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Monday, 3 August 2015

Corbyn and Ukraine: it's not pretty


Last week a story emerged from Eastern Ukraine that sent chills. Journalist Maxim Tucker wrote that there were very real fears that the 'rebels' were building a 'dirty bomb'.

With the help of Russians, nuclear scientists supposedly, a repository of radioactive waste had been opened and there was 'chatter' about why. This, Tucker explains in this BBC interview, could mean that they were interested in building a psychological weapon, a fear weapon.

This would hardly be the first time that concern has surrounded the remains of the Soviet atomic programme - Barack Obama zeroed in on it as a priority years ago. Only last December seven men were arrested in Moldova suspected of smuggling nuclear material from Russia.

A nuclear fog hangs over the whole situation with Ukraine, Russia and the West

In March Russia's Ambassador to Denmark threatened that country with Russian nuclear weapons if it joined NATO's missile defence system. Putin himself said in April that he put Russia's nuclear arsenal on standby when he believed 'the life of ex-Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych had been in danger'. And in April his Foreign Ministry accused the Ukrainian government themselves of building a dirty bomb.

Last month Andrei V. Kozyrev, a former Russian foreign minister, wrote in the New York Times that "things may even come to nuclear blackmail, as has been hinted." There are a number of scenarios being played out, not in the fevered imaginations of the mentally disturbed but by serious experts, which include a Russian atomic bomb going off.

The context for all this is a supposed threat to Russia. According to reports from Moscow the fever in which much of the Russian public seriously believe that the United States and the 'gay' Europeans are going to invade is not confined to the lumpen, the vatniks, but infects the Gucci loving, London mansion owning elites and the siloviki, the spooks and former spooks who run Russia.

When crowds mass in Armenia to protest a hike in electricity prices it is Americans doing down Russia in its 'sphere of influence'. When the people of Macedonia rose up against corrupt and authoritarian leaders they could not be doing it themselves they had to be paid by the CIA (or possibly on drugs).

Most famously, of course, the people of Ukraine - right and left wing - did not overthrow one of the most corrupt regimes in the world using their own agency. Oh no, it was all plotted from Langley (read Jim Kovpak's fabulous satirical takedown of this notion).

This fog, this miasma, in which serious people as well as idiots dream of men and women gathering in smoke-free bunkers in Whitehall and Brussels and DC (quite possibly sitting next to the luxury homes of Russian politicians whose corruption they happily tolerate) to plot against Russia has now reached the mainstream of Western politics.


Source: Atlas of Prejudice
Jeremy, Jeremy, Jeremy

It has infected both the mainstream French right and the French socialist left, and the Socialist German left.

And the possible leader of Britain's Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, has the fever too.

This is why a long standing supporter of CND, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, can see the nuclear sabre rattling (alongside the talk of 'colour revolutions' threatening Russian interests, of Russia being 'surrounded') as rational, as "provoked".

Using the classic Soviet propaganda technique of 'projection' - creating confusion by accusing someone of doing exactly what you are doing - Corbyn can claim that:
The obsession with cold war politics that exercises the Nato and EU leaderships is fuelling the crisis and underlines the case for a whole new approach to foreign policy.
Leaning, as Russian propagandists and Kremlin trolls do, on a particular reading of history Corbyn can note that "Ukraine’s national borders have ebbed and flowed with the tides of history" and unwittingly echo Igor Strelkov, the FSB colonel and former Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) 'Minister of Defense', who told Der Spiegel:
Kiev is a Russian city. I want a new Russian domination, which is historically justified. The Ukraine has been and remains a part of Russia. My dream is that Russia re-establishes its natural borders as they were in 1939.
Corbyn can claim that "Ukrainian politics are divided between Ukrainian and Russian-speaking people", which is simply not the case as anyone who visits Kyiv could tell him as the language spoken there is Russian. This plays into the Kremlin myth, and the reason given for invading Crimea, of Russian speakers being oppressed. He can repeat Kremlin memes that a glorious future awaits as Russia can form an alliance with China, a "Russia-China bloc", and screw the Americans (rather than the reality of Russia being forced to accept bad terms because it has no other choice).

He can claim that Ukraine has "been put under enormous pressure to come into the EU and NATO military orbit" when the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) was refused by the West in 2008. Immediately after the Maidan the new government said it did not want to join NATO, it was only last October after the Russian invasion that Ukraine said it wanted to join and non-aligned status was only revoked at the end of last year.

Why did Ukraine do that? Because non-alignment had "proved to be ineffective in guaranteeing Ukraine's security and protecting the country from external aggression and pressure." This is the same reason that Baltic states joined NATO as soon as they could - because they knew Russia was a threat, because Russia had repeatedly demonstrated that it was a threat, not because they had 'pressure' put on them or because of some "attempt to encircle Russia" or an "ambition of NATO expansion further eastwards", let alone for "more NATO or US-run bases in the region" (there are no NATO bases).

Russian imperialism - not mythical 'pressure' - is the reason why a majority in Ukraine now want to join NATO and it is also the reason why a majority of the public in  Sweden  also now support NATO membership. Even in Finland support for NATO membership is going up.

