You may wonder, what is some American girl trying to get away with, writing about Russia? Nothing. In fact, I don’t really write about Russia. I write about people who write about Russia, and when I am not doing that, I write about the world, which I can only see through my unique perspective, which has been irreparably corrupted by Russia.
This is why I seem to be the only person in the universe who knows or cares that RT is airing on not one, not two, but three different channels each morning. For someone who gets about 30 channels, that’s 10% of my morning viewing options. In Chicago. I don’t understand why others aren’t outraged by this. Maybe I am the last person alive who does not have cable or satellite TV. Maybe the Kremlin knows it too and figures that anyone without cable is a subversive type who could possibly be a pawn in some waste of taxpayers’ money dressed up like a Clancy-esque international intrigue. However, the Kremlin has no say in American television programming. So what exec dreamed this up? I thought it was madness enough that even one station had begun pumping Russian propaganda into my home on a daily basis. But 3? As I prepare coffee and feed the cat in the lurid glow of the slime-green RT logo, all I can think is, “I for one welcome our new overlords.”
This is why I happened to awake to Dima’s little State of the Union address the other day. Because 3 stations were carrying it. I generally find such speeches tiresome BS. And all things considered, I have no strong feelings one way or another about the Russian president. But I was entranced by that speech! Wow! He wasted no time going on about democracy, and had already taken a few digs at the PM sitting in the front row, to whom I desperately wanted to say, “Didn’t your mother tell you to sit up and pay attention?”, by the time I had to shower. No one seems to know or care anything about this speech that left me stunned. Well, it’s easy enough to be stunned first thing in the morning. But still. What the hell was that all about? I mean, I am impressed that this little teddy bear of a man was so firmly critical of everything Putin’s administration had failed to accomplish, right in front of the man himself. OTOH, Putin must have seen a copy of the speech beforehand. I don’t know. Which is why I don’t write about Russia. I don’t have a bloody clue. All I know is that I did not read the news that day to find headlines like, “Kremlin calls for more democracy, warns of getting stuck in the past.” Even though that’s what saw with my own eyes on TV that morning.
And this is why I’m also wondering what’s the deal with ushanki being the new gang banger chic? A few years ago it was Burberry. But today in Washington Park, a significant number of hooligans had stopped aspiring to the British upper-class and had adopted a more realistic aesthetic, that of the freezing proles, sporting the Soviet icon of headgear. And it’s not even cold out. But there they were, conducting illicit business under the el tracks in true Russian style. They were probably already drunk, too. Next I’ll be getting sexually harassed by them in Russian. Just like in the good old days…
And the way I see it, getting existentially abused by indecent men wearing fat fur hats qualifies me to make some smart-ass commentary on some of my favorite subjects:
~ NYT: Power for U.S. From Russia’s Old Nuclear Weapons.
NYT drops a bombshell about America’s energy resources. Thanks, I’ll be here all week.
MOSCOW — What’s powering your home appliances? For about 10 percent of electricity in the United States, it’s fuel from dismantled nuclear bombs, including Russian ones. […]
Salvaged bomb material now generates about 10 percent of electricity in the United States — by comparison, hydropower generates about 6 percent and solar, biomass, wind and geothermal together account for 3 percent.
Utilities have been loath to publicize the Russian bomb supply line for fear of spooking consumers: the fuel from missiles that may have once been aimed at your home may now be lighting it.
But at times, recycled Soviet bomb cores have made up the majority of the American market for low-enriched uranium fuel. Today, former bomb material from Russia accounts for 45 percent of the fuel in American nuclear reactors, while another 5 percent comes from American bombs, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry trade association in Washington.
If I understand this correctly, nuclear disarmament not only decreases the chances of mutually assured destruction, it powers our flat-screen TVs. I don’t have a flat-screen TV, but I assume they plug in. Though to what I’m not clear about. Anyway. Energy blackmailers? If it weren’t for the Russkies you’d be rationing your electricity consumption! And how un-American would that be? Wait. I guess we’re already doing that, what with the financial crisis and all. What with the financial crisis and all, you’re probably lucky if you still have a home to plug your TVs into.
I bet the Hungarians didn’t think of this before asking the USSR to remove their nukes. They gave Russia back free energy. Suckahs.
~ Scotsman: Putin tells EU: You may have to pay to keep gas flowing.
Unlike Morrissey, I don’t hate it when my friends become successful. In fact, I secretly take pride in my keen ability to attract such impressive people. But of course it is not just any type of success I admire in a friend. Being a soap opera star or professional athlete is almost embarrassing. If a friend of mine became one of those I might hate them indeed. OTOH, if you become some kind of world-renown expert on Russia-Ukraine energy issues, whe-heh-hell! I will drop your name like a bad habit. Actually, bad habits are hard to drop. Who invented that saying? Anyway, let’s take my friend Jerome, for example. He is successful, a world-renown expert on Russia-Ukraine energy issues. And I don’t hate him. (But I think this guy does.)
