Monday, March 31, 2014

Putin seems to be leading the charge to save the world "from the West", and apparently to him that means from "infertile" gays

Masha Gessen offers a particularly disturbing commentary Monday on Putin’s strategy in Russia, “Saving the world from the West”, or, online, “Russia is remaking itself as leader of the anti-Western world”, link here. 

 No, this is not the same as the old Cold War.  It’s saving the World from the West’s idea of “tolerance”.  Pretty frightening stuff.

The ‘non sequitir” in Putin’s logic, to follow the article, is the belief that “toleration” implies a belief that good and evil are equivalent.  I don’t see the logic there.  But remember how back in the 1990s Newt Gingrich talked about the different between “tolerance” and “acceptance”.
The article suggests that the Putin’s preoccupation with homosexuality (in parallel to that found in much of Africa, like Nigeria and Uganda) is especially dangerous.  Homosexuality is suddenly on the radar screen because it is viewed as a proxy for a people’s becoming “barren and neutered” – that is, to stop having enough children, because doing so is personally costly and risky, and challenging for some merely out of personal disposition.  Putin behaves as if he believes the world (or at least Russia) will soon bear its last child, and then become a planet of "children of men", right out of science fiction. 
Gessen makes a metaphor, that Russian troops are all that stand between Slavic people’s and “homosexuals marching in from Brussels”.  Now that city (I changed trains there once in 2001 and saw the clowns in the train station) may be the home of the EU, but openly gay singer-actor-producer Timo Descamps, the “Belgian Zac Efron”, may personify the fantasy that Putin projects.  His video “Tomorrow” (Drama blog, March 26) shows a global outreach that is certainly interesting and spirited, if double-edged; and the character he played in “Judas Kiss” (I watched some of it again Saturday night), named Shane, a rich, spoiled and handsome “gayboy” who can have anybody he wants, seems to insult the whole idea of “family” in lower income working classes that feel exploited by the “haves”.  In that movie, everyone bows down to Shane, and it seems like Putin behaves like he’s afraid he might have to.  Mr. Descamps, whose father is a sci-fi author and whose imdb profile indicates Eastern European ancestry, is certainly fortunate to have grown up farther west (the “Low Countries”) than his distant ancestors (probably from Russia).  My own distant ancestors on dad’s side come from Czechoslovakia, and, yes, Putin’s motherland.
Putin’s rhetoric recalls that of the “natural family” movement in the religious right in the US, which complains that people have lost the ability to share goals and purposes other than that which they can choose as individuals.  This attack on hyperindividualism is common on both the far Right and far Left.  But what happens when the shared goals turn out to be evil (like in Nazi Germany, imperial Japan, Stalin’s Soviet Union or Mao’s China)? It seems like “getting out of things” (a phrase my mother used to use) is seen as a common evil, but no one can draft people without becoming evil himself. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Russia now, the Soviets back in the 1970s when Gerald Ford make his gaffe

Take a look at the cover of The Economist, March 22-28, titled “The new world order”, and behold the image of Vladimir Putin, sitting on a tank. He is shirtless, and his chest seems to enjoy the same fate as actor Freddie Smith playing Sonny before any bedroom scene with Will on “Days of our Lives”.  You seem the chests have to be the same. The magazine cover also has a European stop sign, reading “Stop, or the West will put you on the naughty step”.
“They” are worried that Russia will more further into Ukraine. There is already talk of effect on oil supplies. 
Back from 1974 to 1977, when I worked for NBC in New York City as a mainframe programmer analyst, I shared an office, above 49th Street in Rockefeller Center, with a young man of Ukrainian ancestry.  He was boldly anti-communist and liked to make fun of the Soviets. He was particularly taken back with Gerald Ford misspoke in 1976 and said, “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe”, link here

In 1989, toward the end of the year, when I worked for Lewin-ICF (soon to leave for USLICO) there was a lot of office sentiment that the “people of Eastern Europe” (or maybe of East Berlin or East Germany) should be named as Time’s “person of the year”.  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A drive-about the embassies of Uganda, Nigeria, Russia

I did a circuit of some the embassies of some controversial countries today.

Maybe “God loves Uganda” but it’s chancery occupies two older houses on upper 16th St in Washington.

Nigeria has a sumptuous embassy, next to Pakistan, Malaysia, the UAE and Egypt.  It’s amazing that this country would have such horrible politics. The street was blocked off by Secret Service, but one could drive up.  

You can see Russia driving down on Wisconsin Ave, and drive around and see the back on Tunlaw.  Ukraine is near Key Bridge, which I couldn’t not get to today given the traffic. 

I think that the Russian aggression with Crimea and posturing about Ukraine is getting troubling. 

Remember, in 2002 a copy of an essay about 9/11 on my old site was hacked at an area where I talked about portable nuclear weapons, some of the jibberish overlaying the material seemed to mention places in Finland near the Russian border.  Remember there was a separate Russo-Finnish war in 1942 (subject of a 1999 film “Ambush” (“Tie Rukajarven”) which I saw at the University of Minnesota  Could this area become important again?  It does in my novel “Angel’s Brothers”. 


