Is Maria Sharapova the World’s Luckiest Human?

At the latest WTA tour event, in Rome Italy, Maria Sharapova appeared in the finals against a Chinese opponent ranked well below her.  The “Russian” player who has lived all her life in the USA saw her opponent win more points over the course of the match, and served a whopping 10 double faults (twice as many as her opponent). She also had a first serve percentage nearly 10 points lower.  Sharapova’s serve was broken six times by her diminutive adversary, and she lost the first set and the first four games of the second set.  Yet despite her unspeakably woeful play she still won the match, in a third-set tiebreaker, because her opponent spontaneously imploded, suddenly and for no reason playing even worse than Sharapova.

Sharapova’s crazy dumb luck didn’t start in the finals. Before that point, Sharapova was never asked to defeat a single one of the tournament’s top seeds.  Based on the draw, it should have been necessary for Sharapova to defeat both the tournament’s #4 and #5 seeds in order to reach the finals, however not one but both of those top players lost before the round in which they would have faced the Russian. And if not those players, then Sharapova should have seen the #7 and #10, including Italy’s top player on her home court.  But again, both of those players lost before they could down Sharapova, too.

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The Crash of the Putin Economy

Just this month alone, the value of the Russian currency is down 5%. But that is nothing.

Russia’s stock exchange has just entered bear market territory. It is down a whopping 15% this month alone.  The month isn’t even over yet, of course.

And then there’s capital flight.  Last year, Russia bled money at the terrifying rate of over $20 billion per quarter, racking up over $80 billion in total by year’s end. This year?  Russia has seen $42 billion in capital flight in just the first four months of this year alone!  In other words, Russia’s rate of capital flight in 2012 is nearly double what it was in 2011.

Putin has placed his nation in a terrifying vortex of failure.

On the one hand, Russians see economic crisis in Europe and they believe, quite rightly, that this crisis will severely impair European demand for Russian oil and gas. Since that is the bulwark of the Russian economy, the value of Russia’s stock market is immediately obliterated, and nobody needs rubles to buy anything.

On the other hand, Russians see Putin’s return to power as “president for life” seriously restricting the sort of liberties that are necessary for business to thrive, and they realize that “more of the same” only means that Russia’s life-threatening problem with corruption will be unchanged.  As a result, Russians conclude that they must remove their assets to foreign shores where the prospect of utilization and safety is far better.

Recent opinion polls show that Russians are terrified of what lies before them, so much so that they are even turning on Putin himself. This means a vicious cycle will result, with Putin needing to crack down ever harder in order to maintain his power, breeding even more mistrust and economic disaster.  But if the people of Russia are so foolish as to hand unlimited power to a proud KGB spy, who can say they do not deserve this pernicious fate?

Obama and his Russia Problem

Things are getting pretty hot in Barack Obama’s Russia kitchen these days. He’s catching hell from all sides.

First came the Washington Post, where seasoned Russia analyst Jackson Diehl called Obama’s Russia policy “misguided.”

Next came Vladimir Frolov, a former Russophile, who said that Putin’s inauguration was “ridiculous” and “Orwellian” and based on the “Big Lie.”

Then opposition leader Garry Kasparov condemned Obama’s cowardice on Russia, saying Putin wants to rule like Stalin and Obama is helping him.

Finally opposition leader Oleg Kozlovsky compared the US response to crackdown in Belarus  to that in Russia, and found that while the US confronted Belarus in similar circumstances it remained silent when Putin took the same actions in Russia.

In other words, one after another Russia-watchers of every stripe  are siding with Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio and the Republicans over Russia policy, rejecting the craven cowardice and failure of Obama and his key Russia advisor Michael McFaul.

Russia, Nation of Doom and Failure

There were two horrifying news stories out of Russia last week for those who care about the fate of the world’s Olympic athletes in 2014.

First, in one of the most spectacular humiliations in the history of the Russian airline industry, which is saying quite a lot, the Sukhoi Superjet, supposedly Russia’s great hope to reenter the world’s aviation markets, crashed into a mountain in Indonesia while in the middle of a marketing pitch to show the world how great it was.  Remember when a plane crash wiped out an entire Russian hockey team? Is the world really going to subject its precious amateur athletes to this kind of barbaric risk in the world’s most unfriendly skies?

Then, Russia admitted that highly active and sophisticated terrorist operations against the Winter Olympics, to be staged in the Russian city of Sochi in 2014, are already underway.

The risks to the world’s athletes if they are foolish enough to try to travel to Sochi less than two years from now are almost too horrifying to contemplate. To reach the games, the world’s athletes will be faced with flying in the world’s most dangerous skies, and even if they manage to land safely they will essentially become targets in a shooting gallery on the streets of Russia.

Perhaps an even more horrifying story, though, was the account of Facebook signups for a so-called “walking protest” through Moscow in opposition to the return of the dictator Vladimir Putin to power.  Where tens of thousands were signing up just months ago, now the numbers have fallen by 90%.  Despite seeing all this horror, Russians quite simply just don’t care, just as they didn’t care in Soviet times.  They will let their government run amok.

Russia is simply incapable of protecting the athletes from all manner of horrors, ranging from the mundane to the obscene, and the leaders of the world’s nations are acting with ultimate recklessness in allowing their athletes to travel to Sochi.

NOTE:  This post has been translated into Russian and published by INOSMI.

Putin the Communist

“We want and will live in a democratic country, where everyone has the freedom and space to contribute talent and labor, his efforts.”

You may think those are the words of Lenin or Stalin, but they were the words of Vladimir Putin (whose name sounds suspiciously like that of his Communist forbears) during his inauguration address to the nation on Monday.

So now we have a clear understanding of what Putin means when he says “democracy.” He means the same thing Lenin and Stalin meant. Not that people can choose their rulers and their nation’s course, but that they can deliver their labor to the nation’s service unfettered.  Mind you, not a word is said about receiving compensation for that labor, only about providing it to the nation.

That is exactly what they said in the USSR.

Another Disastrous Demonstration in Moscow

Russia’s opposition movement turned to violence on Sunday, after it was embarrassed by yet another puny turnout.  It bloodied police officers and pro-Kremlin journalists and it vandalized property. It became a mob, and a small one at that.  Once again, Russia sunk to a new low.  Its only accomplishment was that finally it forced the Kremlin to escalate the violence used against it, but that came at the cost of losing its own credibility and being led by a throng of neo-Nazis (Udaltsov), crypto-fascists (Navalny), Communists and hopelessly confused, leaderless, agendaless followers.

Yevgenia Khvoshchinskaya, a 30-year-old education specialist who was carrying a poster referencing Russia’s Decembrist revolutionaries of the 19th century, told the New York Times:  “I don’t know why I came. The last protests did not achieve anything. There is no program. The people are tired.”

Photos after the jump.

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