Mr Putin has also entered the fray by accusing the Ukrainian president, a long-time opponent to Moscow, of risking disruption by allegedly interfering in Ukraine’s central bank.
Energy experts point to conflicts between powerful groups in both Ukraine and Russia as another source of friction that threatens supply. “The heart of the matter is a dispute between oligarchs that are trying to capture a very lucrative market,” Jerome Guillet, an energy expert concentrating on Eastern Europe, told The Scotsman.
“It is very hard to know what is going on, and the fact that you have a highly unstable situation in Ukraine, with maybe three clans fighting it out, and in Russia you have at least two clans in the Kremlin, makes for a very unstable situation.”
Here’s a handy list of his posts on the issue over the years. Handy because if you bookmark this, you’ll never have to write another exhaustive, exhausted e-mail to your acquaintances who mention in passing Russia’s use of energy blackmail like they know what they are talking about They don’t. Jerome does. Your life just got easier.
EuroTrib: Ukraine-Russia gas crisis by Jerome a Paris.
~ Telegraph: Vladimir Putin inspires book of children’s poems.
And old woman in Saratov has written nursery rhymes for the children of the Putin era, whom she calls the “Putinyata.” Pretty creep stuff. Here’s a taste:
Our Homeland of Russia Uncle Putin steered.
Be a country great and strong’
One day did he dream.
Only, how without the little ones?
Among us they are very few!
Then he read a lot of books
And gave an order to the country:
‘Just one babe for every mum?!
‘That’s not much! It must be two!’
And now in our native land children suddenly appeared.
They are many they are beautiful.
Just like flowers, here and there.
Young children in Russia now
Have the name of PUTINYATA!
Like it’s not damaging enough to be told you were born on government orders, as some kind of reproductive 5 year plan. Also, I don’t know how good a translation it is, but this makes it sounds as if dyadya Putin might actually be papa Putin, what with “children suddenly appearing” on his orders…
~ TOL: Praying to Putin.
This is and example not of the cult of personality surrounding Dyadya Vova, but of the cult of his cult of personality. That is, when people are so obsessed with the phenomenon, they attribute everything to that, even when it’s not terribly accurate.
Sending petitions to President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is a popular pastime in Russia. As a journalist, I see many such petitions – on subjects ranging from the construction of a waste-burning facility to freeing a prisoner of conscience, to protecting a city park to renaming a street – on a weekly basis. A few days ago, I even received a special file containing a bunch of petitions from a Moscow-based NGO, with the revealing subtitle “Writing Letters, Hoping For the Better.”
At every Russian school, history teachers tell pupils about the naivety of the old-time peasants who would send petitions to the czar – whom they would address with worship and reverence as “the Lord’s Anointed” – and expect him to solve all imaginable problems and come to the rescue as justice personified. Such a petition was called a chelobitnaya, and when delivered, was accompanied with the deepest bow, so that the forehead would touch the ground. What the teachers do not say is how little has changed.
People writing petitions to their leaders?! Why! That’s Stalinism, plain and simple! We Americans would never do that! Well, only because of the whole letters being tainted with anthrax thing. (o.t. Churkin got one of those things the other day. I love Vitaly. I hope it was a joke and no one is trying to kill him!) Now we have to call or send e-mails or texts. If pensioners are sending letters, it’s probably only because that new-fangled technology confuses them. Anyway, what’s wrong with writing your President about a political issue? (The article is about the Khodorkovsky case.) First we bitch when Russians don’t want to have a say in their government, then we bitch when they do. Granted it is not the most effective mechanism of democracy. Letter-writing. But until the rest of us stop signing health care petitions and children stop writing Obama about their hopes and dreams, I think we can take a break from the bitching.
~ RIAN: Putin’s pencil’ up for sale on eBay
Unless the eraser has been chewed off, I’m not impressed. For a thousand bucks, I expect some spittle and teeth marks.
MOSCOW, November 12 (RIA Novosti) – A pencil that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin supposedly used at a recent news conference has gone on sale on the Internet auction site eBay, the newsru.com website said on Thursday.
Bids for the pencil – advertised under the heading “Vladimir Putin’s pencil, anyone?” – have so far reached $1,025.
The pencil went on sale five days ago, and was put up for auction by a seller who claims to be a journalist from the Russian city of Tula, some 200 kms south of Moscow.
“Recently Vladimir Putin visited city Tula and I attended his press conference,” the lot info began. “When it was over, I went to the table where he sat and picked up the pencil he used to make notes. The pencil looks like new, just might need a little sharpening.”
