Another Spectacular Implosion by Maria Shamapova

How much luckier could so-called “Russian” tennis player Maria Sharapova possibly have hoped to be?

She made it to the finals of the gigantic WTA tour event in Miami, Florida, and looked across the net to see that Polish world #4 Agnieszka Radwanska was her opponent.  Radwanska had only beaten Sharapova once in eight prior meetings, and that was four years ago.  Since January 1, 2008, Sharapova is 6-0 against Radwanska, and in those six meetings Radwanska had taken a set off of Sharapova only twice.

Sharapova stands a full six inches taller than Radwanska, and outweighs her by at least ten pounds.  Radwanska had never won a tournament of Miami’s magnitude in her entire career, while Sharapova has won multiple grand slam titles. Sharapova was ranked and seeded higher in the tournament.

Yet when the dust settled after the match, Sharapova had lost to her diminutive Polish opponent in straight sets.  She had reached the finals in three of the four tournaments she had entered this year, and lost every single one of them.  Not only did she not even manage to win a single set in any of her three finals appearances this year, collapsing spectacularly 0-6 then 3-6 and now 4-6 to Radwanska, but she was not even vaguely competitive in any of them.  She had three break-point chances and did not convert a single one against Radwanska, while the the tiny Polish woman broke Sharapova twice with four chances.

Sharapova is supposedly the “best” female tennis player Russia has, yet she’s hardly Russian. She has lived most of her life in the United States and learned her game entirely there, and spends almost no time at all in Russia.  But Russia has only two other players in the world’s top twenty, and they are woeful non-entities at best.

Those who said Russian women were taking over the women’s game have been proven absolutely wrong. Instead of taking over they have disappeared, leaving only a quasi-Russian to lose spectacularly over and over again in finals appearances in their wake.

Shameless Partisan Bias the New York Times

The response of the New York Times editorial page to the shockingly reckless open-microphone gaff recently committed by U.S. President Obama in Seoul, South Korea, speaking to Russian’s sham “president” Dima Medvedev, was a new low in the naked, shameless partisanship of the Gray Lady for the Democrats.

While admitting that Putin’s Russia is an “unsavory player” who is guilty of “unconscionable” support for Syria, the editorial does nothing but criticize Republican Mitt Romney’s analysis of Russia while praising the policy of Obama.

Not one single word of criticism — not one single word — is reserved for Obama.

The paper does not care to notice how Obama was suckered by Medvedev into treating him like a real president for four years, only to have the Kremlin laugh in his face and openly admit that Putin was always in charge and would be president for life.

It doesn’t care to notice that on Obama’s watch a proud KGB spy who hates America was returned to power in a landslide.

It can’t suggest one single thing Obama could have done differently to make Russia less “unconscionable” in Syria and other hotspots around the world or to make Russia less “unsavory” at home, where it is liquidating American values left, right and center.

The NYT stands permanently discredited if it cannot find even one aspect of Obama’s Russia policy wanting.


Russia: America’s Public Enemy No. 1!

Over on Pajamas Media, Kim Zigfeld calls Barack Obama to task for his horrific open-microphone gaff on Russia.  She points out that Republican challenger Mitt Romney has labeled Russia America’s Public Enemy No. 1 in response to Obama’s shameless attempt to curry favor with the neo-Soviet Kremlin, and this is surely one of the most heartening developments in U.S. Russia policy in years.  Echoing John McCain, Romney blasted Obama for failing to speak up for American values and allies as Ronald Reagan once so boldly did, and ignoring the avalanche of evidence showing how proud KGB spy Vladimir Putin is creating a neo-Soviet nightmare for Americans and Russians alike.

Bold Predictions or Insane Ravings?

According to Boris Nemtsov and Sergei Udaltsov, the first week in May 2012 is going to be one of the most earth-shaking weeks in all of Russian history.

If they are right, on May 6, the day before Putin is inaugurated, we will see a “March of Millions” in which several million people will throng the streets across Russia to protest election fraud by the Kremlin. This despite a new poll that shows over 90% of respondents believe the demonstration sizes won’t increase from the past, where they maxed out at 100,000 or so.

And then on May 7, Inauguration Day, Putin will do the next-best thing to resigning:  He will pardon and release both Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, and maybe some other “political prisoners” as well.

Are these the bold predictions of heroic warriors who have Putin right where they want him? Or are they the insane ravings of utterly failed pretenders tilting and windmills, and about to lose every last vestige of credibility?

Either way, the first week in May is certainly shaping up to be an exciting one.

As the Internet Goes, so Goes Russia?

An interesting new poll from Levada (Russian-language link) reports that 63% of Russian citizens trust the news they hear on Kremlin-controlled broadcast television, while just 28% distrust it.

That figure, 63%, is exactly the share of the vote gathered by Vladimir Putin in the 2012 presidential elections.

Just 55% of Russians ever use the Internet, and only 43% of Russians trust the news they get from the Internet, according to Levada.  An even smaller number than that, a puny 24%, actually use the Internet to get the news.

