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After a long break, a new contribution to the Experts Panel:

Shredding Sochi… in a Good Way

Western journalists have been in the business of dismissing Russian achievements and magnifying Russian failures ever since Putin drove them into a collective derangement syndrome – he even haunts their dreams, as recently revealed by the Guardian’s Shaun Walker – so the preemptive besmirching of the Sochi Olympics can’t have surprised anyone.

What is startling, though, is the unusually low competence of the effort, even by the standards of these people that are sarcastically referred to as “democratic journalists” in Russia.

The first and foremost attack revolved around the supposed corruption surrounding the Sochi Olympics. In 2010, the Russian magazine Esquire estimated that 48km of roads around Sochi consumed a cool $8 billion of taxpayer money, a sum that implied the asphalt might as well have been made of elite beluga caviar. Julia Ioffe cheerily transmitted these sophomoric calculations to the Anglosphere. The only problem with these actuarial wisecracks? Said road also included a railway, 50 bridges, and 27km worth of tunnels over mountainous terrain… which presumably made it something more than just a road. What was intended as a metaphor for Sochi corruption turned out to be, ironically, a metaphor for unfounded attacks against it.

There are incessant comparisons to the $8 billion spent during the 2010 Olympics in Canada. But this sidesteps the fact that Whistler was already a world-class ski resort, whereas Sochi’s infrastructure had to be built from scratch and at relatively short notice. The actual event-related costs of the Sochi Olympics are $7 billion, of which only half was directly drawn from the state budget. This is not to say that there was no stealing – of course there was, as corruption is a real problem in Russia, and is especially endemic in the construction industry. Navalny has created an entire website about it, and coordinated a campaign against Sochi with Buzzfeed and The New York Times. But what’s striking is that far from the pharaonic levels of misappropriation we might expected from the tone of the coverage, in most cases the markup was in the order of 50%-100% relative to “comparable” Western projects (and that’s after selecting the most egregious cases). This isn’t “good,” needless to say, but it’s hardly unprecedented in Western experience. In any case, a number of criminal cases have been opened up, so impunity is not guaranteed. (The most prominent “victim,” Akhmed Bilalov, has fled the country and claimed he was poisoned – all true to the form of emigre oligarch thieves from the ex-Sovie Union).

The lion’s share of the $50 billion investment in Sochi – some 80% of it or so – consists of infrastructure projects to make Sochi into a world-class ski resort that will provide employment in the restive North Caucasus, kickstart the development of a Russian snowsports culture, and draw at least some of the more patriotic elites away from Courcheval.

The second major angle of attack is Russia’s “persecution” of gays. This, presumably, refers to Russia’s new laws against the propaganda of homosexuality to children – no matter that very similar laws, in the form of Section 28, existed in the UK until 2003, and that sodomy remained illegal in some American states up until the same year. I bring these up not so much to engage in “whataboutism” as to point out that the moral standards that the West proselytizes so zealously have only been adopted (or dropped?) within the past decade. Furthermore, much of the rest of the world rejects those standards to a significantly greater extent than does Russia itself. As such, this campaign strikes such an absurd and nauseatingly self-righteous note that one cannot but suspect a cynical motive behind it. Snowden and Syria, in particular, come to mind.

The third, and by far the most repulsive, category of Western concern trolling about Sochi revolves around terrorism. After every successful terrorist attack in Russia, “experts” rush in to proclaim that it is an example of “Putin’s autocracy not working for ordinary Russians” (Kathryn Stoner-Weiss), that they “cannot rely on the protection of their government” (David Satter), etc. By extension, the IOC is wildly irresponsible for “jeopardizing the safety of fans and athletes” by awarding the games to Russia (Sally Jenkins). In reality, according to the world’s most comprehensive database on terrorism, the number of casualties in terrorist attacks in Russia has plummeted in the past decade, even as the jihadist movement has been reduced to a shadow of its former self; suffice to say that suicide bombing a bus in a second-tier city like Volgograd is now considered a great success among their ranks. I do not wish to tempt fate by ruling it out entirely, but with the “ring of steel,” pervasive telecommunications monitoring, and cooperation with foreign intelligence agencies that characterize Sochi security, the likelihood of a successful terrorist attack is surely low.

Consequent criticisms become increasingly deranged and unhinged from reality, much like the murderous HAL supercomputer fading away into childish gibberishness after it gets turned off. Thousands of people got evicted, their land stolen from them… except that the average compensation per person was $100,000. Sochi is apparently built on the bones of Circassians… well, if it’s a graveyard, I wonder what that makes the North American continent – a death world? The assertion that Sochi is an “unsuitable subtropical resort” with no snow… an assessment that would surely surprise the denizens of California’s Bay Area, who go skiing in Tahoe up until late April, and where average February temperatures are significantly higher than around Sochi. If anything, conditions are looking downright steezy. The metaphorical rock-bottom was attained by the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg, who made a photograph of a pair of side-by-side toilets that were then splashed around the media – up to and including The New York Times – as evidence of the graft and imbecility that characterized the Sochi preparations. The only problem being that the photograph was taken in the middle of a renovation. But, hey, we wouldn’t want to deny the Brits their toilet humor, now would we…

All this is not to say that the Sochi Olympics are some kind of pure monument to virtuous sportsmanship and international friendship. Of course not. From their origins in ancient Greece, they were always about money, competition, and prestige. Putin himself openly states that one of its goals is to showcase a new Russia. There are no rules preventing Western states from waging a media campaign against Sochi, and refusing to send their top leaders to the opening ceremonies – petty and unseemly, such actions only reflect badly on their authors. So be it… gapers won’t be missed.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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RIA Novosti, Russia’s main state-run news agency, is going to be dissolved. So is Voice of Russia, a publication that I’ve written for, and Rossiyskaya Gazeta and its Russia Beyond the Headlines project*. They are to be merged into a new organization confusingly called Rossiya Segodnya (“Russia Today”), which is NOT the same as the (in)famous TV station. The Russia Today that we know and love (or hate) has long formally rebranded itself as RT, though it continues to be colloquially referred to as “Russia Today” by friends and foes alike.

This is an important point to make, as some Western media outlets – most notably, the Guardian – have claimed otherwise. Amusingly enough, a few of their commentators now say they are boycotting RT (the TV station) because the new director of Russia Today (aka Rossiya Segodnya), Dmitry Kiselyov, is apparently somewhat of a homophobe. At least, that is the only information about him (other than being pro-Putin) that the Guardian deemed worthy to include.

Why is RIA being folded up? I think there are two main reasons. Reading their article on their own demise will give you a clue as to the first:

The move is the latest in a series of shifts in Russia’s news landscape, which appear to point toward a tightening of state control in the already heavily regulated media sector.

In a separate decree published Monday, the Kremlin appointed Dmitry Kiselyov, a prominent Russian television presenter and media manager recently embroiled in a scandal over anti-gay remarks, to head Rossiya Segodnya.

This is representative of RIA’s typical editorial slant, which is usually critical of the government position. (So much so that The Independent’s Shaun Walker described it as “surprisingly decent”).

This is okay and indeed appropriate if RIA was primarily a Russian language service catering to a Russian audience. But its not. Its primary audience are Westerners, who don’t exactly suffer from a lack of access to negative Russia coverage. To take but the latest example, their coverage of the recent unrest in Ukraine was explicitly pro-Euromaidan. Konstantin Eggert has a column there called “Due West,” which is exactly what it says on the tin: A pulpit from which to incessantly proclaim how Russia sucks, why RT should be defunded and Assange imprisoned, and why the West and Saakashvili are the best things since sliced white bread. Vasily Gatov, one of RIA’s most senior people, claimed that “Grozny” was afraid that the FBI would take the second Boston bomber alive (presumably, because the FSB trained him up, or something). Make no mistake, I do think that freedom of speech is good and it’s great that Eggert enjoys it in Russia – though it’s worth mentioning that the sentiment is not reciprocal – but the notion becomes rather absurd and even distorted when a state news agency consistently attacks and undermines the government in the eyes of foreigners.

This does not happen in the West. Whatever their domestic disagreements, there is an implicit understanding among American politicians that criticism of the US and the US government is off limits so far as foreigners are concerned. The same goes for America’s “soft power” media. You will simply not find much anti-US material on RFERL or Voice of America. The same goes for the BBC, Al Jazeera, CCTV, France 24, and Deutche Welle as regards the foreign policies of their respective countries (aka sponsors). Russia making an exception on this issue is maladaptive and not even widely appreciated to boot.

In this respect, RIA has long been somewhat of aberration, and frankly the only thing surprising is that it took the Kremlin this long to comprehend and rationalize the situation. Western journalists complain about clampdowns and neo-Sovietism all they want. The Russian taxpayer owes them nothing. In the meantime:

“Russia has its own independent politics and strongly defends its national interests: it’s difficult to explain this to the world but we can do this, and we must do this,” Ivanov told reporters.

In that respect, RIA didn’t help; it hindered.

The second reason is that it was not a very efficient organization. The official reasons for RIA’s dissolution have to do with “saving money and making state media more effective.” I know a few people in RIA, and they generally agree that it is an over-bureaucratized and unresponsive behemoth. One acquantaince (who sometimes comments here) had a more concrete complaint:

I needed to license two images from the RIA-Novosti photo archive for my book, and it took FOREVER. Just getting a reply to my original inquiry took weeks. It was as though they didn’t understand that I was trying to *give* them money to provide the service they actually advertise.

And here is Peter Lavelle on his experience with working with RIA:

Some thoughts on the demise/restructuring of RIA Novosti: For a short time I worked for RIA as a website commentator and unofficial English language editor. This was around 2004-05. Before that I was writing for United Press International as a (slave) stringer. I wrote about 20 articles a month for the sum total of $1990! Yep, I was rolling in it! And to top it off, UPI would not pony up to pay part of my yearly visa expense. With my income, that visa was expensive.

I had heard that the now defunct Russia Profile was looking for a journalist-correspondent. I interviewed for the position. I wasn’t what they were looking for. However, a deal was cut with RIA – I would have a half-time job with Russia Profile, and the second half with RIA. The money was better, but nothing to cheer about and the visa was taken care of. Working for Russia Profile was more or less fine. Working with RIA was bureaucratic and cumbersome. I ended up sitting with the very nice people in the English language wire service. I wrote my daily comments among them, while often proof reading wire stories before they went out online. But after a few months, I was told to slow down “Peter, you write too much, you work too hard.” Strange, yeah?

Within a week or so, I was writing one or two pieces a week – for the same salary. Later I was told privately the other (Russian) columnists had complained that “this foreigner” works too hard and makes us all look bad. Then RT (then Russia Today) came along. This is an entirely different story (and will wait for later). Two remaining things stay with me about RIA.

First, they wouldn’t let me quit! No, I would have to stay, even if I didn’t write for them I stayed and would be paid. That lasted for about six months. I don’t recall collecting my wages from them in remaining months; it was so idiotic.

Second, as RT expanded (literally in the RIA building), RT staff was treated like second-class citizens. Our ability to move about the building was at times bordering on the ridiculous. In the end we were segregated to certain entrances, and ordered to a separate smoking area. RIA had no interest in even sharing resources for professional purposes – like sharing video and other journalistic assets. I will not miss RIA Novosti as an organization. However, I hope to stay in contact with some very good friends who have worked there, particularly at the Moscow News. They never have had any influence over policy making.

Those who remember those days at RIA know I recollecting only 1% of the saga…

Say what you will about it, but RT is generally acknowledged to be far more responsive and dynamic.

Funding for Russian media activities abroad is going to be reduced in the coming years, so it’s not illogical to rationalize it. This is a long known fact that is linked to the general budget austerity that will predominate in 2014-16. But the various Russian foreign media projects and scattered, and all too often compete with each other as opposed to cooperating. In addition to the big ones, RIA and RT, there is also the Voice of Russia (which in turn has competing bureaus in Moscow, London, and Washington DC) and Russia Beyond the Headlines (which is a project of the state newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, and which in turn has a panoply of sub-projects such as Russia & India Report and a sponsored section – which basically noone accesses or reads – in The Daily Telegraph). All their websites are subpar, even relative to RT, which is ironic since RT is primarily TV whereas RIA is now most deeply rooted in the Internet.

A rationalization of this unwieldy mess of Soviet-era legacy organizations is well past due, and that is seemingly what is going to happen. RIA, Voice of Russia, and RBTH will all be consolidated into Russia Segodnya. RT will remain separate.

There are difficulties and unresolved issues. For instance, RIA itself has a vast and rather disorganized number of projects, such as RAPSI (provides legal information, esp. on trials and sucklike), Valdai (meetings of foreign and Russian experts to discuss Russia’s trajectory, culminating in yearly meetings with Putin), and InoSMI (a resource that translates foreign media into Russian). Many of these projects are genuinely useful, and while RIA itself may be superfluous, I very much hope that they will continue either under Rossiya Sedognya’s umbrella or independently. But so far there’s no news on that front. Senior RIA people are just as much in the dark as everyone else.

tl;dr. There are two main reasons for merging RIA and a few other Russian media projects into a new organization: (1) To rein in the pro-Western liberals who have seized control of RIA’s editorial policy, and (2) to rationalize their wasteful and inefficient bureaucracies in a period of moderate budget austerity. On balance, these are “good” and much-needed reforms.

