Daily Archives: September 16, 2008

September 19, 2008 — Contents


(1) EDITORIAL:  Just Say Nobama

(2)  EDITORIAL:  Here’s Looking at you, Russia

(3)  Annals of the Neo-Soviet Media Crackdown

(4)  Putin’s Doomed Double Game

(5)  Exposing the Valdai Fraud

(6)  The Russian Market is Doomed

(7)  One Picture is Worth a Thousand Screams

EDITORIAL: Just say Nobama


Just say Nobama

In 2004, George Bush defeated John Kerry by a margin of 3 million votes.  In 1988, his father defeated Michael Dukakis by 7 million votes.  But in 1960, John Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon by just 112,000 votes, one of the narrowest margins of victory in American presidential history.  Unlike both Bushes, Kennedy failed to take a majority of the popular vote.

Quite possibly, the American people were onto something.  Though he was a good speaker with a Harvard education — just like Barack Obama — Kennedy had virtually no actual qualifications to hold executive power — again, quite similar to Obama.  It should have surprised nobody, then, when Kennedy’s presidency turned out to be a disaster.

He failed in the prime directive, staying alive for four years.  He shamelessly cheated on his wife, one of the most beloved figures in U.S. history, with cheap bimbos who had mafia connections even as he just as shamelessly used Jackie to leverage his power.  He was addicted to painkiller medication and frequently conducted official business while impaired by them, hiding this addiction from the country.  On his orders American military forces became involved in their two greatest humiliations, the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam.  His vice president, chosen for crass political reasons, who turned out to be even less suited than Kennedy to hold executive power, took Vietnam from the frying pan to the fire and as a result became the only sitting president in history denied a second elected term by his own party.  The Vietnam war cost more than 58,000 American lives.  U.S. casualties in Iraq haven’t even reached 10% of that figure, and Iraq was a far more advanced military power than Vietnam ever dreamed of being.

There are some hopelessly ignorant fools who think, though, that Kennedy redeemed himself during the famous “Cuban missile crisis” in which Russia was discovered placing ICBMs in Castro’s dictatorship.  In fact, this was yet another Kennedy disgrace, one we think it’s necessary to remember this election season.

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EDITORIAL: Here’s Looking at You, Russia


Here’s Looking at You, Russia

The latest news is Georgia’s revelation of Ossetian radio transmissions showing Russian armor moving into Ossetia, Georgian territory, without authorization a full day before Georgian forces moved against Ossetia’s capital, making a boldfaced liar and naked aggressor out of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.  Meanwhile, Robert Amsterdam reports that China, supposedly Russia’s ally, has joined the rebuilding effort in Georgia in a big way.

Now that the United States and Russia are again at each other’s throats again, let’s talk war  movies.

If you were to ask the average American citizen what was the greatest movie ever made, quite likely the answer you’d get would be 1942’s Casablanca by Michael Curtiz, a film very few Russians are aware of and which fewer still can even begin to understand.  And therein lies America’s greatest advantage in the new cold war.

Casablanca starred Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Bergman was a foreigner, and spoke English with a thick Swedish accent.  You’ll look long and hard trying to find a counterpart to Bergman in the annals of Russian film, indeed to find any Russian films, much less national treasures, where the Russian language is spoken with a thick accent by anyone, much less the hero(ine).  That is an expression of Russian xenophobia, leading to ignorance, leading to failure in battle — a problem compounded by the lack of press information self-examination through opposition politics.  A large number of other examples can be found on the American side, however, and not just in American film generally but in Casablanca itself:  co-stars Claude Rains, Paul Henreid, Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre all spoke thickly accented English (Greenstreet and Lorre co-starred again with Bogie in the classic Maltese Falcon).  In a great modern example, Arnold Schwartzenegger, perhaps the most thickly-accented Hollywood actor in history, not only became a titanic star but governor of California.  Such a thing is not only unheard of but starkly inconceivable in barbaric, benighted, paranoid Russia.

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Annals of the Neo-Soviet Media Crackdown

Alexei Venediktov, chief editor of Echo Moskvy radio, was berated in front of his peers by the prime minister for his coverage of the Georgia war. (By Alexander Zemlianichenko -- Associated Press)

Alexei Venediktov, chief editor of Echo Moskvy radio, was berated in front of his peers by the prime minister for his coverage of the Georgia war. (By Alexander Zemlianichenko -- Associated Press)

By e-mail a reader tips us to the following item in the Washington Post (the New Yorker also has extensive coverage of the radio station in question):

At the height of the crisis over Russia’s invasion of Georgia last month, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin summoned the top executives of his nation’s most influential newspapers and broadcasters to a private meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

The Kremlin controls much of the Russian media, and Putin occasionally meets with friendly groups of senior journalists to answer questions and guide news coverage. On Aug. 29, though, for the first time in five years, he also invited the editor in chief of Echo Moskvy, the only national radio station that routinely broadcasts opposition voices.

