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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

EDITORIAL: Good Riddance, Mr. Bush

EDITORIAL

Good Riddance, Mr. Bush

Well, George Bush has done it again.

First he looks in Putin's eyes and declares him trustworthy. Then he invites Russia's General Shamanov, an infamous war criminal, over for tea and photo ops at the White House. And now as he leaves office, he's killing the Voice of America Russian broadcast.

Writing in the Moscow Times on June 26th, under the headline "Forget Defeat, Momentum Now with Russia" an abject moron named Mitch Phillips stated: "Spain hammered Russia 4-1 in the group stage of Euro 2008, but it should be a very different game when they meet again in Thursday's semifinal, with Russia transformed by the return of Andrei Arshavin."

It was, indeed, quite different. In the second match, Russia failed to score a single goal, ending the two-match rubber down 7-1.

And that's the Moscow Times talking, relatively speaking a voice of informed illumination compared to the rest of Russia's media establishment, which is owned and operated by the Kremlin. Do you dare to imagine what sort of gibberish might have aired on the RTR television network?

The Voice of America was one of Russia's few possible antidotes to that kind of gibberish -- that is, when it wasn't being feverishly jammed by the Kremlin. With little Internet access* and massive crackdown against bloggers underway, Russians had virtually no sources of real information left about the world, and now George Bush is knifing the VOA baby and leaving Russians utterly in the neo-Soviet darkness. It's pretty ironic that just as the Kremlin is gearing up its Russia Today propaganda network, the United States is choking off the main counterbalancing force at VOA. It's almost, in fact, as if George Bush were a KGB agent working for Vladimir Putin himself.

Mr. Bush has betrayed democracy in just about every way it can possibly be betrayed, and the sooner he is evicted from Washington DC the better. On his watch, Republicans have lost control of Congress and seen the ideals of Ronald Reagan severely undermined; they as much as anyone should be delighted to give Mr. Bush the bum's rush out the door.

One can only hope that America's next president will see the utter insanity of shutting down the VOA's Russia service and will immediately restore it. If Barack Obama were any kind of defender of the liberals value he supposedly stands for, he would already have announced that upon entering the White House his first official act would be to switch the juice back on at VOA Russia, and it's something he should readily find bipartisan support for among the Republicans. Instead, Obama is absolutely silent as to what specific steps he would take to stand up for liberal democracy in Russia, a shameful display from someone who promises "change we can believe in." John McCain is foursquare on record calling for specific moves to stand up to Putin's Russia, but ought to directly address the VOA, a perfect opportunity for him to distance himself from the woeful Bush record on Russia.

*NOTE: In September 2007 the size of Russia's internet audience was just 14 million, less than 10% of the population. That represented a massive increase from the even more puny 12 million a year before. Russia's internet audience is the same size as that of Spain, a country with less than one-third Russia's population. It is rivaled by tiny Netherlands, which is nearly one-tenth the size of Russia. Given the average Russian's wage of $4/hour and the cost of access, which is roughly the same as in Europe, this is hardly surprising. And given the Kremlin's willingness to prosecute a person who wrote a comment on a blog as a criminal (and to shut down website like The eXile entirely), even less so. Easily three-quarters of Russia's population are totally cut off from the world wide web in any practical sense.


10 comments:

Katrin said...

One should not forget that it's not the president of the USA, leading the Russian Federation. As disappointed as I am in the development of the Russian Federation during the last decade, I must say, that calling to "Uncle Sam" doesn't help. USA is presented to us as a watch dog of democracy, who cares...

But the Russian Federation does not consist of Putin and Medvedyev. It consists of citizens, whos responcibility it is to shake the government and demand for democratic rights. Citizens of the Russian Federation are not imbecils or like little children, who should be taught by the government of USA. So you can critizise and express your oppinion, but you shouldn't be preaching us about the superiority of the USA. And it's really silly to compare democracy and freedom of speech to football.

La Russophobe said...

Hi, Katrin.

In the U.S. we have a saying: "If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck and it looks like a duck, it's a duck."

The Russian people may not be children and imbeciles, but that's the way the are acting and that's the way will will treat them until they stop. If you want to be treated with respect, instead of demanding it why don't you simply earn it? The people of Russia have allowed a ridiculous sham "presidential election" to occur and allowed all the opposition parties to be purged from their parliament. Their government is no different than that of Zimbabwe, which they are not protecting in the UN, and deserves no more respect. It will get no more.

You seem to overlook the fact that Russia's government is menacing Western countries including the USA with nuclear bomber overflights, aid to rogue enemy states like Venezuela and Iran, and relentless imperialism directed at places like the Baltics, Ukraine and Georgia. Do you think Russians treat those places with more respect than Russia gets from the USA? If so, you haven't talked to one of their citizens lately.

Please, at least try to be fair. That's the first step in earning respect.

Anonymous said...

The best "defense" that Russia has is a good offense, and these days that means making sure that all the parties have access to fundamentally equal weapons systems--meaning nuclear weapons. It is not acceptable that only the US and its sole mid-east "ally" Israel have access to such weapons, but every nation and party needs equal access to such weapons to insure that the negotiations are fair and equitable. This means Iran (to be sure) but also Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Hezballah and Hamas. The only way to "neutralize" the terrible threat of nuclear weapons is to insure that all the parties have access to the same class of weapons. That goes without saying. Watch and wait, while it unfolds before your very eyes!

George said...

Two points:

The Exile website is not shut down, it is alive and kicking, even if the print rag is not. Maybe there has been a crackdown on prostitution in Moscow, thus hurting it's advertisers?