He also believes that some sort of deal was made after the Soviet Union collapsed that NATO would not 'expand eastwards'. This is not true, there is no evidence of any promises or whispers or anything else. It is an urban myth reminiscent of another one confidently repeated by, amongst others, Putin, that former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once said that Siberia's vast natural resources were too important to the world for Russia to unfairly control on its own. Sounds about right to you? Well the source is not some FSB secret recording but a mind reading project. Yes, Russian spooks read Albright's mind and now Putin mouths the results.

I would throw in a jibe at this point about Corbyn believing that water 'retains a memory' but, to be fair, he is hardly the only one.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Racist @Redbull Obama event in Russia


Racism against black people in Russia has been making news lately because of the 2018 World Cup.

The Guardian reports about worries concerning the reception non-white players and supporters could receive in Russia.
A recent report by the Fare network and the Moscow-based Sova Centre for information and analysis has documented 99 racist and far-right displays and 21 racially motivated attacks by Russian football fans during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.
“The likelihood of a racist incident [during World Cup 2018] is very high. It’s not just that it might happen but that it happens very often,” said the Sova Centre director, Alexander Verkhovsky, at a panel of Russian and foreign football observers last month to discuss discrimination in Russian football.

Racism in the Russian stands has already drawn the ire of international and Russian authorities in recent months.
Ghanaian news site Starr FM says African concerns are so high they could spark a boycott:
Unlikely occurrence, you think?

Well, think again. It really wouldn't be the first time the Dark Continent would have turned its back on the sport's greatest event. Sixteen African nations boycotted the 1966 edition in protest of a 1964 FIFA ruling that required the three second-round winners from the African zone to enter a play-off round against the winners of the Asian zone in order to win a place at the finals, with the Africans asserting that winning their zone was enough in itself to merit qualification for the finals.
Piara Powar, the executive director of the Football Against Racism in Europe and a member of FIFA's anti-discrimination taskforce, has also said a boycott is a possibility, "and without them there will not be a World Cup in Russia."

Starr FM points out that there are other black players who could boycott outside Africa, in the Americas and in Europe.

Prior to the European football Championships in Ukraine and Poland in 2012 there were very similar concerns about racism. The BBC aired a documentary just before the event which led to calls for fans to stay away.

However the Championships went ahead without any significant incidents. Russia is presumably hoping that it can pull off the same trick, they are talking the talk and have been for a while now. But an incident this week has underlined just how much the international limelight may not shine kindly unless they get serious about racism.

The energy drink Redbull sponsors a 'Flugtag' around the world, including in Russia. It involves groups in costume jumping from height with a contraption over water trying to fly. It's a lot of fun.

But in Russia one of those groups (pictured above) involved a group in blackface with one in an Obama mask chasing a banana. Classic, 'blacks are monkeys' hideous racism that happens all around the world.

Here's a street sign in Lysva, in the Urals from July 2014.(via ).


Here's the picture that Irina Rodnina, an MP from Vladimir Putin's United Russia party and a triple Olympic champion figure-skater, posted on Twitter. (She later apologised.)


Last August Moscow police allowed students to project a laser light show depicting Obama fellating an unpeeled banana onto the US Embassy. This sort of imagery is 'normal' and officially allowed, despite Russia have plenty of laws covering racism and 'extremism', so why should the geniuses at Redbull in Russia think twice when they dreamt up a 'Obama Banana' group?

But Redbull is an international brand so what happens in Russia does not stay in Russia. Tell @redbull what you think!

Edited to add: The video has been removed from the Redbull website but a GIF was captured by Nikolay Nikolov.

Edited to add: The Guardian says:
Vadim Shevchenko, a spokesman for Red Bull, denied that the footage was meant to be racist and said the banana chase had not been planned.
Reporter Alec Luhn also notes something I'd forgotten:
Photoshopped memes showing Obama with bananas and calling the US president a monkey have appeared frequently on the Russian internet, including on a site of images often used by paid pro-Kremlin trolls.

Edited to add: Red Bull has now given this statement given to TIME:
The organizers of the Red Bull Flugtag in Russia regret our oversight in allowing these participants to tarnish what was otherwise an enjoyable event. It is never our intention to give a platform which would promote an offensive message. For the future, we will take more effective measures to prevent this sort of thing happening again.
HT: ,


Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Obama ‘kills it’ in another African speech


[Crossposted from Little Green Footballs]

Whilst American media and seemingly all the Americans in my timeline are otherwise engaged, Obama is ‘killing it’ on his state visit to Africa.

Here’s South Africa’s leading newspaper picking up on African Twitter.
To break-outs of rapturous applause, laughter and cheering, President Barack Obama became the first US president ever to address the 54-member African Union at its headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

The speech, which touched on a variety of issues, lit the audience and also set twitter ablaze with poignant and often-pointed messages to Africa’s leaders and partners.
More: Obama ‘Kills It’ in His African Union Address - Here Are the Tweets to Read if You Missed It

Said South Africa’s Daily Maverick:
When he was finished, after nearly an hour at the lectern, the audience rose as one. “If you build the Africa you believe in, you will have no greater friend than the United States,” Barack Obama concluded, to raucous cheers and even a few ululations. Finally, the most powerful African in the world had come home – and he did not disappoint.
As with African Twitter, the New York Times’ main takeaway was the criticism of ‘Presidents for life’. Others noted the veiled criticism of China’s African presence, which reflected African concerns, and veiled LGBT rights support.

