Monday, October 23, 2006

Corruption Done Correctly

I'm midway through Peter Baker and Susan Glasser's excellent book Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putin's Russia and the End of Revolution, and I just had to pass on a couple of entertaining tidbits.

The overarching theme of the book is that Putin is no joke. From his KGB background to his imprisonment of independent publishers critical of the Kremlin, to his campaigns of misinformation, to his insistence on escalating the brutal war with Chechnya, it is clear that Putin does not F around. A couple stories, however, stand out as particularly interesting.

Many of you remember August 12th of 2000, when the Russian submarine Kursk sank. The sub, which was designed to destroy U.S. aircraft carriers, sunk to the bottom of the ocean when one of its own torpedoes exploded, instantly killing 118 of the crewmen.

The immediate reaction of Putin's government was to deny anything bad had happened. As the facts became known in the days and weeks following the accident, the Kremlin continued its campaigns of misinformation, saying the sub may have been struck by an enemy naval fleet.

A meeting was held between relatives of the crew and military officers six days after the Kursk sank. At the meeting, Nadezhya Tylik, one of the mothers of the crew members killed in the accident, stood up and began justifiably ripping the military rescue efforts. While she was delivering her tirade, a female military medic snuck up behind Tylik and injected her through her heavy coat with a tranquilizer that caused her knees to buckle. As she fell to the floor, the medic and others ushered the incapacitated mother back to her seat, as if she had a heart attack.

This unbelievable event was captured on film, and pictures are available here.

Some other interesting tidbits:

Page 39: "It did not take much for Putin to genuinely impress a country fed up with Yeltsin. Sobriety alone became a major element of Putin's appeal, in contrast to his frequently drunken predecessor; one poll found that 40 percent of Russians said the quality they admired most in the new president was that he was sober."

If I ever run for office, I am most certainly making this part of my platform:

"Vote Dennis York: Only Occasionally Drunk!"

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Here's a little something for Kevin Barrett and his gang of lunatics - evidence exists that Russia actually planned apartment bombings against itself in an attempt to blame them on the Chechnens and drum up support for the war. On September 22, 1999, two witnesses saw two men and a woman walk into an apartment building basement with a number of bags. When the cops got there, they found bags of hexogen, a crystalline explosive, and a timer set for 5:30 AM. While the local authorities believed they thwarted a bombing attempt, the FSB (successor to the KGB) took control of the powder and announced that it was actually just sugar, and that nobody was ever in danger. Of course, they destroyed all the "sugar," preventing further tests.

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When Putin worked in the Kremlin for Yeltsin, he went to great lengths to crush anyone that challenged the authority of his boss. In 1999, Russia's prosecutor general, Yuri Skutarov, began nosing around some of the business dealings of the Yeltsin family. In March of 1999, state television aired a grainy video in which a naked man that looks like Skutarov has sex with two women identified as prostitutes. The prosecutor said it wasn't him, but Putin publicly declared the video "authentic," which forced Skutarov's resignation.

Now that's corruption done the right way. What part of this has the Doyle administration not picked up on? If you're going to take part in some sketchy stuff, make sure it's more entertaining than boring old travel contracts.