Pro-Kremlin Disinformation at HuffPo

An extraordinary new low in the annals of online journalism was plumbed by the Huffington Post on 12/27/13.  It wasn’t just the fact that it was a commercial masquerading as an op-ed piece masquerading as a news story that was so shocking, but that the purpose of the commercial was to bilk Americans out of their hard-earned incomes in order to line the pockets of the corrupt, America-hating Russian Kremlin.  Happy New Year’s from HuffPo, Mr. and Mrs. America!

The author of the piece in question was one Shai Baitel, identified on the HuffPo website as an expert on Middle Eastern politics. So, quite predictably, the topic of the article was the Russian economy.

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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.

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!

Latest from Zigfeld

What a month for Vladimir Putin:  First the world learns he has destroyed his marriage, then it finds out he’s a common thief who stole  a diamond ring, and finally his beloved bikers turn out to be rapists.  Over on the massive Pajamas Media mega blog, LR publisher/founder Kim Zigfeld holds forth on the stunning unmasking of a proud KGB spy.

And on the powerful and influential American Thinker blog, Zigfeld rips into a pair turncoat Republican congressmen who have betrayed their party’s basic ideals to cuddle up with Putin even as the rest of the world begins to see him for who he truly is.

New Low for Russia: Vladimir Putin is a Common Thief

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We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again:  Today you may think you’ve seen Russia do something so repugnant and vile that it could not possibly sink any lower. But tomorrow, Russia will do something so much worse that you will not be able to believe you thought Russia was low before.

Robert Kraft, owner of the NFL team the New England Patriots, has just revealed that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin stole his Superbowl ring.

You read that right:  Putin is a common thief.

And why did Putin steal the ring? Because he admired its beauty? No. In Putin’s words, he did it because he could “kill somebody” with it.

Kraft was forced by the Bush administration to say publicly that the ring was a gift in order to avoid a diplomatic incident, but now he is breaking his silence and wants his precious memento returned.

In other news, Putin refused to return precious holy books to their rightful owners.  So it’s multiple counts of theft.

This is a new low in the history of a country that is full of abysmal new lows.  How can Russians look at themselves in the mirror knowing that they are ruled by a man of such wretched character?

UPDATE: Upon learning of Kraft’s complaint, a gentleman would have put the ring on a plane and had it back in the owner’s hands within 24 hours. A true gentlemen would have included a gift and note of apology for any misunderstanding.  What did Putin do? He accused Kraft of being a weirdo welsher and kept his clutches on the ring.  Is it any wonder that with such an example Russia remains the most corrupt major civilization on the planet?

Russian Corruption, in Black and White

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The photo above is one from a stunning series by photographer Misha Friedman titled “Photo51 — Is Corruption in Russia’s DNA?” and touted recently on the “Lens” blog operated by the New York Times. Click the image to see it full size.

In the image, a Russian man beats a woman in broad daylight in the streets of Moscow, as policemen look on with disinterest.  In Russia, one woman is murdered by her spouse every hour on the hour.

An exhibition of Friedman’s work will open on Feb. 15 and be on view through March 2 at 287 Spring in SoHo in New York City.

Putin, Krymsk and the Neo-Stalinist Meat Grinder

You hardly needed to read this report on the horrific flooding in southern Russia which has killed nearly 200:

Officials have acknowledged they were aware of the dangers posed by rising waters, but failed to deliver that information to the residents of Krymsk, the city of 57,000 devastated by the flood.

You already knew it was the case.

It is the same each and every time something like this happens in Russia, just as it was in Soviet times.  The government of Russia, embodied by the Kremlin and its hoard of proud KGB spies, simply does not care about the lives of ordinary Russians.

And it does not care for one simple reason:  Those ordinary Russians don’t demand to be cared about. They turn a blind eye as their government commits all manner of atrocities, from invading Georgia to murdering Anna Politkovskaya.

In fact, at best they turn a blind eye. At worst, they stand and cheer, or turn in their neighbors, actually carrying out such barbaric acts.  And they continue to elect and reelect Putin and his KGB cohort, and continue to allow them to roll the clock back on human rights.

Even as the reports of horror in Krymsk were rolling in, it was also being reported that the Russian Duma was putting the finishing touches on brutal new measures to block foreign human rights support and crush the Internet, the two last remaining vestiges of support for the Russian opposition movement. Also moving in the Duma is a law that would, in effect, make criticizing Putin and his cadre of demons a criminal offense, just as in Soviet times.

When Russians act this way, it’s very hard to feel sorry for them when natural disasters brutalize them.  There was a time when we saw Russians as innocent victims of their government, as oppressed by it as we were. But now, it’s hard not to see them as perpetrators, collaborators, and part of the problem, not the solution.

Clouds of Deepest Black above the Russian Economy

Wow, how did this slip through the “Russia Beyond the Headlines” censors? Felix Goryunov, a Moscow-based economics journalist, viciously condemns the Putin economy and concludes it is unworthy for WTO admission, which will crush it:

Although Russia can now join the World Trade Organization, it should not do so because its economy is inherently weak and uncompetitive.  Russia’s export product base is steadily deteriorating.  After 20 years of talk from the Kremlin about the need to diversify and modernize the economy, Russia’s economy still relies on the extractive industries.  The majority of Russian manufacturing, agricultural and service companies, to say nothing of small businesses, are uncompetitive even in the domestic market. Without strong state support, prohibited by WTO rules, they would lose even after the expiration of the transition period for full accession.

Although corruption has been condemned by the Kremlin as country’s Public Enemy No. 1, there are no visible signs it has decreased.   Many high-quality domestic consumer products can‘t be marketed across the country. Two decades after the start of market reforms, there are only a handful of nationally recognized brand names of products “made in Russia.”

It’s no wonder that the unfriendly business climate causes domestic capital to flee the country. The Central Bank of Russia estimates that this year the capital outflow will reach $70 billion. This would be an addition to the approximately $1 trillion that has left the country since the mid-1990s.

It is hard to find a clearer description of attitude of the Russian political elites towards business than its comparison with the famous wisecrack by U.S. President Calvin Coolidge: “The business of America is business.” If the Kremlin could be honest, its declaration must be: ”The business of Russia is to fleece business.”

Ouch. Speaking of corruption, by the way, Russia is still dead last on the Transparency International bribe-payers index.

Time to Smash Putin in the Face?

“The practitioners of kickbacks and graft should not only get a rap on the knuckles, they should have their faces smashed.”

Those were the words of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin last week, speaking to a group of policemen.

So get this.

Not only is Putin telling policemen to use violence against suspects who have not even yet been convicted of any crime.

Not only is he, seemingly, telling the nation that Russia’s law enforcement mechanisms are totally unable to protect them from corruption, encouraging them to take vigilante steps on their own.

But Putin is forgetting that he himself is a massive bribe taker, from his earliest days in St. Petersburg government. So, by his own words, he himself deserves to have his face smashed!

This is the depth to which Putin has brought his country. And there is more, much more, yet to come.