Two weeks ago, Suzi Weissman, who has a weekly program called Beneath the Surface on the local Pacifica station (KPFK) here in Los Angeles, interviewed Berkeley historian Yuri Slezkine on his outstanding book, The Jewish Century. I wrote a review of it months ago. You can read it here. I recommend the interview for more insight into this amazing and path breaking work.
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By Sean — 11 years ago
The other night I received two emails simultaneously from friends alerting me that Michael Specter was to be a guest on the Colbert Report. Intrigued, I quickly set my DVR to record the show.
I’ve only watched the Colbert Report once before despite its immense popularity among friends. I have to say that I pretty much couldn’t get through the commercial laden half hour. Steven Colbert is part of the Daily Show revolution of fake news shows that lampoon the real news. Colbert’s shtick is to satirize right wing talk shows and radio as a means of media critique. I think blurring the line between “fake” and “real” news to expose the utter poverty of the latter is interesting. However, while this may seem novel to some, it has clearly reached a tipping point in effectiveness. I find Colbert’s execution a bit trite, predictable, too reliant on pop culture references, and often simply not funny. The Colbert Report is merely a shadow of Jon Stewart’s the Daily Show.
But since the episode was Russia related, I decided to tune in. Specter looked like a deer in the headlights. He seemed to kinda get Colbert’s act, but kinda not. Specter also came across far less nuanced on the show than in his New Yorker article. It appeared that he was ready to pull the noose around Putin for the deaths of every journalist and critic. It was only toward the end that he admitted that he didn’t actually outright accuse Putin of anything in his article except creating an atmosphere for these things to happen. Fair enough, but I can’t help to notice a certain slippage between these two views. It is clear that Specter wants to charge Putin with these crimes outright but he just doesn’t have any real evidence to do so.
For Colbert’s part, he tried in vain to make implicit connections between Putin’s alleged tactics and the Bush Administration. I guess he had to give his American-centric audience something familiar to chew on. But such comparisons are weak in my view and elide some very key differences between both Administrations’ authoritarian impulses. In the end, the show is just not for me.Post Views: 231
By Sean — 12 years ago
Amid critics accusing the Putin government of “backsliding” from democracy and his officials’ denials crouched in semantic differences between “managed” and sovereign” democracy, the Moscow News brings us back to the “simpler” times of the Russian Presidential election of 1996. The contest pitted incumbent Boris Yeltsin against Communist Party head Gennady Ziuganov. The election was close with Yeltsin receiving 35 percent of the vote and Ziuganov closely trailing with 32 percent. The results produced instant astonishment and subsequent conspiracy theories that Ziuganov’s victory was usurped by the “family”, a group of oligarchs that included now exiled Boris Berezovsky. After all, Yeltsin’s approval rating at the time was a dismal 8 percent. So low that even the fear of a Communist resurgence was viewed as not enough to get him reelected.
That belief proved to be false. The fact that Yeltsin even got 35 percent is seen as a political miracle even if it was aided by machinations. Part of it was utilizing a virtually unlimited war chest and adopting Western campaign styles that even sought the services of MTV. MTV subsequently declined because the network didn’t think Yeltsin had a ghost’s of a chance. This of course didn’t stop Berezovsky from launching an MTV style campaign on his ORT Channel 1 using the slogan “Vote or Lose,” a variation of the MTV/Clinton 1992 campaign slogan “Choose or Lose”.
The strategy worked and a runoff was announced. Then according to the Moscow News, then some strange occurrences happened:
In a notorious set-up just days after [the runoff was announced], security agents arrested two top campaign officials, Sergei Lisovsky and Arkady Yevstafiyev, on accusations of trying to carry a box filled with cash out of the Government Building. The move, allegedly organized by FSB head Mikhail Barsukov and Yeltsin’s bodyguard Alexander Korzhakov, was seen as an attempt to delay the elections and prevent Gennady Ziuganov from winning. Days later, Yeltsin fired both Barsukov and Korzhakov. In a final “practically impossible” victory, Yeltsin, who was too ill for public appearances, was re-elected with a surprising 54 percent, against Ziuganov’s 40. Some claimed people who voted for Alexander Lebed, another popular contender, in the first round, gave their votes to Yeltsin in the second.
Who and what was behind this “miracle”? Answers remain controversial. However, according to an instrumental member of Yeltsin’s reelection staff and now president of Politika Foundation, to the victor goes the spoils. “There were probably falsifications,” he told Moskovskie Novosti this week. “In any case, state resources were used to their full capacity…. I was very satisfied that we had accomplished something that was practically impossible.”Post Views: 178
By Sean — 12 years ago
Let me see if I get this straight. Prominent Kazakh opposition member, Zamanbek Nurkadilov, is found dead with two gunshots to the chest and one to the head and it’s ruled a suicide!? I mean forget the fact that shooting oneself in the chest not once but twice and then turning the gun to your own dome seems utterly impossible, this is what an investigation into his death has concluded. Opposition leaders are correctly calling his death a “political assassination.” And this all important caveat supports such a claim: Nurkadilov was about to make a “bombshell” announcement about sitting President and election frontrunner Nursultan Nazarbayev’s involvement in corruption. Sounds like the Kazakh Presidential elections, which are next week, are getting off to a rather predictable start.Post Views: 274