sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

March 3, 2015

Boris Nemtsov Joins An Elite Club

Filed under: Russia — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 10:02 am

I was slightly embarrassed to read Western headlines about the recently assassinated Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.  “KILLED ON THE EVE OF A RALLY!” “PREPARED A REPORT ABOUT RUSSIANS FIGHTING IN UKRAINE!” “MODERN AGE KIROV!”and, oh “WAS IN A COMPANY OF A UKRAINIAN WOMAN”.  Peter Hitchens has a good rundown of Western misconceptions about the murder.

Truth is, there was little obvious reason for Vladimir Putin to kill his former comrade and rival.  Putin is very popular with Russians, and Nemtsov, was not.  That rally scheduled for March 1 was not going to be well attended; even with the leader dead maybe 50,000 (20K by official estimates) assembled in Moscow on that day.

Boris Nemtsov, gunned down downtown Moscow on February 27, was, that Ukrainian woman notwithstanding, a decent man. Unfortunately, most of his countrymen associate him with the failures of the 1990s when he was President Yeltsin’s deputy prime minister and heir apparent. Lawlessness and corruption, something that he fought all his life, and failed, are, however, on Russia, not Nemtsov

The report compiled by Nemtsov was not going to tell us anything we didn’t already know — or anything Kremlin is not going to deny.  Plus, the report didn’t die with him, and killing its author would accomplish little other than pointing a finger to it.

As for comrade Kirov, I really resent sloppy Stalin comparisons.  Like sloppy Hitler comparisons (and Putin gets compared to that dictator as well) diminish significance of the Holocaust, sloppy Stalin comparisons diminish the significance of the gulags.  Maybe the Russian public would very much like another Stalin, but I don’t think Putin’s got it in him.

The Russkie bear-rider had so little motive to go after Nemtsov that Russian conspiracy theories pop up like fly amanita after rain.  Most Russians, naturally think it’s some sort of a false flag operation.  Did Putin order the murder of a has-been politician to blame the West?  He didn’t need to — the anti-Western sentiment in the Russian Federation is running strong.  Similarly, current Ukrainian regime is thoroughly despised.

Some among the intelligentsia blame “the climate of hate” created by Putin.  The Guardian’s Shawn Walker explains:

Nemtsov frequently appeared on lists of “traitors” published online by extremist groups, and given that many radical Russian nationalists have been fighting a war in east Ukraine for the past six months, there have long been fears that the bloodshed could at some point move to the streets of Moscow.

The well-organised hit, in one of the most closely watched parts of Moscow, of a man who was undoubtedly under state surveillance just two days before a major opposition march, does not smack of an amateur job. Assuming a jealous lover or angry fellow liberal would not be able to organise a drive-by shooting in the shadows of the Kremlin towers, the remaining options are disturbing.

If, as Peskov says, it was senseless for the Kremlin to kill someone who posed very little threat, that leaves another option that is perhaps even more terrifying: that the campaign of hate that has erupted over the past year is spiralling out of the control of those who manufactured it.

There is another possibility.  Nemtsov was not the only opposition figure who found himself killed.  As in all other cases, it was not too terribly necessary for Putin (presuming it was him) to eliminate any one of them.  And yet, from time to time Kremlin critics find themselves offed.  We can rack our pretty heads trying to figure out why would Putin need to do it, which might just be the point of it all.  Maybe it’s just the VVP style: everyone *knows* it’s him, but nobody can prove it.  Russia gets the message: Don’t even try.

February 18, 2015

An Idea for A Portlandia Episode

Filed under: politics — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 6:28 pm

While you were worrying about amnesty and ISIS, the state of Oregon reached an important human rights milestone.  Kate Brown, the nation’s first openly bi governor, ascended to her position when John Kitzhaber (D) resigned amids corruption allegations:

Brown, who was the first in line to succeed Kitzhaber, was the nation’s first openly bisexual-identifying statewide officeholder. She is married to husband Dan Little [can we fact check to make sure Mr. Little is not really a wife? — eots] and has discussed her sexuality in past campaigns for public office.

Something as quirky as bisexuality is doubtlessly a selling point in the Pacific north-west.  What I deduce has happened, is that in the early 90’s she was “outed” by a local paper after which she had some ‘splaining to do, including:

  • Coming out to my gay friends – who called me half-queer.
  • Coming out to my straight friends – who never thought I could make up my mind about anything anyway.

