Daily Archives: July 14, 2008

EDITORIAL: John McCain for President

EDITORIALJohn McCain for President

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has been much in the news of late.

First he stabbed his supporters in the back, spurning a litany of specific promises he’d made in the primary election campaign out of fear they would cost him votes in the general election. The result was that the publisher of the left-wing Daily Kos political blog announced he was withholding a planned $2,000 personal contribution to the campaign. The need to backtrack in this way, of course, is hardly consistent with the Obama narrative that the country adores him.

Then his efforts to collect money to pay off the debts of his former rival Hillary Clinton resulted in embarrassing failure — and his efforts to convert Clinton supporters even more so. The illusion of Obama has a hold on the nation’s imagination took on even more water. It began to become quite clear that the only “change you can believe in” where Obama is concerned is the change in Obama’s resume and the value of his book deal contracts that results.

Then there’s the fact that Obama doesn’t understand what the Joint Chiefs of Staff do, and he thinks the country has 57 states.

That’s to say nothing, of course, of the Jeremiah Wright scandal, the Tony Rezko scandal, the Michelle Obama scandal and the Jesse Jackson scandal. It’s to say nothing of the Hezbollah scandal, the Fidel Castro scandal and the Kim Jong Il scandal (all of America’s most frenzied enemies are equally fervent Obama supporters). It’s to say nothing of his appalling, shameful manipulation of his children on national television for crass political motives, and his even more grotesque cowardice when confronted over it. He complains that his family shouldn’t be attacked during the campaign, then he puts his children on Access Hollywood to shill for him. How many “oops” moments like this would the country have to endure if he became president? How many would involve the “presidents” of Iran and Russia, hardened American foes seeking to destroy us?

Which brings us to John Sidney McCain.

As we reported last week, the respected British newspaper The Telegraph has picked up McCain’s call to eject Russia from the G-8, where it sticks out like a sore thumb. No rational person can articulate any substantive reason why Russia should sit on the G-8 to the exclusion of countries like Brazil and India, which have larger populations, more dynamic economies and far more democratic political systems.

Recent events in Iran, which have seen a barrage of dangerous new missiles being fired by the crazed Islamacist regime in Tehran, proving conclusively the necessity of America’s aggressive efforts to install ballistic missile defense systems in Europe. Let’s not forget — John McCain certainly hasn’t — that it is Russia which is arming Iran to the teeth and supplying it with diplomatic cover to aggressively pursue a nuclear weapons program. Having such a nation present in the G-8 fold is quite simply an outrage, and McCain has properly called for Russia’s ouster.

Last Friday, a majority of the 15-member U.N. Security Council’s members, and a majority of the Council’s five veto holders, voted to impose international sanctions in response to the outrageous and bloody assault on democracy now underway in Zimbabwe under the brutal thug Robert Mugabe’s iron-fisted rule. But Russia and China, the other two veto holders, blocked any action by the Council. The Associated Press reported:

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad harshly criticized the vetoes, saying “China and Russia have stood with Mugabe against the people of Zimbabwe.” Khalilzad said the vote called into question Russia’s reliability as a Group of Eight partner because he said it had indicated earlier that it would abstain.” The U-turn in the Russian position is particularly surprising and disturbing. Only a few days ago the Russian Federation was supportive of a G8 statement which said, and I quote, ‘We express grave concern about the situation in Zimbabwe,” he said.”

The reason that Russia and China would spit in the eye not only of the people of Zimbabawe but of the U.N. Security Council and the G-8 is obvious: Both nations are afraid of any effort by the U.N. to promote global democracy. Both nations are run by jackbooted thugs who have rigged their elections in exactly the same way Mugabe recently did and who carry out exactly the same barbaric atrocities against civil society that he does. As they see it, Zimbabwe today, Russia and China tomorrow. McCain understands that the time has come to take dramatic action to communicate to the people of Russia that there are severe costs they must pay if they wish to revive the cold war and become, once again, the scourge of democracy in the world.

And Barack Obama doesn’t have a clue what to do. He has never selflessly served his country as John McCain has done, nor has he ever held significant executive authority as McCain had in the military. Obama’s period of focus on national issues in the U.S. Senate has been woefully, laughably short while McCain has been addressing both domestic and national issues for many, many years. For any rational voter, the choice between these two candidates is quite simply a no-brainer.

