sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

January 7, 2016

What I Remember About Cologne

Filed under: Europe, immigration, politics — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 2:11 pm

The year was 1998, I think, and I was backpacking through Europe alone.  I took a train from Berlin and came out of the Cologne Hauptbanhof (a fun word, I love it).

I walked out of the train station and found myself in front of the majestic Gothic cathedral.  It’s generally considered the best in Germany, but by then I had seen so many Gothic churches that they were all becoming one giant pointy swirl.


A sleek, modern train station across from the medieval cathedral on a clod, wet night is exactly how I remember the city.  The picture above accompanied several stories about the New Years Eve sexual assaults on indigenous women by migrants in Germany

I walked to my hostel which was just a block or two away.  I stayed there overnight and before going to bed spent some time smoking cigarettes and consuming modest amount of alcohol with the hostel’s German owner and some British guy who’d been staying there for a long time.  The German guy was nice enough, but the Brit was an annoying prick, not because of any kind of a male-female issue; he was simply a prick.

I had only two weeks of vacation left, and I was lonely and tired of Germany.  The following day I took a train to Belgium and from there a boat to the UK where I met up with a cousin.

My daughter will never have an experience like that.

December 15, 2015

Soviet Immigrants Coming to The US

Filed under: politics — edge of the sandbox @ 12:01 pm

Please read my guest post on Legal Insurrection.  It’s about my experience with immigration officials as a refugee and later an immigration paralegal.  Our stories were true but unverifiable.

November 12, 2015

Boycott Berkeley, Divest from Berkeley

Filed under: Bay Area politics, politics — Tags: , , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 8:55 pm

UPDATE: Many thanks to Professor Jacobson for linking.

The epicenter of racism in America today is not Howard, not Mizzou but Berkeley.  A KKK cell is believed to operate on high school campus of this Marxist-leaning East Bay Area town.  Consider this racist message that sent waves across the Berkeley High community:

The message […] was discovered on a library computer at about 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, school officials said. In addition to using a racial slur, it read: “KKK FOREVER PUBLIC LYNCHING DECEMBER 9th 2015.”

This was far from an isolated incident:

Last October, school officials discovered a noose hanging from a tree. And, in the spring, the school yearbook was altered to state that a group of minority students aspired to be the “trash collators of tomorrow,” forcing the school to distribute stickers to place over the altered text.

For all you skeptics out there, a male freshman already confessed to the crime, but only after a detailed forensic analysis yielded an indelible proof of his culpability.

In response to the lynching threat up to 2,000 out of 3,000 Berkeley High students walked out, the majority of them believed to have returned to campus after the protest.  Ironically, the students marched on to the Sproul Plaza of the UC Berkeley campus, the cite of the infamous Free Speech circle.  According to the campus lore, as individual standing inside the circle cannot be arrested by campus cops, thereby all sorts of n-words can be brazenly uttered inside of it.

Because the walkout was the only response to the horrific event, UCB’s The Daily Cal is right to warn that the Berkeley High kiddoes are left hanging:

In the wake of this act of terror, the students’ strength is braver and more necessary than ever. The fact that the walkout was a protest of not only the administration’s response but also the incident itself demonstrates students’ dedication to the fight against racism and injustice.

It is now on the administration to give its full support to the student body.


It also must remove from campus the student responsible for such an outrageous act. Someone who thinks it is acceptable to call for lynchings and pledge allegiance to the Ku Klux Klan has no place on a campus committed to equality.

By the looks of it, the sole grown up present at the march was the Berkeley High principal Sam Pasarow.  This is the shame of the East Bay Area.  Where is Code Pink in all this?  Where are Students for Justice in Palestine with their interracial solidarity?  If Berkeley adults don’t take racial strife seriously, kids might just get the idea that the incident was merely a pretext to playing hookie.  Who wants to raise a cynical generation?