So, basically, Brown, who married a few years later had a few flings… but what really matters is that she identifies as bi.  RS McCain posted An Infinite Rainbow of Oppression, a freak show of “queer” identity portraits complete with descriptions like Trans Femme Genderqueer” and “Plus Sized Polyamorous Pansexual”.  Interestingly, one of the ladies in the project identified simply as “bisexual”.  Maybe she just wanted to have her picture taken.  We women are pretty straight forward this way.

Anyhow, with Kate Brown being from Oregon it’s time to remember the 90’s, the decade about nothing:

Meantime in Debaltseve…

UPDATE: Many thanks to Citizen Tom for linking.

February 13, 2015


Filed under: politics, Ukraine — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 5:41 pm

The US is considering lethal defensive aid to Kiev, and I seriously doubt this will lead to World War 3.  It’s not clear that Ukraine will last long enough for that to happen.  I’m just a mom, but I read both Russian and Ukrainian, and deciphering Russian strategy is not that hard if one reads their media.  Russia is doing a Kutuzov in Ukraine, bleeding their opponent dry of resources, and by that I don’t mean the gas supply to Ukraine’s frosty cities.  Or even the fact that the Ukrianian economy is in free-fall – the decline is exasperated by Russia’s own economic crisis.

It’s said that Putin’s inner circle consists of people who supported the outright annexation of south-east Ukraine and those who prefer a “frozen war” to eventually gobble up the region.  Apparently they had Putin’s ear.  I first expected to see Russian tanks in my birth city — because the city’s leadership wanted them there and because the tanks were posed in Belgorod, a stone’s throw away.  I was wrong.

Since the beginning of the war Russian-lead East Ukrainian rebels were playing cat and mouse with the Ukrainian military in the structure formerly known as Sergei Prokofiev* Airport in Donetsk.  Why the airport?  Nobody knows; I’m reading that it has no strategic value, but I guess it was big of the parties involved to select its cement terminals for their shoot-outs, as opposed to a high-rises populated with civilians, as they did elsewhere.

For a month or so Ukraine held the second or third floor, then the rebels took over, then Ukraine again, and so on.  The Ukrainian media, hungry for legends of martial grandeur concocted the story of a cyborg army.  Some in western media, not knowing whom or what to trust, picked up on that.  In reality, poorly trained Ukrainians, some militant Maidan veterans, some pros and some hapless conscripts, were facing a Russian-led levy patiently wasting Ukraine’s resources.  When the bombed out airport finally fell, the Ukrainian media christened it “our Stalingrad”.

Ukrainian magazine Novoe Vremya decries the lost battle as “Our Stalingrad”. What does that mean, exactly?

It fell in late January when separatists went on the offensive, swept up the airport killing more than 400 Ukrainian men on Russian live TV (banned in Ukraine, but everyone watches it online anyway).  Then the rebels boasted of surrounding 6-10K Ukrainian soldiers in Debaltsevo.  Russian TV filmed the superstar separatist commander Givi forcing Ukrainian captives to eat their badges and an amateur video showed another group of captives coerced into singing the Soviet anthem, which, turns out, they all knew.

Would you like to be one of these men?  Neither do Ukrainians.  After the annexation of Crimea, Ukraine mobilized its reservists.  Back then I noted that they’d have a tough time with that, and now at the fourth troop rotation their troubles multiplied.  Russians are estimating that upwards of 1 million men between 20 and 40 are hiding from the draft on the territory of the belligerent, and in light of that Putin promised to extend the length of visa-free stay to this segment of Ukrainians.  Poland, on the other hand, stopped issuing work visas to men of military age.

Women from Ivano-Frankovsk to Kherson rally against the draft.  In Kharkov reservists don’t open their doors to persons serving military writs, so the men will now be served at work; in Lwow it’s the job of the traffic cops.  Surprisingly the highest levels of draft-dodging are among the fiercest nationalists in Western Ukraine.  In Ivano-Frankovsk 67% of those served their notices do not report to recruitment centers, and in Chernovtsi 17% left the country in the wake of mobilization.  The ones who do report often seek exemptions.

What’s going on with Ukraine’s “elite” National Guard is another matter.  Late January hundreds of fighters of Aidar battalion (one of many semi-independent fighting units) left their positions and turned to the capital where they surrendered to the Defense Ministry an act that Internal Affairs Minister Arsen Avakov defined as treason.  This is not the first time something like this is happening.

