Oh Lord, Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

Uncle Volodya says, "The liar was the hottest to defend his veracity, the coward his courage, the ill-bred his gentlemanliness, and the cad his honor."

Uncle Volodya says, “The liar was the hottest to defend his veracity, the coward his courage, the ill-bred his gentlemanliness, and the cad his honor.”

Baby, do you understand me now?
Sometimes I feel a little mad
But don’t you know that no one alive can always be an angel
When things go wrong I feel so bad.

I’m just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood

Nina Simone

Michael McFaul wants you to know that he is hurt. The Russian outlook has not been so anti-American (and anti-EU) since before 1990 – perhaps since never (thanks for the graphic, Kirill). The United States of America is hated – hated – in Russia in a way it probably was not even during the cold war. And why? Well, because of Putin, of course. Putin the paranoid nutjob, who believes the United States government is trying to overthrow his government and replace it with some supplicant liberal who will allow America a free hand to dabble and meddle to its heart’s content. Which America could not be less interested in doing – that’s all in Putin’s head. Quoth McFaul; “But the more I listen to him directly and the more I saw the activities of his government – they have a paranoid view about American intentions. They believe that President Obama and the CIA want to overthrow Putin’s regime and want to weaken Russia and some would even say, dismember Russia. It’s totally crazy. I want to emphasize that. There is no policy of regime change in Russia. Unfortunately, however, I think that is Putin’s view.” (Thanks for the link, Peter)

A paranoid view about American intentions. There is no policy of regime change in Russia. Hmmm. Forgive me if I find that a little hard to believe.

Probably because it’s…what’s the word I’m looking for? Oh, yeah – horseshit.

Michael McFaul is an educated man, and the educated man has a weakness – he can seldom resist being seduced into showing off his worldly education, the payback for those years with his nose in the books instead of going fishing, chasing skirt or hanging out down at the pool hall. Michael McFaul is not made of wood, and when he is asked to give the folks back home in Teaneck, New Jersey or Boring, Oregon or Cranky Corner, Louisiana the benefit of his worldly experience and that fine Oxford schoolin’, why, he sings like a canary.

Such as: “And, as before, the current regime must be isolated. The strategy of seeking to change Kremlin behavior through engagement, integration and rhetoric is over for now. No more membership in the Group of 8, accession to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or missile defense talks. Instead there must be sanctions, including against those people and entities — propagandists, state-owned enterprises, Kremlin-tied bankers — that act as instruments of Mr. Putin’s coercive power. Conversely, individuals and companies not connected to the government must be supported, including those seeking to take assets out of Russia or emigrate…Mr. Putin’s Russia has no real allies. We must keep it that way. Nurturing Chinese distance from a revisionist Russia is especially important, as is fostering the independence of states in Central Asia and the Caucasus.”

Even, some would say, dismember Russia. Wasn’t that what you just said, above, in tones of “do you believe anyone could think something so crazy?” No sanctions on individuals and companies not connected to the government, including those “seeking to take assets out of Russia, or emigrate”. Those must be supported. Meanwhile, “fostering the independence of states in Central Asia and the Caucasus” is “especially important”. Who says so? Michael McFaul, in whose innocent mouth butter would not melt, said so, not even a year ago.

The United States, Mr. McFaul will have you know, is just misunderstood. The more it tries to help people – well, certain people, anyway, such as those receptive to American global leadership – the more it is accused of low-down, sneakin’, backstabbing regime change. The injustice of it!! Why can’t the world just accept that American motives are guileless and straightforward, and that America means Russia no harm?

Gee, I don’t know…maybe because of stuff like this: “American Efforts at Promoting Regime Change in the Soviet Union and then Russia: Lessons Learned“, by Michael A. McFaul. How ’bout that, Michael? Cat got your tongue? Want to take a look inside? Oh, let’s do.

Well, we’re off to a great start. “For much longer and with much greater capacity than Saddam Hussein’s regime, the Soviet regime threatened the United States. The destruction of the Soviet regime and the construction of a pro-Western, democratic regime in its place, therefore, was a major objective of America foreign policy. Some presidents pursued this goal more vigorously than others: Nixon cared less, Reagan more. Yet, even during the height of Nixonian realism, Senator Jackson and Congressman Vanik made sure that the human rights of Soviet citizens were not ignored.

Mmmm…interesting. The Jackson-Vanik Amendment – which was actually signed into law by President Ford, after President Nixon was taillights, so that it was never in effect during “the height of Nixonian realism” unless we presume it outlived his presidency and carried on after he was gone – pertained only to Soviet Jews. In that context, “making sure the rights of Soviet citizens were not ignored” is painting with a little bit of a broad brush, it seems to me.

At the time the whole argument – replete as usual with sound and fury – was going on about repealing the Jackson-Vanik Amendment so that Russia could join the WTO and maintain the same trading relationship with the USA it would maintain with other members, it escalated into a bitter partisan battle by groups who did not know the first thing about it, only that the honour of Old Glory was at stake. In fact the amendment was inserted into the Soviet-American Comprehensive Trade Agreement, and basically gutted it unless the Soviet Union allowed free emigration to its Jews. Among that group were many who had received a free superior education at a state school of higher learning, and who wished to take it with them to America or Israel to make a pile of money. The Soviet Union said sure, you can go – just as soon as you pay back the state for your education, which is only free if you are going to use it to benefit the state that gave it to you. Unreasonable? You tell me.