Obama specifically addressed supposed American hypocrisy - what Russia in particular loves to point to - saying:
Our American democracy is not perfect. But one thing we do is we continually re-examine to figure out how can we make our democracy better. And that’s a force of strength for us, being willing to look and see honestly what we need to be doing to fulfill the promise of our founding documents.
HT: Charles Onyango-Obbo

Watch the full speech after the jump:

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

An overview of Ukraine's left

Party pieces: admiring Kiev’s utopian socialist mosaics, before they disappear
Reblogged from Open Democracy Russia.

By Denys Gorbach

The events of the past two years — the mass protests that led to the deposing of President Viktor Yanukovych, the subsequent annexation of Crimea, and Russian aggression in the east — have changed much in Ukrainian society.

These events have split the global left, dividing the so-called ‘anti-imperialists’ (who support Putin’s aggression) and those who condemn it. Meanwhile, inside Ukraine, left-wing activists are currently re-grouping in response to the events of the past 15 months. Indeed, the changes taking place inside the radical left community began in 2011-2012; the events that followed served as a catalyst.
 
From the ground up

When Ukraine became an independent state in 1991, the left movement was in the process of being built from the ground up.

Traditions of left-wing protest had long been eradicated, and talk of a continuous tradition of an organised left, stretching back to Nestor Makhno or the Trotskyists, was preposterous.

Traditions of protest under left-wing rubrics had long been eradicated

In the late twentieth century, the language of democratic protest against Soviet power, leftist at its core, was liberal conservative.

Indeed, in the late 1980s, the Soviet press used to call conservatives, who supported a more authoritarian regime and an end to the democratic process of perestroika, ‘right wing’ (although formally speaking, they were communists), and the opposition (including conservative liberals like Boris Yeltsin)—‘left wing’.

Later, in independent Ukraine during the 1990s, the term ‘leftists’ became popular when referring to the Stalinist and post-Stalinist parties, which, having taken root in the debris of the recently dissolved Communist Party, went on to exploit people’s nostalgia for the Soviet Union.

These parties included the Socialist Party of Ukraine (SPU), which drifted away from Stalinism to social democracy; the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU), self-declared successor to the old Soviet Communist Party of Ukraine; the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, which broke off from the SPU and quickly took up a nationally-oriented ‘socialist’ position, with an ‘anti-globalisation’ bent grounded in religion; and, last but not least, the Peasant Party of Ukraine, rocked by a series of scandals in the past 15 years.

Throughout the 1990s, these political forces made up the majority in the Verkhovna Rada, and acted as the opposition to President Leonid Kuchma. It was precisely these parties, emerging from the Stalinist tradition (indeed, the majority of them never left it), which came to embody left-wing principles for ordinary people in Ukraine.

Thanks to their efforts, socialism and communism are still closely tied to ideas such as Slavic nationalism, a pro-Russian geopolitical orientation, the police state, the death penalty, social conservatism, the defence of ‘canonical Orthodoxy’, and the wholehearted approval of the Soviet experience.

Gradual regression

In the past 15 years, however, these parties have lost their political influence. This slow defeat has come about not just as a result of demographic processes (the inevitable ageing and diminishing of their supporters), but also due to their own miscalculations.

During the presidency of Viktor Yushchenko, the once powerful SPU squandered its political capital, as it entered unscrupulous coalitions, made bad political deals, and was exposed in a series of corruption scandals.

The Communist Party, which was practically in a governing coalition with the Party of Regions under Viktor Yanukovych, supported the infamous dictatorship laws of 16 January 2014, and in so doing, bound its political future with that of the regime, which quickly fell apart a month later.

After Maidan, with a large portion of their electorate in annexed Crimea and the territories of the ‘People’s Republics’, the communists had little hope of returning to parliament.

‘The left swamp’

At the same time, new left-wing organisations of a different breed have emerged: genuinely anarchist initiatives, Trotskyite groups, radical offshoots from the bureaucratic structures of the CPU, left-leaning nationalists, anti-fascists, social democratic circles — the wide spectrum of left organisations and movements typical of any western country.

To distinguish these groups from the post-Stalinist parties, which monopolised the left flank of national politics, Ukrainian journalists coined the term ‘the new left’. They did this without paying much attention to the fact that this term refers to a concrete political tradition; and one, which, not every young leftist who doesn’t love the CPU belongs to.

Aware of their minimal numbers and influence, these movements kept close to one another: they organised common protests and May Day demonstrations (for Kyiv, with a population of three million, a 500-strong May Day march was considered a success), operated general mailing lists and leased spaces for collective use.

Members of one group would move to another or create their own, but would remain, nevertheless, in the same friendship groups. New people also found themselves here.

This is how a phenomenon that came to be known as the ‘left swamp’ formed: a relatively stable, close-knit social environment where many people hated one another on political and personal grounds, held different political ambitions, but nevertheless felt a sense of belonging to a common cause.

Drying out the swamp

Monday, 27 July 2015

Is Donald Trump a Fascist?

"Think of Bane, the would-be dictator of Gotham in Batman, who promises an end to democratic corruption, weakness and loss of civic pride. He sought a revolution against the prevailing elites in order to gain total power unto himself."

