sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

July 9, 2015

It’s Not That Jews Are Fleeing Russia

Filed under: politics, Russia, Ukraine — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 11:00 am

But the Russian intelligentsia is.  Radio Free Europe reports:

Just a year ago, Russian journalist Vladimir Yakovlev [Note the typical Russian surname, — EOTS] was one of Moscow’s most influential media figures.

Today, he lives a quiet life in Tel Aviv and has swapped his Russian passport for an Israeli one.

[…]

“The big problem with Russia, and the main reason why I left, is the fact that our value system was destroyed,” he says. “Life in Russia has turned into Russian roulette. Every morning you turn the roulette wheel, you never know what is going to happen to you.” [The game is known as American roulette in Russia, – EOTS.]

[…]

Spooked by Russia’s actions in Ukraine and by the increasingly stringent punishments for anyone deemed critical of the Kremlin, Russians of Jewish descent have been fleeing in droves over the past 18 months.

[…]

The nongovernmental Jewish Agency for Israel has released figures showing a 40-percent surge in immigration to the country between January and March of this year, compared to the same period in 2014.

The study suggests that while the majority of immigrants still come from Western Europe, Russians and Ukrainians are responsible for this increase. The number of Jews migrating from Western Europe has remained largely the same.

[…]

[Zeyev Khanin, an official at Israel’s Immigrant Absorption Ministry] says newcomers from Russia are significantly younger, more educated, and, as a rule, hail from Moscow or St. Petersburg.

“The average education level is on the rise and the number of people with degrees in humanities has increased massively,” he tells RFE/RL. “Today’s repatriates are mostly the creative intelligentsia.”

Mikhail Kaluzhsky [Note the typical Russian surname, — EOTS]  was among the 4,685 Russians who moved to Israel last year.

A journalist and playwright from Moscow, he is typical of the new wave of Russian immigrants described by Khanin.

Kaluzhsky says his decision to leave Russia is “directly linked to politics.”

The overwhelming majority of Soviet Jews left Russia, Ukraine and other “republics” in the late 80’s-early 90’s.  There was an ebb in emigration starting in the late 90’s after the countries emptied out of Jews.  Those remaining were often involved in creative professions — actors, journalists and so on — who would almost certainly not find professional employment abroad.  With the intermarriage rate was up to 75%, this demographic didn’t so much think of themselves as Jews as members of the Russian intelligentsia.  The topic of non-ethnic Russians being on the forefront of Russian cultural life is a rich one.  Suffice it to say that the creator of the first Russian language dictionary Vladimir Ivanovich Dahl was a child of a Dutch father and a French-German mother born in what is now the Lugansk region of Eastern Ukraine. and Alexander Pushkin, long considered Russian national poet, is part black.  After the Bolshevik revolution, when the old intelligentsia left, Jews came out of the Pale and merged into the Russian cultural life.

In the 90’s many Russian nationals, often of mixed ethnic origin, hoped to make Russia into something like a Western capitalist democracy, and they held on to that hope as Putin was consolidating power.  A few years ago they saw the writing on the wall and started packing, a trend noted by this blog in 2011.  The big picture here is that the Russian intelligentsia, some of whom have Jewish roots, is in despair.  I’m glad that the Jews are packing their suitcases because a Russian (or Ukrainian, for that matter) nationalist does not care if a public figure has three Slavic grandparents.  And if he’s married to somebody with a Jewish grandpa — hey! that explains everything, and it will serve as a sufficient explanation for centuries to come.

Well educated Russian-speaking Jews, their descendants and spouses make a wonderful addition to Israeli society.  They are patriotic and industrious; I know quite a few of them.  And may I suggest that the United States, too, make it easier for “Russians” to come to this country.  And may I mention that this cohort tends to vote R?

That being said, I had a conversation about this essay with the Mad Jewess on tweeter in which she insisted that [the media] loves using Jews to make talking points.  What does Radio Liberty know or care about Jews?  A few months ago the outlet featured the cartoon below in their Russian language article:

Meet the Kharkov mayor Gennady Kernes formerly of the pro-Russian Party of Regions

I have to say that while I like the US taxpayer funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty most of the time, their hiring of Ukrainian nationalist editors is suspect.

