Archive for May, 2012

It Tolls For These

May 28, 2012

Christopher Walken is distraught and nearly inconsolable: no more cowbell.

Little remains of the factory of Bevin Brothers Manufacturing Co., which dates its East Hampton (Connecticut) bell manufacturing to 1832. [The facility] was destroyed in a late Saturday night fire. The company makes made [as many as 20 sizes of] sleigh, hand, house, cow, sheep, door and ship’s bells.

The Connecticut Region 3 Incident Management Team said propane tanks in the six-story factory caught fire and exploded, helping spread the blaze.

So, Lunghu is wondering:  just exactly where in China have bell manufacturers been waiting  –and planning–  for this very day?

Arms-Length Transaction

May 22, 2012

Come now, admit it:  you were concerned that Igor Ivanovich Sechin would be left out of the newly-formed Russian government because he and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev don’t like each other.  Well, you needn’t have worried:

Igor Sechin has been appointed as chief executive officer of Russia’s largest oil company, Rosneft, following an order from Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday.  Rosneft’s current president and board chairman, Eduard Khudainatov, will become the company’s first vice president after  Sechin [takes office], an industry source said.
“This company is major and a very important supplier of energy resources, which has made a great leap forward for the last few years without your participation,” the premier said.

The feeling is mutual …

Can you tell that Medvedev’s not a fan of Sechin?  However, in today’s tough job market, sometimes a glowing recommendation from just the right person can tip the scales in your favor.

“Igor Ivanovich Sechin cannot but have a role [in government policy-making],” President Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Tuesday when asked to comment on Sechin’s non-inclusion in Russia’s new government and presidential administration.

After all, when you’re in the energy business, you can have more influence on government policy than any mere minister.

“I will seek to focus the company on maintaining and building up oil output,” Sechin told Medvedev. “The domestic market should be provided with maximum supplies of oil products at stable prices.”
[Sechin noted] that Rosneft is one of the nation’s largest taxpayers. In the previous year the company [contributed] 1.5 trillion roubles to Russia’s budget. “This is the trend that we will develop and we will increase budget revenues,” Sechin pledged.


Lunghu’s translation:  “Don’t worry about how much I steal from Rosneft as long as there’s enough left over to pay taxes. Remember where your bread is buttered.

And, one might add, “Remember for whom we’re stealing.


Giant Steps

May 18, 2012

When one of the Newhouse/Advance Publications stable of newspapers publishes a story about a New Jersey politician under the headline “Travelin’ Man,” there’s only one thing it really means.  A few years back, the Jersey Journal published a story about the peregrinations of U.S. Senator Robert Menendez with precisely that headline.  On Thursday, the Star-Ledger‘s frontpage story was about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Although the piece is ostensibly about the many out-of-state speaking engagements that His Hugeness has scheduled during the past year, the headline actually conveys another message –in coded language that only some of the Star-Ledger’s readers understand.  That message, for those of you who didn’t already know, proclaims that Chris Cristie is a freemason operating in the service of the order.  Don’t be confused by the fact that Christie is nominally a Roman Catholic and that a papal edict forbids Catholics to join the freemasons: Christie long ago made the expedient choice that has propelled him to where he is today.

Shared membership in the league of three-letter men is the real reason why so many Democrat legislators from South Jersey have been crossing the aisle to vote ‘aye’ on Republican bills in the state assembly and senate.  Steve Sweeney, Fred Madden, John Burzichelli and the rest of George Norcross‘ Camden/Gloucester minions are largely sticking to the deal that Norcross cut with the Union County District Council before the 2009 gubernatorial election  –sell out Dick Codey and Jon Corzine, vote with the Big Guy, and you can rule New Jersey south of Rancocas Creek as you please.  As Christie’s Rutgers-Rowan merger proposal clearly demonstrates, the payoff will be enormous.

In any case, it’s difficult to say how many New Jersey masons didn’t already know that Brother Christie had donned the apron back in his pre-prosecutor, Morris County days.  If they’re the intended audience, such a headline would seem superfluous. But maybe the Ledger’s article is the best way to introduce Candidate Christie to a larger electorate –for example, all those folks in the other 49 states who might want to know just a little bit more about Mitt Romney‘s running-mate.


