Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Putin marks 10 years of extraordinary achievement

The article below certainly presents another side to what we normally hear. It was written by an Australian Christian conservative. What is missing is a comparison with other post-Soviet economies -- such as the Baltic States. But while the Baltic States have done better in many ways, the economic crisis hit them hard -- which was much less so for Russia. Like the USA, Russia is at the moment propping up large private businesses rather than expropriating them

A decade ago this month, Boris Yeltsin handed the reins of Russia to Vladimir Putin. It was a good day for Russia and the world. Putin is Russia's finest leader since Peter the Great.

Western profiles of Putin usually begin with ''ex-KGB agent'' but that is misleading. As a spy in West Germany in the 1980s, Putin witnessed the superiority of the free market. After the 1989 revolutions, Putin moved to St Petersburg to join his friend and former university lecturer, the mayor, Anatoly Sobchak - the Milton Friedman of Russia - and was appointed to attract foreign investment to Russia's second largest city. When Yeltsin defied Soviet tanks in Moscow in 1991, Sobchak performed the same heroic feat in St Petersburg. During those momentous days, when Russia's fate was in the balance, Putin resigned from the KGB to work against the Soviet coup.

Putin stayed with free-market Sobchak until 1996, when he moved to Moscow, ended the Chechen revolt and in August 1999 was appointed Yeltsin's fifth prime minister in 17 months. Four months later, Yeltsin resigned as president and, under Russia's constitution, Putin became acting president.

He called an election, further entrenching the rule of law, in which 75 per cent of Russians voted, winning a 53 per cent majority in a field of 12 candidates. Four years later he was re-elected with a thumping 71 per cent mandate and has since enjoyed the highest approval rating of any political leader in the democratic world.

Putin inherited an economic catastrophe. In 1998, Russia defaulted on its foreign debt and the rouble collapsed. His first public commitment - to double the productive capacity of the Russian economy in 10 years - was met with derision, but has been fulfilled.

When Time magazine asked Putin how a lifelong KGB man raised in the Soviet Union become a believer in free markets, he replied: ''One doesn't have to be a particularly bright highbrow to see the obvious, that the market economy has major advantages over an administrative system.''

In the Putin decade, Russia followed the advice of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, with average annual economic growth of 7 per cent. Foreign debt has been repaid before it fell due and international bond investors now bemoan the shortage of its public debt.

Real wages have grown at about 12 per cent a year. In 2001, Putin achieved the holy grail of progressive reform - a flat income tax of 13 per cent, creating a wave of incentive to work while reducing the appeal of the black market.

At the same time, he cut corporate tax from 35 to 24 per cent and gave small businesses a choice - pay 6 per cent of gross revenue in tax or 15 per cent of profits. The former Soviet Union now boasts the lowest taxes in Europe while achieving increases in government revenue.

Western critics predicted Putin would use the global financial crisis as a pretext to increase state control, but the reverse has been the case. Russia has embarked on a new round of privatisation, with 5500 state-owned enterprises earmarked for sale.

The World Bank reported: "Russia's strong short-term macroeconomic fundamentals make it better prepared than many emerging economies to deal with the crisis . . . prudent fiscal management and substantial financial reserves have protected Russia from deeper consequences of this external shock.'' Its sharemarket more than doubled last year, giving its investors the best returns of any bourse.

Putin's Russia has floated its currency and liberalised its current and capital accounts, completing the troika required for full integration into international capital markets. In 2000, Russia's economy was ranked 22nd in the world - now it is seventh. The power of oligarchs diminished under Putin, with the growing counterweight of parliament, the rule of law and a middle class that has exploded from 8 million to 55 million. Those living in poverty fell from 30 per cent to 14 per cent under his watch.

Yeltsin gave independence to 15 former Soviet republics and, although Putin is perceived as a tough guy, the empire is not striking back. John McCain wrongly attempted to characterise the Georgia skirmish as a "resurgence of the Soviet bear". South Ossetia was historically part of Georgia but during the Soviet era its population became dominated by ethnic Russians. Today the vast majority of South Osettians want to be part of Russia. Georgians launched an offensive to retake South Ossetia during the Beijing Olympics and Russia resisted. South Ossetia may be a complex story but comparisons with Budapest in 1956 are wrong.

While the Soviets repressed all religious faith, Putin happily wears a cross, admits to studying the Bible and has largely restored the prestige of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Russian media may be excessively pro-Putin but only a fraction more or less than the US media have been towards President Barack Obama. It is distressing and disturbing that several Russian journalists have been murdered during Putin's administration. In the absence of persuasive evidence to the contrary, I can only accept Putin's own logic that their deaths have caused him more damage than anything they could have written or spoken.

