Voices from Russia

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Please Don’t Lecture Russia

Fr Vsevolod Chaplin. USSR. 05.12

THIS was the REAL USSR… any questions?

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When I first visited Russia more than 30 years ago, it was still part of the USSR. The idea of any independent or critical press, of open debates in a parliament, or of popular demonstrations against government policies that would bring scores of thousands of people into the streets of Moscow, was inconceivable then. Today, Russia has many critics in the West, who accuse it of sliding back into dictatorship. What is their proposed solution? Usually, it is to criticise Russia and its leaders and try to strong-arm them into adopting policies of greater democracy and alleged greater respect for human rights.

These attitudes stem from a pervasive faith shared by liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans in the USA that’s so pervasive, that its greatest believers are totally unaware of how much they’re in thrall to it. They believe that democracy is the only acceptable political system around the world, and that, consequently, the USA should wage a ceaseless ideological crusade, not resting until, at least, all the major nations of the world share the same limitless blessings of a perfect democratic system.

Now, I’m all in favour of democracy myself… I prefer living within a fully-democratic system rather than under a communist, fascist, or repressive theocracy. However, I’m against waging wars to imposing the American, or any other, democratic system, on other nations. I’m equally opposed to a purely-ideological foreign policy that would treat the governments of the world purely according to how Freedom House and similar bodies grade them according to how it assesses their freedoms. This is hardly an anti-American position. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Quincy Adams, and modern Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush, and Bill Clinton believed and acted exactly the same way.

Ironically, the history of the West and the USA over the past three-quarters of a century exposes the dangerous folly of such self-righteous fantasies. Britain and the USA only won World War II against Nazi Germany because they were allies with the USSR under Iosif Stalin. I believe that not one in 100,000 Americans alive today knows or remembers that it was the Red Army, not the American or British forces, which liberated the Nazi extermination complexes of Auschwitz and Majdanek in Poland.

Nor did Western pragmatism… or hypocrisy… end with the destruction of the truly-evil Third Reich. Many still hail President Nixon as an American statesman and peacemaker for his détente policy with the USSR and his outreach to China. Not all the repercussions of the Watergate scandal that forced him to resign can take that away. Yet, Nixon, like Reagan after him, supported the two most corrupt régimes on the planet for decades, which ground hundreds of millions of their unfortunate peoples into degradation and despair. These were the kleptocratic dictatorships of Indonesia under President Suharto and Zaïre (today called the Democratic Republic of the Congo) under President Mobuto Sese Seko.

Russia has come an amazingly long way since I first visited it in the spring thaw season of 1982. That doesn’t mean its political system is the same as those of the USA or the major nations of Western Europe. However, it’s no Indonesia under Suharto or Zaïre under Mobutu either. What’s more, the USA never had any trouble getting along with them. All the moral lecturing of Russia by Western critics misses two crucial points.

First, even if Russia were to relapse back into some form of strict authoritarian government… and so far it hasn’t… that wouldn’t make war or conflict with the USA or the West inevitable. The USA, the British Empire, and the communist USSR were reliable and exceptional successful allies to each other throughout World War II. Then, the USA and the USSR successfully steered clear of any direct conflict in the 44 years of the Cold War from 1945 to 1989. It wasn’t easy; at times, they came dangerously close to war. Second, ensuring Russia remains a democracy won’t be a guarantee of peace with Russia, even if such a starry-eyed, ill-defined, reckless, and irresponsible policy such as intervening in Russia’s internal affairs could ever succeed. For throughout modern history, democracies have often waged war on other countries, including on other democracies. The idea that the best guarantee of world peace is a world filled with, and dominated by, democracies is just another myth.

What the USA and Russia really need is a serious dialogue between their top leaderships aimed at defusing tensions and managing real and unavoidable conflicts of interest. Both nations need to work hard on identifying their areas of mutual interest, and expanding them. The last thing American and other Western leaders need to do is to cave into the mounting hysteria from the think-tanks and the armchair strategists churning out their endless morally-outraged columns for the op-ed pages, and embrace a policy of ideological criticism and name-calling against Russia. The two thermonuclear superpowers need to respect each other and improve their cooperation… the peace of the world demands it.

9 March 2013

Martin Sieff

Voice of Russia World Service

http://english.ruvr.ru/2013_03_09/Please-don-t-lecture-Russia/

Editor’s Note:

Orthodox people should note that Victor Potapov, Alexander Webster, James Paffhausen, and Rod Dreher have sold out to the American Consumerist Dream and to the American Democratic Fantasy. They’re Sergianists (those who suck up to the powers-that-be for the scraps that fall from the high table) of the foulest and worst sort. They’re part of the “mounting hysteria from the think-tanks and the armchair strategists churning out their endless morally-outraged columns for the op-ed pages, and embrace a policy of ideological criticism and name-calling against Russia”. Potapov was/is an open US government propagandist. Webster and Dreher are “stink-tankers”; Paffhausen is tied to the American Enterprise Institute (one of the most Far Right stink-tanks in the District). In short, these people are traitors to the Orthosphere, and we must treat them accordingly.

You can follow HH and his support of Social Justice… or you can follow the above sell-out jabronies who’re supporters of “Greed is Good” and “The Race Goes to the Swiftest” (that’s what support of the contemporary Republican Party means). I’ve chosen… it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know where I stand… by the way, I’m far from alone…

BMD

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

After School Shooting, What Can President Obama Do?