And here on this blog, it’s even easier. Not only has Obama failed to articulate a single specific action he would take to address dictatorship in Russia, as McCain has repeatedly done, but even if he had the sad fact is that we just couldn’t believe him. He flip-flopped on virtually every significant promise he made during the primary election cycle, stabbing his ideological supporters in the back at every turn in order to make hay in the general election. What possible reason would we have to believe he wouldn’t do exactly the same thing once he became president?

America, and the world, needs John McCain in 2008 just the way it needed Ronald Reagan in 1980. Sadly, the policies of George Bush towards Russia have often had the sickly echo of Jimmy Carter’s appeasement, and Obama would quite likely make things even worse with his total lack of foreign policy chops.

A new iron curtain has descended across the continent, a new Evil Empire looms behind it. Therefore, America must send a new Ronald Reagan into the fray. Our safety, and that of the world, depends upon it.

Annals of Russian Corruption: Potemkin Babies

Slate reports on Russia’s pathetic and comically corrupt efforts to buy itself a new population. So much for patriotism!

ULYANOVSK, Russia—On a humid Sunday afternoon in late June, about 100 couples clutching newborn babies filed into the Lenin Memorial overlooking the wide banks of the Volga River. This mammoth concrete slab of Soviet constructivism was erected in Lenin’s hometown to commemorate the leader’s 100th birthday and now houses one of the city’s many Lenin museums, but the families had not come for a lesson in Soviet history; they were there to pick up their prizes. The couples were finalists in Give Birth to a Patriot on Russia Day, a local birthrate-boosting competition that offered rewards to anyone who gave birth on June 12, Russia Day.

The event was one of the many schemes thought up by Russian officials to reverse the nation’s population decline. Vladimir Putin recently declared that women choosing to have a second child would receive 250,000 rubles, nearly $11,000. Since then, a stream of pro-family programs, events, and holidays has been rolled out by the government. The New York Times put a positive spin on this trend earlier this week, but that piece ignored the grim side effects of this crude approach to such a complicated problem.

Give Birth to a Patriot on Russia Day was cooked up three years ago by Ulyanovsk’s governor, Sergei Morozov, to prod the local population into improving the region’s dismal 2-to-1 death-to-birth ratio. It worked like this: Women who gave birth on June 12 would be guaranteed one of a variety of prizes—refrigerators, TV sets, washing machines, even cash, and one lucky family would be picked to win the grand prize: a brand-new Russian-made jeep called the UAZ-Patriot.

To make it easier for couples to participate, Morozov set aside Sept. 12 as a special regional holiday dedicated to family communication, and he urged employers to give their workers a day off so they’d have a better chance at conceiving—and winning!—come Russia Day nine months later. (Never mind that nine months is roughly 39 weeks, one week short of the average gestation period of 40 weeks, so a woman who conceived on Sept. 12 would likely give birth a full week after Russia Day.)

The local media provided blanket coverage. Notices were hung all over town in marriage offices, maternity wards, and stores. Seminars were organized for expectant mothers, and gynecologists and social workers were instructed to make home visits.

“Our governor wants to create interest and excitement about this issue, while at the same time addressing the problems that have been holding the birthrate back,”Anatoly Vasilev, the head of the Department of Social Defense, told me. Vasilev oversees family and social services for the entire region and was charged with handling logistics. To him, it was all about setting up the necessary conditions to make a win possible and then ramping up public interest. After that, the population problem would take care of itself.

“Look at Russian football. Before we started winning in Euro 2008, no one cared about soccer in Russia. Now that we’ve won a couple of games, everyone is a fan,” said Vasilev.

However dubious the premise, it seemed to work out.

On June 12, while Russia enjoyed its day off, doctors all over Ulyanovsk struggled to survive the most hellish day of their professional careers. The region’s maternity wards, which usually stood half-empty, were suddenly filled beyond maximum capacity. Masses of screaming pregnant women seemed to materialize out of thin air. Stressed-out and sleep-deprived doctors ran around frantically attending to patients. Most doctors were forced to work multiple shifts just to keep up with demand.

When the clock finally struck midnight and the last bloody sheet dropped to the ground, the tally was impressive. Eighty-seven children were born in Ulyanovsk that day, nearly four times the region’s average daily birthrate. With just a few prizes, Morozov’s team had found a solution to a problem that has haunted Russia for the last two decades. Or so it seemed.

