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Odds & Ends: Managed Festivity Edition

by poemless Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 08:34:54 AM EST

Contents: OMG, longest Odds & Ends, ever.  What, you want an index or something?  Just read it.  You won't regret it.  Or just enjoy the hot guys and recommend it.  Whatever.

Tis the Season, my friends!  And nothing says Peace on Earth and Joy to the World quite like the power struggle between flawed, greedy, insecure, self-righteous human beings with persecution complexes who, made to exist in one dysfunctional social unit and conform to its oppressive rules, vie in futility for power over each other.  

You think I am going to write about Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Putin and Managed Democracy?  But maybe I am, maybe I'm not.  We cringe at the idea of rigged elections, the cult of personality, they cynical political strategy, the curbing of freedom of speech.  Where's the fucking democracy you promised us, Mr. Putin?  Why does the Kremlin get to make all the decisions?  Why can't anyone else get a piece of the pie?  You do this every time, Mr. (Leader of Russia.)  It's always about you, isn't it?  You are not happy unless you are the center of attention, and everyone else is toiling away in the kitchen and people only come out to ask if you want another helping, or a third term, as it were.  It's. Not. Fair.  I'm never going to let you sucker me into this again!  This country is so effed up!!!  ...Sometimes I don't even know why I bother...   </ sniff>  

Surkov said, "Do not speak to us of Democracy while thinking about our Hydrocarbons!"  

(Pause to appreciate beautiful visage...)

I say, "Do not speak to us of Russian Authoritarianism while thinking about your own freaking Family Issues!!"

Hear me out.

Promoted by Colman


~Bemoan the curbing of freedom of speech in some country a bazillion miles away that you've never even been to.  Makes you feel righteous, doesn't it?  Now, go tell your sister-in-law that she needs to lose 40 pounds and that her Velveeta clam dip tastes like dog food.  

~Blush at  the sycophantism of zaputina.ru and Nashi.  All that fake cooing over Putin is just gross.  Oh, yeah, remember to tell your cousin the honest truth, that her new baby is not actually all that cute.  You've seen hundreds of more precious babies.  And, it smells particularly bad too, this one.

~Point a finger at the corruption that pervades the Kremlin (who even cares who's there anymore: Commies, Oligarchs, KGB...  they are all greedy crooks.)  Then inform your family that Christmas will not be held at your racist investment banker brother's house, which is huge and has a mini bar and a big screen TV, but at your inner-city walk-up.  You're a better Christian than he, and you should be rewarded for the fact.  

~Curse Authoritarianism.  And when your father asks you if you need some money, you know, because you chose to be an artist and all, tell your father you don't need his stinking money and he has no right to tell you how to live your life!, adding something about the suspicious way he earned his money or that his first wife was a go-go dancer who ran off with a Sicilian.  Anyway, he wasn't fairly elected to position of father, was he?  Nobody asked you if you wanted to be born, did they?  That, in itself, is unconscionable, really.  Exclaim smartly, "What century is this, anyway!?"

...Ok.  I have spent the day trying to get everyone in my family to agree on a time and place for his year's Christmas gathering.  No proposition is agreeable to everyone.  In-laws, vacation time, space, and incessant bitching about why doesn't MY part of the family ever get priority?  Everyone wants to uphold tradition, but ours is a family burdened by innumerable deaths, divorces, remarriages and every other conceivable kind of upheaval and tragedy, each with its own traditions.  It's a familial identity crisis!  So.  I've taken on the role of benevolent dictator, presenting the options I find personally palatable as the only viable ones.  They majority are rallying behind me, and I'm ignoring the others.  Let the pundits meditate on Putin's mysterious allure.  I'll tell you straight off, the right combination of charm, leadership, efficiency and cold hearted ambition/bullying can achieve miracles.  Is it fair?  No.  Do I trust others enough to leave the planning to them?  Good god, no freaking way!  That's how we got into this mess in the first place!  

Hm...  I used to have a poster that declared, "If you can bake a cake, you can make a bomb."  I need one for, "If you can organize a family gathering, you can run a country."  

Now I just need to get myself a really sexy evil genius assistant.  ...putting that on my Christmas list: laptop, immersion blender, that propagandist Vladislav Surkov...

Oh, yes.  I was going to share the following news items with you.  Beware.  I'm back in "All Russian Love Fest All The Time" mode.  Something to do with the weather this time of year...    

