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Friday, May 30, 2008

The Dumb, the Dumberer and the Dumbest: Another Social Ad

Ukraine’s huge outflow of skilled blue-collar workers has created a significant shortage in the local labor market. In Kyiv’s crisis-free construction industry, for example, workers earn more than college professors and doctors.

While the trend has driven up wages, to argue that a blue-collar job can provide a decent living standard would be a hard sell. Especially when you sell like this:

Recruiter: I’ve been waiting for you for so long. I’ve been looking for you. I’ve almost lost hope. What a delight it is to have found you!
Job applicant: And how much will you pay me?

For these golden hands of yours [camera zooms in on man’s wedding ring], I would…

Job applicant: So?

Job applicant:
That’s good!

It’s just base pay. Then you have bonuses, a full benefits package. You a turner of the fifth degree! A worker’s hands cost a bundle!

Job applicant: That’s what I’ve been telling my son. He’s just like me: He’s going to be a turner!

Voiceover: A blue-collar occupation means:

Stabilnist today,

Confidence tomorrow,
Success forever!

Ministry of Labor, State Employment Service.

Welcome to Ukraine’s dumbest social ads! Instead of disclosing some financials — to compare them against costs of living — we have a commercial that plays on sexually suggestive and ethically questionable fantasies.

When you have stabilnist (stability) today, which escalates into confidence tomorrow and success forever, you have a credibility gap right there. In the mind of a critical thinker, these chronologically redundant and exalted rungs will send Maslow’s hierarchy of needs tumbling down like a house of cards.

Well, perhaps the Ministry of Labor's idea of the target audience did not include critically thinking turners. Taxpayers' money does not cost a bundle, right?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Chernovetsky Urges Bipartisan Cooperation

Mayor Re-Elect Chernovetsky, speaking in Russian: I’m an ethnic Ukrainian. I was born here. It was here that my children and my four grandchildren were born, and at the same time I categorically oppose further division…uh…of power into Oranges and…uh…parties of other colors. This is not right. It’s against the population of Ukraine. Because it is…uh…not fair. Today, they should be united…uh…so that they could tackle humanitarian issues and show more kindness.

Undoubtedly, those “other parties,” as well as some Orange splinter groups, would love the idea of “tackling humanitarian issues” in a shyrka blockbuster

Well, maybe we should give Yanukovych an Oscar for mastering conversational Ukrainian, something Chernovetsky has abstained from.

On a lighter note, this, this and this goes out to our beloved leaders, who split the vote, and to losers like me, who once had thought we could make it.

Bonus tracks:

Video uploaded from:

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The End of Maidan, According to Shufrych

As the Orange kolkhoz grows ripe for divorce, the vultures are salivating, expecting to reap a huge harvest.

MP Nestor Shufrych, PRU: Somebody has to be held responsible for what’s happening in this country today. Let’s make a scapegoat out of someone, let’s sacrifice him and hide ourselves. I want to say that it’s not going to happen this way. It will start with Lutsenko and everybody will have to pay. But this will not merely be the end of the Orange team; it will also be the end of Maidan.

Video uploaded from:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lutsenko Claims Persecution, Accuses President of Shyrka Plans

Speaking outside the Office of the Prosecutor-General, where he was summoned for interrogation, Minister of the Interior Lutsenko said this:

They haven’t invented anything new. I’m being asked why I flew on vacation, together with my family, to the Crimea and back. They also have reconfigured the Chernovetsky case from simple battery, which, according to Ukrainian law, does not carry criminal penalties, to abuse of authority. Now that’s something new. One might just as well reconfigure it to cruel treatment of animals.

Now that NUNS has fizzled out in the recent Kyiv municipal election, Lutsenko speaks with his tongue untied. Later in the day, the Minister of the Interior minced no words at his press conference.

I lost Kyiv elections to Baloha. I’m an honest politician and that's why I always call a spade a spade. I lost to the Secretariat of the President, which has managed to completely destroy the Kyivites’ support for NUNS.

It’s a heavy blow for me personally and for the future electability of Narodna Samooborona, but first and foremost, the bell tolls for Nasha Ukrayina.

Today, we’re witnessing an obvious coup d’etat taking place during the last month. It’s absolutely positively evident that President Yushchenko supports the Baloha-Kolesnikov plan of destroying the democratic coalition elected by the people in 2007, which formed a majority in parliament.

