poemless. a slap in the face of public taste.

February 4, 2010

The Usual Suspects.

Filed under: Odds & Ends — poemless @ 6:11 PM

It’s like a drive-by, but with links instead of bullets, and wonks instead of innocent children.

RT: According to Eternal Remont, Russia Today has now become the most-watched foreign news channel in the United States.

This makes me feel like a 6 year old girl who wakes up to find a real life unicorn right there in her bedroom. It’s like I believed the imaginary into becoming real. Is this what religious people feel like?

Zizek: Love him or hate him (or don’t and save him a lecture on how your love of him is actually an expression of loathing.) The comment thread at Crooked Timber, in response to a mis-informed post reporting that Zizek asserted Gandhi was more violent than Hitler, is one of the most entertaining reads on the interwebs. I know. The bar is low. Anyway, fun one-liners:

“It’s not trolling if you’ve got tenure.”

“As far as I understand SZ’s dialectic, it seems equivalent in logic to the following proposition: This orange is really orange. It is more of a vegetable than this carrot.”

“Zizek should not have right to use thoughts!” [I love it when people say brilliant and obnoxious things in broken English. Eddie, is that you?]

“Zizek is the Houellebecq of the academy.”

“The claim that Gandhi was more violent than Hitler because he was proposing a radical change in the social structure makes sense in terms of Zizek’s philosophy.
Not on Earth though.”

“search google Books for ‘Gandhi killed monkeys’”

“Zizek is what happens when a decent education is mixed with a total disregard for clarity of thought or purpose; and possibly large quantities of dope.”

“Does not Zizek invite us to use the appearance of “Zizek” as the object of Zizek?”

I’m going to google “Ghandi killed monkeys” while you continue reading this post.

FP: Josh at FP Passport is taking submissions for “The Oscars of Foreign Policy.”

It must be a great weight off their backs to finally stop pretending to provide responsible, intelligent coverage of the most grave and influential matters facing our species, like war… peace… poverty… climate crisis… OTOH, I don’t judge FP. Good luck getting the public to care about anything that doesn’t involve an annual celebrity-studded awards show. And it’s hardly FP’s fault that world leaders prefer to stage dog and pony shows instead of figure out how to improve the quality of people’s lives. “Best actor in a leading role” takes on a whole new meaning. I can just see Barbara Walters sitting down with Obama before the big night, asking him if pretending to be a leader day in and day out hasn’t actually tricked him into believing he is one.

Email your nominations to Joshua.Keating@foreignpolicy.com.

Also in FP, Julia Ioffe has written this little ditty: Putin’s Parliamentary Circus. Naming a louche pop singer to the Duma is just the latest in a string of bizarre appointments for Russia’s increasingly brazen ringmaster.

My knee-jerk response to the headline was, wait, there is a BRIC country where being movie star is seriously considered a springboard for a life in politics. And why would pop singers implicitly be worse politicians than watermelon salesmen? Jesus, wasn’t Minnesota even run by a professional wrestler at some point? Then I actually read the article and came to this:

It’s a strategy that, paradoxically, seems to be working. On the one hand, according to a recent poll by the Levada polling center, Russians have not really had the wool pulled over their eyes: Only 9 percent of Russians believe that their current form of government can be called “a democracy.” (Two years ago, it was 15 percent.) “People see that state bureaucrats are getting more and more power and that the people get less and less; they see the highly personalized rule, the rigged elections,” says Levada sociologist Oleg Savelev. Russians, in other words, are not stupid.

United Russia, on the other hand, is smarter. Levada polling — widely seen as the country’s most reliable — shows that Russians have largely bought into five years of rhetoric of “sovereign democracy,” the theory propagated by the Kremlin, and seen as an excuse for creeping authoritarianism, that the Western model of democracy would be inappropriate for Russia. Nearly half of respondents say that Russia needs a form of democracy that is “completely unique, corresponding to the national traditions and specifics of Russia.”

And, strangely, in the few years since Putin started granting election-list slots and Duma seats as favors to his favorite celebrities, Pavlovsky’s cynical tactics seem to be paying off. (And let’s be clear here: In a country where opposition figures are routinely plucked off ballots on absurd technicalities, there can be no question that someone has to be allowed to run.) Russian opinion of the Duma — inefficient and obstreperous in Boris Yeltsin’s days; a rubber stamp now — has always been low. But, since 2007, it has received a significant boost (relatively), with 13 percent approving of the Duma, up from 9 percent.

Which is also nearly the same spread as in the democracy poll.

Damn. Not only is there sober, informative, thought-provoking journalism in this article, it contains the word, “obstreperous.” Big words, practical facts, sexy headlines… Julia can be whoever you need her to be.

Russian Word of the Day: У меня есть or имею?

U menia est! U menia est! Everyone knows imet is for losers! Seriously, though. Stop trying to learn French with one of those tear-off daily calendars. They’re bad for the environment and everyone knows French is for losers. Ditch it (I mean recycle it) and bookmark Russian Word of the Day!

Vodka: Now with vitamins!

This seriously downsizes my grocery shopping list. And makes me able to do it all at the store on the corner. And makes me believe there is a God.

What to Read: The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis, by Jeremy Rifkin.

I’m a sucker for Rifkin AND for 600+ page books. Yay!

Chicago, IL: Making evildoers live in Gitmo, humane. Making evildoers live in Illinois, not so much.

It’s funny because it’s TRUE.

“I’ve been to Guantanamo,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said today at a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence – as the subject of the federal government’s intentions of purchasing the Thomson Correctional Center in northwest Illinois came up.

