To look back at 2017, I think I would forgive Donald Trump if he ended 2017 with a good belly laugh and a bit of sniggering.
Let’s face it, Hollywood award ceremonies from January onwards ended up being about Donald Trump, how barely human he was and why he was such an abomination to American mankind and to a lesser extent, the world.
All kinds of insults were thrown at him. Barely anyone in Hollywood, were left standing without a bad and negative word or two against The Donald.
The great Meryl Streep was at it, Whoopi Goldberg was at it (I think she even mentioned about leaving USA for good if The Donald wins the presidency). Ashton Kutcher was at it, even Kerry Washington was at it. The vociferous Ashley Judd also had a say. They all had a say. They ridiculed him, they dehumanised him, etc.
And then come October 2017, the most shocking thing slowly unfolded right in the very middle, the very heart within Hollywood. Their stalwart, most influential man, Harvey Weinstein, the Geppetto of Hollywood was reported as an alleged serial rapist and habitually engaged in sexually harassing young actresses; the growing list included Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Ashley Judd came out and confessed how she was also a victim from the heinous and most disgusting sexual predator that is Harvey Weinstein but she loves him and understand that he was sick and he has to get treatment. Huh?!!!
Anyway, Harvey Weinstein proclivities with young actresses started in the early 90s. Apparently it was an open secret in Hollywood. Casting Couch is alive and well.
And yet no one came out to warn anyone about Weinstein before it blew over in October. It is an open secret but everyone secretly pretending they know nothing, including Ben Affleck and George Clooney. Meryl Streep is practically mute in crucifying Weinstein, compared to the speeches she gave against The Donald. Hollywood certainly look after itself.
There are more than 50 victims who have now come forward.
Hollywood seemed to have turned a new leaf against The Donald. They don’t create as much noise now.
Let’s wait for the coming Oscar later in March. Will they say anything against the Donald or will they castigate Harvey? We shall see. I have never looked forward to the Oscar as much as Oscar 2018, which by the way will be the 90th year anniversary.
As our esteemed Perry Diaz of GlobalBalita.Com said below, the Philippine presidential (& vice presidential) election is now less than a year from happening. And yet voters are still none the wiser who would be running and who should be elected for the highest positions in the land.
No one really has shown exemplary apptitude and total dedication in serving the country and its people with intelligence and savvy during the course of P-Noy’s term(s). We were only made aware of this situation during typhoon Haiyan’s onslaught of Cebu & Tacloban. It was globally reported the ineffectual governmental handling of the search and rescue. It was at this time that the word ‘disaster’ really lived up to its true and full meaning!
The politicking is self-serving, lucklustre, downright ineffectual due to lack of experience or corrupt.
The machination that goes on behind the scene also adds to the confusion of the masses and to the politicians themselves. The unfortunate result of this confusion will bring out the worst in everyone!
To the voters and electors: YOU GET THE GOVERNMENT YOU DESERVE!
With less than a year to the 2016 presidential elections, the presidential musical chairs game has started in earnest. And there are several games going all at once by groups called political parties or “coalitions.”
To start with, these political parties are not ideological parties like what you’d see in the United States and other countries. The Philippines’ political parties are just vehicles — like the country’s unique colorful jeepneys — where politicians can take a ride hoping that it would bring them to their destinations. However, if the jeepney they’re riding in is too slow or is caught in a traffic jam, they can always transfer to another jeepney.
Having said that, let’s take a look at what’s going on with the various presidential musical chairs games. Of course the biggest game is in President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III’s Liberal Party (LP). There are many ambitious participants but only one will be anointed. What would happen to those who would be eliminated? In Philippine politics, there are no gracious losers, only sore losers.