When I made about a dozen home visits to couples all over the Ulyanovsk region—armed with chocolates and champagne—a disturbing picture of poverty and desperation began to emerge. Every couple I talked with categorically denied that they had planned to give birth on June 12. Despite the media hype, many of the women claimed they had not heard about the event until months into their pregnancies, when their doctors informed them they were eligible. But eventually they revealed that labor was being artificially induced on a massive scale that day, and it had nothing to do with patriotism. Their stories were of women desperate to give birth on June 12 and doctors all too eager to oblige.

One woman recalled seeing a young mother-to-be repeatedly attempt to fake contractions in order to be admitted to the hospital, while some women who were already inside begged their doctors to perform cesarean sections. Another woman recalled thinking that many of the C-sections performed that day were rushed through unnecessarily. A young mother told me that every single one of the 25 women on her floor of the maternity ward gave birth on June 12. That would have been equivalent to the total number of kids born in the entire Ulyanovsk region on a normal day. Another woman told me she overheard doctors talking about prescribing so many labor-inducing drugs that they ran out and had to order a new shipment. There was also a rumor that the hospital that delivered the most babies on June 12 was going to be rewarded by the regional government, possibly with cash. Only one of the women admitted, with much shame and humiliation, that her doctor pressured her to induce labor.

What they told me had all the trappings of a conspiracy. But who was behind the plot? Did the governor’s office pressure doctors to meet a certain quota so that they could brag about the statistics? Or were people so poor that they were desperate to make themselves eligible for prizes?

Whatever it was, the women’s stories seemed to be corroborated by the facts. Official statistics gathered for just one of the city’s neighborhoods showed that the June 12 spike was fed by births from adjacent days: There were two births on June 11, 18 births on June 12, zero on June 13, and two on June 14. The normal rate would have been around four births per day.

Ludmilla Vanina, the head doctor of the neighborhood’s maternity ward, was annoyed at my suggestion and denied that doctors would induce labor just to boost statistics. But after 10 minutes of playing defense on the phone, she slipped up.

“Women want to give birth in June, so they give birth on that day,” she said. “Why? I don’t know. Maybe because they get gifts.”

“You mean to say they gave birth on that day because they got gifts?” I asked.

“We just help women,” she said after a long, uncomfortable pause. “I’m not authorized to discuss this. Plus, I have my own personal opinion of the press,” she said before slamming down the receiver.

“The doctors had nothing to do with it,” said Galya Kaimova, a young mother in her early 20s who works as a police officer. She gave birth on June 14 but was admitted to the hospital two days earlier and had a ringside seat to the chaos of June 12. According to her, many of the mothers who were due around that time induced labor in order to take part in Give Birth to a Patriot.

“Women were asking, practically begging, their doctors to do it,” she said. “They had their babies that day because of the presents; they put their health at risk. It was sick.”

Sick, but understandable. And in retrospect, even predictable.

Ulyanovsk is part of Russia’s Red Belt, a zone of impoverished farming communities and stagnant Soviet factories that stretches west of the Volga River. It has seen little benefit from Russia’s market reforms. Even now, few people can afford the steep prices of the restaurants and the shopping mall that have opened up in recent years. They prefer to spend their free days hanging out on park benches or clustered around their beat-up Soviet-era cars.

Inside the Lenin Memorial on the day of the award ceremony, babushkas raced back and forth setting the tables with wine, blini with caviar, pirogi, bottled water, and juice for the kids. A band performed Russian hits, and women in extravagant ball gowns took to the stage to recite cheesy poetry extolling the virtues of children and family. All the while, beautiful young models in white bridal dresses flanked the perimeter of the hall to lend beauty to the simple provincial faces. By Ulyanovsk standards, it was a swank affair.

The governor arrived and mechanically ticked off his administration’s successes—improved welfare packages for needy families with children, new kindergartens and schools were on the way, and so was a new maternity hospital. Finally, he announced the results of the competition. The car keys would go to the only participating family that had given birth to a fourth child; the rest would receive cash prizes of $300—a good month’s wages—that could be spent anywhere.

