The Worst Match Ever Played

Don’t ask me about Kyrgyzstan. It’s too close to home (figuratively and not literally). May be I’ll write something in a couple of weeks. When things settle down and I’ve had enough reflection time. For now, neither I nor anyone else knows what’s going on (and if they say they do know, they are lying.) Except, as the U.N. Human Rights Commissioner said, “We have strong indications that this event was not a spontaneous inter-ethnic clash – that it was to some degree orchestrated, targeted and well-planned.”

So that’s that, and I have nothing to add for now. Instead, I would like to talk about tennis. A dumber and more relaxing subject of conversation.

As many of you know, the World Cup is not the only sporting event currently on the air. Wimbledon is another high-profile tournament under way. This year it got a lot of attention for two things: first, the Queen visited this tennis championship for the first time in thirty three years; second, Nicolas Mahut (France) and John Isner (USA) are currently engaged in the longest match in tennis history. The score in the fifth set is 65 games (not points) to 65 games and counting. This set has gone on for almost seven-and-a-half hours, the play has been suspended two times due to darkness, and the end seems to be nowhere in sight.

Of course, all the commentators are dubbing this as “the best match ever played.” I say it’s “the worst and most boring match ever played.” Mahut and Isner are absolutely incompetent. Neither one of them is capable of returning a serve. Agreed, when Isner was serving 150 mph, returns were quite difficult. But he did slow down, and Mahut could do nothing with Isner’s 100 mph serve. Neither one of the guys has anything in his game other than serves (although Mahut is craftier out of the two and has greater diversity to  his shots). The longest point didn’t last for more than six shot exchanges (and you wonder why they didn’t get too tired!) Mahut and Isner are awful serve returners and that’s that. I can’t wait for this worst and most boring tennis match in history to be over with and the commentators to finally stop talking about  it and start broadcasting something else.

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Talk to a WWII vet today

As I’m writing this entry into my blog, I’m finding myself searching for words. Granted, I hardly ever don’t find myself desperately trying to be comprehensible. Nonetheless, today’s lack of words is special. I’m simply overwhelmed by the moment.

It’s Victory in Europe Day. On May 8th, 65 years ago, Nazi Germany unconditionally surrendered to the WWII Allies. Due to the time difference, some countries celebrate this day on May 9th.

And I know I’m getting on my soap box here, but I’m asking all of you who are reading this blog entry  to talk to at least one WWII veteran today. Their time on this earth is running out. Our children will not even know anyone who was alive during that very important and very challenging period. You and I, however, are fortunate to have WWII veterans among us. Let’s cherish this privilege and  take advantage of it.

Happy VE Day!

It’s the geography, stupid

The years of 2003, 2004, and 2005 brought a number of so-called Color Revolutions to the Former Soviet Union states. Russia looked wrong-footed. American NGOs, supporting these Color Revolutions, seemed to be turning the Russian sphere of influence into a pro-Western block. One by one, the countries of Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan were becoming increasingly defiant of Moscow, irritating the big bear who was waiting for opportunities to come back.

Opportunities presented themselves soon thereafter. All three leaders of the Color Revolutions turned out to be every bit as incompetent, greedy, and undemocratic as their predecessors. Plus, they worked hard to antagonize Russia, which made their people feel more physically and economically insecure. Our revolutionaries seemed to forget that, whether they like it or not, just through sheer power of geography if nothing else, most of the countries in the FSU are helpless against Russia’s military and dependent on Russia’s energy and Russia’s trade.

So here we are, seven years after the rainbow wave of revolutions began its triumphant flow. The Kyrgyz leader got ousted through violence, the Ukrainian leader got voted out through peaceful means, and the Georgian leader, well, he is still standing, although his breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are no longer standing with him.

And there appears to be very little the Western countries can do about all these developments. At least not right away. To misquote one of the most interventionist American presidents, “it’s the geography, stupid.”

Why Did You Do This, Mr. President?

When Sarah Palin, earlier this week, had challenged Obama’s recently announced nuclear policy, Obama shot back. In his interview to ABC News he said,

“Last I checked, Sarah Palin’s not much of an expert on nuclear issues. . . If the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff are comfortable with it, I’m probably going to take my advice from them, and not from Sarah Palin.”

Now. Why would the president do this? Why would he engage Sarah Palin? Doesn’t he know that the more he hits her, the more her supporters like her?

Yes he does know. And that’s exactly why he engaged her in this seemingly stupid “you’re likable enough, Hillary” manner. He wants Sarah Palin and the radical right to do well in the near future. He wants them and not moderate Republicans to gain seats in the 2010 midterm elections. And he wants Ms. Real America to run against him in the general election in 2012.

As David Frum, a speechwriter for Bush 43, put it, in his recent interview with the Financial Times, a big Republican victory in the mid-term elections would raise the chances for Sarah Palin to be the next presidential nominee or, worse, for “somebody who could be a very good president and a very plausible nominee to be Sarah Palinized.”