* Not exactly, see RBTH comments on recent changes in the Russian media landscape.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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Everybody in the Western media seems to have forgotten Pussy Riot. Well, not forgotten, they still wheel them out every so often as symbols of the repressiveness of the Putin regime – but news of actual developments in the affair have come to a standstill. Which is a pity, because they undermine the commonly accepted narrative about what it was in the first place.

I am talking, of course, about the estrangement of Pussy Riot from their original trio of lawyers – Mark Feygin, Nikolay Polozov, and Violetta Volkova. This began approximately when they Pussy Riot lost their case and got sent off to jail, which led them to switch lawyers. Their new lawyer, Irina Khrunova, managed to get Samutsevich (one of the Pussies) released by arguing that she was not an active participant in the “performance.” Khrunova continues to represent the other two who are still in jail. Here is pretty much the only article you will find out about this in the Western media. (Funny that it’s in The Independent, and not in the Guardian, which was otherwise Pussy Riot’s most fiery supporter).

Then Mark Feygin, via his wife’s company, tried to register the Pussy Riot brand. Pussy Riot claims that he did not have their permission to do so and that it was an attempt to cash in on the case. Feygin denies this, saying that he did have permission and that his intentions were to prevent OTHERS from unscrupulously profiting off the name. He says the newspapers smeared him. In any case this is a moot point anyway, as Russia’s patent office denied them their trademark anyway; but this was just one of a series of wedges that would alienate the lawyers from the Pussies.

Things moved up into critical mode when Samutsevich asked Russia’s bar association to consider Volkova’s status as a lawyer, and now, to dismiss her. This prompted a furious, vitriolic, and frankly stunning reaction from the lawyers:

Mark Feygin: Samutsevich again requested the Association to disbar Violetta Volkova!

Mark Feygin: Without a doubt, we are dealing with a RAT here!

Mark Feygin: As regards Samutsevich, I still can’t forget that Big Mac which Violetta brought to her in her pre-trial detention… How could one be such an ungrateful rat?

(AK: A whole BIG MAC? How *generous* of her!)

Also, in response to a commentator, who tweeted:

Marina Marinina: Have you ever noticed that if a person looks ugly on the outside, she’s also probably ugly on the inside?

Mark Feygin: Yep, I noticed. https://twitter.com/mark_feygin/status/322046597955457025/photo/1

(AK: Funny, that. Marina Marinina hardly strikes me as a star in the looks department. Let alone Volkova LOL).

Nikolay Polozov: The regime eggs on Samutsevich to debar Volkova on the threshold of her defense of Udaltsov in soon forthcoming trials. The rat earns her keep.

Violetta Volkova, replying to a commentator: I can only say one thing – Samutsevich could not have written this complaint by herself. She was helped a lot – but this is just my private opinion.

Elsewhere by the pattern of her re-Tweets she makes it quite clear that she agrees with the theory that Samutsevich is a rat, though she does not use the actual word herself unlike her two colleagues.

There are two ways of looking at this.

(1) From the lawyers’ side:

Mark Feygin: In Russia, we all know that Samutsevich agreed with the Kremlin. So let her go

That, and now she is working on their orders, trying to discredit their work.

(2) From (what I assume to be) Samutsevich’s, and perhaps the other two’s, side:

Feygin and Co. are not so much lawyers as political activists posing as lawyers, whose primary concern is not so much the welfare of their clients (e.g. keeping them out of prison) as smearing egg all over the Kremlin’s face. This explains the decision to switch them for Irina Khrunova and the general acrimony between them since.

Frankly, with their online behavior, I think the lawyers have – if anything – lent more credence to #2. Calling out a former client of yours as a “rat” is extremely unprofessional, something you might see in a “Lawyers from Hell” episode. Who on Earth would want to be represented by them in the future? When you know that if you have issues with their defense strategy and professional ethics you will be subjected to an online barrage of smears from them and their liberal opposition groupies?

I know who! The professional revolutionaries like Udaltsov, who would gladly go to jail if it made the “regime” look bad. And what then would that make the lawyers? It would make them their professional enablers.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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I had great fun observing the fallout over Depardieu’s “defection” to Russia. The reason for the apostrophes is of course because it had nothing to do with it. It was Depardieu trolling Hollande and the French “Socialists”, and Putin trolling Westerners and his own homegrown “democratic journalists.” (Or maybe not? In any case, I for one have a difficult time comprehending why anyone would care so much.) This trolling was both entertaining and successful, because it elicited so, so much beautiful rage and loathing from all our favorite quarters.

The Western press

Predictable enough, coverage of this on the right-wing sites like the Wall Street Journal was schizophrenic. After all the writers and readers have to decide on who they hate more: Socialist France or Putin’s Russia? Of course the faux-left/neoliberal press like Le Monde and The Guardian had no such problems. They went stark raving apoplectic:

Gérard Depardieu isn’t enough to change Russia’s image by our good friend Andrew Ryvkin: “The actor may be taking Russian citizenship, but convincing citizens life is better than in the west is a difficult PR exercise” – I hardly think that was ever the point.

Gérard Depardieu joins very small club of adoptive Russian citizens, by Howard Amos: “Few foreigners seek Russian citizenship and even fewer are granted it, with the tide generally going in the opposite direction.” Ah, the (completely discredited) Sixth Wave of Emigration trope. What makes this especially funny is that 300k-400k Brits leave Britain every year, whereas the equivalent figure for Russia (with more than 2x the population) is slightly above 100,000 this year.

But best of all was the Guardian’s caption competition to the above photo. Here are some of the Guardian picks:

Après moi le beluga…?

Gerard announces the closure of several Parisian Boulangeries.

The hilarity of this is that the Guardian is a major mouthpiece for “fat acceptance”; indeed, it is not atypical for its contributors to write inanities like this: “While obese is a medical term, fat is the language of the bully. It’s not a word doctors should use.”

While I certainly have no problem with making fun of fat apologists and their enablers, but what’s hilarious is that the Guardian CiF is notoriously censorious and would have surely deleted those comments had they been directed at anyone the Guardian likes for violating its “community standards.”

Western democratic journalists

Unfortunately even many otherwise reasonable people were ridiculously outraged.

https://twitter.com/theivanovreport/status/286916844370161665

https://twitter.com/theivanovreport/status/287202688507195393

Mark Adomanis started out well:

https://twitter.com/MarkAdomanis/status/286972111665377280

But then he too went weird.

As the details of his newly minted Russian citizenship Depardieu has (justifiably!) been roundly condemned by right, left, center, and everywhere in between.

https://twitter.com/MarkAdomanis/status/288338539287044096

Quite a change from this in 2010, no?: “All of the US-run freedom indices aren’t merely slanted (that’s to be expected) but usually also have some truly weird crap thrown in the mix.” ;)

Russian liberals

Via politrash, who noted that writing this much have torn the democratic journalist in question (Gleb Razdolnov) to pieces: Please Answer, Depardieu!… (Open Letter)

A must-read for anyone interested in Russian liberal psychology. Go to your Google Translate.

And Depardieu knows all the correct things to say to troll and wind them up even further.

In a class of its own: Julia Ioffe

Gerard Depardieu’s Russian Citizenship Is a Passport to a Westerner’s Playground for TNR.

Days earlier, Putin, by presidential fiat, had extended Russian citizenship to Depardieu, who recently declared that he would abandon his native France, allegedly because of high taxes: Russia’s flat 13 percent tax rate looked a lot better than Francois Hollande’s now defunct proposal to raise taxes to 75 percent for those making over 1 million euros.

Minor point, perhaps, but NOT defunct.

The inaugural trip to Mordovia, observers noted, was a strange choice given what the republic is generally known for: penal colonies. The Mordovian economy subsists almost entirely on these alone; roads are merely strings connecting the colonies, some of which date back to Stalin. Most visitors to Mordovia are likely to see not yodeling singers in colorful frocks, but a depressed region where the free population seems split into two camps: the prison guards, and the day drinkers.

I have no doubt that Depardieu didn’t see and will not see this side of Mordovia, nor will he have met with the region’s most famous inmate, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, of the band Pussy Riot.

The state of Oklahoma, generally known for the Trail of Tears. Southern Poland, generally known for Auschwitz. Nanking, generally known for its rape. Any others you can think of?

Nor will Depardieu see Russia as it exists for 99.9 percent of his now fellow countrymen. As Putin’s pet, he will be shielded from the collapsing infrastructure and a ramshackle poverty inexplicable for a country that pumps more oil than Saudi Arabia. He will never have to go to a poorly trained, overworked, and underpaid Russian doctor who would likely misdiagnose him anyway. He will never get caught in the teeth of the corrupt justice system; he won’t be extorted for bribes, whether or not he runs afoul of the law.

So specifically Russian. But the best is yet to come:

Of course, this can be said of any wealthy Russian, or any celebrity anywhere in the world. The difference here is the orientalism of such Western men—and they are always, always men—who decamp to Russia and praise the place for its freedom and simplicity. The women, they say, are more beautiful and better (read: more sparsely) dressed, more deferential to men (especially men with money), and always aim to please, sexually.

Because ugly, badly dressed, rude, frigid, and – incidentally – worse paid relative to men is a far superior lifestyle?

Without examining why Russian women might be like this, Western expats use these qualities as evidence for a quietly long-held view that feminism is the crude weapon of the ugly Western woman.

Well…

The whirl-a-gig unpredictability of the place rarely stops being fun because it’s never entirely real. In these men’s eyes, it is not lawlessness; it is freedom from annoying rules.

In my years living in Moscow, I have come across many such Western men. In Moscow, their wealth gives them the kind of reality-bending leverage that it couldn’t in New York, London, or Paris. In Moscow, their wealth—and, in Depardieu’s case, fame—made them brilliant and sexually attractive, especially to the leggy, barely legal girls from the provinces; in those Western cities, their money merely made them rich.

Okay, I think she’s basically confirmed my theory from an older post:

One thing that really stands out is that it is female Jews who dislike Russia more than anything, at least among Western journalists. As this post has already pushed well beyond all respectable limits of political correctness, I might as well go the full nine yards and outline my theory of why that is the case. In my view, the reasons are ultimately psycho-sexual. Male Jews nowadays have it good in Russia, with many Slavic girls attracted to their wealth, intelligence and impeccable charm (if not their looks). But the position of Jewesses is the inverse. They find it hard to compete with those same Slavic chicks who tend to be both hotter and much more feminine than them; nor, like Jewish guys, can they compensate with intelligence, since it is considered far less important for women. This state of affairs leads to sexual frustration and permanent singledom (pump and dump affairs don’t count of course), which in turn gives rise to the angry radical feminism and lesbianism that oozes out of this piece by Anna Nemtsova bemoaning Russia’s “useless bachelors”. Such attitudes further increase male aversion to them, thus reinforcing their vicious cycle of singledom. And the resulting frustration indelibly seeps into their work…

Basically in Russia, Ioffe is surrounded by massively superior competition to what she’d find in her hometown, massively diminishing her relative attractiveness and male attention/commitment. This is understandably hard on the ego. In that respect, Washington DC is the polar opposite of what she’d have found in Russia.

So, no wonder that Ioffe has been so angry during her time in Russia and bugged out of the place much sooner rather than later. Why else would she spend so much column space ruing the far superior sexual choice available to expats in Russia?

I mean there’s nothing wrong with her disliking Russia for that, it’s a perfectly understandable and natural reaction. People are drawn to places where they enjoy more attention, respect, and sexual market value. That is why it is “always” male expats that enjoy the place as she points out. Whereas an American female journalist might hook up with some Latino lothario in Brazil, in Moscow she’d have to settle for beetroot-stained runts in vests and tracksuit pants.

But at least the foreign expats she is so so evidently butthurt about are, by her own admission, honest about their motivations. They want to keep 75%-13%=62% of their money, not have their cars periodically torched by “youths”, and have the freedom to look over a girl without going to jail for it.

Update: Ioffe’s reply to this post

Ouch this must have struck a nerve with her!

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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Here is the article, by Nick Cohen. And below are the two comments (one by myself) that were censored. I have corrected a few grammatical points in this post.

They were eventually restored, wonder of wonders, but only after two days – and therefore all interest – had passed, and after I had sent an email of complaint to the Guardian CiF moderation team.

As already noted, on the Guardian, while comment is free, some comments are freer than others.

SublimeOblivion:

Let us look at this rationally and by the numbers.

(1) How can Karpov afford this? This is doubtless a question that will be examined in great deal in the actual trial. It is not necessarily, of course, his own money. One explanation is that the Russian government is funding it if it thinks there is a high chance that a British court would find Browder’s claims to be libel. After all, it is its reputation that has been hardest than anyone else’s in this entire sordid affair. Another alternative is that the lawyers that Mr. Cohen castigates think the defendant has a good case and are prepared to work on a no win – no claim basis. Both alternatives were suggested by a British lawyer friend of mine with experience in libel cases (no not the ones in the article).