The Soviet Union sent a delegation to the USA, to explain its position to the business community; implementing the amendment, it said, would elevate anti-semitism in the Soviet Union, and the 90% of Soviet Jews who did not want to leave would suffer for American meddling, as the rest of the Soviet Union’s citizens perceived American favouritism. And it almost worked. Enter Soviet Jewish activists, like the kreakly of today, the group America has never been able to resist – they’re just so smart. And they swayed opinion back the other way, and the amendment passed. And stayed in effect until Obama repealed it in 2012, long after it had outlived its usefulness and just in time for it to be replaced by the Magnitsky Act so the United States could go on treating Russia differently than it treated every other nation on the planet, and have a law that said it could.

For the record, Nixon preferred to take the path of “quiet diplomacy” where the Jackson-Vanik Amendment was concerned, and was satisfied with Moscow’s concession that it would not implement the “diploma tax”. You could call that “Nixonian realism”, if you want, but it sounds like “we got what we asked for – why be jerks?” So more or less everything McFaul tells you there about the Jackson-Vanik Amendment is self-serving blather, bullshit and boilerplate.

As to the “capacity with which the Soviet Union threatened the United States”, a study prepared by George Washington University’s National Security Archive and released in 2009 revealed that the Pentagon and others deliberately exaggerated the Soviet threat out of all proportion, departing on wild flights of fancy to justify ever-larger defense budgets and ever-more-costly weapons systems; “as recently as 1986, the CIA reported that the per capita income of East Germany was ahead of West Germany and that the national income per capita was higher in the Soviet Union than in Italy. Several years later, the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact collapsed, and former CIA director Stansfield Turner wrote that the “corporate view” at the CIA “missed by a mile.” So, less writing and more reading for you, Mr. McFaul, if you don’t mind a bit of free advice.

Although the United States is the most powerful hegemon in recent history and maybe ever, the U.S. government has seemed ineffective, weak, and unable to foster democratic development in Russia. This apparent impotence is especially striking when one remembers the strategic importance of democratic development in this country still armed with tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. It was democratic regime change inside the Soviet Union that ended the Cold War and made the United States more secure. It will be autocratic regime change that will once again animate a more confrontational relationship between the United States and Russia. And yet, the United States government has not developed an effective strategy either to foster Russian democracy or to help it survive.”

It sure sounds to me like you are advocating regime change there, Mr. McFaul.

What should come first, founding elections or a constitution? Which is better for Russia, presidentialism or parliamentary system? What should be the strategy for dealing with communists and their NGOs—engagement or destruction?”

Uhhhh…were you planning to ask the Russian government about any of this? Or was it just going to be between you and the excited business and cultural elitny who always thought the running of the country should have fallen to them? The elitny who, not to put too fine a point on it, would throw their shoulders against the great wheel of American global hegemony?

At times, however, officials representing the U.S. government and representatives from the non-governmental organizations clashed regarding appropriate engagement with Russia’s “revolutionaries.” These American NGOs vigorously defended their independence from the U.S. government and occasionally engaged in domestic“meddling” inside the U.S.S.R. that contradicted Bush’s pledge of noninterference. Most of the time, under the steady stewardship of Ambassador Matlock, these nongovernmental worked closely with local U.S. officials. Matlock himself was an active promoter of engagement with Russia’s revolutionaries. He hosted dinners and discussion groups with these anti-Soviet leaders and groups at Spaso House, the ambassador’s residence in Moscow, including a luncheon with human rights activists with Ronald Reagan in May 1988. These events gave symbolic but important recognition to these new political leaders.”

Certainly must have been inspirational, because Ambassador McFaul did just the same thing as soon as he arrived in Russia in 2012 – he had barely presented his credentials before he was hobnobbing with opposition leaders, many of whom had well-documented ties to the U.S. State Department, including Evgeniya Chirikova (NED -funded “Strategy 31”), Lilia Shevtsova (NED-funded GOLOS) and Lev Ponomaryov (NED-funded Moscow-Helsinki Group). Mr McFaul was incensed at the criticism he received from the Russian government and Russian social media for it – regime change? Perish the thought – this is just a meeting of friends, and meeting with the opposition is routine, harmless. Just keep eye contact and continue talking in a soothing, low voice, and the rubes will fall for it, every time. Given the opinions expressed in the referenced text, can there be any doubt that the objective was to pave the way for revolution?

Michael McFaul is as two-faced as a halibut; when he shakes your hand, check to see if you still have your wristwatch when you get your hand back, and it might not be a bad idea to count your fingers. When he says the government he represents is not interested in regime change in your country, a wise man would inspect all the riot-control equipment and get it laid out so it is ready to hand.

The USA never speaks in a conciliatory fashion when it is winning – ever notice that? It’s too busy waving the flag and trumpeting about exceptionalism and feats of can-do. Therefore, when it does speak in a conciliatory fashion, it is possible it has realized it is losing. And it doesn’t do losing well. A word to the wise is sufficient.


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1,868 Responses to Oh Lord, Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

  1. Warren says:

  2. Warren says:

    Litvinenko inquiry: Key suspect can give evidence

    One of the key suspects in the murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko will be allowed to give evidence at the inquiry into his death.

    Inquiry chairman Sir Robert Owen said he would grant Dmitry Kovtun “core participant” status at this late stage if he met a number of conditions.

    These include providing a witness statement and any relevant evidence.
    Mr Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoi are the prime suspects in the 2006 killing in London. Both deny involvement.

    It was during a meeting with Mr Kovtun and Mr Lugovoi at a London hotel in November 2006 that Mr Litvinenko drank tea containing a fatal dose of the radioactive substance polonium-210.
    The 43-year-old had been an officer with the Federal Security Service – the successor to the KGB – but fled to Britain where he became a UK citizen and fierce critic of the Kremlin.