1. Like a Chicago bus: They are so late, they are early...

NYT: The U.S.S.R. Is Back (on Clothing Racks)

MOSCOW, Nov. 26 -- Empowered by an oil boom that pushed the country's trade surplus past $94 billion this year, Russia has been flexing its muscles abroad. At home, meanwhile, young and trendy Muscovites are in the throes of nostalgia for the staples of Soviet childhoods, relics of a time when the U.S.S.R. was at the height of superpower status.
That may explain why one of the most popular fashion designers this fall is Denis Simachev, who is selling overcoats fastened with hammer-and-sickle buttons, gold jewelry minted to look like Soviet kopecks and shirts festooned with the Soviet coat of arms, complete with embroidered ears of wheat.

"People in their 30s see these kinds of symbols as reminders of happy memories, like going to pioneer camp where they lived together, ate breakfast together and played sports," said Mr. Simachev, 33, who wears his hair in a Samurai-style ponytail. He insists he is no Communist -- for one thing, his overcoats sell for about $2,100 and his T-shirts for about $600. His boutique is sandwiched between Hermès and Burberry stores on a pedestrian lane, Stoleshnikov, that is one of the capital's most expensive shopping streets.

Mr. Simachev first attracted notice with a collection of retro Olympic tracksuits emblazoned with C.C.C.P., the Cyrillic initials for the U.S.S.R., and T-shirts printed with the likeness of President Vladimir V. Putin, which served as a wink at the cult of personality forming around the leader.

Man, I must have been a real fashion trailblazer back in middle school.  Unfortunately I've lost my Pièce de résistance, a "Surf Russia" T-shirt with Lenin and palm trees.  I still have a great hammer & sickle watch, though.  Seriously, all the cool kids wore Soviet kitsch.  Just now it's catching on in Moscow?  So give 'em another 20 years & they might decide democracy is so so ochen' klassno too...  Who knows?  

I am not going to delve into the philosophical implications of a $600 "CCCP" T-shirt.  I still haven't recovered from Gorby hawking Louis Vuitton.  And I don't want to talk about the kinda creepy feeling I get that these folks were not aware that Soviet kitsch has been hip before, in the West, during the Cold War (first one).  That's how things get scary.  I once had to inform a Russian teacher that the Soviet Union did not in fact give the U.S. the Statue of Liberty.  I honestly don't know who was more freaked out.  I really don't...

2.  I knew there was a reason I liked this guy, and not just in a mad jealous kinda way.

Huff Po: Remnick On NBC News: We Ignore Russia At Our Peril

You can watch the video clip here.

What's very important to understand, is: Not only does Russia have going for it an oil price nearing $100 a barrel and the high price of natural gas, it also has going for it the horrible decline of U.S. moral authority, that the price of this presidency, for all its errors, moral and otherwise, has been that the United States does not have the moral authority in a kind of worldwide discussion. So it is extremely easy and effective for Vladimir Putin to say, "Look, United States, don't lecture me on democracy -- look at Abu Ghraib, look at Guantanamo, look at many other things" -- and he can say that, by the way, with great effectiveness.

One of Putin's great tools as a leader -- and he's extremely effective at what he's doing -- is a sense of mystery. We're now in late November. and we still don't know anything about the shape of the ballot for December parliamentary elections, and we have no idea if anybody will be on the ballot against a either Putin or a Putin-handpicked candidate come March. Just have no idea. Imagine that. I mean, we've been talking about the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary for half of our adult lives. They have no idea. These aren't elections and they don't bear close inspection -- whether there are monitors or no monitors -- they don't bear close inspection as democratic elections. But again: As Americans, as part of what's seen as Bush's America, we are not going to be very effective advocates, certainly not in Russia, in an era of declining American moral authority, which is one of the most unfortunate consequences of the Bush presidency.

We should pay attention to what's going on in Russia for any number of reasons. First of all it's a gigantic country, with a gigantic land mass, with nuclear weapons, with enormous economic resources, its importance in geopolitical terms is fantastic -- it borders on Iran and Central Asia, it borders Europe -- it couldn't be more important. But our eye has been off the ball essentially for quite a long time (a) because the Cold War ended and (b) because we've been so obsessed, for obvious reasons, on South Asia and the Middle East.

It would be foolish to predict the future - I couldn't tell you and nobody could tell if he's going to remain president somehow, by constitutional means or extraconstitutional means, or whether he'll be Prime minister or whether he'll be a kind of puppeteer of Russian politics. What is certain is he will remain an extremely important figure, maybe even a singulary powerful figure, it just remains what are the means of doing that. And whether he's figured that out or not, he hasn't quite announced.

