36.21 million carats in 2014 – Growth 8% higher in the third quarter

    The ALROSA Group has announced the results of its activities for 2014 and the fourth quarter of the year. According to the company website, production in the period reported amounted to 10.56 million carats.

    29-01-2015 | Статистика России
    Россия заняла второе место в мире по добыче золота

    29-01-2015 | Statistics of Russia
    Russia ranked second in the world in gold mining

    Russia in 2014 increased gold production by 7% to 272 tons, pushing Australia (269.7 tons) to second position in the world ranking of the largest producers of precious metals, according to Thomson Reuters

    29-01-2015 | Статистика России
    В Коми геологоразведка подтвердила наличие более 500 млн тонн титановой руды

    29-01-2015 | Statistics of Russia
    In Komi, exploration has confirmed the presence of more than 500 million tons of titanium ore

    Today – News Syktyvkar. In Komi, exploration confirmed the presence of more than 500 million tons of titanium ore to Pizhemskom field.

  3. Moscow Exile says:

    Can Russia offer the world nothing else apart from crude oil?

    Что экспортирует Россия?

    What does Russia export?

    O’Bummer says Russia makes sweet FA. McCain says Russia is a Third World gas station or something similar.

    ” Russia doesn’t make anything. Immigrants aren’t rushing to Moscow in search of opportunity. The life expectancy of the Russian male is around 60 years old. The population is shrinking. And so we have to respond with resolve in what are effectively regional challenges that Russia presents. We have to make sure that they don’t escalate where suddenly nuclear weapons are back in the discussion of foreign policy. And as long as we do that, then I think history is on our side” – Obama, Economist interview, 2 August, 2014.

    Life expectancy is 70 years.

    Russia has immigrants – too many if you ask Navalny:

    That was way back in 2012, though, since when, after two convictions resulting in suspended sentences, he is a completely changed person and all lovable and cuddly …

    Oh yes, and he thinks the Crimea is Russian – so he can’t be all that bad, can he?

    • Warren says:

      Navalny’s “nationalism” is a tactic to initiate Russia’s disintegration. Navalny has said repeatedly that Russia should forget about the Caucasus – that Chechnya from a Russian ethnic point of view is not worth the trouble. If Navalny continues to pursue this Russian ethnic chauvinism policy, this will provoke other regions and ethnic groups Tatar, Bashkor, Karelian etc to demand independence. Hence achieving what the Anglo-Americans want: Russia’s disintegration.

    • ThatJ says:

      I agree that Russia has too many wrong immigrant types. Whether they’ll be getting citizenship or permanent residence is another matter — official Russian statistics support Da Russophile’s view that those from Central Asia and the Caucasus return home after some time.

      The “rotation” scheme that I mentioned in earlier posts is the way to go. Taiwan uses it. The idea here is that the temporary workers should not set roots in Russia.

    • ThatJ says:

      In Moscow:

      Those immigrants basically didn’t exist in Moscow 20 years ago. They are a byproduct of capitalism. An equilibrium between capitalist needs and majority racial rights should be found: and the rotation scheme, by which I mean making them real temporary workers — i.e. they must know that they won’t get citizenship or permanent residence, and that they can’t break the immigration rules, or else they will go to jail and won’t be able to return ever again** — is how I would do it. Denying citizenship or permanent residence is the best way to both use their labour (whose payment they partly send home) and protect the ethnic and cultural posteriority of the Russians.

      ** under the immigration/rotation rules, they could work for, say, 2 years — and then leave Russia for a period of one year, after which they can apply for a renewed work visa, and so on.

      From Da Russophile:

      One consequence of the big improvements in fertility and mortality indicators is that had by the 2000s, what had become pessimistically known as “the Russian Cross” – the sharp crossover between the number of births and deaths observed in Russia as the Soviet Union fell apart – has since transformed into the Russian Hexagon, my term for the return of demographic “normality.”

      Perhaps the one concerning recent trend is in the migration sphere. Are Russians, or at least the Echo of Moscow liberal types – after the “sixth wave of emigration” loudly trumpeted three years back, and ruthlessly exposed on this blog – finally making good on their promise of “pora valit” (“it’s time to leave”)?