[Crossposted from Little Green Footballs]

I posed this question to a few of my American friends because I had noticed that no one seemed to be asking it.

It seemed like it was verboten to even consider. Libertarian author Jeffrey A Tucker has thought it through though and his essay on the question got republished by Newsweek.
[Trump’s] speech was like an interwar séance of once-powerful dictators who inspired multitudes, drove countries into the ground and died grim deaths. I kept thinking of books like John T. Flynn’s As We Go Marching, especially Chapter Ten that so brilliantly chronicles a form of statism that swept Europe in the 1930s. It grew up in the firmament of failed economies, cultural upheaval and social instability, and it lives by stoking the fires of bourgeois resentment.

Since World War II, the ideology he represents has usually lived in dark corners, and we don’t even have a name for it anymore. The right name, the correct name, the historically accurate name, is fascism. I don’t use that word as an insult only. It is accurate.

Though hardly anyone talks about it today, we really should. It is still real. It exists. It is distinct. It is not going away. Trump has tapped into it, absorbing unto his own political ambitions every conceivable resentment (race, class, sex, religion, economic) and promising a new order of things under his mighty hand.

You would have to be hopelessly ignorant of modern history not to see the outlines and where they end up. I want to laugh about what he said, like reading a comic-book version of Franco, Mussolini or Hitler. And truly I did laugh as he denounced the existence of tech support in India that serves American companies (“how can it be cheaper to call people there than here?”—as if he still thinks that long-distance charges apply). But in politics, history shows that laughter can turn too quickly to tears.
More: Is Donald Trump a Fascist?

Writing for Free Press Houston Nick Cooper notes that:
Right-wing, anti-immigrant fear mongering is quite familiar around the world, from parties like France’s National Front, The U.K. Independence Party, Greece’s Golden Dawn, Italy’s Northern League, and Germany’s National Democratic Party. These European parties are associated with neo-nazism and other forms of fascism, whereas Donald Trump is perceived by many Americans as a blow-hard who says some wacky things.
And, says, Cooper:
The historical precedents are being ignored. These two myths are familiar from fascist propaganda: a dead national dream can be revived by a heroic white male leader darker-skinned outsiders are coming to rape the women
Could be why a European like me looks at Trump and thinks 'Fascist'!  

H/T Steve M

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Obama's Kenyan hit trip




If you're an American you possibly have no idea about this but President Obama just knocked it out of the park in Kenya.

Obviously the first "Kenyan-American" president was going to be well received but Obama's speeches addressing Kenya's problems and extolling its strengths and uplifting its future have been extremely well received. That is if my timeline of Kenyans on social media is anything to go by.

Kenya has a booming technology sector, which I have written about extensively, and Obama paid it a visit. The more that the rest of the world knows about African science and technology the better. He just boosted that.

In the speech above he raised a series of issues which the Kenyans I know know need to be raised. Issues like corruption, tribalism and the status of women.

Nancy Le Tourneau has noticed the Obama feminist foreign policy and noticed these clips from his speech:
Treating women as second-class citizens is a bad tradition. It holds you back. There’s no excuse for sexual assault or domestic violence. There’s no reason that young girls should suffer genital mutilation. There’s no place in civilized society for the early or forced marriage of children. These traditions may date back centuries; they have no place in the 21st century.

These are issues of right and wrong in any culture. But they're also issues of success and failure. Any nation that fails to educate its girls or employ its women and allow them to maximize their potential is doomed to fall behind in the global economy.
I also think his staunch defence of LGBT rights in the context of human rights and of diversity as strength - which is what Obama did - will pay out across Africa. It absolutely did not derail the visit and anyone saying so is a fool.

There's a lead in in the video before his sis Auma appears to introduce him (and she's great) but the music in the stadium's pretty good. Heck, we are in Africa after all.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Bernie Sanders' black problem


The rest of the world loves to laugh at America's never ending election process. Heck, Americans laugh at it. Jon Stewart for one. But those vaguely playing attention, especially those reading The Guardian, will have had their ears prick up at the campaign of one Bernie Sanders.

Senator Sanders is that rarest of things in the good ol'USA, an actual socialist. His rallies for the Democratic party's nomination have been massive so of course a Guardian writer, Mary O'Hara, is waving to get Brits attention yelling that "it’s invigorating to witness what’s happening in the US." My friends at Shiraz Socialist are no less dizzy saying that the Sanders' campaign is "probably the most exciting development in US politics since the 1930s."

Oh my.

Thing is the Sanders campaign just got knocked sideways by black activists. So much so that one of the largest grassroots progressive groups, Democracy for America, has now changed its nominating process. They "will ask how candidates will support the Movement for Black Lives and confront racism and our "culture of white supremacy"." Other groups are certain to follow. That is, that all the assumptions about why a self-proclaimed socialist would automatically win progressive endorsement have been changed. For ever.

Sanders has consistently polled low numbers with minority voters but things came to a head when he did not react well to a stage invasion by #blacklivesmatters activists at the Netroots Nation conference, a big leftwing shindig. Those theatrics drew the attention but the warning signs were already there, as Tommy Christopher points out in this analysis of an earlier interview with George Stephanopoulos.

Says Christopher:
Sanders decided to tell Stephanopoulos that black voters would love him if they just understood things better, an idea that is uncomfortably similar to the conclusion reached by the Republican Party’s infamous 2012 “autopsy report,” and an echo of the GOP’s point man on minority outreach, Rand Paul.