(2) Likewise the question of how Karpov could afford a one million dollar flat will also be examined in detail given the heart of Browder’s allegations is that Karpov and his buddies murdered Magnitsky to prevent him from reporting on Karpov’s own corruption. Needless to say that this is a question of vital interest that is well worth spending public taxpayer money on because in addition to its legal aspects it has also had wide-ranging political and diplomatic ramifications (although, this being a libel case, that would not be the case anyway, as it will be the losing party that will also have to pay any court costs).

(3) Some people are complaining that it is political and it is wrong to let foreign let alone Russian criminals “abuse” the British legal system to suppress Browder’s right free speech. The reality however is that it was always going to be political because of the political nature of Browder’s activities, which were to lobby for the Magnitsky Act and similar legislation in other parliaments. If however one of the key alleged figurants turns out to be demonstrably innocent, that in turn will put major question marks over the rest of Browder’s narrative. To the contrary, if the court finds that the libel claim is baseless, then that will provide some degree of legitimacy to the Magnitsky Act, something which it desperately needs (because the persons it sanctions have not turned up there by way of a legal process, but on the say-so of Browder – who, needless to say, has his own private motives for doing so).

As such, the only people who should logically oppose this case are those who are not interested in helping establish the truth, but either want to fight a new cold war (on which Mr. Cohen qualifies, I imagine) or protect characters like Karpov, whose activities have been undeniably shady, from scrutiny.

Beckow:

Good summary, but I don’t have the same faith in UK courts as many here. Courts are reluctant to go against policy of their country. If no evidence is shown against Karpov, they might avoid embarrassing UK/US Congress, by dismissing it on some technicality or muddling the verdict. That’s the way it usually happens, but it is worth the entertainment.

Regarding Karpov’s money – there are plenty of people in E.Europe who own expensive real estate, but are cash-poor. After 1990, flats/houses were given to may who lived in them and as real estate sky-rocketed, they became wealthy overnight. Could be that Karpov’s mom is one of them. It also matters very little if Karpov is rich or not, it proves nothing. As it would prove nothing in the West.

And finally, as a matter of possible curiosity, the email I sent:

Dear CiF Moderators,

I am the user “SublimeOblivion”. As I have been forwarded to this email by Matt Seaton, could you please explain why my comment at 06 January 2013 10:54 PM to this article by Nick Cohen was deleted?

It did not break any of the Guardian’s “community guidelines” that I could possible see. I did not insult anyone, and my reply was a great deal more restrained than any number of others I can point out there. I did not even disagree with one of Cohen’s main points which was that Karpov’s ability to afford expensive lawyers was suspicious (although of course as I understand, in theory CiF does not censor comments for mere disagreement anyway).

As Rozina said in the last comment to that article as of right now (which I hope you will not likewise delete):

Also I wonder why previous comments by Sublime Oblivion, Beckow, myself and others were moderated. SO’s comment looked reasonable and he questioned Karpov’s ability to pay his legal costs. If there are certain things posters are not allowed to mention because they concern details of the court case, then either the original article should have included a warning that any comments referring to facts about Karpov and Browdler which will be part of the trial’s scope may be subject to moderation, or the article should not have invited comments at all.

I would appreciate it if you could send a copy of my comment with the part that was objectionable in particular marked out so that I can avoid repeating any such mistake in the future.

Finally, I would also like to note the deep irony of a comment being deleted to an article that complains of libel lawyers and Russian litigants purportedly infringing on the right to free speech of British citizens. It would be interesting and deeply appreciated to hear a comment on this too.

Thanks and Best,
Anatoly.

The reply:

Hello,

Thanks for getting in touch.

On review I have decided to reinstate your comment (please see: http://discussion.guardian.co.uk/comment-permalink/20433454).

Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

Kind regards

CIF Moderation Team

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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By the usual standards of Guardian reporting on Russia, this one by GQ Russia editor Andrew Ryvkin is… well, about par for the course.

Citing a recent PwC report that Russia will overtake Germany to become Europe’s biggest economy in 2030, he asks, “Should we believe them?

Well, the PwC is just repeating predictions made almost a decade earlier by Goldman Sachs, which has thus far proved very accurate on the growing prominence of the BRICs in general, and of Russia in particular (regardless of repeated attempts to kick it out of that grouping, against the judgment of Jim O’Neill, the inventor of the BRICs concept himself).

So in effect Ryvkin is asking us whether we should trust a range of organizations with a great predictive record on the issue to the uninformed ravings of a Guardian hack.

Forget Russia’s very reasonable and respectable growth rates compared to the other Central-East European countries. According to Ryvkin, Russia’s downfall will be because it is “politics”, and not “strict economic policies”, that “rule these wintry lands.” What is the primary example he uses to demonstrate this?

One should also have sedatives close to hand while reviewing the figures. Russia has become one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and is barely making an effort to hide it. For instance, one of the Sochi 2014 Olympic projects – a 50 km road – costs nearly $8bn.

This meme was popularized by Julio Ioffe in the Western press on Russia back in 2010. It has also long since been long debunked, including on this very blog – although it continues to float around as a cliche among Russian liberal and journalist circles.

The only problem with looking at Russia through this failed state prism, without bothering to corroborate sources, is that in no sense can the Adler-Krasnaya Polyana route be described as just a “roadway”. Intended to be completed within 3 years in an area with a poorly developed infrastructure, this so-called “road” also includes a high-speed railway, more than 50 bridges, and 27km of tunnels over mountainous, ecologically-fragile terrain!

Then there’s this bizarre statement: “Germany, is currently associated with its policy of austerity, Russia is known for precisely the opposite.” That’s certainly news to me, as Russia has run balanced budgets for the past 2 years* – in stark contrast to, well, pretty much the rest of the developed world (including Germany for that matter).

And here you’re inevitably faced with a question: how would the Russian government act if it became a leading European economy and faced a crisis like the one in we have now in the eurozone, considering that this government has allowed the construction of a $160m/km road?

That is an extraordinarily remote possibility, seeing as Russia has fiscal unity and no significant sovereign debt (i.e. the lack of which define the European crisis). The very question is not only based on a faulty premise (the so-called “caviar road”) but essentially meaningless.

After some of the usual moralizing and content-free platitudes about the absence of Russian democracy, as well as the further extremely bizarre idea that the Chinese economy is not politicized like Russia’s**, Ryvkin wanders back on track with the usual spiel about how Russia is Nigeria with snow.

Here’s a question: who would want a Russian-made car, when even Russians don’t want them? Another one: who wants to fly Russian aeroplanes, when even in Russia people choose to fly on a Boeing or Airbus? But these huge industries still exist, resembling Frankenstein’s monsters of Soviet industrial might, brought to life by heavy injections of oil money and created by businesses that ultimately cannot produce a competitive product.

It goes against almost every aspect of economic, market-oriented logic, but it has nothing to do with the economy, because it aims to keep the workforce loyal to the government and project an image of a neo-Soviet industrial power. So is securing votes at the cost of your country’s economic development today a strategy worthy of someone who is going to lead the European economy in seventeen years? Is the strategy even smart?

Back in the world of hard facts and statistics, Russian car production was at 2.0 million units in 2011 (increasing by a further 15% in 2012) compared to 1.2 million units in 2000. Many foreign automakers have moved manufacturing into Russia, but that one presupposes is a good thing; that indigenous Russian brands haven’t done as well doesn’t mean much (which British brands are doing well apart from Rolls Royce?). There are few countries in which automobiles are a major export staple – incidentally, China with which Ryvkin incessantly compares Russia with isn’t one of them – and there is no good reason to expect Russia to become a major exporter of cars under any government, be it Putin’s or “even [a 10-year-old] (as long as he was smart enough not to stop the flow of oil and gas).”

That is because hydrocarbons are Russia’s comparative advantage, a concept which likewise explains why say Australia and Norway do not export much manufactured goods either. Ironically, the surest way to solve this “resource dependency” would be to get Ryvkin’s 10 year old President to ACTUALLY stop the flow of oil and gas.

That is also the reason why Ryvkin doesn’t work as an analyst at PwC but writes articles for the Guardian.

* Actually latest estimates show that 2012 had a deficit of 0.02% of GDP, but that’s of course basically a rounding error.

** Where to even begin here? For a start, consider the fact that the HQ’s of all the major Chinese companies have a “red machine” with a telephone link to Party functionaries

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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1. For Russian orphans life is much more dangerous in Russia than in America. Let’s agree to disregard the hidden subtext which implies that any country ought to give over its orphans to foreign nationals should it be ranked safer for children. Let’s first examine if the claim that Russia is 39 times more dangerous for adoptees than the US is even true.

This number most prominently featured in a March 2012 article at the liberal website Ttolk, perhaps (probably?) it originated there. It then spread to the rest of the Internet via Yulia “Pinochet” Latynina at the Moscow Times

According to official government statistics, a child adopted by Russian parents is 39 times more likely to die than one adopted by parents in the West.

… and Victor Davidoff at the St. Petersburg Times.

It is also well-known that the chances a child will die after being adopted by a family in Russia are almost 40 times higher than if adopted by a family in the West.

While it’s no great secret that Western countries are safer than Russia, the differential struck me as absurdly high. Especially when I checked mortality rates, according to which on average Russian children have approximately twice the risk of death as do their American counterparts (or the same as the US in 1980). This is pretty much as to be expected, as Russian healthcare despite intensive modernization in the past decade still lags developed country standards.

So we have a paradox: While Russian children are on average are “only” 2x as likely to die as American ones, adoptees in particular are supposedly 39x more at risk. The differential between the two groups is simply too high to be credible.

Thankfully one gelievna had already done most of the work. Here is what the article in Ttolk wrote:

Already for several years semi-official documents cite the following number: Since 1991 to 2006, i.e. over 15 years, there died 1,220 children who had been adopted by Russian citizens. Of them 12 were killed by their own adopters.

During this same period, from 1991 to 2006, there died 18 Russian children in adopting families in the West. Knowing the number of adoptees there and in Russia (92,000 and 158,000, respectively) we can calculate the relative danger of adoption in these two worlds. It turns out that there is one dead child per 5,103 foreign families, whereas in Russian families this ratio is at one dead child to every 130 families. This means that adoptees in Russian families are in 39 times more danger than in foreign ones.

Well isn’t that shocking? Surely a humanitarian intervention is called for to rescue Russia’s children and place them in American homes. The only problem is that the 1,220 figure doesn’t refer to deaths at all. Here is what the original source, a 2005 report, actually said:

In 2005, the Ministry of Education and Science gathered preliminary statistics for the past 5 years on cases of death and incidences of ill treatment of orphans, adopted by Russians or taken into guardianship or a foster family, according to which:

Out of 1220 children, 12 died by the fault of the adopters and guardians;

Out of 116 children, whose health was for various causes subjected to heavy harm, 23 suffered by the fault of the adopters and guardians

So the article at Ttolk is basically comparing apples and oranges, i.e. the numbers of Russian adoptees who died in foreign countries vs. the numbers of Russian adoptees that were ill treated in Russia. Of course the latter figure is always going to be much, much higher.

What concrete findings we have (assuming the rest of the article is accurate) is that 18 Russian adoptees died in foreign countries (of those we know! there is no systemic tracking) during 1991-2006 vs. 12 Russian adoptees died by the fault of their foster parents specifically during 1999-2004 or so.

So while an exact comparison remains elusive we can know be fairly certain that in fact the risk of murder is broadly similar for a Russian adoptee in both Russia and the US. Basically it is (thankfully) extremely rare in both countries. I would also point out that this is far from a “Russophile” or “Russian chauvinist” conclusion, knowing that a lot of Russians harp on about the supposedly everyday shooting rampages in schools all over America. In reality this is just the usual anti-guns hysteria mixed in with Americanophobia, American schools are actually extremely safe with only 1-1.5% of all violent deaths of children occurring on school premises in any single year. (Even a very “catastrophic” event like the Newtown shooting would only raise this by about one percentage point).

This whole episode strongly reminds me of similar cases in the past when some wild figure was misquoted, spread in Russian liberal circles, and then transferred to the West. E.g. an imaginary spike of abortions in the wake of the economic crisis. Or the wild exaggeration of Russian emigration figures.

2. It was a cynical and pre-planned ploy to “punish” the US for the Magnitsky Act. Mercouris has already very elegantly demonstrated why this is the wrong way to look at it so one can do worse than quote him in extenso:

“I gather the Federation Council has now voted unanimously to support the adoption ban. This is a direct result of the campaign against it.