Right now, the LP has only Mar Roxas vying for the party’s presidential nomination, the process of which is for P-Noy to “anoint” who the nominee will be. But Roxas, whom P-Noy had appointed as Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to give him more “public exposure,” lacks the popular support for a presidential run. Recent surveys show him running behind three or four other potential contenders. With an anemic showing that doesn’t seem to improve his chances of winning, P-Noy was hesitant to throw his support behind Roxas, who had given way to P-Noy in the 2010 presidential election and settled to be P-Noy’s running mate.
However, Roxas lost the vice presidency to Jejomar “Jojo” Binay, who, in the final weeks of the 2010 elections, overtook Roxas in the vice presidential derby. As it turned out, a hitherto secret organization known as “Noy-Bi” was credited for Binay’s surge in the campaign. It’s interesting to note that “Noy-Bi” was not a LP-sanctioned campaign organization. However, it was organized by relatives, friends, and allies who believed that Binay was a true Aquino supporter whose link to the Aquino family goes back to the People Power days of the late president Cory Aquino.
What the LP sanctioned was the “Noy-Mar” campaign committee, which consisted mainly of LP old hands and stalwarts. And this was supposedly the organization that pushed hard to get Roxas elected. But the resources the Noy-Bi had were far too much than what the Noy-Mar organization had. With a campaign chest brimming with contributions from the Aquino and Cojuangco families and their rich allies, Roxas lost to Binay.
In the upcoming 2016 elections, we’d probably see Binay pitted against Roxas again, but this time their contest would move up to the presidential level. However, that would only happen if P-Noy would stick to his promise to support Roxas’ presidential run in 2016. But the problem is Roxas has a ghost of a chance of beating Binay.
The sudden rise of neophyte Sen. Grace Poe in recent SWS and Pulse of Asia surveys was a game changer. No longer is Binay seen as the unbeatable presidential candidate, the surge in Poe’s polls numbers has toppled Binay from his lofty pedestal, which he had distinctly occupied ever since he won the vice-presidency in 2010.
Seeing Poe’s presidential potential, P-Noy invited her and Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero to Malacanang to talk about a “united ticket” that would include Roxas since Grace and Chiz aren’t LP members but Independents. But their bond was so tight that Grace has made it known that if she decided to run for president next year, she’d want Chiz to be her running mate. Chiz said that he’d support Grace in any decision she makes.
What P-Noy has in mind is to have Roxas team up with either Grace or Chiz as his running mate, which means that one of them would be sacrificed for the good of the LP coalition. The problem with this arrangement is what would be the role of the person who is sacrificed? But before we answer that question, we should first ask if Grace or Chiz were willing to run for vice president under an LP “united ticket”?
Although Grace hadn’t decided yet whether she’s going to run for president or not, she had taken herself out of the vice-presidential race next year, saying that if she’s going to run for a higher office, it might as well be the presidency.
In the case of Chiz, who has been high on the surveys for vice president, it’s not known if he was willing to be somebody’s running mate other than Grace. Needless to say, he has to make his decision whether to run for president, which is unlikely, or vice president. He could run as Binay’s running mate since the two have good relationship in the past. In 2010, Chiz was one of the leaders of the “Noy-Bi” group, a fact that could dampen any attempt to pair him up as Roxas’ running mate.
If Chiz accepts an offer to team up with Binay, they might have the right chemistry to run a good campaign. With Binay having all money to spend in the campaign and Chiz tapping the Filipino taipans’bottomless money pits, they could be a formidable team. However, with Binay’s corruption and plunder cases hanging over his head and the strong resentment against China right now, a Binay-Chiz tandem might not be the way to go. But Chiz has the flexibility to team up with anybody because he, like Grace, is an Independent. In the case of Binay, nobody is willing to run as his running mate. Has the stigma of corruption finally found its mark on Binay?
A fashionable woman is always in love—with herself.
– La Rochefoucauld.
A televised State of the Nation Address by the President of the Philippines is held annually. SONA is used by the President to address the many concerns of the people as well as a way for the PNoy to make promises which are meant to be broken, time and again. SONA is politicking to the max!