Code Pink activist from the East Bay Area protests at the newly-minted Muslim heritage cite, the Kotel

Seriously Berkeley, there is quite obviously a terror cell operating within your borders, but you can’t do as much as to expel a 15-year-old? Going beyond that, local social justice groups need to put pressure on Berkeley Police to throughly investigate their community and remove the threat of racial violence once and for all.  Until Code Pink puts cis’ own house in order I will be boycotting Berkeley.

Ukraine Has Potential to Blow up Europe

Filed under: politics — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 8:49 pm

Petro Poroshenko is rather like a typical Ukrainian president: a year and a half after being sworn into office, he sees his approval shrinking to just over 25% with merely 5% of Ukrainians expressing strong approval of his job.  Sitting Ukrainian presidents are never popular, and this one came in with the implausible mandate of eradicating corruption and promises of a quick victory in the east.  Instead the Donbass insurgency took a firm hold and Ukrainians saw their lot worsen drastically.  With another winter of intermittent central heating looming ahead, they voted late October in local elections:

Less than two years after Ukraine’s “revolution of dignity,” local elections on Sunday handed power in the south and east to former supporters of the ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych,. The vote also created sizable ultranationalist factions in a number of local legislatures, including in the capital. The election proved voters’ growing mistrust of the political class, which was only partially reshaped by the revolution, and revealed a disappointed nation that still is divided along an east-west line.

The vote was an important milestone for Ukraine. President Petro Poroshenko has vowed to decentralize the country by giving cities and communities more political and budgetary powers. Ukraine is scrapping its system of regional governors appointed from Kiev and giving authority to local legislatures, an attempt to shift from a Soviet-style supercentralized state to a European [ho-hum! — EOTS] nation managed from the bottom up. It’s a good idea. But unless  oligarchs and corrupt local bosses are kept out, the country risks getting a version of medieval feudal disunity instead of European self-government. The elections made that risk palpable.


In Kharkiv, a former Yanukovych backer with a criminal past, won the mayoral election by a landslide. In Dnipropetrovsk, two politicians who don’t support Poroshenko will compete in a runoff for the mayoral race. In Odessa, where former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili [Saakashvili is a long story, — EOTS] was appointed as governor to turn the region into a showcase of Western-style reforms, Saakashvili’s candidate was defeated by a wide margin.

In the Ukrainian-speaking west, Svoboda radically improved its performance, coming in first in a few regions and second in critically important Lviv, Ukraine’s cultural capital. The ultranationalist party also won a surprising 10 percent of the vote in Kiev [this is not the first time they got into “surprising” double digits in the capital, — EOTS] . These results raise concerns there could be a nationalist rebellion against Poroshenko if he’s seen as too soft on the separatists in the east.

One of the loveliest aspects of Ukrainian life is tremendous amount of regional diversity.  However, the local color does not translate into a of bottom-up system of governance wished for above.  Ukrainian history has been all about stamping out every last vestige of self-rule and earning for a Leviathan.  Take it from the horse’s mouth: The now widely unpopular Prime Minister and former Maidan leader Arseny Yatsenuk, who was sold to the westerners as a “technocrat” in the aftermath of the Yanukovich ouster, once praised Putin for “saving Russia” and talked of his countrymen’s love of a strong hand (yes, it’s in Ukrainian):

The regional bosses of the south-east might had belonged to a single party two years ago, but that party got… regionalized.  With Party of regions out of power and central government imploding, there doesn’t appear to be a single national party.  So much so that Poroshenko’s, in an attempt to hold onto power in the eastern city of Dnepropetrovsk, arrested the contender in mayoral run offs.

Characteristically, it’s not just the south-east that’s going through a centrifuge.  Andriy Sadovy, the mayor of Lviv who moved on into the second tour of the election with just under 50% of the vote, is a candidate from Samopomosh, another regional party.  Sadovy is a strong proponent of federalization, which can mean a lot of things, but in Donbass it is, evidently, defacto independence with an ability to vote in Ukrainian elections.  The idea of federalization was floated for quite a while, and many ordinary Ukrainians understand federalization as a breakdown.

