Streetwise Professor

December 27, 2012

The Real Sadomasochists

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 2:06 pm

In his familiar role as a gangsta demanding respect, Vladimir Putin exploded at a questioner at a recent press conference who had the temerity to criticize Russia’s just passed bill that would bar Americans from adopting Russian children.  Putin raged at the “humiliation” that the US had visited on Russia by passing the Magnitsky Act.  He demanded to know whether the questioner was a “sadomasochist” for questioning Russia’s decision to retaliate against the  Act by passing the adoption bill.

Insofar as humiliation is concerned, you would think that a head of state, and former head of government, would find the following sequence of events humiliating: government tax officials defraud the Russian government-the government/state he has led for 12 years-of $235 million in tax revenue; these officials conspire with law enforcement and prison officials to imprison, torture, and murder the man, Sergei Magnitsky, who discovered the fraud and attempted to go after those who perpetrated it; the perpetrators remain at large, and have been neither investigated nor prosecuted; and as a final touch, government prosecutors are trying Magnitsky posthumously, in flagrant violation of Russian law, not to mention basic human decency.

Yes, a normal country, and the normal head of state of a normal country, would find that history of official corruption and depravity to be exceedingly shameful and humiliating.  But we are talking about Russia and Putin, so the humiliation has nothing to do with corruption or depravity, and everything to do with the fact that a nation that Putin (and a strong majority of Russians) obsessively hates and fears exercised its sovereignty by choosing not to permit the entry of undesirables like those involved in the Magnitsky affair, and others who may be found to have engaged in similar gross violations of human rights.

In other words, the humiliation of a gangster outraged at being excluded from a polite society he simultaneously loathes and envies.

Lacking the means to implement a symmetric response, because nothing of the like is remotely possible in the US, and because no one in the US would be all that put out by being denied the right to travel to Russia, the Russian Duma hurriedly adopted a highly asymmetric response.  A response aimed not at anyone in an official position in the US, but at private American citizens.  And just because that’s who the target of this action is doesn’t mean that they will be the primary victims.

No.  It’s far worse than that.  Virtually all the damage here will be of the collateral variety, and all the suffering victims will be Russian children, and indeed, the most wretched and vulnerable Russian children: the hundreds of thousands of orphaned and abandoned kids, many of them severely disabled, emotionally damaged, and seriously ill.

The pretext for this action is that 19 Russian children adopted by Americans have died in the past two decades.  Every death a tragedy, to be sure.

But now that Putin and his main political supporters have gone all Christian on us, perhaps someone, like, I dunno, Patriarch Kirill of whom Putin is so fond, should whisper Matthew 7.3 in his ear: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”  (Luke 6.42 would also serve.)  (Fat chance of that happening, actually.  An official spokesman of the Russian Orthodox Church pronounced that Russians adopted by Americans would “not enter God’s kingdom.”  So apparently Russia is saving souls, as well as lives.  The Church’s only suggestion is that the bill include an exception for the seriously handicapped.  Do not the seriously handicapped have souls?  Are they not deserving of heaven?  Quite a theological contradiction here.)

The mote-beam difference is all too starkly clear: the rate of deaths of Russian children adopted by Russians is 39 to 40 times higher than the rate of Russian kids adopted by Americans.  If anything, this difference understates matters, because Americans disproportionately adopt high risk children.  And the situation is even worse in Russia’s appalling group homes and orphanages-Детский домов.  The unfortunates who live in them would pine for a merely Dickensian existence.  For those who survive to adulthood, rates of suicide, mental illness, drug abuse and premature death are obscenely high.

In brief: to punish private Americans who had nothing to do with the official act that outrages them so, Russia’s legislators overwhelmingly (and unanimously in the upper house) are condemning thousands of innocent Russian children to a brutalized, impoverished, and hopeless existence.  Many will not live to adulthood.  Those who do, will all too often have one that is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

But they have their twisted justifications, which all too typically reek of projection.  Like this one, by State Duma Deputy Svetlana Goryacheva: “60,000 children have been taken to the U.S. from Russia. And if even one-tenth of these orphans were used for organ transplants or sexual pleasure, there will remain 50,000 who can be recruited for war against Russia.” Passing over in silence the absurd paranoid ravings about a war against Russia (Svetlana: we haven’t the slightest interest in your wretched manure pile), it is sick beyond measure to allege the sexual abuse of Russian children by thousands of American adoptive parents, given that Russia is the world leader in child pornography, and that Russian orphanages and group homes are the epicenter of a massive sex trade in children.  A trade in which Russians are the primary customers.

