Author: Dane Lowell
Submitted by: redadmin

Chapt. #105 – 1520 words
Columns :: Russia: “The Place to Be” As Oil Ratchets Down

MOSCOW, February 17, 2005 –- Comments:   Ratings:
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Andrei crashes the car
Lots of cancellations, but still paying rent
Alexei’s phone call
Losing my lust?
Putin a little frantic over velvet revolutions
Russia “place to be” for peak oil
Bruce Harris’s new painting splurge

MOSCOW, February 17, 2005 – Got my first phone call from Alexei tonight. He’s fine, hasn’t had a chance to get to a computer to send me an e-mail. Sounds lonely, but says he’s not under any pressure – unlike in Russia. His roommate on the Hoboken campus is Chinese, which is ironic because he has expressed extreme prejudice against the Chinese.

Also sent 17,000 rubles – nearly 0 – to Andrei today. He has had an accident -- exactly what I was sure would happen. And it was his fault. The purpose of the 0 is to get him settled in Stavropol so he can start working and pay for the accident.

Maybe it taught him a lesson. But do cocky, brash kids behind the wheel of a car ever learn any lessons?

Continue to have lots of cancellations. Have had 11 so far this week -- 0 down the drain. The twins’ brother Zhorik didn’t come from St. Pete as promised. Talked to him today. Said there was an emergency and he’d come soon and explain everything.

Little Andrew, who was 15 when we last saw each other, is 20 now and is still enjoying our lessons. Haven’t figured him out. He seems almost giddy when he’s with me. I hugged him Tuesday and he put his arms around me and pressed a little bit, but that’s all. Don’t think he’ queer.

Am enjoying my new classes at my school. No-brainer so far. Haven’t figured out what I’m supposed to be teaching. The idea is just to get them to talk. That’s also a no-brainer.

Paid the rent today. Only 15,000 rubles -- 0 – with the bathtub and the toilet.

Something has happened – is happening – to me! The spark has gone out of living. Scary. Is it because I miss the twins? Or because I feel I might have made a mistake and that they’re just going to be a constant drain? Is it because I feel sad and a little ashamed for kicking out Anton and Yegor? Is it because I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to write these columns and am not tapping my creativity?

In any case, the joy is gone. The lust is also gone! Is there a connection? I look at young men like Dima at “Info +” and salivate, but I don’t fantasize about his dick. I only think what a beautiful, kind, sweet blond-haired, blue-eyed boy he is. I can’t even work up a hard-on thinking about little Andrew.

Is this what happens when we hit 71-1/2? Am I getting old?

At the Institute of Diplomacy class last night we talked about the “super young,” people who think, look, and act many years younger than they are. I made a crack about being in my second childhood, and one of the students asked, in seeming surprise, “are you over 60?”

Did she really think I’m not? I feel super young generally, but not at the moment. I need a shot of passion. I’ve been thinking of Shurik, even Max in Nizhny. My libido was all worked up over Zhorik, but that’s been dashed.

I don’t even have any overwhelming desire to jerk off to queer porn films. This is worrisome indeed!

Stay tuned!

Also at the Institute, we talked about Putin – specifically about the well-orchestrated pro-Putin rally that marched down Tverskaya Street in Moscow – 40,000 Russians walking down Moscow’s Main Drag carrying professionally printed signs proclaiming Putin’s wisdom and compassion.

However, Le Monde and The Moscow Times both reported that many of them were less than enthusiastic boosters: government workers who were given everything from theater tickets to threats and money to be there, and students who were promised high marks for showing up.

The real action was the anti-Putin rallies in cities across Russia by pensioners, veterans, and others for having their perks – free transportation, free utilities, free vacations – replaced by a few dollars a month; and by motorists who are angry about rising gas prices that are putting more money directly into the hands of oligarchs.

Of course, television only reported the Putin-approved rallies.