Russia is the largest geographic nation and the ninth most populous. It retains the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. Everyone on Earth has an interest in Russia's stability and prosperity. It seems likely that Putin will stand again for president in 2012, as the constitution permits. In view of his extraordinary record of achievement in office, its hard for me to see how anyone of good faith could regret his continued influence in Russia and the world.



Obama's 'fixes' will fail


On Christmas day, a terrorist known to our intelligence system tried to blow up 300 innocents on a US-bound flight. Our government's response is to take porno pictures of your wife and daughter. A radical-Islamist US Army major, known to our intelligence system, massacred his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood. Our government's response was to offer counseling sessions. A triple agent, known to our intelligence system, detonated a suicide bomb at a CIA outpost, killing seven Americans and a cousin of Jordan's king. Our government's response is to shift intelligence assets away from targeting terrorists to support development efforts.

Our president assures us that no individual is to blame. No one will be fired. It was only "the system," that elusive beast, that failed. Well, our intelligence system is made up of people. People failed. Starting at the top.

The dazzlingly incompetent Janet Napolitano, a "man-caused disaster" if ever there was one, needs to be removed from her job heading Homeland Security. White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan should be placed on double-secret probation and warned to pull up his grades. As for the National Counterterrorism Center chief who abandoned his post to go on a ski vacation the day after Christmas, I leave his fate to you, gentle reader. None of these people, including our president, took what almost happened on Christmas seriously -- until the public outcry spooked them.

To energize the bureaucratic proles, you have to chop off aristocratic heads. But President Obama won't use the guillotine. He's protecting incompetents. At our nation's expense.

The corrective measures announced Thursday boil down to two things: Buy more stuff (additional computer systems, full-body scanners, etc.), and re-arrange the deck chairs. That won't do it. These measures don't address the two enduring handicaps our intelligence community (and our government) suffers in our duel with Islamist terrorists.

First, you can't win by playing defense. Our unseemly protective measures relinquish the initiative to our enemies. Punishing law-abiding US citizens at airports is a disgrace, not a virtue. The only effective way to reduce the terrorist threat is to kill terrorists. Nothing else -- not even the humiliation of innocent air travelers -- will work.

Yet the politically correct group-think mentality in Washington is so pervasive and pernicious that even Robert Gates, who's been a great secretary of defense in so many ways, parrots the cliché that "we can't kill our way out of this." Oh, really? Suppose we had killed young Umar Abdulmutallab on the ground with al Qaeda in Yemen? Might that not have protected Americans more effectively than making them miss their holiday flight connections?

Any program that takes intelligence assets away from finding and killing terrorists is a mistake. Improving crop yields in southern Afghanistan won't keep Americans safe from Islamist fanatics. What about this is hard to understand?

Problem No. 2 is the nature of our intelligence system itself: It's morbidly obese. The well-intentioned creation of new bureaucracies after 9/11 only worsened the problem, creating more layers of fat. I prescribe a rigorous diet and exercise -- not force-feeding the system more funding calories. Our intel system is vast, redundant, intractable, self-satisfied, cautious and slower than crosstown traffic during a presidential motorcade.

Our Islamist enemies are lean, really mean, agile, ruthless and, above all, imaginative. Ragtag fanatics are out-thinking us. Why? Because bureaucracy, although it has its place, hates fresh ideas. The terrorists grab a good concept and run with it. We staff it to death, then decide it's far too risky. Before launching an attack on a confirmed terrorist target in Afghanistan, our combat units need up to a dozen different permission slips. Think al Qaeda or the Taliban work that way? We're not being defeated. We're defeating ourselves.

As a former Military Intelligence officer, I know the answer isn't more inexperienced hires or throwing more money at well-connected defense contractors. The answer is to emphasize quality, and for our leaders to foster a culture of risk in the field and personal responsibility in the Cabinet. We need to be creative and willing to commit sins of commission, rather than waiting for terrorists to expose our sins of omission.

Instead, we'll continue to penalize honest citizens (handing al Qaeda a massive, continuing win). Those full-body scanners? If you don't think porn shots of innocent women will end up on the Internet, you probably believe that trying terrorist butchers in civilian courts will make al Qaeda respect us. We need to check under the burqas, not the halter tops.



Fox does well with Sarah Palin signing

ALREADY entrenched as No.1 in the US cable television news wars, Fox News Channel today hired Sarah Palin as a contributor. The arrangement, first reported in the New York Times, has the potential of playing out as a big win for both parties.

For Fox, the addition gives its conservative political base one more reason to tune in, as Ms Palin is the darling of many sectors of the Republican Party. Fox has surged far ahead of rivals CNN and MSNBC , so it isn't necessarily fretting about losing its sizable advantage in the ratings. But it's always good business to give the people what they want, and they can't get enough of Ms Palin.