A feature about the disillusioned Russian intelligentsia addressed to the English-speaking audience sounds like a snoozer, so lets try to get the Jews involved.  But why?  The article does not claim that Russian Jews are fleeing because of rise in anti-Semitism.  I kind of doubt that the agencies in charge of aliyah have anything of value to learn from it.  And may I point out that Jewish agencies are staunchly neutral on the issue of Jews leaving Russia and Ukraine (note that the article briefly notes that aliyah from Ukraine is also up).  Their mandate is to help Jews everywhere, not to take sides in an intra-Slavic dispute.  It’s also worth noting that sometimes Ukrainian Jews fleet to… Russia.

I can tell you anecdotally that anti-Semitism in the east Ukraine is up.  I suspect this is also the case in the historically more bigoted west as well as in Russia. No surprise there — when things go south you know who gets the blame, and there is plenty of anger and uncertainty in both countries.  Perhaps it’s time to leave both countries.

UPDATE 07/14/15: For comparison’s sake: Israel gives us the total of both Russian and Ukrainian Jews coming to this middle east nation (translation mine):

It’s being reported that , что с января по июнь нынешнего года репатриацию совершили 2435 Citizens of Russian Federation and 2938 Ukrainian citizens repatriated between January and June this year.  Note that the number of Russians repatriating grew by 51% compare to the same period last year, at the time that aliyah from Ukraine grew 82%.

No word on Belorussian repatriants who might just be a good control group.

July 8, 2015

That Will Show Them!

Filed under: politics — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 11:02 am

Since the Supreme Court so helpfully re-wrote Obamacare for the nation, our side had been scrambling to figure out what to do.  U.S. Representative Brian Babin (R) proposed a bill enrolling SCOTUS in the program so that they “see firsthand what the American people are forced to live with”.  A more likely outcome is that we will find out why we were right all along. No, scratch that, we will not find out what they do to get their healthcare; we will not be privy to such information.

For starters, wealthy people like the justices can always fly to Switzerland and pay for treatment upfront.  And sure, we can require them to get their medical services through exchanges only, but such restriction can, of course, turn out to be unconstitutional.  (Are they? I don’t know, I’m not a lawyer!) Are we going to prevent these illustrious men from traveling abroad? What is it, the Soviet Union?  Not to mention that they themselves are the final authority on the subject of constitutionality.

Speaking of the Soviet Union.  I should know, I grew up there, a granddaughter of a doctor.  My grandfather managed to make a nice living for our family running a private practice out of our apartment.  Although technically all medical and dental services were technically free of charge, considering the sensitive nature of the trade, medical professionals were in a position to ask clients for compensation.  They weren’t alone operating on the immense Soviet black market, but the trade was so lucrative that in the last decades of the Soviet Union, entrance into the technically free of charge medical schools was secured by hefty bribes.

Med school graduates weren’t necessarily the best people to cure patients, and finding a good doctor was an especially difficult task.  We were fortunate to know some old school doctors through my grandfather, and we used his network up until we left the country, at which point they were all dying off anyway.  That was us, the relatively well-connected but in other respects very average people.

The elites, as it was known, could use the best hospitals in the country, and if they needed to, could go abroad.  Similarly, Fidel Castro doesn’t have to go to the fabulous free of charge Cuban doctors; when he got sick, he went to the German ones.  Even if forced to use Obamacare, the SCOTUS justices and their peons will be able to navigate it to get the services us plebs can never dream of.  That’s why the Tea Party so opposed Obamacare to begin with.

The real problem with Babin’s proposal is that it’s reactive, revanchist and backward looking; tactics, not strategy.  Their side is annihilating the English language and allowing non-citizens to vote and we… what do we do?  Eliminating taxes on medical devices and enrolling Supreme Court Justices in a silly government program.

July 6, 2015

Gay Marriage As Foreign Policy Weapon

Filed under: politics, Ukraine — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 6:10 pm

When in November 2013 I first started following the events in Ukraine, I noticed that Maidan supporters were reassuring their reluctant countrymen that no, Eurointegration doesn’t equal gayification.  “Look at Georgia,” they said. “They broke off with Moscow, but when local homosexuals tried to stage a Pride Parade in Tbilisi, it was attacked by vigilante patriots”.  They were referring to the failed Pride attempt in Georgia’s capitol earlier that year.

A few months later President Yanukovich fled to Russia and a new government was established.  That government, lauded in English-language media as “pro-Western”, is ostensibly eager to establish Ukraine’s European credentials.  What better way to do it than to show tolerance towards sexual minorities?