Russian nationalists and patriots declare their country to be exceptional.  In this I wholeheartedly concur.  For what the Russian legislature has done, and which a majority of Russians applaud, is thankfully a monstrous exception, even in this fallen world.

Putin has indicated that he will sign the bill, after a brief period of equivocation.  And now we see who the true sadomasochists are.  Putin and the Duma, with the approval of most Russians, are sadistically condemning thousands of innocent children to neglect, brutalization, and misery.  And in inimitable Russian fashion, they are masochistically harming themselves through actions that are causing millions around the world to recoil from them in disgust.

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  1. The “fall” included the general disappearance of common sense. The instance has triumphed over the general and the emotion over the rationale. Simple logic no longer has a place in political discourse. This latest Russian legislative assault is more like crimes against humanity than the usual illogical anti US rants however.

    The last time this arose Zhrinovsky was a big cheerleader and Putin plefged to improve conditions at the orphanages but nothing came of it. You may remember the video that surfaced a few years ago from an orphanage on Sakhalin that showed the staff taping all the infants mouths shut so they didnt have to listen to the cries. That provoked pledges to improve conditions ibut nothing came of it.

    I hope this time something does come of it and conditions are improved to humane levels. I am not optimistic this wlll happen unless the Kremlin elite figure out a way to quietly make sufficient sums on bribes and corruption associated with federal budget funds targeting orphanages.

    Comment by pahoben — December 27, 2012 @ 7:13 pm

  2. Maybe Russia has become so obsessed with stopping the decline of their population that they are just using the Magnitsky bill as an excuse to try and keep all orphans in the country (and getting them all to start having children very soon of course).

    Comment by paul — December 28, 2012 @ 12:50 am

  3. Russia has become obsessed with being treated as a great power and with changing the world order. Pretty much like Germany 100 years ago.

    We should not cheat ourselves: it is a minority of Russians who oppose this bill and the anti-western propaganda and sentiment there are truly vile. Quoting David Satter, “we will get nowhere by pretending that the moral chasm that separates Russia from the U.S. does not exist.”

    It is a much bigger and scarier problem than the fate of few hunderd Russian children who lost the chance to be adopted by Americans or few hundred American families who lost the chance to adopt them. Not to mention that the new law Putin has just signed effectively voids the bilateral adoption agreement Russia had wanted so much which came into force just of Novenber 1st!

    Comment by LadderLogic — December 28, 2012 @ 6:54 am

  4. I was being almost half serious about the use of this to prevent population decline of ethnic Russians. I think the Pentagon is really getting desperate on the front.

    Comment by paul — December 28, 2012 @ 11:37 am

  5. By that I meant Kremlin :p

    Comment by paul — December 28, 2012 @ 11:38 am

  6. The mote-beam difference is all too starkly clear: the rate of deaths of Russian children adopted by Russians is 39 to 40 times higher than the rate of Russian kids adopted by Americans.

    That is almost certainly incorrect.

    Here are age specific death rates for US and Russian children in 2009:

    2 year olds: 0.000284, 0.000502
    5 year olds: 0.000144, 0.000358
    10 year olds: 0.000121, 0.000282
    15 year olds: 0.000195, 0.000594

    In other words it’s about 2x as dangerous for the typical Russian child than the average American child. It is hard the imagine why the difference should be radically different for adoptees.

    Comment by The Greatest Sublime — December 28, 2012 @ 1:19 pm

  7. TGS,
    Are those the statistics for adopted Russian children and adopted American children? Or are they the stats of the total child population from each? Source(s)?

    Comment by Devin — December 28, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

  8. The total child population. I see no reason why this differential for adoptees in particular should differ so radically from the overall. If you can think of a reason I will be happy to hear it.

    I submit that the likeliest reason is some difference in methodology (e.g. counting only “parental negligence” in the US, vs. all causes of death in Russia).

    Statistics are from

    Comment by The Greatest Sublime — December 28, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

  9. @TGS-the general health of adoptees tends to be lower than the general health of the non adoptee population. Specialized medical care is available in the US that is not accessible for one reason or another to adoptive parents in Russia.

