The ancients were pretty sure that when Zeus tossed his lightning and thunder bolts, he wasn’t well-intentioned, let alone fair-minded. It’s that way too in Russia when electricity gets distributed between the big shots and ordinary folk. The ancients were also sure Zeus could be bought off, but obviously not by those who couldn’t afford the temple offerings.
Last month, when Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, followed by President Vladimir Putin, and then Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev announced that they are going to freeze Russian power tariffs for next year, in effect distributing electricity at a discount to big shots, but keeping in place the 12% increase in the tariff for ordinary citizens, implemented on July 1, they were rewarding those in a position to pay off. (more…)
If the US Government and Congress believe they have the right to impose sanctions on Russian individuals and companies for conduct that is legal in Russian and international law, what would happen if the boot were on the other foot – if the Russian Government imposed sanctions on US individuals and corporations for violating Russian law?
The question arises often, very often. Two weeks ago, for instance, a group of US Senators told the US Treasury that VTB, Vnesheconombank and Gazprombank should be penalized for violating “international sanctions by enabling Syria to pay for imports and receive funds for exports. This assistance eases much of the financial burden on the Assad regime, allowing it to continue military purchases and pay the soldiers that sustain the war in Syria.” For background on Russia’s legal position toward the Syrian conflict, read this. (more…)
If the common Russian opinion of who runs the country matches the evidence of who really runs Russia, that’s a reliable test of a democratic culture.
There’s a catch. If just one man and a handful of his trusties run the country, and noone else, not even the very rich or very honest, can improve on their reputation for trust, capability, or popularity, then this must be a democracy without competition. Compared to democracies like the United Kingdom, United States, Italy, or France, where those who run the country are untrusted, incapable, and unpopular, and where the power elite buys election results, respectability, lordships, freedom from taxation, and immunity from prosecution, Russia must be a model of something unusual in politics. (more…)
This week it’s hot and humid in Conakry, capital of the west African Republic of Guinea. It will hit 30 degrees in the day; the humidity will be 100%. Until Saturday, when the much-postponed, much-rigged parliamentary elections will be held, there will be occasional thunderstorms, sunny spells, and an inch of rain per day.
But there’s not enough water to douse the allegations that the President of Guinea, Alpha Conde, took payoffs through go-betweens to rig the presidential elections of June and November 2010; put up Guinea’s mining concessions for a fresh round of corrupt awards; and let Rusal off the hook of a billion-dollar compensation order by the Guinean Government and local courts. (more…)
How many angels can dance on the point of a pin was a trick question for medieval scholars: that’s because, theologically speaking, angels have no substance. So the correct answer is that an infinity of them can sit on the point. Alternatively, since Thomas Aquinas (d. March 7, 1274) claimed two angels cannot occupy the same space, the answer is only one angel.
Fill a modern room on the bank of Lake Valdai last week with a couple of hundred academicians and reporters, most of them from states bent on regime change in Russia, and the headline question they want to debate is: will President Vladimir Putin (standing figure centre) run for re-election in 2018? (more…)
If QIWI, the Russian electronic payments operator, is such a good thing, why did the market cut the stock price the minute QIWI announced this week that it’s planning to sell off more of the control shareholders’ shares?
QIWI was co-founded by Alisher Usmanov’s internet portal company, Mail.ru, and Usmanov continues to be one of QIWI’s biggest clients and sources of cashflow. In May, QIWI launched an initial public offering (IPO) of 12.5 million shares on the US Nasdaq exchange. Usmanov was the biggest seller at the time. Through Mail.ru, he started with 21.4% of the issued share capital, and ended up with 19.4% of the voting shares. He was followed by Andrei Romanenko, QIWI’s board chairman and one of the co-founders, who started with 12.7%, and ended with 8.6%. For the May 3, 2013, prospectus, read this. (more…)
The last time President Vladimir Putin publicly criticized Oleg Deripaska, chief executive of United Company Rusal and Russia’s most indebted man, it was at Pikalevo, Leningrad region, in June of 2009. Putin tossed his pen at Deripaska, told him to sign a back-pay agreement, and demanded his pen back. Referring to the failure to pay wages to the town’s alumina and cement factory workers, Putin told Deripaska: “Why has your factory been so neglected? They’ve turned it into a rubbish dump. Why was everyone running around like cockroaches before my arrival? Why was no one capable of taking decisions?..you’ve made thousands of residents of Pikalevo hostages of your ambition, your nonprofessionalism and maybe your greed. Thousands of people. It’s totally unacceptable.”