I realize this is seriously old news to most of our readers, which makes the dishy sneaky tone of the Huff Po article totally bizarre.  I'm going to coin a new phrase for people who blog old news like they broke it: Cave Blogging.  Catchy, huh?  

Anyway, the reason I've included this is that it's frankly refreshing and encouraging to find a bona fide mainstream "Russia Expert" on an American TV network discussing Russia who isn't demonizing, divining or and giddily wallowing in Then New Cold War, but who assesses the situation in a realistic, sincere, and gah! thought-provoking way.  Thoughts about gah! the repercussions of our own actions!  Gah!  Well, no wonder they did not include that clip in the actual broadcast...  Wait.  I thought Russia was the one doing the censoring?  Gah!  So confused!  

(Ok, LEP. You're right, it's also the cute NY Jew thing.  I can't help it, ok?)

3. Quote of the Day.

"If we conduct peaceful policies and avoid prying into the affairs of others, this [Russia's defense potential] will be enough; but at the same time, our military should be able to stop others from poking their snotty noses into our affairs," Putin reiterated on Monday.

Once a hooligan, always a hooligan, eh, Vovka?  Maybe if the whole Tsar for Life gig doesn't work out, he could go into comedy writing.  I hear they are looking for a few good rats in Hollywood...

4. Just so you can't accuse me of bias...

Sigh...  I really love Katrina vanden Heuvel.  And while I seriously doubt the fate of Russia hinges on that of Novaya Gazeta, the paper for which the slain Anna Politkovskaya wrote, and which has most vociferously opposed Putin, I agree that one can't just go around shutting down papers...  Interesting note: Gorbachev helped found Novaya Gazeta and continues to own a significant portion of it.  And Gorbachev has been both critical and supportive of Putin.  

5.  Well, apparently they haven't yet been stripped of the freedom to be completely mad.

Moscow Times: Putin Made a Name for Himself in This Village  

In the Altai region, sandwiched between the Kazakh steppe and the mountains from which it takes its name, locals nickname such forlorn settlements Bear Corner or Cockroach's Darkness.

Titov, however, has taken advantage of a Kremlin initiative to restore Russia's farm sector to former glories. Agriculture is one of four priority development areas, giving farmers access to tax breaks and cheap loans from state-controlled banks.

The government contributed 68 billion rubles ($2.8 billion) from the federal budget to the agricultural sector in 2007. This will rise to 76 billion rubles in 2008.

Titov took out one of these loans, a five-year credit for 4 million to 5 million rubles, last year.

"Without this money, we would simply have gone bankrupt. So I decided to thank Putin for his support of this village."

In the 1980s, the farm -- then called 50 Years of the USSR -- raised the best sheep in the Altai region. After the Soviet Union collapsed, it fell into disrepair. Suddenly unemployed, farmers either left to find work elsewhere or turned to drink.

Titov had already set up a company called Golden Field to farm the fertile soil before turning to the national project.

"When I went to the tax inspectors with my idea, they looked at me as though I were mad. But I told them: 'I'm not opening a business. I'm preparing to support my home village.'"

He received the documents registering his farm as Joint Stock Company Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin Ltd. on Oct. 5, 2006.

"My only regret is it wasn't his birthday," Titov said. Putin turned 54 two days later.

The Putin farm employs 25 technicians earning a monthly wage of 4,000 to 5,000 rubles ($164-$205), about a third of the national average of 13,800 rubles.

Residents were amazed at the name change.

"When my husband told me he now works 'in Putin,' I laughed and thought he was pulling my leg," Svetlana Chuyeva said.

Now, seeing Putin on television gets him talking about work, she said. "And sometimes he dreams, 'When the president comes, I'll show him how well I can handle a combine harvester.'"

Yikes.  Is it just me or is the news getting more retro by the second around here?  USSR shirts, David "I'm cute but I haven't actually written a book about Russia in 10 years" Remnick, ... collective farms?  Managed Democracy might be the least of our concerns, folks.  I think they are screwing with the space-time continuum over there.  Just using election intrigues to divert our attention from the fact.  I'm sure of it.  

6.  Sympathy for the Devil...

Russia Blog: One Cold War Was Enough: Russia Needs Our Help, Not Our Condemnation

Can we learn to deal with Russia as it is...not as it was, and not what we wish it were?