SONA 2014 – State of the Nation: Fashion & Passion
SONA 2014 is currently being held in Manila, Philippines. The politicians are prancing like peacocks. However their otherhaves are far from looking like drab peahens. The ladies are in their elements dressed in rainbows of colours. SONA, is the time to make a fashion statement, the red carpet of ther Batasan is trod on by designer clads ladies, who have more money than good taste!!! 😉
Kris AquinoThe first fashionista we have seen is Kris Aquino, PNoy’s very own youngest sister. She is a beautiful lady but this gown is too over-powering for her body type. If this design has been created in the lighter material of jusi, it would have been a little better. With that blacken emblishment, it reminds me of Dicken’s Miss Havisham, the forever spinster pining for a lost lover! I really think it is such a terrible dress for a beautiful lady! The hair-style doesn’t go well with the dress either!
Abby Binay’s outfit is lovely. A child accessory is redundant. The geometric design on her grey terno is enough.
Assunta de Rossi
Assunta is a lovely girl with a lovely figure. Pity her dress looks ill-fitting. Just too much materials which added bulk to her body. Instead of highlighting her fine figure, it engulfed her.
Nancy Binay’s outfit is more than a fashion statement. It tells a story! Alibaba and the forty thieves! Well done, Nancy, very tongue in cheek!The outfit said what is really going on.Hahaha
Mommy Dionisia’s gown is so busy. She looks like a kitschy cover for a toilet roll. The top half of her gown looks like it has been spluttered on by chewed pistachio nuts.But on the whole, she looks very pretty. Well done, Mommy D.
Now Imelda. Terno and Imelda always go together. The former First Lady has perfected the art of wearing terno.Elegance is the woman!
Heart & Chiz
Lucy & Richard Gomex
Lucy is drop-dead gorgeous with a fine figure. Put a sack on her and it would turn out as high fashion!
Kitchie looks lovely in her terno. Pity she did not do more to her hair. An up-do would have been fab considering that the top half of her gown is crying for a classic bun.
I love the gown, she looks pretty with her hair curling lushly over one shoulder.
Very pretty. Usually I am not a fan of very dark or in-your-face ternos but this gown by Maria Paz passes muster. Suit her morena complexion.
This duo of loveliness is made up of Mercedes Alvares, Negros Occidental Rep and Sharon Garin, AAMBIS-OWA Rep.
I love that lace shrug but I think, the shocking pink/fuchsia gown under it is too dark. If it had been just a hint of pink of apple green, it would have work better. As it is, it looks heavy! Very pretty girl!
Risa Hontiveros looks like a very elegant woman but what she is wearing is rather androgynous. A Barong Tagalog over a black gown doesn’t really work.
Janet looks pretty in her pink with that black embellishment that gives her a semblance of waistline! Lovely hair-do too.
Yasmin’s gown is a lovely colour but I am not sure about the neckline. I supposed I am a fan of the classic style where a bit of neck and shoulders show! I love the hairstyle as well.Gorgeous couple.
These politicians are appropriately dresses in all shades of peach, perhaps to remind everyone of their mission to impeach PNoy! Nice!
Kim looks really elegant . I like the neckline and her hair looks lovely draping gently in her shoulder. I love the colour and the lenght with just a slight train at the back. Really nice.
Beautiful woman. Love her outfit. It is gorgeous; hides her pregnancy. Love the hair and make-up.
Em Aglipay’s dress is beautifully fitted. Her hair and make-up are flawless.
Tootsie Angara‘s Igorot inspired outfit is beautiful and suited (no pun) her well. She is really beautifully turned out. We love her!
Heart Evangelista’s dress is rather special. It is a work of art. But having said that, the dress is rather too revealing. It showed more than what Heart might have wanted to divulge. It showed the tell-tale sign of the edges of her silicon implants from her alleged breast augmentation.Her make-up and hair- style are top-notch.
Grace Poe is befitting her name. Her outfit has serenity and grace about it. Beautiful!
