03 March 2008

Untangled

I Navajo-plied on my turnip spindle:

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Contrary to expectation, I did not end up forever tangled in hopelessly screwy singles as a result of this experiment. I actually ended up with yarn. Hunh.

And now for some more political linky-linky (which is very different from "hanky-panky" thankyouverymuch):

  • If anyone was wondering precisely why I stopped reading the serious, topical Ravelry forums (in favor of the non-stop silliness at CPaA and LSG, the spinning groups, and, oh yes, the two groups I mod, all of which I still enjoy immensely): today someone said very effectively what I was too frustrated, hurt, disappointed, and (possibly) polite to say.


  • Have you met Derrick Ashong yet? I totally have a crush on this guy: watch this, then this, then this.


  • (News to Bill Maher: it's not that "young people don't vote." As if they're some sort of alternate species that lacks the voting gene. It's that young people haven't been voting. Because there hasn't been a candidate that moved them. Until now. They voted when it was JFK. Many of them (us) voted for Bill, though some of us had to hold our noses a bit because he was just a little too much like our parents, or our parents' friends. And we're voting for Obama because, unlike Bill Maher, either Clinton, and many others of that generation, he's actually living in the present.)


  • Here's a nice summary of this week's events in Obama world.


  • Info for those who plan to canvass (if you haven't been canvassed and want to be, just read that).


  • Because character does matter.


  • To my great joy, Obama and Neil Gaiman met, figuratively, here. (Wondering what Neil Gaiman thinks about his words being used in a political campaign? He explains here.)


  • Lisa Ling is cool.


  • And because we could all use some laughs this season, here's some of the funny I've been collecting:





And in other news. Yesterday was the day of the Russian Presidential election. And it turns out Mr. Medvedev won by a landslide of about 70%. I'm shocked - shocked. {Note dripping sarcasm please - you may want to wipe your monitor} With a "record" turnout of over 69%. Zyuganov, the Communist candidate, did rather surprisingly well with almost 18%. That's kind of frightening, but I guess when the "protest vote" options are limited to one...all the protest vote goes to him. Although there was one other guy on the ballot, of course, the undying lunatic zombie candidate Zhirinovsky, who got the same 10% he always gets in every election. Nice to know exactly how many certifiable crazies there are in the country, you know?

There had been two reasonably rational, democratic candidates, but they both ended up off the ballot for reasons best left to one's imagination. They wouldn't have gotten many votes anyway, possibly even if the election had really been done properly, and possibly even if the media weren't controlled by the kremlin (which we are precisely 4km away from, I recently learned).

I read a poll that said most Russians assume democratic candidates are pro-Western/Westernized. This is not good for a candidate in Russia. Many Americans don't realize this, but Russian "man on the street" attitudes toward America pretty much did a 180 in the course of the 1990s (from almost delirious pro-America love right after regime collapse in 1991 to...well...no need to spell it out). There are two main reasons for this, which are connected enough to be maybe one reason.

The first half of the reason: Harvard economists. A bunch of them came here in the early 90s to create a market democracy, according to their own pet theories. The result: utter failure, chaos, severe hardship for regular people, out-of-control corruption, and a slide into increasingly "authoritarian" politics. Not that this was all the fault of the Harvard guys - a lot of it probably would have happened anyway, and they couldn't foresee everything. Actually, that last part was maybe their only real mistake - they thought they could foresee everything, and they couldn't.

The other half of the reason is that the pro-Western, pro-democratic guys in power at the time (Yeltsin and his crew) invited these Harvard guys in, and helped to make all these mistakes (it should be noted that a lot of this crowd of Russian politicians had actually been educated in the West).

I think it's all summed up by "Bush legs." In 1990 and 1991, the Moscow and Petersburg markets were flooded with Tyson chicken. Bush^1 did this - it was part of our oh-so-generous charity package to poor little Russia. Tyson got rid of surplus, and got huge tax breaks, and the Russian markets got chicken. A good thing, right? Not so much.

First, the chicken never made it out of Moscow and Petersburg (this was presumably the fault of Russian corruption and/or distribution problems), and it wasn't needed there, ever. Second, the chicken was mostly old and nasty. I saw it, still in the markets, in 1998, by which point it had become a very old joke - always referred to as "Bush legs" because it was usually packages of chicken legs only. There'd be a nice, fat, perfectly acceptable local chicken sitting there at the deli counter, and next to it a forlorn package of Tyson chicken, already aged when it arrived, and priced considerably higher than the local one.

This is what most Russians I know think of when they hear about "Western aid." Not that that's all the aid amounted to, and not that the corruption of Russian officials wasn't really the worst obstacle in getting basic needs met for most people in the 1990s, but nevertheless, many people here think of "Western aid" as "Bush legs."

If democratic candidates ever hope to make their way into parliament, never mind the presidency, here, they'll have to do it by distancing themselves from the West, while also - of course - not completely alienating the West, since that of course could have some unpleasant consequences of a different kind. So, if you were wondering why Putin won in a landslide...it's true the elections weren't fair, it's true that the media is state-controlled...but it's also probably true that Putin's guy would have won in a landslide anyway.

It's depressing enough to make you go back to the American elections with relief, isn't it? At least we've got Beltway booty.

Beats Dobby the House-elf any day.

3 comments:

DomesticShorthair said...

Thank you for your insightful assessment of the Russian political situation; I appreciate views I don't hear in the U.S.

Chelsea said...

I'm back. Looking again at links. Here's one for you. I talked to my sister about my waffling and she said she was kind of getting used to the idea of Obama being president until she saw him in Somali dress. She is quite angry about it. She was in the military and a photographer at the time of the huge war. She went in and had to photograph the dead Red Cross Workers who the Somalis killed. She told me that blew it for him. If he would have chosen any other tribe or African ethnic dress she wouldn't have been so offended...but she is so mad she was yelling at me.
Any comments?
You know I just want more links, right?

Beth said...

O.K. my daughter was on my computer. You knew it was me all along right?