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“Different Talks – Same Walk” is the conclusion I’ve come to with “malignant narcissists”.

The Hamas leaders don’t care about the Palestinians at whose expense — and the expense of lives — they have aggrandized themselves. We’re numb to the labels: “autocrats”, “dictators”, “kleptocrats”. Each — Putin, Assad, Khamenei, Orban, Erdogan, Haniyeh, Mashaal, et al. — starts from a different positions, but using criminal means, each winds up a tyrant.

Hamas may be sold as a Utopian movement, but . . . it’s a criminal enterprise, and its idea of power is the power to impose suffering on others with impunity.

Our democracies are fragile by comparison to feudal kingdoms, but as they have their differences between them, we — North America, Europe, for the most part, and others — have been able to navigate between them as peace pays off with prosperity. What the dictatorships do please the privileged, but they don’t really pay for themselves. They don’t shift for themselves. They, in fact, devour themselves.

There’s no need to defend this post.

The privileged of Russia know how much they depend on Putin for favor — and the “outer rings” (“rings” referring to driving belts around Moscow) know that no matter what they do if they’re out of favor — complete unknowns — there isn’t much new for them.  The economy simply hasn’t fare well under kleptocracy — golly gee — and the distribution of capital and gains from capital remains deeply skewed.

Read all about it in today’s Moscow Times:

Investment continues to decline, both industrial and in residential construction. Private consumption declines as well, while Russian people say they are cutting their purchases of goods and services to survive. Then again, industrial production is stable, agriculture continues to grow, export is growing slightly in physical terms, despite the drop in commodities prices.

This economic dialogue will continue for a long time, but the main conclusion we can make is already visible.

From the Kennan Institute this month — same thing: “An Economy That Did Not Want to Grow“:

The difference between the two strategies is fundamental. Kudrin’s formula is “business environment first, private investment later,” while his opponents want “public investment first, business environment later or never.” The two visions cancel each other out and this is exactly what Vladimir Putin seems to like about it. Both projects emphasize domestic growth based on either private initiative (Kudrin) or public spending (Titov). The first path means backpedaling on aggressive foreign-policy projects and depends on reviving and empowering the urban middle class. This poses a problem however, since the Kremlin is convinced that professionals who are paid more than 1500 U.S. dollars a month are a potential threat as proved by the protest movement of 2011-2012. The second path, exemplified by large public-works projects, will inevitably lead to even more corruption than currently exists in Russia.

Was “Vegas” better in its wild mafia days?

I don’t know.

I was too young for all that.

I didn’t exist.


“Moscow” — used here as a metonym — has suffered years of capital flight and frankly fearful foreign investment.

The state appears to leverage other states amenable to a medieval worldview of competition and political absolutism; it certainly has projects like “Turkish Stream” and a few hefty nuclear programs going with Turkey’s Erdogan and Hungary’s Orban, but get right down to it, the “good” despise “the criminal” and wear out on coughing up payola.

Ukrainians tired of Yanukovych — and Yanukovych, so guilty or suspicious with guilt, threw his black book and other records into a pond before fleeing his position.

Web pages and sites like these two were in the news four years ago, and I doubt much has changed since then:

http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/article/explosive-video-documents-depth-putins-mafia-state – n.d., circa four years ago judging by comments.

Posted to YouTube 6/26/2012.

Bill Browder on Putin, posted to YouTube May 22, 2014:

Here’s a related lively quote from an article by Masha Gessen in The New York Review of Books (March 14, 2016):

“This is not a hybrid regime!” shouted Andrei Illarionov as the conference wrapped up. Illarionov is an economist who was an economic advisor to Putin in 2000–2005—though he was never fully integrated into the regime—and now lives in Washington. “Thinking about it that way is a mistake, and analytical mistakes like that can have long-term tragic consequences.”

Capital flight from Russia looks dramatically reduced this year from where it was last year, but the prior years of losses may anchor the greater “longitudinal” picture in time.

These words appeared last fall in Business Insider (October 27, 2015):

In the past couple years, Russian hackers have launched attacks on a French television network, a German steelmaker, the Polish stock market, the White House, the US House of Representatives, the US State Department, and The New York Times.

And according to press reports citing Western intelligence officials, the perpetrators weren’t rogue cyber-pranksters. They were working for the Kremlin.

Cybercrime, it appears, has become a tool of Russian statecraft. And not just cybercrime.

Vladimir Putin’s regime has become increasingly adept at deploying a whole range of practices that are more common among crime syndicates than permanent members of the UN Security Council.