Ukraine’s combative “battalions” were the destination of Maidan radicals who after the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovich found themselves unable to return to everyday life (or what’s left of it).  Ordinary Ukrainians, on the other hand, have a different mentality; what they want most is to be left alone.  They are a pacific, hospitable people and a practical people.  Half of them sought expanded ties with the European Union, true, but at what cost?  Nobody expects another Holodomor, but the loss of a male breadwinner is felt sharply.

The current situation in Ukraine reminds of an 1960s Soviet musical comedy “Wedding in Malinovka”.  Set in a bucolic Ukrainian village at the time of the civil war that unfolded after the Bolshevik revolution, it shows Ukraine ravaged by multiple warring parties.  As governance changes, villagers try to live their lives — until the Reds come and the beautiful bride gets to marry her beloved. I suppose the insights of the film transcend the Soviet clichés.  Recall, all previous attempts at Ukrainian independence ended in bloodshed and chaos leading to the strong hand from the east imposing order.

Eternal Ukraine: The rug-tag cast of Wedding in Malinovka

Eternal Ukraine: The rug-tag cast of Wedding in Malinovka

When Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement in Minsk, IMF pledged $17.5 billion to Ukraine, which will keep it on life support a little longer, which may give the US enough time to arm and train some kind of native fighting force.  It’s hard to follow our president’s very public thought process on this matter, but many parties are eager to drop a billion dollars on this, apparently, so it might just happen.  Next thing you know another infusion of money will come due.  After that we’ll have to station NATO troops in this unfortunate country… supply it with gas.  Actually, we are not going to get to there because at this point, even if Ukraine is still around, the US is blinking, blinking, blinking.


*The great Russian composer was born in Donetsk region.

January 30, 2015

Where Putin Doesn’t Go (And More About WW2 Ukraine)

When the Cold War was coming to a close, it became customary for both the West and the Eastern block to note how similar we are — we wear blue jeans, fall in love with attractive people, our youths are charmingly decadent — and so on.  Too bad we no longer feel this kinship because similarities still abound.  For instance, the Presidents of our two countries didn’t show up for both the Paris Unity March following Charlie Hebdo terror attack and the ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Unlike our own Leader of the Free World, Putin, who had been run out of Europe, now avoids uncomfortable situations like that G20 summit in Brisbane.  So he sent foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to the Paris Unity March, and Lavrov was put in a back row, while jovial Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko marched in the front.  I guess Poroshenko is now an indispensable in our war against Islamism.

At some point, probably around the time of Pussy Riot affair, Russians decided that a state’s proper functions extend to the protection of subjects’ religious feelings, no matter how shallow they run.  According to a recently released poll, while only a small minority of Russians justifies the terrorists, a majority blame either the cartoonists themselves for provoking the attack or the government for allowing freedom of expression.  So when he ditched the March, Putin didn’t exactly let his countrymen down.

I don’t think he let them down when he skipped the Auschwitz ceremony either.  The Soviet Army liberated the camp seventy years ago, but Putin, who was not personally invited by the Poles, the nation entrusted with preserving the memory of the Holocaust for reasons of geography.  The Russian strongman opted for a Holocaust Remembrance Day in Moscow.  As a descendant of people who worked and fought for the World War Two victory on the Soviet side, I’d rather see him swallow his pride and go to Poland, but I have a feeling that most Russians support their leadership in their decision to stay put, and had those who died liberating the camp been alive, they’d get Putin’s position too.

In the week before the observance Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna produced another triumph of Western diplomacy:

In a radio interview Wednesday, Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna was challenged over what the journalist called the “pettiness” of not inviting Putin, given that he is the inheritor of the Soviet Union and that the Red Army freed Auschwitz.

Schetyna replied that “maybe it’s better to say … that the First Ukrainian Front and Ukrainians liberated (Auschwitz), because Ukrainian soldiers were there, on that January day, and they opened the gates of the camp and they liberated the camp.”

Which gave Mr. Lavrov an opening to lecture the world about Soviet internationalism:

“It’s common knowledge that Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army, in which all nationalities heroically served,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We believe that the mockery of history needs to be stopped.”

The group of forces involved in the liberation of Auschwitz was called the First Ukrainian Front after it pushed the Nazis back across the territory of then-Soviet Ukraine before moving into Poland.