Sanders’ argument, that the policies he advocates for everyone should also be particularly attractive to black and Hispanic voters, is an approach that is favored by politicians who take minority votes for granted, as well as those who take for granted that they won’t get those votes. Sanders’ problem is that Hillary Clinton supports all of the policies he cites, but he has not taken up any of the issues that Hillary Clinton has used to solidify her support with the Obama coalition.This is no accident; Sanders has long emphasized winning white voters by deliberately avoiding what he considers “demographic stuff” in favor of economic issues.
Sanders problems are not just presentational, they're political. As one of the biggest black websites bluntly puts it "a job isn’t going to stop a bullet". Christopher:
Substantively, Sanders’ philosophy misses the point that many of those “demographic” issues are economic issues. For black Americans, the criminal justice and policing reforms that Hillary Clinton has advocated are directly tied to their economic well-being, or that of their close friends and relatives. And while Sanders decries the role of money in politics, the Obama coalition is much more urgently concerned with whether they’ll even be allowed to vote in the next election.
The political problem for Sanders is underlined in another area in this article by Jesse Berney on abortion access, which is a enormous issue in America where access remains under constant attack.
In an interview with Rolling Stone a few weeks ago, Bernie Sanders spoke about the economic populism driving his campaign. “Once you get off of the social issues — abortion, gay rights, guns — and into the economic issues,” he told writer Mark Binelli, “there is a lot more agreement than the pundits understand.”

This formulation isn’t uncommon, even among progressives like Sanders. It’s easy to ascribe the fierce debates on issues like abortion and LGBT rights to cultural differences, and to wish we could just push them aside and finally convince rural white voters to vote for their “economic interests.”

But putting abortion rights in a box separate from economic issues ignores the reality of the women who find it increasingly difficult to obtain an abortion in this country. Abortion is an economic issue: wealthy women will always have access to abortion, while restrictions and obstacles affect low- and middle-income women disproportionately.
Berney explains how Clinton is getting it right.
Sanders puts economic inequality and corporate power at the top of his agenda, and deliberately excludes reproductive rights from that list.

In a recent event in Iowa where she shared the stage with Sanders and the other Democratic White House candidates, Hillary Clinton made a point to say traditional “women’s issues” are actually “economic issues.” Clinton has mostly stuck to issues safer than abortion – like family leave and child care – when talking about the economic impact of issues that have traditionally been “women’s issues.”

But she’s doing the work to erase that distinction, while Sanders draws that line ever more clearly. These priorities matter, and the candidates’ words matter.
Berney warns that Sanders risks losing a whole other part of the Democrats base, the majority, women:
Abortion rights are under severe threat in this country, and exiling them to an imaginary “social issues”category necessarily relegates them to second-class status
Immediately after the Netroots Nation fiasco the Sanders campaign made some tweaks, as Imani Gandy notes in her fabulous, excoriating piece 'You’re White and Marched With Dr. King: So What?' - But Sanders' supporters are giving a very good impression of learning nothing at all from the exercise.
Progressives are complaining that the protesters were disrespectful and rude. They’re whining that interrupting a speech isn’t an “invitation for solidarity.”

I’ve seen some white folks complaining that they no longer feel safe at Netroots because—you know—unruly Black women. The horror! Still others don’t think the protest “looks good.” (Because as we all know, change comes when you politely ask for it, not when you disrupt and demand it, which, by the way, is what Dr. King did. White people tend to forget that Dr. King was a disruptor when they are using him as a Pokémon to shut Black people up.)

Rather than support these brave Black women activists in what is quite literally a fight for the lives of Black people, there you are in all your pearl-clutching glory talking about how disrespectful the activists were, and how it’s such a shame that the uppity Black people were being so rude to an obvious ally, and how the #BlackLivesMatter movement is so disorganized and is protesting the wrong things at the wrong time in front of the wrong people.

    “Why are you alienating allies?”

    “Don’t you know how much Bernie cares for you?”

    “What’s wrong with you people?”

    “Hillary would be worse!”

    “What are you going to do, vote for Donald Trump?”

    “Why won’t you ever be satisfied?”

    “You’re doing it all wrong!”

    “You’re going to make us quit caring about Black lives if you don’t shape up and act the way we want you to.”

Most Black voters want the answer to one question: What is Sanders’ plan to address the police brutality crisis in the Black community?

And the answer to that question is never: “Bernie marched with Dr. King.”
I can vouch for this reality because even I got whiny tweets after retweeting Gandy, who tweets at @AngryBlackLady.

And it is not like there aren't black people trying to patiently explain what Sanders' may be doing wrong. Here's Roderick Morrow, who got so fed up with reaction from so-called 'progressives' that he started the joke hashtag. #BernieSoBlack.
It's like they're almost trying to outblack us. "Oh, you're a black person, what could you possibly understand about our candidate? He was marching before you were even born!" Okay, that's cool, but you gotta stay on top of it. So I made a joke that's like, "Bernie's blacker than us! Bernie's SO BLACK!" That's how it feels when they come into our mentions and tell us that we don't know what we're talking about, and even though [Sanders] doesn't talk about #BlackLivesMatter right now, we should just kind of shut up. So I was just like:




Honestly, the joke is not even on Bernie Sanders. That's what's so funny — the joke is on the defense of him, which is, if you extrapolate to the furthest extent, he can do no wrong on race. Like, we should not even expect anything of him, he put in his time already, we need to just shut up.

