Putin’s Press-Conference, Part III

Putin then heaped praise on the Ukrainian President Poroshenko, saying that Poroshenko was ready to collaborate with Putin but some mysterious members of the Ukrainian government were preventing him from doing that. This limp-wristed attempt at discrediting Poroshenko tells me that Putin fears him and sees him as a political force to be reckoned with.

Then Putin confirmed that the heroes of the Donetsk Airport were still alive and still fighting. This is great news because we’ve been fearing that they were no longer among the living.

There was also a long discussion of how the mean, horrible Ukrainians just had to get into a war (with themselves) on purpose to prevent the Russians from enjoying their massive win at the Olympics. They are really obsessed with those Olympics, folks. It’s been almost a year, and they are still going on and on about the Olympics. There is a huge sense of grievance that is being fostered in Russia about those Olympic Games. I actually started feeling sorry for the Russians after hearing this endless blabber about the Olympics. Poor freaks.

One of the journalists was holding up a pink bunny and a poster that said, “I have a kind question.” I found that to be an interesting journalistic tactic of attracting attention. 

Putin informed the audience that the line between a member of the opposition and a traitor to the nation was very blurry. You’ve really got to appreciate the honesty with which he warned the dissidents of what awaited them.

What I find really funny is that Putin moves, talks and gesticulates exactly like the career criminals in Russian TV series that N. and I love to watch. I think he works with an acting coach to acquire this persona because people watch a lot of these shows and find it easy to relate to this kind of character.

My Analysis of Putin’s Speech, Part IV

Ready? Here goes:

In a situation where you had domination by one country and its allies, or its satellites rather, the search for global solutions often turned into an attempt to impose their own universal recipes.

We all know what “one country” Putin has in mind, right? His ideology is pretty simple: it’s unfair that there should be a single global power (the US) that pushes its own recipes (democracy, human rights “Western values,” gay marriage, separation of church and state) on everybody. So it’s only fair, Putin says, that there should be another world power who would promote the exact opposite to create a more balanced system.

The profound cynicism of this position lies in the attempt to convince the world that Putin’s assault on democracy and human rights in Russia and neighboring countries is only done for the benefit of the planet.

“Don’t you see what I’m doing, you dummies?” he says. “I’m killing Ukrainians, rigging elections, and bashing gays (to name just a few favorite pursuits) to benefit you! So that our shared planet is a more objective and just place!”

I knew before starting to read the speech that our dear friend Mr. Snowden would make an appearance and serve a useful purpose. And so he did, even earlier in the speech than I thought:

It is not for nothing that ‘big brother’ is spending billions of dollars on keeping the whole world, including its own closest allies, under surveillance.

Obviously, I’m no longer naive enough to think that this will in any way influence Snowden’s fans to abandon their hero-worship.

A Theory on Obama’s Approach to Syria

Somebody just advanced a theory that Obama doesn’t want to invade Syria and is doing what he can to avoid looking weak while sabotaging the invasion. And this is why he declared he will let the Congress that hates him have the final say. In the end, he won’t have to invade and will be able to blame the Congress for any consequences just as we go into the congressional electoral campaign.

This would be a beautiful world I don’t mind inhabiting.

Do we have any optimists who think this is a likely explanation around here?

Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Part I

I keep looking for a source of information on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would at least try to depart from the “bad Jews/good Arabs” or “bad Arabs/good Jews” model. Both of these approaches are equally reductive and offensive. Still, I’m getting a feeling that nobody is even attempting to discuss the issue in any other manner. Initially, I had high hopes for Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine but I have to admit that the book has been a serious disappointment. I listed some of my objections to Pappe’s writing here but that was only the beginning.

For some incomprehensible reason, Pappe decided to alienate every Jewish reader – even the potentially anti-Israel and pro-Palestiane one – from the get go. It is hard for a Jewish person to remain open to a point of view that insistently equates the displacement of the Palestinian people from their villages with the Holocaust. I don’t see why it is so necessary to equate two such different events at all. The forcible removal of the Palestinians is a horrible, horrible crime and a huge tragedy. But it cannot even begin to compare to the Holocaust. Pappe tries to make the two tragedies similar by making it hard to figure out that the Palestinians were displaced from their villages without being killed. (It took me a while, for example, to realize that when Pappe says, “Village X was destroyed,” he is forgetting to mention that only the physical buildings were destroyed (or simply damaged), while the people were not.)