Frum believes, and I think Obama does too, that Republican gains in the short run will only hurt the Republican Party in the long run. Because the only way for the Republicans to gain now is to appeal to the radical and angry right, which will make the Republican Party more isolated and more out of touch with the real “real America.”

Frum, who coined the phrase “axis of evil,” was recently forced out of the AEI institute, an ultra- conservative think tank, for describing enactment of Obama’s healthcare reform as a “Waterloo” for the Republicans.

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Frum’s interview can be found at http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c39eaff2-433b-11df-9046-00144feab49a.html

Here’s another question . . .

If Bakiev is indeed out of power, what is going to happen to Manas air base?

Today’s RIA reports that Russia threw weight behind provisional Kyrgyz government and sent 150 paratroopers into Kant military base. Earlier, Putin came out and criticized Bakiev for corruption and nepotism, suggesting that the president got what he asked for.

It seems quite clear that ever since Bakiev backtracked on his promise to Russia to shut down Manas air base, Russians have been holding a grudge against the president and fostering relations with the opposition.

The opposition seems to understand that in order to hold on to power they need support of Russia, the hegemon in the post-Soviet region. To demonstrate their loyalty, leaders of the opposition have been very critical of Americans for courting Bakiev and sending him a letter of praise, after he allowed them to retain the base.

Could it be that if the opposition remains in power, Americans are out of Manas? Or could it be, they will have to start negotiations all over again, this time having to court not only Kyrgyzstan but also Russia?

LATEST UPDATE:

Reuters reports that Omurbek Tekebayev, who is in charge of “constitutional matters in the [provisional] government,” came out with a statement suggesting that “now there is a high probability that the duration of the U.S. air base’s presence in Kyrgyzstan will be shortened.”

WSJ reports that Russian delegation in Prague told reporters that Russia would push for the interim government to shut down Manas. Otunbayeva on the record saying “the status quo [on the base] remains in place… We won’t rush to decide on such issues.”

Reuters article is available here: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE63740R20100408

WSJ article is available here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB20001424052702304198004575171350635795616.html#mod=todays_us_page_one

here’s a question for ya . . .

what role did Russian media play in instigation of violence in Kyrgyzstan?

I don’t know much about this, but some analysts (see for example Central Asia-Caucasus Institute) suggest that after Bakiev agreed to continue hosting American military base in Kyrgyzstan, Russian television started coming out with investigative reports about corruption in Kyrgyzstan, particularly targeting the youngest son of Pres. Bakiev, Maxim (I saw the latest one on NTV.)

Now. For those who know Russia, there is no need to explain that if Russian television is reporting on something, it is doing so because Russian government told them to. Could it be that 2010 Revolution’s got Russian trace?

LATEST UPDATE:

Guardian reports that Roza Otunbayeva, who is the head of the provisional government, thanked Russia for its “significant support” in exposing a “nepotistic, criminal regime.”

Similarly, Reuters reports that Omurbek Tekebayev, another opposition leader, said that “Russia played its role in ousting Bakiev.”

I would really want to know, what in the world Otunbayeva meant when she thanked Russia for exposing Bakiev’s nepotism? Sure sounds like she referred to all the negative media reports that started coming out from Russia after Bakiev decided to continue hosting Manas Air Base.

Guardian article is available here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/apr/08/kyrgyzstan-revolt-over-kurmanbek-bakiyev

Reuters article is available here: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE63740R20100408

Tulip Revolution Goes On

Remember March 2005? Well, you probably don’t. But I do. Because, one of those mornings in March, I woke up to news of the revolution in Kyrgyzstan, my homeland.

At that time, Western media and Western governments interpreted this revolution as a victory for Democracy. For those cynical of us, who were actually from Kyrgyzstan, it looked more like a victory for hunger and destitution. To us, this was only the beginning. We knew that without social reforms, new protests are only a matter of time.

This march Kyrgyzstan celebrated a five-year anniversary of the revolution. Over this period of time things have only gotten worse. Utility prices are up; Bakiev’s power is centralized; his son, Maxim, is going around the country, telling people to give him their businesses or else; and Bakiev’s relatives and fellow clansmen are at the helm of most of the government institutions.

And so it is. This morning I woke up to news of another revolution. Only this time it didn’t come from the south (because Bakiev’s Southern clan is in power); it came from elswhere in the north and the west of the country. Protests began in Talas, spread to Naryn, Issyk-Kul, and Tokmok. Now protesters are in the capital. Citizens of Bishkek are terrified of the upcoming night. Owners of stores are bracing for night visits from fellow countrymen. Bakiyev announced a state of emergency.

LATEST UPDATE:

Specialists predicted that Bakiev, unlike his predecessor, would not give up his power easily (I mean, what is Maxim to do if his daddy is not the boss any more?) Latest reports, however, suggest that the president fled the country. But even if revolution, part two, is coming to some sort of resolution, without social reforms, revolution, part three, will be here soon.