Trying to understand Russia through the prism of the British and American news media these days can be a real headache. On one hand, if you've read the business pages of The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times lately, you would learn that Russia is now one of the world's leading emerging markets, and the Russian economy has grown at an average annual rate of 7% since 2000. On the other hand, if you turn to the headlines or the editorial pages, you will read that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been busy crushing democracy and reviving the Soviet Union.

While Americans are constantly having their eyes opened to the possibilities for growth and economic freedom in the People's Republic of China, a far more free and open society in Russia is judged more harshly in the Western news media. Why is this? Is it because the shelves at Wal-Marts across America are not stocked with goods from Russia? Or is I simply because, as some cynical Russians imply, there is one American and European expectation for people who "look like us", and another for others (Asians, Africans, and Arabs) who don't? Or could it be that American perceptions of Russia are still formed by a combination of stereotypes left over from the Cold War and more recent images of Russia in the Nineties as the Wild East -- an exotic backwater whose main exports were supposedly mail order brides and ruthless mafias?

(...)

None of this is to say that Russia does not have real, severe problems that threaten its immature democracy and recent economic gains. In 2008 the Russian Federation is projected to lose 700,000 people, a population equivalent to that of Austin, Texas. This means that while Russia enjoys a very high literacy rate, Russian companies often struggle to find enough talented managers to sustain their growth. And while Russia's major cities are growing, the countryside is losing people, due to high mortality rates and bleak prospects in rural areas. Russia imports some 40% of its meat and dairy products, and this has left ordinary Russians vulnerable to the recent run of inflation for basic consumer staples. Russia continues to suffer more abortions than live births every year, and the Russian army draft deprives many small towns and villages of their best young men.

What should America do to help address these real problems? The first point is to stop accepting the folly that a weakened Russia would somehow be in America's best interests. This is particularly important due to the rise of China next to Russia's unpopulated regions and the painful history of Islamic extremism and ethnic separatism in the Caucuses. Some American statesmen, like retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell, recognize that a strong Russia can be good for America's long term interests in Eurasia. After all, Russia stopped Napoleon in the 19th century and halted two German attempts to dominate the world in the 20th century. With the glaring exception of Cold War, our two vast countries have historically been friends, not rivals.

The second point is to stop obsessing about the Kremlin and start concentrating on promoting more trade, entrepreneurship, and genuine philanthropy between our two countries at the grassroots and corporate levels. If we can do this with China, a country that does not respect religious freedom and which actively censors the Internet, why can't we do it with Russia, whose government does not do either of these things?

As with so many other ventures, when it comes to Russia, the private sector in America remains miles ahead of the media and the political class when it comes to introducing real change. If some American politicians and pundits can find reasons for optimism even about war-torn Iraq, surely they can spare some for Russia?

I'm a total sucker for these entreaties over at Russia Blog, even though they've aligned themselves with the, er, Discovery Institute, which ... actually ... might explain why Putin doesn't seem very nasty to them, considering they're basically working for the Devil himself.  I disagree with about 1/2 of this rant, and now that you know about my hammer and sickle pocket watch, you should be able to figure out which half that is.  Still, one has to admire their persistence.  I'm waiting for the day these guys do their own version of the Britney Spears video, "Just leave Putin alone, Ok?  Leave him alone!!!  Waaaaa!!!!!"  Actually, I'd watch any YouTube video featuring Yuri Mamchur...  Cute fellow.

7. Plug.  

Lastly, I would like to recommend, if you are interested in these things and neither Jerome nor I are meeting your needs, that you check out Sean's Russian Blog for some pretty good coverage of the political climate & upcoming elections in Russia.  Includes absolute gems like this one.  Don't just sit there...  Go read it!

Ok, I know that was a ton of homework to pile on you right before the holidays.  Sorry.  I wouldn't demand it of you if I didn't think you could handle it.  :)

...

Don't worry, Misha.  There will be other elections.  
Maybe.  
Or maybe Putin will become Tsar.  Who knows?  
...Stay warm.

Ok, the rest of you, have a lovely week!

Ciao!

Display:
Is that photo in the middle your wardrobe? ;-)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Nov 28th, 2007 at 07:03:45 PM EST
No, but I've added it to my Christmas list. :)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 10:59:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is the time of year that I really appreciate my boring, zero selfishness, zero drama family.

