Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

18 December 2012. Video. There’s Good Shit Out There… Les Enfoirés… Encore un autre hiver (Again, It’s Another Winter)

00 Les Enfoires 2010 Nice. 18.12.12



None of the famous performers in this vid took a busted sou. All the money raised went to the good works of Les Restos de Coeur. Now, that’s GOOD SHIT… Coluche is looking down from heaven, smiling. These are bastards (enfoirés) who put their money where their mouth is.




18 December 2012. Video. To, to, to, Nikolae lyubit (sang in Ukrainian dialect)… HAPPY ST NICK’S!

ACROD St Nicholas Icon



Tomorrow is my Nicky’s nameday… here’s a modern riff on the well-known O kto, kto, kto, Nikolae lyubit (as it’s sung in Galician-Ukrainian dialect, the singers use “h” for “g”, they swallow the initial “k” in “kto”, and pronounce “Nikolai” as “Mikolai”). Happy nameday to all you Nicks out there! Lift the jug and cheer!

The icon above is of a real occurrence in history… in the early 20th century, a group of Carpatho-Russian coalminers took a (unpaid) day off to go to church for a feastday of St Nick. That day, a mine cave-in trapped many miners. The icon represents St Nicholas holding his veil of intercession over the Orthodox miners.


Is Schoolhouse Slaughter a Tipping Point for American Gun Reform?

00 Newtown CT massacre. protest. 18.12.12


Mass shootings at American high schools, colleges, movie theatres, and workplaces over the past 15 years have done little to impact public opinion or national policy on gun control in the USA. However, the scope of revulsion and outrage over the execution-style slaughter of 20 children and six adults by a lone gunman at a Connecticut elementary school last Friday has many Americans asking whether the massacre marks a tipping point in the national debate over gun rights. US President Barack Obama told mourners at a vigil Sunday evening in Newtown CT, the site of the mass killing, “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end, and to end them, we must change”. Obama didn’t outline any specific policies he might seek to implement, although he told the vigil, “In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens … in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this”.

Several high-profile members of the US Congress have publicly voiced support for a new push to tighten restrictions on firearm ownership in the wake of the tragedy as well. One of those lawmakers, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), famously aired a 2010 campaign ad in which he loaded a rifle and fired a bullet through a piece of paper reading “Cap and Trade Bill”, a piece of environmental legislation that he opposed. Manchin told MSNBC in an interview that, as a hunting enthusiast, he supports re-examining laws that allow people access to the types of weapons and ammunition commonly used in these deadly attacks. Manchin, a Democrat who’s been praised in the past by the influential National Rifle Association (NRA) for his pro-gun stance, said in the interview, “I don’t know anybody who needs 30 rounds in a clip to go hunting. I mean, these are things that need to be talked about”.

American politicians are famously skittish about pursuing legislation aimed at tightening government control of gun ownership, and a call for gun reform by high-profile elected officials who’ve received the NRA’s stamp of approval… like Manchin… could provide momentum for new legislation, said Kristin Goss, a professor of public policy at Duke University. However, Goss, author of Disarmed: The Missing Movement for Gun Control in America, believed that sustained grassroots pressure on politicians would be more important, saying, “To what extent will the American people actually mobilise in a sustained way to push leaders to take seriously these gun rampages and enact policies of any sort that might reduce their numbers?” A gun control petition on the White House website’s “We the People” section has shattered the record for the number of signatures for a proposed initiative since the platform’s launch in September 2011, gathering more than 150,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon. However, Goss said that meaningful reform would likely only come if public pressure on officials lasts “more than a news cycle”.

Respected public opinion research organizations have noted that mass killings in the USA in recent years haven’t sparked such sustained drives. On Monday, Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup, wrote on the research centre’s website that despite a string of mass shootings from April 1999 to October 2012, “Americans have, in general, become less likely to say that the country needs stricter gun control laws”. Constitutional scholar and gun control sceptic Eugene Volokh told RIA-Novosti on Monday that Friday’s mass shooting, like previous analogous crimes, is unlikely to result in stricter gun laws in the USA. Volokh, a professor at UCLA School of Law, said that the argument that federal laws restricting guns will stem these kinds of attacks is spurious and the American public has repeatedly rejected them. Volokh told RIA-Novosti, “The only guide we have for the future is the past. What we see in the past is that people haven’t much reacted to those kinds of arguments when it comes to translating them into policy”.

