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Monday, August 11, 2008




Do not punch a bear on the nose unless . . .

Last updated: September 18, 2008

August 11, 2008


Do not punch a bear on the nose unless it is tied down

This BBC article makes a very good summary of the latest war in Georgia: Early lessons from S Ossetia conflict


September 4, 2008

Putin and a Tiger (Как царь-батюшка холопов от тигра спасал)


The personality cult surrounding the former Russian president and currently the de facto czar of Russia, Validimir Putin, has been steadily growing over the last years, taking a form very familiar to people who grew up under the old Soviet regime. News programs on Russian TV can hardly start without a report about Vladimir Putin visiting a factory, or a local municipality, or just having gone fishing to relax.


By now many Russians have relearned to respond to this information by filling themselves with a feeling of deep internal satisfaction (the old Soviet news programs slang). Vladimir Putin, of course, usually knows better than anybody else and his adventures, whether in the Russian countryside or Russia's highest academic and political institutions, mostly take the form of uninterrupted monologues while he lectures nuclear scientists about how to do science, Olympic swimmers on how to swim and farmers about how to grow crops. It's wonderful to see a good old tradition coming back and blooming with a renewed force, as fully grown and often highly educated adults regress in a wink of an eye to the state of helpless and embarrassed infantility of their childhood when confronted by their omnipresent and omniscient leader.

However, recently the personality cult has started taking such a grotesque form that even people, who used to think that they've seen it all, have found themselves surprised. The latest masterpiece produced by the Russian media claims that Vladimir Putin has no more and no less but saved a whole TV crew and an unspecified number of other individuals from the claws of a vicious Siberian tiger. (The Amur tiger, the world's biggest wild cat, can weigh up to 450 kg and measure around ten feet from nose to the tip of the tail.)


MOSCOW (Reuters) – Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was feted by Russian media on Sunday for saving a television crew from an attack by a Siberian tiger in the wilds of the Far East.

Putin, taking a break from lambasting the West over Georgia, apparently saved the crew while on a trip to a national park to see how researchers monitor the tigers in the wild.

Just as Putin was arriving with a group of wildlife specialists to see a trapped Amur tiger, it escaped and ran towards a nearby camera crew, the country's main television station said. Putin quickly shot the beast and sedated it with a tranquilizer gun.



"Vladimir Putin not only managed to see the giant predator up close but also saved our television crew too," a presenter on Rossiya television said at the start of the main evening news.

. . .

. . .

Source: Reuters

While some people found the story fascinating, hardcore skeptics refused to surrender. As to me, I think the story is probably a fiction. In particular, sedating the beast with a tranquilizer gun looks such a waste of time and resources, when Vladimir Putin could have easily knocked the predator unconscious by just letting it look into his eyes.



PS

Eliе Birger has generously contributed a Russian title to this section of the post.



September 8, 2008

Putin the Traitor

In the midst of the hysteria in the West and elsewhere created by Russian actions in Georgia, Russian PM, Vladimir Putin, came up with a calming and reassuring message. Russia recognizes the Crimean peninsula as part of Ukraine, said Putin to put an end to persistent speculations that Ukraine is next on the menu. In fact, despite a tsunami of scare mongering that hit Europe and Russia's peripheral states, Russia may indeed have a very limited agenda that mostly concentrates on what Russia perceives as the legitimate sphere of its influence and interests, mainly what used to be the former Soviet Union with a possible exception of the Baltic states, and not necessarily in the sense of invading and annexing all of it.

What was truly surprising though are the reactions that came from Ukraine and in particular from Crimea. A few Russian nationalist leaders in Ukraine were mumbling about being betrayed, but some went as far as to call Putin traitor himself. The enormous respect, frequently ushering in a sheer admiration, Putin commands in Russia, makes such attacks on him among the extremist fringe of Russian nationalists in Ukraine surprising to say the least. Let alone that Putin has just accomplished what many Russians consider giving back to Russia its pride and its respectful place in the international community (being feared is pretty much what many Russians have in mind when they think about pride and respect).

But the outspokenness of some Russian nationalists in Ukraine may also signal troubles for the game of controlled tensions that Russia plays into vs the West. While Putin himself may not be necessarily thinking about taking things as far as to undermine the territorial integrity of Ukraine and Baltic states (as long as the West avoids putting its missiles there or generously issuing invitations to local leaders to join NATO), nobody can say this for sure about Russian minorities around Russia and their leaders. Emboldened by what they see as Putin's impressive response to Western provocations in Georgia, the local leaders may now want to put to test the promises now regularly issued by Russia's number two, president Medvedev, to protect Russian citizens wherever they are. Many Russians in the Baltic region and Ukraine are not Russian citizens, yet unlike Ossetians and Abkhazians they are real Russians, which in the view of many counts more than citizenship.