The plan is very simple: Baloha and Kolesnikov have convinced the President that if Chernovetsky has managed to buy the not-to-poor and quite educated Kyiv, then the Donetsk clan can easily buy the not-so-prosperous Ukraine.

Already, in early May, during a meeting with the President of Ukraine, attended by his Chief of Staff, Speaker of Parliament, and NUNS representatives, I was confronted with two requirements: to consent to a grand coalition in the Verkhovna Rada and to a coalition with Chernovetsky in the Kyiv City Council. And, second, to stop pursuing those who are being protected (and whose criminal cases are being soft-pedaled) by the Donetsk clan and the Secretariat of the President.

The President’s response was, quote, “Yura, cut all this cop crap. Remember, as long as I’m President, everyone who comes to my office wearing a tie will not land in jail.” It was a challenge to me, to everything that I did in 2005.

If the plan to destroy the democratic coalition is stopped, if the President states that there will be no grand coalition, and that he will discontinue any contact whatsoever with the Donetsk crime bosses, and will provide an opportunity to pursue any person, regardless of what party they belong to, then I have no objections.

The litmus test for the current government is the willingness to replace the Prosecutor-General, who has turned into a general graveyard of high-profile cases on high-profile people, and into a vehicle of political persecution in overblown cases against others.

I categorically deny the allegation that in 2005 I traveled by air twenty times, let alone with my family. This matter was looked into after my first suspension in 2006; there was no evidence to prove my guilt. Today, they’re trying to dig out this old and supposedly already dead dog and to hang it on me.

Standing procedure circulated by the Ministry of the Interior allows the families of personnel to travel in any direction for leisure or other purposes.

There were such options. For example, I was invited by Lviv authorities and by the state leadership to participate in city festivities together with my wife, so we went together. As for the naval forces festivities, the Commander and the Minister of Defense also invited me and my wife. We went there, too. I flew to Israel on an official invitation, together with my wife, as required by protocol. I guess we went to Greece, too.

Is this a case of Lutsenko's backstabbing or Yushchenko's backsliding? Let's wait and see.

At any rate, the fortunes of Georgian-born Davyd Zhvania, the man who reportedly bankrolls Narodna Samooborona, too, have changed dramatically. Once a friend of the Yushchenko family, he now faces the prospect of having his Ukrainian citizenship revoked.

While authorities cite violations of immigration law, Zhvania alludes to undeserved reprisals from Yushchenko.

According to some media reports, Yushchenko may suspect Zhvania of having a role in his 2004 poisoning.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Chernovetsky Wins, Exit Polls Show

ICTV and Ukrayinska Pravda have the exit poll results.

Chernovetsky, 32%
Turchynov, 20.3%
Klychko, 19.5%
Pylypyshyn, 9.1%
Katerynchuk, 4.9%
Omelechenko, 2.7%
Horbal, 2.7%
Tyahnybok, 2.4%
Against all, 2.1%
Other, 2.8%
Don't remember, 0.3%

City Council:
Leonid Chernovetsky Bloc, 25.7% (35 seats)
Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, 23.4% (32 seats)
Vitaliy Klychko Bloc, 12.7% (18 seats)
Lytvhyn Bloc, 10.4% (14 seats)
HAK, 4.3% (6 seats)
Party of Regions, 4.0% (6 seats)
Katerynchuk Bloc, 3.90% (5 seats)
Svoboda, 3.0% (4 seats)
Oleksandr Omelchenko Bloc, 2.60%
Nasha Ukrayina-Narodana Samooborona, 2.10%
Communist Party, 1.40%
Pora, 0.40%
Socialist Party, 0.40%
Other, 2.80%
Against all, 2.40%
Don't remember, 0.40%

Poll conducted by the Democratic Initiatives Fund and Kyiv International Institute of Sociology.

P.S. Viva vermicelli voters! Viva greedy opposition dudes!


The Battle for Kyiv

In the runup to the May 25 city election, Kyiv has fully blossomed into a marketplace of political paraphernalia and competing audiovisuals.

For simplicity’s sake, Kyiv can be segmented into two diametrically opposed groups of voters: vermicelli voters and non-vermicelli voters.

This VALS taxonomy assumes cash and food inducements as the key behavioral driver, one that draws the line between voting by mouth and voting by mind. (Vermicelli and cereals became a staple of election handouts in the March 2006 city election, which Chernovetsky won with 32% of the vote.)