Bidding for the pencil ends on November 14.
Ha! This is EXACTLY what Dima was talking about in his State of the Union Speech: encouraging entrepreneurship and diversifying the economy. That’s the Capitalist spirit! Steal stuff and sell it on eBay! Wait… “claims to be a journalist?” Great, they are not just exaggerating the cult of personality, they are outright contributing to it. There is a joke in here about the real reason people are killing journalists, but I am too nice to make it.
~ AP: Russia launches program to save tigers worldwide.
“No soul” my ass, Hillary.
MOSCOW — Vladimir Putin has made headlines by championing the endangered Siberian tiger — posing with a cuddly cub and placing a tracking collar on a full-grown female in the wilds of his country’s Far East. Now Russia is helping plan an ambitious program it hopes can double the global tiger population by 2022.
Russia hopes to hold a “tiger summit” in the Far East city of Vladivostok in September to coordinate multinational efforts to protect the Amur tiger, its habitats and increasingly scarce food sources, representatives of Russia’s Natural Resources Ministry, the World Bank and the World Wildlife Fund said Wednesday.
“We decided that this time we should do something serious in order to preserve tigers on our planet,” said Igor Chestin, director of the Russian branch of the World Wildlife Fund. “The situation is catastrophic.”
The meeting would be hosted by Putin, Russia’s powerful prime minister, and include leaders of countries such as India and China, according to Chestin and Deputy Natural Resources Minister Igor Maidanov.
The goal of the program, which could involve as many as 13 countries, would be to double the number of tigers worldwide to some 6,500 by 2022. Chestin said this would require a total $1 billion (euro0.67 billion) from all participating countries — a target he said could be met with both government funds and private sponsorship.
Putin’s support, which Maidanov said was expected, would likely give the effort a major boost.
Last year, Putin was given an Amur cub on his birthday and showed it off to journalists inside his home before putting it in other hands. Months earlier, Russian television networks showed him patting a grown female on the cheek after shooting it with a tranquilizer gun as part of a program to track the rare cats on a Russian wildlife preserve.
His Web site contains a section dedicated to the protection of the Amur tiger — also known as the Siberian or Ussuri tiger — and one page tracks his tiger’s movements as it prowls around the Far East.
It does. I checked.
~ BBC: Bear kills militants in Kashmir.
So my friend Mig used to regularly post these “Bear Cavalry” pictures. Some kind of Interwebs tradition I presume. And then one day I was looking at a picture book of old Revolutionary special forces or Cheka or something, and there were pictures of them posing with these huge bears. And wolves. It was like Ken Burns meets … actually I can’t think of any other scenario in which animals are enlisted as military weapons. Anyway, my point is, Bear Cavalry is not an Interwebs legend. It is a reality.
A bear killed two militants after discovering them in its den in Indian-administered Kashmir, police say.
Two other militants escaped, one of them badly wounded, after the attack in Kulgam district, south of Srinagar.
The militants had assault rifles but were taken by surprise – police found the remains of pudding they had made to eat when the bear attacked.
It is thought to be the first such incident since Muslim separatists took up arms against Indian rule in 1989.
The militants had made their hideout in a cave which was actually the bear’s den, said police officer Farooq Ahmed.
The dead have been identified as Mohammad Amin alias Qaiser, and Bashir Ahmed alias Saifullah.
News of the attack emerged when their injured comrade went to a nearby village for treatment.
“Word spread in the village that Qaiser had been killed by the bear,” another police officer said.
A joint party of the police and army personnel went into the forest and collected the bodies of the two militants.
Police say they also recovered two Kalashnikov assault rifles and some ammunition from the hideout.
Bears, with Kalashnikovs no less. Rock and Roll!
~ Mother Jones: Igor Panarin’s Doomsday Tea Party.
Nothing really expresses your love for America, which is greater than anyone else’s love for America, your pride in this country, and especially your support for the men and women who gave their lives for it, not to mention your undying belief in the Free Market and Democracy quite as much as … a KGB guy giddily predicting the destruction of the United States. Am I right?
For more than a decade Dr. Igor Panarin, a Russian academic, has been predicting that sometime around 2010 the United States will collapse, splintering into separate states, some of them controlled by foreign powers. Outside of Russia, no one’s put much stock in his crackpot and stereotype-based theories—until now, that is. Who are the newest members of the Igor Panarin fan club? Tea partiers who’ve rallied against the Obama administration’s policies and blasted the president for pushing a “socialist” agenda. And he’s especially big among tea party activists in Texas, who have hosted Panarin and promoted his work.