For several minutes, according to people who attended the session or were briefed about it, Putin berated the editor in front of his peers, criticizing Echo’s coverage of the war with Georgia and reading from a dossier of transcripts to point out what he considered errors. “I’m not interested in who said these things,” one participant quoted Putin telling the editor, Alexei Venediktov. “You are responsible for everything that goes on at the radio station. I don’t know who they are, but I know who you are.”

The message to the 30 or so media executives at the gathering was clear: With Russia occupying parts of Georgia and locked in perhaps its most serious conflict with the West since the Cold War, they should be especially vigilant against reporting anything that the government might find objectionable.

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Exposing Putin’s Doomed Double Game

Writing on the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor Jonas Bernstein exposes that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin now finds himself between a very hard rock and a very hard place:

Has the conflict between Russia and Georgia jeopardized hopes that Russia can pursue a path of economic modernization based on “innovation,” as both President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have promised? That view was put forward by political scientist Lilia Shevtsova, of the Carnegie Moscow Center, in an interview with Yevgeny Kiselyov on his program “Vlast” on September 12. Shevtsova argued more generally that Russia’s ruling tandem had become a hostage of its own anti-Western propaganda.

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Exposing the Valdai Fraud

We were of course delighted to see the wonderful Nicolai Petrov of the Carnegie Center publish an op-ed in the Moscow Times that makes a perfect bookend for our editorial condemning the Valdai charade.  We hope he’s right when he says that even the Valdai participants themselves are getting creeped out by the immorality of it all.

Amid all of the events surrounding Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia these past few weeks, I nearly forgot that the latest session of the Valdai Discussion Club was about to begin. The club was launched five years ago and is one of the Kremlin’s most successful public relations projects. This time it took place in Rostov-on-Don, Grozny and Sochi.

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The Russian Market is Doomed

Writing in the Moscow Times, Russian economist Konstantin Sonin says that the Russian stock market is doomed (actually, he said it, before Black Tuesday, making him look pretty sharp indeed):

President Dmitry Medvedev likes to blame Russia’s stock market troubles on the global financial crisis that was triggered by the U.S. housing market bust, while critics of Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin see it as the result of the government’s mistakes.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle, but probably closer to Medvedev’s position. Developing markets fluctuate in unison, so most of Russia’s losses can be attributed to investors’ jitters over the worsening global crisis. But the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, which tracks stock markets in developing economies, fell by just 20 percent since May, while Russia’s stock market dropped by more than 40 percent. This suggests that Russia’s leadership played a significant role in the stock market decline.

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One Picture is worth a Thousand Screams

In our last issue we published a post called “Putin the Wimp.” Now here’s some photographic backup for that conclusion.  Shown above is Vladimir Putin the flunkie (are those pants actually purple?!) with his boss former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, circa 1994.  Sobchak, who would be drummed out of office and then flee the country in disgrace while facing a massive corruption investigation (much like exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky), gave Putin his start in political life. Perhaps Putin hates Berezovsky so much because the oligarch reminds him of things he’d rather forget.  Putin is also a plagiarist. That may have been one of the key features of his resume that attracted Sobchak.

Special Extra: In Russia, Black Tuesday — the End of Days

The Russian stock market is collapsing just like the USSR itself

The Russian stock market is collapsing just like the USSR itself

Despite aggressive attempts to prevent it by the impotent Kremlin of Vladimir Putin, the Russian stock market has totally collapsed, suffering its worst day since the 1998 economic meltdown, closing down almost 11.5%  at 1131 on the RTS Index, a massive loss of almost 150 points on a base that had already been emasculated into insignificance.  In just the month of September, the RTS ruble index has plunged sickeningly from a high of 1650, a breathtaking drop of more than 500 points or one-third its total value at the start of the month.  The MICEX index, which is measured in dollars, crashed into triple digits, smashing the crucial 1,000 point psychological barrier.  It was down at one point over 15% to below 900, before recovering slightly. Share values in Sberbank, state-owned and dominant in the market, were down more than 20%.

The Kremlin is in full-on panic mode.  Both the MICEX and the RTS were forced to impose the draconian measure of a halt in trading for a full hour, a clear sign of desperate fear that the entire market could implode before gaping eyes.  Had this not occurred, for all we know the current value of the market might be zero. Heaven only knows what duplicitous behavior the Kremlin may right now be engaged in behind the scenes to keep the full nature of the collapse from the world’s prying eyes when the market opens tomorrow morning. Perhaps the Kremlin will simply spend the national rainy-day fund to buy the entire market and decree the prices. That’s what the USSR would have done.

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