The pen-tossing and televised chastisement of Deripaska were followed by substantial new state bank and budget funds to cover Deripaska’s payouts at Pikalevo. In September, after everyone had taken their summer holidays, Deripaska claimed Putin hadn’t meant what he seemed on camera to be doing. “The problem”, said Deripaska, “was that the reality of the meeting event and the picture, which was transmitted by the television channels, did not coincide. This was a simple case of editing. Actually, everything went in another way. What happened at the meeting was very productive; the decisions taken to revive manufacture have been implemented.” (more…)
Diamond prices have been growing in the global market since January, but depending on your choice of accounting period, the growth rate is either not much; or not at all; or negative since July. Alrosa, the state-owned diamond miner directed by Fyodor Andreyev (image left), reported its latest financial results this week, noting “positive dynamics in the diamond markets in H1 2013, which resulted in a 7% growth of rough diamond prices since the beginning of 2013.”
The company is hoping to make a start selling 14% of its shares on the Moscow Stock Exchange next month, so it’s putting its best foot forward. A bloc of 7% will come from the 51% shareholding of the federal government; another 7% bloc will come from the Sakha republic’s 32% holding. The regional authorities want the privatization to go no further; so they won’t be too unhappy if share sale demand fails to reach Andreyev’s top of the range valuation at $15 billion. Vladimir Potanin, who was interested in taking over the company in the late 1990s, announced this week he isn’t interested in buying shares, and for good measure accused the federal government of artificially stoking demand. (more…)
The international ratings agency Fitch has downgraded its assessment of the Ukrainian pipemaking group Interpipe, owned by Victor Pinchuk, warning that Russian action since July to impose penalty duties on Ukrainian pipe imports is causing a serious loss of sales and a grave shortage of cash for Interpipe. If that continues, a release from Fitch says, the company “is unlikely to be able to meet its scheduled debt repayments.” The Fitch report was issued in London on Monday. It comes just three months after the agency had reported that the outlook for Interpipe as stable, confirming at the time Interpipe’s B- rating.
In the latest action Fitch says it is downgrading Interpipe to CCC. Sources close to recent talks between Fitch and Interpipe describe the triple-C rating as indicating, according to the Fitch methodology, the high probability of default. (more…)
The takeover announced at the start of this month by Global Ports Investments (GPI) of the National Container Company (NCC) gives control of more than 72% of container transportation volume in Russia’s west, including the Black and Baltic Seas; and more than 82% of Russian box volume in the northwest, from the Gulf of Finland to the Arctic. Calculations by Moscow maritime expert Alexei Bezborodov indicate that with accumulated capacity of 1.7 to 1.8 million Teu per annum, Global Ports is taking “a monopoly position in the market”. Teu stands for twenty-foot equivalent unit, a measure of container length and of cargo capacity roughly equal to 22.6 tonnes.
As of August 31, the volume of the total Russian market stands at 3.5 million Teu. In the Russian Fareast, volume is currently 1 million Teu. (more…)
In Gogol’s well-known story Dead Souls, Chichikov (left), the central character and villain of the piece, makes a lucrative business of buying the names of dead serfs from local census rolls in order to cut the tax liabilities of landowners, accumulate fake collateral against which he intends to borrow, and then retire in wealth. In the more up to date case of the state-funded aluminium monopoly, United Company Rusal, the business is to keep filling the names on the employment rolls while disposing of their jobs and eliminating the unsellable surplus of their production.