It should be noted, that the war was more or less a stalemate until Soviets pushed back into Ukraine and began conscripting men from the newly liberated lands.  This, however, is Soviet Ukrainian history, the one that New Ukraine turned its back on last year.  In fact Ukraine now celebrates Defender of Fatherland Day once known as Soviet Army Day, on the anniversary of establishment by the Nazi Organization of Ukrainian Nationalist of Ukrainian Insurgent Army.  As I’ve said before, Ukraine has some soul-searching to do, and they have to come up with something better than unfolding of the Ukrainian flag at Auschwitz. Was it in honor of the victims or the guards, by the way?

The man who opened the gates of the concentration camp is said to be major Anatoliy Shapiro.  Goosebumps.  He was a Jew born in a town near Poltava in the Russian Empire’s Pale of Settlement, now Ukraine.  Shapiro, who died in 2005 in Long Island, New York, didn’t learn about the Holocaust until he immigrated to the United States in 1992.  Shortly before his death Shapiro recalled Auschwitz liberation in an interview to Jerusalem Post:

“When I saw the people, it was skin and bones. They had no shoes, and it was freezing. They couldn’t even turn their heads, they stood like dead people.

“I told them, ‘The Russian army liberates you!’ They couldn’t understand. A few who could touched our arms and said, ‘Is it true? Is it real?'”

As a commanding officer, his task was to direct his men. Half his battalion, originally 900 men, had died in battle. But nothing they had endured had prepared them for what they found inside Auschwitz.

His men pleaded with him to let them leave.

“The general told me, ‘Have the soldiers go from barrack to barrack. Let them see what happened to the people,'” he says.

Although this is not how he tells the story, I would expect him to have said “the Soviet Army liberates you”. Anyhow, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseni Yatsenyuk out-clowned himself proclaiming that Ukrainian soldiers from western cities of Lvov and Zhitomir liberated Auschwitz.  Looking on the positive side, Russians and Ukrainians actually talk about the Holocaust in the post-Soviet days.

Everyone is wrong about everything.  The monument on the grave of Anatoliy Shapiro's lists his multiple honors, including the title of Hero of Ukraine.  On top is the title of his book, Sinister marathon, written in Russian

Everyone is wrong about everything. The monument on the grave of Anatoliy Shapiro’s lists his multiple honors, including Hero of Ukraine. On top is the Russian title of his book, Sinister marathon

The kind of gal I am, I’d rather have the West remember the Holocaust as the ultimate evil and stand strong against Islamic expansion.  Russia is an autocracy, no question about it, and yet it’s also our natural ally against Islamism.  Unified pro-Western democratic Ukraine is a pipe dream, but if Russia crumbles, which appears to be our goal as far as I can decipher, Islamists are certain to make gains in Central Asia, the Caucuses and arguably Crimea.

Incidentally, the First Ukrainian Front, composed primarily of ethnic Russians, was marched to Prague after the fall of Berlin.  My high school math teacher, a Jew, was a part of that operation, but that’s a whole other story.

Update: many thanks to Mad Jewess for linking.  Read her timely update on escalation of the conflict between NATO and Russia.

January 27, 2015

Ukrainian History Revision Circa 2014

Filed under: politics, Soviet Union, Ukraine — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 10:44 am

One of the key functions of Ukrainian Prime Minister is to travel the world asking for money.  And so on January 8 Arseniy Yatsenyuk found himself in Germany, giving an interview to the German channel ARD in which he said:

We all remember the USSR invasion of Germany and Ukraine. We must not allow this [again]. And no one has the right to rewrite the results of the Second World War, and that is what Russian president trying to do.

That must explain Babi Yar.  RT columnist Bryan McDonald thinks Yatsenyuk’s comments reflect his West Ukrainian heritage:

I’ve heard similar remarks before and the location was Western Ukraine, where the PM is from. Yatsenyuk hails from Chernivsti, widely regarded as the region’s second cultural capital, after Lvov, which is viewed by many as the nationalist stronghold.


West Ukrainians believe that they lost the war. Their side was defeated. Put simply, Yatsenyuk is merely a product of his environment. However, this time he expressed publicly a view that was probably previously restricted to private discourse. It’s possible that he felt a German audience might have been sympathetic to his position. If so, that was a huge misread of the German people.