The adoption ban looks to me like an emotional response not just to the Magnitsky law but also to the way in which the original Dima Yakovlev law was first formulated. This very wisely limited sanctions to US officials who have violated the human rights of Russians. By doing so Russia has avoided the ridiculous situation created by the Magnitsky law by not extending its jurisdiction to US citizens whose actions have nothing to do with Russia. Understandably enough someone decided to name the law after Dima Yakovlev, who is not a Russian whose rights were violated but who as a child makes the ideal poster boy for this sort of law. However by naming the law after Dima Yakovlev the whole subject of the mistreatment of Russian children in the US was opened up and someone (Putin?, Russia’s Children’s Ombudsman?, someone within United Russia?) in what was surely an emotional response decided to tack on an adoption ban to the original Dima Yakovlev law. That this was not pre planned is shown by the fact that the Russian Foreign Ministry was until recently busy negotiating the agreement with the State Department to protect Russian children that I discussed previously. I gather this agreement was reached as recently as last month i.e. November not September as I said in my previous comment. It is scarcely likely that the Russian government negotiated an agreement it planned to cancel, which shows that the adoption ban must have been an emotional afterthought.

Since the adoption ban was almost certainly an emotional afterthought that almost certainly had not been properly thought through the best way to defeat it would have been to try to reason the Russian parliament and government and Russian public opinion out of it. The point could have been made that adoption is a private matter, that the number of Russian children abused by their US adoptive parents is microscopically small, that it is unfair on other intended US adopted parents to discriminate against them because of the bad behavior of a very few bad US adoptive parents and that the problems involving Russian children with the US authorities and with the US courts have hopefully been addressed by the agreement with the US State Department, which should be given a chance to work. It could also have been pointed out that the adoption ban sits uneasily with the rest of the Dima Yakovlev law, which is intended to hit out at US officials who violate the rights of Russian citizens and not at innocent US citizens who want to adopt Russian children.

All of these arguments have been lost by the hysterical and hyperbolic reaction to the adoption ban. Thus critics of the law have accused Russian legislators of cynically acting contrary to the interests of children, which unnecessarily offends those Russian legislators who may genuinely have thought that by supporting the adoption ban they were trying to protect Russian children. They have also all but said that Russia is incapable of looking after its own orphaned children, which must offend patriotically minded people generally. They have even come close to insinuating that Russian children are better off being brought up in the US than in Russia, which must offend patriotically minded people even more. For its part the US has behaved equally crassly by using the Magnitsky law to threaten Russian legislators in a matter that has nothing to do with either human rights or with Magnitsky and by apparently saying that the adoption ban violates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is doubtful but which is also crass if it is true as I have heard that unlike Russia the US is one of the two or three countries which have not ratified it.

The totally predictable result is that the adoption ban has not only been overwhelmingly supported by the parliament and is now certain to become law but Russian public opinion has consolidated behind it.”

3. The law meets fierce population opposition within Russia. Here is what the Guardian writes:

But inside Russia the bill has been criticised by opposition figures as “cannibalistic”, with a petition against the act being signed by more than 100,000 people.

The Western media has spread the idea there is huge grassroots opposition to the Dima Yakovlev law. In addition there has been coverage of a petition floating around the White House to place Duma deputies who voted for the adoptions ban to be placed on the Magnitsky list as “human rights abusers” and denied entry to the US.

This image is however almost entirely false.

Laurie Penny hints at it in the Guardian:

Not all the adopted children thrived, as the populations “back home” are painfully aware. In 2008 Dima Yakovlev, a Russian toddler adopted by Americans, died after being left in a sweltering car for hours. His adopted parents were found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Russia’s new bill is named after Dima Yakovlev.

Max Fisher in the Washington Post spells it out clearly:

As it turns out, the ban on American adoptions is remarkably popular in Russia. A new Russian survey finds that 56 percent support the ban and 21 percent oppose, a ratio of almost three-to-one. The support seems to stem from a belief that American families are dangerous, cruel, and at times violent to their adoptive Russian children.

Here is the link to the FOM poll. What’s especially noticeable is that a majority of all major social groups support it: 44% of Prokhorov voters; 50% of young people; 48% of people with a higher education; etc.

If one believes that only the scum of the earth like Putin could write the Dima Yakovlev Law, then it would be incongruent not to extend the hatred towards ordinary Russians. La Russophobe is one of the few who gets points for consistency.

4. The Russian government was very enthusiastic about the Dima Yakovlev Law. No, it wasn’t. As Mercouris wrote above, it basically torpedoed months of negotiations with the Americans for Russian officials to get more information about the status of Russian orphans in the US. That is presumably why FM Lavrov was against it as were at least two other Ministers. It was the Duma taking the initiative.

In a further irony, I found an article at the Communist Party website that criticized United Russia for not supporting a similar law back in 2010.

NOTE: The following points are taken pretty much directly from the very разоблачительная article “Orphans Q&A” by gloriaputina.

5. Russia has an inordinately huge number of orphans. The number is 654,355 as of end-2011, however the vast majority are so-called “social orphans” (their parents have been found incapable of parenting). Furthermore, even if a social orphan is adopted, he still remains in the social orphan category. The analogous figure for the US is 3 MILLION.

Ironically, as argued by the blogger, there is an inverse correlation between the rate of orphans and children’s safety. Basically when the state makes children into orphans, the numbers of deaths of children falls (presumably because they are taken away from violent and/or abusive parents). Now yes of course this is not positively good, sometimes there are ridiculous cases, but in Russia at least he is correct in that there is a correlation: As the numbers of parents who had children taken away climbed from 31,000 in 1995 to 53,000 in 2000 and 74,000 in 2008, overall child mortality has plummeted throughout the period (although of course other factors like better healthcare and less alcohol consumption would also play major roles).

Very few Russians abandon their children. They account for 1% of the total number of orphans, vs. 4% both of whose parents died, and 95% “social orphans”.

6. Russians don’t adopt, if there are no kind Americans to take up some of the slack, Russian orphans will be condemned to slow death in state orphanages.

It’s not so much a matter of Russians and Americans not adopting as few people anywhere being interested in adopting children over the age of three. Here is a graph.

In the above graph green represents adoption by Russian citizens, blue by foreign citizens, in 2009. In state orphanages, 90% of children are older than 11 years; 70-80% are older than 14 years. There is a waiting list for adopting children under the age of 3.

7. The majority of Russian orphans have to live in orphanages. Wrong, and this apparently has never been the case.

The yellow bars represent children who are transferred to foster parents (which I think is distinct from “adopted” as in the US), the blue bars represent the numbers of children who are housed in state institutions at any one year. The ratio between the two is steadily increasing and converging to the typical Western model, in which almost all children are taken in by foster parents.

7. Russians only adopt healthy children, while only kind foreigners take those with disabilities. Again, wrong.

30% of the children in the federal database are children with some registered physical disability; the vast majority of them are living with families, only 5% of their numbers live in child institutions.

Now since 1995 about 10% of Russian children adopted by both foreigners in general and Americans in particular were registered as having a disability. In 2011, the US adopted 44 children with disabilities, whereas Russians adopted 188 children with disabilities. In 2009-2011 more than 20,000 orphaned (0-6 age range) children left Russia, whereas as of January 2012, the waiting list for them in Russia was 12,900 long.

8. Russia is alone in being a nasty country that (now) bans American adoptions of children.

Guatemala

Romania

In any case adoptions from Russia had been dropping rapidly since 2004 anyway, constituting less than 1,000 by 2011.

There are in fact quite a number of countries that make foreign adoptions very difficult stopping short of outright bans including many in the ECE area. Russia’s ban is the only one the Western media decides to politicize however (although in fairness it’s a two way street given the absurd association on Russia’s part to portray it as a response to the Magnitsky Act).

9. I think that the Dima Yakovlev Law is a good idea. No, I don’t, I’m just clearing up major misconceptions in this post. While there may be valid grounds to much more stringently regulate foreign adoptions (e.g. ensuring all Russians wishing to adopt have the chance to, and ensure children don’t fall into the hands of pimps/organ traders/etc), the decision to only target Americans and to present it as a response to the Magnitsky Act is crude and idiotic, and just one of the many examples of the Russian government shooting itself in the foot PR-wise.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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Keeping up with the Guardian’s stream of textual diarrhea in its Russia coverage is a quixotic task, and one that I do not really have the stamina for (although Alex Mercouris does this remarkably effectively). Still, when it comes to certain issues I’m particularly interested in, such as demography, or China-Russians relations as in this case, I feel pressed to comment.

The main thrust of this article is about comparing the neighboring cities of Manzhouli and Zabaykalsk to make some wider point about the two countries. And the comparison is not flattering to Russia:

Twenty years ago, Zabaikalsk and Manzhouli, which face each other across the border marked by a few strips of barbed wire, were settlements of about 15,000 people. But while Zabaikalsk remains a dusty border town, Manzhouli now has high-rise buildings, an indoor skiing facility, 3D cinemas and a population approaching half a million people. Russians flock to it for the shopping opportunities.

The only problem with this comparison? Zabaykalsk has 12,000 people as of the 2010 Census, whereas Manzhouli has 300,000. Furthermore, Manzhouli had 137,000 people in 1990 to Zabaykalsk’s 9,000 in 1989. Were the Guardian’s fact-checkers hung over from their Christmas celebrations?

But the wider and more important point is that this comparison is beyond absurd. It’s about as valid as comparing the 600,000-strong city of Khabarovsk (which is incidentally a success story; it might not have skyscrapers, but it is picturesque, prosperous, and consistently ranked as one of Russia’s most comfortable and business-friendly cities) with the bordering, 20,000-strong “dusty” village of Fuyuan to “prove” Russia’s superiority over China. I do not, of course, because I am not a propagandist like the Guardian, nor do I have an agenda, nor do I hold my readers in such contempt that they would fail to see the absurdity of apples-to-apples comparisons of cities that differ by an order of magnitude.

Now in all fairness the Guardian’s contempt for its readers is largely justified based on most of the comments. But not all of them. Lost in the scrum of Bear vs. Dragon fantasists (of whom there are far fewer in both Russia and China than in the West) was one comment by “Nobul” that’s well worth reprinting in full:

Let’s get real, stop screaming “yellow peril” and “Russian Far East on a knife’s edge”. There are not many (300,000 according to reputable Russian stats, not 3 million in the scaremongering gutter press) and won’t be many more coming Russia’s way because:
1. China does not have a “massive” population pressure. Its population is growing at a meager 0.5% a year and aging fast. If you followed the news in the last couple of years, there are now a labour shortage across the country. There are no surplus population to “export”.
2. People go where the money is. It is in the rapidly growing cities in China. The Chinese peasants do not want be pioneers in a foreign land as illegal squatters and get one crop a year with no means of guaranteeing profit or property rights.
3. Scaremongers repeat ad nauseum there are 100 million Chinese across the river from 6 million Russians, but fail to mention the population density of Heilongjiang is 80/km2, similar to that of the Ukraine (the UK at 250ish) and just as fertile with its own black earth. Do you expect Ukrainian hordes to invade Russia? The peasants there would rather seek better paid opportunities in numerous Chinese cities where they speak the same language than dilapidated ghost towns of the Far East.

In addition to 1), come to think of it, the Russian Far East is now if anything in better demographic health than North-East China, or Dongbei. According to the latest Census, China’s TFR is at 1.4, and the three major North-East provinces have China’s lowest birth rates outside the major metropolises. Russia’s average TFR is 1.6 as of 2011 and is higher than average in the Far East specifically.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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A PR disaster: Five views on Pussy Riot’s war.

Go, read. Comment there if possible.

Just a couple more notes:

  • Since I submitted the article, commentator peter made one of the most convincing arguments against the validity of the sentence against Pussy Riot. I suppose this will be raised in PR’s appeal.
  • Just to clarify, as I said in the piece above, I do not think consider 2 years to be a fair sentence. I’d have given them 50-100 hours of community service. I agree with Kononenko here.
  • But the law’s the law in Russia as elsewhere. On that note, see this story (h/t Jon Hellevig) in which it is said that three German PR supporters who disturbed a service in Cologne cathedral may be liable for imprisonment of up to 3 years.

Other non-MSM line coverage of the PR not mentioned in my Al Jazeera case includes this, this, this, this, this, this.

There is also an active discussion of my Al Jazeera piece at reddit (h/t Sam Bollier).

PS. Also apparently the second link I threw in about Iran(ian universities banning women) isn’t as straightforward as that. h/t Fatima Manji

Addendum 8/24: There have been a number of reactions to this article at AJ, Reddit, Twitter, and other platforms, and it is good to see that a majority of them have been positive even if they picked over some details. I don’t disagree with that. This is a culture war and as such there are going to be vehement disagreements; besides, it’s not exactly like I’m in the “hardline” camp that wants to lock em up and throw away the key either.

That said, a few reactions have been strongly negative, and I want to draw attention to them. Not because I think they’re correct (duh) nor because of my narcissism (at least not primarily so) but because in my opinion they very considerably illuminate the mind frames of Russian liberals and Western journalists in Russia.

Exhibit one: Miriam Elder, Western democratic journalist.