Duck and Cover

May 12, 2012

In Soviet Russia, there was never any need to explain, let alone apologize.  But times have changed … somewhat.  So when Comrade Bear decided not to attend next week’s  G8 conference at Camp David, his spokesman cited the need to assemble a cabinet of worthies to carry out the vital work of Russia’s government.  Cheerful Comrade Bearcub would attend instead.  An explanation, but not an apology.  And as long as explanations are in order, why not try another cover story where the need might exist?

A high-ranking source in the General Staff of the Armed Forces said on Saturday [that] the dismissal of Russian Navy Commander Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky was due to his reluctance to comply with an order by Russia’s top military leadership to move the Navy General Staff from Moscow to St. Petersburg.   The initiative was estimated to cost between 40 and 50 billion rubles ($1.3-1.6 billion), the source said, [including] the cost of personnel relocation and the construction of a new command center in St. Petersburg. Vysotsky was not against the very idea of moving the Navy command, but “insisted that the relocation should be gradual and thought through.”

Lunghu has had some professional experience of his own with respect to hastily-conceived relocation projects and “construction of a new command center.”  The purported need for celerity and expeditious project completion is often used as justification (or as an excuse?) for –shall we say– unorthodox procurement and contracting “procedures” in which “the right people” mysteriously end up performing substandard work at premium prices.  Certainly, it’s entirely plausible that Admiral Vysotsky may have been retired because he was inconveniently in the path of someone’s gravy train.  As cover stories go, this one has got the sonorous ring of authenticity.  But that doesn’t necessarily make it true …

Inauguration Ball

May 6, 2012

Out with the old, in with the new.  May 6 was Election Day in France, and Inauguration Day in Russia.  The French replaced the GLNF (Sarkozy) with the GLF (Hollande).  Plus ça change

The Russians replaced Comrade Bearcub with … Comrade Bear.  And, in one of his final acts as President, Dimitry Medvedev replaced the commander of the Russian Navy, Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky, with a (slightly) younger man:

President Dmitry Medvedev has dismissed Russian Navy Commander Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky and appointed Vice-Admiral Viktor Chirkov for the position, the Kremlin press office reported on Sunday, without explaining the reasons for the dismissal.
Chirkov, 52, was commander of the Baltic Fleet before his appointment.  Vysotsky, 57, had occupied the top military post for almost five years.

Igor Korotchenko, chairman of the Defense Ministry’s Public Council said that the reshuffle was a normal practice for military officials.  “Medvedev’s move will open the way for new, younger military specialists,” Korotchenko said.

credit: Vasily Batanov


Only three months ago, Admiral Vysotsky was publicly touting big plans for Russia’s submarine fleet:

  • “On June 1 or a bit later we will resume routine extended patrolling of the world’s oceans by strategic nuclear submarines,” Admiral Vysotsky said at a meeting with naval personnel on 3 Feb.  The Russian military believes that the submarine fleet is still the backbone of the Russian Navy, and that it will continue to play an important deterrent role in the future.
  • Sevmash shipyard [in Severodvinsk] is to convert the nuclear submarine Belgorod for a “series of special missions,” said Admiral Vysotsky [on 9 Feb.].  “Belgorod will be completed as a special project.  The boat will have many special tasks ahead of it,” Vysotsky said.

Admiral Chirkov [you may be more familiar with his brother Yuri] is singing from a slightly different hymnal:

After his appointment, Chirkov said he would prioritize the construction of navy fleets in Russia. “The most important thing for Russia is to build a fleet with the support of the president and like-minded persons,” Chirkov stated.

And who might those ‘like-minded persons’ be?  In Comrade Bear’s new Russia, that could be almost anyone and everyone.

In any case, Lunghu doesn’t see this as merely another internal bureaucratic naval battle between the Silent Service (Vysotsky) and the Tincan Sailors (Chirkov).  Was a blue Honda somehow involved?