Loren Legarda’s attire is a vast improvement from last year. I looks like an Ifugao inspired and yet there is something decidedly Mindanaoish about it too. The huge capiz shell sets off the whole look.
Lani Cayetano looks beautiful in her lavander Filipiniana outfit. Lovely make-up and hair as well.
UKIP Joins Labour, Conservative and Lib-Dem as Major Political Parties
The surge in the UKIP vote is people expressing “a sense of anger” about issues such as immigration, Education Secretary Michael Gove tells the BBC. The vote “sends a clear direction to government” to address the concerns of some of the electorate, he adds.
This is obviously true! But what would the Conservative Party going to do about it?
The people have spoken, Mr Cameron! What are you going to do about it?
In April 2006 David Cameron, during a phone-in on London’s LBC radio station, described UKIP members as being “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists, mostly.
How the tides have changed. Gone are the days when Cameron can just cast aside and deride UKIP members as fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists, mostly. There are just too many of them now and seemed to have infected mostly the Tory constituents. LOL
Again, what are you going to do about it, Mr Cameron?!!!
Despite the bad press UKIP received left, right and centre weeks before the election, held yesterday, UKIP continue to gather supports. This is obviously more of anger votes and votes of no confidence against the Conservative Party who renage of their General Election promises about control of immigration and the likes.
Will Ed Milliband be moving to No 10 next year? I don’t think so! He does look sincere but he doesn’t have that prime-ministerial look about him. He looks like a school boy, still half-baked. If Labour change its leader to the other Miliband brother, David, or to that up-and-coming Chuka Umunna, current shadow business secretary then, who knows?!!!
If could even be Nigel Farage for No 10, if he plays his cards right!!! 🙂 However in the General Election, the voters will be more discerning. UKIP provides a platform for protest votes.
The onus is now on David Cameron’s shoulders to ensure that the Conservative Party remain in power without the hindrance of Lib-Dem in the general election for next year. What will Big Dave do?!!! SamCam, Dave’s major asset, cannot do it all.
It could be another Hung Parliament and it may even be Tory and UKIP who will be arse kissing the next time round. LOL
The world was stunned when Russia invaded Crimea, but should it have been? Author and journalist Oliver Bullough says President Vladimir Putin never kept secret his intention to restore Russian power – what’s less clear, he says, is how long the country’s rise can continue.
On 16 August 1999, the members of Russia’s parliament – the State Duma – met to approve the candidacy of a prime minister. They heard the candidate’s speech, they asked him a few questions, and they dutifully confirmed him in the position.
This was President Boris Yeltsin’s fifth premier in 16 months, and one confused party leader got the name wrong. He said he would support the candidacy of Stepashin – the surname of the recently sacked prime minister – rather than that of his little-known successor, before making an embarrassing correction.
If even leading Duma deputies couldn’t remember the new prime minister’s name, you couldn’t blame the rest of the world if it didn’t pay much attention to his speech. He was unlikely to head the Russian government for more than a couple of months anyway, so why bother?
That man was a former KGB officer, Vladimir Putin, and he has been in charge of the world’s largest country, as president or prime minister, ever since. Few realised it at the time, because few were listening, but that speech provided a blueprint for pretty much everything he has done, for how he would re-shape a country that was perilously close to total collapse.
The little-known Putin became prime minister
Just 364 days previously, Russia had defaulted on its debt. Salaries for public sector workers and pensions were being paid months late, if at all. Basic infrastructure was collapsing. The country’s most prized assets belonged to a handful of well-connected “oligarchs”, who ran the country like a private fiefdom.
The once-mighty Russian army had lost a war in Chechnya, a place with fewer inhabitants than Russia had soldiers. Three former Warsaw Pact allies had joined Nato, bringing the Western alliance up to Russia’s borders.
Meanwhile, the country was led by Yeltsin, an irascible drunkard in fragile health. The situation was desperate, but Putin had a plan.