And Putin's comb over has reached Homer Simpson levels of absurdity.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Nov 28th, 2007 at 11:27:22 PM EST
  1. I just want to clarify that my family (excluding myself, perhaps) is not selfish.  Just ... complicated.  The point is, I still love them, for all their faults and drama.

  2. Indeed.  He should go to Misha's stylist and get a make-over.


"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 11:02:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
you are the domestic authoritarian type? ;-)


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 01:12:47 AM EST
That was probably a remark to Millman, right?

Russia knows nothing else but to build and revere authoritarian leaders. And they are very good at that, indeed.

by das monde on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 01:30:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, there were a number of peasant uprisings and revolutions...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 05:52:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Russia knows nothing else but to build and revere authoritarian leaders

Oh good god...  Can we please refrain from these demeaning, oversimplified declarations about the nature of 143 million people?  I could just as easily remark that Russia knows nothing else but to overthrow the very authoritarian leaders they build and revere.  Except that would also be a lie because their general repertoire of knowledge extends far beyond authoritarian leaders.  What I'm saying is that one might consider the possibility that ignorance (it's all they know!) is not the crux of the problem here.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 11:12:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The characterization is surely (too) simplistic, but this is a kind of "institutional analysis" I can start with. Russian people are surely different - quite many have strong sense of injustice of ongoing sysytems. There were indeed uprisings and revolutions there - but every change works out "pretty nicely" for authoritarian tendencies. They just don't go away, while more egalitarian or democratic traditions "always" get stuck soon. There is nothing predetermined by "natural laws" or rules of "deterministic chaos" - except that the society (like any other "cybernetic system") tends to associate each situation with something experienced, and act accordingly. History repeats itself by "the same" compulsion as we humans experience. Change is possible, but some concentrated determination is needed.
by das monde on Sat Dec 1st, 2007 at 03:38:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
but some concentrated determination is needed

Oh yeah, like the concentrated determination in anti-russian propaganda which has existed for centuries, more recently with the USA in the lead and their numerous barking followers from the baltic fascistic states.

Shit happens everywhere, but only in Russia shitty history repeats itself again and again, be it in form of unsuccessful uprisings or, say, apalling  hit-and run road accidents committed by intoxicated policemen and, of course, such left-wing, non-biased, even slightly pro-russian media like the ET is free from making up a-la Russophobe stinky fairy tales. Or not?

I mean one of the last poemless's diaries about Russia and Russian shit. You know, the one with a tear-jerking story about how her friend was hit by a Russian police car full of the drunk policemen who cowardly ran away and loads of nasty, unhelpfull russkies in mid-90s Moscow. EWWW! That could have happened only in Russia, innit? Many of ETers agreed with  poemless - The Best Friend of shitty russkies:
bruno-ken:
jesus crist, that first story makes Russia sound like a third world country
das monde:
No wonder many miss Soviet times there is russia.

I didn't have any time to post to that diary  but noticed quite a weird coincidence: pl's diary about  hit-n-ran accident (which may or may not have happen in reality, in mid-90s Moscow) was posted here on the  9th November just a day after the very similar accident had happened. The difference is, the  accident happened in not such a third world country as Russia but in a proud member of European Union - Lithuania.  Then,the drunk policeman's car hit not pl's friend but three 10 year old boys, not injured but killed them and like in her story, cowardly ran away (arriving to a police station only 17 hrs later, already without any traces of alcohol in blood).

While Lithuania was in grief, including
the president, das monde, a lithuanian, just blahbbed happily about incorrigible authoritarian Russia, not noticing his native tragedy at all (because any person would've mentioned it after reading pl's story, wouldn't they?) But, no, shit happens only in Russia!

Look forward to reading another  pl's bit about russian authoritarian shit and deep
das monde's analysis of that shit's inevitability.

by lana on Sat Dec 1st, 2007 at 06:55:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You dive into very broad waters here. I am startled how much you extracted from a concentrated determination tip. I thought that I presented my "history repeats itself" viewpoint not specifically to Russia, but much more generally to most tastes, for example. And I do see possibilities out of "inevitabilities".

By concentrated determination I do not mean anything totalitarian. What I have in mind is someone having a strong determined position to represent something or someone. I do not mean that the "determined position" be would have to become dominant in one way or other - who knows which ideas and positions are "absolutely" right. But while the other ideas would not be "absolutely" right either, someone has to be determined to protect own perspectives. I won't clarify nuances in one go...