I'm sure it does happen, but I can't imagine people doing this to other constituencies, because you do rely on those votes. At Netroots Nation, you're going to be addressing a very diverse but very black-centric audience, and to not really be prepared to talk about race there is a little bit of a slap in the face. So for us — and when I say "us," I just mean black people, I'm not any level of an activist or anything — for us to just say, Hey, you kind of did a bad job, hope you do better in the future, and then get bombarded with "He marched in 1968!" it's like, All right, man, I don't know what to tell you.
That. That right there.


Edited to add@BobFromBrockley has pointed out this socialist response, not to this but to the entire movement (I think)! A progressive I have followed for years, Martin Bowman, has also written despairingly here, comparing the movement to a marriage and fearing that we're heading for divorce.

I won't Fisk either but I would point out one thing. I'm a white gay man and I'm from the generation that lived through HIV/Aids. So there is a connection I have to a 'crisis' of people dying and there is also a connection to having to yell and scream to get attention - from everybody. So we had Act-Up and Peter Tatchell invading pulpits, but then we also had lobbyists and McKellan having tea with John Major. Movements always piss people off. From what I can tell the people supporting Sanders are pissed off and from my perspective, as another minority, then I don't know why that's a bad thing.

Edited to add: It's also worthwhile noting these comments (via Nancy LeTourneau) from Dara Lind:
There is a legitimate disconnect between the way Sanders (and many of the economic progressives who support him) see the world, and the way many racial-justice progressives see the world. To Bernie Sanders, as I've written, racial inequality is a symptom — but economic inequality is the disease. That's why his responses to unrest in Ferguson and Baltimore have included specific calls for police accountability, but have focused on improving economic opportunity for young African Americans. Sanders presents fixing unemployment as the systemic solution to the problem.

Many racial-justice advocates don't see it that way. They see racism as its own systemic problem that has to be addressed on its own terms. They feel that it's important to acknowledge the effects of economic inequality on people of color, but that racial inequality isn't merely a symptom of economic inequality. And most importantly, they feel that "pivoting" to economic issues can be a way for white progressives to present their agenda as the progressive agenda and shove black progressives, and the issues that matter most to them, to the sidelines.

So Sanders' performance at Netroots confirmed the frustrations that his critics felt. And Sanders' supporters' reaction to the criticism was just as predictable.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Russian Orthodoxy's growing "pogrom-like" violence


The BBC recently reported on a "stand off" between local residents in a Moscow suburb and activists from the Russian Orthodox church (ROC). The residents were protesting plans to illegally erect a church in their local Torfyanka park, taking precious green space, which is against Russian law, and despite there being numerous other usually empty churches in the vicinity.

Sarah Rainsford reports that the locals are scared of the activists, most of whom are not from their suburb, and that those protesting the church are called "sinners". The ROC activists told Rainsford that 'the West' was behind those protesting the new church.

The government wants hundreds more churches in the capital, when the real need is for more mosques for Moscow's two million Muslims, one sixth of Moscow's population. There are also only five synagogues and two Catholic churches. Worshipers have been trying to get permission for over a decade for one Krishna temple.

Despite the constitution's Article 14, which defines Russia as a "secular state", only the Orthodox church is allowed to teach religion in Russia’s public schools and it also has the right to review any legislation before the Russian parliament. In 2013 a blasphemy law was passed. The church has backed Putin and bad-mouthed the opposition. Any priest who criticises the government faces being defrocked.

Notes Paul Coyer:
Taking this a step further, the view of Putin as a quasi-sacral figure is becoming increasingly widespread throughout Russia. In St. Petersburg, Putin’s hometown, he has been portrayed as an angel reaching out his hands and blessing the city’s inhabitants. Just this past weekend St. Petersburg unveiled a bust of Putin in the attire of a Roman Emperor.
Sects within the ROC revere Putin as the reincarnation of the Apostle Paul and even pray to him. Drawing an analogy between the Apostle Paul’s conversion experience on the road to Damascus, this sect believes that, just as Paul persecuted Christians and then became their leader, Putin once was part of the KGB, which persecuted the Church, and he now works to strengthen it. (Although it is perhaps of more than passing interest to note that the leader of this sect began praising Putin so highly only after her superiors in the ROC asked the FSB (the successor to the KGB) to begin tailing her. After beginning her sect, the government surveillance stopped.)
In this article by Paul Goble, reblogged with permission from Window On Eurasia, Goble reports on what is being called the increasingly "pogrom like" violence associated with Orthodox activists.

======

Staunton, July 19 – An article in the current issue of “Sovershenno Sekretno” asks whether there is a line between Russian Orthodox Church activists and those who engage in pogrom-like violence. It concludes sadly that there is not -- and that church activists and those engaged in attacks on other groups are increasingly one and the same people.

The monthly’s Dmitry Rudnyev writes that he decided to focus on this issue after the fights between those who want to build more Orthodox churches in Moscow and those who oppose these being put in what are now public parks and Father Dmitry Smirnov’s shutting down of a concert that he said was disturbing prayer (sovsekretno.ru/articles/id/4902/).