Western Ukrainian, or Galician, separatism does exist.  Galicia is the politically influential westernmost tip of the country comprised of Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk (named after a Marxist Ukrainian 19th century writer) and Ternopil regions.  Separatists there play a double game.  The local cultural elite forms organizations that purport to promote the local history and culture.  Then they talk of their expectations.  For instance, the newly formed Ukrainian Galician Party states in its manifesto that it would like to change Ukraine into its own regional image, but that their project will have to work in Galicia first.  Hmm… plausible denaibility.

And here’s European Galician Assembly talking of its goals:

We cannot build our future out of emptiness. We are obligated to use all most helpful qualities of our people to realize our earnings for a beautiful tomorrow. European tomorrow.

On the local history angle: Ukrainian Galician Assembly rejects Russian version of history. Instead of celebrating the victory in Great Patriotic War (1941-1945), they commemorate the allied victory in WW2 with a day of mourning. In WW2 Galician Ukrainian Insurgent Army, or the UPA, fought on the side of the Nazis.  Here the slaughterers of Jews and Poles are referred to as a “National-liberation movement” on account of them also being opposed to Russia.  Incidentally Sadovy is very much a creature of Galician political culture; here’s him peddling WW2 revisionism to Deutsche Welle

In one remarkable video the founder of European Galician Assembly counters charges of separatism and warns that judging by the mood of youth in his area, it’s Kiev that’s playing with fire.  If Kiev fails to live up to expectations, his region might have no choice but to go its separate way.  He also acknowledges accusations of being a Putin plant.

If Ukraine is to fall apart, there will be takers for it’s splinters.  Russia would stand to be the biggest winner, naturally.  Poland has interest in Galicia, it’s historical eastern territory.  The entire region was ethnically cleansed of Poles by Stalin at the end of WW2; Lviv was once the second most important Polish city.  Prior to Stalin’s expulsion, hundreds of thousands ethnic Poles were massacred by the UPA in Volynya and Galicia.  Polish-Ukrainian territorial disputes date back to before there was Ukraine, and with Polish nationalists firmly in control in Warsaw, things can get interesting.

Hungary, Romania and Slovakia also have  territorial claims inside Ukraine, and Hungary is a nation to watch.  Hungarian Prime Minister VIctor Orban is quite chummy with Putin; he’s been critical of the West’s sanctions on Russia and suspended gas supplies to Ukraine in 2014.  Ukrainians accused Hungary of destabilizing their country when:

Budapest has announced that it has handed out Hungarian citizenship papers to 94,000 people in Transcarpathia in Western Ukraine in expedited fashion, an action that creates yet another challenge for Kyiv and may very well have been coordinated with Moscow.

The Hungarian official responsible for nationality policy says that this is part of a broader effort to boost the size of the country’s population and points out that two-thirds of the more than 710,000 new Hungarians are from Transylvania in Romania and 17 percent are from the Voevodina in Serbia and only 14 percent are from Transcarpathia.

With Germany taking on more than it can handle, the whole European project may tear at the seams and long-forgotten ethnic disputes can all of a sudden heat up.  Will Ukraine be allowed to fall apart?

October 26, 2015

Incubating National Bolsheviks

Filed under: immigration, politics, Russia — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 5:37 pm

National Bolsheviks were not on the radar of most Americans until, in the fallout of Ukraine’s Euromaidan, the Kremlin warmed up to the fascist Eurasianist Aleksandr Dugin.  Dugin was one of the founders of the political party, although by then he left his comrades and, in any event, the party was banned in 2007 (regrouping as The Other Russia).  Recently they were allowed, flaunting Russian law, to set up booths to recruit combat volunteers for Eastern Ukraine off the streets of Moscow.  Those volunteers fight the central government the United States supports militarily and financially.

Still many NazBols can legitimately claim prosecution, and they most certainly were vocal in opposing Putin in 2010.  It’s no surprise that at least two of them found themselves seeking refuge on American shores.