The idea of Oleg Deripaska (right), Rusal’s chief executive and trustee for the state owners of the company, is that if the souls protest their loss of work and income, they won’t be convincing to the Kremlin so long as Rusal claims to be paying them for work no longer done. Rusal’s published rationale for what is happening is that until international demand for aluminium raises the price of the metal in trade, it must cut supply to the market. That’s problematic because of the large accumulation of unsold aluminium in uncounted warehouse inventories. That story can be read here. (more…)
To the disability of being unable to speak his mind in public Suleiman Kerimov has the added handicap of being unable to accept how short his arms are, particularly when handling money from state banks. In overreaching himself Kerimov has provided a case study of how President Vladimir Putin expects the Russian oligarchy to conduct its business when state interests are at stake; and also of the continuing importance of former deputy prime minister Igor Sechin, now chief executive of the Rosneft oil company.
In July Kerimov got too big for his boots when he believed he had Kremlin support for upsetting the potash cartel known as the Belarusian Potash Company (BPC), directly threatening President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus. The BPC, headquartered in Minsk since 2005, was a Russian creation — successor to a line of trading organizations for the concealment of potash sale profits with names like Ferchimex (Belgium), Bermont (Switzerland), Fertexim (Cyprus), and Uralkali Trading (Switzerland). All of them were the creation of the fertilizer, I mean fertile, mind of Dmitry Rybolovlev, whom Sechin drove out of the potash business in 2010, replacing him with Kerimov. Sechin failed to oust Rybolovlev’s trader, Oleg Petrov, who stayed on to teach Kerimov the tricks of the trade. (more…)
Nothing so reveals the character of the men on the commanding heights of the Russian economy than a lawsuit in an international court initiated by their wives against one of their tradesmen.
In the case which recently came to light, Aleksandra Melnichenko (nee Nikolic), wife of the fertilizer oligarch Andrei Melnichenko, sued a New York art dealer for more than €5 million, including triple punitive damages, for putting the wrong thing in her garden. This beats the record for a backyard claim previously set in a Washington, DC, court by Elena Pinchuk – daughter of the ex-President of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, and current wife of Victor Pinchuk.
The New York case turned on Mrs Melnichenko’s claim that she had ordered her sculpture to be 220 centimetres in height, but she got only 120 centimetres. The missing 100 centimetres, she claimed, was not only an aesthetic violation and a lapse of taste, but also a breach of contract, and worse, a case of fraud. Hence the triple damages. (more…)
As larger cargo volumes and more international vessels move through Arctic waters, or the Northern Sea Route as the passage is generally called in Russian (SMP is the cyrillic acronym, NSR in English), the Kremlin’s strategy is to fund the construction of the most powerful nuclear icebreakers in the world, and ensure they dominate future navigation and convoys. These vessels are very expensive to build and to operate, however. So costly that just a few days of extra time navigating the icepack could eliminate the cost advantage which the Northern Sea Route is currently advertising over the Suez Canal alternative.
Because of the lack of ports along the Arctic shores, and tight beam and draught limits for vessels to navigate the eastern Laptev and Sannikov narrows, ten new Russian navigational and emergency centres will be installed over the next decade to bring the new traffic under Russian supervision and regulation. But there are technical problems with the maintenance of hundreds of strontium-90 powered navigational beacons installed along the coast line. Customs, coast guard, and special forces units are also being reinforced and tested to give the Russian regulatory authorities teeth to react to what the Kremlin considers foreign territorial or commercial threats. Ironically, according to one Moscow source, the satellite imaging used by the Russians to identify and navigate around thick ice concentrations is Canadian, not Russian. (more…)
Evraz, the steelmaking group owned by Roman Abramovich and Alexander Abramov, has revealed that it cannot complete the sale of its South African steel subsidiary, Highveld Steel & Vanadium, on time, and that the South Africans are the reason for the fresh delay.