[tweet https://twitter.com/MiriamElder/status/238888198997164033]

Do not see what relevance this has to anything. But as I told her if she dislikes the fact that much, she already knows how to remedy it: Go tittle-tattle to The Guardian.

Exhibit two: Tomas Hirst, Western democratic journalist.

[tweet https://twitter.com/tomashirst/status/238891570135461889]

Aka I don’t like what AK says ban him from the MSM wah wah wah. How very democratic.

Exhibit three: Konstantin von Eggert, Russian democratic journalist.

[tweet https://twitter.com/kvoneggert/status/238939875745873923]

So if you don’t have a higher degree, you’re not allowed to comment. In my experience, people who place a lot of emphasis on someone’s educational credentials tend to be incredibly vapid. Most of this commentary seems to be about praising NATO and smearing Assange.

Eggert, BTW, in his very person also puts the lie to any notion that the Russian media is substantially controlled by the Kremlin, seeing as he regularly writes for state news agency RIA Novosti and newspaper Kommersant.

[tweet https://twitter.com/kvoneggert/status/238941886746857472]

Also as above unlike many “democratic journalists” he is quite explicit about his double standards. That is quite rare though not unheard of.

Exhibit four: Andrey Kovalev, editor of Inosmi and a liberal with principles.

[tweet https://twitter.com/AnatolyKarlin/status/239090147843506176]

That I can respect. Though I don’t really agree with the “undemocratic” aspect. I consider myself very democratic (which is not synonymous with “liberal”).

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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From their latest Editorial / anti-Putin rant, via Mercouris. It is not with the ideological rhetoric that I have an issue with; it’s The Guardian, after all. Nor am I especially interested in defending Pussy Riot’s prosecution (my own views on the matter jive with Kononenko’s). I do however have an issue with the The Guardian explicitly misrepresenting or outright lying to support its agenda – a modus operandus that is now all too common to it and makes a mockery of the “facts are sacred” values it claims to uphold. In this “fisking”, I will only highlight the most egregious violations of basic journalistic standards.

“Their protest is not made of slogans and placards, but is crafted from art, dance and performance. Putin and his henchmen know how to deal with the former – the hundreds of thousands who have spilled into the streets in the last eight months – but their handling of the these women is much less assured.”

The Protests for Fair Elections got at very, very most 100,000 at the biggest such rally, the one on Prospekt Sakharova in December – a count made by Russia’s most liberal mainstream newspaper. (Other estimates ranged 60,000-80,000). That is, they numbered in the tens of thousands. If they want hundreds of thousands, they had better look elsewhere… say, Spain.

“The trial takes place in the same courthouse where alleged fraudster and billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former boss of the Yukos oil company and Putin’s political enemy, was tried.”

Not an alleged but a CONVICTED fraudster, in a judgment ruled sound by the ECHR.

“The treatment meted out to these ordinary, playful, even harmless young women and mothers has shocked and outraged ordinary Russians.”

April poll, Levada: 47% of “shocked and outraged ordinary Russians” think 7 years is an adequate punishment; 32% think it is excessive; and a mere 10% do not think they should be criminally prosecuted at all.

April poll, VCIOM: How do Russians look at Pussy Riot’s “punk prayer”? Hooliganism – 46%; sacrilege – 21%; political protest – 13%; PR – 10%; 4% – encouragement of hatred towards religious groups; 1% – art. In other words, only 14% of Russians agree with The Guardian’s interpretation. 86% think Pussy Riot should be prosecuted.

July poll, Levada: 36% approve of the prosecution of Pussy Riot, 50% disapprove.

July poll, FOM: 34% of Russians think that several years in prison is a just sentence, whereas 37% disagree. If they were asked to write a sign a letter in defense of Pussy Riot, 28% say they would and 51% say they wouldn’t.

Based on the above polls there is no consensus on what to do with Pussy Riot but most certainly the case has no shocked or outraged many Russians. For that matter very significant minorities consider that a prison sentence of several years would not be out of place. Whether or not one agrees with or is horrified by that is quite irrelevant. What IS relevant is that The Guardian has cardinally misrepresented Russian social attitudes to its readers in order to push its own partisan agenda.

Why does The Guardian so often conflate its own left-liberal views and biases for that of the “ordinary people” it pretends to speak for? (This is a rhetorical question)

“… brought him, until as recently as 2010, approval ratings of around 80%. That is no more. His ratings have plummeted.”

Does this look like a “plummeting” approval rating to you? (chart via Mark Adomanis via Levada Center)

“Resentment towards the political elite, the widening gap between the immensely rich and the poor, the deteriorating social security system, the collapse in oil prices and what Forbes has called “a stampede” of investors out of Russia – an outflow of $42bn in the first four months of 2012 – means the economy is flagging.”

Russia’s Gini index of inequality was 41.6 in 2011. This is virtually unchanged from the 38-43 range is has been in since 1993. Wrong.

Russia’s GDP grew 4.9% in Q1, and is estimated to have increased by 4.0% in Q2. (For comparison, the UK is in an outright double-dip recession). Russia’s industrial PMI for June 2012 is higher than in Brazil, China, and all G7 countries bar Canada. On what basis then is the Russian economy “flagging”, especially in the context of near-recession in the Eurozone and an appreciable slowdown in China?

One can take issues with several other characterizations in that paragraph. Oil prices have hardly collapsed (they are still higher than in any year bar 2008 and 2011); it is unclear what exactly The Guardian means by “resentment” or “deteriorating” (certainly it is unlikely to be backed by statistical data if the other claims are anything to go by); and the points about capital outflow as usual do not go into the structural specifics of said outflow (hint: A large portion of it is European daughter banks in Russia recapitalizing their mothers in the Eurozone).

But the complaint is not about those claims shoddy as they mostly are. It is about the two outright, demonstrable LIES in this paragraph.

“… the new laws include a requirement for non-governmental organisations to carry a “foreign agent” tag”

“The new laws include a requirement for non-governmental organisations THAT ENGAGE IN POLITICAL ACTIVITIES AND RECEIVE FOREIGN FUNDING to carry a “foreign agent” tag.” Fixed.

As per the best Western traditions, as pointed out by Mark Chapman.

Well, who has to register in the United States, under FARA? Persons who are acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi political capacity. Quasi-political? Isn’t that a little vague? Well, perhaps they’re a little more specific in the Frequently Asked Questions section. Here, we learn that “foreign principals” means “…foreign political parties, a person or organization outside the United States, except U.S. citizens, and any entity organized under the laws of a foreign country or having its principal place of business in a foreign country” (emphasis mine), and that the purpose of the Act is “…to insure that the U.S. Government and the people of the United States are informed of the source of information (propaganda) and the identity of persons attempting to influence U.S. public opinion, policy, and laws“.

Why is The Guardian so contemptuous of even the most accessible facts when they go against its own narrative? (This is a rhetorical question)

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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Just when I thought the paper of Luke “I Plagiarize Off The eXile” Harding and Miriam “Putin Stole My Dry Cleaning Ticket” Elder could get no more incompetent, vindictive, and mendacious in its Russia coverage, it did. I present: Putin calls in Darth Vader to tighten his grip on Russia’s energy assets by Alex Dryden, who seems to be the Guardian’s new Moscow correspondent. How many tropes and outright lies can you, dear reader, identify in that 800-word diatribe? I could find at least a dozen or so.

Manichaeism: Apparently Sechin is “Darth Vader” and “the scariest man in Russia”, according to Russians. That’s certainly news to me. I have never heard Sechin called any of that. The blogger Mark Galeotti did alert me to the fact that he’d used the moniker in a blog post, but did say that “joking aside, I haven’t seen Russians call Sechin Vader.” I searched on Russian Google for these associations and all I could find was references to Dryden’s own article, an article from Forbes a few years back that also called Sechin a Darth Vader, and a few bloggers. However I doubt that a majority of Russians even know who Sechin is let alone think of him as Emperor Palpatine’s Putin’s enforcer.

Inconsistency. Sechin is apparently the “greyest of his éminences grises”. I always thought that title belonged to Surkov? Make up your minds already! But this isn’t all. Not only will Darth Vader help Putin “tighten his grip on Russia’s energy assets”, he is at the same time – according to the subtitle – to “begin a potentially tycoon-terrifying reprivatisation programme.” This is a logical consequence of the traditional view of the Western media that Putin / Russia can do nothing good: If he increases restrictions on party registrations, it is authoritarianism, if he loosens them, it is a Kremlin plot to crowd out genuine liberals with fake Kremlin parties, etc. But at least up till now Putin’s inevitably evil and mercenary choices were at least mutually exclusive. Alex Dryden goes one step further, adopting a kind of multi-universe perspective in which Putin both “tightens state control” and “reprivatizes” at the same time, with both serving to reinforce his dominance and enrich his corrupt cronies.

Outright lies: What IS actually being discussed is privatization of state controlled companies, however there is debate over the pace (it is likely to be slow and gradual) and final extent of this privatization. How that amounts to tightening “state control of the economy” must remain a Schrödingerian mystery.

Tinpot Russia: “But the “r” in the Bric nations looks increasingly vulnerable… Should Russia even be included as one of the Brics? As the American economist, Nouriel Roubini, says, Russia is “more sick than Bric”.” And Jim O’Neill, the inventor of the BRIC’s concept, is a consistent defender of Russia’s place in the BRIC’s. Indeed on most indicators Russia is at least as good as the BRIC’s average or better. It has the highest human capital and the highest GDP per capita (both in nominal and PPP terms). Its per capita growth over the past decade lags only China and is about equal to India (which is many times poorer), and its present growth trajectory is likewise superior to Brazil and about equal to India’s. It is also the fiscally strongest of the BRIC’s, despite the relatively high dependence of its budget on minerals revenue (which is not a sin: See Australia, Norway, etc).

Anonymous sourcing: “Oleg says”, “Oleg’s wife Veronika says”, “Oleg and Veronika are just two of the many young people in Russia considering leaving”, “Sources close to Putin”, “An officer in the economic department of the FSB, the KGB’s successor organisation”, “the head of a small Moscow oil company”, “A partner in AAR”. All of whom conveniently back the Guardian line on Russia, from its economy being a cash machine for the ominously anonymous “them” (that is, the siloviki, as Dryden helpfully clarifies for us) to “mafiosi methods” being the only possible way to do business there. I wonder why Dryden didn’t cite the voices in his head. It would at the very least be more credible for its honesty.

Dying Russia: “Russia’s population is in drastic decline. Much of this is due to emigration, nearly all of which is of the younger and smarter elements of the population. The rest is caused by a falling life expectancy and birth rate.” Four lies in three sentences. First, the population has been stable since about 2008, and has started to appreciably increase since 2011. In the first four months of 2012, the time of the year when it was usually declining the fastest, the population INCREASED by 42,000 people. This was helped by a 90,000 POSITIVE migration balance; a migration balance that remains positive even when just countries in the Far Abroad, i.e. the destinations of the “younger and smarter” emigrations, are considered (and this balance will remain positive EVEN if we assume that Russian statistics underestimate emigration by 50%). The life expectancy and birth rates aren’t decreasing; to the contrary, they are increasing at unprecedented rates, and in fact the former broke the Soviet-era record in 2011. Where does the Guardian get its fact-checkers? Do they even bother with them?

Mafia state: “…however, if you were one of the few who made outlandish amounts of money and commanded influence within the siloviki elites, life has been good in the past 10 years”. Unable to deny the truly undeniably realities of improving across the board statistics on everything from GDP per capita to automobile ownership, the Guardian goes back to the old anti-Putin cliche of ascribing all the benefits of this prodigal economic growth to a small coterie of (inevitably corrupt and slimey) pro-Putinist apparatchiks. Statistics that show massive gains in real median wages, as reflected in broad surveys of consumer power or the number of Big Macs a McDonald’s worker can afford per hour of labor, is of course unmentioned.

Lack of context: Russia is the weakest and most pathetic of the BRIC’s. It should be kicked out. It’s 120th on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking for goodness’ sake! Except that Brazil is 126th, and India is 132nd.

If a freshman handed in this dross excuse for an op-ed to a journalism or political science in any halfway respectable institution, he would get an F. (For his own sake I hope this is something Dryden wrote up on a tight deadline, maybe while hungover from partying with Ioffe and Shawn Walker and their likes, to keep his paychecks flowing). But as it’s a Guardian journalist writing about Russia all is par for the course.

PS. I am not on good terms with the Guardianistas, them having mostly banned me from commenting on their pages like the upstanding democraticians they are, so I would appreciate it if one of my readers could write a complaint to them about Alex Dryden’s post, feeling free to cite this post as evidence.

PSS. I noticed towards the end of writing this post that Mark Adomanis had already done a similar rebuttal, making most of the same criticisms. In fact even Alexey Kovalev, a hardcore liberal who occasionally writes for The Guardian, says that Dryden is “spectacularly clueless” and a “total ignoramus” not to mention anecdotally confirming my points on demography and emigration.