Among them Mikhail Gangan:

He became a member of the banned National Bolshevists [sic] Party when he turned 15. Later, he led its branch in Samara (the sixth largest city in Russia). In 2004 he took part in a local anti-government movement called “A Peaceful Takeover of the Reception Office of the Presidential Administration.” About 40 activists walked into the office of Putin’s representative in Samara and presented a list of 12 complaints. Among the accusations were elimination of political freedoms, destruction of independent media in Russia, the lack of autonomous judiciary system, and punitive actions against the opposition.

All protesters were arrested and accused of taking a deliberate action to take control of the government. If these charges were pressed, they would spend up to 20 years in prison. The charge was later changed to a lesser allegation of mass rioting. While under investigation, Gangan spent a year in Butyrka, a prison known for its poor living conditions that became known internationally after the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009. Finally the Court sentenced Gangan to 3 years probation and he was released.

Forcing themselves into government buildings is a popular tactic of National Bolsheviks.  In 2006, 50 of them were arrested at State Duma following one such direct action designed to test the boundary between the legal and the illegal.

In 2007 Gangan led another anti-government action called “March of Protesters” during the Russia-EU Summit and he was accused of violating his probation. Before he was arrested, Gangan fled to the Ukraine. It was the only country that he could enter while on probation.

Later, he was captured and was about to be deported to Russia. Ukrainian and Russian human rights activists asked Ukrainian authorities not to give up Gangan but to grant him the status of a political refugee. In the summer of 2008, he got asylum in the Ukraine. The UN Refugee Agency offered Gangan political asylum in America, where he moved in 2009. A year later he was given the official status of political refugee in the U.S.

“I had no problems with assimilation in Ukraine. There is no language barrier, same mentality; Ukrainian life just slightly differs from Russian. Here [in the U.S.] everything is different and adaption has been quite difficult for me. I still can’t figure out what is what here. But it’s obvious that if you really want to make it here, it’s possible. All refugees get good benefits. The U.S. government provides us with an apartment for the first 6 months and even covers the cost of college education. For now, I got a job as a cook,” said Gangan.

Mikhail Gangan in customary National Bolshevik red and black garb

Good thing he got the benefits because, as one of his comrades explained:

Misha lived a life of a professional revolutionary, ridiculing the common busywork of work and study.  Often times he didn’t have the change to take public transport, but when money wondrously appeared, he, like a true hussar, blew it with friends in some kind of cafe.

Congratulations to the American taxpayer on adding a National Bolshevik variety to his collection of dependents!

Another NazBol fleeing for the US via Ukraine is Anna Ploskonosova.  Ploskonosova’s comrade and fiancée died after a beating administered, according to his friends and family, by Moscow militsia.  When in 2007 Ploskonosova left Russia, she was facing charges of vandalism and, rather unbelievably, assaulting a cop.

Anna Ploskonosova. National Bolshevik flags in the foreground

Settling in Ukraine, the young woman quickly found an outlet: she was arrested and fined 204 hrivnias for insulting then-president Yushenko.  What constitutes the insult?  Evidently, she participated in a May Day demonstration during which she chanted “Yushenko out!”   With Yushenko was voted out in short time and the now-deposed Yanukovich taking the oath of office, Ploskonosova though it was prudent to ask for asylum in the United States.

I have no idea what she and Gangan are up to these days, or even if they are still in the country –Gangan said he wasn’t interested in staying.  National Bolshevik founder Eduard Limonov once lived in the US; he hated it with a passion. So maybe the next generation of NazBols didn’t take to us either.

Gangan and Ploskonosova were still very young at the time they arrived to the US, so it’s possible that they matured and outgrew their specific Russian delinquencies.  Maybe they are now upstanding individuals.  But maybe they found Occupy, and maybe they found white nationalists. I have no doubt that their fear of prosecution was real, but I just don’t see why my country needs to take a chance on individuals of questionable moral character.