Roughly speaking, we have stabilnist-oriented voters and change-oriented voters. Each of these groups can be further profiled as having two distinct sets of burning questions.

Change-oriented: “Will Chernoco go? Will the newly elected City Hall put the brakes on the barbaric land grabs and construction? Will it ease the outrageous traffic jams and housing prices?”

Stabilnist-oriented: “How much vermicelli do we get? Where and when?”

One can also look at it as voting for the lesser evil vs. voting for the bigger handout.

Most of the change/lesser evil vote will be split between boxing legend Vitaliy Klychko, Tymoboy Oleksandr Turchynov, and maverick Mykola Katerynchuk. (Maverick or mole? Lutsenko recently accused Katerynchuk of having ties with Chernovetsky, an allegation that has spawned an unsuccessful lawsuit and an article that supports the allegation.)

Most of the stabilnist/bigger handout vote will go to incumbent Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky and Vasyl Horbal of the Party of Regions. Chernovetsky and Horbal largely appeal to a pro-Russian electorate; both came into politics as bankers, yet not equally “bright” when they speak.

Some voters will support oldtimers like former mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko and smalltimers like Viktor Pylypyshyn of the Lytvyn Bloc, or Mykhailo Brodsky. These mayoral candidates could siphon a few votes from the main contenders. Yet others will chose not to vote, either out of disenchantment or due to recreation activities. (The election will coincide with Kyiv Day(s), when Kyiv celebrates its birthday.)

Analysts believe that the holiday itself offers certain electoral opportunities. Amidst holiday festivities, young voters will flock to a well-advertised concert at Chaika airfield, on the outskirts of Kyiv. If these fun loving young folks fail to vote, that will give Chernovetsky’s older and better organized electorate more leverage.

Meanwhile, Vasyl Horbal, too, sees a growth market among 20-to-30-something Kyivites, whom he plans to magnetize with a free concert by German rock band Scorpions. Note the eye-popping lack of ideological unison between Scorpions’ “Wind of Change” and the Party of Region’s routine mantra of stabilnist. Well, what if Horbal, who studied in Germany in the early 90s and now wears a $100,000 watch, proudly confesses to having written “skhid i zakhid razom” on the Berlin Wall? As Bohatyryova’s case suggest, President Yushchenko can always find a job for closet patriots.

Who wins? Different polls tell different numbers. Undoubtedly, the bitter divisions in the Orange camp bode well for incumbent Mayor Chernovetsky. Vitaliy Klychko and Oleksandr Turchynov, his major challengers, run a high risk of being knocked out in a plurality vote.

Vice Premier Oleksandr Turchynov, Tymoshenko’s longstanding lieutenant, faces an uphill battle in securing a launch pad for Tymoshenko’s 2009 presidential bid. When it comes to Tymophobia, the City Hall hardly holds a monopoly. According to an increasingly Tymo-friendly Lutsenko, Yushchenko, at a recent meeting, urged his brethren to make this election into a Stalingrad for Tymoshenko. If true, that rallying call, as one someone noted at Ukrayinska Pravda, makes Yushchenko Joseph Stalin, correct?

Ironically, the Presidential Secretariat [read: Yushchenko] upholds Chernovetsky’s “Martian law” with the intensity of Kyivites’ love for the Orange Revolution. Well, times have changed, and so have the allies. Rumor has it Tymoshenko does business with Medvedchuk while Yushchenko recently appointed born-again democrat Kuchma to the board of Taras Shevchenko National University. Kuchma, by the way, views the municipal election as a referendum on BYuT policies. That makes sense: The battle of Kyiv tests the waters of Tymoshenko’s presidential electability.

Some analysts argue that even if Chernovetsky gets reelected, he will be dealing with a hostile City Council. If not, the mind boggles at what Kyiv will look like by the time his second coming expires in 2010. Other scenarios, which surface in recriminations, include sabotage, fraud or legal action to cancel the election or invalidate its results. Police and prosecution claim having uncovered multiple fraud plots. The SBU has interrogated Medvedchuk and vows to clamp down on any wrongdoing with the full rigor of the law. (Reality check: People convicted of 2004 election fraud walked away with suspended sentences.)

As always, politicians largely compete on fly-by-night promises rather than on down-to-earth particulars. Because many voters base their calculus on a politician’s charisma, charisma traditionally becomes a profit center for special interests. The current proportional system allows them to put a celebrity on top and plant themselves deep inside the ticket. If the strategy works, they expect to rake in a decent return on investment.