The Moscow Times reports that he’s scared to death of a velvet revolution a la Ukraine or Georgia. Alexei, before he left, reported that his colleague at the Russian Academy of Sciences was predicting it – the first time I’ve heard such speculation. Most of the views expressed at the Institute of Diplomacy were anti-Putin. He in the meantime is desperately putting the blame on the Duma and the regional governors for implementing the draconian measures badly, never mentioning that the entire scheme was adopted at his personal demand.

The vast majority oppose him at the moment, but there’s no one to capitalize on that wave of anger and hostility and sense of betrayal, because Putin has been very careful to eliminate any potential leaders of opposition. Khodorkovsky sits behind bars; others are dead; others are afraid.

In the meantime, the tax ministry has decided, now that a government shill has acquired Yukos, that the tax bills were all a mistake, and Yukos doesn’t have to pay all those billions in taxes after all!

It’s all so transparent, but the vast majority of Russians still can’t see it because most of the media and all of the television are controlled by the Kremlin. It all goes unreported!

Like in America.

On the other hand, Russia is the place to be as the trauma of peak oil begins to hit, says one Ron Patterson on the EnergyResources Internet group:

Yes, Russia will be the best place on earth to be when the cliff arrives. They are under-populated, have vast areas of unoccupied land that can be used for farming, grazing or hunting, and they have plenty of oil. They will have plenty of oil when the rest of world is crying for oil.

Ahhh to be a Russian in these times. And all the time we thought WE had won the cold war. The world will learn soon enough just who the real winners really are.

He posted his observation following Russia’s announcement that foreign firms will no longer be permitted to invest in Russian natural resources, including and especially oil. Only firms at least 51% Russian-owned will be allowed to participate in the development of Russia’s petroleum reserves.

In making the announcement, the Federal Natural Resources Agency declared that "the government is interested in letting Russian companies develop strategic resources," prompting observers to speculate that since the Putin Administration seems to clearly be “putting the protection of national interests above free market dynamics,” the move may represent a shift in policy.

The announcement prompted others on the ER site to note that the development is a logical extension of “what has been discussed here for some time: Producing countries are positioning themselves to take care of themselves first. Satisfying domestic needs for jobs and energy is the direction for all countries who believe in the nearness of the peak oil.”

Particularly affected are Exxon, U.S. oil giant whose multi-million-dollar tender on the Sakhalin 3 project in Russia’s far east was unilaterally cancelled by Russia last year; and BP, who has invested .5 billion to create the Russan-registered TNK-BP oil company, and has a partnership to develop the Sakhalin 5 petroleum field with state-owned Rosneft.

The ultimate effects are still not known, and Natural Resources Minister Yuri Trutnev has reportedly suggested that Russia may decide on a case-by-case basis.

So it all prompts two observations on my part: It further dims any compulsion to leave Russia in the next couple of decades; and it knocks into a cocked hat any speculation of a velvet revolution. The oil issue could strengthen the Kremlin’s hand enormously and make Putin look very wise indeed in keeping the control of Russian oil in Russia’s hands.

By the way, I don’t hear much speculation about Bush -- whose Amerika will be the hardest hit by the peak oil hammer -- planning to invade Russia. So far he’s apparently still got his sights set on Iran. But with Iran’s close links to both China and Russia, that could cause unimaginable problems for him – and the world.

Seattle buddy, artist, and author Bruce Harris yesterday sent me some scannings of his newest paintings. A couple of them are nothing less than brilliant. I would buy them if I were in the States, and have even thought of buying them and having David Gremmels hold them for me, but for what? I don’t plan to return to the U.S. and I wouldn’t take the chance of bringing them here. I’m even wondering what I’ll ever do with his and Robert Lavigne’s paintings that I already have here.

If I can’t personally enjoy them, why should I buy them? To leave them to my progeny? And just who the hell is that?

But it pleases me to see Bruce doing such brilliant work again.

By the way: My mood has improved with the completion of this column – the first in weeks. So maybe not having the time to write creatively explains much of the listlessness I’ve been feeling!