    • cartman says:

      And worked for MI6. Surely that’s relevant and the BBC should not leave that out.

      • james says:

        leaving out key details is a given… how else do you expect the bbc or any other media outlet today to slant the news a particular way? they have to leave out important details.. that is just an obvious given..

      • Warren says:

        Beeb can’t say, Litvinenko was an honourable critic of Putin’s totalitarian regime. Mentioning Litvinenko was a paid spy of the HM’s Gov will make him look less innocent and raise all sorts of questions, and we don’t want that do we?

  3. Warren says:

    Can someone recommend me an English language book on the Russian perspective on the Russo-Japanese War?

  4. Warren says:

  5. yalensis says:

    Signs and portents that Veruca is on the way out. Due to her greedy little ways.

    Porky has sicced the Prosecutor-General of Ukraine (Viktor Shokin) against Yatsenuk.
    I know this sounds Shockin’ to some people.
    But recently the State Revizor Nikolai Gordienko, announced that officials in Prime Minister Yatsenuk’s government, had stolen 7.6 billion DOLLARS from state coffers. Multiple audits were done, all to the same conclusion. Gordienko asserted confidently, that “Prime Minister Yatsenuk is personally the head of all the corruptionist schemes in Ukraine.”

    Them’s harsh words.
    Also piling on: Porky’s political ally Sergei Kaplin, who proposed to conduct an investigation in the Rada against Yatsenuk’s misdeeds.

    Other signs and portents:
    This piece , which claims that Veruca is siphoning off money and has turned into a hamster.

    Also this piece , which says that Yats will shortly be fired from his job as Prime Minister; and replaced by U.S. citizen Natalia Yaresko.

    Bottom line is:
    Porky really on a roll now.

    • Tim Owen says:

      I thought we decided he most resembled a rabbit? How are we going to gain any credibility in the information war if our members are constantly going off script?

      • yalensis says:

        That wasn’t me who said Veruca looked like a big fat hamster, that was Navigator!
        I don’t write the news, I only report the news.

    • marknesop says:

      Impressive – if there are any other definitive details that you can translate, I’m sure our non-Russian speakers would be grateful. I think Porky has bitten off more than he can chew if this truly represents his intent, because Yats is Nuland’s man. However, Jaresko was at the State Department herself from 1992 to 1995, and perhaps Nuland rates her even higher.

      I doubt it, though, because some of the electorate is already suspicious at the addition of foreigners to the cabinet – an American Prime Minister for Ukraine would be going too far in the current climate of economic chaos. They’d probably accept a Romulan as Prime Minister if prosperity was roaring on all cylinders, but obviously it is not. Jaresko has no political leadership experience at the national level and is not well-known to Ukrainians. I wonder, though, if the plan is to misdirect the electorate by blaming all the financial buggery on Yats. It’s a valid point that he has no faction which would defend him, and would be more or less yelling in the wilderness. But he must know some very damaging secrets.

      Nice catch – I haven’t seen it anywhere else. You’re on the cutting edge.

      • yalensis says:

        I’ll follow this Veruca story more tomorrow.
        Will translate more interesting stuff, if I see it.
        In the meantime, I am following the much more important “Tannhäuser” story, see my future comment below!

        • marknesop says:

          According to Sputnik, the linchpin of the “Dump Yats” initiative was his having lost the support of Kolomoisky. But, also according to this source, Yats will remain where he is because the U.S. State department wants him as a counterweight to Poroshenko. Says Vadim Karasyov – a political analyst I’ve never heard of – there was no discussion in Kiev regarding the appointment of Natalie Jaresko, she was simply parachuted in, and there will be none now on the subject of Yats. He was appointed from without, and his appointment will remain in force until Ukraine’s external governance decides it is unsustainable.

          • james says:

            …” counterweight to Poroshenko”…. you mean like the us state dept is a counter weight to poroshenko? LOLOL.. yea, right.. tell us something we didn’t already know!

            • marknesop says:

              They like to have a counterweight to their counterweights, just in case Poroshenko should start getting big ideas. But I have no feeling that that’ll happen, and I believe Poroshenko resents all the time that being president takes away from adding to his fortune.

              So far as I’m aware he has still not divested himself of any of his business assets, and some may have forgotten that he helped draft the EU association agreement – putting in favourable conditions for his candy exports – while he was just a businessman with no real political connections at all. But the west, of course, sees only a good man trying to do a hard job rather than a crook up to his nuts in conflict of interest.

            • yalensis says:

              A counterweight is needed? (so many possible puns…)
              Americans think that Porky is getting too big for his britches?

              Maybe they got scared when Porky showed up to meet the U.S. army goons (bearing gifts of humvees), and Porky was dressed like some cheesy African dictator, wearing a pistol strapped to his beefy thigh:

            • Jennifer Hor says:

              @ James: The US State Dept’s staple diet may all be junk food, junk food and nothing but junk food but Porky Pig’s staple diet is based on salo so what he gets through in a day far outweighs the hamburgers, French fries, donuts and sugar-laden soda the entire department could consume.

    • colliemum says:

      Very interesting, and great stuff – but the vital question is: how far will the Porky Barrel be allowed to roll?

  6. marknesop says:

    RT interviews Lugansk resident Pyotr Fedotov. Some time back, Reuters interviewed Fedotov, and its report said that Fedotov told them he saw the SA-11 missile in flight which allegedly destroyed MH-17, and that it came from an area held by the Ukrainian army. But then, off camera, he allegedly – according to Reuters – recanted and said it had actually come from the rebel side. When allegedly asked why he changed his story, he allegedly replied that he was scared of the rebels. Perfect; game, set and match.