Unfortunately for the new Ukrainian leadership, they are ruling a country where attitudes towards gays are not very different from Russia’s.  My readers recall that a few years ago the latter caught a lot of grief, deservingly, for it’s anti-gay anti-free speech laws.  Putin became quite a bogeyman for both the Left and the Right, and in 2014 The Advocate even made him villain of the year.  Not sure why, because, as heinous as the new Russian laws are, they are no match for sharia-sanctioned homophobia.

Can we please go easy on Hitler comparisons?

So, naturally, when the Kiev protests made headlines, the Right sided with the protesters because of Putin’s authoritarian expansion, and the Left sided with the protesters because of Russia’s homophobic sentiment.  Lets set aside the small issue of Ukraine’s own history of totalitarianism and look at homophobia.

In June 2013 the country’s first LGBT “Equality March” ended without an incident, but last year’s Pride was canceled out of security considerations. When in October 2014 promoters attempted to show a gay-themed film in Ukrainian capital, the theater, oldest in the city, was set on fire.  Perpetrators were never found, but homophobes are naturally suspect.

This year Kiev decided to hold the LGBT parade, albeit to make things interesting Ukrainian military command announced that draft papers will be served to participants during the march. (See my previous post on draft dodging in Ukraine). Dmitry Yarosh, the leader of “far right” Right Sektor, the group instrumental in bringing down Yanukovich little more than a year ago, threatened to call up troupes from Azov Battalion stationed in east Ukraine to prevent Pride Parade from happening. If one has any questions about the nature of that military organization, take a look at one of their pictures below. The flag in the middle reads Azov in Cyrillic. Can’t say I like them holding that NATO flag.

Which Azov Battalion? Why, this one!

The LGBT march did take place June 6 in a Kiev suburb, a location held in secret until the very start, and it lasted about a half an hour.  300 modestly dressed participants marched 500 meters before being stopped by police when dozens of the Right Sektor men hurled petards.  Skirmishes between the Right Sector and residents of the neighborhood also took place.  Several policemen were wounded (out of hundreds deployed) and tens of people were arrested.  It should be noted that the Kiev police chief is also a Nazi.

Since Ukraine did get the pictures of rainbow flags in Western media outlets, the march can be considered a success.

This brings us to gay flags being flown by US embassies and John Kerry making LGBTBBQ issues a US foreign policy priority.  Ukraine today is a moribund state kept together by IMF loans co-signed by the United States, but all they could produce for our viewing pleasure is 30 minutes of a gay pride.  Can’t say I’m impressed.

I am very much in favor of gay marriage for ISIS; in fact, I think we should force them to adopt it.  Unfortunately, the only places where we have leverage with this issue are the ones who depend on us, and ISIS doesn’t.  As for the basketcase called Ukraine, it should really have other priorities.

May 8, 2015

Will The Great Victory Fade Away?

Filed under: politics, Russia — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 11:28 am

UPDATE: Many thanks to Professor Jacobson of Legal Insurrection for linking.  Ditto Citizen Tom.

Over the past half a century the three major American holidays, 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas, have been continuously marginalized; emerging in their place is non-committal nonsense like Halloween, which I enjoy, and various festivities celebrating drunken minorities.  One such holiday has, thankfully, just passed.  And yet right next to it, hiding in the shadows, is a half-forgotten occasion which, I think, is not only worth remembering, but can bring us together as a country.  It is, ladies and gentlemen, VE Day.

If we need to refer to an ethnic minority to confer authenticity on the occasion, refer to Russia.  Yes, Russia.  I know, Putin is the blue-eyed devil these days (never mind that Gaza treats gays far worse than the Russians) but if there is one thing they do right, it’s that they still remember WW2, or, as they call it, the Great Patriotic War. Victory Day, celebrated on May 9, is a major holiday, commemorated with marches, parades and a general flurry of WW2-related activity.

Now, the holiday is so ubiquitous, it causes a fair share of teenage eye-rolls, which is only a minor problem.  A major problem these days is the ongoing deification of Joseph Stalin, the dictator who presided over the victory.  This is a recent development: when I was growing up in the 70’s and the 80’s, Stalin’s name was all but dissociated from the war, May 9 was celebrated, but He was an unmentionable.