PSSS. A few corrections from Kovalev. (1) “Fine, but calling me a ‘hardcore liberal’ is a bit far-fetched. The fact that I wrote for G doesn’t make me one.” (2) “Also I said that one is entitled to an opinion that makes them look like an ignoramus, not called Dryden one.”

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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One of the most common tropes against Russia is that critical (independent, democratic, etc) journalists there are dying like flies, presumably because of the “culture of impunity” created by Putin or even on his express orders. It is rarely mentioned that the statistical chances of a Russian journalist dying by homicide is an order of magnitude lower than in several countries widely recognized to be “democratic” such as Brazil, Mexico, Columbia, and the Philippines, or that – unlike Turkey or Israel (!) – Russia does not imprison any journalists on account of their professional work. To this end, I compiled a “Journalism Security Index” to get a more objective picture than the politicized rankings produced by outfits like Freedom House that put Russia on par with Zimbabwe.

As usual in these situations, a few graphs are worth thousands of words.

The graph above shows the numbers of journalists killed in Russia for every year since 1992 as compared with other “democratic” countries like Brazil, Mexico, India, and Colombia. As one can see, the situation has improved greatly in the past three years, with only one journalist (in Dagestan) getting killed in 2011; meanwhile, the situation in Mexico has deteriorated to levels unseen in Russia since the early 1990′s. Does this mean that Felipe Calderón is the next Stalin? Or is it that he is just faced with a drugs war that is rapidly spiraling out of control?

However, even this likely overstates the risks to Russian journalists, because there are simply a great many of them. According to the latest UN data, there were 102,300 newspaper journalists in Russia, far more than in Brazil (6,914) or India (16,079), and while data for the other two does not exist, I will assume that there are as many journalists per capita in Colombia (so 1,670) and three times as many in Mexico (13,027) as in Brazil. You can adjust the latter two figures within the bounds of plausibility but as you will see, this would not make a cardinal difference. So let’s start calculating annual homicides per 100,000 newspaper journalists (latest figure) – a rough but valid proxy for the general level of journalistic peril in any given country.

Wow! You can’t see anything past Colombia! Let’s remove it.

So once you make some necessary adjustments for respective journalist populations, it emerges that Russian journalists have been relatively safe compared to other democratic countries throughout virtually its entire post-Soviet history. They are now safer by orders of magnitude. (The dip in Brazil’s and Mexico’s rates in 2012 are artificial as only half the year has passed).

Finally, homicides per 100,000 journalists are compared with the population as a whole. As one can see from the above graph, Russian journalists were always safer than the average Russian citizen, and are now safer by an order of magnitude. Only one Russian journalist was killed in 2010 and 2011 for a rate of about 0.5/100,000 per year, relative to an overall homicide rate of slightly less than 10/100,000. The average journalist is far less likely to have criminal or binge drinking proclivities than the average citizen (factors that account for the overwhelming bulk of homicides in Russia) so it is right and proper that their homicide rate should also be well below the national average.

The same cannot be said of the other countries we are comparing Russian journalists to. In 2010, the homicide rate in Mexico was 18/100,000 (vs. 77/100,000 for journalists), in Brazil it was 25/100,000 (vs. 14/100,000 for journalists in 2010, but soaring to 87/100,000 in 2011), and in India it was 3.4/100,000 (vs. 12/100,000 for journalists).

It need hardly be mentioned at this point that for most of the “democratic” Yeltsin period, life was riskier for Russian journalists than under “authoritarian” Putin and his “stooge” Medvedev. There were 41 journalists killed in Russia from 1992-1999, compared to 30 from 2000-2008, and 6 from 2009-today (of which 5 occurred in 2009). Does this then mean that Yeltsin, not Putin, was the real Stalin? Of course not. The journalist killings in the 1990′s were a product of the chaos and lawlessness of that time, much like the narco-related killings decimating the ranks of Colombian, Brazilian, and Mexican journalists today. As one can see from the graph above, killings of Russian journalists have always been substantially correlated with the overall homicide rate; the latter began to sustainably decline from the mid-2000′s, and from 2009, journalist killings appear to have followed suit.

Why then does Russia have one of the lousiest reputations for journalist killings in the world, whereas a purely statistical analysis implies that it is in fact now extremely safe relative to several other “democratic” countries like Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, India, and Colombia, and does not imprison any journalists unlike Turkey or Israel?

Ultimately, I think it has much to do with the unhinged hostility of the Western media to Russia. Case in point, let’s look at The Guardian’s coverage.

When a journalist is killed in Mexico or Brazil, it is reported placidly and matter of factly, the newspaper restricting itself to: Names and identities (four journos from Veracruz; Mario Randolfo Marques Lopes); possible culprits (“the work of the cartels”; “accusing local officials of corruption”); some basic context, e.g. quantity of other journalist killings in the recent past. And apart from a final sentence or two noting that “corruption means it is often difficult to define where the authorities stop and organised crime begins”, that is pretty much the harshest judgment they make.

Now turn to the Guardian’s coverage of the sole Russian journalist killed in the past three years – Khadzhimurad Kamalov, in Dagestan, 2011. The difference begins with the titles. What used to be “Four Mexican journalists murdered in last week” or Brazilian journalist and girlfriend kidnapped and murdered” now becomes “Truth is being murdered in Putin’s bloody Russia.” And it continues in the same vein, with rhetoric being substituted for facts: “Crimes against freedom bathed in slothful impunity”; “Inside Moscow, rulers who pay lip service to human rights parade only an indifference that makes them complicit in these crimes” (is Calderón or Dilma Rousseff complicit in journalist killings in their countries?); “How many more, Mr Putin? How long are we supposed to mourn fellow journalists who died trying to tell us, and their fellow Russians, what a slack, slimy, savage state you run?”

No further comment is necessary.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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Latest results are getting in that Putin got 63.8%. That a second round would be avoided was never really in serious doubt for the past month, nonetheless the election would still be important from several other perspectives, such as the level of falsifications (in particular, in comparison with 2011), and the relative performance of Zhirinovsky, Mironov, and Prokhorov.

I’m afraid there was still substantial fraud, greater than the 2%-3% I predicted (relative to 5%-7% in the Duma elections). The FOM exit poll gave Putin 59.3% (80,000 respondents, 81 regions), the VCIOM exit poll gave him 58.3% (159,000 respondents, 63 regions). That is a 5% point discrepancy that is too big to explain by their margins of error. In particular, the results from large parts of the North Caucasus remain as hopelessly ridiculous as ever.

That said, there were improvements, especially in Moscow. Putin got 48.7% there. This is close to, if still higher, than the 45.1% recorded in Golos observer protocols. The Citizen Observer initiative says he got 47%. (Recall that United Russia, which always lags Putin by 10%-15%, got 46.6% in Moscow in 2011, whereas Putin got only 2% points higher; this is further, if indirect, evidence of mass falsifications in 2011).

The Golos observer protocols gave Putin 54.7% nationwide. The average of observer protocols from all election monitoring organization gave Putin 50.7%, with some giving him less than 50% (one example is Navalny’s RosVybory project, which gave him a mere 49.0%). Overall, I trust the exit polls more. They are more accurate than observer protocols for sampling reasons. Exit polls try to cover the whole country, and FOM/VCIOM largely succeed. Observers are more concentrated in the more central, accessible areas, where Putin is less popular than average. Furthermore, observers in this election took special care to focus more on stations where there was evidence of fraud in 2011. As such, the effects of “bad apple” stations figure more prominently in their figures.

I prefer exit polls, post-elections polls, and statistical evidence. Grainy videos on YouTube where it’s impossible to work out what is happening, photos of lines of buses or big groups of “carousels” going about stuffing for Putin, etc are next to worthless. Speaking of those carousels, note that Moscow is a city of about 12 million. 75% are eligible to vote, and there was 60% turnout. This means there were about 5 million voters on March 4, 2012. You need tens of thousands of carousel workers and hundreds of buses (50,000 people, 1,000 packed buses = 1% for Putin) just to make the slightest uptick in the figures in support of Putin who has an unchallenged lead anyway.

In the courts, its been shown that whereas witness testimony is the type of evidence that is most frequently believed in by jurors, it is also the least objectively reliable. Same for these anecdotes about carousels and coerced voting. I view all evidence on these lines with great skepticism and recommend readers do the same.

Prokhorov did far better, getting more than 7%, than I expected, in significant part thanks to Moscow where even beat Zyuganov with almost 20%. Far more tellingly, perhaps, he only got 6% in Norilsk, where he is well-known as the owner of the nickel combine and main employer. Perhaps too well-known.

I was disappointed to see Mironov flopping, not even eking out 4%. Also a bit surprised, as I though he did very well in the TV debates. I guess most Russians disagree.

Overall, Western coverage hasn’t been quite as hysterical as in 2011, though if past experience is any guide things can change quickly for the worse (best example: First day coverage of the Ossetian war was actually fairly objective, only later becoming a propaganda fest in support of Saakashvili’s aggression).

Other things of note:

  • Putin crying
  • FEMEN booby protest. PS. A documentary on them.
  • Ballot stuffing in progress in Daghestan. The results at that station were annulled, but the 91% turnout and 93% Putin vote in that region indicates this was far from a isolated case.
  • Komsomolskaya Pravda: Караул! Лови фальсификаторов! An account of how the liberals have portrayed several things as falsifications (with “video evidence”) but which in fact were nothing of the sort. E.g., supposed “ballot stuffer” in Vladivostok was testing the machines before the start of the voting as required by regulation.
  • Georgia TV blasts Russia for fraud. Because Saakashvili is such a great democratist.
  • In case anyone was wondering why the Guardian censors users who support Putin and criticize its journalists, Luke Harding has the answer: “Many thanks for your comments! For those wondering why some have been deleted here’s Miriam Elder’s piece on Kremlin internet trolls.”
  • Mark Galeotti tweets: “Disgraceful! None of polling stations I’ve yet visited feature wheelbarrows of fake ballots, etc. Can’t they put on a show for a guest?”
  • On Mark Chapman’s blog, kievite calculates that US funds Russian opposition movement to tune of $500 million a year.
  • Alex Mercouris notes that the web cams were a genial idea.
  • The Wall Street Journalist (let me remind you, a plagiarist institution) resorts to outright, mendacious LYING to support its anti-Putin agenda: “Supporters were bused into Moscow to boost Mr. Putin’s vote in the capital, where his support has been below 20% in polls.” This is completely, utterly wrong. VCIOM predicted Putin 43.7% there; FOM, 45.0%. The real result was 47.0%, within the margins of error of both polls. Say one thing for the WSJ, though, they don’t censor my opinion there (unlike The Guardian).
  • CNN: “”The point of an election is that the outcome should be uncertain. This was not the case in Russia,” said Tonino Picula, the head of an observer mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).” – Erm, that’s not the point of an election at all, Mr. Picula.
  • Eminently satisfying to see Russia Today give Luke Harding, Miriam Elder, and Shawn Walker well-deserved drubbings for their smearing, lying ways.
  • Also courtesy of Moscow Exile I found this old post by Vadim Nikitin about Luke Harding’s plagiarism, which apparently extended well beyond riffing off the eXile and Kevin O’Flynn.
(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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Standing up to Putin.

Standing up to Putin.

Over the years, I have come across my fair share of liars and incompetents writing about Russia in major Western media outlets. But rarely have I encountered such heights of self-righteous arrogance and clownish, pathetic ignorance as Edward McMillan-Scott displays in his latest screed for The Guardian: “David Cameron must stand up to Putin“, where he uses Elena Bonner’s recent death to argue for a harder line against Russia.

Time to go grenade fishing again, i.e. fisking Russophobe articles – it’s as easy as it is ultimately pointless. As I’m banned from the Guardian‘s pond (for drawing attention to its mendacity and plagiarism) it will have to take place on my own blog.

Assume we’re discussing, let’s pick a totally random scenario, a British humanitarian intervention in 2014 to liberate Venezuela’s oil reserves oppressed citizenry from Hugo Chavez’s dictatorial regime. (Somewhat implausible true, as Britain will have the aircraft carriers but not the planes, but let’s indulge ourselves a bit). Activists are planning protests in London. Then an MP in the Duma’s ruling party, Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov, writing on the necessity of standing up to Cameron for a national Russian newspaper, argues that only George Osborne will decide whether there will be kettling and preemptive arrests of demonstrators. Now considering that Osborne is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, responsible for economic and fiscal matters, would you retain much respect for the paper or Mr. Ivanov after this?

Because this is precisely analogous to what Edward McMillan-Scott writes: “Russia’s justice minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, is the puppet who will announce this week whether or not the Putin regime will allow any opposition parties to put up candidates in December’s parliamentary elections and the presidential poll next March.” As anyone who knows anything about Russian politics can tell you, Anatoly Serdyukov is the Defense Minister and has nothing to do whatsoever with approving opposition candidates.