    Except now he tells RT he never discussed anything at all to do with the Boeing with the Reuters reporter off-camera. He learned of the statements attributed to him from friends, and says he never made them. They were completely invented. Annissa Naouai goes all the way and calls Reuters liars. RT sent an email to Reuters and invited them to share any audio recordings they might have of the interview so the discrepancy could be settled, and received no reply.

    Expect the demonization of RT and demands that it be taken off the air to escalate in the Land Of The Free.

    • james says:

      too bad they can’t just try to do a legal number on rt, similar to what they do every whistle blower, from assange on down.. that is how they treat folks in the the land of the free ( if you have enough money to pay for a legal team).. oj simpson did okay, but then it wasn’t those on the inside who were coming after him as is the case with assange, snowden, manning and etc… sure as hell isn’t land of the whistle blowers.. land of the freaks sounds more like it.. land of the free my ass!

    • Pavlo Svolochenko says:

      ‘But then, off camera, he allegedly – according to Reuters – recanted and said it had actually come from the rebel side. When allegedly asked why he changed his story, he allegedly replied that he was scared of the rebels.’

      Then why would Reuters name him?

      • marknesop says:

        The story is full of holes like that. But now – if you are fond of irony – it will have the effect of making him unbelievable; “the guy keeps changing his story, is he not right in the head or something?”, although he never changed his story at all and the middle narrative was simply made up. If he is telling the truth, of course.

  7. Warren says:

  8. yalensis says:

    Okay, on the Russian cultural front:
    Here is a continuation of that important Tannhäuser story.

    Full disclosure: I have not seen this production. Probably will not get a chance to. Looks to be lame, but I really have no right to judge, just from the description. Also, I am prejudiced against attempts to “re-conceive” classic works. Having said that:

    Recall that “avant garde director” Timofei Kulyabin has staged a “controversial” version of Wagner’s masterpiece in the Novosibirsk Theater of Opera and Ballet. The Russian Orthodox Church is up in arms. Not so much because of the nudity in the Bacchanalia scene (that’s just standard fare), as in the over-arching “concept”. In Kulyabin’s “concept”, the Minstrel Tannhäuser is actually Jesus Christ. Jesus gets a chance to taste life’s sexual pleasures, when he is selected to live in the Grotto of the Goddess Venus. Jesus gets to shag Venus day in, day out.
    This sounds to me like Kulyabin stole the concept from Nikos Kazantzakis novel “The Last Temptation of Christ” – full disclosure: I have actually read it, and it’s really good, IMHO.
    Anyhow,I think the Kulyabin concept sounds really lame, because Jesus was a magician, not a singer.

    But, like I said, Russian Orthodox Church tried to get this production shut down, they even took it court, just like Pussy Riot. But Wagner is way better than Pussy Riot, even in a bad interpretation. And I am pretty sure the singers are amazing, this is Russian opera, after all. The Judge heard the case on 10 March and dismissed it.
    But there was a further development 2 days ago, when Boris Mezdrich (the theater director) was fired from his post.
    I will follow this story. It could be the next Pussy Riot and be exploited by Western propaganda, who knows?

    • yalensis says:

      P.S. – Wagner’s original “concept” for Tannhäuser was:
      It was to be one of a pair of operas written on the same theme (= a singing competition).
      One opera would be tragic (=Tannhäuser), and would be matched by a comedy twin (=Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg).

      Tannhäuser is one of 3 “Christian” themed operas written by Wagner.
      The 3 together tell a story, but were written in reverse order to the chronology of the story.
      The order of composition was: (1) Tannhäuser, (2) Lohengrin, (3) Parsifal.
      But the story is actually in reverse:
      Parsifal is the peasant youth who became, ultimately, King of Grail Castle and keeper of the Holy Grail (after overthrowing the Fisher King, Amfortas).
      His son, Lohengrin (the Swan Knight) is Parsifal’s successor ruling Grail Castle. (hey, wait a minute, Parsifal had pledged chastity, so how did he get a son??), but Lohengrin leaves the Grail Castle, at least temporarily in order to seek a more normal life as a husband. When it doesn’t work out between Lohengrin and his girlfriend (she has this annoying habit of asking him what is his name, and where is he from?), then he leaves her and returns to Grail Castle.

      Then, Tannhäuser happens many centuries after this when they had roaming minstrels.

    • colliemum says:

      Oh oh oh!
      That director, Mr Kulyagin, sounds like he belongs to that Western tradition of ‘stars’ who believe that operas or indeed theatre pieces created by anybody in the 19th and 18th century cannot possibly be understood (or enjoyed, LOL!) by modern audiences unless they themselves have ‘refurbished’ them with their own, stellar and achingly ‘modern’ interpretation.
      These interpretations mean that there must be sex and nudity, that the props and costumes must be late 20th century, hopefully grunge or something equally ‘relevant’, so as to shock the paying audience who are nothing but artistically illiterate, unfeeling people comfortable in their mental and artistic obesity, from which they need to be shocked, at all cost.
      This sort of thing has been going on for fifty years, IMHO. The art critics in the MSM, wanting to be ‘avantgarde’, promote that sort of thing as well.
      The concept that art is there to be enjoyed never enters their collective heads, and productions which are not bowing in one for or another to this sort of ‘modernisation’ is deemed to be irredeemably ‘precious’ and twee.
      Btw – it just occurred to me why people adore the older generation of singers, tenors for example, comparing the present generation unfavourably with those heroes of old: modern singers must be able to roll around the floor in the semi-dark while singing. In contrast – have you ever seen Pavarotti rolling around the floor in the dark? No, me neither … and singing standing up is easier on the voice than lying on the floor while singing.