At the same time, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his South African counterpart, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, in Moscow on Monday that the Kremlin wants to see less delay, more commitment from President Jacob Zuma on buying nuclear power reactors from Rosatom. Zuma, who has now arrived in St. Petersburg for the G-20 summit meeting, has met President Vladimir Putin twice already this year – in Durban in March, and in Sochi in May – and on each occasion the official communiques have pledged the same thing. Lavrov repeated this on Monday when at a press conference with Nkoana-Mashabane, he said Russia’s priority in its bilateral relationship with South Africa is the billion-dollar sale and purchase of reactors. “Russia is ready to assist in the creation in the Republic of South Africa of nuclear power,” Lavrov said. This, Lavrov emphasized, is the priority in “the complex of bilateral ties…further steps for implementation of these major arrangements…[and] the activization of investment cooperation.” (more…)
Sovcomflot, the state-owned Russian tanker company, has reported that its vessel operating profit collapsed from $101.7 million to just $31.7 million in the six months to June 30, while on the bottom-line the company reported a net loss of $14.5 million; this compares with a profit of just $2 million in the first quarter, and a profit of $51 million in the first half of 2012. This is the first loss ever booked in Sovcomflot’s audited reports. (more…)
After months of delay, Victor Pinchuk’s Interpipe group revealed in its financial report for last year — issued at the start of August but given a release date of May 23 – how much financial trouble the Ukrainian pipe and steelmaker is now facing. The impact of this on the international art market is about to be felt in art auctions scheduled for later this month and in October in London and New York. That’s because Pinchuk’s record-priced acquisitions of two artists, Englishman Damien Hirst and American Jeff Koons, have created an overhang of their works in the market place. According to speculation by London and New York art dealing sources, these works may be forced into sale at a heftier discount than Hirst and Koons have already been taking.
Art market reports show that sales by Hirst have dropped from $45.8m in 2008 to $18.3m in 2012 – and that doesn’t count the volume of works failing to sell at all. Since then, according to the New York Times, Hirst works are fetching 60% less than was originally paid for them. To reduce the supply, Hirst’s production company Science Ltd. has issued a catalogue itemizing one line of purportedly authentic works and inviting owners to apply to Hirst for an authenticity check. (more…)
On December 7, 2012, Andrei Melnichenko (image right, right) told prospective buyers of $750 million in loan participation notes that he was gung-ho on the future of the potash business of his Eurochem group. For Eurochem — 92% owned by board chairman Melnichenko; 8% by chief executive Dmitry Strezhnev – potash was, still is, a brand-new line of business. But in a decade or so, Melnichenko told investors, he aimed to be number-1 for potash in Russia and in Europe; and for potash, nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers combined, close to number-1 in the world.
Apparently nothing stood in his way – not Uralkali, Russia’s current potash monopoly producer; nor Suleiman Kerimov (left, left), the control shareholder of Uralkali. Not Belaruskali, the state-owned potash monopoly of Belarus, nor Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. Those four names don’t appear in the risk or strategy sections of Melnichenko’s investment prospectus, a copy of which has just fallen from a Eurochem truck. How he proposed to defeat such rivals the Eurochem prospectus didn’t even acknowledge as a problem. Can Melnichenko have been so unthinking as to expect his rivals to surrender their market positions and profits without a fight? Did Melnichenko take his bond buyers for dolts and boobies? (more…)
The Ukraine war is splitting the communist parties of Europe between those taking the US side, and those on the Russian side.
In an unusual public criticism of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and of smaller communist parties in Europe which have endorsed the Greek criticism of Russia for waging an “imperialist” war against the Ukraine, the Russian Communist Party (KPRF) has responded this week with a 3,300-word declaration: “The military conflict in Ukraine,” the party said, “cannot be described as an imperialist war, as our comrades would argue. It is essentially a national liberation war of the people of Donbass. From Russia’s point of view it is a struggle against an external threat to national security and against Fascism.”