Ilan Pappe is altogether very careless about the Holocaust. He discusses it as a reality that has certain bearing on the actions of the international community. He says, for example, that after the Holocaust, any instance of ethnic cleansing in the world becomes impossible to conceal. This is a very strange statement to begin with, since the Holocaust was very obviously not an example of ethnic cleansing but of genocide. As Pappe explains at length, ethnic cleansing does not involve the mass murder of the displaced ethnicity while the genocide does. At the same time, there is no discussion in the book of how the Holocaust might have influenced the Jews. To the contrary, Pappe suggests time and again that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would exist in pretty much the same form had the Holocaust never happened.

For those who manage to keep reading the book even in the face of this cavalier dismissal of the Holocaust, Pappe brings out the argument that will surely convince any person who does not passionately hate the Jews as a group to stop reading. I am speaking, of course, of the trope of the greedy Jew.

For a while, the suggestion of Jewish greediness is made without the direct use of the word “greedy”. This allows a reader to keep convincing herself that she is being too sensitive and is imagining anti-Semitism where there is none. Until, that is, a story of “a greedy Tel-Aviv municipality” that sets out to steal the crop of oranges grown by hard-working Palestinians. And the story of the “monstrous villas and extravagant palaces for rich American Jews” that have been created because of “constructors’ greed” and that are disfiguring the architectural ensemble of Jerusalem. And many other stories of greedy, dishonest Jews who don’t create anything of their own but, rather, steal the fruits of the labor of others. (The words “exploit” and “exploitation” appear constantly in the text to describe the intentions of the Jews.)

(To be continued. . .)

P.S. I would very much like to avoid the third-grade level of discussion of this serious issue that such debates almost always slip down to. This is why I’m asking everybody to refrain from the egregiously unintelligent analysis of who was where “first” and whom “this land initially belonged to.” I have to issue this warning because I looked through the Amazon reviews of the book and this is all I have seen there.

Why Are They So Rabid?

Reader Evelina Anville says a propos of my post on Girl Scouts and their vilification by the Catholic Church:

On the one hand, the Catholic Church is one of the major churches in the US (and the world); and, on the other hand, Girl Scouts is so wholesome and so very “establishment.” So it’s not like some fringe church is rejecting a group of radical feminists. It’s a major church with a great deal of clout rejecting a mainstream group (and, from what I understand,continuing to support the Boy Scouts.) So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I am worried what this means in terms of gender and sexual politics when a major Church brands a group that encourages cookie-selling, arts and crafts and camping, as radical or extreme. I agree that it’s the Catholic Church’s right and that the Church shouldn’t be forced to recognize the Girl Scouts or anything. Still, I find the entire thing disturbing.

I agree completely that the Church’s attack on the Girl Scouts is completely out of proportion but I have a different view of what this means. I find that the rejection of such an – as Evelina says – wholesome group and such a vicious backlash against a very non-threatening organization for children signals complete and utter desperation on the Church’s side. They are losing parishioners left and right. There is one scandal after another, they are being slowly squeezed out of contemporary reality, so they flail around like a drowning person.

This is precisely why the Fundamentalists are trying to pass all of these outrageously barbaric measures against contraception and abortion. This is why the Republican primaries have been so bizarre. The Fundamentalist, ultra-religious brand of Conservatism is dying out. These are their final moments, and they know it extremely well. This is the very last opportunity they have to signal their presence. They are so rabid because they are scared. I have a feeling that even among Conservatives there is a growing dissatisfaction with how the Conservative movement has been overrun with shrill religious fanatics, which does great damage to the rational, intelligent Conservatism.

I believe that soon the prolonged agony of fanatisicm will be over. Religious people will give up on trying to make the secular society follow their rules and bow down to their beliefs because very very soon this will become completely untenable. And then, finally, the reasonable, non-fanatical representatives of Conservatism will recover their movement and we will start seeing productive interactions between Liberals and Conservatives.

As stressful and depressing as it is to observe the current developments in the war against secularism, feminism, human rights and choice, the reality that they obscure is very hopeful and positive. The more rabid the fanatics get, the greater is the desperation that they are communicating by their acts.

Now There Is Really Nobody to Vote For

Can you guess who said this recently?

We are putting colleges on notice — you can’t keep — you can’t assume that you’ll just jack up tuition every single year. If you can’t stop tuition from going up, then the funding you get from taxpayers each year will go down. We should push colleges to do better. We should hold them accountable if they don’t.