      • yalensis says:

        Dear colliemum:
        Oi veh, I know exactly what you mean.
        Last season at the Metropolitan Opera, I was driven almost to a state of murderous rage by their “re-envisioned” production of Borodin’s Prince Igor . I have waited a very long time to see a great production of Igor. Well, this one was not it. I mean, the Met singers were amazing, as always.
        But this tripe of a production they were given – yikes! Just like you said, the “enfant terrible artiste” director had to “modernize” it, everybody wore costumes from WWI era.

        The Russian Director Dmitry Cherniakov – may his name be cursed unto the ages- “re-envisioned” the noble Prince as a shell-shocked schizophrenic, who basically just imagined the whole thing: the battle, his wounding, his captivity, his escape.
        The gorgeous mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili was completely wasted as the Khan’s daughter, the director had her just flitting in and out of view, another figment of Igor’s imagination, and the audience who didn’t know the story, didn’t “get it” that she was in love with Igor’s son, Volodimir.

        Worse of all, Cherniakov completely ruined the big crowd-pleaser, the “Polovetskian dances” show number. There are many many people out there in the world who don’t even appreciate opera, but they will go to see this one opera, just for that one scene. And Cherniakov ruined it for them.
        Given a world-class dance troupe to play with, he hid the dancers behind a wall of fake poppies, and had them just “popping” their heads up from time to time, like gophers.
        Once again, this big show-stopping number was just a figment of Igor’s sick mind – not a lavish display put on by his host and captor.

        • yalensis says:

          P.S. – having said that:
          I do have to make one tiny excuse for the sex and nudity in this version of Tannhäuser.
          Namely, that it was there in Wagner’s original too. Well, maybe not full topless, but still…
          I mean, the whole point of the Prologue, is that Tannhäuser is wallowing in sin and sex in the Grotto of of the Goddess Venus. Later, he has to make a choice between sex (with Venus), and a sexless marriage with his true love, the chaste Elisabeth.

          Back in the day, Wagner wrote Tannhäuser specifically intending to stage it at the Paris opera. Paris opera fans expected a sexy bacchanale ballet at the beginning of Act II of every opera.
          That way, the Parisian fops could have a late dinner, skip Act I, and enter the theater at the start of Act II to watch the orgy scene.

          Wagner’s great sin was that he placed the obligatory orgy scene at the start of Act I. Instead of Act II. Which was too early for the fops. Therefore, the opera was a flop when it first opened in Paris.
          True story.

          But my point is: the sex was all there, right in the original.
          But I am pretty sure that Wagner did not intend his hero to be actually Jesus Christ as a minstrel singer. That “interpretation” is simply insane!

          • colliemum says:

            Thanks – I didn’t know that, because I’ve avoided Wagner and everything to do with his music, much to the annoyance of my late husband who loved Wagner, but thankfully not to the exclusion of all other composers!

            • yalensis says:

              Dear colliemum:
              Can I entice you to listen to the first 6 minutes of “Das Rheingold” (the legendary Chéreau production).
              Wagner’s score starts with a very long E-flat note, symbolizing the creation of the universe.
              After the universe is created, matter and energy start moving, at first chaotically, then eventually harmony and rhythm are born, the frequencies synchronize into the undulating waves of the River Rhein, populated by water nymphs.

              • colliemum says:

                You can – I did.
                That bit is great music, but for me, it’s like a brilliant teaser which entices you to watch a film that then ultimately hugely disappointing.

        • colliemum says:

          The mind boggles! That sounds so bad, you all should ask for your money back.
          The rot set in when the public was denounced for being too straight, too bourgeois, too thick and far too fascist to understand the fine modern nuances such producers and directors were bringing to the production. After all, what did the composer or the author actually understand of modern life – they’d surely have agreed to such wonderful, ‘relevant’ interpretations. Thus the public – the eejits who actually have paid to watch being abused, visually and aurally – must be blamed, and the critics better praise those modern interpretations unless they want to be discredited as ignorant stick-in-the-muds.
          No, of course one doesn’t need or want costumes and designs which are perfect for the time the story plays, these are after all not BBC productions where even the underwear has to be historically accurate. And yes – it is fine to use modern technology when it enhances the story, like the current production of Andrea Chenier at the Royal Opera House.
          The worst I’ve seen (only on TV, thank God) are Handel Operas where the protagonists are dressed like Indiana Jones and Third World dictators! OK, Andreas Scholl manages to pull it off, here:

          But that’s no excuse!

          • yalensis says:

            Speaking of Handel, Met opera did a halfway-decent “Giulio Cesare” last season.
            But once again, they modernized the costumes and setting, it was 1920’s type “British imperialism” type era, in which the Brits were colonizing Egypt. Hence, Cleopatra was dressed like a flapper girl with a “Lulu” type hair-do.

  9. Warren says:

    • marknesop says:

      What an embarrassing pile of rubbish. It’ll be a totally random event, nobody knows, could be, maybe, the elites are upset with Putin, Alexey Navalny is the only game in town but 2016 will be Putin’s most difficult year? I would be surprised to see this much floundering around from Paul Goble, the CIA’s Great White Hope.

      Putin might be at his dacha (???) and see on TV that he has retired due to ill health? Uh huh. And just then, Roger Moore comes out of the woods and they fight on the doorstep and Bond slips, and Putin is about to brain him with a giant diamond-crusted samovar. Suddenly Alina Kabaeva, dressed in an outfit that seems to be mostly a handful of sable belts, runs up behind Putin and stabs him in the back with an icicle. He turns slowly, gasps, “Alina!! My little cabbage! I had hopes that you would bear me fine sons!” and then he gurgles and dies.

