Navalny Steps on a Rake

rake-take_the-simpsons_951Writing in the Moscow Times, columnist Georgy Bovt observes:  “Navalny has transformed the Moscow mayoral race into more than just a referendum on the best ways to cope with the city’s numerous problems. It has become a vote of confidence in the Kremlin and Putin.” Indeed, Navalny’s campaign slogan is:  “Change Russia. Start with Moscow.

Bovt’s comment highlights that Navalny’s campaign is a serious mistake, and will backfire badly in three important ways.

First, as Georgy notes, he’ll lose badly in his so-called bastion of strength, giving the Kremlin the right to argue he wasn’t jailed for political reasons (why should it fear someone so weak?).

Second, by ignoring the plight of the Moscow voters, whose city is far from perfect, asking them to sacrifice their own interests in order to lash out at Putin, he only alienates them.

Finally, Navalny also harms his image in the West. His barbaric, racist statements about non-Slavs in Moscow go a long way to discrediting him as liberal seeking to reverse Putin’s policies.  He’ll also be discredited there, of course, when his low level of support in his base of operations is exposed by the election.

These are just the latest in a long line of critical miscalculations by Navalny. Yet with all his mistakes he’s still far more successful than any other opposition leader, which is a sad commentary on the state of the opposition. Soon, he’ll be in jail and largely forgotten.

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Another New Low for Maria Sharapova

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Russia is that singular nation where no matter how low it sinks today, tomorrow it will do something so wretched you will unable to believe you thought it was low before.

And Maria Sharapova is the poster child for Russia in this regard.

In the space of one week, the world saw Sharapova file papers in court seeking to change her name to Sugarpova for the two weeks of the U.S. Open in a shameless effort to promote her failing line of artificially flavored and colored sweets, then realize how totally outrageous her scheme was and withdraw it, and then saw her withdraw from the Open itself, claiming a shoulder injury.

Maybe the real reason Sharapova withdrew from the U.S. Open is that she was too ashamed to show her face there after her humiliating PR gambit in the hopes of achieving even greater personal wealth which she does not need, already being one of the highest-paid female athletes in the world.  Or maybe she does have an injury; if so, maybe it’s because she spends far too little time training and far too much seeking to build her candy empire. Either way, clearly, the last thing on her mind these days is tennis.

Information Daily and David Adams telling Olympic-Sized Lies

In a recent issue of Information Daily David Adams, head of a British consulting firm that helps London do business with Russia, provided an overview of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.  Given his vested interest in currying favor with the Kremlin, it’s hardly surprising that Adams doesn’t give full account of the prospects for Olympic success in Russia. His self-serving comments only assist Russia in sliding further into misery.

Adams gets it very wrong from the start by claiming that the Olympics are “all about business.” In fact, they’re all about spirit, ideals and inspiration, and in a wide variety of ways, Russia is egregiously violating the Olympic spirit.

Most recently, Russia declared homosexual athletes persona non grata in Russia (along with all other gays). They are now subject to arrest for just for talking about being gay or making public displays of affection.  Gay groups are calling for a boycott of the games because of this new crackdown.

A year after being awarded the games, Russia invaded its tiny neighbor Georgia, annexing two large chunks of its territory and killing many Georgian civilians.  Not one major nation of the world has recognized this barbaric act as legitimate.  Many have called for a boycott of the games on this basis as well.

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A Lying Idiot Named CONOR FRIEDERSDORF

Over on the Atlantic magazine, a lying idiot named Conor Friedersdorf proposes a “thought experiment” in which he posits that the USA would give a Russian Snowden asylum if he appeared at JFK, so it can’t fault Russia for doing the same.

Mr. Friedersdorf’s intellectual dishonesty is truly breathtaking.  It brands him as an extreme right-winger in the mold of lunatic freaks like Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul, fringe occupiers who lose no opportunity to rationalize, justify and embrace the homicidal Putin regime, which Jay Leno recently branded as behaving just like Nazi Germany. It is the likes of Buchanan, Paul and Friedersdorf who force Reagan conservatives to defend the likes of Barack Obama.

Mr. Friedersdorf’s “thought experiment” unfortunately doesn’t include asking how Russia would respond if the USA did offer a Russian Snowden political asylum, which is the only question that matters because it’s the question the USA is faced with:  How to respond to the giving of asylum, not whether to give asylum itself.

WWRD? What would Russia do? Mr. Friedersdorf doesn’t care to ask, and that failure immediately and totally discredits him.

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Lady Gaga Blasts Putin

GAGA2Lady Gaga, who has nearly as many Twitter followers as Vladimir Putin received votes for president in 2012, and far more Facebook likes than he has votes, has launched a withering attack on the Putin dictatorship on Twitter and Facebook.  Here is her trio of Tweets in response to Putin’s announcement that she and Madonna would face punishment for daring to express sympathy for homosexuals during recent performances in Russia.