“It’s pretty nice compared to Illinois — the place in Illinois where they want to put them,” Hatch said in the committee hearing. “It’d be nice and cold in the winter time and… all I can say is that I imagine there’ll be a hue and a cry that we’re not fair by bringing them here.”

What about the fine law-abidin’, God-fearin’ American-born citizens who live here? How is it fair to us? Maybe someone should drive in with tanks and liberate us from this cold, corrupt hell. Would rock if they brought some of that democracy I’m always hearing about with them too.

(I actually love living in Chicago. In the same sick, masochistic way I loved living in Moscow.)

Rogozin: Russian Ambassador to NATO tweets about RFE/RL blog about his tweets. Not content with wasting time on social networking media when he should be making America GO HOME or fierce narcissism, the Ambassador takes up homophobia as a hobby too:

“Gay isn’t a reliable soldier. Imagine: the foe’s soldiers are all so hadsome! If our gays refuse to shoot them we’ll lose the war.”

And what, your own soldiers are not hot enough to charm the pants off your enemies? Way to boost soldier morale, Rogozin.


“This is a man who has earned a worthy place in the history of Russia. His popularity allows him to take any kind of decision. We count on his common sense.”

~Igor Yurgens on Vladimir Putin.

Is this a change in tune, or was Yurgens never as critical of Putin as the media made him out to be? I don’t know…

Capitalism, New Cold War, No – This is not a story from the Onion: Henry Paulson has blamed Vladimir Putin for forcing the U.S. bail out the banks.

In next week’s news: Keyser Söze forces U.S. to bail out Hank Paulsen’s credibility…

OMG. Gandhi DID kill monkeys!



  1. Hi, Poemless. A bit of offtopic. A major event to happen this month is the release of the new long-awaited album of the Russian band “Orgy of the Holy”.

    That band totally deserves the attention of an educated person, not only because of a number of references rooted deeply inside our european cultures, but also due to its spiritual findings and original music. You can find quite a lot of interviews and reviews of that band — some authored by actual priests who praise that band immensely.

    If you are interested enough, I would advise you to start with the “Silician Grapes” and “Das Boot” of their 2007 album:


    Although English translations are provided, you would have more fun if you follow the original Russian texts.

    Comment by Evgeny — February 5, 2010 @ 3:29 AM | Reply

    • That IS off topic…

      Comment by poemless — February 5, 2010 @ 3:20 PM | Reply

  2. Are you actually reading the Rifkin book? If so, can we have a review?

    Comment by EdgewaterJoe — February 6, 2010 @ 1:06 AM | Reply

    • That didn’t come out right … what I MEANT was, can we have a review of the Rifkin book WHEN you are done reading it?

      Comment by EdgewaterJoe — February 6, 2010 @ 1:07 AM | Reply

      • I’ve had it on order & just picked it up this weekend. However, I also just picked up Hoffman’s “Oligarchs” too, so it might be some time before I can give you a review.

        Comment by poemless — February 8, 2010 @ 12:05 PM | Reply

        • Dibs on the Rifkin when you’re done?

          Comment by EdgewaterJoe — February 8, 2010 @ 12:51 PM | Reply

          • Allergic to libraries?

            Comment by poemless — February 8, 2010 @ 1:13 PM | Reply

            • I do have a habit of running up lots of overdue fines …

              Comment by EdgewaterJoe — February 8, 2010 @ 1:25 PM | Reply

  3. ‘Keyser Söze forces U.S. to bail out Hank Paulsen’s credibility…’ 🙂

    Comment by Leos Tomicek — February 6, 2010 @ 4:09 PM | Reply

    • Not even Putin could bail out Hank Paulson’s credibility.

      Would that he could punish him KGB-style, however …

      Comment by EdgewaterJoe — February 6, 2010 @ 10:09 PM | Reply

  4. RT is more watched than the BBC? If true, that is awesome.

    Comment by Chris Doss — February 7, 2010 @ 2:33 PM | Reply

    • From the article Eternal Remont cites

      According to a survey by Nielsen Media Research, many people in Washington, DC now turn to Al Jazeera, Deutsche Welle, France 24, Euronews, and China Central Television to get their foreign news.

      However, Russia Today easily led the pack, with a daily audience over 6.5 times bigger than that of Al Jazeera English, the second most popular source of TV news among foreign broadcasters in the U.S. after BBC.

      As one commenter on ER asked, “How can Al Jazeera be number two after the BBC if RT has a bigger audience?”

      So uhm, er, I doubt it. Especially since that last time I checked, BBC had its own American cable station, whereas RT is syndicated (by MHz and NBC here in Chicago). That said, the BBC, I expect for expense reasons, is not broadcast on PBS as frequently as it used to be, and RT has prime morning and evening news slots on 3 of my local stations. RT is also far more fun to watch than other programs, just in its wackiness. And BBC seems to air a lot of the same news stories as something like CNN, while RT airs stories you honestly will not see on other news programs. Which is to say, I can see how it could become popular. I originally would have thought it would only fly with people interested in Russia. But I’ve heard from friends with no connection to Russia whatsoever who watch it for its alternative POV.

      Comment by poemless — February 8, 2010 @ 12:19 PM | Reply

  5. Zizek rocks my casbah, so thanks for the heads-up on that one. Looking forward to the full Gandhi-monkey post when you’ve completed your research.

    Comment by sputnik — February 8, 2010 @ 2:29 AM | Reply

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