    @paul-i would agree but many of these children are special needs. I have read that about 50% spend some time in the Russian prison system but do not know if that is true.

    Comment by pahoben — December 28, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

  10. @WTF Sublime You Are Today. You cite specifics re overall death rates. The 40-1 ratio is for adoptees. Very different populations of children, parents. That you see no potential for difference says more about you. Take it up with Latynina and Davidoff.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — December 28, 2012 @ 5:12 pm

  11. @Whatever Sublime Whatever . . . even the Russian government admits that the death rate of Russian adoptees is “substantially higher.”

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — December 28, 2012 @ 5:17 pm

  12. Anyone who has wasted their time reading Sublime Smiley Face’s demographic “reports” on Russia will be used to this type of hilariously nonsensical obfuscation by now.

    Comment by paul — December 28, 2012 @ 5:28 pm

  13. @Current Sublime Incarnation: Anyone you’d like to report?

    While the adoption ban is the most controversial aspect of the proposed legislation, the bill puts forward other retaliatory measures as well, such as banning alleged US abusers of Russian citizens’ rights from entering Russia and freezing any assets they may have there

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — December 28, 2012 @ 10:24 pm


    Comment by paul — December 29, 2012 @ 12:07 am

  15. even the Russian government admits that the death rate of Russian adoptees is “substantially higher.”

    Well, yes. Why wouldn’t it? That’s a fact. The issue here is that the 39x-40x higher figure is something Latynina and Davidoff pulled out of their collective ass.

    There are no official statistics as far as I can tell on deaths or murders among orphans in particular in either Russia or the US. However there are concrete statistics for children in general. For both deaths in general and murders in particular, Russia is twice as dangerous as the US (or in historical perspective, about as dangerous as the US roundabout 1980).

    Anyone you’d like to report?

    Why should I? You’re the Stalinist here.

    Anyone who has wasted their time reading Sublime Smiley Face’s demographic “reports” on Russia will be used to this type of hilariously nonsensical obfuscation by now.

    Thank you for mentioning it. I wasn’t going to, but now that I do, I’ll note that Russia has had natural population growth for the first eleven months of this year – the first time since 1992. I was widely ridiculed for the prediction when I made it in 2008, not least on here (though I don’t of course expect belated recognition let alone respect), but ironically I was if anything too pessimistic (the lines crossed in 2013 in my projections).

    Comment by The Greatest Sublime — December 29, 2012 @ 12:47 am

  16. I remember noticing some time ago on the English language wikipedia dealing with Russia’s Demography that a link had been inserted to sublimey’s blog claiming that our favorite blogger had predicted population growth in Russia. Sublimey feels the need to insert links to his blog into wikipedia articles in order to promote himself. Sublime is not only a Russian chauvinist creep but also a megalomaniac.

    Comment by paul — December 29, 2012 @ 2:56 am

  17. Not that it will do any good, as the inbred trash who tend to populate this blog hate statistics, but here is how the 39x figure developed.

    A liberal website wrote that there were 1220 deaths of Russian adoptees in Russia from 1991 to 2006.

    Уже несколько лет даже в полуофициальных документах ходит такая цифра: с 1991 года по 2006 год, т.е. за 15 лет, погибли 1220 усыновленных российскими гражданами детей. Из них 12 были убиты своими усыновителями.

    За этот же срок, с 1991 по 2006 год, на Западе в семьях приёмных родителей погибли 18 российских детей. Зная число усыновлённых детей там и в России (92 тысячи и 158 тысяч), можно вычислить относительную опасность усыновления в этих двух мирах. Получается, что 1 погибший ребёнок приходится на 5103 иностранных семьи. В российских же семьях это соотношение составляет 1 погибший ребёнок на 130 семей. То есть усыновлённым детям в российских семьях жить в 39 раз опаснее, чем в иностранных.

    Where did they get the 1220 figure from?

    “В 2005 г. Минобрнауки были собраны предварительные данные за последние пять лет по смертельным случаям и фактам жестокого обращения с сиротами, усыновленными россиянами, взятыми под опеку или в приемную семью, согласно которым:
    из 1220 детей 12 погибли по вине усыновителей и опекунов;
    из 116 детей, здоровью которых по разным причинам был причинен тяжкий вред, по вине усыновителей и опекунов пострадали 23 ребенка;”

    Funnily enough, it made two mistakes. It was for the past 5 years, not the past 15 years. So actually Russia is 120x more dangerous! But wait, there’s more! Much more importantly that figure included ALL lethal cases and cases of cruel behavior towards adoptees.