Having said that, letting NazBols settle here is nothing compared to giving refugee status to the Tsarnaevs.  It’s not obvious what either group has to add to our culture apart from diversity, but back in Russia they can one day ferment a revolution. Our immigration policy should not be designed to release the internal pressure on Putin.

October 21, 2015

The Last Crusader

Filed under: politics, Russia — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 9:01 am

Last October, as the West piled layer after layer of “targeted sanctions” on Russia, Senator John McCain thought it’s prime time for insults:

Look, Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country,” McCain said. “It’s kleptocracy. It’s corruption. It’s a nation that’s really only dependent upon oil and gas for their economy, and so economic sanctions are important.

The bit about kleptocracy and corruption is just as true about our newest ally Ukraine (or most other blotches of solid color outlined on a political map) as it is about Russia.  Still, Russian exports are dominated by the energy sector and the largest employer in the country is the state energy magnate Gazprom.  Yet the former US presidential candidate and Amnesty proponent might want to entertain a thought that there is something more that goes into being a country than an solid economy.

Thus after we bailed out of Mesopotamia, Russia moved in, propping up their SOB Assad and building an alliance that includes both Iran and Iraq.  And if the Kremlin reasserted its power in that region, it’s because they got Ukraine exactly where they want it to be — in frozen war.

Its economy is very much second world, demographically Russia looks doomed, and yet its performance on world stage today defies expectations.  Perhaps “[not] a country” is a silly thing to say about a country in the midst of imperial revival.  Russians today are not shy to admire Stalin who expended their sphere of influence across Europe and made the USSR feared worldwide.  Putin’s challenge is to live up to the expectations of resurgence.  That the youth of the Russian Federation, the least ethnically Russian age-group, are his biggest fans should give us something to think about.

How’s Russia managing it?  With confidence and resolve.  Russians seem awfully sure of who they are and what’s good about their country.  Look at the Sochi Olympics, for instance.  Staged in the explosive Caucuses, it ended without a terrorist incident, defying critics and demonstrating Russian will.

At the Olympic ceremonies Russians paraded their contributions to civilization, sometimes inflating them (but, hey, at least they value civilization enough to inflate their contributions) — they showed us their cannon — ballerinas, space flight and famous writers.  Our answer to ballerinas, space flight and famous writers is open borders.  We have no cannon.  Our children are taught that diversity is our strength; recycling replaced civics.  Political power is derived through passive-aggressive mind games.

Last year, amidst sanctions, pundits laughed that economic weapon is our best weapon — because what else do we have the nerve for? What they forgot is that Russians, who are not averse to suffering to begin with, had lived through much harder times in the 90’s.  They are not the kind of people whose vice presidents tell them to go shopping in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack.

In terms of affecting Putin’s behavior, sanctions achieved results the opposite of intended.  Russians, 40% of whom have relatives in Ukraine, saw their worst suspicions confirmed when the West supported the overthrow of Yanukovich. They rallied around Putin, and the popular opinion of the United States reached the all-time low.  Anti-Americanism in Russia today is like nothing I remember.

Having failed with sanctions and realizing that Russian quagmire in Syria is unlikely, our best bet is that Saudi Arabia will flood the market with oil hurting Russian energy exports.  Only it’s doubtful that the Saudis, themselves besieged by economic troubles, will go on very long, especially considering that the Saudi pet project ISIS is poised to be obliterated.  Once it is, what is the rational for the use the oil weapon?  Anyhow, it’s a sad state of affairs when our leverage in the Middle East is all but gone and we are reduced to hoping that Al Qaida will destroy Russia there.

Meantime, a participant in a recent state TV talk show opined (to some laughs) that Syria is Russian land because Orthodox Christianity traces its roots to Syria:

Now, that takes guts.  I wonder who is the intended audience for that crusading outburst.  Was it for domestic consumption because or to show the world just how far is “Putin’s” Russia from Merkel’s Germany or Obama’s America?  If, under Putin, Stalin or Nicolas, the Russian idea is self-sacrifice for the state, the West no longer broadcasts rule of law, freedom and prosperity.  Our ideas are dwindling economies and vanishing national identities.

