Well, these days the demonization of Vladimir Putin. Letterman turns to cheap name-calling. Ferguson uses his cred as a well-traveled and obviously bright foreigner. Stewart and Colbert interview book authors and Council on Foreign Relations experts. They use their reputations to turn someone into a villain worth destroying. Putin is a homophobe. Putin is an intolerant tyrant who jails successful businessmen and playful performance artists. He's a closet queen with exhibitionist tendencies. He's a KGB thug. He's corruption on steroids. ETC! It could be that Putin-bashing in the ranks of the comics is worrying about nothing. But here's the deal. If this sort of crude character assassination is going on in one of the more enlightened corners of the culture, one can only imagine the pure BS going out over the airways at NBC or CBS or Fox.
Of course, SOME of the criticism of Putin IS based in reality. Attitudes towards gays in Russia is still primitive. The legislation banning "homosexual propaganda" passed the Duma by a vote of 436-0. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the oligarch Putin put in jail for fraud really WAS guilty but was certainly no worse than the rest of the thieves who looted and destroyed the Russian economy during the Yeltsin years. And then there is the case of Pussy Riot, the "performance artists" who decided to take their act to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. This is the gem of high Orthodox culture where the 1882 world premiere of the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky was held. It is the symbol of Christianity destroyed by Stalin in 1931 but rebuilt in the 1990s at a cost of an estimated 1 Billion Euros. One did not have to Orthodox or Christian to think that Pussy Riot screeching about Holy Shit in such a place was offensive—sending them to jail for a couple of years was probably overdoing it. (Well maybe—an 84-year-old nun was recently sentenced to three years in jail right here in USA for desecrating something even more sacred than an expensive church—a nuclear installation.) And yes, Putin has released too many pictures of himself with his shirt off.
Compared to Putin's remarkable accomplishments, these are trivialities—NOT dealbreakers. He might be the most successful politician on earth—even after 14 years in the public spotlight, his approval ratings still hover near 70%. (Compare that to Obama's 41%—and he's only been in office six years.) Even the things our comics mock have probably added to those remarkable approval ratings but at the heart of his popularity is the world-class job he has done managing an economy that was flat on its back when he first took over.
During Putin's first premiership and presidency (1999–2008), real incomes increased by a factor of 2.5, real wages more than tripled; unemployment and poverty more than halved and the Russians' self-assessed life satisfaction rose significantly. Putin's first presidency was marked by high economic growth: the Russian economy grew for eight straight years, seeing GDP increase by 72% in PPP (sixfold in nominal). moreAs should be obvious by now, I have become a Russophile over the years. This has not been always true—I once hated and feared USSR like any good 'Merikun during the Cold War. Then I discovered the wonders of Tarasov hockey during the Summit Series in 1972. Soon after, I discovered the plays of Chekov. Then I stumbled over the story of The Siege of Leningrad when I read Harrison Salisbury's The 900 Days. The biggest eye-opener was reading the official accounting of the Great Patriotic War published by Novisti Press in 1961. Throw into this mix the fact that my sister's genealogical search places a significant minority of my ancestors on the little Baltic island of Gotland. Since the Gotland Vikings spent a lot of time in Russia / Ukraine, there is a very high chance I share some DNA with some of the folks on TV. And so I am almost clinically depressed about the events in Ukraine (when I am not furious.) I THOUGHT the Cold War would end when the Warsaw Pact was dissolved (1991) But Nooooooooo
Since I have been hearing most of these same lies about USSR / Russia my whole life, I should have grown immune to them, but I have not. However, I DO understand that at least 99.9999% of what we are told about Russia has been produced by paid liars in the service of a spy agency or the State Department.
But Hillary Clinton comparing Putin to Hitler was so over the top, I almost threw up (also when Ferguson did it.) Putin grew up in Leningrad / St. Petersburg. He was born in 1952 to a 41-year-old woman who had lost both sons including one to diphtheria during the Siege of Leningrad. She may have survived the Siege herself but she had emerged childless and very damaged. She lived for many years in extreme poverty and reduced rations—every survivor in Leningrad did. She was probably surprised she got her period back and got pregnant. She had been so traumatized by the experience she had turned to the Orthodox church, which had been driven underground by Marxist zealots. Her young son turned to a fantasy world where USSR secret services were better than Bond. When he found out he could be a secret agent if only he studied hard enough, he became a diligent and highly accomplished student.
By contrast, Hillary grew up in a prosperous Chicago suburb—the spoiled child of rich Republicans. She was a Goldwater girl who went to a real "finishing" school—Wellesley. She wanders the world in a fog of ignorance so profound, she is admired by the same sort of people who love Sarah Palin.
But I could be wrong. Maybe she actually does know more about being a victim of Fascism than Putin. So prove me wrong Hillary—explain everything you know about the Siege of Leningrad. Go ahead, I have 30 seconds to spare. And if on the off chance you have actually heard of the Siege, tell us everything about who actually defeated the Germans in WW II. Start us off with your understanding of the Battle of Kursk. Then explain who liberated Auschwitz. Tell us ONE thing that isn't laughably crazy.