A secondary, very minor point, but kind of relevant to the article, is that the “liberal group led by former premier Mikhail Kasyanov”, i.e. the PARNAS Gang of Four, has no public support (c. 2% approval) and is currently blocked because some of its signatures were falsified. Now if the true Russian opposition, the Communists (c. 20% approval), were to be blocked, now that would be a major cataclysm that would truly transform Russia into a one-party regime. (However, that would no doubt sit just fine with Mr. McMillan-Scott, given his approval for Elena Bonner’s thug-like support for Yeltsin’s shelling of elected representatives of the people in 1993).

“However, since the beginning of the Putin era in 2000 the slide towards autocracy has accelerated.” This is a common trope of the Russophobes, and a pretty hilarious one at that. In their world, Russia is always sliding into the neo-Soviet Union or some such. It was sliding there in 2000 (KGB, Putin, Chechnya). It was sliding in 2003 (Khodorkovsky: true Western democracies only imprison poor people, dammit!). It was sliding in 2006 (Litvinenko). It was sliding in 2008 (Georgia, New Cold War!). It continues sliding to this day (Medvedev, puppet of Putin). When will it finally get there? If Mr. McMillan-Scott can participate in a conference at “Metropol Hotel just off Red Square” where he and other members of the liberal mutual admiration society spend their time uttering platitudes about human rights and condemning “European leaders’ comments on the regime as the sort of mumbo-jumbo used by magicians” it must be sliding awfully slow.

Then he approving cites the efforts of US senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain on introducing a “resolution calling on Russia to register opposition political parties, allow free media, respect freedom of assembly and permit international and domestic monitors for the coming elections.” The idea that cold warrior John McCain and Joe Lieberman, who pushes for the introduction of Chinese-style censorship onto the US Internet, are motivated by their concern for human rights in Russia is utterly bizarre; not when they both so feverishly work to further undermine human rights (and deny any that do happen) in the US, Israel, and other Western countries. But as Eugene Ivanov notes, it is also a gross violation of national sovereignty that will be laughed off into utter irrelevance by any minimally self-respecting country: “Nice! The only thing that the future resolution is missing is obliging President Medvedev to have all his orders and decrees first approved by the Lieberman’s and McCain’s offices.”

In the next paragraph, McMillan-Scott recommends more EU/Russia cooperation – but only under the condition of “ending “politically motivated court decisions” against various figures, most recently Mikhail Khodorkovsky, removing curbs on press freedom, pulling its troops out of Georgia and allowing gay parades.” Let me note that in one of the above conditions, he will be going against a court opinion of a core EU institution, the European Court of Human Rights, which recently ruled that there is no evidence Khodorkovsky’s arrest and trial were politically motivated.

As for gay prides, the decisions of some municipal authorities, e.g. Moscow’s, to ban them is of course a bad thing; but one that does not come under the purview of the federal administration. Under that logic, some EU countries like Latvia have had cities banning gay pride parades as late as 2009. I don’t remember McMillan-Scott condemning them or urging them to be kicked out of European institutions, but then again – as is common for people of his ilk – human rights abuses only happen in non-Western countries, especially those that reject Western imperialism.

There is no point even in addressing the Georgia issue, in which Russian troops and Ossetian civilians were ruthlessly attacked in the dead of night (especially coming as it does from a country that has fought two interventionist wars of its own choosing in Iraq and Libya in the past decade). Likewise with the media, where in Britain if you want to watch TV at all, you have to pay taxes to support the British Brainwashing Corporation, otherwise known as the BBC, whose head was sacked in 2004 for arguing that the government “sexed up” the case for the Iraq War.

But the pièce de résistance is yet to come. The small stewed cherry to the incarnadine whipped cream and compote: “The Arab spring, which has sprinkled its magic as far as China, has had no reflection in Russia. We were told that this was because Putin had so distorted the Russian economy that incomes continued to rise in a false boom.” Well, that’s certainly news to me. The 6% annual growth rates of the last decade (as reported by any international economic organization), the skyscrapers going up in Russian cities, the fast proliferating cars, computers and aifonchiki – they must have all been a mirage; Putinist distortions; products of our collective delusions. Alternatively, we can accept reality and wish Britain the same “distortions” that Putin inflicted on Russia – they would be clear improvements over its economic stagnation and a fiscal deficit topping 13% of GDP.

Mr. McMillan-Scott rounds up by making one final appeal for Britain to speak truth bullshit he makes up to power (not that the strategy has met with much success of late). Consider the number of mistakes, outright lies or inaccuracies he manages to make in the mere 855 words of his article. Consider also that the UK (like Russia) also commits innumerable human rights violations, abroad as well as at home, and that (unlike Russia) it increasingly resembles an economic basket-case with no growth, declining North Sea hydrocarbon reserves and unsustainable finances. Now you be the judge of the wisdom of McMillan-Scott’s recommendations.

Yeps, that’s right. For nowadays whenever fools like him try to do stand-up, to Putin or anyone else, they fall flat on their faces to general laughter.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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In a recent editorial, The Guardian complained about the expulsion of their Moscow correspondent, Luke Harding. All the usual Russia tropes were brought up in explanation, including its “shrinking space for a free press.”

But Harding’s “crowning offense”, at least according to the Guardian’s “guess”, was “his association with this paper’s story on what the WikiLeaks material revealed about the views of foreign diplomats and others on the nature of the Russian system as it has evolved, or rather, devolved, under Vladimir Putin.”

By this time, most of my “guesses” were revolving around the question of WTF are the Guardian Editors smoking. Not very diplomatic, true, so I limited myself to just pointing out that their arguments are specious, and why (unfortunately failed to screenshot my response). But the gist of it went something along these lines…

1. As shown by a simple Googling, Luke Harding is a professional plagiarist, ripping off from the eXile. It’s well documented and we have to wonder what he’s doing as a journalist in the first place. And that’s not going into the observation that most of Harding’s “real” journalism consists of dogged Russia-bashing – and that countries like the US also bans journalists it dislikes from entering. No outcry from the Guardian there!

2. The Guardian’s argument that Russia banned Luke Harding for his Wikileaks stories is simply absurd on too many levels. For a start, there are literally thousands of articles – both from Western journalists in Russia and Russian journalists writing for Russian newspapers – covering the cables in which US diplomats blow off about Russia being a “mafia state.” All you need to confirm this is a 30-second search of Russian Google News, but I guess that is too much real work for an accomplished specialist in plagiarism and sensationalism.

3. Frankly, boohoo! And good riddance.

As it turned out, good riddance to me too. The Guardian is more than happy to dish it out, but can’t take the heat itself. Of the first 50 comments on that Editorial – located in the section Comment Is Free, of all places – some 11 have been censored because they don’t “abide by [The Guardian's] community standards.”

That’s more than 20% censorship, including all of the truly critical views. Comment is free indeed. But I “guess” that some comments are freer than others.

UPDATE #1

To John Haskell’s question, “Are we then to conclude that Harding was denied entry to Russia because he ripped off the Exile?”

AK – If I had to “guess” – just as the Guardian does – then I’d say someone took a look at Harding’s articles for his past years in Russia, noticed they were full of negative spin, fact distortion and outright propaganda (e.g. this, making out the South Ossetia War as a “cruel” Russian invasion of Georgia), and hence the ban.

Harding is perhaps unfortunate that it befell him (after all Ed Lucas can still travel there freely), but “guessing” that it was due to his Wikileaks coverage – if it was hundreds of other Western and Russian journalists would also be expelled or in jail – is mendacious.

UPDATE #2

Response to Sean Russia Blog’s “The Hard Lessons of the Harding Affair.”

Some paranoias die hard. Some day, though I can’t imagine that it will be anytime soon, the Russian government will have enough self-confidence in themselves and their system to see that the best way to deal with irritants is to ignore them, or better yet defuse them through positive recognition. This is after all what mature liberal democracies do, and as Gramsci taught, consent is always more effective than force.

AK - If you consider the US a “mature liberal democracy”, then Russia is already playing to form. I don’t follow these news closely, but just in 2004, according to the CPJ, “nine foreign journalists were detained and denied entry because they did not have visas.” A Google search reveals that in 2010 a Colombian and a Palestinian journalist were denied entry, whose coverage went against American interests.

Think the Guardian’s Britain is any better? Off the top of my head, they denied entry to right-wing radio personality Michael Savage. While I despise his views, and agree with the Foreign Office opinion that some of it is “hate speech”, why are the Russians not allowed to consider Luke Harding’s anti-Russian diatribes to be also hate speech?

PS. Despite the whataboutism here – justified, I think, because of the double standards the same countries that criticize Russia display – I actually agree with you that barring Luke Harding is more trouble than its worth. That said, now that the milk has been spilled, Russia might as well refrain from backpedaling.

UPDATE #3

So it appears Russia has allowed Luke Harding to come back. Meanwhile, I remain censored by the Guardian.

Guardian = less respect for free speech than the Kremlin.

EDIT: This post has been translated into Russian at Inosmi.Ru (Цензура в The Guardian: некоторые комментарии свободнее других). Thanks guys – you rock!

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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In a recent post at Streetwise Professor, in reply to a Russophobe commentator, democracy activist* and net-buddy Mark Sleboda compiled a damning indictment of the real state of Western freedom. Newsflash: for the world’s (self-appointed) moral arbitrators, it’s nothing to write home about! It’s well worth reading, which is why I’m reprinting it here with his permission.

… Andrew you cherry-picked the one single example of Western pre-emptive arrests of protesters out of those that I have previously provided where the police in the UK have at least gone to the trouble of making false accusations and spread misinformation in order to provide justification for their crackdowns on peaceful protesters (UK, EU, USA 1, 2).

Here is an article in the British newspaper, The Guardian, discussing such manufactured police false-flag operations against peaceful climate change protests (1). The police harassment and false statements about peaceful climate protesters in the UK has been well documented. Here is the “equipment” that the police confiscated and were using as false justification for harassment and arrests of climate protesters at the Kingsnorth protest previously mentioned (2, 3). And here is the damages the police were eventually forced to pay for their harassment a in a rare victory in the courts (4).

However, even where police violence against protesters has resulted in deaths, like Ian Tomlinson, the police have routinely used internal tribunals to “investigate themselves” and thereby gotten away without any punishment or cost. The system and society look the other way

This unfortunately has become standard practice in the UK where the police system has redefined all protesters as “domestic extremists”, as the political consensus over climate change caused by consumer capitalism is starting to collapse. This follows a discernable trend in the West where protests involving the Western conception of liberal rights is usually tolerated, but any protests that challenge the dominant socio-economic paradigm (such as climate change protests) or question capitalism and its externalities (such as the G-8/G-20/WTO protests) is often harassed or brutally suppressed (5, 6).

Police have even established units for routine police spying and infiltration of environmental protest groups. Britain has become an Orwellian police state with Big Brother video surveillance on every corner, and where all political dissent against the socio-economic status quo is suppressed. Much like the US that has established a police state that spies on peace groups that dare to protest against America’s aggressive imperialist wars (7, 8, 9).

Police brutality towards peaceful climate and ant-capitalist protesters has become the standard in the UK. You can watch for yourself (10, 11). The same is evident in the US (12). In Canada police have even been repeatedly caught infiltrating peaceful protest groups with agents acting as provocateurs to start violence and riots in order to provide justification for cracking down on protests (13). Even during protests against the Olympics! But even when official ethics investigations are conducted nothing is done and the mainstream media largely ignores it.

That is because in the West we have constructed a false and comforting narrative about “freedom” and “democracy” in our societies. We have come to believe this myth at all levels of our society from the government to the media and the general public, so that even in the face of direct contradiction the totalitarianism becomes self-propagating.

*** If you watch one piece of evidence I have provided here to justify my accusations about rhetorical hypocrisy of the West towards the orchestrated Strategy 31 protests in Russia – watch this one. This video shows the true face of protests and “freedom of assembly” in the West – at the Copenhagen Climate Conference of which all of the world’s leaders attended. I can attest because I was there – as an official delegate inside the conference, and then when it became obvious that the world’s leaders would do nothing except presenting a desperate face-saving measure instead of taking any substantive action to change our unsustainable consumption-based capitalist economies that are destroying our planet in a hurry – I and many other delegates walked out and joined the protesters on the street. This is what we saw – and as cynical as I am, I was shocked and mortified at the level of stormtrooper-like violence used by Western police against peacefully protesting youth in order to enforce the existing political and economic consensus. ***

This is a personal concern for me as I have been an occasional protester in the US, UK, EU, Canada, and Russia, mostly concerning climate change issues and I can tell you that the country with the most civil treatment towards legal and peaceful protesters is, surprisingly, Russia. The police in Russia are doing nothing of this sort of sustained and systematic brutality against peaceful protesters. If they were – it would be all over the world’s press in an instant. But when it happens in our own Western countries – the mainstream media looks the other way and ignores it. It is a double standard in a Self/Other dialectic defining Russians as the Other for the purposes of continuing our self-deception about the nature of our societies and governments.

