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.

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.

Moscow in Financial Free Fall Under Putin

“Moscow was never going to be an international financial center.  That was a joke.”

— A Western banker working in Moscow, to the New York Times.

Twice a year, the financial consulting firm Z/Yen prepares a ranking of about 75 world cities assaying the potency of each as a international financial center.

In September 2011 Moscow ranked #61.

One year later, it dropped to #64.

In March 2013, Moscow fell further to #65.

And in the most recent survey, September 2013, Moscow dropped again, falling to #69.

Despite repeatedly promising to transform Moscow into a leading global financial center, what Vladimir Putin is actually doing is pushing Russia backwards.  In the past two years, Moscow has shed nearly 15% of its standing as a world financial center, so that now only a handful of cities are less significant

At present there’s hardly any difference between Moscow’s ranking and that of St. Petersburg, a total international backwater, at #76.  Manila, Jakarta and Panama City are all more potent financial centers than Putin’s Moscow.

In fact, St. Petersburg isn’t the only Russian city that’s putting Moscow to shame.  The New York Times reports: “A survey by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation even ranked Moscow No. 30 out of 30 Russian cities for ease of doing business.”


More Absurd Propagandistic Lies from Russia Beyond the Headlines

In typically dishonest and deeply misleading fashion, the Kremlin’s propaganda mouthpiece Russia Beyond the Headlines recently touted Russia as being ranked by the UN as a  top-ten tourism destination.   As usual, if you look critically at the actual facts, something RBTH almost never does, you find  quite a different story than the one RBTH is telling.

RBTH  quotes Taleb Rifai, the Secretary-General of the World Tourist Organisation (UNWTO), as follows: “Last year 26 million foreign tourists visited Russia. It is now the world’s number 9 most popular tourist destination. It is a result of hard work, including work on a political level.”

This uncritical, breathless quotation is wildly, hysterically, recklessly misleading.

It’s true that Russia ranks #9 in tourist arrivals for 2012 as measured by UNWTO.  But Russia doesn’t rank in the top ten in the criteria that actually matters, receipts from tourists.  Not even close.  In 2012, Russia netted less than $12 billion from incoming tourists, while Australia, which ranks #10 on the receipts list, netted $30 billion, three times more than Russia.   The USA, which leads all countries in tourism receipts, netted over $125 billion from tourism, ten times more than Russia, although it has only three times more arrivals. (The revenues generated by the USA from tourism alone are slightly more than Vietnam’s entire GDP.)

Russia’s tourism receipts are so puny because Russia does not have true international visitors the way Australia and the USA do.  Instead, the people who enter Russia are mostly the impoverished people of former Soviet space and Africa, people who have very little to spend.  For this reason, when evaluated for tourism competitiveness across the worldwide tourism market by the World Economic Forum, Russia places an appalling #63 out of 140 countries under review.

To ignore these facts precludes RBTH from being taken seriously. But that’s only the start of the problems with RBTH’s propaganda.

Amazingly, RBTH also totally ignores the issue of Russian and racism and homophobia.  Recent footage of Russian skinheads torturing a young black student in the city of Belgorod, including forcing him to kiss a watermelon, gives vivid insight into the way Russians view those who are different from themselves.  How is it possible that RBTH could fail to explore how racism and homophobia impair Russia’s tourism revenues?  In fact, RBTH does not address any of the numerous extremely negative features of life in Russia, from corruption to violence to smoking and drinking to rudeness, which would cause Russia to be very unattractive to people from civilized countries.

RBTH does at least touch superficially upon one hot-button  issue where tourism and Russia is concerned, namely xenophobia. RBTH admits that Russia has erected a horrific web of visa-related hurdles which actively prevent many tourists from even considering a trip to Russia, hurdles which are holdovers from the old Soviet era when xenophobia was official state policy and every foreign guest was considered a dangerous spy.  It’s hardly a surprise, however, that RBTH doesn’t pause even for a second to ask whether having a proud KGB spy as president might be playing a negative role in promotion of tourism, much less to ask whether that spy, Vladimir Putin, even wants foreigners present in Russia.  The recent announcement that Russia would ban the use of cell phone video and photography and would only permit recording by licensed journalists using professional equipment is a clear indication that Putin is a big part of the problem. To publish an article that doesn’t even try to explore this topic moves RBTH from the arena of journalism to the pit of state-sponsored propaganda.

The simple truth is this: RBTH knows it can’t report facts where Russia is concerned, because facts make Russia look horrible. It can only spin, distort, lie and mislead, because that’s the only hope Russia has.