For many of the mothers, the prize was a godsend, but one they achieved at considerable risk to themselves and their children. Sergei Morozov emerged as the event’s only true winner. He apparently found a solution to what Vladimir Putin calls Russia’s most acute problem. And he did it in a way that avoids the laborious work of tackling the crisis at its root: fixing basic infrastructure, creating jobs, and improving the quality of life.

Kasparov Slams Kissinger

Say what you like about Garry Kasparov, he gives good op-ed. Viz, the Financial Times:

Recently we have witnessed a flurry of high-profile and contradictory statements on the Russian state. In a role reversal, Russia’s leaders have been abnormally candid while several prominent western politicians and pundits have lavished undeserved praise.

Russian president Dmitri Medvedev was bold enough last week to state that democracy is irrelevant to the Group of Eight leading nations. It is sad to see that some of Europe’s leaders seem to agree with him. He also accidentally told the truth by saying that while political competition could be a good thing, it must be “competition correctly built”, a phrase of which George Orwell would have been proud.

Despite broad acknowledgement that our March presidential elections were neither free nor fair, Terry Davis, the Council of Europe secretary-general, recently expressed his admiration for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Medvedev. His comments about “growth” and “progress” make it clear that, to the council, the importance of liberty and democracy in Russia is inversely correlated to the prices of oil and gas. Such behaviour helps legitimise fraudulent elections and the dictatorial regime that runs them.

It is a pity for Robert Mugabe Zimbabwe does not enjoy a surplus of oil and natural gas. Without those assets his election victory is denounced as a sham and nations around the world call for him to be ousted. At this week’s G8 summit, George W. Bush, US president, denounced Mr Mugabe while sitting next to Mr Medvedev, whose hold on power is similarly counterfeit. The Russian security services’ methods are more subtle than machetes but our democracy is no more real than Zimbabwe’s. The European fantasy appears to be that oil revenue and designer boutiques will magically turn Russia into a real democracy. Oil wealth is nearly always a curse on human rights, not a blessing. Louis Vuitton and Cartier are not going to do the job that the so-called leaders of the free world have abdicated.

In a recent opinion article, Henry Kissinger asked that the US “give Russia some space”. Space to create a new class of political prisoners, to loot the country, to bully our neighbours? Is that what brought down the Berlin Wall and ended the cold war? Is it only my dictionary that fails to distinguish between “appeasement” and Mr Kissinger’s use of the word “engagement”?

After eight years of being given plenty of space, Mr Putin and his team of well-trained oligarchs have assembled an efficient machine to move the wealth from every corner of Russia into private hands. While I hope and believe that the people of Russia are capable of standing up for our rights, it is unhelpful to our cause when the west provides the Putin regime with democratic credentials or acts as though democracy is, to use Mr Medvedev’s word, irrelevant.

Instead of listening to those who are eager to stay in the good graces of the Kremlin, listen to Russia’s leaders after eight years of Mr Putin’s total control, years in which the price of oil rose 700 per cent. They speak with the candour of impunity. Mr Medvedev has said the biggest problems facing Russia are “endemic corruption and a dysfunctional legal system”. Just days ago finance minister Alexei Kudrin shared the thought that “a growth spurt in the economy of central Russia would lead to the collapse of the railway and transportation infrastructure”. These statements do not come from opposition “extremists” such as myself. (“Extremist” being the tried-and-true label of choice for anyone who disagrees with the regime.)

One glance at the headlines is enough to separate western fantasies from Russian reality. Savva Terentiev, a musician from Syktyvkar, 1,500 km north of Moscow, just received a one-year suspended sentence for a sarcastic blog post criticising the local police. The Russian security matrix is moving into the virtual world.

Or take this note about our vaunted new middle class. An EU-Russia Centre survey has found that 50 per cent of Russia’s best-educated and most prosperous citizens would emigrate if they could. The top reasons were instability and danger from law enforcement. Some 83 per cent said they did not believe they had the ability to influence the political direction of the country. It seems I am not the only one who would like to live in the Russia of which Mr Davis and Mr Kissinger speak so fondly. It is a shame it does not exist.

The Power Horizontal

IStockAnalyst publishes a translation of an article by Nikolay Vardul: “New centre of Russian power” by Russian newspaper Gazeta, owned by metals magnate Vladimir Lisin, on 1 July, via BBC Monitoring:

Until recently – more precisely while Vladimir Putin was still president – everything in the structure of Russian power was transparent. Like the Eiffel Tower. The structure was known as the vertical axis of power, and everything was built around the Kremlin. There are now signs that the structure is becoming more complex.