And this (the same person):

We call this — one of the things that we’re doing at the Consumer Finance Protection Board that I just set up with Richard Cordray — (applause) — is to make sure that young people understand the financing of colleges. He calls it, “Know Before You Owe.” (Laughter.) Know before you owe. So we want to push more information out so consumers can make good choices, so you as consumers of higher education understand what it is that you’re getting.

And the following (still the same guy):

 We’re successful because we have an outstanding military — that costs money.

To resume:

– college students are consumers, which makes imposing the business model on academia a must;

– colleges must be forced into even more cuts, which makes the further erosion of the concept of tenure inevitable. One over-extended adjunct can do the teaching of 3 profs. As for research, who the hell needs it anyways? So, adjuncts in, professors out;

– the money that is squeezed out from public universities should be pored into the military because there is always a dinky little war that needs to be waged somewhere to keep Pentagon happy. And private contractors, too. Yippee.

I know that you are all aware that these are excerpts from a recent speech by President Obama. And that’s the most progressive option we get.

OK, so how am I supposed to indoctrinate my students when I’m very disappointed with all of the candidates there are? I have to teach tomorrow, people, so we need to come up with something. I can’t let a whole day of classes go without some nice indoctrination.

Romney Calculators

Have you seen these Romney Calculators that seem to be the latest fad on Liberal websites? My blogroll is filled to the brim with them, articles about them, and calculations based on them.

I so hope that this “Romney is rich which is why you shouldn’t vote for him” spiel will not become the axis of the Liberal Presidential elections campaign. There are very few things that Obama’s supporters can do to lose him the election. This, however, is one of them. Trying to milk class resentments of the Americans? Really? This strategy is going to be extremely counterproductive.

I’ve been living in this country since 2003 and I have not seen a widespread hatred of wealth. People hate the government, the IRS, the bureaucrats, the “elitist intellectuals”, etc. But they don’t hate the rich. Everybody hopes to strike it rich which turns people who make a lot of money into role models. If Romney were a jet-setting heir to a fortune who hasn’t worked a day in his life, then there is a slight chance one could successfully invoke class resentment toward him. But he isn’t.

Remember 2004? That was the moment when the entirety of the Liberal discourse on President Bush was reduced to the supremely ineffective “Bush lied!” mantra. Every time I heard it, I’d whisper, “What are they doing? This is a guaranteed way to lose the elections!” And that was exactly what happened. Of course, the Dems also had no candidate to run a against Bush, just like the Republicans don’t have a viable candidate right now. If the “Romney Calculator” type of strategy continues, though, Romney is likely to become such a candidate.

Take me, for example. I don’t like Romney and I’d never support him for President. Still, after I saw the Romney Calculator, I’m less opposed to him than before.

Of course, if people who have been living in this country for a longer time than I have tell me that there are massive class resentments against high earners that can be successfully exploited in the US, I’ll believe you. If I’m not seeing something, this doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

What do you, folks, think? Is the Romney Calculator a winning strategy?

And For the Especially Clueless: Ron Paul Is NOT a Libertarian

He is a fake Libertarian who is supported by Fundamentalist Evangelicals and is interested in nothing but promoting their savage and barbaric beliefs:

When GOP presidential hopeful Ron Paul was asked today about Tuesday’s federal court ruling upholding an aggressive new sonogram law in his home state of Texas, the congressman said the requirement that women seeking an abortion first get a sonogram “should always have been a Texas state position.’’

What are the chances that the guy who supports the governmental intrusion into your body will be opposed to the governmental intrusion into your bed, your bank account, your smoking, drinking and reading matter, etc.? Seriously, how clueless do you have to be not to notice that this Ron Paul character supports an extremely powerful state apparatus that will police your body parts like there is no tomorrow?

Yes, he pretends he will legalize pot. And that makes him yet another candidate who lies through his teeth to get elected. Just think about it: how likely are his Fundamentalist backers to allow him to move even an inch in that direction? And if he is in favor of the government controlling what happens inside of your body, how can he possibly be against, say, mandatory drug tests? It isn’t logical, folks. You want to mandate sonograms, you can’t oppose mandating drug tests. Nobody would be able to make an argument supporting the former but opposing the latter.

It is so annoying to see smart, well-read, politically conscious people swallow Ron Paul’s lies and not see that he is in no way different from the fanatical Huckabee, to give just one example.

So whenever you are tempted to take this Evangelical clown seriously, ask yourself the following: Ron Paul wants the government to rummage in women’s vaginas. What does this tell us about his general attitude to an extremely powerful and intrusive government?

Don’t start typing out a response immediately. Just think about it for a moment. And now consider the following question:

Brian Williams should ask him tonight at the debate whether he would agree that a state government has the right to demand pat-downs at its airports. I’d be curious to hear the answer.