      Unfortunately we cannot close with a sweaty sex scene between Bond and Kabaeva, because Moore is 87. Ewwwww. There are some things we just cannot show on TV.

      • Jen says:

        Actually Daniel Craig (aged 49 or 50 years) would be playing Bond and Putin trips him up with a sweep of his foot around the back of Bond’s knee. While Bond is on the ground, Putin wacks him with the samovar and his bodyguards tow the British spy away.

        It’s easy for Putin to bring down Bond because Craig is the only Bond actor below 183 cm or 6 feet in the old Imperial measurements.

    • yalensis says:

      Beyond anti-corruption, Navalny has one more card he can play, though I wouldn’t want to see him play it: street nationalism.

      Putin is a nationalist, but it’s ultimately a state nationalism, it’s about the Russian federation. And Putin deals with non-ethnic Russians all the time, even in his own government. [Russia has substantial numbers of ethnic minorities.] So he can’t play the Russian chauvinist nationalist card that much.

      But Navalny certainly seems to have demonstrated racist attitudes in the past. And he could play the “we Russians are being bled and exploited by the people from North Caucasus, by the people from Central Asia” card.

      That plays to a depressingly powerful strand of common Russian public opinion, and it’s something against which Putin has surprisingly little defense. That could conceivably build a wider public constituency quite quickly if Navalny is willing to play that card.

      Sleboda is exactly right when he insinuates that Galeotti is whispering suggestions to Navalny.
      You gotta love Galeotti’s “Brer Rabbit” approach to Russian politics: “Oh, god forbid that Navalny would play the racist card, because that would be so extraordinarily effective in overthrowing Putin. Even though it would be morally wrong.”

      • Pavlo Svolochenko says:

        Already tried and already failed.

      • yalensis says:

        I think, and I hope I am right about this, that Galeotti is over-estimating the strength of “racism” in Russian society.
        It is easy for Westerners to get the impression that all Russians are racists. This is because of the lack of “politically correct” speech habits in Russian society.
        I made this point before, in my polemics with You-Know-Who. He was hoping to find, in Russians, a pool of converts to the “Defenders of the White Race” type movement.

        I made the point then, that Russians and Americans have completely different ideas about race, about ethnicity, about political speech, and so on. The 2 societies should never be confused with each other.
        This comes from 2 completely different histories.

        America has this history of genocide, slavery, segregation, racial violence, etc.
        The the late 1950’s, the Federal Government, under Eisenhower, and later under Kennedy/Johnson, made a strategic decision to end segregation of races.

        This led to a very long cultural battle over the decades. As a result, there are very strict controls over speech. In all American institutions, both private and public. Especially people in public life are very careful of their speech. This is completely understandable, given the context, and yet can lead to some distortions. For example, any politician in America who was caught using the n-word, would lose his job, even if he were actually a huge friend of the African-American community, in terms of black-friendly legislation. Whereas somebody else could be an institutional racist and yet skate by, with careful speech habits.

        In Russia, the history and the situation are completely different, and I would say, the opposite. Russians do not even know the concept of “politically correct speech”, and they mouth off at all times. Lots of ethnic slurs, lots of ethnic humor, etc. I don’t say that this is harmless, it is not. It is destructive and rude. And yet this fact has to be placed in the context, that Russia did NOT engage in systematic genocide, discrimination, or segregation, based on nationality or skin colour.

        In conclusion: There are 2 types of racism.
        1.) There is “daily” racism, the racism of the street, careless words and careless attitudes.
        People yelling slurs at each other in the heat of the moment. Feelings are hurt, but lives are not destroyed.

        2.) Then there is institutional racism: the racism of laws and systemic discrimination. The grinding type of racism which destroys lives and generations.

        Russia has #1, but not #2. (at least, not yet)
        If types like Mr. Navalny were to come to power in Russia, as Galeotti wishes, then we could expect Type #2 to be implemented. For the first time in Russian history.

        • yalensis says:

          As to the 2 types of racism, I think the best summary was given by some black American comedian, I can’t find the clip, and I don’t remember if this was Chapelle or Chris Rock. I just remember the quip, because it was funny, it stuck in my mind, and pretty much said it all.

          The context: He was talking about recent attempts in American schools, to deal with the Mark Twain classic “Huckleberry Finn”. This is a perennial problem of American middle schools, the Twain book is on the curriculum, but they simply don’t know what to do with the name of one of the main characters, who is called “Nigger Jim”.

          So, one school system took the approach of producing a copy of the book, in which Jim’s name was changed everywhere to “Slave Jim”.

          So, anyhow, the quip this black comedian made was directed against this ridiculous idea. He said something to the effect:

          “If you call me a nigger, then my feelings might be hurt, but I still get to go home afterwards.
          If you call me a slave, then I have to go home with YOU.”

          In my mind, this joke perfectly encapsulates the difference between “everyday racism” and “institutional racism”.

        • O'Briene and Murphy says:

          I too would say Galeotti is mistaken about the strength of the “racism card” (that he hopes Navalny will play, despite his coy little “gee, wouldn’t it be a shame” act).

          Much of it is just wishful thinking and (racist) stereotyping of Russians: Russians = bad, Racists = bad. Therefore, by the transitive property of MSM idiocy, Russians = racists.