Maybe, although my guess is that Yatsen’s comment reflects the view of the world from inside the Kiev radical bubble (incidentally, the bubble is set to burst within a month or two).  You see, Yatsenyuk, who came to power in march last year and looks like a hare is mad as a hatter.  I don’t think Ukrie Prime Minister knows where he stands on anything; instead he channels various opinions heard around the capital.  Prior to the revolution, this member of the more western-oriented “orange” parties made deals with the pro-Russian Party of Regions and a recently surfaced video shows a slightly younger Yatsen speaking admirably about Putin:

“Putin saved Russia,” reasoned Yatsenyuk. “I don’t know what I would do in his place […] when you have a great ungovernable country.”  He then discussed his countrymen’s love for a strong hand.  What, you never heard that thesis?

This wild card was hand-picked by State Department’s Victoria Nuland, who, in her defense, didn’t have much to work with — Ukrainian politics being a sad sad scene.

That Yatsenyuk, who claimed that he misspoke never apologized is not surprising because Russians and Ukrainians are not big on apologies.  But even if he misspoke, if he really meant to say that after the Nazi occupation Ukraine was under Soviet occupation, he’s still dealing in revisionism.

Yatsenyuk’s statement is two-fold: he claimed that Russia was the aggressor and Ukraine an innocent victim of Soviet occupation.  Lets start with the second part.  USSR annexed eastern Galicia, the westernmost Ukrainian region, in 1939 following the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.  In that region, the followers of Ukrainian Nazi Stepan Bandera fought a bitter guerrilla war against the Soviets long after the war was over.  But this is just Galicia.

Early Soviet history in Ukraine was, to put it mildly, checkered: first they promoted Ukrainian culture through korenization, next they starved 3 million peasants.  And yet, less than 10 years after Holodomor, 4.5 million ethnic Ukrainians fought in the Soviet Army.  So when we talk of WW2 subplots, such as the German women “Russians” following the fall of Berlin, keep in mind that some of the rapists surely were Ukrainian.

This iconic WW2 photograph shows a Soviet officer leading his men into battle. The offecer is believed to be an ethnic Ukrainian Alexei Yeryomenko

After the conclusion of WW2, when in Russophone cities Holodomor was at most a faint memory, Ukrainians enjoyed a kind of honorary Russian status.  Ukraine was a recipient of Kremlin’s territorial “gifts”, most notably Crimea and Galicia. The Soviet Union was heavily economically invested in Ukraine, particularly the eastern part.  Year after year newsreels hailed a record Ukrainian harvest and record Ukrainian industrial production and historical programs on TV glorified the miners of Donbass.  (In the years of independence Donbass became a run-down region of a failed state, which goes a long way to explain the mess it’s in now).

The percentage of Ukrainian Communists was relatively high and Politburo members were drafted from the “republic”because, as Conservapedia explains:

Other reasons explained the relatively high percentage of party membership among the Belorussians and Ukrainians. These two East Slavic nationalities are culturally close to the Russians. In addition, the central party apparatus has sought to demonstrate that political opportunities for Belorussians and Ukrainians equal those for Russians.

Despite the fact that it was not an independent nation, Ukraine was awarded its own seat in United Nations General Assembly.  Marriages between a Russian and a Ukrainian were not considered intermarriages, and when the ambitious Russo-Ukrainian offspring talked about which “nationality” to chose for their Soviet passports, it was often said that the Ukrainian one is preferable because with Soviet affirmative action Ukrainians had easier time being admitted to Moscow Institute of International Relations.  I don’t know why that would matter at all — one would need serious connections to get into that school anyway.

My point is not that it was such a privilege to live in the Soviet Union, but that Ukrainians were a Soviet people.  In fact, it took two decades to slowly turn parts of Ukraine away from communism and Russia.

In 2009 “Orange” politician Yulia Tymoshenko laid a bouquet of red roses wrapped in St. George’s ribbon on the tomb of the unknown soldier to commemorate 65 years of victory in WW2. Until a year ago, general consensus among Ukrainians was that the Nazi menace was worth fighting.

Prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukraine had brief periods of independence during first, the Khmelnitsky uprising and then the civil war that followed the Bolshevik revolution.  They were set free in 1991 and are yet to complete their 40 years in the wilderness because… the first part of Yatsen’s comment.