Amazing to watch pundits, all in agreement that Putin is the personification of evil, scramble as to how to appropriately save face vis-a-vis the Kremlin.  The first step, it seams to me, should be to acknowledge that with each passing day we are looking less and less like a country and more like a collection of uncertain loyalties.

We’ve grown wobbly over the last quarter century.  When our so-called hawks went to Iraq for the second time, they thought it was necessary to first ask the UN for permission.  Putin also went to the UN, but only after his coalition-building work was already done behind the scenes, and to admonish us.  His is a common sense approach, and the results are predictable.  Over 70% of Britons support his Syria campaign.  When I look at number like that I wonder if, in a purely hypothetical scenario of NATO bombing ISIS, 70% of Britons would support it — or would they flood the streets of London in protest and somehow deduce that it’s all Israel’s fault.


There is a shade of McCaine’s “gas station” comment in Kissinger’s assessment that the West’s involvement in Ukraine was an attempt to break up Russia.  Ordinary Americans balk at this type of geo-political pronouncements, but Russians and Ukrainians readily discuss which one of their countries is going down first and how it will be carved out.  Having lived through the break up of the USSR a mere quarter century ago, they don’t shy away from geopolitical macabre.

“Country 404”: “Country is not found”. Because Russian-leaning Donbas produced a good chunk of Ukraine’s GDP, the meme above became popular in the wake of Donbas’s vote for independence in 2014. Number 404 superimposed against the Ukrainian flag, resembles the country’s insignia, the trident

What is it about Western self-hate?  It seems to me, the answer to resurgent Russia starts not in Syria, but in Arizona, Texas and New Mexico.  We need to rethink our immigration policy, rediscover our founding principles, fall back in love with American culture because only then will we be in a position to revamp our posture in the world.  If not –I remember Soviet Union going 404, quickly and unexpectedly.  Russia might just have the last laugh.

September 22, 2015

What If “Islamophobia” Clock Was A Dry Run?

Filed under: jihad, politics — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 6:57 pm

A few days ago both me and DH got messages from our elementary school.  Turns out, some bum was arrested a block away, which triggered emergency proceedings in school and students were marched out of their classrooms.

Meanwhile in Texas 14-year old Ahmet Mohamed brought something he called a clock (tick-tock, tick-tock) to school.  He showed the device to his teachers just one of whom thought it looked too much like a bomb and called police.  As Pamela Geller notes:

When police questioned the boy, WFAA reports, they said he was “passive aggressive” and didn’t give them a “reasonable answer” as to why he had brought his contraption to the school. “We attempted to question the juvenile about what it was and he would simply only say it was a clock. He didn’t offer any explanation as to what it was for, why he created this device, why he brought it to school,” said James McLellan of the Irving Police Department.

Although the IED-looking project turned out to be an  80’s Radio Shack digital clock , the teen’s alleged genius immediately drew praises from the political and corporate establishment, receiving high profile invitations, including Google, NASA and the White House.  That’s one way to shame the jittered “islamophobes”.

Because Ahmet’s dad is an Islamic activist, it’s generally assumed that the family attempted, successfully, to gain notoriety.  But what if the motives of the perpetrators were more sinister?  How do we know that Ahmet’s “Islamophobia” clock wasn’t a dry run?  As my husband points out that it’s basically an equivalent of the Flying Imams asking for seat belt extensions on the airplane.  And while we can count on American men to subdue terrorists mid-flight, can our overprotected boys handle a high school jihadi?

It’s not as if nobody raises their children to be suicide bombers

Yeah, I worry about it.  One mom in our school wears a full face covering.  I keep thinking I need to invite her to Peet’s so we can figure out Muslim-Jewish relations over a cup of coffee… oh wait.

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