00 Newtown CT massacre. Angels. 18.12.12

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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

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/politics/20121218/178227734.html

Thursday, 22 November 2012

22 November 2012. RIA-Novosti Infographics. Thanksgiving Day Tradition and History

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Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday of November. The history of this holiday goes back to one of the first English settlements in America in 1620. Escaping from religious persecution, a group of English Puritans known as “Pilgrims” set off on a dangerous journey, they hoped to find long-awaited freedom in the New World. Their first year in their new homeland was very severe. The settlers had to endure hunger, cold, misery, and disease. After a harsh winter, during which about half of the group died, they learned from neighbouring Indians how to grow corn and other crops adapted to local conditions, to distinguish edible from poisonous plants, which springs had drinkable water, and where the best hunting trails and fishing spots were. In autumn 1621, the colonists gathered a good crop for which they have decided to thank the Lord with a festive meal. This was the first-ever Thanksgiving Day. For a long time, it was an unofficial holiday. However, in 1789, the first US President, George Washington, proclaimed Thanksgiving Day a national holiday, and he requested the Congress to set a date, 26 November, a Thursday. Later, the date of the holiday changed, but one thing remains unchanged… the respect and consideration that Americans give to a date that’s closely connected with their faith and history.

22 November 2012

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/infographics/20121122/177670617.html

 

President Obama Pardons Turkeys as the USA Marks Thanksgiving


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As millions of Americans sit down to turkey dinner today, US President Barack Obama pardoned two birds in an annual White House Thanksgiving ceremony to mark the national holiday. Now, the birds will live at George Washington’s restored Mount Vernon estate. Two 40-pound turkeys, named Cobbler and Gobbler, came from Virginia. Gobbler’s role was to replace Cobbler, should the latter be unable to fulfil his duties. Obama pardoned both birds. Whilst granting his ‘presidential’ pardon, Obama joked about his recent re-election, saying, “You know, they say that life is all about second chances. This November, I couldn’t agree more. So, in the spirit of the season, I have one more gift to give. It goes to a pair of turkeys named Cobbler and Gobbler. The American people have spoken, and these birds are moving forward”. Americans chose the turkeys through an online vote.

According to the White House website, the traditional pardon dates back to President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln’s son Tad begged his father to write out a presidential pardon for the bird meant to be the main dish in the First Family’s Christmas feast. The young boy argued that the turkey had as much right to live as anyone. However, not all US Presidents followed this tradition. Some didn’t pardon their gift turkeys; they ate them. In November 1963, just four days before his assassination, President John F Kennedy spontaneously spared a turkey. The bird he was presented wore a sign reading, “Good Eatin’, Mr President”. Kennedy responded, “Let’s just keep him”. Since 1989, the tradition was formalised.

The estimated number of turkeys that Americans will eat on Thanksgiving 2012 exceeds 46 million. Some 13 percent of Americans won’t be feasting on turkeys this Thanksgiving season, as they’re dependent of food stamps. Officials say the figure will only increase, given the economic slump and the devastation in the Northeastern USA caused by the recent Hurricane Sandy. According to a new report by the Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit government watchdog group, today, as many as 42.2 million Americans, which equal the population of California and Connecticut combined, are in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). According to the report, SNAP estimates that a meal costs 1.00 to 1.25 USD (31 to 38 Roubles. 0.80 to 1.00 Euros. 0.65 to 0.80 UK Pounds) per person.

The number of Americans dependent on SNAP has increased by 70 percent since 2007. Last year, it involved approximately 44.7 million Americans and cost the US government a record 72 billion USD (2.25 trillion Roubles. 56 billion Euros. 45 billion UK Pounds). Meanwhile, due to past summer’s drought food prices have skyrocketed while supplies remain low. For some low-income families, a turkey for Thanksgiving is an unaffordable luxury.

22 November 2012

Voice of Russia World Service

http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_11_22/Obama-pardons-turkeys-as-US-marks-Thanksgiving/

Editor’s Note:

The main cause of the increase in SNAP cases is the meltdown caused by Republican deregulation and crackbrained giveaways to the Affluent Effluent (coupled with inordinate spending on unnecessary warfare in foreign parts). Another reason is the “givebacks” demanded by management as they increase their own pay and bonuses (case in point being Hostess, where the management gave themselves an 80 percent pay hike and demanded “concessions” of the workers). Many of those “employed” at Wal-Mart are on SNAP… bear that in mind as you hear fatcat investors bleat about the cost of the ACA. I find that reprehensible and vile. Yet, they’re going to sit down to Thanksgiving Dinner without a care and with the lunatic notion that they’re the oppressed in this nation. If nothing’s done, there’ll be an explosion… and they’ll have no one else to blame but themselves (the same was true in 1917… ponder that).

By the way, the cost of SNAP is only some 10 percent of the bloated war budget. If there are 42.2 million people on SNAP, and the entire programme costs 72 billion USD, that means, if all monies were spent on benefits (and they’re not, for there’s administrative overhead in that figure), each individual on SNAP would receive 1,707 USD (53,300 Roubles. 1,325 Euros. 1,070 UK Pounds) a year, which works out to 142.25 USD (4.440 Roubles. 110 Euros. 90 UK Pounds) a month. That’s not a princely sum; all the bloviating that you hear about “welfare queens” and “welfare Cadillacs” is lies, and what’s more, those who spread such falsehood, do so knowingly. That’s called evil, kids.

The cost to taxpayers is 240 USD (7,500 Roubles. 186 Euros. 150 UK Pounds) a year per person… the US war budget eats up 2,500 USD (78,000 Roubles. 1,941 Euros. 1,566 UK Pounds) per person per year (much of that is kickbacks to corrupt pols and bloated management compensation)… now, can you tell me where the fat in the budget is? It’s NOT in “entitlements!” It’s not quite what the rightwing fanatics are telling you, is it? Reflect on that as you hear such unrepentant greedy cretins as Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity scream about “entitlements”. They spend more than that on their country club dues or on one meal out. Let God see and judge…

BMD 

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