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Low birth rates become more problematic in some developing countries like Thailand

Birth rates are dropping in much of the developing world as well as in richer countries.  The Wall Street Journal reports “Slumping fertility rates in developing world spark labor worries; birthrates fall in Thailand, raising concerns about aging populations”, by James Hookway, link here

The print title on the front page was just “Baby bust spreads to developing world.”
Some in Thailand want to exert punitive taxes on singles or childless couples.   But Mussolini did that.
Others are placing more emphasis on teaching elderly people in rural areas to become more self-sufficient, especially in growing food. 
Putin’s concern about low birthrates is probably what drives a lot of the motive behind the “anti-gay propaganda law”, as crude as his reasoning sounds.  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Malaysian Flight 370 case has troubling anti-gay angle; some say the flight "went up"; hard to believe there is no debris, no signal

I won’t try to keep up with all the changing stories regarding the disappearance of Malaysian Air Flight 370, but the political activity of one of the pilots has taken a troubling turn.  USA Today has a typical account, here
Pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, himself a strong “family man”, had fought for a pro-democracy political opponent of the government and had supported Anwar Ibrahim when the latter was convicted on homosexual sodomy charges, which are said to have been contrived and false. The pilot was in court when Anwar received the five year sentence.
So here is another country where anti-gay politics seems to be spilling over and having serious repercussions on other areas.  In Russia, the anti-gay propaganda law led to a big distraction before the Sochi Olympics and before Russia moved to “annex” Crimea.
The Malaysian case reminds me of a 1970 novel “The President’s Plane is Missing” by Fletcher Knebel.  It eventually became a TV miniseries.
There was actually a crowdsouring effort by Internet volunteers to look for fragments of the plane, story here.

If the plane had gone down in the ocean, would there be some floating debris we would see?  It really seems incredible it could disappear.  Maybe it just went up. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

In Syria, some imprisoned journalists kept in outdoor cages

On CNN Sunday, Sara Sidner reported on journalists being kept in cages in Syria after arrests.  Apparently some were working for Al Jazerra.

The closest story I can find for this online is on the UK Telegraph, about Yarmouk, link here.
How can journalists interview other journalist in jail without being jailed themselves.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A day trip, a peek at the government's survival bunker (Mt. Weather, or High Point) in the Virginia Blue Ridge

On a little day trip this Saturday, when it finally warmed up to about 60 degrees, I drove the secondary road along the northern, lower section of the Virginia Blue Ridge, north from US 50 to Route 70.  There are a lot of ample homes and “no trespassing” for private property, many owners probably living very much in the Second Amendment, perhaps Doomsday Prepper world.  About two-thirds of the distance north one encounters FEMA’s Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center, fenced off and most of it not very easy to see from the road.  It is also called the High Point Special Facility (HPSF). It appears to be at about 1000 feet elevation.  Despite the warm temperatures, (about 55 F) there was still a lot of snow around. 
The facility was apparently first constructed in the 1950s as the Cold War ramped up, and it seems to be the preferred location for US officials and members of Congress to be taken in an emergency.  Some were apparently airlifted there on 9/11. 

In fact, in August 1997, just before I moved to Minnesota and after publishing my first book, I visited the huge bunker underneath the Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs W Va, in a higher part of the Alleghenies.  That facility actually had full meeting space and bunk space for both houses of Congress.

Little is said publicly about the capabilities of the HPSF. 

Was I motivated to go because of Putin’s recent behavior?  It seems like the potential enemies are always changing, from Al Qaeda, to Iran, North Korea, and suddenly, again. Russia. 

PBS, remember, broadcast a film “The Man Who Saved the World” (Oct. 23, 2012) claiming that a Russian submarine commander personally decided not to fire a nuclear weapon at the United States during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. 

In tenth grade, in 1958, I wrote a short story in which a lifeguard has to decide whether to save someone when a nuclear airraid warning goes off, and there isn’t a happy ending.     
Is this business about Ukraine and Crimea remotely dangerous to the US homeland?
I do remember, when stationed at Ft. Eustis in 1969, most of the soldiers saw the Soviet Union as a real enemy, but not North Vienam, and not even China.  Of course, then people didn’t quite get what Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution had done.   

Wikipedia attribution link for Mt. Weather Picture. Mt. Weather

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Russia may move troops into eastern Ukraine, echoing Cold War

The Russian parliament (Upper House) has authorized the use of force in the Ukraine, in the Crimean region, according to a breaking news CNN story widely debated now.

Crimea has its own premier and has the only warm-water port on the Black Sea to which Russia as large access/

David Gergen, a Republican but active in the Clinton years, has been saying that Putin doesn't think like the rest of us, and his behavior must be stopped.  The disturbing anti-gay propaganda law seems to fit into a much bigger picture. Gergen called Putin a "thug".

And pro-Russian voices say there will be a secession movement to set up the Russian-speaking eastern part of Ukraine as a separate country.  The vote coming up about Scotland at the end of 2014 is being mentioned as a precedent.

Somehow, this reminds one of when the Soviets moved into Hungary in 1958, during the Eisenhower years.

Update: March 7

OK, the media has been covering Putin's move into Crimea incessantly.