          Some of it might be genuine mistaking of lack of political correctness for racism. Russians tend to be not all that into PC words and phrases. But that is definitely not quite the same thing as being racist. For example, in a group of Russian friends, an Asian individual might end up with a nickname such as “Kitayets” or “Kitaychik” — something like “Chinaman” (even if he is not Chinese). To Westerners, this would look like racism. Certainly nothing like that would be allowed in a U.S. school, for example. But in that same hypothetical Russian group, the “Chinaman” is probably fully accepted as “one of us”, and might in fact be very well-liked by everyone (and everyone else probably has a nickname too, many not entirely “appropriate” by Western PC standards).

          • yalensis says:

            That is very valid point.
            For example, there is a man, technically a Ukrainian citizen, named MIkhail Sergeeeivich Tolstykh .
            Tolstykh grew up in Donbass somewhere (I forget which town), and had a job as a low-level security guard in a grocery store. When the civil war broke out, he joined the Separatist forces, and became a commander of a Battalion.

            All his Ukrainian and Russian friends call him “Givi”. Which is an ethnic joke, because he is half-Gruzian, and “Givi” is a jokey nickname for all Gruzians. (Like, in America, “Paddy” for an Irishman, or “Ivan” for a Russian).

            Today, “Givi” is one of the most feared and respected “separatist” commanders.

  10. yalensis says:

    Update on the Tannhäuser story:
    The production is being removed from the repertory.

    There was a development 2 days ago, on Sunday, when the Director of Novosibirsk Theater of Opera and Ballet, Boris Mezdrich, was fired, he was replaced by a new director named Vladimir Kekhman.
    Upon assuming his duties, Kekhman attempted to set up a meeting with the controversial Tannhäuser director, Kulyabin. However, Kulyabin kept dodging out and avoided meeting with the new boss.
    Anyhow, Kulyabin’s contract had already expired, so it seemed like a good time for Kekhman to just divest himself of the religious and artistic controversy surrounding this production.

    Meanwhile, Kulyabin has started work on a new project, this will be his production of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters”.

    [yalensis: one can only imagine what horrors await this standard Chekhov production. Maybe he will set it in ancient Rome.]

    • colliemum says:

      He could set it in a banja or sauna …

      • yalensis says:

        Masha: “And so we are finally alone, it is time to begin our bath. We must whip ourselves with little branches. whip… whip….”

        Irina: “The time will come when everybody in the world will be clean and shiny. Meanwhile, we must get to work. Come now, these skins will not soften themselves…. We must become beautiful, so that we can return to Moscow. TO MOSCOW…. !”

        Olga (embracing her sisters): “My dear sisters! Life is so good. Someday we will inevitably die, but our bodies will be clean. All our suffering will be forgotten, there will be peace and joy on Earth. And everybody will be CLEAN! So clean…. Oh, if only we could live to see it!”

        Masha: “To Moscow!”

        Irina: “To Moscow!”

        Olga: “Yes, to Moscow! Where they have the best saunas in the world!”

        • Jennifer Hor says:

          Kulyabin flies Masha, Irina and Olga to Moscow, dresses them in rainbow balaclavas and outfits, and tells them to yell and shout blasphemies before a bemused Putin and Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill. Then the Cossack comes along and whips them all with little branches. The last you hear of them, they’re languishing in prison, whining about sewing uniforms and not being able to visit the banya where they can get whipped. They’re going on fake hunger strikes under the guidance of noted nutritionist and dietitian Mark Feygin.

          There, fixed all of that up for you.

          • colliemum says:

            I think you and yalensis ought to apply for an Arts grant and do that production yourselves – a travelling production, so we can all watch and applaud when you touch down in the various outposts inhabited by us Kremlin Stooges!


    • Jennifer Hor says:

      A post-modern Kulyabinesque version has already been done, it was called “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” with Hugo Weaving, Greg Pierce and Terence Stamp playing the titular sisters who finally leave their boring lives in Perm, fly to Australia and whoop it up in a hired bus around the countryside.

      Actually that wasn’t a bad movie for the most part and Terence Stamp looked quite pretty as a transsexual. He must have been relieved to play a role that wasn’t a stereotyped world-weary rich English criminal.

  11. Warren says:

  12. Warren says:

    Putin agrees to extend gas discount for Ukraine for next 3 months

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed to extend Ukraine’s gas discount until the end of June, after a request from Gazprom on Monday.

    “Let’s do it [extend the discount – Ed.]” – Putin said Tuesday. Earlier the head of Gazprom Aleksey Miller said the company had asked the Russian government for a 3-month extension to the discount on gas for Ukraine.


  13. Warren says:

    More BS from the UT & BBC

  14. Warren says:

  15. peter says:

  16. peter says:

    • davidt says:

      Let’s not forget Carlos and his MH17 tweets just yet:
      (I remember citing a blog which included a photograph of Carlos and his girlfriend, but now cannot find the article. Does anyone know where this article appeared?)

    • marknesop says:

      Certainly come a long way in their reconstruction of the airframe in nine months, haven’t they? I wonder if they’re hiring? Looks like as good a place to get paid for doing nothing as any I’ve seen anywhere. Are we ever going to see the evidence that leads them to this preliminary conclusion? Oh, I forgot – Ukraine has a veto over disclosure.

      So I am announcing that the preliminary results of my investigation are that the plane was shot down by a Ukrainian SU-25. And I can prove it. I will produce all my evidence the day after the official investigation produces theirs.

      • colliemum says:

        Very good! Seconded!

        Btw – have you noticed how the MSM as well as professional (sort of) blogs are full on the one hand with reports on how that co-pilot flew the plane and 149 people into a mountain on purpose and why, while on the other hand in those same publications a large number argues for not blaming him at all because only the voice recorder has been analysed and therefore ‘we mustn’t judge the poor, ill (probably) man quite yet …’? Compare and contrast with the immediate “Putin did it” reaction to MH17 – which, regardless of what the Dutch authorities do dare to publish in a year or two, is a schoolbook example of how to manipulate and govern world public opinion.