    The real number of Russian adoptees killed in Russia was 12 over the past 5 years. That is compared with 18 killed over 15 years in foreign countries. So that’s twice more adjusted for duration. Virtually indistinguishable when also adjusted for the number of children adopted in foreign countries and Russia (92,000 and 158,000 as of 2006, respectively).

    So as per usual, you’re simply wrong.

    (You can confirm the details by Google Translate and find the sources by simply googling the above phrases, won’t bother doing it for you).

    And with that settled…

    That you see no potential for difference says more about you.

    So what does it say about me? Spit it out, coward.

    Comment by The Greatest Sublime — December 29, 2012 @ 5:20 am

  18. The Russian adoption process is – well, it’s Russian.

    Among other things, it requires at least 3 trips to Russia.

    The process of adoption should be careful, and the backgrounds of potential adoptive parents should be cleared, and home studies should be done.

    However, the Russian process seems to focus more on the number of trips than on anything else – plus, of course, the usual bribes.

    Why do Russians tolerate a bizarre “tsar”, a thief, such as Putler and his gang?

    And then there is the bizarre attitude of Russians – “don’t insult Russia by pointing out violations of human rights – or else Russia will retaliate by cutting off its own nose to spite its face.”

    There must be something in the water in Maskva that makes them act in such a bizarre fashion – or maybe it’s the weather.

    Comment by elmer — December 29, 2012 @ 9:53 am

  19. Why do Russians tolerate a bizarre “tsar”, a thief, such as Putler and his gang?

    Because Putin represents by far and away the best leader – either historically or from potential alternatives – that Russia has ever had. Not that this means he is any good on an absolute scale, only that that the bar is set so incredibly low for Russian leaders, i.e. one is considered great if he 1) keeps the country together and 2) doesn’t murder half the population. Russians have always been appallingly led, although to what degree the Russians themselves are responsible for that is an interesting line of enquiry.

    And then there is the bizarre attitude of Russians – “don’t insult Russia by pointing out violations of human rights – or else Russia will retaliate by cutting off its own nose to spite its face.”

    Well, that’s Russia all over. They would happily subsist on bread and water and shiver in the cold if it meant that once in a while they could blow a raspberry at the USA/ or the West. They proved this by actually making that choice for 70 years. Whatever the reason, it’s not a new phenomenon.

    Comment by Tim Newman — December 29, 2012 @ 10:19 am

  20. Oh, look at the change in tone in Sublimey’s posts after I pointed out that he so pathetic that he edits Wikipedia articles on Russia’s demography to redirect to his site. Has anyone actually seen the pictures of him on his site? Def not someone I’d want around orphans.

    Comment by paul — December 29, 2012 @ 3:04 pm

  21. @paul. “sublimey” is pitch perfect, particularly given that he grew up in the UK (and has a UK passport, I believe). Amazing how enthusiastic a cheerleader for Russia and Putin he is, from the comfort of Berkeley and safety of a non-Russian passport.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — December 29, 2012 @ 3:41 pm

  22. @Tim. Spot on. The question of the culpability of Russians for their fate is an interesting question, and one that I think about from time to time. I think it’s an equilibrium phenomenon. Government, institutions and culture are endogenous and simultaneously determined. They play on one another, and cause and effect work in both directions. They are, after centuries of co-development, co-determined, co-dependent, and co-reinforcing.

    If this is indeed an equilibrium (something that I wrote about some years ago) it means that it is highly unlikely that serious change will take place. The whole hamster wheel/Putin’s purgatory thing. Russia’s government, institutions, history, and culture are like lobsters in a tank, each pulling back anyone who tries to crawl out.

    I was reading Gaidar’s last book in the hope that he would provide some interesting insights on the co-evolution of Russian government, institutions, and culture, but was deeply disappointed. He just offers a warmed-over version of the Mongol Yoke hypothesis.

    Re your last comment about bread/water/shivering brings to mind the jokes that I’ve mentioned before, and others which So? shared with the class. The “I want my neighbor’s cow to die” genre, and the one about the Russian who responds to the Genie’s injunction that his neighbor will get double what the muzhik wishes for by asking that the Genie put out his eye. They are so true.