      Upon a closer examination of the migration stats, it’s clear that the answer to that question is in the negative. By far the biggest portion of the recent increase in emigration accrued to member states of the CIS; rest assured that people are not going from Russia to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, or Kyrgyzstan in search of a better life. Moreover, the emigration increase was largely matched with an increase in immigration from those countries. This suggests a bureacratic as opposed to a “real” change, e.g. better border surveillance, or a change in the reporting procedures. While there was a significant increase in emigration to the Far Abroad, its overall scale remains virtually insignificant both relative to population flows between Russia and its Near Abroad, and to Russian emigration to to the West in the 1990s.


      • kirill says:

        NATO is an actual threat to Russia, Central Asians are not. Russia is a tolerant country that can accommodate Muslims. The west is full of hypocritical shit.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          This accommodation towards other ethnic groups in Russia is not too obvious to most Westerners because they see so many “white” faces here. Last time I checked it out, the ethnic population of Moscow has Eastern Slavs in the majority: that includes Great Russians, White Russians and Little Russians. (Just love those old terms!) Anyway, after the Slavs, in Moscow the next biggest ethnic group is … wait for it, wait for it … the Tatars!

          I have mentioned this before, but I shall say it again: I suspect that many Western know-nothings think Tatars look like Emperor Ming the Merciless of the Planet Mong (the result of 1930s US racism, I suspect, directed towards the “Yellow Peril” in the “Flash Gordon” series, in particular against the Japanese) or as the made-up John Wayne did when he was playing the role of Ghengis Khan in that bloody awful eponymous film of his.

          Well they don’t. In fact, there are various types of Tartars that don’t look alike, in that some have Asiatic features and others don’t. But the majority of all those Tatars who do have a religious faith are Muslim, and they have been here a long time now – for about 800 years as a matter of fact.

          But would you let your daughter marry one?

          Emperor Ming the Merciless – not a Tatar: he was from the planet Mong.

          Elvira Sakhipzadovna Nabiullina – Tatar, born Ufa, Republic of Bashkortostan, now resident in Moscow.

          • et Al says:


            The one on the left, Yes. The one on the right… No!

            • Moscow Exile says:

              Nay, that Ming is not the original one: it’s the updated one played by Max von Sidow, a Swede, whereas the original Ming the Merciless of the planet Mongo was played by a US citizen, Charles Middleton, born Kentucky USA.

              When I was a kid I always had the feeling that Ming was modelled on the Emperor of Japan, so when I first saw pictures of the last Emperor of Nippon, I was rather disappointed because Hirohito looked more like a present day Japanese computer geek -out of uniform, of course – only when I was a school kid, such geeks didn’t exist..

      • ThatJ says:


        I think we can agree that being partner to nations of Central Asia is one thing (which I fully endorse), being colonized by them is another.

        The latter serves Russia’s interests as much as NATO does. Maybe “Russia” the “land” would not be threatened, but “Russia” the “people” would certainly be. Notice that I said “maybe”, because millions of devout Muslims can be a receipt for trouble, if not now then in the future.

  4. Warren says:

  5. Oddlots says:

    James Kunstler predicts that the US will simply give up on Ukraine and slouch off after losing interest:


    Always admired his writing.

    • kirill says:

      The US lost Crimea and the shale gas deposits in the Donbas are trapped in a frozen, occasionally hot conflict zone. Aside from fomenting anti-Russian hate and hoping hordes of Ukr degenerates launch human wave attacks on Russia, there is not much of value left in Ukraine.

      Watch the money. The US and its vassals have not ponied up any serious coin for Ukraine. They had plenty of time and now we have Kerry telling the IMF that Ukraine cannot be given another loan tranche.

      • cartman says:

        Unless they launch another offensive, is the part left unsaid.

        • cartman says:

          His family’s financial adviser (and I think his stepson) is on the board of Burisma. Kerry, Biden, and probably a whole lot of Obama officials have mining and drilling interests in the war zone.