“I cannot cover all the tasks facing the government in this speech. But I do know one thing for sure: not one of those tasks can be performed without imposing basic order and discipline in this country, without strengthening the vertical chain,” he told the assembled parliamentarians.
Born in Leningrad in 1952, Putin came of age in the Soviet Union’s golden years, the period after the USSR’s astonishing triumph in World War Two. Sputnik, the hydrogen bomb, Laika the dog and Yuri Gagarin all bore witness to Soviet ingenuity. The crushing of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 bore witness to Soviet resolve. Soviet citizens were enjoying a time of peace and prosperity. Life was stable. People got paid. The world respected them. Everyone knew their place.
Extracts from Putin speech, August 1999
We need to put an end to revolutions. These are staged so that nobody can be rich. But at the moment the country needs reforms so that nobody can be poor. Although this task, unfortunately, is becoming harder by the day. There is no such thing as a thriving state with an impoverished population.
A most important instrument and a most important priority for the government is a secure food supply. We will provide serious assistance to the agrarian sector and in the final analysis to millions of peasants who have just one concern – to feed the country with quality Russian produce.
Russia’s territorial integrity is not subject to negotiation. Or, especially, to horse trading or blackmail. We will take tough action against anyone who infringes upon our territorial integrity, using all the legal means available to us.
Russia has been a great power for centuries, and remains so. It has always had and still has legitimate zones of interest abroad in both the former Soviet lands and elsewhere. We should not drop our guard in this respect, neither should we allow our opinion to be ignored.
Source: BBC Monitoring
When Putin spoke to the Duma, his homeland was a different, and less respected place. He spoke the language of a man who yearned for the lost certainties, who longed for a time when Moscow was to be reckoned with. He did not say it explicitly, but he was clearly stung by Russia’s failure to stop Nato driving the forces of its ally, Serbia, out of Kosovo just months previously.
“Russia has been a great power for centuries, and remains so. It has always had and still has legitimate zones of interest … We should not drop our guard in this respect, neither should we allow our opinion to be ignored,” he said.
His domestic policy was to restore stability, to end what he called the “revolutions”, that had brought Russia low. His foreign policy was to regain Russia’s place in world affairs.
Those two core aims have driven everything he has done since. If only people had been listening, none of his actions would have come as a surprise to them.
About the author
Oliver Bullough is author of Let Our Fame Be Great, describing his journeys among the peoples of the Caucasus, and The Last Man in Russia, detailing the demographic decline of the Russian nation. He was a Reuters Moscow correspondent between 2002 and 2006 and is now Caucasus editor for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
Since then, he has seized every opportunity history has offered him, from the attacks of 11 September 2001 to the Ukrainian Revolution of 2013, in his bid to secure his aims. He has been tactically astute and ruthlessly opportunistic. At home and abroad, he wants Russia to regain the prestige it held when he was growing up.
The obvious place to start his campaign was in Chechnya, symbol of Russia’s collapse. The Chechens had defeated Yeltsin’s attempt to crush their self-declared independence, but it proved a bitter victory. The war devastated Chechnya’s people, economy and infrastructure. Chechnya became a sink of kidnapping, violence and crime, and – until Putin – no-one did anything about it.
Finally, for long-suffering patriotic Russians, here was a man not only able to pay their pensions, but prepared to get his hands dirty to defend their homeland. By the turn of the millennium, when Yeltsin stood down, and appointed Putin acting president in his place, the unknown prime minister’s public approval rating was above 70% a level it has barely dipped below ever since.
Human rights groups and some Western governments accused Putin of breaking Russian and international law in his pursuit of his Chechen opponents. (The European Court of Human Rights has found against Russia in 232 “right to life” cases, effectively ruling that Russia repeatedly committed murder during its Chechen campaign.) But that has done nothing to dent Putin’s popularity.
In Chechnya, hundreds of soldiers and thousands of Chechens died. Hundreds of thousands of Chechens fled to claim asylum outside Russia, but Russia’s territorial integrity was secured, and Putin had begun his task of restoring Russian prestige.