Such incidents, he continues, “are taking place ever more frequently, and the causes which generate among Orthodox [activists] such an incommensurately stormy reaction are becoming ever more varied.” That raises the question as to why Russian Orthodoxy has “suddenly acquired hysterical aspects” and seems to be trying to find occasions to be upset.

“Five to ten years ago, the phrase ‘Orthodox radicalism’ would have elicited a condescending smile,” Rudnyev says. “Today however, this has become one of the realities of Russian religious life.” So far, “thank God,” it hasn’t claimed human victims in the way that nationalist or Islamic radicalisms have.

“But the problem of radicalism in the church exists,” he continues, “and today people talk about it in a serious way.”

Yevgeny Nikiforov, head of the Orthodox Radonezh Society, says that “the percent of radically inclined people among believers is absolutely equal to the percent of radicals in society as a whole.” It generally “’infects’” recent converts, but at times, it involves those who have been active in Orthodoxy their entire lives.

An example of the latter is Father Dmitry Smirnov, Nikiforov continues. He is nominally only a priest, but “in the structure of the church he has already for a long time occupied the slot of a bishop. This is like in the army where a colonel may serve in a general’s place” and where he enjoys the trust of those above him.

What Father Dmitry did, Archdeacon Andrey Kurayev says, reflected “a free decision” on his part. Each of us is complicated, and each makes his choice as a result of a multitude of causes pressing on him.” What makes his action of concern is that Father Dmitry had the kind of access that would have allowed him to solve this problem without any conflict.

He “could have made a single telephone call,” Kurayev continues, and there wouldn’t have been a problem. But “of all the mass of possible resolutions of the problem, Father Dmitry chose the path of open and forceful intervention. And this is not a result of shortcomings of his mind or experience.” Instead, it reflected his judgment of “the general atmosphere of today’s dialogue between the church and society.”
Via Oppositum

Since 2012, Kurayev says, some in the church have felt “called upon to show that we also are a force agency,” that the people of the church are part of the foundation of the secular authorities, that they can act on that basis, and that they may move against anyone confident that they won’t be punished even if we go beyond the bounds of legality.

In this, they are not different from the pro-Putin bikers, and this propensity to engage in violence won’t end as long as the powers that be continue to support. Indeed, Kurayev continues, actions like those of Father Dmitry “will be a regular feature” of Russian life.

What makes this situation somewhat of “a paradox,” Kuryaev says, is that Patriarch Kirill “is one of the most educated of all the hierarchs of the Russian Church” but because of his dramatic expansion of the number of bishoprics, he has brought into the hierarchy many who are uneducated and thus inclined to settle things not by negotiation but by violence.

Roman Lunkin, a senior specialist at the Center for the Study of the Problems of Religion and Society at the Russian Academy of Sciences, agrees. “Earlier under Aleksii II, the church did not use in its political goals various kinds of radical groups … this would have been unnecessary and quite dangerous in a democratic society where the church suddenly wouldhave been associated with the worst kind of nationalists suffering from xenophobia.”

“However,” Lunkin says, “the situation in [Russia] has changed.”

The Church needs the help of the state to achieve its goals, he continues, and consequently, “radical Orthodox tricks are called upon to convince the authorities that Orthodoxy is a powerful force. Therefore, often the hierarchs themselves make declarations in defense of the Orthodox” in ways that offend others.

However, “the paradox is that the more official representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church demand from the government and even impose on it its own ideology, the more such people come into conflict with what church life really needs,” Lunkin says.

The church radicals, he continues, have little support: “the majority of believers have no desire … to prohibit plays or break up rock concerts.” Instead, they properly understand that “the single task [which the church must fulfill in the future] is the construction of an Orthodox community in a democratic society in which believers support one another, life according to the law, and respect even non-believers” rather than use force to address problems.

Moving in that direction is a long and slow process, Lunkin says, and the actions of some who speak for the Russian Orthodox Church are not helping. “But the process is inevitable and it is already in course.”

There have always been radicals in and around the church, but in general, the hierarchy has kept them on a short leash as was the case with Bishop Diomid of Sakha* in 2008, the scholar says. His views were quite radical then, but now they would be viewed as more or less mainstream.

Indeed, the “Sovershenno Sekretno” journalist says, there is evidence that some in the church hierarchy like Father Dmitry are actively sponsoring radical groups like the Movement in Support of 200 Churches and the Movement of 40 by 40 and encouraging their members to go from one place to another to push their views, something ordinary believers would not do.

And many of those in the leadership of these groups are not only followers of Father Dmitry but show both his intolerance and willingness to engage in force, two things that alienate many ordinary believers even if they are not inconsistent with the kind of values being promoted by the Putin regime.

  • Jim Kovpak writes on the difference between the Orthodox/state propaganda version of Russia and the reality:
In the minds of many of these drooling morons, Russia is this simple, fairy tale land where men are respectable fathers and patriots, and women are demure, modest maidens waiting patiently to get married and start bearing children.  The reality is something quite different.