Russia’s Expat Experience

HSBC has published the interesting results of its “Expat Explorer” survey, which purports to review 37 countries for how they treat their expatriate guests.

The survey focuses on three criteria: (1) raising children; (2) making money and (3) life experience.  Only 24 countries had a full set of data for all three criteria, and among those 24 Russia’s total score was surprisingly high, placing it in the top third of the group and coming it at #7. One glaring hole in HSBC’s data is that they don’t even try to compare each country for the number of expats who have chosen it beyond the baseline needed for a statistically significant comparison. Another is that HSBC has an axe to grind, it is in the business of providing international bank accounts to expatriates and therefore wants to encourage them to relocate, not discourage them.  With its large population and geography, Russia is a potentially huge market for HSBC that it might not want to offend too badly.

Beyond those two issues,  which call the whole survey into question, If you look at the details of the data the picture is not nearly so rosy for the land of Putin.

The survey’s web page is nicely interactive. It gives you the opportunity to focus on your own set of criteria by eliminating one or two of the three general criteria and also filtering each of the numerous subcategories within each criteria. When you begin to play with this feature, Russia’s result changes dramatically.

If for example you eliminate the raising children and life experience criteria and focus only on the making money subcategory of  economic satisfaction, Russia plummets to a shocking #33 on the list of 37 countries, nearly the very worst in the group.  This result is hardly surprising when you remember that Russia is one of the very most corrupt countries on the planet and that Moscow is one of the world’s most expensive cities.  So it’s to be expected that expats will feel very much cheated financially from their time in Russia.

What expats like about Russia from a financial perspective is that they are paid on a foreign wage scale while most people around them are paid on a Russian scale. This means that living in Russia is almost like living in a country where you can own slaves.  With an average wage of $3-4 per hour, it’s possible to hire lackeys like babysitters and housemaids at an amazingly cheap rate compared to back home, and therefore to have more money available for yourself.  Is this really something for Russia to take pride in? It’s what explains, after all, the fact that Russia ranks in the top 50 worst offenders in the world for human trafficking and slavery.

Isolate quality of accommodation in the life experience category and Russia is #19 out of 37. Isolate enjoying sports or shopping , and Russia is #24 of 37. Isolate enjoying the local cuisine and Russia is #29 out of 37. Isolate availability of a healthy diet and Russia is #36 out of 37, nearly the worst in the entire group.

What expats like about Russia from a life experience perspective is the work culture, where Russia is #1 in the group. In other words, expats are delighted to find out that Russians don’t work too hard compared to what they knew back home, and take long vacations and holidays every other minute. In Russia, they can slack way off and still appear to working much harder than almost everybody else in the office.  Again, is this really something for Russia to take pride in? It’s what explains, after all, the fact that Russia barely ranks in the top 50 of all world nations for per capita GDP.

Isolate child health in the raising children category, and Russia is #20.  Isolate learning a new language  (Russian) and Russia is #21 out of 24.

What expats like about Russia from a childcare perspective is Russia’s solid system of early education.  While Russia has only one university in the world’s top 400, its basic level of education is relatively good compared to many countries in the world, and it’s cheap because Russian teachers are paid slave wages.

Russia, G-8 Pariah

Kim Zigfeld’s latest article on the American Thinker website showed how Russia fails to measure up to the performance of its G-8 peers when measured on criteria such as slavery and university performance.

How does Russia do economically? The latest World Bank study of “Ease of Doing Business” shows that Russia’s performance is just as wretched. Here are the rankings:

USA #4
UK #10
Canada #19
Germany #21
Japan #27
France #38
Italy #65
Russia #92

Russia is one of only two G-8 nations not in the world’s top 40 for ease of doing business, and is the only G–8 nation not in the top 75 countries on that list.  Just as is the case when compared on slavery or university performance, Italy and Russia are keeping company together at the bottom of the list. No wonder there’s an infamous bromance between Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi!

Boot Russia out of the G-8!

Over on the powerful and influential American Thinker blog, LR publisher and founder Kim Zigfeld reviews Russia’s qualifications for membership in the G-8 and, to say the least, finds them wanting.

Whenever Russia is compared to its fellow G-8 members, it sticks out like a sore thumb. It looks, quite simply, like a barbaric tribe rather than a civilized society. There is no legitimate basis for Russia to be a G-8 member. It should be out.

Meanwhile, over on Pajamas Media, Zigfeld takes the GOP to task for failing to stand up for American civil rights where Russia is concerned.

Republican betrayal of the core values of Ronald Reagan clearly accounts for the party’s dismal recent performance in national elections. If the party doesn’t come to its senses soon, it may find itself on the scrap heap of history along with the USSR.