    • Jennifer Hor says:

      How does a theory become a “primary” theory and on what criteria? Does it become a primary theory based on the actual evidence found and where it seems to point or is the criterion that the evidence must be made to fit a preconceived agenda?

  17. et Al says:

    Neuters: UPDATE 1-U.S. approval moves Shell a step closer to Arctic drilling

    The U.S. Interior Department on Tuesday upheld a 2008 lease sale in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska, moving Royal Dutch Shell a step closer to returning to oil and gas exploration in the Arctic since it suffered mishaps in the region in 2012.

    “The Arctic is an important component of the Administration’s national energy strategy, and we remain committed to taking a thoughtful and balanced approach to oil and gas leasing and exploration offshore Alaska,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

    Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will next consider Shell’s exploration plan and perform an environmental assessment on it, which could take at least 30 days.

    Shell lost control of a massive oil rig called the Kulluk in 2012, which eventually ran aground. But in anticipation of returning to the region for the first time since then, Shell has already moved rigs to Alaska….

    There’s a reason it is called the Chukchi Sea.


    I wonder though that if Alaska hadn’t been sold by Russia to the US, the US would still have taken possession of it at some point. That would have made for an interesting alternative history.

    I won’t post any classic Chukchi jokes because I did that already quite some time ago.

  18. Oddlots says:

    Via OffGuardian. She would have made such a great kindergarten teacher. So gentle yet stern and so condescending.

    • Jennifer Hor says:

      She even looks like my old kindergarten teacher Mrs Cockburn.

    • Oddlots says:

      Possible explanation:

      “The story is the same every time: some nation, due to a confluence of lucky circumstances, becomes powerful—much more powerful than the rest—and, for a time, is dominant. But the lucky circumstances, which often amount to no more than a few advantageous quirks of geology, be it Welsh coal or West Texas oil, in due course come to an end. In the meantime, the erstwhile superpower becomes corrupted by its own power.

      As the endgame approaches, those still nominally in charge of the collapsing empire resort to all sorts of desperate measures—all except one: they will refuse to ever consider the fact that their imperial superpower is at an end, and that they should change their ways accordingly. George Orwell once offered an excellent explanation for this phenomenon: as the imperial end-game approaches, it becomes a matter of imperial self-preservation to breed a special-purpose ruling class—one that is incapable of understanding that the end-game is approaching. Because, you see, if they had an inkling of what’s going on, they wouldn’t take their jobs seriously enough to keep the game going for as long as possible.”


  19. Oddlots says:

    Interesting piece:

    The new “invisible subs” driven by air-independent propulsion plants can stay submerged for 45 days, are more compact and stealthy than any ballistic missile sub ever designed, and are armed with the most technologically advanced weapons systems ever installed on an undersea vessel. And if the vessels live up to their reported design specs, no naval force on Earth has a deterrent in place. And I’ll terrify you further here, as an expert in naval systems, by observing that vessels like this always exceed released design specs, always.

    For those not familiar with the impact of such weapons systems, the balance of naval power and the overall world balance could easily be turned asunder here. Being able to negate US naval superiority, even the US carrier based threat, would undermine American hegemony utterly.

    • marknesop says:

      It is worth mentioning here as well that the great strength of a submarine, vis-a-vis deterrence, is that it could be anywhere. Is it operating in the vicinity of your task group? Who knows? So long as it is not observed alongside the pier and you do not know when it left, it could be anywhere. If the new designs are not detectable by seabed arrays or Towed Array, getting a hit on one is down to pure chance and just because you can’t find it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Older-generation Russian subs were quite noisy – although they managed to achieve some surprising successes, such as the Victor that lost depth control and hit the bottom of USS KITTY HAWK – but the KILO class diesels were very quiet. Silence is deniability, and in the absence of proof the submarine was never there. Conversely, you only need to leak information that it is following or shaping a course to intercept a multinational task group for it to be a menace to that task group. Although missiles get all the glamour and attention, there is no weapon ship’s captains fear more than the torpedo, and the loss of the carrier in the center of the task group would be catastrophic. The carrier is the sole reason the rest of the units are there.

      • Tim Owen says:

        And these ones sound terrifying:

        The speed of the VA-111 far exceeds that of any standard torpedo currently fielded by NATO. This speed is a result of supercavitation: the torpedo is, in effect, flying in a gas bubble created by outward deflection of water by its specially shaped nose cone and the expansion of gases from its engine. By keeping water from coming into contact with the surface of the body of the torpedo, drag is significantly reduced, allowing extremely high speeds.

        Launched from 533 mm torpedo tubes, the VA-111 exits the tube at 50 knots (93 km/h). Shortly afterwards, its solid-fuel rocket ignites and propels it to speeds of up to 200 knots (370 km/h). Some reports indicate that speeds of 250+ knots may be achieved, and that work on a 300-knot (560 km/h) version was underway.[2]

        • marknesop says:

          Yes, the Skhval is an old idea now, but it is an excellent example of unconventional thinking when conventional design has run up against a wall and no more speed or extra capabilities can be extracted. The Skhval exhausts through the nose so that it “flies” in a low-resistance cloud of its own bubbles. The disadvantage to the Skhval is that it is a straight-runner with no guidance, but it is so fast that the target altering to avoid it is not really a major consideration. If you didn’t start to turn and go to full speed as soon as you heard the outer doors opening, too late. And if you were a surface ship you would likely not hear anything except *BOOM*. And that’d be you.

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