By contrast, the Russian communists have not bothered to send advice, or air public criticism of the Cypriot communists and their party, the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL). On March 2, AKEL issued a communiqué “condemn[ing] Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and calls for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Russian troops from Ukrainian territories….[and] stresses that the Russian Federation’s action in recognising the Donetsk and Luhansk regions constitutes a violation of the principle of the territorial integrity of states.”
To the KPRF in Moscow the Cypriots are below contempt; the Greeks are a fraction above it.
A Greek-Cypriot veteran of Cypriot politics and unaffiliated academic explains: “The Cypriot communists do not allow themselves to suffer for what they profess to believe. Actually, they are a misnomer. They are the American party of the left in Cyprus, just as [President Nikos] Anastasiades is the American party of the right.” As for the Greek left, Alexis Tsipras of Syriza – with 85 seats of the Greek parliament’s 300, the leading party of the opposition – the KKE (with 15 seats), and Yanis Varoufakis of MeRA25 (9 seats), the source adds: “The communists are irrelevant in Europe and in the US, except in the very narrow context of Greek party politics.”
The war plan of the US and the European allies is destroying the Russian market for traditional French perfumes, the profits of the French and American conglomerates which own the best-known brands, the bonuses of their managers, and the dividends of their shareholders. The odour of these losses is too strong for artificial fresheners.
Givaudan, the Swiss-based world leader in production and supply of fragrances, oils and other beauty product ingredients, has long regarded the Russian market as potentially its largest in Europe; it is one of the fastest growing contributors to Givaudan’s profit worldwide. In the recovery from the pandemic of Givaudan’s Fragrance and Beauty division – it accounts for almost half the company’s total sales — the group reported “excellent double-digit growth in 2021, demonstrating strong consumer demand for these product categories.” Until this year, Givaudan reveals in its latest financial report, the growth rate for Russian demand was double-digit – much faster than the 6.3% sales growth in Europe overall; faster growth than in Germany, Belgium and Spain.
Between February 2014, when the coup in Kiev started the US war against Russia, and last December, when the Russian non-aggression treaties with the US and NATO were rejected, Givaudan’s share price jumped three and a half times – from 1,380 Swiss francs to 4,792 francs; from a company with a market capitalisation of 12.7 billion francs ($12.7 billion) to a value of 44.2 billion francs ($44.2 billion). Since the fighting began in eastern Ukraine this year until now, Givaudan has lost 24% of that value – that’s $10 billion.
The largest of Givaudan’s shareholders is Bill Gates. With his 14%, plus the 10% controlled by Black Rock of New York and MFS of Boston, the US has effective control over the company.
Now, according to the US war sanctions, trade with Russia and the required payment systems have been closed down, alongside the bans on the importation of the leading European perfumes. So in place of the French perfumers, instead of Givaudan, the Russian industry is reorganizing for its future growth with its own perfume brands manufactured from raw materials produced in Crimea and other regions, or supplied by India and China. Givaudan, L’Oréal (Lancome, Yves Saint Laurent), Kering (Balenciaga, Gucci), LVMH (Dior, Guerlain, Givenchy), Chanel, Estée Lauder, Clarins – they have all cut off their noses to spite the Russian face.
By Nikolai Storozhenko, introduced and translated by John Helmer, Moscow @bears_with
This week President Joseph Biden stopped at an Illinois farm to say he’s going to help the Ukraine ship 20 million tonnes of wheat and corn out of storage into export, thereby relieving grain shortages in the international markets and lowering bread prices around the world. Biden was trying to play a hand in which his cards have already been clipped. By Biden.