The police violence and harassment at the protests that I have shown – including the last one at Copenhagen was at legally sanctioned and registered protests. The Strategy 31 protests were civilly broken up by police because they were protesting illegally without permit. They were issued permits to protest at other locations in downtown Moscow every time – but they refuse them. Why? It is because protesting is not their aim. Provocation is. Their acts are not directed at Russian society where they have no support (The Russian liberals have an ill-disguised loathing for the Russian people as a whole because they are not “Western” enough for them) but at the Western press.

That is why the protests draw a hundred or two hundred protests at most – and twice as many foreign journalists and camera’s to cover it and observe the Russian police arresting the liberal celebrity ringleaders. There is no “torture” involved against protesters in Russia. This is an utterly false accusation without any evidence to back it up. The liberals would be crying all over the Western press in a second if it were so. The Strategy 31 protests in Russia are a staged spectacle – and those that they have detained have been released every time after only a couple of hours and been home safe in bed in time for milk and cookies.

There is also the fact that the handful of perennial liberals in Russia, now rebranded as Strategy 31, are protesting for some senseless reason alongside Eduard Limonov – presumably because the National Bolsheviks are capable of drawing more support and protesters (no matter how miniscule that is) onto the streets than themselves. The National Bolsheviks are a very real violent terrorist and anarchist group; Limonov having done prison time for admittedly trying to start a Nationalist Russian military insurrection in Kazakhstan. The National Bolshevik anarchists have been responsible for repeated violent and destructive actions. So in Russia, the police actually have reason to be cautious with Strategy 31 as long as the National Bolsheviks are involved.

* EDIT: An accidental misrepresentation on my part: see Mark’s comment on his political convictions.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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I noted in my first post, Flare-Up in the Caucasus,

Even normally Russophobic media outlets, from what I’ve seen, cannot quite manage to spin this in an anti-Russian way (although I may have to retract this point, when the Op-Ed’s have been written up).

Well, I’m retracting it now. The propaganda model has been kicked into high gear in the West and turned squarely against Russia. Although it is acceptable for Georgia to attack Ossetia, with callous disregard for the lives of Russian citizens and UN-mandated peacekeepers (not to mention rumors of genocide), Russia cannot put a single plane over the territory of Georgia without inciting a chorus of condemnation from the Western hypocrites. (It’s totally OK in Kosovo’s case, but let’s not dwell on this uncomfortable comparison, at least for now).

Of course, expanding the conflict beyond South Ossetia is not only fully justified from a moral perspective, but it is also a military necessity. It would be stupid to allow Georgian armed forces to maintain perfect logistics and arrive fully-equipped, battle ready and full of morale, into South Ossetia. The fact Russia has limited itself to spoiling strikes against military and infrastructural targets and a naval arms embargo speaks of tremendous restraint, which can only be applauded.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning, to see just how well the Western media meets its ideals of transparency and objectivity, which it constantly tries to push down Russia’s throat.

The Settings

Georgia is an ethnically heterogenous country. Ossetians are a separate minority, culturally, ethnically and linguistically, from the dominant ethnic group in the country. They were arbitrarily divided into two separate regions by Stalin. When the Soviet Union began to crumble, Georgia started asserting its authority, establishing Georgian as the national language in 1989 and barring regional parties in 1990. The Ossetians didn’t much like these Georgian nationalist tendencies and declared an independent republic. The Georgian President, Zviad Gamsakhurdia (much-admired by Saakashvili) responded by abolishing South Ossetia’s autonomous status and sending in troops Tskhinvali in January 1991. Atrocities were committed on both sides and the bitter fighting left a thousand Ossetians dead and 100,000 displaced. Many of the Georgians living there were also cleansed in retaliation. To prevent the conflict escalating further, Russia pressed a ceasefire upon Georgia and an OSCE peacekeeping force was stationed in South Ossetia. Its composition was Russian since at the time the UN was short of troops.

Map of Georgia with its ethno-political divisions (note: Ajaria was
reabsorbed into Georgia’s fold)

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the old passports were no longer legitimate and as such South Ossetians had the choice between a Georgian or a Russian one. Since Russia is a federation which affords its regions significant autonomies, whereas Georgia is a traditional nation-state set on imposing its cultural standards on all within its borders and which showed no compunctions about attacking the Ossetians, it is no wonder that the vast majority of Ossetians opted for Russian passports. (The policy of giving out Russian passports is not particularly sinister. Romania had a similar scheme with Moldova, and few accused Bucharest of wishing to annex their northern neighbors. The South Ossetians, on the other hand, themselves want to get into Russia for protection against Georgian imperialist pretensions.)

Prelude

Mikhael Saakashvili got a scholarship from the US State Department, studied at American universities and worked at a New York law firm. Meanwhile, his Presidency after the Rose Revolution has been characterized by a highly nationalistic, Russophobic policy. It is thus no surprise that relations between Washington and Tbilisi have been extremely cordial since then, while ties with Russia fell into a deep freeze. (This is not to say that his predecessor, Shevardnadze, followed a pro-Russian course; however, he was much more cautious in his actions).

Georgian military spending has exploded to nearly 10% of GDP, while it has received military supplies and training from the US, Israel, Turkey and a few other NATO countries. Saakashvili’s reign has come to be dominated by militarism, aggressive nationalism and authoritarianism (explained away as necessary to thwart nefarious Russian plans to undermine his regime).

Outbreak

In early August, there were minor skirmishes between Ossetian and Georgian forces on their bordes. They always were depressingly common, and as always it’s hard to say who was responsible. Around 20:00 on 7 August, after an intensification, Saakashvili went on air and offered an immediate ceasefire and talks.

However, only a short time after, around 23:00, Georgian forces were moved into position around Tskhinvali. Russian peacekeepers noted this and requested an explanation, and were told they were drawn off. During the night and early morning, just hours before the Olympics, attacks by Georgia on villages in South Ossetia intensified, where Grad MLRS launchers where used. Georgia began a unilateral military offensive into South Ossetia, to ‘restore constitutional order in the region’, despite all its pledges to the contrary. Tskhinvali was shelled by heavy artillery, including the route along which refugees were being moved, before being stormed by Georgian troops. The continuous murderous bombardment has resulted in the utter destruction of Tskhinvali and as many as 2000 civilian deaths, as well as 12 dead and 50 wounded amongst Russian peacekeepers directly targeted by Georgian tank fire.

These casualties were pre-meditated, as the Grad (“hail”) MLRS system is designed for complete annihilation of unarmored area targets. Turning them against a city, especially the dense apartment blocks typical of Soviet urban planning that prevailed in Tskhinvali, would inevitably result in massive civilian casualties.

Georgian 122 mm multiple-launch rocket systems Grad firing at Tskhinvali

At around 3:00 on 8 August, a tank- and APC-backed land attack on Tskinvali was launched by Georgia, which met weak Ossetian resistance. Soon after, Russia called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, to no avail thanks to the efforts of France, the UK and the US. At noon, Russia committed land forces to South Ossetia and seized the air space above Tskinvali. Georgian troops retreated to the forested hills around the city and continued bombarding it intermittently.

Georgian Info-War

Georgia launched a war of agression. It committed area bombing of civilian areas and has ethnically cleansed around half the Ossetian population (at the beginning, there were around 70,000 Ossetians in South Ossetia; now, 30,000 have fled to Russia and a further 2,000 have been killed). No Ossetians, no problems for Georgian nationalism.

The war is also not necessarily bad for the Pentagon. While I still believe they did not expect this outburst, they will nonetheless get to observe Russian military tactics on the field. Meanwhile, initially more or less objective reporting in the Western media is getting swamped by outright anti-Russian propaganda in the ‘free’ Western press, above all on TV (for which the vast majority of the population rely on their news).

Because what do you get on Western TV? Saakashvili, with an EU flag behind him (Georgia is not in the EU) and in perfect English, spewing the crudest propagandistic bilge imaginable – along the lines of…

Russia is bombing Georgia, specifically targetting the civilian population.

Pot calls kettle black. Georgian troops massacred thousands of Ossetians on purpose via area bombardment. Russia limits itself to precision strikes against military assets and key war-related infrastructure. It is regrettable that some will miss their targets and kill civilians, but the key difference is that Russia did not intend to kill civilians; unlike Georgia.

Putin has told me that not only is my love for the West unacceptable, but also the path of freedom and democracy Georgia has chosen.

Actually what is unacceptable Mr. Saakashvili is your attempts to spread Western values of area bombardment, killing legally sanctioned peacekeepers, etc, to Russia. And if hospitalizing 500 protestors in brutal crackdowns and taking down TV stations is your idea of freedom and democracy, feel free to have it, just don’t push it down our throats.

We are a bastion of freedom in the world and this is why we are being invaded and annihilated by the totalitarian monster from the north. Stand up for your values, men of the West, and save us!

And I suppose killing thousands of Russian civilians had nothing to do with it.

This is a pre-meditated Russian provocation, look at the timing, the Olympic Games when humanity must come together, the Americans have upcoming elections, diplomats are on vacation – it’s the best time to attack a small defenceless country!

This sounds just about right. Except for one small point. Replace Russia with Georgia. Brilliant! For once, Misha, we totally agree!

We are fighting not only to defend our country, we are also fighting for the future of world peace and world order!

No comment.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VIkDk10X-w&w=425&h=344]
Video of Saakashvili’s pathetic propagandistic bluster.

And so the Annals of Western Hypocrisy Go On and On, World and Time Without End

At the beginning, the Western media typically noted Georgia’s underhanded aggression against South Ossetia, but did not raise a furor over its bombardment of civilian areas. As soon as Russia intervened, however, it whipped itself up into a frenzy and declared all out info-war on Russia. The true cause of the war has been buried underneath newer texts sponsored by the Western elite and pushed on the mass media.

CNN: Headlines along the lines of “Georgia under attack as Russian tanks invade”. Saakashvili is the first commentator, whining in English about being a victim of Russian aggression, while showing Georgian Grad rockets being fired at Tskhinvali! Lots of interviews with Russophobic neocons. Say ’1600 killed in South Ossetia fighting’, without clarifying that those killed were mostly Russian citizens in Tskhinvali killed by Georgian artillery! Followed by Saakashvili talking about pre-meditated Russian attacks on Georgian civilians, to give the impression that it is actually Russia behind the huge civilian death toll! No ‘point of view’ appears from the Ossetian and Russian sides except their ominous-sounding announcements about intentions to “punish” Georgia, which is quoted out of context and serves to further confirm their sinister intentions to Western sheeple.

BBC: Russian warplanes bombing Gori and focusing on stray missile hitting apartment block (main target was military base). Headline is “Russian tanks enter South Ossetia”, sub-headline is “Georgia is fighting with separatists backed by Russia”.

British Sky News: Video of Georgian Grads firing on Tskhinvali under caption “Georgian side states that 7 of its citizens have been wounded in Russian strikes”. Followed by footage of T-90′s rolling into South Ossetia, ignoring that Tskhinvali is destroyed with thousands of Ossetians killed by Georgians.

The print media, unlike TV, at least has some golden nuggets of truth amidst the bilge (more intelligent people read newspapers, while the masses get their info from the box, which is more visceral and open to manipulation). This is far from universal, however, as the examples below demonstrate.

Times: Russia turns might of its war machine on rebel neighbour Georgia

Washington Post: Stopping Russia: The U.S. and its allies must unite against Moscow’s war on Georgia

The Guardian: Russian tanks roll into Georgia as cities burn, Standing up to Russia

Interestingly, the Western info-war against Russia has been noticed and remarked upon on Russian TV.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcrOcSTQZpA&w=425&h=344]
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVJ27tYaQlI&w=425&h=344]

No wonder Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin in a news conference on 10 August said that the silence of Western nations during Georgia’s initial incursion into South Ossetia “raises very serious questions about sincerity and their attitude towards our country”, and also accused the foreign media of pro-Georgian bias in their coverage of the ongoing conflict between Georgia and Russia over breakaway South Ossetia.

“We want television screens in the West to be showing not only Russian tanks, and texts saying Russia is at war in South Ossetia and with Georgia, but also to be showing the suffering of the Ossetian people, the murdered elderly people and children, the destroyed towns of South Ossetia, and [regional capital] Tskhinvali. This would be an objective way of presenting the material,” Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said. Current Western media coverage of the events in the separatist republic is “a politically motivated version, to put it mildly,” he said.

Conclusions

Control is all about imposing your view of reality on the minds of others. Since overt political persecution is no longer widely accepted, the elites have resorted to fighting wars over hearts and minds. Western media manipulation is not readily noticeable, since if that were the case the simulation’s plausibility would fall apart immediately (as was the case in the Soviet Union). Hence, they fight via other, far more sophisticated means. This makes them far more insidious and dangerous to freedom than any repressive dictatorship; for in the latter one knows one is a slave, while too many Westerners continue to be believe they are free, whereas in fact they are also slaves, like the rest of us.

As things stand, today the Western media are nothing more than craven shills for their neocon masters. Western freedom is slavery, as foretold by Orwell; the system itself is nihilistic, a reality that has become a simulation, as Baudrillard told us.

It is only through tireless exposition of their lies and hypocrisy that more truth and freedom can be attained.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.