What follows is two essays. The first is by Andre Vltchek—anther Leningrader who is offended by the mindless Russky-bashing these days, followed by a Paul Craig Roberts piece which reminds us just how good a leader Putin has actually been over the years. Vltchek's piece has been radically shortened—I encourage everyone to read the whole piece.
The Indoctrinated Westby ANDRE VLTCHEK MARCH 9, 2014
Is it really possible that the European public has no clue what was done to Ukraine? Are the men and women of the continent that lives in hallucination, that it is well educated and well informed, really unaware how its own governments have created and supported that ‘opposition movement’ in Kiev; a movement full of fascists and bigots?
Unfortunately, it is possible, and it is to be expected!
After working in some one hundred and fifty countries, in all the continents, I have finally come to the absolutely clear conclusion: there is no part of the world as brainwashed, so programmed, so indoctrinated, as are both Europe and North America.
There are no people so out of sync with the global reality; people so naively and willing to follow the religious doctrine of market fundamentalism and the self-righteous belief that they, and only they, are the sole guardians of democracy, freedom and virtue, on this planet.
The world is once again in flames, and both Europe and North America (let us please not pretend for one second longer, that the Empire is actually somehow divided between that bad United States and that ‘moderate’ Europe) are bulldozing, demolishing, moving out of their way everything that is still standing straight and proud; everything that is defending those who used to be defenseless, everything and everyone who is dreaming about, and actually building egalitarian and decent societies.
And the great majority of Europeans are clapping. They read their propaganda sheets and they are clapping. And they are engaged in pathetic pseudo-intellectual discussions, (while sipping, Oh! – In such a sophisticated manner, their refined wine and beer), while millions are being murdered by implementing their bigoted ‘interests’.
Entire nations are, again, bleeding, in order to make sure that millions of French or Italian farmers can drive their luxury BMW’s (oh, sorry, in Europe they are not marketed as luxury, but as ‘reliable cars’), consuming enormous subsidies, for producing and often for not producing anything at all.
The subsidies are paid with the blood of African and Asian people.
How many people in poor countries have to die, so some grandma in Germany or the Czech Republic can go to a doctor, for free, again and again, simply because she is lonely or bored staying at home?
Should there be free medical treatment for all? Yes! Yes. It should be free, and for all. But not just for Europeans, while the rest of the world has to pay the going rate!
How many countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America have to be destabilized, so that the Empire can enjoy its privileges? So that the rich there can be even more obnoxiously rich, and even the poorest citizens can afford to live way above those who belong to the middle classes in the countries that are still being plundered by the West?
Now, please, I am not trying to be funny and I am not trying to play with words: I am honestly wondering… I am humbly asking: “Are people in the West, particularly in Europe… are they pretending that they don’t know what is happening in Syria, Venezuela, Thailand and now, particularly, in Ukraine? Or have they simply turned into a cynical assembly of brainwashed degenerates?
Where is that fabled diversity? Where is intellectual courage?
Where are huge demonstrations shaking Paris, Rome, Berlin; demonstrations trying to bring down governments that have been destabilizing a huge European nation – Ukraine, while provoking Russia, the nation that saved the world from Nazism and later helped to liberate many African and Asian nations from the claws of colonialism?
Where are those loud voices protesting against the antagonizing Russia? Don’t Europeans know their own history? Russia is not an aggressor; it has been a victim, for at least a hundred years. Russia was attacked by Europe, again and again, and in just one century, tens of millions of Russian people were slaughtered by European fascists, imperialists and ‘democrats’.
Russia was attacked at the onset of the WWI, then again, after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, by a joint invasion of US and UK troops. Russia was also attacked by Czech legions, fighting their way to the front, against the Austro-Hungarian Empire (and getting there by circling the globe). Czech legions occupied almost the entire area surrounding the Trans-Siberian railroad, raping, looting, and murdering indiscriminately as they progressed.
Then WWII came, before which, both France and the UK sacrificed just about everything that stood in the way of the Nazis towards the Soviet Union. And yes, then the war itself took at least twenty million lives. Soviet people vanished in an enormous struggle against Nazism.
Half of my family, of my ancestors, vanished there too, during the siege of Leningrad.
The Cold War was next, and finally that most cynical and Machiavellian act by the West: dragging the USSR into Afghanistan, and destroying it, using jihadi cadres from the Middle East, from South and Southeast Asia.
Finally, the Western puppet – ‘opposition democrat’, Boris Yeltsin – an alcoholic with a clearly decomposing brain, was helped by Western powers, to grab power. And when the Parliament and the Russian people rebelled, Yeltsin sent the tanks in against both Members of Russian Parliament, and the people on the streets. The Western lackey mass media cheered: “Democracy! Victory!”
Thousands of unarmed people died. The 5th Column smashed the Soviet Union to pieces, using lies, using vicious propaganda that came from Washington, London and elsewhere.
And then the West stood suddenly unopposed. It appeared that there was nothing blocking its way, towards absolute control of the world, anymore.
