Tide of Negative Press Sweeps over Putin and Russia

Putin is always late, like a schoolboy, embarrassing his country.

Putin has failed Russia’s villages, and is now reduced to bribing people to leave them as ghost towns.

Putin can’t even keep the lights on in Sochi, and in desperation has cancelled Christmas for its workers.  Meanwhile, yet another Olympic torch bearer burst into flames. Ouch!

Despite a personal appeal in halting English by Putin, Russia loses its World Expo 2020 bid.

While obsessing in a paranoid manner about threats from abroad, Putin is recklessly ignoring the virulent toxins with the body Russia that look poised to destroy the country.

These are these are stories that the BBC, NBC, the Wall Street Journal, the Telegraph, USA Today, the Moscow Times and the Financial Times are telling about Russia. They speak for themselves, don’t they?

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Trouble in Paradise?

Over on the mighty Pajamas Media megablog, LR publisher and founder Kim Zigfeld reviews the current public battle between Russian “prime minister” Dmitri Medvedev and “president” Vladimir Putin, emphasizing that Medvedev is not the liberal savior of Russian politics but instead just another corrupt flunkie of the Putin regime out for all he can get.

Russia through the Peanut Hole

LR publisher and founder Kim Zigfeld’s latest installment on the powerful and influential American Thinker blog exposes Russia’s latest neo-Soviet land grab, which this time takes place at sea.  Just as Russia is seeking to grab portions of the Arctic Sea, it is simultaneously and for the same reason, control of oil resources, seeking to plunge its grimy mitts into the Sea of Okhotsk.  Why grimy, you ask? Because as Kim shows Russia’s environmental record around the world is one of pollution and desecration, not protection and support which it falsely claims as a justification for its imperialism in Okhotsk.

The Sad Saga of Putinomics

LR publisher and founder Kim Zigfeld correctly predicted back in October 2012 that Putin’s Russia was headed for an economic tailspin. She has now published her fith installment on the mighty Pajamas Media megablog regarding the collapse of Putinomics.

Here are the links to the full series so far:

The Real Russia, in Dollars and Sense

In Putin’s Russia, the average monthly wage is 30,000 rubles, or $917.  That works out to $5.73 per hour and $11,000 per year.

In Obama’s America, the income below which a person is considered “poor” is $11,500.

That’s right:  The poverty wage in the USA is higher than the average wage in Russia.

And don’t forget this:  “average” means than many Russians earn much less than $11,000 per year.  In fact, since Russia is a nation famous for billionaires who skew the average, there are a lot more people earning less than a less elitist country might have. As we reported, for instance, the average wage in the city of Vyazma, Russia, is one third the national average.

Everywhere you Look in Putin’s Russia, Catastrophe Greets You

The horrific bad news inundating Russia in recent days has been truly breathtaking.

First, Georgia’s new president Georgy Margvelashvili declared that it is his intention to pursue the same pro-Western course followed by the departed  Mikheil Saakashvili, much despised by Russia for his pro-West policies.  Just like Ukraine,  Margvelashvili  wants integration with the EU and NATO membership for Russia.

Then, Russia’s only doping laboratory was embroiled in a massive scandal just months before Russia is to host the 2014 Olympics, another devastatingly humiliating blow to Russia’s reputation.

And finally, yet another passenger airliner dropped out of the Russian skies, killing more than four dozen people. Reuters reported:  “IATA said last year that global airline safety had improved but that accident rates had risen in Russia.”

On top of all this, of course, Russia is facing a massive economic downturn, and the Kremlin’s own economic gurus have admitted that it won’t recover within the next decade.

Russians asked to be ruled by a totally unqualified KGB spy, and these are the rewards they reap for that decision.

Tolokonnikova 1, Putin 0

A fascinating contrast is made by comparing a recent article by Kim Zigfeld on American Thinker with an article in the Guardian newspaper publishing correspondence between Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek.

Zigfeld presents Putin’s Russia’s latest national report card, as Russia’s grades come in from a wide variety of international ratings agencies and Russia, once again, flunks out.  Russia is revealed as an ignorant backwater, wholly noncompetitive against the major nations of the world and routinely ranking outside the top 50 world nations, often much worse and near the bottom of the entire planet.

And Tolokonnikova is the exact opposite. She’s shown quoting Nietzsche and displaying remarkable literacy and philosophical thought, to say nothing of superhuman courage and fortitude.

No thinking person can read these two pieces and come away with any conclusion other than that Putin is an ignorant, illiterate, jack-booted thug who is seeking, the manner of Stalin, to liquidate the flower of Russia’s youth out of sheer jealousy.  Though imprisoned, Tolokonnikova towers over Putin like a giant, he cowers before her like a craven dwarf.