    The adoption bill also is a testament to Russia’s abject weakness. The Duma and Putin felt compelled to be sadistic to individual Americans and helpless and wretched Russian children because it had no ability to inflict any real harm on the US, the US government, the US economy, or the US legislature. Cut off trade? Ha! Russian trade is rounding error in US trade accounts. Seize assets? Stop it, you’re killing me! Diplomatic demarches? Blah blah blah. (I think that Obama’s main virtue is that his serene indifference to anything but his own ego drives Russians generally, and Putin in particular, stark raving mad.)

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — December 29, 2012 @ 3:59 pm

  23. That’s a very good point Prof, this ban on adoption, as well as the support to Syria, are silly short-term solutions being pushed in order for Putin to reassert himself as his poll numbers slide. They look idiotic from the outside, but they make him look tough for Russia’s growing population of pensioners. It’ll only be the more humiliating when Russia is forced to outsource it’s security in a few decades –

    Comment by paul — December 29, 2012 @ 4:28 pm

  24. This is also quite an entertaining look at what weird shit Russians actually believe about Americans adopting Russian orphans (among other completely nonsensical opinions about the West)

    Comment by paul — December 29, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

  25. As I thought, no reply of substance to my figures which basically destroy the entire premise of this article. Truly this place is the abode of the scum of the earth.

    So long until I next happen to drop by here, suckers.

    Comment by The Greatest Sublime — December 29, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

  26. Like I said, he’s clearly quite unhappy that he has been revealed to be manipulating Wikipedia pages to promote his silly little Russian chauvinist website. What a sad little man. And seriously, look at the picture of him on his site – would you want him around orphans?

    Comment by paul — December 29, 2012 @ 6:14 pm

  27. @paul Man?

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — December 29, 2012 @ 7:44 pm

  28. For SU-blimey ilk, it does not matter if that comfortably remote country is dying out in reality, as long as the government’s phony estimates surpass the government’s phony projections. And with 70 years’ expertise in “building the communism”, that game can last long enough. But then again, winter always comes unexpectedly in Russia.

    Comment by Ivan — December 30, 2012 @ 4:11 am

  29. …because it had no ability to inflict any real harm on the US, the US government, the US economy, or the US legislature…

    Well, not entirely true.

    This is pretty big:
    These are said to be sold below cost:

    Or how about shutting down NATO transit through Ulyanovsk?

    Alas Putin has no balls, hence the Herod Act. Signed into law on December 28, even!

    Comment by So? — December 30, 2012 @ 4:20 am

  30. “Alas Putin has no balls, hence the Herod Act”

    What, you mean the televised spectacles of his sportsmanship don’t translate into international strength? You must not be a pensioner who gets all their news from NTV or something.

    Comment by paul — December 30, 2012 @ 11:10 am

  31. He jumped the shark in 2007 with his camera whoring. Not that it matters. Had the alpha-crane cratered his trike back in September, there would have been a Pukin or a Bukin instead by now. Maybe Shoigu is already being groomed for it now.

    Comment by So? — December 30, 2012 @ 6:01 pm

  32. Was TGS making the case in support of the law. If so I wish that he would spend time in Russian orphanage to confirm conditions are not dramatically different than in the US. Confirmation of his silly statistical analysis with real world observation would provide strong material for blog posts supporting his position.

    Comment by pahoben — December 30, 2012 @ 6:13 pm

  33. @So?-I thought he had one.

    Comment by pahoben — December 30, 2012 @ 6:14 pm

  34. @So?-I thought he had one.
    Is that a Hitler joke?

    Comment by So? — December 30, 2012 @ 7:06 pm

  35. Allusion

    Comment by pahoben — December 30, 2012 @ 7:13 pm

  36. I don’t see anyone dying to defend his bunker. Anyway, they seem to be back pedaling a little. Cripple kids are exempted, it appears.

    Comment by So? — December 30, 2012 @ 7:54 pm

  37. @So-on a similar note in your post about Putin doubles the link showing a grandmother look alike was very funny.

    Comment by pahoben — December 30, 2012 @ 8:38 pm

  38. This just in: The Greatest Subslimey has just been forced to admit in his own blog, in front of overwhelming evidence, that the figure 1220 dead in five years (not 15) is accurate:

    (see comments)

    Comment by Jakub — January 4, 2013 @ 6:00 pm

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