But for example, I do not really blame Putin for all detesting things happening in Russia. I am rather dismayed by seriously hapless opposition - their latest performances are just, shall I say, pathetic. Of course, it was not realistic to change the government, or even the mood, with one electoral campaign. But strategy and the outcome for the opposition are just as bad as they could possibly be.

The thing is, Russia has durable autocratic models, while democratic models are basically non-existent - and barely anyone working on them. I will stir up yet other strain of controversy, but I suggest that Russia has too much believe in absolutes - it won't try "half-measures". Actually, the Western philosophy itself is probably too much framed by absolute principles, compared with traditional Eastern worldviews (for example). But Russian faith in powerfull truths is pretty fatalistic. Sorry, I can't be more subtle right now.

As for Lithuania - well, it offers its own flavor of faith in certainties only, and that is no joy for me. Traffic safety in Lithuania is indeed terrible - it could be officially the worst in EU. Just as sadly, standards of public service (road police notoriously included) are deteriorating badly, expectations as well. There are voices to take public interest seriously, but their argumentation is too predictable. While some civilized know-how is still functioning, commercial interests are running free and increasingly wildly. In a few perspectives, it is maybe a "groundbreaking" model (for EU, at least) of a modern corporatized society, taking worst examples of acting with impunity and offering its own such.

I did not bring the subject of East European traffic accidents, nor I try to share Lithuanian news here regularly. When I wrote No wonder many miss Soviet times..., I thought a bit of Lithuania as well. Here I'll try to clarify. Public Soviet nostalgias are not met kindly in Lithuania, though they are hardly unspeakable. Much of Lithuanian politics is indeed based on fear of Russia - though that does not always help most fervent proponents. Nevertheless, some Soviet era cultural legacy is noticeable on TV (even propaganda journals are reviewed in some programs), food products with Soviet brand names are popular, and Grutas Park of Soviet era statues is prospering (though that enterprise was somewhat hit with author rights litigation recently!). What to make of it? It looks clear that there is a robust social sentiment against the modern type of wild capitalism, with the still recent Soviet times serving as a vague model of what social relations could be. Social wistfulness and sympathies to Russia could be separated. Whether you like it or not, concerns of Russia power are there to stay in the Baltic states.

But the funny thing is the following: To reduce the risk of Russian domination again, it would be actually smart for the Balts to turn their social politics left. The current regime of unrestrained influence of money and any kind of power only increases the risk of "takeovers" of small little nations by their big neighbors, if we really speak of that. Not only playing wild capitalism is closer to feared Russian "customs", but learning how to build better egalitarian social relations would point to ways how to keep independence of a small state. I try to smuggle this idea into Lithuania, since they have Parliamentary election within a year as well ;-)

by das monde on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 03:34:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lana,  Thanks for posting this.  I want to respond.  Hope you see this...

I didn't have any time to post to that diary  but noticed quite a weird coincidence: pl's diary about  hit-n-ran accident (which may or may not have happen in reality, in mid-90s Moscow) was posted here on the  9th November just a day after the very similar accident had happened.

It did happen, in reality, in the winter of 1995, on komsomalskaya prospect, involving an international exchange student.  You are free to not believe it, and you would certainly not be the first.  But there were many many witnesses.  Why would I make this up?  If you have not noticed, I'm really the only person around here who is devoting most of their spare time and energy to debunking the lies about Russia.  This did happen, and I did want to write about it.  Not to illustrate how horrible Russia is (though I fear it had that effect) but because I am sick, and absurdity and horror are my muses.

I had no clue a similar accident happened the day before I posted that diary.   You should know I usually write these diaries days, sometimes weeks, before posting them.  

The difference is, the  accident happened in not such a third world country as Russia but in a proud member of European Union - Lithuania.  Then,the drunk policeman's car hit not pl's friend but three 10 year old boys, not injured but killed them and like in her story, cowardly ran away (arriving to a police station only 17 hrs later, already without any traces of alcohol in blood).

Damn.

BTW, Russia is not a 3rd world country...  But you know that.

While Lithuania was in grief, including
the president, das monde, a lithuanian, just blahbbed happily about incorrigible authoritarian Russia, not noticing his native tragedy at all (because any person would've mentioned it after reading pl's story, wouldn't they?) But, no, shit happens only in Russia!