Levada Writes an Epitaph for Navalny

Alexei NavalnyLevada’s latest poll (Russian-language link) regarding Alexei Navalny is bad news almost beyond words. It is a political epitaph.

The stunning bottom line:  only 9.7% of Russian citizens both know who Navalny is and would consider voting for members of his political party as candidates for the State Duma. An overwhelming 67% of Russians who know Navalny would not vote for his team.

But there is even worse news for Navalny:  That 9.7% number is even smaller than it was one month ago. Then, 10.3% of Russian citizens both knew who Navalny was and would consider voting for his party.  Navalny is getting weaker, not stronger, as his name recognition is growing. While 51% of Russians knew who Navalny was a month ago, 54% do now.

As for Navalny personally, just 16.2% of Russians both know who he is and have an opinion that is somehow positive about him.  10.8% of those who know him have an opinion that is somehow negative, while the overwhelming majority of Russians either have no idea who Navalny is or know and don’t care.  49% of those who know Navalny have no opinion about him.

Levada didn’t ask its respondents whether they would consider voting for Navalny personally, but that 9.7% who would vote for his party is almost the exact share of the Moscow electorate that Navalny collected when he ran for Mayor.  It appears there is a glass ceiling over Navalny’s head around ten percent.

Navalny faces a whole new round of prosecutions by the Kremlin, and Putin has just upped the ante by actually seizing Navalny’s financial assets, the same thing that happened to Mikhail Khodorkovsky. This move will make it that much more difficult for Navalny to pay his lawyers and defend himself, and makes it clear that the Kremlin has Navalny firmly in its cross hairs.  It’s equally clear that Navalny does not have the kind of political support in the population that might serve to protect him from the Kremlin’s attacks.

Yevtushenko Speaks

"Professor" Yevgeny Yevtushenko

“Professor” Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Not only does the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko not have a PhD in English, he doesn’t have an earned degree of any kind from any institution of higher learning in any English-speaking country.  In fact, he doesn’t have an earned degree of any kind from any country whatsoever.

In the 1950s, Yevtushenko studied at the Gorky Institute of Literature in Moscow, but he dropped out. That was it for his formal learning.  They speak Russian in Moscow, you may have heard.  And in fact, Yevtushenko isn’t taken that seriously in academic circles even in Russia.  The poet Tomas Venclova wrote in a 1991 essay for the New Republic that few in the Russian literary community “consider his work worthy of serious study.”

Despite this total lack of qualifications to be an English professor, Yevtushenko has been hired as a “Distinguished Professor of English” at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma. Note that he’s not just a professor of a language he’s never studied, but a distinguished professor.   He teaches Americans about their own language even though he himself has has no degree in it.  Under “Education and Degrees Earned” on his bio page at U.Tulsa, there is no reference to the Gorky Institute and only honorary degrees are listed.  His students at Tulsa say that he teaches gut courses where the only thing you need to get an “A” is a pulse. Yevtushenko hands out a copy of his biography to his students on the first day of class, so they will know who he is.

But as Oleg Kashin reports, the Russian Kremlin is still interested in Yevtushenko.  It recently permitted state-owned TV to air an interview with the doddering poet, albeit in a late-night time slot where few might see it. Nonetheless, according to Kashin, the ratings for the program were very high.

Yevtushenko was invited on Kremlin TV to dish about his feud with fellow Russian poet Joseph Brodsky.  Kashin writes:

The two poets famously crossed paths before Brodsky’s exile, when Yevtushenko offered to speak with some of his acquaintances in the KGB on Brodsky’s behalf. Brodsky took the offer as proof that Yevtushenko was working for the security services — a belief that later moved him to write a letter warning Queens College not to hire Yevtushenko, who was being considered for a job at the time.

The Russian blogosphere exploded after the interview. Kashin explains:

The reaction demonstrates a big unresolved issue: Russians have yet to figure out what the allowable limits of the relationship between artists and authority should be. Yevtushenko and Brodsky represent two very different models. Brodsky recognized no authority other than poetry. Yevtushenko, by contrast, has played every possible game with the Kremlin — an approach illustrated by his ability to land a three-part interview on state television. Present-day celebrities, such as the conductor Valery Gergiev, go even further in their entanglements with the ruling regime.

The conflicting attitudes toward the two poets also reflect a deep split in Russian society. Brodsky was never as widely read as Yevtushenko, but for the Moscow intelligentsia who comprise a large part of the anti-Putin opposition he is the most important and well-loved. As such, he has become a symbol of the antipathy between the groups that present the greatest threats to Putin: the “creative class” and nationalist-leaning regular folk. The nationalists generally haven’t read Brodsky, and they’re fully aware that the intelligentsia regards them with disdain.

This opposition within the opposition guarantees the resilience of Putin’s regime far better than any political technology could. Until Russians start reading the same books, Putin has nothing to fear.

So in other words, welcome back to the USSR!