This is post #100 for this blog. A good time to take stock.
Here is Victor Davidoff’s view of the Pussy Riot atrocity, writing in the Moscow Times. He says it has discredited Russia’s public image, the Orthodox Church, its judicial system and its citizens. This is, of course, exactly what we’ve been saying Putin would do for the past five years.
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For many years, the Darwin Awards have been given to people who self-select out of the gene pool by voluntarily and unnecessarily placing themselves in danger. It has been bestowed only on individuals, but if it could be granted to institutions, the Kremlin would surely be awarded it hands down for creating the Pussy Riot case.
In February, when three of the four Pussy Riot punk band members were arrested for their 41-second performance in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, no one foresaw the consequences. Everyone thought it would end quickly and quietly, and the “criminals” would be simply fined or, in the worst case, given a week or so in detention on misdemeanor charges. But the Kremlin’s insistence on criminal punishment for blasphemers who pronounced the criminal words “Mother of God, cast Putin out” turned into a public relations disaster. Today, the Pussy Riot case is famous on every continent and has captured the attention of intellectuals and politicians up to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and some of the world’s most popular musicians, like Madonna and Paul McCartney.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported [Russian-language link] on August 17, 2012, that the Russian military is 600 million rubles in the red to its gas and electric suppliers, and as a result thousands of military personnel and their families will go without heat this winter — including those in frozen wastelands like Murmansk where plunging temperatures can be fatal. The Secretary of Housing for the Moscow Region Herman Elyanushkin is quoted as stating that 40% of Moscow-based soldiers and their families had no heat last winter, and the situation was likely to be repeated this year.
The reason for the frozen soldiers is, according to the military, frozen funding in Moscow. In addition to a lack of money to pay for fuel, there is also a lack of funds to maintain heating equipment, so boilers are breaking down and not being repaired or replaced. The military claims it needs the whopping sum of an additional 70 billion rubles to properly heat the residences of its soldiers and their families. The Kremlin, it seems prefers to devote funds to building new and better nuclear weapons, and is prepared to watch Russian soldiers and their families freeze. The question of why Russia’s supposedly booming economy doesn’t have enough funds for both projects remains unasked.
Over on Pajamas Media, Kim Zigfeld provides a riveting account of a possible violation of U.S. territorial waters by a Russian nuclear attack submarine. Whether it was there or not — and who can say the Russians are clever enough to make it happen — it underlines the total failure of the so-called Obama “reset” with Russia. “Reset” being how Obama chooses to label appeasement.
This afternoon Moscow time Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Ekaterina Samutsevich were sentenced to two years in a labor camp because they sang for 30 seconds in church.
It is a new low in Russian barbarism.
The trio will serve their time starting March 4, 2012 (Russian-language link) and get double credit for each day of pretrial detention, meaning that just over 1 year will be at labor. The sentence was imposed for their “crime” of “hooliganism” and “homosexual propaganda.”
Everyone knows that if they had been singing Putin’s praises, they would not be going to a labor camp. To the contrary, the’d probably be featured on national TV and get a record contract.
Everyone knows that if they had been singing in a mosque, synagogue or protestant temple, they would never been been arrested. Nobody would have cared.
But because they appeared in an Orthodox Church and criticized Putin, they do two in prison. This includes two mothers with young children.
Just a few months ago, idiotic MSM journalists like Miram Elder and Julia Ioffe were breathlessly reporting that Russia had been “changed forever” by the protest demonstrations organized by Alexei Navalny. Now, not only have those protests entirely dissipated but Navalny himself is on his way to prison, maybe a cell right next to Pussy Riot or Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Russia has not changed. The vast majority of Russians will not bat an eyelash at the incarceration of these young artists, who now must spend what will seem to them to be a lifetime behind bars. Indeed, many will cheer. Hardly any will go to the streets to demand justice.
And so Russia’s fate is sealed. It will go the way of the USSR.
The fourth Olympics for Russia during the era of the Putin dictatorship has just concluded. Russia finished with one -quarter fewer gold medals and ten percent fewer total medals in London, UK than it had when the era began, in Sydney, Australia. More importantly, it suffered spectacular loss after humiliating defeat across a wide range of marquee events.
Let’s start with the good news: Russia nearly hit the gold-medal target that the national Olympic organizers had set for themselves, an improvement of two gold medals over what Russia achieved in Beijing China four years ago. It got to 24, shooting for 25, up from 23 four years ago. On this, Russia should be congratulated. But it was still Russia’s worst overall performance at the summer games since 1952, and the way Russia achieved its meager goal was certainly not pretty. It was clear that Russia remains far, far behind the level of achievement it had when Putin took power, and that’s not what Putin promised, he promised significant improvement. At most, after more than a decade in power, Putin has merely managed to stop the bleeding. It’s clear that in sports as in economics, Russia might well have been far better off if Putin had never taken power.
According to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, if you live in Moscow, one of the world’s most expensive cities, and have an income of $250 per month (that’s less than $10 per day), you are NOT living in poverty, but are well above that level.
According to Putin, if you are a Russian your income must be below 6,369 rubles (i.e., about $200) per month in order to claim poverty.
Putin claims that since the number of “poor” people has fallen from roughly 40 million to roughly 20 million since he took power, he is entitled to credit as a economic genius. There are four gigantic problems with this “logic.”
First, the poverty data is being reported by Putin’s own government. Could they be trusted to report facts that were adverse to Putin? Unlikely.
Second, nobody can live on $200 per month in Moscow or any other cosmopolitan area of Russia, it’s an absurd and bizarre fantasy to suggest that someone who earns $210 per month is “not poor.”
Third, any changes in Russia during the Putin years are due to just one factor: The rising price of crude oil. Were it not for this factor, over which Putin has no control whatsoever, Russia would be in stasis. If anything, Putin’s lack of experience with economics and business has only meant that Russia has reaped far fewer benefits from the rising price of oil than it would have if it had been led by a more competent ruler.
And fourth, most importantly, the notion that someone who moves from $190 per month to $210 per month has now experienced a life-changing alteration of living conditions is literally insane. The fact that 20 million people have done this in Putin’s Russia, even if true, means absolutely nothing.
As has always been the case in Russia, because the people of the country demand nothing more, the Kremlin prefers to spew forth lies and disinformation rather than to pursue real reform that would actually make Russia a better country.
In order to make it to the gold-medal game at the London 2012 Olympics, American superstar Serena Williams needed to defeat Jelena Jankovic in the opening ground. Jankovic is a former world #1, currently ranked #18. She has appeared in three grand-slam semifinals matches.
In that same round, so-called “Russian” Maria Sharapova only needed to defeat Shahar Peer. Peer is currently ranked #58 in the world and has never ranked higher than #13 in her career. Peer has never once in her life been in a grand-slam semi.
This pattern continued throughout the tournament. Williams then had to defeat current #13 and former world #2 Vera Zvonareva, who has appeared in two grand-slam finals. Next was former world #1 Caroline Wozniaki, followed by current world #1 Victoria Azarenka, both current top-10 players.