V. Putin, Man of Iron

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Putin books, t-shirts, and calendars; a bestselling autobiography; a Putin Bar in Volgograd, a Vova Putin strain of frost-resistant tomatoes, and a hit song, "I Want Someone Like Putin."

Gas a few of your people and they'll really go bananas for you!

The SF Chronicle's Anna Badkhen describes a cult of presidential personality that may not be accidental. (Singing Together, the girl group that sings "I Want Someone," sounds suspiciously like Moving Together, a pro-Putin youth group that campaigns "against avant-garde writers who ridicule Soviet-era heroes.") One Putin appearance on a talk show sounds like a new version of Someone Should Tell the Czar:

As he took questions from ordinary people across Russia's nine time zones, Putin gave his advice on issues such as how to prevent hate crimes, whether to tolerate Islam and what to do about sex and violent scenes on television. Like an all-powerful game show host, he also promised to solve callers' personal problems, ranging from unpaid salaries to unheated apartments.

And when 11-year-old Natasha Bugaryova from the far eastern city of Birobidzhan called to complain that local authorities had put up a synthetic Christmas tree instead of a real one in the city square, Putin promised to take care of that, too.

"Your governor should make his people a present and replace the synthetic Christmas tree with a real one," Putin said, leaving little doubt that the governor in question, Nikolai Volkov, would quickly spring into obedient action.

Nikolai Volkov sure has fallen on hard times since his grudge match against The Iron Sheik.

NEXT: It's all Miss Cleo's Fault

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  1. More than a few people think that Russians want and a need a strong leader, aka czar. And they currently have one.

  2. “Gas a few of your people and they’ll really go bananas for you!” What a cheap shot. Would you have been happier if the Russians had adopted the FBI methods displayed at Waco, pumping the building full of flammable teargas (which makes it hard to aim a gun but not impossible to fire wildly, activate any bombs that might be planted, and otherwise burn the entire place down), and then holding back the fire trucks?

    Putin’s police probably saved about 700 lives with that anesthetic gas. (It was a medical anesthetic, a gaseous opiate, not a war gas or even tear gas.) It disabled the terrorists and prevented them from setting off their bombs or shooting hostages. There were simply too many gunmen to take down all at once in a surprise attack, so other than the gas the choices apparently were a bloodbath or giving the terrorists whatever they wanted. (I don’t think I have to tell you that surrendering to terrorists’ demands is truly idiotic and will cost many more lives in the long run.)

    The aftermath was a typically Russian massive clusterf*ck. Doctors and ambulances should have been standing by, with 800 doses of the antidote ready. Instead, there was lack of preparation, utterly uncalled for secrecy about the substance used, and far too much delay in transporting and treating the victims. So? “Russian government inefficiency” is a triple-redundancy, but even so, they did a whole lot better than our FBI.

    I certainly don’t like everything I hear about Putin, but his government is still the best one the Russians have had in centuries, and this was one of their better moments.

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