The first Washington-Kiev war plan for eastern Ukraine has already lost about 40% of the Ukrainian wheat fields, 50% of the barley, and all of the grain export ports. Their second war plan to hold the western region defence lines with mobile armour, tanks, and artillery now risks the loss of the corn and rapeseed crop as well as the export route for trucks to Romania and Moldova. What will be saved in western Ukraine will be unable to grow enough to feed its own people. They will be forced to import US wheat, as well as US guns and the money to pay for both.
Biden told his audience that on the Delaware farms he used to represent in the US Senate “there are more chickens than there are Americans.” Blaming the Russians is the other card Biden has left.
The problem with living in exile is the meaning of the word. If you’re in exile, you mean you are forever looking backwards, in geography as well as in time. You’re not only out of place; you’re out of time — yesterday’s man.
Ovid, the Roman poet who was sent into exile from Rome by Caesar Augustus, for offences neither Augustus nor Ovid revealed, never stopped looking back to Rome. His exile, as Ovid described it, was “a barbarous coast, inured to rapine/stalked ever by bloodshed, murder, war.” In such a place or state, he said, “writing a poem you can read to no one is like dancing in the dark.”
The word itself, exsilium in Roman law, was the sentence of loss of citizenship as an alternative to loss of life, capital punishment. It meant being compelled to live outside Rome at a location decided by the emperor. The penalty took several degrees of isolation and severity. In Ovid’s case, he was ordered by Augustus to be shipped to the northeastern limit of the Roman empire, the Black Sea town called Tomis; it is now Constanta, Romania. Ovid’s last books, Tristia (“Sorrows”) and Epistulae ex Ponto (“Black Sea Letters”), were written from this exile, which began when he was 50 years old, in 8 AD, and ended when he died in Tomis nine years year later, in 17 AD.
In my case I’ve been driven into exile more than once. The current one is lasting the longest. This is the one from Moscow, which began with my expulsion by the Foreign Ministry on September 28, 2010. The official sentence is Article 27(1) of the law No. 114-FZ — “necessary for the purposes of defence capability or security of the state, or public order, or protection of health of the population.” The reason, a foreign ministry official told an immigration service official when they didn’t know they were being overheard, was: “Helmer writes bad things about Russia.”
Antonio Guterres is the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), who attempted last month to arrange the escape from Russian capture of Ukrainian soldiers and NATO commanders, knowing they had committed war crimes. He was asked to explain; he refuses.
Trevor Cadieu is a Canadian lieutenant-general who was appointed the chief of staff and head of the Canadian Armed Forces last August; was stopped in September; retired from the Army this past April, and went to the Ukraine, where he is in hiding. From whom he is hiding – Canadians or Russians – where he is hiding, and what he will say to explain are questions Cadieu isn’t answering, yet.
Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, is refusing this week to answer questions on the role he played in the recent attempt by US, British, Canadian and other foreign combatants to escape the bunkers under the Azovstal plant, using the human shield of civilians trying to evacuate.
In Guterres’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on April 26 (lead image), Putin warned Guterres he had been “misled” in his efforts. “The simplest thing”, Putin told Guterres in the recorded part of their meeting, “for military personnel or members of the nationalist battalions is to release the civilians. It is a crime to keep civilians, if there are any there, as human shields.”
This war crime has been recognized since 1977 by the UN in Protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention. In US law for US soldiers and state officials, planning to employ or actually using human shields is a war crime to be prosecuted under 10 US Code Section 950t.
Instead, Guterres ignored the Kremlin warning and the war crime law, and authorized UN officials, together with Red Cross officials, to conceal what Guterres himself knew of the foreign military group trying to escape. Overnight from New York, Guterres has refused to say what he knew of the military escape operation, and what he had done to distinguish, or conceal the differences between the civilians and combatants in the evacuation plan over the weekend of April 30-May 1.May.
