May 2014

Nigel and the Blaggers

Interesting clip from 2005 in which Nigel Farage seems to be raising valid points and Blair seems to be blagging, trying to score cheap points, rather than addressing those points in a coherent manner. I’m not a fan of Farage … he should not be winning arguments but he does because mainstream politicians like Blair then and Cameron/Clegg/Miliband fight him by blagging rather than reasoning.

A few days ago, before UKIP got most seats in the Euro Parliament election, Farage was interviewed by LBC’s James O’Brien. O’Brien comes across as an unnecessarily aggressive interviewer who is more interested in attacking Farage than in exploring his views.

The Putin System

A very good documentary . Putin’s extraordinary competence is acknowledged as is his ruthlessness. Recently the US has been shown to be an oligarchy controlled state; Putin has created a state controlled oligarchy. I generally admire the rationality of Putin’s rhetoric and interventions but there are moments here where I was disturbed by the brutality of his language and certainly by the brutality of his actions against Chechnya. It is probably fair to say that Putin is more autocrat than democrat, the question is whether he is a necessary autocrat; necessary for Russia and perhaps the world. However we may wish to define Putin politically or judge him morally, it seems clear that his motivation is the aggrandisement of his nation rather than himself.

Putin’s Charisma

Like him or not there’s no denying that Vladimir Putin’s charisma fascinates a lot of people. Some find him attractive because he seems to embody conservative values and there is admiration for a ‘strongman’ but I also think he has a sincerity that many, not on the right wing, find attractive. Sharon Tennison writes in an insightful article:

Putin obviously has his faults and makes mistakes. Based on my earlier experience with him, and the experiences of trusted people, including U.S. officials who have worked closely with him over a period of years, Putin most likely is a straight, reliable and exceptionally inventive man.

Tennison relates her ‘earlier experience’ with Putin:

The year was 1992: It was two years after the implosion of communism; the place was St.Petersburg. For years I had been creating programs to open up relations between the two countries and hopefully to help Soviet people to get beyond their entrenched top-down mentalities. A new program possibility emerged in my head. Since I expected it might require a signature from the Marienskii City Hall, an appointment was made. My friend Volodya Shestakov and I showed up at a side door entrance to the Marienskii building. We found ourselves in a small, dull brown office, facing a rather trim nondescript man in a brown suit. He inquired about my reason for coming in. After scanning the proposal I provided he began asking intelligent questions. After each of my answers, he asked the next relevant question.
I became aware that this interviewer was different from other Soviet bureaucrats who always seemed to fall into chummy conversations with foreigners with hopes of obtaining bribes in exchange for the Americans’ requests. CCI stood on the principle that we would never, never give bribes. This bureaucrat was open, inquiring, and impersonal in demeanor. After more than an hour of careful questions and answers, he quietly explained that he had tried hard to determine if the proposal was legal, then said that unfortunately at the time it was not. A few good words about the proposal were uttered. That was all. He simply and kindly showed us to the door. Out on the sidewalk, I said to my colleague, “Volodya, this is the first time we have ever dealt with a Soviet bureaucrat who didn’t ask us for a trip to the US or something valuable!” I remember looking at his business card in the sunlight––it read Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

Black in Russia

While I’m much more worried by an apparently fascist government in Ukraine that is supported by the US/EU, Russia clearly has an extremely bad problem with racism. Anyone who is not very pale is described as ‘black’ but the ‘blacker’ you are the harder it is. There are a number of videos on YouTube describing the hardships black people face but I found this one particularly interesting for its more intimate and strangely poignant glimpse at the life of an African family living in a Russian village.