Press cuttings

by Chris Bertram on May 8, 2004

A few interesting things to link to in today’s papers. In the Guardian “David Lodge writes about Nabokov”:,12084,1211200,00.html and there’s an interesting account of how “Roman Abramovich and the other Russian oligarchs enriched themselves”:,2763,1212245,00.html at the expense of the Russian people. In the Times “Matthew Parris explains”:,,482-1102058,00.html that he wants Bush re-elected so that neoconservatives won’t be able to claim that their ideas never got a fair trial. And “Simon Kuper in the FT”: tells us why last week’s football occupies his brain more than other, more serious, matters. So far as I can see there is no common thread that unites these various pieces, except for their readability.



John Quiggin 05.08.04 at 10:36 am

All interesting, except that the Parris piece appears to be subscriber-only. I ran the same idea in relation to economic policy a while back, but concluded that it couldn’t be sustained.


Chris Bertram 05.08.04 at 10:39 am

I think the Parris piece may be free within the UK but subscription to the rest of you (since I don’t have a sub and can access it). Is this true of all Times content?


John Quiggin 05.08.04 at 11:13 am

For me, all Times content is subscriber-only. But perhaps this means Australians have to pay and everyone else gets it free.


Anatoly 05.08.04 at 12:18 pm

It’s “Nabokov”. nuh-BAWK-off.

[Thanks, fixed. cb]


TomR 05.08.04 at 1:28 pm

Canucks too have to pay.


schwa 05.08.04 at 8:13 pm

You have to pay for Times content unless your IP resolves to something ending in .uk (or, I think, .ie). There used to be a button where you could lie about it, but it seems to have disappeared.

I spent a couple of months being very irritated by this when they set it up. I used to quite like reading the Times’ opinion page, but not enough to pay £90 a year for the privilege.


Nick Barlow 05.09.04 at 2:17 am

The Parris piece is quite interesting, and he does make some good points about how it’s easier to replace an idea once it has been discredited. However, I think he ignores that for some (albeit a minority) their idea will never be discredited and it only failed because it just didn’t go far enough, or was never done properly in the first place (often coupled with the ‘it was betrayed’ argument).

Parris does have a persuasive argument – though I’m not sure how much he’s proposing it seriously – but I think John’s conclusion is correct in both cases: ‘I can’t conclude that the putative long-term benefits of demonstrating the bankruptcy of his ideas are enough to balance the inevitable and immediate damage his re-election would cause’.


Matt 05.09.04 at 5:09 am

If anything the Guardian piece is too kind to Abramovich and the like. He, Berezovski, and the others are criminals and nothing more. They are criminals from the petty level to the grandest, and we should all be happy to see any of them in jail. The selective and political way they’ve been gone after in Russia is, obviously, bad, but we should not feel a bit bad to see any of them in jail for the horrible things they’ve done.


Doug Muir 05.09.04 at 4:39 pm

Dubravka Ugresic is usually better than this article makes her sound.

That is to say — if I didn’t know her, I think this article would actually make me avoid her. Naive Eastern European encounters the bad world of modern Western publishing and is appalled; ooh, isn’t that just refreshing?

In fact Ugresic is smarter than that. (Or has been… I haven’t read this latest book yet, and it’s always possible that she’s jumped the shark in the last couple of years.) Her stuff is an absolute must for anyone interested in the recent history of the Balkans, and damn good even if you aren’t.

— I note in passing that 1990s Croatia produced not one but four very good dissident female writers, the four so-called “Croatian Witches”. All of them persecuted to some greater or lesser extent under Tudjman, naturally.


tombo 05.11.04 at 2:13 am

Where’s the Guardian’s rightwous anger at these thieves?

Ironically, if you’re not a true capitalist ie someone who invests profits rather than squanders them on $3,000 bottles of wine or UK football clubs, you can escape the left’s criticism today. Abramovich, like fellow billionaires Arafat and Saddam, earned his loot the old-fashioned way: he stole it.

He and the other Russian “oligarchs” have perpetrated crimes vastly greater than anything the Enron crowd ever dreamed of, dispossessing millions of ordinary Russians of the wealth generated by Russia’s natural resources and spiriting most of their billions into Swiss numbered accounts, Cote d’Azur and London real estate, and god only knows what else. And all with the connivance of the Russian president!

Thanks to these felons, Russia’s development has been set back by at least one, probably two, generations. By which time Russia’s population will be smaller than that of Pakistan, Mexico, Iran and several other middle eastern states.

The absurdity of Russia’s rapid Brazilianization is underscored by the fact that Moscow has nearly as many billionaires (23) as New York City (31)–despite the fact that per capita income in NYC is about ten times greater than in Moscow.

This only shows the continuing confusion of the western left in the post-communist era. The two greatest financial swindles in history–Russia’s “loans-for-shares” in 1996 and the UN’s money-laundering program on behalf of Saddam in 1996-2003– are completely ignored by the supposed champions of the wretched of the earth. Disgusting.


Dave F 05.11.04 at 9:47 am

So by extension, supporting Chelsea is grinding the faces of Russia’s poor? These Manchester United supporters will go to any lengths. However, Roman Abramovich is on my hate list too for the expected shafting of Claudio Ranieri.

More seriously, it was inevitable that shrewd business people would take advantage of the total confusion of the average Russian thrust into the capitalist arena without so much as a short sword. I can’t think of any tycoon I have ever worked for who wouldn’t have done exactly the same, sadly.

The rapacious “company store” scheme (taking company scrip or vouchers instead of cash) goes way back to the early US coalmining days, Iat least. Roman has found a new twist on it: buying up his own stock cheap by turning the screws and forcing staff into debt.

Let’s investigate a few more football club owning tycoons.

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