After the victory of “Euro”maidan, on the recommendation of revisionist historian Volodimyr Viatrovych, the head of Ukraine’s Institute of national Memory, the country abandoned the annual May 9th festivities commemorating victory in what was previously known as Great Patriotic War.  It opted for May 8 observation, as customary in the West, but, unlike in the West, under the slogan “Never again” and the symbol of red poppy.

The red poppy, as in Memorial Day, supplanted Soviet and Russian St. George’s ribbon that stands for the masculine valor of WW2 victors. In early 2014 the ribbon became associated with anti-Maidan, and Ukrainian nationalist had no problem ceding the symbol. They began to refer to the pro-Russian side, with their orange and black striped badges, as “colorado bugs”

Last year ordinary Ukrainians no longer felt comfortable wearing St. George’s ribbons and only those with hard core communist and separatist tendencies joined VE Day parades.  During one such festivity in the southern city of Kherson, the Kiev-appointed governor opined that Hitler liberated Ukraine.  A local newspaper reported the event under the headline “Communist Wrestled Microphone from [governor] Odarchenko And Broke It”.

Screenshot of Khersonskie Vesti with above-referenced headline. Ukrainian publications previously disappeared their articles after I linked to them.  Free discourse, ya know

Ukrainian nationalist say that since Soviet history was fictitious, their rewriting holds the truth. Does it?  A family friend of ours regularly posts nationalist entries on his social media.  One of them was about Jews allegedly serving in the UPA, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in WW2 comprised of Stepan Bandera followers, which proves that those were not anti-Semites or Nazis but a national-liberation movement.  So I looked up the little Putinist mouthpiece called Defending History, and surprise: UPA was running concentration camps for Jewish professionals.  Again, the man who posted the fable about the UPA Jews is a friend of the family who stayed with us in California.  He harbors no prejudice against Jews; he’s simply misinformed and confused.

Or take the following freshly pressed tweet:


A resident of Galician town of Ivano-Frankivsk, using some sort of amalgam of Russian and Ukrainian, denied Ukrainian responsibility for the 1941 pogrom in Lviv: “In 41 there was Soviet Union, then the fascists, that’s basically the same”.  The pogrom was the work of Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists who were eager to demonstrate to their anti-Semitism to German masters.  Ukrainian internet is swarming with examples like this one.

It’s true that Ukraine is not the only European country with a neo-Nazi problem and that Russia itself has a serious Nazi issue.  But Russia is not trying to join the EU, and if Ukraine is to enter the organization, it would enter it not despite the problem but thanks to it.

On second thought, Ukraine will not enter the EU, and it has nothing to do with Nazis.  Germany is unable to absorb the Ukrainian economy, and that’s all there is to it.  It would be nice if somewhere along the way Merkel could lecture them on Holocaust revisionism.

January 14, 2015

Yours Truly Finally Caught A Whopping Two Minutes of Girls And It Was Enough

Filed under: tv — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 3:58 pm

What I should really do is post about how the War on Terror is effectively over or about the exploits of Herr Yatsenyuk, but sometimes I feel like having a little fun… which, let me tell you, watching “Girls” was not.

When Monday night DSU was flipping through the channels, we saw the likeness of Lena Dunham, and I said:  “Ah! This is a valid blogging research exercise.”  So we left it on for about a scene and a half.

The first scene was set at a coffee shop where Lena and her boyfriend were confronted by two mean young women who made the couple feel bad about their relationship.  In the second scene, some other young women were having an expletive-laden conversation about their broken hearts.  Neither dialog was of a kind that takes place in real world, which, I suppose, is all right as long as the author has a reason to make them sound a certain way.  Unfortunately, the words uttered by the women were unfunny, overwrought and revealed nothing unique to the characters’ personality.  Thus DSU resolved that he would not tolerate any more of that acclaimed show in our living room.

The quality of the “Girls” segment was pretty much in line with what I already knew about Duhnam.  It all made sense: her description of her alleged campus rapist was just as tedious and void of any human traits as her flat screen creations.  Why are her characters so listless?  Here is the notorious passage where she compares dating a Republican to dating a Nazi:

We liked the idea of a Republican entering their universe. And Hannah doesn’t really have a clear sense of why you shouldn’t date a Republican; it’s kind of just like the same reason why you shouldn’t date a Nazi: You just shouldn’t. My personal position is that you should date anyone you want so long as they treat you respectfully and share your value system. So it might be hard for me to date someone who was against gay marriage and abortion rights — I don’t think I would be attracted to them — but I don’t have any personal problem with dating a Republican. I do think that Hannah has this reverse ignorance where she’s like, If they’re Republican, get them out of my airspace, and that was a fun thought to explore [bold is mine].