Ms Palin, for her part, now has an opportunity to appear as an expert commentator on political and family issues and stay in the public eye prior to the 2012 presidential election. Some have speculated that Ms Palin, who was the Republican vice-presidential candidate in 2008, is gearing up for a run against President Barack Obama in 2012. Ms Palin's bestselling book, Going Rogue, afforded her an opportunity to expound on a variety of issues while getting ample time on television news shows.

Ms Palin will appear on Fox News on a regular basis as a part of a multi-year deal. Ms Palin has been coy and noncommittal about her plans. She has enlivened the GOP with her willingness to defend the right-to-life point of view - and criticise Democrats, particularly Obama.

SOURCE (More detail here)



Cuban Doctors Manage to Defect Via Venezuela: "Around 500 Cuban doctors have defected to the United States while serving on aid missions in Venezuela, according to members of Cuban exile groups in Miami. The latest case occurred on Wednesday when seven Cuban physicians managed to leave Caracas’ Maiquetia International Airport, after being held there for several hours and after paying hundreds of dollars each to officials. “The Venezuelan and Cuban officials at Maiquetia systematically subject the doctors who want to leave to psychological pressure until finally they pay bribes,” Cuban doctor Keiler Moreno, who left Caracas five months ago, told Efe. The bribes can range from $300 to as much as $2,000. Sources with Miami’s massive Cuban exile community say that around 2,000 physicians and other health care personnel have defected since 2006 and requested visas to come to the United States. Of that number, 500 came through Venezuela and just in the last year, about 200 arrived in Miami. About 45,000 Cuban doctors and other health care workers are participating in Venezuela in the “Barrio Adentro” public health program designed to try and make up for the lack of such personnel in Venezuela. Although the Cuban doctors who arrive in the United States cannot practice medicine until they get the proper licenses, Dr. Moreno said that they prefer to confront that situation rather than remain in a system plagued by corruption.

A woman’s inalienable right to murder: "On January 7, 2010 the Associated Press released a story titled ‘Maine woman avoids prison for killing of husband.’ What is important about this case are not the details — admittedly unattractive — but the essential legal principle established by Waldo County Superior Court Justice Jeffrey Hjelm. Judge Hjelm established the legal precedent that any woman, based on her own internal and unverifiable thoughts and feelings, has the right to murder any man and suffer no legal consequences.”

Private property ownership issue in Maine: "With its idyllic views and wide expanses of pristine sand, Goose Rocks Beach has lured strollers, swimmers, and softball players for more than a century. Now, in a bare-knuckled lawsuit that has pitted neighbor against neighbor, beachfront residents are invoking Colonial law to affirm their private property rights on a 2-mile crescent that the public has used freely for decades. … Waterfront residents trumpet the suit as a principled stand for property rights, which have extended to the low-water mark since the reign of King Charles I. … But to many townspeople without a front-row view of the Atlantic, the court action is a selfish and cynical effort to hoard a precious piece of natural beauty.”

McCain: Wrong to give Nigerian bomb civilian's rights: "U.S. Senator John McCain says the Nigerian accused of attempting to blow up a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner on Christmas Day (December 25) should be tried as an enemy combatant in a military court. McCain told CNN Sunday that giving the man the right to an American lawyer that could help him legally withhold damaging information is a contradiction to the president’s view that America is at war with terrorists.”

SCOTUS to rule on Clinton movie, campaign funding: "Possibly coming soon: election-season Super Bowl-style television ads promoting congressional and presidential candidates, paid for by some of the largest U.S. corporations. It may happen. For decades, business and union money has been largely shut out of state, congressional and presidential campaigns. The Supreme Court may change that in a big way. The court has raised a range of high-stakes possibilities that could let corporations, unions and wealthy individuals pour money into elections in time for this year’s congressional races, not to mention the 2012 presidential contest. A ruling is expected as early as Tuesday.”

Yet another A380 failure: "A new Airbus A380 super jumbo has been grounded at a South Korean airport due to a mechanical fault, the latest in a series of glitches for the world's largest airliner, officials said yesterday. The Emirates plane was scheduled to take off late Sunday for Dubai but the flight was cancelled due to a technical defect, said airport officials in Incheon, west of Seoul. It was the first such case since the Dubai-based carrier launched the A380 service to South Korea last December. The carrier has seven A380s. "A technical problem has been detected in the plane's fuel system," said an official at the carrier's local public relations agency. The delay had forced some 420 passengers to stay at a hotel near the airport, he said, adding that the passengers would leave on another plane sent by the carrier overnight, after a 19-hour delay. Air France's new A380 was grounded more than once last month due to technical problems. Another owned by Singapore Airlines had to return to Paris last month for attention due to an electrical fault. A week ago a Qantas-operated A380 bound for Los Angeles was grounded at Melbourne airport due to a problem with its fuel gauge." [Fly on one at your own risk]

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.

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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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