By Vlad Shlepchenko, introduced & translated by John Helmer, Moscow @bears_with
The more western politicians announce pledges of fresh weapons for the Ukraine, the more Russian military analysts explain what options their official sources are considering to destroy the arms before they reach the eastern front, and to neutralize Poland’s role as the NATO hub for resupply and reinforcement of the last-ditch holdout of western Ukraine.
“I would like to note,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, repeated yesterday, “that any transport of the North Atlantic Alliance that arrived on the territory of the country with weapons or material means for the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces is considered by us as a legitimate target for destruction”. He means the Ukraine border is the red line.
Here’s a story the New York Times has just missed.
US politicians and media pundits are promoting the targeting of “enablers” of Russian oligarchs who stash their money in offshore accounts. A Times article of March 11 highlighted Michael Matlin, CEO of Concord Management as such an “enabler.” But the newspaper missed serious corruption Matlin was involved in. Maybe that’s because Matlin cheated Russia, and also because the Matlin story exposes the William Browder/Sergei Magnitsky hoax aimed at Russia.
In 1939 a little known writer in Moscow named Sigizmund Khrzhizhanovsky published his idea that the Americans, then the Germans would convert human hatred into a new source of energy powering everything which had been dependent until then on coal, gas, and oil.
Called yellow coal, this invention originated with Professor Leker at Harvard University. It was applied, first to running municipal trams, then to army weapons, and finally to cheap electrification of everything from domestic homes and office buildings to factory production lines. In Russian leker means a quack doctor.
The Harvard professor’s idea was to concentrate the neuro-muscular energy people produce when they hate each other. Generated as bile (yellow), accumulated and concentrated into kinetic spite in machines called myeloabsorberators, Krzhizhanovsky called this globalization process the bilificationof society.
In imperial history there is nothing new in cases of dementia in rulers attracting homicidal psychopaths to replace them. It’s as natural as honey attracts bees.
When US President Woodrow Wilson was incapacitated by a stroke on October 19, 1919, he was partially paralysed and blinded, and was no longer able to feed himself, sign his name, or speak normally; he was not demented.
While his wife and the Navy officer who was his personal physician concealed his condition, there is no evidence that either Edith Wilson or Admiral Cary Grayson were themselves clinical cases of disability, delusion, or derangement. They were simply liars driven by the ambition to hold on to the power of the president’s office and deceive everyone who got in their way.
The White House is always full of people like that. The 25th Amendment to the US Constitution is meant to put a damper on their homicidal tendencies.
What is unusual, probably exceptional in the current case of President Joseph Biden, not to mention the history of the United States, is the extent of the president’s personal incapacitation; combined with the clinical evidence of psychopathology in his Secretary of State Antony Blinken; and the delusional condition of the rivals to replace Biden, including Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Like Rome during the first century AD, Washington is now in the ailing emperor-homicidal legionary phase. But give it another century or two, and the madness, bloodshed, and lies of the characters of the moment won’t matter quite as much as their images on display in the museums of their successors craving legitimacy, or of successor powers celebrating their superiority.
Exactly this has happened to the original Caesars, as a new book by Mary Beard, a Cambridge University professor of classics, explains. The biggest point of her book, she says, is “dynastic succession” – not only of the original Romans but of those modern rulers who acquired the Roman portraits in marble and later copies in paint, and the copies of those copies, with the idea of communicating “the idea of the direct transfer of power from ancient Romans to Franks and on to later German rulers.”
In the case she narrates of the most famous English owner of a series of the “Twelve Caesars”, King Charles I — instigator of the civil war of 1642-51 and the loser of both the war and his head – the display of his Caesars was intended to demonstrate the king’s self-serving “missing link” between his one-man rule and the ancient Romans who murdered their way to rule, and then apotheosized into immortal gods in what they hoped would be a natural death on a comfortable bed.
With the American and Russian successions due to take place in Washington and Moscow in two years’ time, Beard’s “Twelve Caesars, Images of Power from the Ancient World to the Modern”, is just the ticket from now to then.