Monday, October 29, 2012

Around Russia, 2nd Half Oct 2012: Bad, the Good, the Silly

Around Russia, 2nd Half Oct 2012: Bad, the Good, the Silly
A lot of things have been happening in Russia over the past several weeks.
The Bad:
After a rash of major drunk driving incidents, in Moscow, that have left a dozen dead and score injured, the Duma is pushing through very tough new laws that will raise fines by a factor of 100. While this is excellent news, the continuation of a zero alcohol tolerance is foolish. The United Russia party, though with internal divisions, which were suppressed, has forged ahead with keeping this minimum. They were joined by LDPR on this stance. This stance only creates new avenues for the endless corruption we deal with from the ever hated, and basically worthless GAISHNIKI (traffic police). The zero tolerance policy means that people who naturally have a tiny level of alcohol in their system due to natural digestive processes, people who have drank kvas (a type of near beer, carbonated bread drink that is very popular but still has .5% alcohol) or kifir or yogurts, can and are caught under this policy. Furthermore, because the policy does not differentiate between levels of intoxication: trace amounts or to drunk to get out of the car and treats all as equally guilty, this gives the Gaishnik an avenue to demand bribes.
Let me be clear on this: Gaishniki are 100% corrupt. There is no such thing as an honest one. Partly this stems from corrupt chiefs who demand a certain amount of "revenue" be passed to their own pockets on a daily basis, while they themselves drain the budgets of every kopek. Partly from their own corrupt natures and that the law allows them to exploit loop holes or positions of power. When you can charge someone who drank yogurt with a drunk driving offense and in lieu of the person loosing his license, demand 3000+ rubles in bribes, you will be a rich bastard. Now that the penalties are going up so much, the ability to "earn" off of the population will only grow. That this in turn feeds public rage and hatred, seems to be lost on the Edinaya Rossiya deputies as a whole. My suggestion to the Gaishniks is to start carrying credit card readers to they can at least provide some easier service to the people they are fleecing on a daily basis. Maybe public anger will be a bit less.
But what is even worse, is the Satanic power behind some of these Gaishniks, who in their greed and hatred of good people, have setup check points near churches to stop and arrest/demand bribes from church goers who have taken communion of the Lord's Supper and have thus had a table spoon of wine....more than enough to be charged under this disgraceful standard.
On more positive news, the Good.
The Cultural Ministry, as part of a general growing awareness of just how much Russia looses in potential tourism revenue, is preparing a new law, to submit to the Duma, that will allow foreigners 72 hours of stay, without need for a visa or registration. So far, it will be limited to 3 arrival cities: Moscow, St.Petersburg and Kazan (why Kazan and not Kaliningrad or Vladivastok or Ekaterinburg, God only knows). This will first and foremost affect transitional tourists, who will now be able to spend that one extra day and some cash. Of course this is a tiny step in the right direction. Why stop at three days? You want the big tourist bucks (Russia ranks 4th in sights to see and 94th in tourism), either remove the limit totally or do as the Turks, and sell on the spot visas for $20. This will also allow you to fire some 10-20 thousand government workers who really do little but process pointless paperwork costing the state most of what it earns off of visas. If its a matter of controlling who enters, well, this law removes the pretense of control, not that one would guess we have control from all the illegals running around in every city, town and village.
Of course this is a step in the right direction and once taken, others will follow of their own accord.
Our extreme high-speed rail lines are coming online faster than expected. The Moscow-Tver line will carry passengers from city center to city center in 30 minutes time, a distance of about 250km (140 miles for my standard centric readers). Since previously there was only two options: drive by car or light electric train, either way a several hour jaunt. This should cut down traffic coming in and out of the cities. Even the present high speed rail takes one hour. Moscow-Tver is the first leg of the Moscow-St.Petersburg line. The super high-speed trains, running up to 500km/hr require their own rail lines, thus are an additional project, while the Sapsan high speed, running at 250km/hr, run on existing lines. An additional project is being laid out from Moscow to Ekaterinburg, 1,600km, that will also go through cities such as Vladimir, Kazan and Perm, along the way and will cover the distance in some 5,5 hours, as opposed to 2,5 by air (not counting the additional 2hrs airport departure and 30 minute airport arrival times, plus the 2-3 hour commute into Moscow from any of the airports.), 2 days by regular rail or 1.5 days by auto.  
A new movement, a new awakening of the Orthodox faithful is taking place in Russia: Soboryane. Starting in Stavrapolsk region, a heartland of Orthodoxy that has found itself in conflict with newly arrived Islamic immigrants, spreading throughout Russia and now into Ukraine and Belarus. The movement includes posters and billboards of famous Orthodox faithful and their slogans. Such people included are  film director Nikita Mikhalkov,  Eurovision stars Buranovskiye Babushki, 19th century writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Yury Gararin, who stated: “If you haven’t met God on earth, you won’t find him in space.” A surprise addition is US actor and director Tom Hanks, who upon marriage to his wife Rita Wilson, converted to Orthodoxy in 1988.
Russian, by the way, is now the third main language on Earth, with over 500 million speakers, thus, 1/5 living outside the former Soviet Union. It moved up this year in ranking from 4th place and is behind English and Chinese.
The Silly,
In the halls of really bad ideas, Duma senator Tatyana Zabolotnaya Federation Council's Social Policy Committee, has demanded that children's bikes should be state registered. This nut job believes that putting children through the bureaucratic machine will teach them to obey the law. More to the point of hate idiotic laws and idiots who make them. Of course if her aim is a make work program, than sure, why not, as if we need another 10 or 20 thousand bureaucrats feeding off of the body politic. I hope this is not what most politicians actually believe to be "bright ideas to lead us forward", unless they are of course taking the US/EU model to heart.

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