So one could reasonably suggest that the more Russians use the Internet, the less they trust their government and the less likely they are to vote for Putin.  Little wonder, then, that Putin expresses so much animosity and suspicion for the Internet, saying he never uses it himself and thinks it mostly pornography.

One can also suggest plausibly that of the 55% of Russians who ever use the Internet, many use it very rarely due to its expense and the challenges of Russian technology.  One can also suppose that a disproportionate number of Russians using the Internet to get the news, and for other political purposes, are located in the more wealthy areas of the country, particularly Moscow.  That would explain why opposition politicians were able to generate much bigger crowds in Moscow than anyplace else.

These statistics show the increasing divide between wealthy Moscow and the impoverished remainder of Russia. They imply that nothing will really change in Russia until rich Muscovites decide to share their wealth with the nation.  Will they be willing to do so, or will class warfare again rise in Russia just as it did in pre-Soviet times, leading to radical upheaval and national collapse?

Through the Looking Glass in Russia

Remember when the Russian opposition was telling you that their inability to get crowds on the streets in cities outside Moscow didn’t matter, because the capital city was where power changed hands and it was fine to focus on Moscow?

That was then.

Now, the Russian opposition is telling you that Moscow doesn’t matter at all, because they can win mayoral races in obscure minor cities like Yaroslavl, in the frozen north above Moscow, and thereby seize power from Putin.  How exactly this will happen when (a) they’ve never yet won even one such race and (b) mayors have no power whatsoever is not something the opposition cares to discuss.

The opposition also apparently thinks it can bring down Putin by convincing the world not to buy Pringles, Pampers and Tide from Procter & Gamble. But the opposition has no network of relationships with forces outside Russia which could generate international support for such an effort, and these days they can’t even get 1,000 people on the street for a protest demonstration so it hardly likely they can dent P&G’s revenues inside Russia.  Even if they could, the point of the boycott is to punish NTV for its brutal documentary smearing their protest efforts, and being controlled by the Kremlin NTV can easily replace such revenues from a myriad of sources.

It seems like was only weeks ago that he opposition was talking about forcing a new Duma election, pressing Putin into a runoff election, and bringing hundreds of thousands of supporters onto Moscow’s streets.

That’s because it was only weeks ago.

Now, they are talking about mayors and soap.


Vladimir Ryzhkov Jumps the Rails

Vladimir Ryzhkov

Maybe it was to be expected that even the best and brightest in the Russian opposition would start cracking up upon being confronted with the overwhelming evidence of their own failure, starting with the crushing victory of Vladimir Putin at the polls (despite their repeated promises that he’d be forced into a humiliating runoff) and ending with the spectacular collapse of the street demonstrations.  Where weeks before a hundred thousand turned out, post election barely a tenth that many did so.

But it’s still tragic to watch it happen to the likes of Vladimir Ryzhkov.  Almost like watching a beloved grandpa go round the bend.

Continue reading

All That’s Left is Crumbs

Vera Kichanova

Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reported last week that 71 of 1,560 seats on Moscow’s district councils went to independent candidates, a small fraction of whom were members of the opposition protest movement. If you are counting, that’s 4.5% of the total.  There are 125 of the councils spread across Moscow with an average of a dozen members each, and the opposition didn’t even come close to placing one member on each of them. The net result is that there is one “independent” vote on about half the total councils in Moscow, one vote out of twelve.

Both papers chose to focus on Vera Kichanova, who is just 20 years old, studies journalism, and is one of the opposition members. She tweets and blogs on ZheZhe. She professes to be a libertarian and a supporter of bringing Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution” to Russia. Her ZheZhe blog refers to herself as: “Radical, liberal, fanatical, criminal.” In English, yet.

It is all much ado about nothing. Not only is the size of the independent contingent microscopic and irrelevant, as the WSJ explained the councils have no power:

The 1,560 deputies elected in Moscow on Sunday serve one level below the city legislature, in the capital’s neighborhoods, and have little formal mandate beyond organizing sport and social activity. They can challenge, but not block, rulings by the district’s appointed executive bosses, who control land use, construction tenders and spending, and are often criticized as mini-autocrats, answerable to only to the mayor.

The NYT added: “Most major decisions in Moscow are made by unelected bureaucrats at agencies beholden to the city’s unelected mayor. The district councils, which are made up of elected volunteers, barely have enough authority to decide on the location of a park bench or the planting of a tree.”

Given this, one has to wonder why this story is worth writing about.

The answer is clear: Because it’s all that’s left.  The street protests led by Aleksei Navalny have fizzled just as we said they would, and have achieved nothing.  But the MSM is desperate to keep its pulse-pounding story of “revolution” in Russia alive by any means possible.

Does Vera Kichanova really have the energy and dedication necessary to spend decades toiling in thankless obscurity in order to teach Russians some civil lessons in the vague hope that one day some of them may do her one better? And if she does, can Russia preserve itself long enough for that to make any difference? If it could, will someone like her, who used to work for Voice of America, be allowed to take and hold any kind of real power, any more than was Mikhail Khodorkovsky?