  1.  I had no clue Das Monde was Lithuanian.  
  2.  I never saw this story in our American press, so I could not have known about it to comment on it.  
  3.  I want to address the "shit happens only in Russia!" accusation:  

If you read everything I write (I don't expect you to, of course) it would be abundantly obvious to you that I HATE HATE HATE the hypocrisy rampant in the West that promotes the lie that "X only happens in Russia."  OMG, Bush STOLE the election the US, and United Russia gets 63% of the vote and the whole world is ready to call Putin a dictator.  The rest of the world has a double standard when it comes to trade and foreign policy: they can act in their own interest, but when Russia does it, they are being "bullies".  There is nothing in my diary to suggest that the type of accident I described only happens in Russia.  But it did happen in Russia, and I experienced it and I write about my experiences in and opinions about Russia.  That's what I mostly write about.  Obviously I cannot please everyone.  Jerome accuses me of gushing Russia love fest diaries, someone just called one of my diaries a "love letter to Putin", and you are upset that my story painted Russia (technically, the Moscow police) in a bad light.  You know, I could write about how, actually, Russia's not so different than anywhere else.  But I don't love Russia because "it is not so different than anywhere else."  I could write about Chicago police corruption.  But this is a European blog...

But do you know what would be a better idea?

YOU write it.  YOU write about Russia.  I am an American who hasn't been there in 10 years.  Honestly, if anyone thinks I know what I am talking about, if anyone bases their opinion of Russian on what I write, they are idiots.  No better than people who open up the New York Times and believe everything they read in it.

This is a website where anyone can write ANYTHING they like.  If I'm the only one bothering to write about Russia, that's NOT my fault.  Why don't you write about Russia, if you think I am wrong or disagree with what you see here?  I for one would REALLY like to hear what you have to say.  

Look forward to reading another  pl's bit about russian authoritarian shit and deep das monde's analysis of that shit's inevitability.

Thank you.  I look forward to your comments.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 11:32:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I had no clue Das Monde was Lithuanian.

I don't remember where das monde said he was lithuanian, but you may find this exchange illuminating.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 11:47:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A "domestic authoritarian type?"

To be honest, I've never actually considered myself the "domestic type"...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 11:14:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Anyway, he wasn't fairly elected to position of father, was he?

So, a closet Calvin, where's your Hobbes? Don't tell me it's Misha?
by Sargon on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 05:13:31 AM EST
I know the comic strip you are referring to, but have never read it.  I've never been into comics.  I didn't even like picture books as a kid...  But I can assure everyone that I am no Calvinist!  I'm an atheist and anti-capitalist!  ;)    

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 11:25:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So Putin is bad..

almost or as bad as Bush?

I need to know.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 05:40:16 AM EST
Ok, at the risk of turning this into a serious conversation...

Why do you think Putin is "bad."  And what do you mean by "bad?"  I'm not challenging such a (simplistic) designation.  I'm genuinely curious...  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 11:19:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Becasue Putin
 is bad..everybody knows it... :)

Now seriously.. it certainly looks like an a uthoritarian person.. just like Aznar... some kind of freak control and "nobody can substitute me"...

So, it is a "bad" person.. this kind of politican...a is it bad for russia¿?  I jsut do not know

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 03:06:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My thinking is that the main problem is lack of credible opposition. A credible one would attract not just

I very much disagree with the Western media spin that seeking PM-ship = power-lust, "nobody can substitute me". FDR was in office for 15 years, many term-unlimited PMs and German Chancellors were in office for even longer. What I think is really noteworthy is that if Putin seeks PM-ship, then unlike Chávez, he doesn't seek to change the constitutional set-up, in fact strenghtens it: even playing tricks within it is a form of respecting it.

That said, I do think Putin and men around him are authoritarian, but then again, compared to what.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 04:34:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I pretty much agree with this comment.  However, Putin has denied that he will seek the PM job, or rather, that he will do anything to transfer Presidential powers to the Prime Minister (and it would be weird if he agreed to be second in command...)  So now they are talking about a "National Leader" position which will ensure his policies are promoted.  What does this mean?  No one knows.  No one even knows what his policies are...  lol.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 10:47:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I see somehow half of the first paragraph went missing...

My thinking is that the main problem is lack of credible opposition. A credible one would attract not just one hundred foreign journalists, but masses in popular support, even if they are shut out from the domestic media and menanced by police and public workers get suggestions on whom to vote for.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 01:15:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd be interested to know what the true majority of Russians prefer.  It's really difficult to tell, given their lack of viable choices and what seems to be, in addition to a rather biased media (though I'm not convinced any more biased than ours...), a degree of ambivalence and apathy and self-censorship, in a word, resignation to the inevitable.  But I should note that a lot of Putin's support is genuine, and it would be difficult to argue that the country has not improved during his regime, even though that bar was set admittedly very low.  Someone in a BBC interview said, "if the majority of the people want Putin to stay in power, and he does, isn't that democracy?"  Seems to be the key question here.  Well, I guess the key question is how do we really know that majority of the people want that?  