With all its best intentions at moderation and restraint, Russian leadership may find it extremely difficult to play the role of a passive bystander, if Russian minorities start a mess in Ukraine or Latvia and in particular if such a mess gets bloody. And yet it's a safe bet that this is a scenario some extremists are pondering right now. If this happens, then Russia may find that the tensions can be no longer controlled and the game is quickly getting out of hand.



September 9, 2008

The Truth About Russia in Georgia

One of the worst pieaces of journalism I've seen in months: The Truth About Russia in Georgia. The man declared that virtually everyone thinks that Georgia recklessly provoked Russians by sending its forces to storm Tskhinvali, and virtually everyone is wrong. How does he know? He went to Georgia and the Georgians told him so.

:D : D


September 18, 2008

Putin and another Tiger

Vladimir Putin, who has made bullying tigers his hobby and favorite pastime, was recently messing with another tiger, not so long before his famous encounter with the Amur sub-species of the beast in the deep forests of Russia's Far East.

"I think Igor Vladimirovich should get better as quick as possible, otherwise we'll have to send him a doctor", said Putin referring to the owner and director of Mechel, the leading Russia metals and mining company (who at that very moment was in a hospital "recovering" from Putin's previous accusations of the company in price gouging). Over the next few days 40% of the company share value was wiped out on the New York Stock Exchange. This came in the wake of the destruction of Yukos, that used to be one of Russia's leading oil companies, a bizarre scandal in a Russian joint venture with BP in which its American chief executive was simply expelled from Russia, and a string of other cases.

Putin and a tiger helicopter


The experienced tamer of wild tigers that Putin is, he knows that some tigers can be handled with bare hands. And he was proved right. This tiger has indeed chosen to flee instead of facing Russia's PM and stock exchanges stumbled across Russia while capital flight from the country started proceeding at an accelerating speed. However, this was before Russia's campaign in Georgia. After the invasion of Georgia the decline of Russia's financial markets started looking increasingly as something more serious than a seasonal phenomena as foreign investors rushed to pull their capital out.

But the situation has totally unraveled when the mess in the US and international financial system has reached Russia. Russian stocks seem to have been just waiting for this final kiss of death. The stocks went into collapse and on such a massive scale that the government was forced to order Russia's main stock exchanges closed for a few days running. (They should reopen tomorrow after the government pumped close to 50 billion dollars into the country's financial system).

The moral of the story is that tigers are animals of a complex behavior. And while some would be charging on you against all odds, bullets and tranquilizer guns, many are more like shy and timid creatures. Once you've chased one of these to under your bed, you will have a hard time trying to lure it out.

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Thursday, August 7, 2008




Dead or Red ?

Last updated: August 07, 2008

March 22, 2007


The Economist has its doubts about how much red is better than dead. In its 'Better red than dead' the 'Economist' struggles to find anything sensible about the latest costly Shimon Peres' project of saving the Dead Sea. The sea, losing about one meter of its level each year, is expected to stabilize only at the levels that spell disaster for the environment and for the tourism and spa industry flourishing around the sea.

The mega-projects, envisioned by the last Peres 'make peace, save the Dead Sea' initiative, include a plan to build a 200km-long conduit to bring water from the Red Sea to stabilize the water level of the Dead one. The costs of just the conduit itself may go as high as $5 billion. According to The Economist:

Environmentalists, though, are sceptical. Research by the Geological Survey of Israel suggests that sea brine added to the hyper-salty, denser Dead Sea will float on the surface, mixing in only over years or decades. If so, what draws the tourists in will be lost, and algal blooms could turn the water from blue to reddish-brown.

The economics are also dubious. Red Sea water would have to climb 125m before running downhill to the Dead Sea. Once desalinated, it would have to climb again by up to 1.4km to reach Jordanian, Israeli and Palestinian cities. The cost of all this pumping, according to one American study, might outweigh the energy gains from the downhill run.

The Economist is waiting for a study of the feasibility of the project due to be started this year by the World Bank. But The Economist is already at loss to explain a mysterious economic quantity called the “peace dividend”, not a typical variable for the World Bank. Calculating peace dividends is never easy. In particular in a region that resembles a super active volcano constantly erupting with bloody civil wars and viciously violent insurgencies. Given Shimon Peres' record as a peace maker and the fact that the Red Sea connects to the Persian Gulf and through it to the global oceanic system, it should come as no surprise if the latest Peres' peace project ends starting a global World War III. All this greatly complicates calculating this elusive peace dividend.

Finally it appears that despite the fact that apparently Shimon Peres managed to convince World Bank officials to use some very dubious variables in their study, he does not see himself in any way obliged to comply with its conclusions.

And in any case, says an adviser to Mr Peres, the plan's progress is “not dependent” on the World Bank study. So what exactly is the study for?

Source

The Economist should have better asked - what exactly is the whole project for?