25% of Russians with access to the Internet is not that bad, by global standards, but of course if you want to compare a country spread over eleven time zones to a tiny European country like the Netherlands, go ahead. If that's the case, then even the U.S. lags woefully behind South Korea in broadband penetration - but hey, America's a lot bigger too.

And those 25% of Russians with Internet access are far more likely to have the time and resources be politically active, no? And now they can also talk back to the New York Times website about how they have no media freedom and are slaves in Putin's gulag.

In short, Russians can now read sites like this one and have a good laugh at some of the crap that is written about their country in the Western media.

Sending 50 year old bombers on long boring patrols across the Arctic is "menacing", and selling some Kalashnikovs to Chavez no doubt constitutes a mortal threat to America and America's allies in South America. Giving Hamas officials a tour of the Kremlin and then a lecture to make peace is "support". Refusing to sell Ukraine gas at a quarter of the price Germans pay is imperialism. Not liking NATO naval bases in the old Russian naval base of Sevastopal or troops in Georgia is imperialism. Protecting Abkhazians that want to upgrade to an average wage of $500 a month versus $200 in the land of the free Georgia is imperialism. How about a Chinese naval base next to Guanatanomo? Or a new Russian ABM radar in Cuba? Or the U.S. getting completely cut out of oil deals in Venezuela by a Russian-Chinese consortium (analagous to what happened in the Nineties with Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan). Kim never puts the shoe on the other foot.

La Russophobe said...

GEORGE:

By your (really, really) weird (demented would probably be a more apt term) "logic" Solzhenitsyn wasn't shut down because he got to write in America.

Please read our post more carefully before you comment. It clearly says TEN PERCENT of Russians have Internet access, not 25%. If you can document 25%, please do so, but rationalizing Russian failure is the worst insult you can give to Russians.

If you choose to believe the Kremlin's propaganda that it is the one being provoked, we pity you. Bu it's simply ludicrous for you to complain about shoes when you don't care to note that AMERICA IS NOT buzzing Russia with "boring" nuclear bomber overflights. Should it do so, if you think Russians would react with a yawn then you are quite simply too stupid to be worth talking to.

stalker said...

@LR,

Measuring Internet penetration is not an exact science. That said, your <10% figure is by far the lowest I've come across.

Internet World stats, the premier resource, gives 19.5% penetration in Russia as of March 2007.

http://www.internetworldstats.com/europa2.htm#ru

eMarketeer gives an estimate of "2007: 35.0 million (24.8% of the population)".

http://www.etcnewmedia.com/review/default.asp?SectionID=11&CountryID=83

So george's figure of 25%, considering its now mid-2008, is quite credible and supports his (excellent) post.

La Russophobe said...

STALKER:

By your own insane gibberish (if measurement isn't exact, then our figure of 10% could well be much too high!), 80.5% of the Russian population has no access whatsoever to the Internet. You seem unable to realize that your statement simply proves our point, namely that the vast majority of Russians are totally cut off from it, and so it can't possibly be a substitute source of information.

What's more, you ignore the fact that the tiny minority who actually can access the Internet can't do so regularly, because of (a) expense and (b) poor quality transmission and (c) Stalinesque terror. In other words, you totally ignore the other main point, which is that regardless of how many Russians have access the Kremlin is actively destroying the content they find when they get there, actually going so far as to arrest those who comment on blogs.

Talk about the lowest we've heard of!

PS: Let's see -- you think George's post is excellent because you agree with it, right?

Gosh you're an amazing dimwit. Does somebody actually pay you to be so? Maybe Nashi for instance? Dude, who do you think you are fooling with this crap you spew?

La Russophobe said...

This "Stalker" guy (how perfectly named, a proud Russian thug) is too, too funny. Just like in the old Soviet days! If you say 76% of the Soviet population is starving and it turns out the figure is "only" 74%, that means everything is just fine in the USSR! Right up until the time it collapses!

Yeesh. What a freak.

stalker said...

@LR,

Not really. Have you heard of such a thing as a "low estimate" and a "high estimate" in statistics? The 10% qualifies as the former.

In fact if we are to examine what Russians say, instead of your own rhetoric, you will find that as of 2007 29% of Russians had access to the Internet (http://www.levada.ru/press/2007120402.html).

Yes, I do indeed think george's post is excellent partly because I agree with it, mostly because it's true for me (and hence the reason I agree with it). You also say that people who you agree with and who are true for you, such as Latynina, Lucas, Kasparov, Aron, etc, are "brilliant and insightful", so I fail to see your point in singling this out.

Whether I am paid by Nashi or not is utterly irrelevant, because it is a) unconfirmable for you and b) appeal to motive is a logical fallacy. Although I would certainly appreciate it if you could drop me a hint where I can collect my salary. :)

Your last post is such a laughable strawman it discredits you better than I ever could. One thing I'd like to add however is that my name is inspired by the name of what IMO is one of the greatest films ever made (NOT "stalker" in the darker meaning of the term in the Anglo-Saxon world). That you wouldn't know about that film is not surprising, demented Russophobes rarely have much interest in culture.

La Russophobe said...

STALKER:

So you're saying you personally get to decide what the low estimate is? How long have you had these insane delusions of grandeur?

Your attempt to rely on unverified data from Russian sources is simply ridiculous, AND AGAIN YOU IGNORE THE FACT THAT YOUR OWN DATA SHOWS THE VAST MAJORITY OF RUSSIANS HAVE NO ACCESS TO THE INTERNET.

Interesting. 70% vote for Putin and 70% have no Internet access by your own admission. No wonder he hates the Internet so much.

You sound exactly like the hysterical Soviet propagandists during the USSR's heyday, blasting out their emperor's-new-clothes nonsense utterly oblivious of the whole world's riotous laughter and the imminent collapse of their whole society.