If Ron Paul says no, he is a hypocrite of enormous proportions. If he says yes, then he recognizes he favors an all-powerful government whose right to police your body is inviolate.

It makes a lot more sense to support a candidate who is both pro-sonogram and pro-drug tests because such a candidate is at least trying to be consistent.

I just had a grad student offer me a long rant on how Ron Paul is a good candidate because he supports withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. I agree that Ron Paul may attempt to stop waging a war in Afghanistan. (And we all know that he will fail completely in that effort, don’t we?) I also know, however, that he will wage a war against his own people. Women, you know, are people, too. And I consider invading women’s uteri an act of aggression.

A Political Dilemma

In this country, there is no political force that believes both in individual freedom and individual responsibility.

One party wants to police the choices you make in your personal life, while the other one wants to police your bank account and the way you do your work.

One wants to control what you do in bed, while another one wants to control what you do outside of it.

One condescends to you by dictating to you how you should conduct your personal life, the other one condescends to you by telling you how you should do everything else.

One wants to “protect” you from your personal choices because you are supposed to be too stupid to live with their consequences. The other one wants to do the same for your actions in the public sphere.

Both sides see us as victims and try to convince us of our victimhood so that we would embrace them as our saviors.

Psychological health entails a capacity to act independently and successfully in the private and in the public sphere, at home and at work. (“Loving and working without fear and expectation of fear.”) To offer full support to either party we have in the US, you have to relinquish control over one of these spheres to the all-powerful entity that will dictate your options to you.

I listen to reasonable, intelligent Conservatives, and what they are saying makes a lot of sense to me in many ways. But then they start on their “right religion / wrong religion, good sexual orientation / bad sexual orientation, good family structure / bad family structure, I-know-best-what-you-should-do-with-your-body” thing, and I lose all interest immediately.

So I go back to Liberals, and what they are saying makes a lot of sense. But then they start on their “we are all conditioned to be victims so check your privilege you overentitled elitist snob who thinks that we have some degree of control over our lives”, and I just wilt.

I don’t know about you, but I cannot decide whether “If you are unemployed, it’s always 100% your fault” is more offensive than “If you are miserable it’s always 100% somebody else’s fault.” I don’t know whether “If he’s got no insurance, then let him die” is more wrong than “She only managed to become so successful because of her white, hetero, male, Anglo privilege. Oh, she is a lesbian Latina? Then, surely she must have some other privileges by the bucketful.”

One of these political philosophies vilifies failure and worships success. The other one vilifies success and “privileges” failure. But what if you experience both on a regular basis? That is, what if you are human? What if you want to own both of your failures and your successes without being ashamed of them? Then who do you vote for? (And if somebody says Ron Paul, I will have to ridicule them in a very harsh way. Just a fair warning.)

Margaret Thatcher: A Semi-Open Thread

I have no opinion on Margaret Thatcher, folks. Isn’t that refreshing? For once, I have no opinion. Which is why I will now ask you, my readers, to help me form one.

When Thatcher was in power, I lived in the Soviet Union. We all worshiped Thatcher. At least, everybody I knew (including my parents and their friends) did. She was a powerful woman, beautiful, poised, and also extremely strong. Culturally, we respond very well to that. We knew that she was pro-free markets and pro-capitalism. In the Soviet Union, we didn’t know what capitalism really was. We just knew that being in favor of it made you a really good person, and being against it made you one of those bastards who kept us in perennial poverty in our own country.

I was visiting the UK at the moment when Thatcher had just been replaced by John Major. To my intense surprise, I discovered that the people who I was staying with in Birmingham and then in Kent were not as into Thatcher (I’m putting this very mildly) as I had imagined every British person to be.  In this sense, Thatcher seemed to have a lot in common with Mikhail Gorbachev. He was also adored abroad and disliked at home.

The nice Brits who opened their homes to me and who railed against Thatcher destroying the economy and plunging the country into dire poverty were a doctor and a nurse on the one hand and a CEO for Range Rover on the other. To a Soviet teenager like myself, their lifestyle seemed princely (and it still does, to be honest), so I found it hard to process the idea that British economy was in dire straits. (I was 14, OK? How smart were you at that age, eh?). As a result, I became very confused on the subject of Thatcher and I still am.

So what say you, people? Are we in favor or against Margaret Thatcher and why?

P.S. See how I can write a post on the subject where I don’t even have an opinion? This is the secret of my blogging success.