General Secretary must be rolling in his grave as this Russian lady carries his portrait with a halo. Marrying communism to Orthodox Christianity is the it thing these days

Moreover, any questioning of the manner in which the Soviet Union conducted the war is near-verbotten.  Technically it’s not prohibited, but dissenting voices are marginalized and maligned, the treatment of TV Rain for their discussion of the siege of Leningrad is a case in point.  Official insecurity has a reason: Russians should be asking questions pertaining to the heavy toll (24 million) Generalissimus extracted on them at wartime.

German soldiers in Stalingrad.  Powerful.  Yet many more Russian military men gave their lives in that war, and that’s not even going into civilian deaths

That said, the defeat of Nazi Germany is something to be celebrated and something to be remembered.  Even if it was achieved under a tyrannical dictator (who happened to be the free world’s wartime ally).  Almost every family west of Moscow was touched by the war, nearly every region has its war stories.  And while individual soldiers might not have been perfect, the manly valor of those who gave so much to defeat Nazism is to be recognized.

The Immortal Regiment march in St. Petersburg. Participants carry the portraits of their family members, now deceased, who fought in Great Patriotic War

I wish VE Day was a bigger deal stateside.  It’s not just that the greatest generation has earned their major national holiday, but in the general atmosphere of moral relativism it’s more important than ever to be able to talk about good and evil, and Nazism personifies ultimate evil.

Equally important in the age of Obama, as we watch our country being torn apart by race-bating, is to remember the time when our nation was united.  Was the United States a perfect nation in the 1940’s? No. Jim Crow was still the law of the land in the South, for instance. And yet, as late Samuel Huntington noted, WW2 was the point when people from different ethnic backgrounds, many first and second generation Americans, came together and defeated the enemy.  As we are so desperately searching for meaning, why not find it in a place where we can be brought together as a nation?

So please, enough with commemoration of minor victories of a foreign people.  We have our own victory over evil to remember.  Grab a bottle of vodka if you must.

April 20, 2015

A Few of My Favorite Things

Filed under: parenting, politics, Soviet Union, the Holocaust — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 2:01 pm

We recently watched The Sound of Music with our kids, and, dear readers, I’d like to share our observations:

1. The songs, once they got into our head, seem to have permanently settled there, but mostly in a good way.  Even if Do Re Me gets a little annoying, I’m always able to chase it away with A Few of My Favorite Things;

2. Loved the film, but it’s strange, is it not, to march to the altar to a song that declares the bride “a problem”?

3. Loved the film, especially because it featured a lot of kids and the central story was that of a man and a woman meeting, falling in love and getting married, and their lives are better for that.  So quaint.  Contemporary Disney can’t get around princesses who are not ready, get entangled in relationships with trust fund babies or, worse yet, so obviously represent the frigid dead end of feminism.

4. Watching the movie I found it necessary to explain to my children, 7 and 5, about the Nazis.  I don’t think there was ever a time in my life when I had to be explained such a thing.  I just knew.  VE Day, or, in Russian parlance,  Victory Day, was a major national holiday, every family was touched by the War and the media was saturated with War-related materials.

My husband, born and raised in San Fernando Valley, doesn’t remember being explained about Nazis either.  He does remember playing WW2 with his brother, though.  I’m quite certain I played the War a few times as well, even though I was a girly girl — because it was happening on the playground.  I’ve never seen American kids today playing anything violent with a reference to historical fact.

When we talked about Nazis being “the bad guys” my 7-year-old daughter promptly found an analogy: “Or, like they litter”.  Years ago I posted about a Soviet science fiction story where villains litter.  We can find faults with the Soviet story, but it’s my children who are living the life so overprotected, that they are unable to even begin to articulate the nature of evil.  (We shelter them from good, for a good measure, too, see number 3).

I recall, years ago, reading an article in local Jewish paper about teaching kids about the Holocaust.  It recommended waiting until they were 8 to explain that something horrible happened to Jews in Europe.  Perhaps I’ve forgotten some of the detail.  Maybe the conversation didn’t have to be postponed until 8, maybe the experts thought that parents need to wait until 5, but somehow I suspect a generation ago the issue was handled differently.