In Russia, Panarin, who hosts a weekly radio show, is considered a mainstream expert on the United States. Like Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Panarin used to work for the KGB. He clearly has the support of the Kremlin, for he teaches at* the school that trains Russia’s diplomats. And since the election of Barack Obama last November, Panarin has found a new audience in America among far right activists, many of whom believe Obama is destroying the country.
I don’t wanna hear the right-wingers mewing about Putin being “KGB” ever again. EVER. Or I’ll sick the bear cavalry on them! Rawr!
~ Telegraph: Russian cannibal who ate mother has sentence reduced ‘because he was hungry’.
Another of my little fascinations. People, people who eat people…
Sergei Gavrilov admitted he had used parts of his murdered mother’s legs to make soup and pasta for weeks on end. But he argued he was driven to the desperate act because he had ran out of money and was starving.
“I did not like the flesh,” he told investigators. “It was too fatty.”
A court in southern Russia accepted his explanation and ruled that the unemployed 27 year-old had therefore not wantonly defiled his mother’s own corpse. It did find him guilty of murder, however, and sentenced him to fourteen years and three months in prison, according to Russian news agency Interfax.
That is nine months less than the standard 15-year sentence for such a crime. Mr Gavrilov got off more lightly because of his confession and because the judge believed he had turned to cannibalism out of hunger rather than preference.
I don’t know. Looks like he preferred it to, oh, unemployment compensation, begging or a nice barbecued stray dog. Or suicide. Don’t misunderstand – people starve to death regularly on this planet. People starve to death regularly on this planet because people don’t eat people. If they did – we could solve the problems of hunger and overpopulation in one fell swoop. … Hmm…
Not to mention that when explaining why he did not like being a cannibal, he complained about the quality of the meat, not, oh, that he had to eat HIS MOTHER! Gah! Gah!!
OMG! There’s MORE:
PERM, November 13, (RIA Novosti) – A 25-year old man was killed, dismembered, eaten and parts of his body sold to a nearby fast-food stand in the Perm region of the Russian Urals, criminal investigators have reported.
Which parts? Are we talking about kotlety or shashlik here?
~ MT: Using Twitter to Take Spin to the Next Level
“Effective mechanisms of promoting the interests of the federal bodies of the executive branch of power on specialized social networking sites.” You mean, like, oh, say… THIS BLOG? Oh, wait. I misunderstood. I thought they said, “promoting interest in the nice body of the executive branch of power.” Nevermind…
The ministry said it was offering up to 5 million rubles (almost $166,000) to the company that could provide “effective mechanisms of promoting the interests of the federal bodies of the executive branch of power on specialized social networking sites.”
The winning bidder will also need to research the Russian-language Internet for specialized social networking sites, “draft a concept” to promote state interests through the web sites, and propose “methods of monitoring” the sites in order to “boost the effectiveness” of the activities of state bodies on the sites, the documents for the tender said.
The ministry said in the e-mailed statement that it was also considering tracking discussions at social networking sites operating in languages other than Russian. […]
But officials risk failing in any attempts to initiate public discussion on social networking sites because their thinking is bureaucratic rather than creative, said Alexei Makarkin, an analyst with the Center for Political Technologies. “Bloggers like independent people with outstanding opinions,” he said.
As for the stated goal of using social networking sites to study public opinion, perhaps the officials just want to please Medvedev by reporting to him that they are introducing high technology into their work, Makarkin said.
Or, Dima just wants an official excuse to hang out on the Internet all day… Wait, what’s this about “tracking discussions at social networking sites operating in languages other than Russian?” Gulp.
The fun never ends. Well, except in Switzerland.
~ They’re trying to ban the new Rammstein album, because it is positively lurid. Nice to see them embracing the cultural broad-mindedness of WalMart.
~ Reuters: Delaware beats Switzerland as most secretive financial center.
Wow. Not even the best at being the worst anymore.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Move over Switzerland. The tiny state of Delaware beats the Alpine country in a contest for the most secretive financial jurisdiction, a tax justice rights group said on Saturday. […]
“While the U.S. has been jumping up and down and saying ‘Aha, bad, wicked Swiss banks,’ the U.S. is doing exactly the same things as far as non-resident bank account holders,” said Sarah Lewis, executive director of the group, based in the U.K.
Switzerland has been the poster child for financial secrecy over the past year. The United State sued Swiss global banking giant UBS AG, which paid a $780 million fine to settle a lawsuit against it by the government. As part of the deal, UBS admitted it actively helped Americans evade U.S. taxes.
Delaware. A state that lists Miss Delaware’s Outstanding Teen 2008 and Judge Reinhold among its most prominent residents. And they beat you, Switzerland.
p.s. Thanks for the new backpack. I promise not to ask why a neutral country needs and Army or why that Army makes backpacks.
Ok, that’s all, kids.
Have a lovely weekend and thanks for reading.