Russian troops in Chechnya in 2001
After 11 September 2001, Putin recast his Chechen campaign as part of the global fight against terrorism, thus muting international criticism of his troops’ conduct. He became briefly close to President George W Bush – who even claimed to have glimpsed Putin’s soul – until the Iraq War drove them apart. In Iraq, Putin insisted that international law must be upheld – no invasion could be allowed without approval from the United Nations Security Council, and that approval was not forthcoming.
At home, he crushed the most powerful of the oligarchs, first those who controlled media assets, thus taming the lively television scene, and then in 2003 police arrested Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the richest man in the country. His oil company was dismembered and bought by a state oil company. He was jailed in a process so egregiously predetermined that Amnesty International declared him to be a prisoner of conscience.
“I think it became absolutely clear when Khodorkovsky was arrested, that Putin was not going after the oligarchs to reassert the power of democratic civil society over these titans. He was doing it as part of building an authoritarian regime,” says Chrystia Freeland, the FT’s bureau chief in Moscow when Putin came to power, and now a Liberal member of the Canadian parliament. (She is also one of the 13 Canadians barred from entering Russia this week in response to Canada’s imposition of sanctions against Russian officials.)
Putin kept a tight grip on the parliamentary elections at the end of 2003, and his allies gained two-thirds of the Duma. He praised the poll as a step towards “strengthening democracy” – monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe called it “overwhelmingly distorted”.
In just four years, Putin had crushed Chechnya, reined in the free media and the oligarchs, gained a parliament that would do whatever he wanted, and shown that Russia had a strong voice in international affairs.
“He says what he thinks and does what he says – at least much more than probably any other contemporary politician or statesman. Western analysts and politicians always try to uncover some sort of false bottom in his statements, when there often isn’t one. That applies to many other Soviet leaders including Stalin – at least in the run-up to and during WW2,” says Dmitry Linnik, London bureau chief of the Voice of Russia radio.
“He is a nationalist – in the federal ‘Russian’, not ethnic ‘Russian’, sense of the word. That is his biggest driving force, I think – not hunger for power or personal ambition.”
Putin restored some of the Soviet symbols, such as the five-pointed star
But Freeland disagrees.
“I think he has taken a series of decisions, quite rationally from his narrow personal point of view, that this kind of autocratic regime gives him the most personal power and personal wealth,” she says.
There was one thing missing to make the world of his childhood complete: an ideology.
Putin restored some Soviet symbols. He brought back the Soviet national anthem and Soviet emblems, and praised the Soviet triumph in World War Two. But he embraced pre-Soviet themes too. He befriended the Russian Orthodox Church, and name-checked anti-Soviet philosophers like Ivan Ilyin, whose remains he had repatriated to Russia and buried with honour.
This trend towards a uniquely Russian form of conservatism accelerated after the wave of protests against electoral fraud that struck Moscow in 2011-2, which alienated Putin from Russia’s liberals. Among his favourite ideologues is Vladimir Yakunin, an old friend, a fellow KGB graduate, an Orthodox believer and now head of Russian Railways, one of the country’s most strategically significant companies.
Born Oct 1952 in Leningrad (now St Petersburg)
Studied law and economics before joining KGB
Served as KGB agent in East Germany 1985-90
Worked at mayor’s office, St Petersburg, 1990-96
Became PM in 1999, then elected president following year
Married (though divorcing/divorced), two daughters
“Russia is not between Europe and Asia. Europe and Asia are to the left and right of Russia. We are not a bridge between them but a separate civilisational space, where Russia unites the civilisational communities of East and West,” Yakunin said in a recent interview with Itar-Tass.
Last week, he was added to the US sanctions list for “membership of the Russian leadership’s inner circle”, following the annexation of Crimea.
The idea of Russia being separate from but equal to the West is convenient, since it allows the Kremlin to reject Western criticism of its elections, its court cases, its foreign policy, as biased and irrelevant.