Colonialist nightmares from the past returned. The world became mono-polar. With only one dogma, one ideology, and only one Empire.
And in just a few years after the Soviet Union ‘collapsed’, it became total… Total shit!
Is Europe so indoctrinated, is it propagandized to the point that it is really not actually able to recognize, anymore, what their regime has been doing, all over the world?
For years, the West in general, and the European Union in particular, have been destabilizing Ukraine, paying for its ‘opposition’… Wait; damn… what are we talking about? Everybody knows it, right? No? Really? Not everyone?
It is not about ‘proof’ or ‘the avalanche of information’. For years, for decades I have been amassing proof and arguments about the horrendous and unthinkable crimes that the West had been committing on all the continents of the world. I have been painstakingly researching what was going on, sometimes risking my life or ruining my health, sometimes doing it without being supported by anything or anyone… actually, that was the scenario, most of the time.
I was doing it because I believed; I believed like an idiot, I believed day and night, that my findings would shock the world, particularly the West… That it will shame the European and North American dictators… That what I show will enrage the public… That the horrors that I had witnessed all over the world, will finally end… you know: That bloody idiotic fairytale world of mine: “People will see the truth and force the monsters who are ruling them, to stop killing human beings everywhere on this beautiful planet.”
Today, I have to declare, publicly: I was a fool!
I failed to move people, of course! I tried. I even dropped the journalistic style in my writing, and I began writing as a poet, as the novelist that I am.
I did it because I realized that nobody cares only about facts! There are facts everywhere. Everything is documented. Coups all over the world, financed and planned by the US – it is all available, easily accessible. Yet nobody bothers to read about it!
I tried other tactics – novels, films, journalism mixed with poetry. Nothing! Nothing pushed Westerners to the barricades.
Yes, people like me, we are failing to move, to touch, those who are committing crimes against humanity… and also those who are benefiting from enormous global plunder.
Those, mostly well-fed masses, don’t give a shit: in Europe, or in the United States. Their governments and companies rule the world, and at least most of the citizens of those countries – Those that get some crumbs. Their level of understanding, their political awareness is way below those in Africa, Latin America and Asia, those very people who are being constantly robbed and sacrificed.
To know and to understand… that would make many Europeans and North Americans uncomfortable… That would mean having to take responsibility; to be co-responsible for the crimes committed by Western governments and multi-nationals. It would mean, god forbid, to take action. more
A Calm and Rational Approach
Putin Speaksby PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS MARCH 11, 2014
You can read an English translation of Vladimir Putin’s March 4 press conference here.
Americans have not experienced political leadership or an independent media for such a long time that they will be amazed at the straightforward answers from the Russian President and by media asking real questions, some of which show the influence of Washington’s propaganda.
Americans will also be struck by how greatly the facts of the Ukraine situation diverge from the constant stream of lies that flow from Washington, its European puppets, and presstitute media.
Putin’s calm leadership, the absence of provocative statements and threats, and his insistence on legality and will of the people stand in stark contrast to the West’s threats and support for violent overthrow of a democratically elected government. It is astonishing that the only leadership the world has comes from Russia, China, and three or four countries in South America. The Western world no longer has diplomatic capability. Instead, the Western world relies on propaganda, threats, force, and schemes to overthrow governments that it first demonizes.
Notice that Putin repeatedly asks why the West created the crisis in Ukraine. He makes the important point that in post-Soviet countries, legality and democracy are fragile. Democracy and legality are not furthered by overthrowing democracy before it has taken roots and placing in office an unelected government by force and illegality. It is impossible to argue with this point. Why, indeed, did the West murder democracy and constitutional order in Ukraine?
The fact that Putin asks the question does not mean he does not know the answer. He does not give the answer, because he is a diplomat and still has some hope for common sense and good will to prevail. He knows that the West supported the overthrow of the Ukrainian government as part of its strategic thrust against the sovereignty and independence of Russia. Aligning Ukraine with NATO means US missile bases in Ukraine. Remember how terrified Americans were of Soviet missile bases in Cuba.
Putin knows that Washington in pursuit of world hegemony is driving the world to a dangerous war in which neither side can accept defeat. Thus, nuclear weapons would be unleashed. Putin knows that the reason Washington withdrew from the anti-ballistic missile treaty and installed anti-ballistic missiles in Poland is to degrade Russia’s nuclear deterrent. Putin knows that the reason Washington changed its war doctrine to permit preemptive nuclear attack is to carry out a first strike against Russia.
Putin also knows that only Europe can prevent this final devastation. Therefore, Putin does not make provocative statements or take strong actions. He hopes that Europe will notice his reasonable behavior in contrast with the reckless behavior of Washington and realize that Europe and NATO must cease enabling Washington’s pursuit of hegemony, a pursuit that is driving the world to its destruction. Putin hopes that Europeans’ sense of self-preservation will prevail over their lust for Washington’s money and invitations to dinner at the White House.
By taking this humane and rational approach, Putin has established himself as the true leader of the world. Washington counters Putin’s leadership with demonization. Putin’s leadership frustrates Washington and makes Putin a candidate for assassination. more