At this point, I am not so much interested in whether Putin is "good" or "bad" (seems a serious dose of both.)  

There are no ideal choices here.  But if a lack of ideal choices is reason enough to condemn a country, there's a lot of condemnation to go around....

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 11:04:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Levada Center is considered to be reliable. If anything, they are biased towards liberal opposition - most visible researchers are probably card-carrying SPS or Yabloko members.
by Sargon on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 01:35:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And even they show Putin having an overwhelming amount of support.

Question:  Are Levada and VTsIOM the same thing?

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 02:24:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wiki has a nice little article on VCIOM which later became Levada Center and VCIOM. This was a bit nasty back in 2003, but in the end, I think, everyone benefited - Levada could become truly independent, both de facto and de jure, while young researchers of the new VCIOM could get their recognition - instead of spending ages in the shadow of Levada center dinosaurs.

Levada researchers are famous for the agenda they have and propagate at every turn, but on the polling issue, all three centers from the Russian Big Three: Levada, VCIOM, and FOM - are considered to be pretty reliable.

by Sargon on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 03:27:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I, admittedly, found the wiki article confusing.  So Levada are "truly independent" and " famous for the agenda they have."  Love it.  Anyway, I am still confused...

Well, if Levada, VCIOM, and FOM are pretty reliable, and they are the polls most often mentioned, then ...  well, I suppose my question is answered.  Thank you.  FWIW, we (liberal blogofascists in the US) are usually suspicious of all national polls, hip to the fact that they can be biased due to the phrasing, sequence, etc of questions asked and the not entirely random in the way participants are chosen..  


"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 03:38:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Levada center is a place where people completely and fully supported democrats in 90es, and they remain steadfast in their convictions. The country has moved on beyond them and their agenda. Some of their presentations clearly suffered from this agenda being too visibly promoted in the research design and/or framing of the questions.

I've read a (highly polemical) article a couple of years ago, which looked at examples of bad questions (such as giving 4 or 5 examples for a negative and only one for a positive) posted by leading Russian polling agencies. Some of these examples were from Levada center questionnaires.

When the split happened, in the Russian media it was mostly framed as the state muzzling the free voice, and compared to the NTV case. The Wiki article clearly accepts this attitude. IMHO, the situation as it stands now is much more nuanced - VCIOM brand was taken away from Levada people, but it turned out Levada himself was the brand, so they didn't suffer much; they had to buy new computers and re-establish the samples, so there were some monetary losses; however, the result is two healthy sociological/polling agencies, and as we all know freedom in reality is multitude of engagements, so we have more freedom as a result.

BTW, one does not need to be a liberal F word to acknowledge problems with polls. However, quoting the latest issue of The Economist quoting Keynes, "it's better to be roughly right than precisely wrong". This doesn't apply to the case of conscious manipulation, of course.

by Sargon on Sat Dec 1st, 2007 at 01:08:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the FP. :)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 11:20:11 AM EST
It was I , me, only me, who unleashed this wisdom into the One Consciousness in 1991 with the immortal curse,

"If you can read, you can cook anything."

to be forever entombed (out of print) in the preface of Eating the Elvis Presley Way (1993, 1st ed. actually).

Mr Adler and I were kind of family -- which is the most convenient sort of family in the age of thermonuclear (threat of) warfare; I went to school with his sister, the vixen. Ha.

Let us assume the associative properties of our exemplary relationship hold true in reality.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 07:14:13 PM EST
Even an insurgent follows orders.  (;  I read it (at least all your parts) and got informed even if I can´t keep up with the names and I´m not into young men.  They are cute, but believe me, most men improve with age...  (Yeah, yeah!)

Thanks and forgive that I procrastinate in reading diaries with words in the 4 digits.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 04:10:07 PM EST
The men in this diary range in age from 43-55...   Jesus, the life expectancy for males in Russia is 59; they are practically on their death beds!  LOL.  

FWIW, I an not into young men either.  

Thank you for reading! :)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 04:22:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
most men improve with age...

Believe me, there are exceptions that prove the rule.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 04:45:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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