However, Goss said that gun control advocates might have grounds for optimism, given that national lawmakers aren’t currently facing an election cycle. She said that gun reform isn’t an issue politicians are “eager to tackle in an election year”. Yet, Gross added, however, that getting a significant gun reform bill through the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives could prove difficult, saying, “The moderate Republicans who used to come over and support gun control measures are an extinct species in the House. It’s really hard for me to see major gun control legislation going through the House in this Congress unless something really dramatic and unexpected happens”.

 18 December 2012

Carl Schreck



After School Shooting, What Can President Obama Do?

00 Newtown CT massacre. Angels. 18.12.12


As parents began Monday to bury the young victims of last week’s elementary school massacre, US President Barack Obama offered more than words of comfort. He offered words of hope and the promise of action on gun control. speaking at a memorial service Sunday for the 20 children and six adults who died at the hands of an armed gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown CT on Friday, he said, “In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds… in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this”. In a country that constitutionally guarantees the right to bear arms, and where gun control is an emotionally-charged political quagmire, the question is, “How much can Obama do on his own?”

The call for immediate action echoed on radio talk shows, social media sites, and media reports from coast to coast. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an outspoken advocate of gun control, called on Obama to make tightening gun restrictions his “number one” agenda. On Sunday, on NBC’s Meet the Press, Bloomberg said, “I think the president should console the country, but he’s the commander-in-chief as well as the consoler-in-chief. It’s time for the president, I think, to stand up and lead and tell this country what we should do”. Joyce Cordi, who covers business and government issues for the blog-sharing platform Policymic, wrte, “President Obama should issue an executive order TODAY that places immediate absolute limits on the type and quantity of ammunition that can be purchased at-retail by an individual”.

However, it’s not that easy. John Hudak, an expert on presidential powers and a fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, a non-profit research organization, in an interview with RIA-Novosti, said, “The president’s fairly restricted in his ability to unilaterally change gun policy in the USA because of existing state and federal law. There’s not much he can do from the standpoint of executive action”. Obama… like all US presidents before him… has the authority to use executive orders, a privilege that originated under President George Washington and allows the commander-in-chief to issue a legally-binding order to federal agencies. However, there are restrictions on the kind and scope of orders a president can issue.

Eric Freedman, distinguished professor of constitutional law at Hofstra University Law School, said in an interview with RIA-Novosti, “He’s supposed to be sure the existing laws are being enforced, but he can’t make new laws. If it’s legal to carry a Saturday night special in a park, then nothing the president can do will make it illegal, but if something’s already illegal, then he can choose to enforce it more vigorously”. The most aggressive actions on gun control… like a ban on assault weapons or large ammunition clips… would require legislation that passes both the US Senate and the House of Representatives before the president signs them into law.

Nevertheless, gun control experts said that there are gun control laws already on the books that have languished, including limits on the possession of guns by felons and mental patients, and the ability to run data checks on people who apply for weapons permits. The president could significantly increase investigations and enforcement that would have an immediate effect, Freedman said. “The president can order the relevant enforcement agencies to ratchet up their priorities and can shuffle funds within those agencies to make it happen. He could have a fairly significant impact because you could get some dangerous people and weapons out of circulation, but also because high visibility campaigns have a deterrent effect and would provide political cover for state officials who want more enforcement without the political risk”. He also said Obama is likely in the coming days and weeks to announce, with some fanfare, enforcement of the existing legislation and push to reinstate the ban on assault weapons that expired under President Bush. Freedman added, “The odds are that he’ll consider this fairly low-hanging fruit”.

Experts say Obama is also likely to mandate a broader national policy on school security measures, and push for a more effective coverage of mental health care nationwide. Hudak said, “Through these smaller steps, he can build momentum for bigger change”. Both Hudak and Freedman said that such changes are likely to come sooner, rather than later.

18 December 2012

Maria Young



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