Granted, I didn’t know about the Holocaust until I was a teenager when my parents taught me about it.  I thought Nazis invaded our country and burnt villages, and my family, having no problem with this narrative, simply added on to it later.  Soviets weren’t big on Jewish issues, albeit there is the frequently played song about Buchenwald performed by Muslim Magomaev, but its subtext was by no means obvious:

My daughter shared her excitement about The Sound of Music with a girlfriend her age.  She told her not to worry, the movie is not that scary, although it has Nazis in it.  “So you get to learn abut the nuns?” inquired her half-Israeli friend.  Each year, Israel commemorated Holocaust remembrance day.

5. DH further researched 60’s musicals and found the following review of My Fair Lady:

No one younger than 50 will remember My Fair Lady. When it came out on stage and in movies it was wonderful. But now it just seemed dated. Radical lesbians will hate the thing.

But we are only interested in what gay men have to say about it!

6. Were The Sound of Music a Soviet film, Captain Von Trapp would be joining the Austrian partisans. Or at least the Italian ones.  And it would be no family fare.  Soviet and Russian WW2 films do not require redemption, are quite excellent, but very very difficult to watch.

April 1, 2015

Beyond Religious Freedom

Filed under: politics, whatever — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 10:00 pm

Is it just me or is the discussion of recently passed religious freedom legislature in Indiana and Arkansas thoroughly unsatisfying?  As the the state laws was explained to me, it just doesn’t go far enough.  So, allegedly, it enables the Christian businessmen who object to gay marriage to refuse accommodating LGBTQ weddings.  Conservatives are all wound up because the law that purports to protect religious freedom is attacked by liberals, some of whom are bent on violence.  Or depriving conservatives of their livelihood anyways.

I find the scope of the laws in question to be ridiculously narrow.  Our national conversation should be about freedom in general, not just religious freedom.  I know, we can make a strong argument around religious freedom, but why stop there?  Why should any business owner be compelled to serve anyone at all?  Say, an atheist DJ who feels that marriage is an outdated institution and refuses to put records atop of turntables at weddings [except for the gay ones], should he* be compelled to perform at such events or should the bride and the groom cue in an ipad?  Or a dressmaker who opens business to design clothes for his five best friends, should he drive to meet a client out of town simply because they are darker in complexion?

The great irony of the gays versus religious freedom debate is that gays created some of the most exclusive, glamorous and successful subcultures in the United States.  Take the enduring allure of the disco-era Studio 54, a club notorious for denying entry to revelers in last season’s shoes or insufficiently luminous eyeshadow.  Or try to hang with sharp-tongued queens.

Line to Studio 54: No shortage of orgy fodder

And please, don’t try to explain away this behavior by past incidents of bullying because for one it encourages the current bullying of Middle America.  And it’s bully’s bullying, too.  The cliques of ostensibly grown up men and women, like that at Andy Warhol’s Factory, can teach your junior high queen bee a lesson or two.  No surprise there because hard drug use, BDSM, fame and money make superficiality a must in this subculture.  Individuals who composed it are deeply flawed.  As much as I admire Warhol as an artist, his personal flaws, starting with him being a rotten friend, are undeniable.

Pre-fame Madonna at Studio 54. Amazing — I can almost see her humanity in her eyes

Fascism is another thing.  Gays joke about fashion police and dress up in shiny uniforms for their S&M sessions.  Punks took it to another level with actually wearing swastikas.  But really, who is searching for meaning in all the wrong places?

Another thing to consider: leftists complain that corporations are immoral, but if a businessman shows his morality, he gets boycotted by… the leftists!

I’m using he as a generic third person personal.

March 31, 2015

Who Will Obama Pardon?

Filed under: politics — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 6:53 pm

Ukraine: bzzzz. I know.

A few days ago — and I’m always playing catch up with the news — the word on the street was that Bowe Berghdahl will be charged with desertion.  My first thought was “Well, if he’s convicted, Obama will pardon him.”

My second thought was “Who else is he going to pardon?”  Cop killer Mumia Abu Jamal seems like a good candidate because a) he’d been a far left cause celebre long enough and b) Obamster has an issue with police officers.

Who else? Another cop killer Leonard Peltier, maybe?  I’m sure there is plenty of lower profile “kids” who ended up in prison for shooting police officers and/or FBI agents.  And how about releasing everybody on death row?  O is transformative, after all, thus he needs to outdue Clinton who commuted sentences of FALN terrorirsts.

And how about Jahar Tsarnaev?  At the time of bombing he was just a babe, you know.  Umm… maybe not.  Tsarnaevs were basically white.

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