Do you remember a premier standing up against the president? Well yes, it has happened. For example, when Vladimir Putin set the task of doubling GDP and Mikhail Kasyanov (the then premier) and virtually his entire cabinet staged a quiet revolt. Or when people from Vladimir Putin’s inner circle got carried away with forming state corporations tailored to their own needs – corporations that are intent on controlling entire sectors and not intent, by virtue of their legal status (not the status that you were thinking of) of being fully accountable to be state, which had generously endowed them with assets – and next premier Mikhail Fradkov suddenly allowed himself to be somewhat critical of this zeal. But, first, all these critical statements were argued, as a rule, in technical rather than political terms. And, second, the critics did not remain at the political zenith.

What is now happening is something fundamentally new. The state of the economy has confronted the Russian authorities with a dilemma. Either to initiate a resolute and comprehensive struggle against inflation or to hope that economic growth will deal with inflation in the long term. The economic policy arsenal changes depending on which is chosen. In the former case, in particular, it is necessary to slow the growth of state expenditure, whereas in the latter, by contrast, it is necessary to utilize state investments to stimulate growth. It is clear that in both cases we are talking not about an instantaneous squeeze on the money supply or the dumping of all state reserves on the market but about some kind of smooth trend that the government should pursue. So, judging by his budget message, the president has made a choice in favour of combating inflation. Whereas the premier, judging by his Lesnyye Dali speech to United Russia members, regards combating inflation, which would call into question the immediate prospects for increasing economic growth, to be the wrong priority. A clash is in evidence.

I wish to stress that this is not simply a clash between the most popular Russian politician and his successor in the post of president. It is not Putin’s government that is becoming a new centre of power – Medvedev has all the powers to eventually impose the order that he needs in the White House. The new centre of power is the United Russia party controlled by Putin personally.

There has not been this kind of of a vertical axis of power in post-Soviet Russia. If Putin sets about strengthening it in earnest, it could be the thing that puts him back in the presidency. How this would happen, he has just demonstrated by proclaiming much more populist slogans than the choice made by the president.

I can hear the worldly-wise reader signing sceptically: There is no real clash, they are talking about the same thing, only from different angles. The curious thing, however, is that if this is an agreed division of labour, it is by no means Medvedev who is coming out on top. So the precedent of the emergence in Russia of a nonpresidential vertical axis of power has been created.

Annals of Annexation: Russia Moves Against Georgia

Vladmir Socor, writing on the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor:

Russia has practically ceased to recognize Georgia’s territorial integrity and internationally recognized borders, and is using force to underscore this fact. International organizations are as usual behind the curve in taking note of this development and drawing the conclusions from it. Russia had paid lip service to Georgia’s territorial integrity throughout the duration of the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia while violating it massively in practice. The theoretical recognition made it possible for Russia (with a little help from its friends) to act as “peacekeeper” and “facilitator” in those conflicts. But even the lip service has ceased recently, while assaults on Georgia’s integrity and internationally recognized borders are becoming demonstrative and are no longer even denied.

On July 10 Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that Russian Air Force planes had flown a mission over Georgia’s South Ossetia the preceding day. A communiqué from the ministry claims gratuitously that the flight was meant to prevent a Georgian military attack on the ground in South Ossetia. It suggests that the mission’s purpose was both intelligence-gathering and deterrence, and it credits in part the Russian “peacekeeping” troops for informing Moscow about Georgia’s alleged intention to attack (Interfax, July 10).

According to Georgian radar data, two pairs of Russian Air Force planes circled over South Ossetia between 8:00 PM and 9:00 P.M. local time for about 40 minutes on July 8. The four planes flew in from Russia’s North Ossetia and returned there. Georgia has protested and is recalling its ambassador from Moscow for consultations.

Moscow’s admission marks the first time in memory that it has acknowledged, and indeed claimed credit for, violating Georgia’s internationally recognized air space. As a matter of policy, Russia used to deny the air incursions, such as those over the Georgian-controlled Upper Kodori in March 2007 (bombing raid), near the Georgian town of Gori in August 2007 (missile drop), and the serial flights over the Abkhaz “conflict zone” and Black Sea coastal waters in April and May of this year. During these serial flights Russian jets shot down three unmanned, unarmed Georgian reconnaissance drones, eventually crediting the nonexistent “Abkhaz air defense” for those actions. Now, Moscow no longer deems it necessary (or plausible) to deny its intrusions and use of force in Georgia’s internationally recognized air space.