          • kat kan says:

            They’re on the boards, nothing to indicate they actually put in any actual money. So they don’t even have losses to cut, just future expected profit to forego. The ones with money in can’t operate in a conflict zone, but can’t fund ending the conflict, so they should just all go.

  6. peter says:

  7. peter says:

  8. peter says:

  9. cartman says:

    • kirill says:

      The BBC web page has it at “tens of thousands”.

      Here is a Maidan photo:

      This was supposed to be hundreds of thousands. I see a factor of 10 overestimate in the case of the Maidan.

  10. Tim Owen says:

    Yanis Varoufakis, Syriza Finance Minister describes the EU:

    “In a 2013 paper titled “Confessions of an Erratic Marxist in the Midst of a Repugnant European Crisis,” Mr. Varoufakis argued that Europe’s economic malaise was not just another cyclical slump but largely a structural problem based on a European Union that was “a fundamentally anti-democratic, irrational cartel that has put Europe’s peoples on a path to misanthropy, conflict and permanent recession.”

    “Settling onto a couch, Mr. Varoufakis — a self-described “accidental economist” and “erratic Marxist” — sketched out what he said was the heart of the problem: Greece’s debt is unsustainable and austerity constituted “fiscal waterboarding, where we are constantly having our head held under water.””

    “Creditors are demanding that Greece run a primary surplus of 4.5 percent of gross domestic product. Mr. Varoufakis, however, said Athens would propose to hold the level to 1 percent to 1.5 percent of G.D.P.”

    FWIW I think the last paragraph is actually the most shocking. Running a primary surplus like that is EXACTLY described as fiscal waterboarding. What it means is this: at EXACTLY the point that the only thing that can help – deficit spending – is most needed the TROIKA is insisting on the exact opposite.

    If anyone thinks there’s anything reasonable or business like about this I would suggest you remember that bankruptcy is an essential part of a normal market. It happens literally everyday and the courts purpose is to find a way, if possible, to avoid needlessly destroying the business by insisting on the inviolability of debt contracts as written. The ideal is to find a way to reduce the debt burden at least temporarily so that the business can re-build back to profitability and so become debt-worthy again. Debt relief is common. And the authority of the judge in these cases is that both the debtor AND the creditor voluntarily came to agreement at some point in the past and so are JOINTLY responsible for the outcome.

    Yeah, that looks like justice no?

    But when it comes to nation states all this somehow is not applicable. Ridiculously it’s exactly here that it should be MOST applicable because there’s a big difference between letting a private business fail and be liquidated and applying the same “medicine” to a nation and this is because it’s exactly at the national, macro-economic level that you can actually do something about it.

    Except – I forgot – European nations thoughtlessly tossed that away with monetary union.

    At the risk (really a benefit) of seeing Steinmeier lose it again, I really hope the whole EU project fails. I’d rather see Brussels emptied out of the useless fucks that created this abomination described above than watch, for example, Greek nurses earning $700 dollars a month “pay off” the billions of loans the EMU encouraged.


    • Tim Owen says:

      I’m searching for an Onion headline. Something like: Economics departments lose edge to Divinity Schools.

    • kirill says:

      On the international scale we have packs of sharks and schools of piranhas. There is no civilization, it is kill or be killed. On the national scale we have laws and actual evidence of civilization. It is nauseating how geopolitics is cast in terms of spreading of democracy or other feelgood bullshit.

      • marknesop says:

        Nothing wrong with real democracy. The trouble is, even (perhaps especially) in those countries which brag about their democratic freedoms, come election time there are more dirty tricks employed to skew or limit your choice than you can shake a stick at. That’s not real democracy, although whenever the USA is contemplating another regime-change operation, you would think Americans had tons of choice as well instead of voting for one of two parties who are essentially the same in their values and policies, and both of which embrace the notion that America is the exceptional nation which can choose whether international law is good for it or not.

      • Tim Owen says:

        Agreed. All the good stuff is local or national in scale. Bizarrely it’s the internationalists who want war and destruction, contra the ideology. Weird times.

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