What’s more, this municipal election campaign misses out on debates between the major rivals. Such aversion to debates comes as no surprise, given the highly idiosyncratic communication skills of the incumbent mayor. Still, with or without him, watching his challengers come to blows live would very much serve the public’s right to know.

With so much at stake, one can find media reports of negative campaigning, including false flag campaigning. A few weeks ago, police arrested a group of people who posed as BYuT activists, disseminating faux campaign materials loaded with defamatory statements. Meanwhile, the Chernovetsky Bloc and the Party of Regions complained of having stale food handouts distributed under their brands.

Chernovetsky leads the way in management by walking around, that is, public relations management by walking around. He revirginizes parks, attends vermicelli rallies, blasts his opponents, trashes illegal slot machines, and aborts barbaric construction sites in embryo.

The 24-storied sardine-packed sunkillers erected during his rule remain intact. But that smoking gun evidence hardly prevents him from delighting the public with his mobile Potemkin village of construction-busting. Vermicelli voters will swallow it, and will pay for their naivete once the honeymoon is over.

Communication strategies depend on capabilities. Virtually hijacked by Chernovetsky, TRK Kyiv, the municipal channel, has revived a Kuchma-era “vox populi” program in which cherry-picked passersby land in front of the camera to badmouth the opposition. Today’s enemies of the state: Klychko, Turchynov, Tymoshenko. TRK Kyiv polls hail Chernovetsky with approval ratings of 34%, nailing Klychko and Turchynov with 10% and 9% respectively.

While the incumbent mayor relies on Big Brother-style brainwashing and paternalist approaches, his challengers take every step to bring their banners closer to home.

Witness the rise in balcony advertising, first used during the 2004 presidential campaign. However, efforts at cross-bundling BYuT’s dark horse Oleksandr Tyurchynov with Yulia Tymoshenko’s stardom appear to be a cliffhanger.

Kyiv in Colors 4
A Trip to Kyiv City Elections 2008

Part IV

Watch some more Obolon and follow me to a Scorpions concert sponsored by mayoral candidate Vasyl Horbal and the Party of Regions.

May 23

No playgrounds here!
Send kids to the forest!
[Leonid Chernovetsky]

Serves him right

Lyonya sold our land

Riverfront Obolon

Lyonya Kosmos, where are your cosmonauts?

Will sell Kyiv wholesale and retail! Lyonya

Chernovetsky is buying souls!

For 7 years we've been fighting this illegal construction site. Stop destroying house No. 5!
Chernovetsky L.M., we've been waiting 10 months for the revocation of this illegal land permit

The laws of Ukraine should work for the people!

No light at the end of the tunnel

You won't feel ashamed of your mayor! Mykola Katerynchuk Bloc

What a funny piece of art from HAK, but not as funny as HAK itself.

That about wraps it up for balcony ads.

Off to the Scorpions concert

Gee, I'm not the only one!

Heading for Yevropeiska Ploshcha [European Square]. It's raining cats and dogs!

Vote for Klychko! Otherwise, your vote will go to a corrupt family clan

Oleh Tyahnybok's Svoboda was holding a concert of its own

Concert goers would huddle in the underpass

Some folks managed to get free polyethylene PRU raincoats. Having found it hard to climb the slippery hill, I opted for a backdoor entry via the Reunification Ark terrace.

Descending on Yevropeiska Ploshcha, kicking Chernoco packages.

Watching climbers

If you think these young people came here to support Vasyl Horbal and the Party of Regions, think again. Just like me, the vast majority of them came here for the music.

"Our mayor is Vasyl Horbal!"

For some reason, the show, scheduled for 7 p.m, would not begin until 9:20 p.m.

"No Pain, No Gain"

"Send Me An Angel"

See that little BYuT banner?

"Still Loving You"

"Wind of Change"
What, no "Wind of Stabilnist???":)))

The building is known as the Ukrayinsky Dim (Ukrainian House). Opened in 1982, it was originally intended as the Lenin Museum.

Ironically, it was here that I became a pioneer (the Soviet equivalent of a boyscout) in April 1989, less than seven months before the Fall of the Wall. I was one of the three top students in my class to be promoted to that rank in second grade.

In spring 1989, that red tie still signified status. In late 1990-early 1991, some folks in my class, myself included, would combine their red ties with yellow-blue pins, to terrorize the teachers.