Monday, 20 July 2015

The Kremlin's maltreated soldiers


The maltreatment of conscripts in Russia's still largely conscript army has been an open secret for years. In the days when Russia's media was allowed to report on Russia's problems a newspaper like Pravda could report that:
According to the UN International Panel for Struggle against Sexual Exploitation, the Russian army is plagued with male prostitution. A small amount of money is enough to find a Russian soldier-prostitute in the center of Moscow.

Servicemen may become male prostitutes in the Russian army for various reasons. There are young men who voluntarily offer sexual favors to their homosexual clients; others are forced into prostitution against their own will. Newcomers, especially those who finished higher schools before joining the army, suffer from sexual harassment more often than others. Brave soldiers try to protect their honor and rights, although there is no one to help them: commanders and military officials may often be involved in the sex business too.
But that was 2007 and nowadays the deaths of, potentially, thousands in the state secret that is the war in Ukraine must be hidden. The civil society groups set up to deal with the mistreatment of conscript soldiers, like the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers quoted in this 2011 Russia Today article, are now being silenced as they dare to ask questions about the soldier's deaths 'on holiday' or 'on maneuvers'.

If that was not bad enough even when there is an accident the deaths of soldiers are being ignored. Last week a barracks collapsed in Omsk killing 23 young men. State TV barely mentioned it.

This so outraged RFE/RL’s Elena Rykovtseva that she wrote an open letter to those TV network's and her fellow Russian journalists. It has gone viral and has been translated by Kevin Rothrock for Global Voices.

THEIR NAMES HAVEN’T BEEN MENTIONED ONCE ON ANY OF THE NATIONAL TV NETWORKS

    R.Shaihulin, October 5, 1994
    B.Sudnikovich, January 4, 1995
    A.Polegenko, January 17, 1997
    R.Yumagulov, March 29, 1991
    M.Ignatenko, January 20, 1996
    R.Filyanin, July 24, 1996
    M.Ivanov, October 22, 1996
    V.Chemezov, October 19, 1996
    S.Vahrushev
    Filatov, August 18, 1996
    R.Altynbaev, June 14, 1994
    D.Kenih, November 16, 1996
    A.Gritskov, January 30, 1996
    E.Belov, December 3, 1995
    B.Nafikov, 21.09.1996
    O.Kortusov, March 16, 1996
    A.Shokaev, November 5, 1994
    E.Herman, July 30, 1995
    F.Mamliev, September 2, 1996
    E.Reshetnikov, September 30, 1996
    AM.Igoshev, April 6, 1996
    A.Shingareev, April 24, 1997
    V.Lomaev, January 29, 1997

Five of them were buried today in Omsk. Another two went into the ground in Novosibirsk. They’ve declared a day of mourning in Orenburg, too. The dead are also arriving in Irkutsk, Bashkiria, and St. Petersburg. People are crying across the whole country, but it’s no longer an issue for the national TV networks. “[Ukrainian nationalist group] Pravyi Sektor is marching on Europe. The Ukrainian authorities can’t manage the radicals.” This is how their goddamn news broadcasts begin. And there’s not a word about our dead boys.

At this moment, there are funerals happening in Omsk—already for the second day in a row. But there’s no news coming out of there. Not a single live broadcast. And I remember well how Rossiya-24 aired around-the-clock coverage of Lugansk separatist [Alexey] Mozgovoi’s funeral. I remember how it went on endlessly, as the mic was handed off to family, then friends, and then locals, and how everyone cried in their speeches about what a great and wonderful patron and protector he was. When it comes to our own boys in the Russian army, who incidentally wanted fanatically to serve as paratroopers, there’s not a thing on television. Nobody broadcasts the reactions, or the condolences of a single living mourner—apart from Putin’s sympathy, as retold by [his press secretary Dmitry] Peskov. And this was only on the first day.

Yesterday, on the second day, now speaking before a group of students in Klyazma, [Putin] no longer remembered these other young men. He smiled and he beamed and he congratulated the crowd on the day’s fine weather. It was as if the Omsk barracks never happened. The victims’ names were never read on a single national TV network. The men are nameless—all 23 of them.

It’s nothing personal, guys.

But each of these boys has his own social media page, and there are photographs. And it would have been possible at least to say something—anything—about these men, and about their families. Something about Oleg Kortusov, for instance, who was a promising fighter and whose fiancée is expecting a child. Or something about Egor German, another local from Omsk, who leaves behind a baby born less than a year ago.

And this is to say nothing about helping the victims’ loved ones—those close to the men who died and who survived. They transferred another Omsk soldier, Volodya Petrov, to Moscow, and the Defense Ministry is paying for his treatment, but they didn’t allocate any money to his family for their train transportation or accommodations in the city. And his mother has nothing. That’s why the city of Omsk banded together and raised money to help her.

For some reason, they don’t want to talk about this on their national TV networks, with their audience of millions. For some reason, they don’t want to say even one human thing about these guys, or ask the country if maybe it, too, would like to offer some help, in addition to the one-time assistance their families received from the state (which they don’t get right away, incidentally)?

But I don’t want to talk about these people and their TV stations anymore. Let them live with their shame. I just want to tell those boys goodbye. And also in their memory, I want to publish this photograph [see above], which I found on the social media page of one of them, Sergei Filatov. He’s the one second in from the right in the last row in the back. In the front is Valery Lomaev from St. Petersburg. He died, too. The photo is from July 12, a few hours before the tragedy, inside the very same barracks.