One blogger’s personal bridge to nowhere

Russians can’t afford water anymore

vodkaWell, more or less.

The global financial crisis has grown so bad that Russians are cutting back on vodka.

I don’t think this has ever happened before.  Ever.  Vodka was given to Russian soldiers in World War II…the same soldiers who were being given brooms because there weren’t enough guns.  Honestly.

Look what the poor Russkies are being driven to:

Other drinkers went for anything with alcohol content, including cosmetics, perfumes and cleaning agents to bring about the same effects as vodka, whose name in Russian is the diminutive of the word for water.

It’s official.  The global financial crisis has now reached its tentacles into (Russian) life’s most basic staples.

(image from flickr user Wysz under a Creative Commons license)


November 25, 2008 Posted by | Russia | , | 1 Comment

Zero presidents is better than two presidents

No one's behind the desk...

No one behind the desk until January 20...

Eugene Robinson is frustrated that neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama seems to be doing much that is presidential (besides looking good in a Peruvian poncho, at least) to address the economic crisis.

Having two presidents is starting to feel like having no president, and that’s the situation we’ll face until Inauguration Day. Heaven help us.

Of course, we don’t have two presidents.  We have one president, which, given his eight year history of ineptitude and his proclivity since the election to fully embrace his lame duck status and keep as low a profile as possible, is still basically akin to having zero presidents.

Barack Obama has neither a political reason nor the constitutional authority to step on Bush’s presidential toes until January 20.  George W. Bush will certainly do his damndest to make the country worse before it gets better, but there’s not much Obama can do about that.  Heaven hasn’t helped us yet, and I don’t think it’s on its way now.

(image from flickr user stevegarfield under a Creative Commons license)

November 25, 2008 Posted by | U.S. politics | , | Leave a comment

Liberal fascist hypocrites

Jonah Goldberg may have a problem with “liberal fascist” education majors from Brown and Swarthmore, but he’s all for a good liberal hypocrite.

The Obamas will send their two daughters to the expensive private school, Sidwell Friends. Yes, that makes him something of a hypocrite because he is a vocal opponent of giving poor kids anything like the same option.

Sidwell Friends School...where Democrats' children learn about hypocrisy

Sidwell Friends School...where Democrats' children learn about hypocrisy

To hear Goldberg tell it, the parents of every “poor kid” in Washington — a strong conservative constituency if there ever was one — would be sending their children to Sidwell, the pockets of each stuffed with Republican-bestowed vouchers.  In Goldberg’s simplistic morality tale, supporting a school voucher system is “good,” while not doing so is “bad.”  However, Goldberg’s ethical wires get crossed when he must acknowledge his belief that sending one’s kids to private school is “good,” and making them enroll in DC’s public school “hellholes” is “bad.”  Solution?  One out of two ain’t bad, and better be a “hypocrite” than support two “bad” alternatives.

(As an aside, I think Goldberg’s characterization of Sidwell — an extremely diverse Quaker school that could not be further from Goldberg’s white elitist bogeyman private school — is grossly misleading.  I’ll trust my Sidwell friends to back me up on that one.)

(image from flickr user NCinDC under a Creative Commons license)

November 25, 2008 Posted by | Conservatives | , | 1 Comment

Russia: big, strong, and Hitleresque?

Georgia expert David Smith opens a piece on the resurgent militant nationalism of Russian president Dmitri Medvedev by juxtaposing the following quotations:

Germany will be either a world power or it will not be at all. – Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, 1925

Russia can either be big and strong or it will cease to exist. – Dmitry Medvedev, speech to senior military officers, The Kremlin, September 30, 2008

This is not Hitler-tainting (Hitler was a vegetarian, therefore vegetarians are evil) at its worst, but nor does it entirely escape the misleading insinuations typical of most Hitler comparisons.  The quotations are indeed eerily similar, but one must go beyond the initial parallelism to ask what each statement actually means.  Sure, both are expressing a rather brutish, chest-thumping insistence on national greatness, but really, where is the insight in this?  Hitler wanted Germany to be great; Medvedev wants Russia to be great.  Ergo, Medvedev = Hitler?


Dmitri Medvedev...Hitler without the 'stache?

It is unsurprising that Medvedev wants Russia to be “big and strong” (you kind of have to automatically grant Russia the former, notwithstanding the failure to explicitly annex the proportionally enormous amount of territory in Abkhazia and South Ossetia), just as it is a given that German dominance formed the core of Hitler’s foreign policy agenda.  But assertive nationalism does not a megalomaniacal dictator make.

The juxtaposed quotations, of course, seek — at least subtly — to compel a more significant inference.  The purpose of comparing to Hitler is, if not merely to impugn, to suggest that a similar path toward evil is being traveled.  In this case, the implication is that Medvedev, as demonstrated by his willingness to invade Georgia, is set to go to the most aggressive lengths to establish its hegemony.

Smith finds fodder for this argument in the common second half of the two juxtaposed quotations: the all-or-nothing counterbalance that if Nazi Germany and Putinist Medvedevist Russia failed to assert themselves as major world powers, then they would, respectively, “not be at all” or “cease to exist.”  As a fairly common example of rhetorical excess — Medvedev is willing to see his vast country nuked to oblivion over the retention of Dagestan? — this parallel formulation by no means indicates that Russia, in its insatiable quest to become “big and strong,” will emulate the rather foolish global domination plans of the Thousand Twelve Year Third Reich.

Germany survived Hitler, and by any rational standard, Russia will survive the considerably more juvenile ambitions of Medvedev and his sidekick.

(image from flickr user World Economic Forum under a Creative Commons license)

November 25, 2008 Posted by | History, Russia | , , | 2 Comments