Many of Putin’s friends, though dismissive of the West’s economics, politics, values and structures, are, however, much attached to its comforts. Both of Yakunin’s sons live in Western Europe – one in London, one in Switzerland – and his grandchildren are growing up there.
According to the anti-corruption campaigner, Alexei Navalny, Yakunin has built himself a palace outside Moscow using foreign limestone and building materials brought in from Germany – a strange step for a man supposedly wedded to creating a Russian economy independent of the West.
Putin too has espoused principles, then dropped them when they proved inconvenient. In Iraq in 2003, he made a stand in defence of international law, opposing any invasion without UN approval. In Georgia in 2008, he sent in the troops without even pretending to consult with the Security Council.
Last year, intervention in Syria was out of the question. This year, intervention in Ukraine is justified and unimpeachably legitimate. It may be that principles have never been the issue – and that Putin’s objective has always been to maximise Russian power, and to defy Western attempts to rein Russia in.
“We have every reason to assume that the infamous policy of containment, conducted in the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries, continues today. They are constantly trying to sweep us into a corner because we have an independent position,” said Putin in his speech last week announcing the annexation of Crimea, a speech that repeated all his points from 1999, but with 15 years worth of additional resentment.
“If you compress the spring all the way to its limit, it will snap back hard. You must always remember this.”
Extracts from Putin speech, March 2014
It was only when Crimea ended up as part of a different country that Russia realised that it was not simply robbed, it was plundered.
Many years later, I heard residents of Crimea say that back in 1991 they were handed over like a sack of potatoes. This is hard to disagree with. And what about the Russian state? What about Russia? It humbly accepted the situation. This country was going through such hard times then that realistically it was incapable of protecting its interests.
There was not a single armed confrontation in Crimea and no casualties. Why do you think this was so? The answer is simple: because it is very difficult, practically impossible to fight against the will of the people.
Our Western partners, led by the United States of America, prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun. They have come to believe in their exclusivity and exceptionalism, that they can decide the destinies of the world, that only they can ever be right.
It is not easy re-shaping a country on your own, and Putin has needed the assistance of one key group within Russian society. While he has cracked down on independent journalists, businessmen and politicians, he has relied on state officials to make sure his ideas are implemented.
They have been well rewarded for their help. Wages for top officials increased last year by 20%, four times the increase in the general budget. Putin’s spending binge means that, for the budget to balance, Brent crude must now average around $117 a barrel, more than five times the level needed in 2006, according to analysis from Deutsche Bank.
Even that is not enough for top officials. Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokontsev said last week that, in 2013, the average bribe in Russia had doubled to $4,000. Last year, Transparency International gave Russia 127th place on its Corruption Perception Index, rating it as corrupt as Pakistan, Mali and Madagascar.
“Putin has really painted himself into a corner by destroying every independent source of power in Russia. He now has only the bureaucracy to rely on, and must keep increasing its funding to keep ensuring its loyalty,” says Ben Judah, the British author of Fragile Empire, a study of Putin’s Russia.
“Eventually, the money is going to run out, and then he will find himself in the same position Soviet leaders were in by the late 1980s, forced to confront political and economic crises, while trying to hold the country together. He looks strong now, but his Kremlin is built on the one thing in Russia doesn’t control: the price of oil.”
Putin has succeeded in building a version of the country of his childhood, one that can act independently in the world, and one where dissent is controlled and the Kremlin’s power unchallenged. But that is a double-edged sword, because the Soviet Union collapsed for a reason, and a Russia recreated in its image risks sharing its fate.
According to Vladimir Bukovsky, a dissident who spent a decade in Soviet prisons before his exile to the West in 1976, Putin is totally genuine when he says the disintegration of the Soviet Union was a “geopolitical catastrophe”.
Putin with the head of the Russian army’s main department of combat preparation in early March
“He does not understand that the collapse of the Soviet system was predetermined, therefore he believes his mission is to restore the Soviet system as soon as possible,” he says.