Trouble is, Dunham doesn’t appear  to explore anything.  She doesn’t inhabit a character imagining what it would like to be him, how he feels, what kind of words he’d say.  I don’t expect the episode where the screen version of Lena bedded a Republican to be anything other than the predictable parable where the young woman comes to realize that “gee, I guess I don’t want to be around people who might expose me to different ideas.”

That Dunham doesn’t inhabit her characters, but merely records her feelings about individuals that she might had met, is expected from a doctrinaire narcissist.  And when she writes, she doesn’t seem to know when to stop because, I suspect, she believes her accolades when they tell her that she’s funny.

Am I too hard on the author?  After all, good writing and good comedy takes years to develop, and Dunham is still wet behind her ears.  Perhaps she needs to live a little, mingle with the common man, keep writing…  Go to a writing workshop.  Be told to shorten her stories by 1/3.

She’s certainly no Woody Allen, a true comedic genius who made films about New York City and relationships. There are questions about his character — just as there are about Lena’s — there is, however, no question that when he was at his best, he was funny, learned and insightful.

Nuh, I’m not too hard on Dunham — after all, she is the self-proclaimed voice of her generation, so the expectations are high. It’s hard to to believe that millennials can’t do better.

January 9, 2015

CNN And LifeNews: Kindred Spirits?

Filed under: politics, Russia, Ukraine — Tags: , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 9:53 am

Russia kind of sort of won its war on terror.  During the two Chechen wars they bombed out the capital of Grozny, and the total number of killed ran up to 150K, most of them ethnic Russians.  At the end the Kremlin bought off the Chechen Kadyrov clan, rebuilt Grozny and payed a tribute of $30 bil over 10 years.  Loyal Kadyrovites went on to fight in Ukraine (their Chechens opponents are fighting on Ukies’ side) and recently repelled an ISIS attack in Chechnya.  And note, there were no terror attacks during the Olympics last year.  If this doesn’t seem like much of a victory, ask yourself how much money we sunk into Iraq.

Chechens celebrate Putin’s birthday October last year. According to Kadyrov, 100K assembled at a square in Grozny

This history is worth keeping in mind in re Russian reaction to Charlie Hebdo terror attack, which, for the most part, runs from “the West had it coming” to “what about the Donbass children?”  Some are more conspiratorial.  For instance, Shamsail Saraliev, a Duma deputee from Putin’s United Russia party, opined that the terror attack is an American conspiracy:

“Smelling kind outlooks of [French President] Hollande on Russia, the terrorist state of USA organized the slaughter under the cover of religion” opined one proud Chechen

Meantime, Kremlin’s LifeNews channel produced Alexei Martynov, a political scientist who, after briefly reassuring us that he’s no conspiracy theorist, said that the terrorist attack was an American false flag operation.  You see, it’s “ridiculous” to think that people will kill for a cartoon.  Ridiculous it is.

Russia is our enemy (recently upgraded from number 1 geo-political adversary), but would you believe that our very own CNN employs a man who goes on conspiratorial tirades on Twitter?  The amusing thing about Putin is that he plastered half of Manhattan with advertising of his television channel.  Why should Americans watch it?  The ads insist that if we’d had a second opinion about Iraq, we’d never got into a war there.  No thank you, Putty; we have CNN.

For the sake of balance, Ukrainians push their own conspiracies, which, of course, propagate the idea that Moscow is somehow behind the terrorist act.  A chief proponent here is Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Djemilev, a Special Council to Ukrainian President for Crimean Tatar Affairs and a People’s Deputee of Ukraine.  Here is an exert from his interview to Ukrainian publication Depo:

This tragedy can be used in an anti-Islamic direction, which was the calculation.  To this moment, here is no concrete proof of Russian hand.  However, many analysts agree that Moscow is interested in diverting the French foreign policy from  from opposing the Russian aggression in Ukraine in anti-Islamic direction, and possibly to break up of the EU.

Puty does stand to gain from the attack in as much as his GF Marine Le Pen of National Front stand to gain from it.  Which is not to say that he’s somehow behind it.

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