The chief architect of the failed Oslo process is obviously still living in his socialist past of a few decades ago and retained much of his enthusiasm for huge Soviet style mega-projects that never fail to astonish one by their magnitude and almost as much by their impracticality. Among other projects, Peres' visions include creating a huge pan Arab - Israeli economic common market spanning continents, establishing silicon valleys and biotechnology steppes at the border between Israel and Jordan and planting every inch of the Negev desert with flowers.

The most ambitious of all Peres' visions was of course the Oslo process, which he envisioned as the first step towards creating a new Middle East. The new Middle East of Shimon Peres was Middle East in name only, while in substance it was supposed to be a replica of the European Union in which Peres planned to unite the Israeli democracy with the Arab dictatorships and Sharia states. The Oslo process happened to be a mistake of colossal proportions and Shimon Peres as a chief architect of the whole thing bears much of the responsibility for its unhappy end, which he never really admitted.

Shimon Peres, the King of Peace Making


While it's unreasonable to blame Peres for the delusions at the time shared by too many people, it would be fair and of a good taste, if Shimon Peres would have just quietly left the scene, his reputation as an architect of huge historic mega-projects having been so thoroughly compromised by the Oslo. For many his lingering and his insistence on getting a second chance have finally become too irritating. Israeli political culture does not worship the concept of personal responsibility. Otherwise with a Taliban state across the border in Gaza and with another one having just lobbed 4,000 Katyushas into Israel in the North, neither Peres nor Ehud Barak would have ever dared to show their faces in public.

Lion, the King of Nature

About 10 years ago Shimon Peres took to regularly amusing Israelis by joking that when the time comes he won't forget to die. This indeed inspired some people to believe that one day they may finally see the end of the guy and his grand visions. A few days ago 83 year old Peres reiterated his old promise, but this time the audience failed to get amused, as by now the overwhelming majority of Israelis have plainly lost all hope to ever see any progress on this issue in their lifetime. Facing the tough choice of whether to risk Shimon Peres coming up with another peace initiative or to sacrifice the two seas for the sake of keeping the old man busy, many Israelis clearly prefer the last one.


September 18, 2007

Peres says sun is more democratic than Saudis

Tue Sep 18

JERUSALEM (AFP) - President Shimon Peres touted Israel as a future think thank for solutions to global warming, quipping that the sun was a more reliable resource than oil from Saudi Arabia.

"Israel in my judgment can and should become a laboratory, or a pilot plant, for most of the solutions which are necessary in our time," he told a news conference with foreign journalists.

"More than a think tank, a pilot plant in Israel," Peres said, adding that his country was seeking to produce environmentally sound cars in cooperation with foreign countries and to develop solar power.

"We have decided that we should try to be the first country to use cars based on batteries totally. We can do it because from a transportation point of view, our smallness is on our side.

"We are very close to concluding an agreement to build battery cars here. It will be done with a French company, an American company. We will do it together with the Jordanians. It will provide 50,000 jobs," Peres said.

Government officials in Amman told AFP they had no information about the planned project. (!!! ? מה יהיה אתך,פרס)

. . .

"We want to go from oil energy to solar energy. We feel that the sun is more reliable than the Saudis. The sun is more permanent, more democratic and... more objective (!!! NB)," he said.

Source


September 20, 2007

Peres brings democracy to Saudi Arabia

RIYADH - Following the surprising announcement by president of Israel Shimon Peres that the sun is more democratic than the Saudis, the Saudi king has convened an urgent meeting of the Ulema (the supreme counsel of Islamic scholars) to discuss possible ways of abolishing Sharia courts and establishing a true multi-party parliamentarian democracy in Saudi Arabia.

Source: The Happy Arab News Service



August 07, 2008

Saudi Hawks vs Electric Cars

Half way through 2008, Shimon Peres seems to be still struggling to find understanding with the Saudis. An Israeli commercial promoting use of electric cars caused outrage in the Gulf. Presumably the ad hinted at Saudi displeasure with the latest advancements in electric cars technology.

The Saudis are shown leaving a hotel and encountering the new, fuel-efficient vehicle. One man pounds his fists on the car and is then held back by his companions as he shouts at it, "Hawks should peck at you day and night."

At the end of the commercial, the voice-over says, "It's clear the oil companies won't like you."

"It's my opinion that Nissan made a huge error by igniting these [racist] instincts," official Hani al-Wafa told MBC TV, a Saudi-run station headquartered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. "We need to apply punishments... against these things. In order for Nissan to keep its interests in the region, it must apologize."

Source: Jerusalem Post

Other Saudi officials have also expressed their indignation, wondering how on earth these doomed to perdition but otherwise harmless polytheists from the Far East could fell so low as to be cooperating with these sons of apes and pigs in running such a racist advertising campaign. The latest scandal is only aggravated by the fact, that, despite Saudi claims to the opposite, some people keep insisting that the Saudis don't like electric cars.

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