Routine references to Georgia’s territorial integrity have disappeared from official Russian policy statements since early this year. Those references used to be a fixture in Moscow’s statements, even if that integrity was always honored in the breach. Their disappearance is a further indication of Russia’s implicit de-recognition of Georgia’s territorial integrity at the level of official rhetoric, on top of the explicit non-recognition on the practical level.

Moscow now seeks to de-legitimize Georgia’s internationally recognized borders by attributing them to decisions by Soviet leaders. In continuation of this argument, the Duma’s International Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev declared on July 10, “Georgia is a construction that emerged in the totalitarian Soviet Union, a construction whose authorship belongs to the then-dictator Iosif Stalin.” He went on to hint that Moscow was about to open some kind of representation offices in Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Ekho Moskvy, July 10). Kosachev enjoys close relations with the Kremlin. This thesis should be chilling to Ukraine, Moldova, Kazakhstan, and other ex-Soviet ruled countries, inasmuch as Moscow can use the same argument in trying to de-legitimize their post-1991, internationally recognized borders.

The Russian “peacekeeping” commander in South Ossetia, Major-General Marat Kulakhmetov, declared on July 4 that he might request an increase in the Russian troop contingent. On July 7 the official spokesman for Russia’s Ground Forces Command stated that additional troops and army aviation might be deployed to Abkhazia if necessary. The spokesman cited a CIS authorization from 1996 for such possible action, although CIS authorizations on “peacekeeping” never had any legal value. On July 10 the commander of Russia’s North Caucasus Military District, Colonel-General Sergei Makarov, announced that his troops were exercising for possible intervention in Abkhazia and/or South Ossetia, in the event that hostilities break out there (Interfax, July 4, 7, and 10). All three officers dropped any pretense that Russian troops were operating under any rules other than Russia’s own rules as “peacekeeper” in Georgia.

Similarly disregarding any rules of conduct, Russia claims the right for its warplanes to overfly the Abkhaz and South Ossetian “conflict zones” but denies (on penalty of shooting) Georgia’s right to fly unarmed, unmanned drones for minimal transparency there.

These latest moves are capping Russia’s presidential decree on establishing direct official relations with the Abkhaz and South Ossetian secessionist authorities (April 16), deployment of supplementary “peacekeeping” troops to Abkhazia (late April and early May), military seizure of the Georgian state-owned railroad in Abkhazia (late May), and Gazprom’s announcement (in June) of an exploration project for oil and gas in “partnership” with the “Republic of Abkhazia,” onshore and offshore in the Black Sea.

Thus, Russia is overtly de-recognizing Georgia’s territorial integrity and internationally recognized borders. It had feigned recognition in previous years only in the narrowest sense: namely, that it did not officially pose territorial claims to Georgia. Had it posed such claims, Moscow would have disqualified itself as a military “peacekeeper” and political “facilitator” in negotiations. It has now conclusively disqualified itself through its no-longer-disguised annexation of Georgian territories through use of force.

Russian Defectors Rule!

Meet Svetlana Gromenkova, who defected from Russia (Moscow) years ago and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. Providing yet more evidence that doing so is the key to success for Russians (Maria Sharapova, who did likewise, is the only Russian woman ever ranked #1 in tennis and the only one to win more than one grand slam title and to do so beating a non-Russian), on June 10th Gromenkova won this year’s “ladies’ event” at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, Nevada, defeating a field of 1,190 other players and winning $224,702.

If only more Russians would learn from this example.

Gromenkova still has a bit of work to do on shedding her Russian personality, though. The WSOP blog reports: “Gromenkova is a woman of few words. Before play started ESPN’s Howard David had asked her what she wanted the world to know about her. Gromenkova’s reply? ‘Nothing.'”

Interestingly, a New York Times story recently reported that the number of Russians on the voting rolls in New York City expanded dramatically over the last four years. When Russians should have, according to the Kremlin’s propaganda, been staying and returning home due to Russia’s wonderful alleged improvement, in fact they continued to flee just as quickly as they were able. We lift our lamp beside the golden door, Russians!