As a middle-ranking KGB officer who loved the Soviet Union, Putin lacked the perspective of senior officers, who knew full well the Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of its own inefficiency rather than because of Western plotting, Bukovsky says.
“It leads him exactly to… repeat the same mistakes. He wants this whole country to be controlled by one person from the Kremlin, which will lead to disaster,” he says.
Putin’s decision to invade Crimea was taken quickly and impulsively, by a small group of his favoured top officials. That means Putin has no one to warn him of the long-term consequences of his actions, and until he finds out for himself, he will maintain his course. That means relations with the West will remain uncomfortable, especially in areas he considers to be his “zone of legitimate interests”.
But we can’t say we weren’t warned.
Oliver Bullough is Caucasus editor at the Institute of War and Peace Reporting. His most recent book is The Last Man in Russia, detailing the demographic decline of the Russian nation.
It appears Vice President Binay may want a way out, with the Pork Barrel,PDAF, Napoles scandals and typhoon Yolanda aid distribution fiasco touching and staining the Filipino government hard, maybe he wants to take an extended trip.
As reported below he had only a one-way ticket to South Africa to attend the funeral of Nelson Mandela!?
Hmmm, maybe wishful thinking for many fed up Filipinos too, hoping indeed it would be permanently one way 😉
Also allowing for his wife to attend, why are all the others also attending?
We wonder why Binay is going early – nearly a week before the funeral?
Chance for a short vacation/holiday too?
Most leaders wont attend until the day before at least?
What with all the attendants and ‘bag/luggage carriers’ going too, what is the total cost to the Filipino people?
Posted at 12/09/2013 10:37 PM | Updated as of 12/09/2013 11:08 PM
Vice-President Jejomar Binay prior his departure to South Africa to attend the wake of the late former President Nelson Mandela. Photo by Raoul Esperas for ABS-CBNNews.com
MANILA (UPDATED) – Vice-President Jejomar Binay on Monday departed for South Africa to attend the wake and burial of former President and freedom fighter Nelson Mandela.
Binay is President Benigno Aquino’s official representative at the state burial of Mandela, who died a few days ago.
Binay said the death of Mandela is a great loss for peace and democracy.
“President Mandela will always be remembered for his advocacy to democracy,” he said.
Binay boarded a commercial flight of Cathay Pacific Airlines, which initially refused to allow him to check in due to his failure to present a return ticket, which is a requirement for all passengers bound for another country.
Binay said because of the requirement, he instructed his staff to immediately purchase a return ticket for submission to the airline and immigration.
He was with his wife, former Makati Mayor Elenita Binay, Binan Mayor Len Alonte, Eduardo Lacson and Margarita Lacson. – report by Raoul Esperas
As I am proud that UK is offering a total of £83 million (5835597532.00 pesos) fund plus logistical Red Cross etc aid, I and others are concerned that the Philippine Gov’t will receive the bulk of this cash. We know of the recent Govt corruption scandal there concerning senators, etc who siphoned off project funds to their family and friends.
This funding rarely reaches the poor and needy. The scandal of Janet Napoles working as an ‘agent’ to corrupt Senators whereby creating fraudulent Non Government Organisations (NGOs), where these Senators diverted money meant for urgently needed local infrastructure projects is still ongoing. The trial is taking so long and starting to become a farce and probably will end up being swept under the carpet.
These senators involved have been named and hopefully shamed. Sadly other officials we do not know off, may still be involved as corruption has tainted the top to the bottom of Philippine Government both local and national.
With such diversion/fraud of monies, we are seeing the results as better preparedness should have been in place.
To me, the Filipino people are stoic, resilient and resourceful & quietly get on with it, no matter what kind of ‘it’ is thrown at them. They deserve to have better government that despite the hype they generate, actually deliver and are transparent and honest.
Below is an interesting article from NBC, please read…