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Lady Gaga openly taunts Putin, calling him a coward for failing to arrest her when he had the chance.  Her blast at Putin on Facebook has nearly 100,000 “likes” from readers and nearly 4,000 comments.  Lady Gaga has twenty times more Twitter followers than Russian “prime minister” and former president Dima Medvedev.

Once again, the Putin regime stands humiliated before the eyes of a slack-jawed world.  Putin has announced that he plans to arrest homosexual athletes who act gay during the Sochi Olympics.   This brazen repudiation of the Olympic spirit should preclude any civilized nation from sending athletes to the games.

We call for a boycott.

The File on Mr. Navalny

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We find ourselves in an odd position these days, as Alexei Navalny vies for the mayoralty of Moscow.  Like Yevgenia Chirikova and other opposition figures, we endorsed Navalny for mayor, but not because he’s a good candidate or qualified for the job and not because we actually want him to be mayor. He’s not a good candidate, and he’s not qualified and we don’t want him to govern.  Our endorsements come because he’s the lesser of many evils in the race, including but not limited to a Putin toady and an avowed Communist, and because it will drive Putin right out of his mind to see Navalny win (or even be competitive).

Don’t get us wrong, Navalny has many good points.  He’s recently come out against the some elements of Russia’s homosexual crackdown, a dangerous thing for him to do politically, and his reporting on Russian corruption has been second to none.  He’s risking his freedom and maybe life to openly challenge Putin; from Starovoitova to Estemirova, we’ve seen what happens to such critics, they get shot and killed.  And he’s created the most effective political brand we’ve yet seen in the Putin opposition, and put the most bodies on the street to show contempt.

But there are many signs that Navalny is just Putin Lite, that the bad outweighs the good, and we think because Putin’s opponents are so desperate for some kind of good news that they’re reluctant to tell the full story on Navalny we’re seeing important parts of the full story on Navalny being told by sources of information for which I usually have contempt, such as the Nation magazine and Kevin Rothrock.  Most importantly, Navalny is quite simply a failure. There is no evidence at all that he can actually achieve anything meaningful as the self-appointed leader of the opposition, and we believe he should step aside.

The critical question on Navalny, which far too few Russia analysts are asking, is a simple one: Is he the best Russia can do? If so, we agree that criticism of him should be muted if not withheld.  If not, it should be louder and stronger.  We’re about as cynical as a person can get on Russia , but we don’t think Navalny is the best Russia can do, and we think it insults the people of Russia more than they deserve to suggest otherwise. As we’ve said before, we think that Navalny himself is a big part of the reason many think he’s the best Russia can do, because he has done a lot to choke off the oxygen supply from his potential rivals.

An important and rare survey of criticism of Navalny in the Russian blogosphere by expert Russian translator Catherine Fitzpatrick was recently published on The Interpreter, and because of the dearth of such reporting elsewhere really amounts to a path-breaking effort to let the Western world in on the full Navalny picture, not just the propaganda.  In my view, Fitzpatrick’s article is the single most important piece of reporting on Navalny in English that has ever been published, and The Interpreter’s work to open a window for English speakers into the Russian blogosphere is simply indispensable.

In our view, though, Fitzpatrick could have gone even a little further.  So we’d like to undertake our own little survey to fill in the blanks.  We don’t think we do Navalny or the Russian opposition any favors by soft-pedaling Navalny’s vices or his failure to achieve his goals.  By doing so, we think we only encourage more of the same.  By telling the full truth about Navalny, we emphatically refute any claim that Fitzpatrick went too far, something that some of Navalny’s cult-like followers may claim.

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IT’S WAR! Russia grants Asylum to Snowden

Yesterday in the late afternoon the Putin regime granted political asylum to Edward Snowden and he walked out of the international airport into Russia a free man.

This is an act of war by Russia against the United States.  When Snowden walked in, the U.S Ambassador should have walked out.  Russia has made clear, once and for all, that is is an enemy of the United States, not a partner.

Over on the powerful  and influential American Thinker website, Kim Zigfeld lays out the whole sordid Snowden mess and calls for a boycott of the Sochi Olympics, for this and many other reasons, a result we have been demanding ever since Russia invaded Georgia in 2008.  Polls clearly show the people of Russia overwhelmingly favor giving asylum to Snowden, meaning that the people of Russia are just as much responsible for this declaration of war as their government.

If Snowden weren’t reason enough for a boycott, Russia announced that it would arrest any gay Olympic athlete who dares to manifest his/her sexuality at the games.  What if Russia had said blacks or Jews were not welcome? Would the world attend?